Writing Space of Mingmei Yip

Mingmei Yip has been writing and publishing since she was fourteen years old and now she has twelve books to her credit.  Her five novels are published by Kensington Books and her two children’s books are published by Tuttle Publishing.  Mingmei is also a renowned qin (ancient string instrument) musician, calligrapher and painter.  In Hong Kong, she was a columnist for seven major newspapers.  She has appeared on over sixty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and the US. Visit her Website.

Last year, I really enjoyed Skeleton Women, and The Nine Fold Heaven picks up where the previous book ends.  “An ex spy and nightclub singer who undertakes an emotional and dangerous journey to reunite with her lost lover and the baby she was told was stillborn, and to discover the secret of her parents’ murder.”

Mingmei Yip - Author of Nine Fold HeavenCome along with an ex spy as she returns to Shanghai where she’s a wanted woman – but she has to search for her baby and her lost lover. Is her baby really alive? Will she be able to find her lover? Can she elude the police long enough to find them? Learn much more about The Nine Fold Heaven and Mingmei Yip.

Nine Fold Heaven is part of a series about Camilla the songbird and female spy – you can also read Skeleton Women, the first book about Camilla.

Today, I’ve got a great guest post from Yip about her writing space.  Please give her a warm welcome.

Writing space: I only write at home. I can’t write at cafes, since most have loud music which is a distraction for me. But when they play classical music, then I stop writing and listen, so that does not work for me, either.

Writing Space - 3I consider myself lucky to have a small room just for myself in my apartment which I use as my writing space. Luckily, my little room has a view of the north side of Manhattan and the East River. So, when I just can’t type anymore, I lift my head and soothe my eyes by staring at the peaceful scene outside the window. Soon I am refreshed and back at work.

I have decorated my writing room with some of my favorite things – books, plants, flowers, my own paintings and calligraphy. Writing is a solitary and difficult journey, so I try to fill my space with what I find both beautiful and spiritually inspiring. I also keep amulets next to me for protection, just in case.

Writing Space - 1Writing habits: I don’t have a chance to write every day, because like everyone else, I have other responsibilities in life. So when I have a chance to write, I write as much and as long as I can. This is like gorging yourself when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. In any case, it is what works for me. It helps that I can take a nap whenever I want.

Writing tips: I plunge into writing and ignore everything around me. Since I was a tiny girl I have always preferred life inside my own head. Whenever I have writer’s block, I’ll read or watch a movie. This usually triggers ideas for me so I can go back to write. I also read a lot, not only to feed my imagination and creativity, but also to have a point of comparison for my own writing.

Writing Space - 2I think it is still essential to master the basics. Not only voice, characterization, dialogue, plot, but also sentence structure, its rhythm and music. I always try to vary the length of my sentences and start each one with a different subject. It’s essential to spent whatever time it takes to find the right word. Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph.

There is a Chinese saying “Slap on the thigh and exclaim!” That’s how the readers will react to a good choice of word. Readers may not be aware of the meticulous hard work behind a smooth sentence, but if you don’t pay attention, they will soon become bored. I also think it’s good for authors to attend other cultural activities such as movies, concerts, art exhibitions. Have as diverse a background as you can cultivate, that really helps.

Most important, don’t give up! The ancient Chinese philosophy classic, the Daode Jing says more things are spoiled in the end than the beginning. Stick through to the end.

Thanks, Mingmei, for sharing your writing space with us, as well as your writing habits. I’m the opposite, too much quiet and I can’t write.

Guest Post: Writing Space of Lucinda Riley, author of Girl on the Cliff

The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley, author of The Orchid House, will be released later this month by Atria Books.  Grania Ryan, the protagonist, returns to Ireland following a devastating heartbreak in New York.  She meets the young Aurora Lisle on the cliff edge, and little does she know that she’ll change Ryan’s life.  Her mother warns her to be careful of the Lisle family, but it is not until she finds a trove of family letters dating back to 1914 that she realizes how entwined the families have been.

Check out Lucinda Riley’s writing space:

I have a strange aversion to ‘offices’, mainly because it makes me feel as though I’m actually working. And writing for me isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. The nearest to an inside office space I have is my drawing-room at home in the winter, but the minute the sun shines I hop through a window and sit on the bench outside. Because I record the first draft of the story into a dictaphone, which basically means talking to myself for four months, it makes me ‘portable’ and able to work anywhere. And being outside in the fresh air is my preferred location. So, my three ‘outside offices’ are the gardens at our Hall in Norfolk, the terrace of our house in Thailand and the balcony of our house in the South of France. The kids are used to seeing Mummy wandering around in a bikini with a microphone strapped to the top of it. I’m sure this method is unusual, but again, a bikini signals a ‘holiday’, rather than ‘work’ and this takes the pressure off psychologically and helps the words flow. However, being permanently ‘strapped up’, I must always remember to switch off and remove the tape recorder before I go for a swim or, er, other activities …! The method I use works for me fantastically well, except for the fact that when I’ve been dictating into the tape for long periods of time, it has been known for me to ask the children; ‘hello comma darling comma how are you question mark space new line’! When the first draft is finished I begin editing with a red pen onto the typed-up manuscript.

At present, as it’s October and becoming colder here in England, I’m in my winter ‘office’. Our 300 year old Hall is far too large to heat during the day. And if I sneakily turn the switch to ‘on’, my husband always finds me out! So, I wrap up in layers and sit by a roaring log-fire working on editing the new book. I have an ancient, threadbare chair, a stash of red pens and a pot of tea on the table beside me.

And now … I will confess that I have a perfectly lovely ‘office’ here at home, where my PA works happily. But to this day, I can honestly say I’ve never written a single word in it. And guess what? I’m sitting writing this in the kitchen.

Thanks, Lucinda, for sharing your writing space with us.

Guest Post: The Heart of the Writing Space by Sheryl Steines

Sheryl Steines, author of The Day of First Sun, is stopping by the blog today to talk about her writing space and how the heart of her home became to best place for her to complete a novel that has vampires, zombies, and magical wizards.

Her novel (according to the Amazon synopsis):

In this Young Adult Fantasy, Annie Pearce and Bobby “Cham” Chamsky are tracking the vampire Sturtagaard who they believe is creating a zombie army. Before they find him and learn why, the FBI recruits them to solve the murder of the mortal Princess Amelie: who they believe was killed by magical means. Amelie’s magical boyfriend Jordan is missing and with him the key to finding her murderer. The key, a magical glass Orb used to capture and trap souls, is the vital item needed to create the zombie army.

The vampire Sturtagaard needs it and when Annie and Cham finally catch up with Jordan, they encounter Sturtagaard too. While in custody, Jordan is murdered and the Wizard Council becomes aware that there is a mole in the council who is hampering the case. It becomes clear that Amelie and Jordan’s death is collateral damage in a plot to overthrow the ruling Wizard Council. A trap is set using the Orb, knowing that someone is desperate to have it. Annie and Cham need to hurry before the magical holiday, The Day of First Sun, a time when the magical energy created on that day can expose their world and endanger the non magical society as well. The Orb, the Wizard Council and the world are waiting on Annie and Cham.

I just love fantasy worlds with vampires and zombies. Now, without further ado, please welcome Sheryl as she shares with us her writing space.

My workspace. It probably wouldn’t be considered the most productive place in which to write a book. I really tried when I first started writing. I set up my desk in the guest room with my computer, my printer, extra pens and paper. You know, an office separate from the rest of the house, where I could go and work. The first time I sat at the desk I remember how quiet that room was. Really, really quiet. I was fidgety and would find other things to do. A little filing, a little cleaning, a little internet searching. For white noise, I brought in my MP3 player, but all that accomplished was a good deal of daydreaming. My dreams of writing the next great American novel would never materialize at this rate.

Every workspace is individual to the person who uses it. We find comfort in the things around us, and hopefully become inspired by those spaces. If a space limits our creativeness, or makes us uncomfortable or doesn’t offer us inspiration then we need to find a new space to work.

I moved my workspace to the family room, the heart of my home. It has a big comfortable couch, blankets when I’m cold and it’s close to the kitchen. And most importantly, it had a television. Now I don’t recommend doing homework or writing a best selling book with the television on, but I have to say, with the right program, the white noise, keeps me sane and even focused. And sometimes, a particular program, a word, a thought, a plot twist can inspire something grand.

Eight chapters into my second book, I happened to be watching Torchwood, one of my favorite science fiction programs. The storyline of the show was similar to the storyline in my book. And I paid special attention to the plot. I was concerned with how the characters got themselves into the problem and back out, how the story flowed and progressed to the finale. I realized quickly that my own work, my plot, my characters, had taken the easy way, something that I found myself doing in my first book. And it occurred to me at that moment, that sometimes a little stress, a little angst, a little in fighting and definitely not working through the problem quickly is the way that I should now be thinking of my story. I made a book altering decision and rewrote the first eight chapters of my book and I didn’t look back.

My goal isn’t to rewrite what others have done. My desire as I watch television shows and book in my genre, is to remind me and inspire me to think about things in a different way, remind me that there are no rules, no formula to a fantasy novel. It only takes that one idea, to spark an entire book.

Moving my workspace to my family room was a much more productive workspace than the quiet of my guest room. Though I have to admit, when the kids are home from school, it’s not the easiest of places to work. I have to learn how to do my most productive work when they’re not home, make sure that I set aside a time to only work and not get caught up into the rest of my life. My writing is my full time job and I need to treat it as such.

The workspace is far more than a place to sit down and write a little. It has to offer us comfort and safety as we continue to strive to meet our goals. As unconventional as my space may seem, it is the place that I work well in, it offers me a chance to find inspiration and I don’t dread my time there. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks, Sheryl, for sharing your workspace with us.

About the Author:

Sheryl Steines’ mind is chaotic and surprising and it shows in her writing. Never one to sit back and see what may come, Sheryl is driven to write everyday. Somehow, amidst the chaos, she finds the time to volunteer and give talks to book clubs and students about her writing. She even walked the Avon Breast Cancer walk two years in a row.

Sheryl’s series Annie Loves Cham is full of surprises and mystery. Refusing to be restricted by genre Sheryl has taken the characters she loves and set them in new situations which test them and their friendships. The second book in the series is set to release in late summer 2012.

Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Also check out her blog.

Guest Post: A Workspace and Inspiration by Jeanette Baker

Irish Lady by Jeanette Baker is about Meghann McCarthy who had left Belfast behind until Michael Devlin re-emerges and needs her help.  He’s charged with murder, but as she attempts to uncover the truth, a history reveals itself through a series of linked histories back to the time of Queen Elizabeth.  This is an emotionally charged romance novel with intrigue and mystery.

Today, Jeanette Baker is offering to share her writing space with my readers and to share a little bit about what inspired her to write Irish Lady.  Please give her a warm welcome and stay tuned for a giveaway.

No one would ever call me a perfectionist. I’m more of a big-picture, good-enough kind of person, but my environment, both writing and living, has always been important to me. My personal space has changed over the course of my career, adapting with the changes in my family and my finances. At first, when my children were small, my “space” was a small computer table and steno chair in the family room. My children played games, watched television and invited friends to play while I created and typed away, oblivious to noise, music and, occasionally, minor wounds.

As my family grew and square footage increased through moves and room additions, I graduated to my own office complete with desk and chair, a comfortable couch and, the most wonderful of inventions, a laptop computer which allowed me to move between desk and couch as the mood struck. Over the years, I’ve done away with the desk and straight-backed chair, choosing to, at first, keep files in a cabinet and, eventually, in bookmarked pages on my computer. I’ve come full circle because, now that I’m an emptynester, my office has returned to the family room. I sit in a very deep, comfortable chair, usually cross-legged but, sometimes, with my legs stretched out in front of me on an equally comfortable ottoman.

I love color and my space reflects it. My chair and ottoman are a deep garnet-red. A chest hand painted in gold, black and more red serves as a coffee table for my tea habit and the shelves of my bookcases are painted a dark, lacquered green. Even more than writing, reading is my passion. I surround myself with books, hundreds and hundreds of books, written by authors who inspire me, as well as photos of my family to remind me of my focus, and prints of Ireland and Scotland, the settings for many of my novels.

The idea for IRISH LADY first came about after living for several years in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A country divided by religion and economics for 800 years has more than its share of conflict. Meghann McCarthy escaped the slums of Belfast to become a rich, successful attorney in London. Yet she can never quite banish Ireland from her heart, or forget Michael Devlin, the boy she once loved with a passion that nearly tore her apart. When Michael, a notorious Irish nationalist, is accused of a heinous crime, Meghann agrees to defend him. But even as she jeopardizes her hard-won success, she finds the true power and spirit of the Irish heritage she has too long denied…and the courage to face her love for Michael. Meanwhile, throughout her life, Meghann is regularly visited by visions of her direct ancestor, Nuala O’Donnell, a noblewoman from the 16th century who struggles to keep her husband, legendary hero, Rory O’Donnell, and their land free from English occupation.

The furniture changes, as well as the size of the space, but comfort, the perfect chair, access to a cozy pot of tea and a wall plug are consistent staples of writing space.

Thanks, Jeanette, for sharing your writing space with us.

To enter for 1 copy of Irish Lady, please leave a comment about how far you would go for love.

If you follow, tweet, Facebook, or otherwise share the giveaway, leave a comment with links for more entries (up to 4 additional entries)

Deadline is Jan. 25, 2012, at 11:59PM EST (US/CANADA)

Guest Post: The Home of Visual Imagination by Amanda Grange

Amanda Grange is one of the most well-known writers of Austenesque retellings from Mr. Darcy’s Diary to her latest Henry Tilney’s Diary.  Henry Tilney is one of the main characters in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which is the novelist’s sarcastic take on the Gothic novel and its frivolity.

Grange’s diary series of books focus on the heroes of Austen’s novels, though there is one about a villain Wickham.  In all of these diary books, Grange gives readers an inside look into the thoughts and pasts of Austen’s male characters, and she does it all while keeping with Austen’s vision and wit.

Today, I’ve got an inside peek into Grange’s writing space and habits.  Please give her a warm welcome and stay tuned for a giveaway.

I do a lot of my writing in my head before I commit anything to paper. When I’m writing my Jane Austen retellings, I start by rereading the original novel. If it’s a nice day, I do this outside, often going to a nearby stately home or formal garden so that I can soak up the elegant, leisurely atmosphere of days gone by. As I read, I let my mind wander over all the questions that occur to me. What was Henry like as a child and young man? What kind of relationship did he have with his parents and siblings? What was life like for him when his mother died? When did he discover a love for Gothic novels? Where did he read them?

I have a very visual imagination, and as I ask the questions, I build pictures in my mind. This is easier if I’m somewhere spacious and elegant, as I can look around and imagine the characters walking round a corner or sitting in an arbour.

Sometimes I will start writing longhand, on a large notepad, and I often do this out of doors if the weather is good. I’ve written quite a few scenes sitting on the bench in the photo, which is at a nearby stately home. Then, once I’m in full flow I move onto the computer. My study is very plain, because once I get down to the actual business of writing, I don’t like distractions. The walls are a neutral colour without any pictures and there is no furniture apart from essential office furniture. My desk is large because I’m an untidy worker and I need space for all my notes, as well as my research books. I start off in an organised fashion, making neat notes in a word document, but I soon resort to scribbling things down on any piece of paper that comes to hand – an envelope, a copy of the Radio Times, anything. If I’m out, I make notes in a notebook I keep in my handbag, except when I forget it, which is often. Then I will scribble ideas down on an old receipt, train ticket or in fact anything that can be written on. I end up with a jumble of papers on my desk and I daren’t throw anything away in case it turns out to be vital.

Once the book is finished, I throw everything away with a great sense of freedom and tidy my study, which remains pristine until I start the next book. I always say I will take a break before starting the next book, but in fact I get itchy fingers and it’s usually only a week or so before I’m raring to go again.

Thanks for sharing your writing space with us. To enter for 1 copy of Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange:

1. Leave a comment on this post about what Austen villain you’d like to see write a diary.

2. Blog, Tweet (@SavvyVerseWit), or Facebook the giveaway for up to 3 more entries.

3. Follow this blog and let me know for another entry.

Deadline Dec. 20, 2011, at 11:59PM EST. US/Canada only

Guest Post: Out of the Pantry by Patrice Sarath

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen has transformed into a subgenre of its own with retellings, spinoffs, continuations, and re-imaginings. What keeps these books going is the fresh perspective that each author brings to the story and its characters.

Patrice Sarath is bringing her talents to the fore in The Unexpected Miss Bennet, which tells Mary Bennet’s story. She’s the one considered unremarkable and religious in the original novel. But in this iteration, Sarath takes her on a journey because she’s uncertain about her future of spinsterhood. Today is the release of The Unexpected Miss Bennet.

Today, I have a treat for my readers, a glimpse into her writing space. Please enjoy.

Up until six months ago, I wrote in my pantry. That’s right, my pantry. See, we have a small house, barely big enough for the four of us, so my husband created a writing space for me in our combined laundry room/pantry. It was big enough for my desktop and contained all of my writing miscellanea, as you can see. In the summer, it got pretty hot, so I wrote to the constant sound of a fan positioned at the doorway. In the winter, I kept warm from the dryer.

I wrote four novels and countless short stories in that pantry. I think my success was due to the womb-like nature of the writing space. The only way out of that room was to write my way out of it. I sat with my back to the door, and the world went away, so much in fact that my daughter would have to call me by my first name to get my attention, causing me to jump.

But life goes on, first daughters grow up, and after she went to college, we started to eye her bedroom. Wow, what an awesome space for an office, I thought. We could create a shared guestroom office space – our daughter could stay there on breaks, and I’d have a window for writing.

So we took out the carpet, fixed the ceiling, painted, and put in beautiful flooring. I put in my desk and computer, put up the bookcase my husband made, and made a beautiful writing space for myself.

And promptly got a very bad case of writer’s block. Too much light and air, I think. Too many distractions. It took awhile to get over that. I don’t take change well, and it was a shock to my system. Sometimes I find myself going into the pantry to sit down and write, only to be shocked with how my former space is taken up with household stuff.

So I find my way to the new office, settle in with music and the fan, just useful as white noise now, and fully expect the next years to bring me the same joys and heartache and frustration and elation that writing always brings. I still have to write my way out of the room. It’s just a bigger room.

Thanks, Patrice, for sharing your writing space with us.

Photo Credit: Ben Van Dyke

About the Author:

Patrice is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas. Her first novel, Gordath Wood, came out from Ace in the summer of 2008, and the sequel, Red Gold Bridge, in 2009. Gordath Wood is hard to categorize. It’s fantasy but with only a touch of magic to it.

Like most writers, she has a day job at Hoover’s, Inc. where she writes about business and commerce as it relates to the financial and construction industries.  In the evenings she writes fiction, including her new release The Unexpected Miss Bennet.

Guest Post: Regina Jeffers’ Writing Space

With an influx of new Jane Austen inspired short stories and novels hitting the market, authors are looking for the best way to get readers’ attentions.  Regina Jeffers has written Christmas at Pemberley, in which Georgiana Darcy must embrace the challenges of her hostess duties while her brother and his wife, Elizabeth, are stranded in a small town on the way to Pemberley by a blizzard.  Jeffers uses the Christmas season to bring the Darcy, Bennet, and Bingley families under one roof, and you can imagine what kinds of rivalries and misunderstandings will occur.

Today, Regina will give us a sneak peek into her writing space and habits.  It also seems that we share a certain Mr. Darcy obsession, and my husband would definitely love her selection of NFL Quarterback since he loves the Miami Dolphins.

Finally, one lucky reader will receive a copy of her book by entering the giveaway below.  Without further ado, please welcome Regina:

For writing my novels, I prefer to have everything within my reach. Purposely, I separate where I actually compose my books from where I word process and edit my novels. I need the “disconnect” in order to separate the steps. I write my novels in spiral notebooks, usually wide ruled because I write large. I know from experience that 30 pages of my handwritten story equals ten pages of typed text (Times New Roman, 12 point font). I, personally, hate to read chapters that are longer than ten pages so I have trained myself to work toward that goal. If you read my novels, you’ll note the consistency in the length of my chapters.

Regina's Favorite Chair!

I love the reflected sunlight of this room. In the Regency period, this would have been a small sitting room used for waiting guests to be announced to the master. Note the lap desk, encyclopedic dictionary, and synonym finder beside my favorite chair. Some day, I will have to have this chair reupholstered. I fear my “inspiration” lies in the lumpy cushions. Normally, there is a cup of tea sitting on the nearby table. I brew my own – no American tea bags for me. One can also see my journal sitting at the side, along with my Bible. This is where the creative process comes about.

Once I have written the book, I retreat to my “office” space to do the hard work. My office is the smallest of the three bedrooms in my North Carolina home. From the window, I overlook the curve of the cul de sac upon which I live. Not much happens in this small incorporated village, something I appreciate. It is quiet and relatively crime free. When I first moved here in 2003, “Miss Kitty,” my neighbor, brought me over a chocolate cake. (I didn’t tell her that I prefer white cake to chocolate. It would be rude.) I love the South!!!

Matthew Macfayden Photos

The office reflects my eclectic tastes. I love oversized furniture. The walls hold my “interests.” Of course, there are multiple pictures of Matthew Macfadyen. I enjoy Colin Firth’s work (am a big fan), but I really LOVE Matthew. All the pictures are signed. Yes, I realize this is an obsession, but daily I remind myself that the word “fan” comes from “fanatic.” (BTW, I have seen “The Three Musketeers” six times to date.) I use post it notes of different colors to keep track of appearances, guest blogs, etc.

Miami Dolphins Quarterback Chad Pennington

I also am a big fan of Chad Pennington, the NFL quarterback. He attended Marshall University, where I went to school, but my respect for Pennington comes from his kindness to my son during the difficult period when my mother was dying. He showed himself to be a true gentleman. In Darcy’s Temptation, Chadwick Harrison is so called because of Pennington.

Although I do not write much outside, I often take a cup a tea and a bit of research of which I want to peruse and sit in one of the two “cozy” spaces I have created. The first is a sheltered area at the front of my house. I bricked it all in and set up the potted plants and benches. I loved my hybrid roses and the hibiscus, but mums and pansies surround the area also. In North Carolina, the vegetation lasts well into late November. Behind my house, there is another bench draped by a weeping willow. It serves the purpose well.

So, this is where I have managed to write twelve novels (Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation (a 2009 Booksellers’ Best Award finalist), Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley (took 3rd in romantic suspense for the SOLA Awards), Christmas at Pemberley, The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, Honor and Hope, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, First Wives’ Club, and Second Chances), in addition to two novellas (His Irish Eve and His American Heartsong) and one short story (“The Pemberley Ball”) in a little over four years.

Christmas at Pemberley is my newest release and is currently available. I have a December 1 deadline for The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, which will take up where Christmas at Pemberley leaves off, but it will be a cozy mystery, rather than an inspirational romance. I am working on two others (one Austen, one non-Austen) at the same time. This is my Writing World. Quite simple. Quite plain. All me.

Thanks, Regina for sharing your writing space with us.Please also check out the slide show of the remaining photos from her writing space.

For those readers interested in reading about the Darcys, Bennets, and Bingleys during the holidays, enter the giveaway below.

1. Leave a comment about what you found most interesting about Regina’s writing space.

2. For up to 3 more entries, share the giveaway on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and leave a link for each in the comments.

3. Follow Savvy Verse & Wit for another entry.

Deadline is Nov. 18, 2011, at 11:59PM EST (US/Canada only)

Guest Post: Keeping out the Distractions by Heather Lynn Rigaud

Anyone who reads this blog knows that Pride & Prejudice spinoffs and retellings are my guilty pleasure, and another guilty pleasure of mine is providing my readers with an inside look into author’s writing spaces.  Heather Lynn Rigaud, author of Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star, is the latest author of a Pride & Prejudice retelling to offer up a glimpse into her writing space.

About the book from Amazon:

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Slurry’s tall, dark, and enigmatic virtuoso guitarist, knows that this is no time to be picky, but he never expected what was waiting when he, Charles Bingley and Richard Fitzwilliam crashed the Meryton Public House.

Elizabeth Bennet, the fiercely independent and talented lead singer of Long Borne Suffering has serious reservations about joining such a trouble laden tour with the bad boys of Rock and Roll, but the opportunity is just too good to pass up!

On the Slurry tour, the music’s hot, but backstage is an inferno.

Stay tuned for my review tomorrow (9/30).  Without further ado, I will turn it over to Heather Rigaud.

Hi Serena,

Your name reminds me of Venice, which has always been known as the ‘Serene Republic‘ or ‘Serenissima’. Its history is a special interest of mine.

Anyway, you’ve asked me about my writing space. That means I need to do some cleaning, before we get to pictures.

There we go. Now, I have to admit, my writing area sounds a whole lot better than it looks. Its tucked into a corner of my living room, and my living room, like the rest of my house, is the home of a very active family. It’s a place where things happen and so consequently its not going to look like a showroom. That’s not to say it’s covered in filth, not by any means. But it means things are out. There are books everywhere, there are papers in the midst of being worked on are on many of the surfaces. There are knitting projects, sewing projects, soapmaking projects, … you get the idea.

Heather's Writing Desk

The other thing you’ll notice is that it’s a pretty uninteresting corner. There’s no art on the walls, there’s no window. That’s by design, because I’m easily distracted. I need someplace not stimulating to be able to work on the stuff in my head. And that’s what writing really is. By the same token, I really prefer to be alone when I’m writing, so most of my work happens when my sons are at school.

Now that I’ve made all my excuses, let’s talk about the good stuff- the desk. When my husband and I were freshly married and furnishing our home, we looked at the desks that were available new. Frankly, we weren’t impressed. For what they cost, the quality was very poor and they were, sorry-there’s no other word, ugly. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend that much money on something poorly made that looked like it wouldn’t last a year.

We were both fans of the classic roll-top desk style, so we hit on the idea of buying an old desk-an antique. And we found one. It was solid, made from oak, and the price was right. It will never be on Antiques Roadshow. It doesn’t have a fancy provenance or anything. It’s just a good desk, so it came home with us and it’s been my writing station for years.

We even found a matching rolling chair, in the same color and style to go with it. I’d include a picture, but the seat is caned and needs to be replaced. (We’ve already done that twice, so frankly, it’s not high on our priority list.)

What you can’t see in a picture is my music. I might not tolerate visual distractions, but I love audio ones. When I’m writing, I’ll often set up a specific songlist for the chapter I’m working on. It helps me get into the head-space I’m seeking, and in Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star, was usually included in the chapter. It’s not just Rock music, either. I use classical, Celtic, Jazz and other styles as well.

My computer is an Apple MacBook. We’ve been Apple fans since the 80’s and while it’s an expensive love affair, I don’t see it ending any time soon. I write directly into my computer, instead of hand writing it on paper and then typing it in, as my handwriting is more of a hindrance than a help. Plus, I’m way faster at typing. I have noticed that while I’ll surf the internet in any location and in any position, when I’m writing, I need to be sitting up straight in a hard chair. I don’t know if it’s a hold over from my school days or what, but doing work calls for a work posture for me.

That’s my work environment. I wish I had a prettier place for the pictures at least, but I don’t believe it would help my writing and it might actually hurt it. Thanks for having me here today and thanks for reviewing my book. I’m looking forward to hearing from your readers.

Thanks, Heather, for sharing your writing space with us, but we wouldn’t have minded the mess.

Guest Post: Navigating a Flexible Writing Space by Joan Leegant

Joan Leegant, author of Wherever You Go, will be sharing her writing space with us shortly, but I wanted to share a bit about this book and offer a giveaway to my U.S. readers (sorry, the publisher is sponsoring it).

From the publisher:

“In this sweeping and beautifully written novel, Joan Leegant weaves together three lives caught in the grip of a volatile and uncompromising faith. Yona Stern has traveled to Jerusalem from New York to make amends with her sister, a stoic mother of five dedicated to the hard-line settlement cause. Mark Greenglass, a gifted Talmud teacher and former drug dealer saved by religion, has lost his passion and wonders if he’s done with God. Enter Aaron Blinder, an unstable college dropout with a history of failure who finds a home on the radical fringe of Israeli society. Emotionally gripping and unmistakably timely, Wherever You Go tells the story of three Americans in Israel and the attractions–and dangers– of Jewish extremism, its effect on families, and its threat to the modern democratic state.”

Doesn’t this sound like a great book club selection; there’s so much to discuss.  Check out reviews of this book from Unabridged Chick, Life in the Thumb, Among Stories, the TLC Book Tour stops, Caribousmom, and For Book’s Sake.

Please welcome Joan:

The novelist Kent Haruf writes his first drafts with a stocking cap pulled over his face so he can’t see what he’s producing and second-guess every word and comma, and thereby lose the thread of his story. John Steinbeck required the noise of a washing machine in the background in order to compose The Grapes of Wrath. Once, during a residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire—an artist retreat on hundreds of secluded acres where painters, writers, composers and other creative types are given their own studios and abundant solitude—a newly-arrived novelist appeared at dinner flush with excitement after her first day’s work. What had she accomplished? we all asked. She’d covered every soaring window in her assigned space, a handsome stone structure abutting picture-postcard fields dotted with the occasional deer—and where, 60 years earlier, Aaron Copland wrote the music for the ballet Billy the Kid—with black construction paper. The view, she said, was too distracting.

Joan's writing room

Writers do all kinds of strange things to create the necessary conditions for writing. Perhaps because I began writing fiction when my children were very young, my sons then 3 and 5, I’ve cultivated a certain useful flexibility. For a time, I wrote in a small overheated room next to the one my boys shared. When they began staying up later into the evening (my peak writing hours), I decamped to the basement. This was next to the laundry, which was both convenient and conducive; getting up to change the wash was often precisely what was needed to clear my head and solve a thorny problem. When my younger son took up the drums, he and his instruments migrated downstairs and I went up a level and took over an enclosed porch.

I didn’t mind moving around and I didn’t care, and still don’t, about the furnishings; in fact, my preferred working surface is a folding table. Outfitting whatever space is mine with a proper desk or other items meant to bring to mind the word “writerly” feels pressured or forced. It reminds me of a visit to a clothing shop before my first book tour. I owned mainly jeans and a few dresses more appropriate for funerals and weddings than book talks. I told the saleswoman I was a writer and needed a couple of things I could quickly pack into a suitcase and just as quickly unpack. After dramatically draping me in black, she then layered on all manner of elaborately tied scarves and chunky necklaces and bohemian-ish silver bracelets and belts because, she said, “this is how authors are supposed to look.” Problem was, I didn’t know how to put any of the stuff on by myself. I would have had to pack her in the suitcase too.

Joan writing at her friend's apartment

These days I do most of my writing in a rented room attached to someone else’s house a fifteen minute walk from my own. It’s part of a former dental office—the house’s owners think it was the original waiting room—which seems fitting. I often feel like I’m waiting for someone, mostly my characters, who sometimes seem as eager to be hanging out with me as I would be to hang out with the person about to give me a root canal. And there are certainly days in that room when I feel like I’m pulling teeth.

During the final revisions of my novel Wherever You Go, I added pages and pages of hand-written prose, and heavily marked up the manuscript. For months, this was my only working copy. I wouldn’t let it out of my sight. I brought it home from my writing room every night and carried it back there the next day. When I flew to Tel Aviv to teach for a semester, the manuscript took up all the space in my carry-on. Among the many pleasures of emailing the final version to the publisher was that I could stop lugging around all that weight. Until I began the next project, of course. But that is—I hope—another story.

Thanks, Joan, for sharing your writing space with us. I wish you great success with your book.  Please check out these interesting videos about her work and the book.

About the Author:

Joan Leegant is also the author of a story collection, An Hour In Paradise, winner of the 2004 PEN/L.L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, as well as a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and selection for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Series. Formerly a lawyer, for eight years she taught writing at Harvard University. The mother of two adult sons, she divides her time between Newton, Massachusetts and Tel Aviv, where she teaches at Bar-Ilan University.

To Enter the giveaway for 1 copy of Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant, you must be a U.S. resident or have someone in the U.S. willing to accept the book for you.

1. Leave a comment about why you want to read this book.
2. Facebook, Tweet, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link (up to 3 additional entries).
3. Follow this blog for another entry.

Deadline is Oct. 4, 2011, at 11:59PM EST.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Liza Gyllenhaal’s Move to Rural Inspiration

Today’s guest is Liza Gyllenhaal, author of So Near, and she’s going to share with us her writing space.

But first, let’s take a look at her book.  According to Amazon.com’s synopsis, “In the aftermath of a devastating loss, Cal and Jenny Horigan’s marriage is unraveling.  Both are plagued by guilt, unable to seek comfort from one another.  Burdened by remorse, they begin to lose sight of the love that once anchored them-together with their sense of right and wrong.  As the Horigans try different ways to deal with their pain, a new acquaintance seems to offer the support they desperately need-though at times they are unsure whether his guidance is leading them back to each other or further apart.”

Look at that cover, those big flowers are just so eye-catching and remind me of spring and renewal.  Let’s hope the same renewal can happen for Gyllenhaal’s characters, which you can find out if you win the giveaway. 

For some reviews of So Near, please check out Life in the Thumb and 5 Minutes for Books.

Without further ado, please welcome Liza Gyllenhaal:

Where Liza works in the winter

During the years I worked in advertising in New York City, I would try to fit in an hour or two of writing every morning in my cramped apartment. I used to dream of one day having my own writing studio. If Henry James thought “summer afternoon” were the two most beautiful words in the English language, I began to feel that “writing studio” took a close second. I imagined it in the woods somewhere with a fireplace or wood-burning stove — rustic and musty and so quiet you could hear the mice scrabbling around in the walls.

Writing studio in the Berkshires

Fifteen years ago, I was able to sell my advertising agency and buy my dream — a place in the country — or, more specifically, the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. It included a small farmhouse and an old horse stable which became my “writing studio.” It still has the old iron stall feeders and leather harnesses on the walls. It remains permeated by a wonderful smell of animal and old hay. It’s where I wrote most of my first novel Local Knowledge and my just published new novel called So Near — both set in the Berkshire area.

Liza inside the studio — on the laptop

I wake up early and reread and rewrite on my laptop in the house, but in the afternoon I go out to the studio, bolt the door, and start the hard work of writing the next new word, sentence, paragraph, chapter. In the winter I have a fire going in the Jotul stove, in the summer I have all the windows open and can hear the seasonal brook and birdsong. This summer, I watched a family of wild turkeys — 17 in all — parading up and down in the old paddock. Other sightings: woodchuck, coyote, fox, and early last spring, when the trees were just greening out, a big black bear. It was a breathtaking moment when this wall of darkness lumbered right past me — so close that, if the window had been open, I could have reached out and run my hand through the bear’s ink-black fur.

Thanks so much for sharing your writing space with us, Liza.

Sounds like a place I’d love to visit just for some down time and relaxation, though I do more writing in public places where there are lots of people to watch!

About the Author:

She was raised in a small town in Pennsylvania which, at the time she was growing up, was fairly rural and very lovely—much like the area of the Berkshire Hills in Massachusetts where she now live part of the time with her husband.

She studied poetry at University of Iowa Writing Workshop before moving to New York City and began a career in publishing and advertising.  She tried to continue writing poetry, but gradually moved to romance and other genres before her first novel.

In addition to writing, she works on behalf of various non-profits in New York City and the Berkshires. She also is the past chairperson of The Academy of American Poets and currently serves on its executive committee. (– excellent news to me since I just love that organization, am a card-carrying member, and blog about it all the time — funny how small the world is sometimes).

Please follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and check out her blog.

Now for the giveaway.  I have 2 copies So Near for US/Canadian readers.

1.  To Enter, leave a comment about where you do your blogging or reading and why.

2.  Facebook, Tweet, or blog about the giveaway for additional entries. (for up to 3 other entries).

3.  Follow this blog for another 2 entries. If you already follow, let me know.

Deadline for the giveaway is Sept. 30, 2011, at 11:59PM EST.

Guest Post: Mark Mustian’s Writing Space

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian comes out in paperback this month. 

This cover is so captivating with its vibrant blue head covering and eye, but it is also mysterious.  These elements are what attracted me to the book when it was initially talked about during the hardcover release. 

Check out these reviews from Booking Mama, She Is Too Fond of Books, S. Krishna’s Books, and Devourer of Books.

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Emmett Conn is an old man, near the end of his life. A World War I veteran, he’s been affected by memory loss since being injured during the war. To those around him, he’s simply a confused man, fading in and out of senility. But what they don’t know is that Emmett has been beset by memories, of events he and others have denied or purposely forgotten.

In Emmett’s dreams he’s a gendarme, escorting Armenians from Turkey. A young woman among them, Araxie, captivates and enthralls him. But then the trek ends, the war separates them. He is injured. Seven decades later, as his grasp on the boundaries between past and present begins to break down, Emmett sets out on a final journey, to find Araxie and beg her forgiveness.

Today, I have an inside peek into Mark Mustian’s writing space and a giveaway for 1 lucky U.S. reader.  Without further ado, here’s Mark:

This is me. That’s my desk. I’m in my study at home, where I do most of my writing. The only thing that’s missing is my coffee cup. I write when I first wake up in the morning, which can be daunting and sometimes quite difficult—next to impossible without jolts of caffeine.

I have a full-time law practice, and so I write only for an hour or so each day. I’ve done this for a long time now, to where I’m used to it; I write every day, even holidays, even my birthday, even while on vacation. I find that doing it this way keeps my head in whatever I’m writing, so that I think about things subconsciously throughout the course of the rest of the day. My novel, The Gendarme, was written this way: slowly, painstakingly. It took some time, but I’m always amazed at how much can be done, a little at a time, day after day after day.

I often think that if I had to sit down and put in six hours every day writing, it wouldn’t be lots of fun. Some days I’ll be on a roll, where I’ll hate to have to leave my home desk and get on with the rest of the day. On other days it feels about right. I’ve tried writing at night, or writing after a drink or two, but both produce results that seem less than satisfactory. If I’m tired or sloppy things don’t really work right. I have to be focused to do it justice, to be on my best game, to do it well.

I never wanted to be a writer. It’s something I’ve more or less fallen into, but I’ve discovered that I like it, and have (I hope) some modicum of talent for it. Writing every morning or even every day for some people would be drudgery. But for me it’s an hour where I can follow my mind where it leads, which is my definition of creativity, and the essence of fun and being free.

Thanks, Mark, for sharing your writing space with us.  To enter the giveaway, you must be a U.S. resident or have a U.S. resident to accept the book on your behalf.

1.  Leave a comment on this post about why you want to read The Gendarme.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link for a second entry.

3.  For a third entry, follow the blog and Mark on Facebook.

Deadline is Sept. 16, 2011, at 11:59 PM EST

Guest Post: After the Novel: Re-Finding Your Writing Groove by Áine Greaney

Yesterday, I reviewed Áine Greaney‘s Dance Lessons, which is a phenomenal story about the secrets families keep and how forgiveness can transcend the grave.  Part mystery and part romance and family drama, the story follows Ellen Boisvert as she uncovers her husband’s past.  Today, Áine Greaney has graciously offered to talk about her writing space and the time between a finished novel and the next one or the next project.

After the Novel:  Re-Finding Your Writing Groove

My second novel, DANCE LESSONS, took me seven years to write. During the early years, I worked on that book in spurts. There were entire weeks and months when I abandoned it altogether, when I let the book’s women characters slip from my mind.   Jo? Jo who?

Interruptions, they say, are not what distract us from life. They are life. During my seven-year book process, there were urgent trips back to my family in Ireland. There was a day job to go to.  There was a house move. There were other deadlines to meet.

Eventually, in fits and starts, I whipped and whittled that book into shape.

During those final edits and re-writes, my women characters moved in to live in my head and house. At night I dreamed about Jo Dowd, the book’s 84-year-old Irish character.   When I went out for a walk, I tramped along with Ellen Boisvert, the book’s 39-year-old American widow.  Once, as I panted my way through a workout at a local gym, one of the staff smirked at me and said, “You’re grinning again. That means you’re thinking about that teenage character of yours. I can tell.”

The gym woman was right. I was thinking about 14-year-old Cat and her hip-hop dance lessons.

Last April, 2011, I stood in my local Indie bookstore with almost 140 people (I have good friends) at my book’s launch party. For the next month, I read about my book and myself in blog posts and articles. At a fundraiser dinner one night, a woman crossed the room to tell me why she personally had it in for Jo, my Mommy Dearest old-lady character.

And then?  The summer of quiet.

It’s been four months since the release of my novel.  During the four months, the national bestseller lists have changed, then changed again (and again). The titles and rankings have flipped and clacked like that T.V. advertisement for the price slashers at Wal-Mart.  In maternity wards across America, new babies have been born. In chapels and homes and hospice facilities, people have bade a final goodbye to people they loved.

In other words, the world doesn’t stop or change because you write a novel.

A month after the release of DANCE LESSONS, an inner voice urged me to get off the poseur podium and get to work on the (gulp!) next writing project.

So I’ve started two new projects: a third novel; and a fledgling creative non-fiction (a memoir?) book.  Thing is, I find myself working on both of my new projects in scattered, hand-written drafts.  I oscillate between loving my new ideas and hating them.

They both terrify me, especially the non-fiction project.

I’m impatient with my disorganized, scattered process.  A no-nonsense voice tells me to sit up straight at my desk and focus. “Stop scribbling and start typing,” says that strident voice. “And for God’s sake get the cat off the table.”

But it’s not time. Not yet.

Thanks, Áine, for sharing with us your writing space and the time of refocus following that published novel.  I love that she writes her novels in long hand, or at least her notes, and that red wall I spy is my favorite!