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:

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! 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Writers' Space - Sewing Nooks

Desire to Inspire has selected dozens of shots from a collection of Flickr images of sewing nooks, which aren't exactly writing offices, still offer great ideas for organizing a writing workspace.