My Writer’s Library

I don’t have a lot of storage space at my house.  We live in a modest but very comfortable home with two rambunctious children and lots of stuff.  Probably too much stuff.  But I wanted to dedicate one quiet corner, near my writing space for my writing resources.

I loved the idea of having supplies and research available at my fingertips to consult when I need so I created my “little library” inspired by my writing friend, Tessa Dare‘s writing office.  I don’t have an office but I have a large bedroom with a second-hand recliner nearby that makes a comfortable writing chair.  So I cleared out a bookshelf in the bottom of my closet and created “Bren’s Writing Lair”(tm).

Supply CenterAbove the top shelf (pictured above), I have my supplies and “go to” writer’s references (the ones I find myself pulling because they are most relevant to what I’m working on).  I have my pens, white-out, pencils, erasers, LOTS of sticky notes,  4 x 6 index cards, scissors, tape and glue sticks, etc.  I also always have a “running notebook” full of notes and back-story, planning materials, etc.  For the work-in-progress, I also store this on the top shelf.Research libraryOn the shelves, I keep my historical and subject-relevant resources.  Most of these pertain to the Regency period, English 18th and 19th century history and culture, geographical information (I have a historical atlas that I’m particularly proud of).  There are Royal Navy resources as well.  Not just because I’m writing about Navy Heroes but also because the RN from this period really interests me.  There are some of the often-named “go-to” regency resources as well, such as Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, An Elegant Madness, What Jane Austen Knew and Charles Dickens Ate, along with some other treasures I’ve scooped up, like: In the Garden with Jane Austen, Tea with Jane Austen, The Lady’s Strategem, and Courtesans.

Craft BooksOn the picture above this one, you’ll notice a brown bin on the bottom shelf.  In this are my not-as-frequently consulted writing craft books and all of my manuscript pages (for at least 3 different versions) of my recently-completed Regency novel.  I’m keeping the pages as a resource until they are no longer needed (hopefully once to book is published).  They will then be happily recycled.  Under them in the bin are the craft books that I own in paper version.  I own many more in eBook format.  I took a picture of the spines to give you an idea.New ArrivalsThree of the newest additions to my library, of which I am extremely proud! Life in Nelson’s Navy, Our Tempestuous Day, and The Epicure’s Almanack.

My Christmas list this last year was made up only of books that I wanted and I told my family “I don’t care if it’s used, as long as I can read it!”  One of them is a former library book, which kind of makes me guilty every time I look at it, like I have some massive fine I owe, or something.  Some of these books are kind of hard to get so I was THRILLED that most of my list was filled (hint: If you plan to do the same thing, make sure you provide links to the books… makes it really easy for family members when they shop for you.)


Lastly, since I’m setting my historical novels in and around the historical county of Cumberland (which is now known as Cumbria), I was extremely astonished to learn the existence of this book, The Cumbrian Dictionary.  I was absolutely over the moon when I discovered I could procure a copy for myself.  It has proved an amazing resource.

So what does your writing space / reference storage look like?  Feel free to post a photo link or description in the comments!

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

P&P 200 years!

Today marks the bicentennial anniversary of the publication of one of my most favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice.  A novel which has outlived its era and proves, by its universal themes that a story, once written, is immortal.

I remember precisely where I was when I first read it.  For college, I was assigned to read the novel for one of my many English courses.  I knew nothing about Jane Austen or the novel itself.  I had no idea of the era from which it came (except that it was categorized in that literary period referred to as “romantic”).  I expected to find something lifeless and dry like much of the work I’d sampled from the previous period, which while flawless in its own right, spoke little to me and my 20th century sensibilities.

From the moment I cracked open the book, sitting on the uncomfortable couch in my college apartment, and read that world-famous first line–you know one—I was hooked.

The voice, the cadence, the sardonic wit.  The characterizations, both satirical and serious.  The themes.  And the romance.  Ah, yes the romance.  I had no idea that Darcy would be Elizabeth’s hero.  I was shocked, shocked, when he proposed to her.  “You must allow me to tell you…”

And strangely, I felt sorry for him after Elizabeth slapped him down so hard.  I mean, yes, I was cheering her on when she dressed him down for his unbelievable arrogance, but then I read his letter.  The letter, which must have been so difficult to write, filled with all the ugly truths about that likeable guy, Wickham, and explaining Darcy’s real reasons for separating Bingley from Jane.

My prejudice, as a reader, reversed a bit sooner than Elizabeth’s.  But by the time she had run into him at Pemberley, I was hoping they’d get together.

I blew through the book in a few days (I read slow, I know).  I savored the language, the tone, the unmistakable voice of Jane Austen speaking to me across nearly two hundred years.  And every time I pick up this novel and read it, I have that same feeling.

Jane Austen could not have known that her work would be so well appreciated and venerated two hundred years after she wrote it.   Countless reading groups, adaptations, fan-fiction and literary clubs surrounding her are the proof of that.

Her themes are universal, her voice immortal and her stories and characters, just plain addictive.  If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice in a while, I suggest you give it a try.  Especially in this, the 200th year of continuous publication (it has never been out of print!).  It won’t be hard to see the relevance.  I suspect in the year 2213, someone, maybe some descendant of mine, will be writing a post along these same lines.  And in 2413, however books will be consumed then, the name of Jane Austen will be known and appreciated.

For more posts about Jane Austen works, see:

What Makes is Mr. Darcy so Irresistible?

The Greatest Love Letter in the English Language

JAMMDI Editor asks me questions about Jane Austen and her works

This post has been part of the “Pride and Prejudice 200th Anniversary Party Blog-hop”


Shout outs to Writing Friends!

Part of belonging to the wonderful organization that is the Romance Writers of America involves making friends of all kinds.  If you are a writer, there are few more supportive organizations than RWA, no matter what genre you write.

So this blog post is giving props to some of my friends who have had so many wonderful successes lately!

First off, there is my wonderful critique partner, Kate McKinley (whom I interviewed here).  She has recently sold a 3-book deal to Grand Central Forever Yours.  Here’s a blurb about it just posted on the Romantic Times Web Site:

Historical Romance – Time to don your corset and petticoats because author Kate McKinley is taking readers to a house party in Regency England. The yet-to-be titled anthology will let readers discover all of the guests’ secrets, by allowing us to see the entire event through three different couples in three interconnected novellas. On your mark, get ready, and flirt!

Other mentions:  Three  writer friends were nominated for RT Historical Romance Reader’s Choice awards.  Tessa Dare (whom I interviewed here) for her nomination in Historical Romance of the Year and Historical Love and Laughter.  [Her novel, A WEEK TO BE WICKED, was also listed as one of the Best Books of 2012!] Congratulations to Jennifer Haymore for her nomination in Regency-Set Historical Romance. And Jillian Stone (whom I interviewed here) for her nomination in Historical Romantic Adventure.

Also wonderful news for Beth Yarnall.  She sold her second novel, HAIR SPRAYED HARD AND PUT AWAY FOREVER to Entangled Publishing for publication in 2014!  And Louisa Bacio continues to burn up the publishing industry with her hot paranormals and sexy contemporaries.

Lastly, I also have some wonderful news to share but will heighten your suspense by saving it for another day.  Let’s just say things are moving and shaking–and I’m no longer sending out query letters!

PERSUASION Read Along Book Discussion

I’m participating in the “Austen in August” read-along of my most favorite novel, Persuasion by Jane Austen.  Misty from “The Book Rat” has posted questions about the novel (linked below) and so I’ll be following along with the rest of the group!  When you are done reading here, you should toodle along over to her blog.  It’s brilliant.  It’s fun.  It’s Austenesque.

Book Discussion Part I

What are your initial impressions of the story? Do you like the set-up for the world and the conflicts? Did you find any of it hard to understand or relate to?

My initial impressions of Persuasion are hard to remember since I first read the book many years ago.  I do remember thinking how much more emotionally trenchant it was than Pride and Prejudice, my then-favorite novel.  I have little difficulty with Austen’s voice as I find it timeless and rich.  Her voice is one of a kind.

What are your impressions of the characters so far? Especially in regards to Anne, who is considered quite a bit different from other Austen heroines (besides being the oldest, she’s had love and let it go, and now has had years to reflect on that).

Originally, Anne struck me as weak.  I couldn’t understand why she would turn down the love of her life because of her family’s opinion but it occurred to me that I was looking at her situation from a modern woman’s perspective and not in the right context.  Ann, at nineteen, had had all of her family support pulled from her and faced the difficult decision of opting to marry Wentworth and then live poorly—perhaps with a child or two—while he went off to war, risking his life and possibly leaving her a widow.  She made the sensible choice and did not follow her heart.  I can understand why she did it even though she lived to regret losing Wentworth.

Do you think Anne was right to have yielded to the pressure of those close to her – to have been “persuaded” – not to accept Wentworth’s first proposal?

 See above, I already answered.

What do you make of Anne’s family (and extended family, including Lady Russell), and her place among them? How do the people in Anne’s life treat her, and what was your reaction to that?

Anne is lost amongst a sea of strange characters.  Her father’s buffoonery, her elder sister’s snobbish pride and her younger sister’s constant attention-seeking hypochondria.  It has always angered me to see how these people treat her.  She is everything sweet and good and puts up with all of their antics.  Some would see her weak for this, but from my more mature eye, I’d call her stronger for it.  It takes more strength to bite one’s tongue and love someone, warts and all.  And wisdom, too.

Discuss Anne’s first few meetings with Wentworth, or Wentworth’s entry into the story in general.

When I first read the story, I was not inclined to like Wentworth.  I saw him as resentful and, not being the type of person to hold long grudges myself, I could never understand why he held on to his for so long.   I also saw his flirting with the Musgrove girls as an attempt to get a little payback, which did not make him attractive to me.  As usual with Austen heroes, my opinion would be overturned by the end of the story… but that is for later discussion.

Join the discussion over at the Book Rat for Austen in August.

I’ll be guest blogging over there soon.  Details to come.

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