Tuesday, August 11, 2009

WRITING EXERCISE #1 - The fabulous photographs of Cori Kindred

Scan through Cori Kindred's online photography portfolio. Pick an image. In one, double-spaced, typewritten page, write the image's story . . .

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stylistic Inspiration

A handful of images from fabulous stylist Meghan Guthrie. (Via Creature Comforts). What stories do they tell you?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Are you looking for . . . ?

Are you plotting a novel? Trying to figure out a character? How he looks? How she dresses? Imagining a room? Here are some key linkables for building your world from the ground up. 

1. Clothing: The Sartorialist. Photographs of fabulously-dressed people from around the world.  From suits to grunge, from all-black to summer whites. Every day is an inspiration. 

2. Interiors: Design Sponge.

3. All things chic and fabulous:  This is Glamorous & Dress, Design & Decor.

4. Maps: It's not new, but I don't think you can beat Google Street View to get a sense of place. 

5. Architecture: A Daily Dose of Architecture. (Enough said there, I think.)

6. Food: Serious Eats.

7. Character motivations? Postsecret.

8. Hobbies: Make & Craft

9. Art: Eye Level

Good luck!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guest blogger - Author Devon Monk & Affirmation Boards

I'm happy to offer the floor today to
Devon Monk, author of Magic in the Blood, Magic to the Bone, and the forthcoming Magic in the Shadows, who has some lovely thoughts to share regarding creating an Affirmation Board for your writing (or your health goals...or other career goals...or any other creative endeavor!)

Take it away, Devon!

* * * 

My friend was tired of New Years resolutions.  She wanted to start the year on a better foot.  Make a better plan than just listing things she would ultimately fail at.

So she told me about the affirmation board.  The affirmation board is easy.  You sit down, flip through magazines while thinking about what you want to do, and better yet, what you want to happen to you in the year ahead.  Then you hang that board someplace where you will see it every day–on your closet, by your TV, some place where the images and words can sink into your subconscious and remind you of your hopes and wishes and affirmations.

It sounded to me like the perfect way to make a year’s worth of writing goals.

The first time I sat down to make an affirmation board was on New Year’s eve.  I bought some poster board, glue and scissors, and asked friends and family to bring their old magazines to the party.

In a house full of people, at a party I was hosting, I began flipping through magazines.  I knew some of my goals: I wanted to write more and sell more.  I wanted balance between all aspects of my life.  I wanted health for myself, friends and family.  But how would I make that into a visual inspiration?

An amazing thing happened.  Halfway into the first magazine, the sounds of the party faded away.  I forgot I was sitting in a room full of people.  My conscious mind took the backseat, while my subconscious sorted through photos and words–and wondered, do I want that next year?  Is that my hope and dream?  Is that a writing goal?  Is that the career I’m reaching for?

Certain words and pictures jumped out.  Other concepts were difficult to find.  No surprise there.  Dreams are hard to spot in a recycled magazine.  But trust me, dreams are in there. I cut out everything that spoke to me.  More words and pictures than I could fit on a board.  When it came time to assemble the board, I slid photos and words around, feeling like an artistic criminal, making a ransom note for my future.

The board turned out pretty nice.  It was pleasant to look at–very important since it was going to be on my wall.  I posted it above my writing desk so when I was at the computer, my eyes would wander to the board, and my subconscious would be reminded of my goals and dreams.

What was on that board? A quote: “Step of the cliff expecting to fly, not to fall.”  An image: a woman in silhouette standing at the top of a mountain, the sun rising to greet her with “success” at her feet.  A goal: “Editor’s pick.” A hope: “healthy children.”

But there was danger lurking in those words, too. I foolishly clipped out this quote: “See how much one woman can do” thinking it would be inspirational.  It would help me see how much writing I could get done in a year, right?  Wrong.  Instead, I had one of the craziest, busiest years of my life!  There wasn’t a last minute emergency that didn’t fall into my lap, there wasn’t a disaster that didn’t need me to handle it, there wasn’t a moment’s rest.  It was crazy!  Finding out just what one woman could do nearly killed me. 

And it reminded me that words, even just clipped words on cardboard, or electronic pixels on a screen, or ink on a page, have power. 

I’m a little more choosy about what I put on my board now.  I still strive for things that will encourage me to reach my writing goals.  If you look in the left hand corner of my board from last year, you’ll see a goal of mine that I haven’t reached yet.  But I’m working on it.

This year, for the first time in ten years, I didn’t make a board.  I miss it.  I miss that beginning-of-the-year, fresh-start-hopefulness that helps me keep my chin up during the tough times, the rejections, the failures.  The affirmation board is more than a concrete reminder of what I want to accomplish.  It’s a visual encouragement to keep hoping and keep dreaming.  And of course, to keep working toward the career I want.

And thanks to Chloe’s invitation to blog here, I think I’m going to make a middle of the year affirmation board.  Because even half a year without a my writing dreams and goals is far too long.  

* * * * 

Alright, I have an appointment with some scissors and a glue stick. Thanks for joining us (and inspiring us), Devon!

Chapter notebooks

Gorgeous "Chapter" notebooks from Girl of All Work. Can't you just imagine adding a chapter from your new manuscript to one of these?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My project for the evening.

I have, of course, tons of travel guides and maps for Chicago. I peruse them before my research trips in the hopes that I won't look like a (total) tourist while I'm there. But I also use them to keep track of locations. Merit (and, soon, Lily) hop around Chitown quite a bit, so it's handy to keep a running list of their travels.

But, my giant city map is looking a little worse for wear thanks to (1) too much bleed-through highlighting) and (2) the chewed-up bits on corners that have been attacked by Dog.

Solution! Jordan Ferney is about to head to Brazil, and she's provided a great post on mounting a map to foam core so that you can cover it with sweet little tags and tacks and flags. What a great idea for science fiction/fantasy writers who "map" out their universes! Don't feel constrained to keep this limited to preexisting maps. Draw or sketch your own, or use a giant map of the U.S. to plot your heroines' travels!

So sleek and shiny. I am sooooo buying foam core tonight.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Creative Spaces

Dazed Digital has an online feature about creative spaces with photos.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Photography sourcebooks

I was browsing our local bookstore last night, thinking about art and architecture and looking for some source material to help inspire the first round of edits for FIRESPELL, when I came across this doozy:

It's chock full of random photography goodness (and, although not particularly relevant for me, photography tips). I can imagine flipping through it as I'm writing a scene in a city...a park...a house for interesting details.

I've always been a fan of the tiny books in the Design Index series. They're a great design resource, offering tips on layout and fonts. If you're interested in design (for your web site? your business cards?), check them out the next time you're surrounded by books.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cloth-spine journals & such

Ali Edwards has a great guest post today with creative chica Jamaica (whose web site I regularly check for sweet crafts and projects). If you're interested in creating a field journal for your writing notes or a booklet for your source material, this would be a great technique.

This would also be a fun project if you're worldbuilding. Consider it your handmade guide to your world/city/village state!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anna Beckman Bulletin Boards

These bulletin boards / inspiration boards created by calligrapher Anna Beckman are so fabulous they make my teeth ache. Gorgeous, and inspiring. What story do they tell you?

(Via the fabulous Jordan Ferney at Oh Happy Day).

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Brooke Reynolds recently participated in a series of guest blogs at Black Eiffel, one of my favorite design sites. As she guest blogged, she posted images of some of her (seemingly random) collections. I love the way she's photographed them, and I love the idea of idea of these small collections of random bits of stuff. Scout, one of my heroines in the forthcoming Dark Elite series, is a collector, so these are are just the kinds of collections she'd love.

Your turn! Writers--What do you collect? Do you have a hero or heroine who collects? Could any of these objects, found on a street corner, inspire a hero or heroine to act?

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Clipboard Method?

I scanned some lovely recycled three-ring binders at Target today, thinking it might be interesting to put a Novel Notebook together, but I couldn't make the plunge. I just don't think I have enough material per book to justify binders, and I'm not sure I'd ever *open* them.  But, I did see something else that sparked my interest:

I do tend to collect a few random images and notes, so I bought three gorgeous (and inexpensive, and recycled!) greenroom*eco clipboards. 

I'm using one clipboard for each book (or potential series). The clipboard for Chicagoland Vampires #3 is on top, although I have no clue what those notes say. I think they're chapter titles? Suppose I should check those. They are on a clipboard, after all. :)

Novel notebooks + office spaces

While I was prepping a guest blog today for Sidhe Vicious reviews, I ran across a post by author Lynn Viehl regarding putting together novel notebooks. Unfortunately, the link to her PDF file doesn't work anymore Lynn has even put together a set of PDFs for the notebooks. I don't have much in the way of material for Chicagoland Vampires #3 (other than the synopsis), but I'm thinking about creating one for a couple of new series on which I've been ruminating...

Also, a new link: Abundance shares brilliant--and often odd--photography. Do they inspire?

(Photo by Vee Speers)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Seasonal Inspiration Files

As the weather begins to warm here in the northern hemisphere, writers, photographers, designers and crafters are posting about food, fashion, and design that's suited for warm climes. From a peek into Ali Edwards' market basket, to a glimpse of Anne Sage's sweet summer prints and resort luxe interiors, changes in season can make for excellent inspiration.

And what better way to save--to savor--the refreshment of a change in the weather than by creating a seasonal style file? Here are some ideas to keep you visually inspired, even in the dead of winter:

1. Take photographs of the flora and fauna as the landscape around your home changes.

2. Save reminders and brochures from local farmer's markets.

3. Take a drive through the countryside. What do you see? Smell? Hear?

4. Clip magazines with seasonal ensembles. You might need an idea for resort wear when you're writing in winter.

5. Order up vacation brochures from the state of your choice. Start a state-by-state "scouting" file for potential scene locations.

And don't forget--these same ideas work in winter. Save memories of the frosty landscape around you to inspire your writing in the heat of the summer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Picture + Text = Design Profile

Looking for another way to create a design profile for your manuscript or series, but don't have the room for a full inspiration board? Think about a creating a design profile--images and text collected in a favorite notebook, sketchbook, scrapbook, presentation folder or flat box. There's a sample below to get you started. 

Do you have a design profile you'd like to share? Drop me a note at chloe [at] chloeneill [dot] com.

The Fashion=Inspired collages of Boubou Tea Time


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Paper, paper and more paper.

I don't typically handwrite manuscripts; I'm a pretty speedy typist, so it's considerably faster and more efficient for me to type into my trusty Apple. But there are times, particularly when I'm trying to figure out how to end a novel, that notebooks come in handy. Switching up the mechanism of writing--from clicking keys to having a pen in hand--sometimes helps to joggle my brain and get out the words.

I've got a handful of favorite notebooks, including anything by Mnemosyne, and the paper in classic Black'n'Red notebooks are great. (Ed: I've ordered from JetPens before, but had no idea their selection of Mnemosyne was so huge...Maybe I should start writing long hand.) I love Bienfang Notesketches, which are half lines-half empty space, which leave room for outlining or sketches as things progress. (Sketches of the floor plans of Cadogan House are included in one of my first Bienfang notebooks.) I'm looking for a sturdy front and back, and thickish, slick paper that takes ink well. I don't like normal notebook paper--too thin, with too much bleed-through that I find visually distracting when I'm trying to write. And the fewer distractions, the better.  Even beyond their usefulness (or not), I love notebooks and paper and binderies. I recently visited the paper boutique PULP, where I picked up a tin of lovely Mateo Ilasco filing clips. Here are some other favorite paper-esque sites:

1. Photos of Paperislovely's paper collection. (Via simplesong). I love how simply they're organized in vellum wrap. I save almost everything that's potentially nostaligic--movie tickets, theatre programs, etc.--so this might be a good way to store.

2. I recently ordered some Cadogan House coasters and would-be bookplates from My Own Labels. Instead of going the traditional bookplate route, I'm trying some interesting beer and wine labels with custom script. They've just shipped today, so we'll see how they turn out.

3. Present + Correct has the most luscious notebooks. Sure, they're all the way across the ocean, but still...

4. A sweet Duly Noted notebook from Jamaica, who has a lovely notebook collection of her own.

5. And speaking of Jamaica (yes, we were, see No. 4 above), the Effer Dares do lovely things to paper...and on paper...and with paper.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writers' Sheds

Apartment Therapy-Chicago has a great post today on "Writers' Sheds: From Chaotic to Clean," including this beauty, which was in the writing shed of George Bernard Shaw:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Images of Cadogan House

Some recent Cadogan House visual inspiration...

1. I hadn't really given much thought to what the consort suite might look like, but I think these answer that question: 

2. There's something very Merit about this one, and it reminds me of a scene I've imagined for book 4. 

3. Tons more fabulous photos from Dress, Design, Decor, which I just discovered today ...

a. I'd always imagined that Navarre House was tres modern, but this bathroom is so. Very. Celina (mirrors abound).

b. This office is very Lacey Sheridan (prim, proper, modern, just-so), who you'll meet in Chicagoland Vampires: FRIDAY NIGHT BITES (10/09, Berkley Penguin). 

c. Mallory, sans blue hair?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Guest blog - Karen Mahoney!

I'm very pleased to welcome today's guest blogger and soon-to-be-published author, Karen Mahoney. Take it away, Karen!

* * * *

Bring in the Man with the Sword

by Karen Mahoney

So, when Chloe asked if I had anything to say about visual inspiration in my work as a writer I could actually say: Yes! :)

Normally I don't think of myself as a particularly visual person when it comes to writing fiction. I like playing with the words - that's the best part for me - and I especially enjoy writing dialogue, so it came as a big surprise to me when the second novel I completed (currently with my agent), a YA urban fantasy called DAUGHTER OF LIES, was largely inspired by a visually creative undertaking.

I made a collage:

I'd never done this before, but I was at my Day Job flipping through a magazine (at the time I worked in a library and was sorting out old issues to be recycled or donated) and came across a photograph of a guy wearing a smart suit, standing on a rooftop overlooking a city backdrop... and he was holding a sword. It was just an advert for something - I don't remember what - but I was drawn to the picture. I thought it was great that an image used to sell a watch or aftershave was so reminiscent of urban fantasy. You can see the picture in the bottom left of the collage, though the sword isn't very clear in my photo.

At the time I was working on some notes and research for a new idea - it was going to be a dark and gritty adventure, involving demons hiding in the shadows of a place that may or may not exist called Fortune City (it's not too far away from Boston). I liked to think of the project as: 'The Bourne Identity with demons and teenagers'. As soon as I saw that photograph, I knew I had my sort-of hero. I already had lots of ideas for the main character, Maxine Sullivan, and knew she was going to lock horns with an older guy who was supposed to be protecting her from the nasty things that came out to play at night. Okay, so his hair was all wrong, but the combination of suit and sword inspired me.

I decided to cut out the picture and see if there were others in the huge pile of magazines, and began cutting out all sorts of images. I didn't know quite where they'd fit - and a couple of them never did end up in the book - but it was fun and felt creative. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a huge piece of (bright pink) cardboard and stuck them on in some kind of pattern. Eventually I hit upon the idea of taking a photograph of the finished article and uploading it onto my laptop as the desktop background. Every time I switched it on and prepared to write, I saw that image and it really helped me focus.

Now I'm experimenting with inspiration boards, thanks to Anne Sage's great guest blog on Chloe's site and am trying to create one for my latest project, BEAUTIFUL GHOSTS. I didn't think that visual inspiration was such a big part of my writing process, and it wasn't until I came across that random photo of the man-with-sword. Whatever product it was advertising, I'm very grateful. :)

Thanks for having me, Chloe!

Karen's first professional publication will appear in THE ETERNAL KISS: 13 Tales of Blood and Desire, a YA vampire anthology edited by Trisha Telep (published July 2009). You can visit her at: www.karenmahoney.net.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The City Series - Chicago

Welcome to the first installment of WWUC's new series on city-based Internet resources for writers! The City Series is intended to provide a set of research links in art, photography, architecture, urban planning, etc., to writers who are sourcing particular cities for their stories, poems or manuscripts.

[ Are you a writer with a favorite city/setting? Would you like to contribute your sources to WWUC? If so, send an e-mail to chloe at chloeneill dot com. - Ed.]

Author Intro: Chloe Neill is an urban fantasy and paranormal romance author. Her two series, Chicagoland Vampires and Dark Elite, are both set in Chicago. Chloe is a big fan of the Windy City, and has done a lot of Web perusing for Chicagocentric research sites.

Basic Information:


Architecture, Interiors and Landmarks:
History & Culture:
Food, Drink, Entertainment & Shopping

Do you have a link you'd like to suggest? Leave a comment!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Another way to organize & brainstorm--Colorboards

> The folks at the gorgeous 100 Layer Cake, a wedding inspiration site, have put together a series of fabulous colorboards.  Although intended for nuptials, not outlining, they're another great way to think about building a scheme of color or images for your WIP, manuscript, or ongoing series. 

> Are you an easily-distracted writer? How about a streamlined office? (Via Apartment Therapy-Chicago).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Office Redo - Part Two

After sampling three colors, I finally picked a paint color (the one on the bottom of this picture), and we got the room painted this weekend. I'm amassing details for the decor--a glass jar with a lid for a small terrarium, wicker baskets for storage, a new crimson shade so that I can upcycle an old lamp--so the office is well on its way!

Below: The Rug, The Paint Color (you can barely see it behind the rug), The Dog, and His Toy

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How'd you like to write in this room?

Rain falling, lightening crashing, and you're home in your nook with a fountain pen and manuscript . . . from Morten Holtum (via Desire to Inspire):

And could you write that manuscript in one of these bad boys from May Day Studios? (Via Scoutie Girl)

And imagine your new noir mystery using this inspiration board. (Via Simple + Pretty)

More online inspiration

Perfect Bound Studio does amazing things with office supplies, creating intriguing vignettes like these:

If the image above doesn't give you plot ideas, I don't know what does.

Check their Flickr site for more. (Via Craft Lovely)

Ali Edwards has *another* fabulous blog up today--The ABCs of Color Inspiration. From "Art" to "Zoo," she tracks ideas--online and otherwise--that can help you find the perfect pallette for your next project. But the list works just as well for writers, and each of Ali's "letters" can inspire your next manuscript.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guest Blog - Anna Claire Vollers

I'm very pleased to present a guest blog by writer Anna Claire Vollers, who tells her story about how an image of a mysterious, southern plantation inspired her own Jane Eyre tale.  

* * * ** 

It all started with a house.

If I had to give my current work-in-progress a tag, I’d say that on its most basic level, it’s “Jane Eyre set in the deep South.” The first spark of an idea came to me when I was posting photos on my blog of a cool Flickr stream I’d found of pictures taken in abandoned buildings.

Something about dilapidated, abandoned buildings – particularly houses – is so appealing. The neglect lends an air of infinite sadness, and the mysteries are endless. Who lived there? What were they like? Where have they gone, and why is no one around to care about this house any more? And always, always this one: was somebody murdered there?

(That last question I can chalk up to all the Nancy Drew and Mary Higgins Clark I read growing up. It’s truly sad the number of times I’ve just been walking around and thought, ‘that would make a great hiding spot for a body.’)

When you think about it, those are the same kinds of questions we ask when we’re creating our characters and our story.

I was raised in Alabama, so as I looked through the Flickr stream of abandoned houses, I wondered what it would be like to stay in a dilapidated old plantation house in the deep South. But I didn’t want to set the story in modern times, or during the actual plantation era. I eventually settled on 1919 because it was a time of change, ushering in the modern age, yet still cautiously attached (especially in the South) to a bygone era.

My sister is in Charleston getting her master’s degree in historical preservation. She loves old buildings, natch, and we e-mailed back and forth about my book idea. (She loves historical mysteries, too.) She sent me a link to this house and I fell in love:

It inspired what became my novel’s central setting: a once-great Plantation house, still home to the last members of the family line but so neglected that the damage is almost irreparable. It’s as sinister as Manderley and as tragic as Thornfield Hall.

But the funny thing about architecture is that it can inform your writing in more ways than one. I was still musing over details of the mystery surrounding my creepy plantation house when my sister sent me an e-mail with her own thoughts about the house, and why it might have sunk into disrepair in the first place:

“The comparison between the almost aristocratic way of life that the planter class carried off vs. the ‘New South’ industrialization [after the Civil War] is very interesting. Whereas in Charleston, the planters were extremely hesitant to move forward into the twentieth century, places like Alabama did not have as strong of roots (colonial) and were more willing to change. That would explain the dilapidated/forgotten plantation house in your story. If you placed it somewhere south of Birmingham, [the family] might have moved away and gotten into the iron and steel industry, while keeping the house since it was the family seat.”

And as I thought about what exactly the house and the land around it might look like, she e-mailed me again, and as I read the e-mail, I suddenly had a light-shining-down-from-above-with-angels-singing experience…OK not exactly, but this paragraph solved one particularly prickly plot point in a way I hadn’t considered:

“If there are any slave quarters/outbuildings left over [on my fictional property], and there should be some, maybe have the house servants living there, or other black people whose families used to be slaves of the old plantation. A lot of times if they didn't go north, black people would stick around and continue working for the same masters because it's all the work they'd ever known. Depending on whether the property is still being cultivated, you might not have that many black people still living around there. Maybe [character] lets certain families live there, like the family of [mystery plot point omitted here!], out of guilt or obligation or because he feels a kinship with them.”

I’d rather not reveal more about the plot, but the above paragraph really put things in perspective for me. I’d forgotten that traditional plantation architecture dictates that slave outbuildings would almost certainly still be on the property. And there it was: I had another twist to add to my mystery and the house that sits at the heart of it.

If you’re interested in plantation architecture, here’s a good overview. This page has links to great photos of other plantation houses in Alabama.

But hands-down the most inspirational writer’s resource I’ve found is actually Flickr. You could browse there for hours – days – finding photos on anything you could ever possibly need.

In the last story I wrote, I didn’t seriously consider what exactly the buildings looked like. But as I outline this novel, I’m finding that just considering the architecture and its cultural and historical relevance fuels my imagination and helps me weave a deliciously twisty plot.

* * * * * 

Thanks so much for joining us, Anna Claire! I look forward to reading about your deliciously twisty plot! :)

Working through Creative Fear (Ali Edwards)

Another excellent post from Ali Edwards on Working Through Creative Fear. Here's a tidbit:

What are we afraid of in our creative lives?

1. Messing up.

2. Thinking this is the one and only chance to tell this story so it simply must be perfect.

3. People not appreciating what we create.

4. Being seen as selfish or extravagant for indulging yourself in your creative endeavor.

5. Not getting anything done.

Any of those sound or feel familiar? Let's look a bit at the realities . . .

[Read More]

As I approach the final stages of drafing my third novel, FIRESPELL, I'm kneedeep in #1. The only solution I'm aware of? Keep writing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The office redo - Part one

As some of you know, I'm in the process of moving from a downtown loft to a suburban house. And, for the first time in years, I'll have a room to call my own, to make into my own office. 

The room is currently a block of white, 10 feet by 11 feet, with a closet, two wee windows, and the most beautiful rug I've ever seen.  (Seriously--the pic doesn't do it justice. The detail is painterly.)

I'm currently working on making the walls a little less white.  I was going for a soft, cool taupe, but the sample choices were a bit limited at our local hardware store. I'm leaning heavily toward the bottom option. 

Hopefully, I'll have a painted room by next Monday!