Write Place, Write Time

If you look at anything long enough, say just that wall in front of you -- it will come out of that wall.
- Anton Chekhov

Lena Roy

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I am the most persnickety of writers whenever I am starting a new project. Like the princess and the pea, everything has to be just right. I have to get out of the house and be in a public space for stimulation, and I have to have coffee and snacks. Where does this lead me to? Starbucks, or some such coffee shop stands in for my office. I need a little noise and friendly banter with passersby. And then my creative energy only comes in bursts - I am never able to sit for more than two hours without taking some kind of break. Making all of those character and plot choices deplete my energy.

(My mentor and grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle, could write anywhere, but most often since I was born, she wrote at the library of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, where she was also allowed to have hot drinks and shortbread, or Chinese food from across the street.)

Once I have the first draft down however, I can write anywhere and for longer periods of time. I do not have to ban myself from my home; I do not need as many snacks. So now I can go to a library, or be on the train, or even in the kitchen while I’m making pasta for my husband and three kids! However, most often you will find me under the covers in my bed, doing the part of writing that I love the best: revising. Filling in the holes, deepening character, questioning motivations. Revision is the most fun, because I have the beginning, the middle, and the end, and it is like working on a puzzle, figuring out how everything will fit together and make sense organically. My writing is character driven, so sometimes the middle changes drastically, because the character is speaking to me and telling me she wouldn’t do something the way that I, the author, have designed it. And I have to listen! This is happening to me in my WIP right now. It is exciting but exhausting, and I am tempted to get out of bed after I write this post and hit up Starbucks for some inspiration.

Léna Roy is the author of Edges (FSG, Dec.2010) She also loves blogging and connecting with readers and writers. Drop by and say hello! And … EDGES has its own Facebook page!

Christian A. Dumais

For the purposes of this exercise, Christian A. Dumais will be played by the writer. The dogs, Dudikoff and Commissioner Gordon, will play themselves and are contractually obligated to do their own stunts. The writer always had a bedroom or a living room that happened to have a desk, but he never had a room that was exclusively an office until last year. Because of this, the writer did most of his writing at any Starbucks within reach for over 15 years. The writer would sit in the corner with his laptop, drinking a caramel frappuccino – the drink of choice for serious writers – and compose his art with dramatic typing gestures and well-timed sighs of discontentment. People who saw him would drink their coffees and pretend to have a nice time with their friends, all the while secretly resenting the writer for being so incredibly awesome. Some people, overcome by jealously, would complain to the management about the writer’s lack of pants.

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The writer’s wife bought him this office plaque for the door. The writer was sure to screw the plaque into the door, damaging it permanently so that the room could never be anything but an office. But the writer imagines that because the office is located on the top floor of his home, there may come a time when he will be unable to climb the stairs to his favorite room. The writer isn’t getting any younger. Perhaps then the office will become a different room, such as a secret headquarters for a thrifty super- hero, or inspiration for Tommy Wiseau to create a new masterpiece, or maybe not be a room at all, but instead blossom into a hall or an open space. The writer hopes the room will be able to achieve all of its dreams.

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The writer’s office is located next to their library. He can’t imagine writing without having books around. There is a reading chair in the corner, but it’s usually taken by one of the dogs (today Commissioner Gordon has commandeered the chair). On the other side of the room is the writer’s exercise bike where he looks sweaty and ridiculous for up to 30 minutes a day. Luckily, he only looks ridiculous for the remainder of the day. Unless, of course, it’s summer, then the writer is both sweaty and ridiculous all of the time.

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This is the entrance. Since the room has a slanted ceiling, the writer put up some Spaced Invaders decals, as you naturally do. On the heater on the left, you’ll see one of the writer’s Hulk hands that he uses to get into Drunk Hulk’s head. Unfortunately, all bottles of liquor are not located in the office, as kindly suggested by the writer’s legal team.

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On the shelf in the corner are some books, a Hulk mask, an Alex Ross Superman statue, and the Key to Hell from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. These books are either important or are there because the writer recently read them and will probably return to them shortly. Classical Mythology in Literature, Art and Music is pretty much the best book on the subject he’s ever read (and a gift from his father, who bought it to ensure that the writer wouldn’t steal his copy). The copy of Stardust is not only autographed by Gaiman, he drew a picture too. That’s an original first edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. Donald Barthelme’s 40 Stories is the closest thing the writer has to a Bible. And Daniel Z. Danielewski’s The Fifty Year Sword and House of Leaves are too important to sit so far away from the writer at any given time.

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The writer has two laptops because he’s a very important person. And very important people have many laptops. Actually, the big one is used mostly for writing and is currently threatening to give up the ghost. The smaller laptop is for Twitter and other distractions. The writer could use the bigger computer for Twitter and other distractions, which only encourages it to turn off by itself at the most inopportune moment. See how needlessly complicated that was? So it’s easier to tell others that the writer is an important person.

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Over the desk is the writer’s White Board of Impending Doom, which helps to keep him organized. The diagram on the left is actually an outline for the book he’s working on, but the book would like you to know that it’s not really interested in what the outline says. In fact, one could argue that the book has its own agenda and the outline is simply there for the writer to feel clever. Also of interest is his number one rule for writing: Just fucking write! By the way, the writer’s office is actually this clean and organized normally. Don’t open the drawers though. They appear to be owned by a different writer.

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Dudikoff has stepped in to do a dramatic reenactment of the writer at work. Please note: the writer is never this sexy when writing in real life. Plus, if you look closely, you can see Max hiding by the tree.

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Here is the writer’s desk from a different angle. Dudikoff and Commissioner Gordon would like you to know that they remained still for two whole seconds so that the writer could get this shot and feel they deserve a treat of some kind.

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Here is the far wall of the office. In the corner, you’ll notice a small TARDIS, a gift from the writer’s wife. The writer is proud of his little TARDIS, but admits that he’s envious of Joe Hill’s TARDIS, which is much bigger and is used more often. He tells himself to stop comparing TARDIS’s, and sometimes he’s content enough to let it go, but most times he just falls back to sleep on his tear soaked pillow. You can also see the writer’s Wall of Crazy, a collection of Post-it notes relating to his PhD work. To the random observer, it probably won’t make a lot of sense, but the writer assures everyone that it does make sense. He’s certain of it. However, when the police finally catch on, this wall will be turned into the Wall of Evidence.

Christian A. Dumais is the author of Empty Rooms Lonely Countries and the creator behind Twitter’s @DRUNKHULK. Yes, he does know what the Caps Lock is, thanks. He lives in Poland with his wife and two dogs. He’s currently writing a novel. And he enjoys baking pies when no one is looking. He would like to thank Third Person for making this biography possible to write.

Eric D. Goodman

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It recently occurred to me that for all my decades of writing, I’ve written at least part of every draft novel and short story at the same, simple desk. A modest, pine desk that belonged to my father. 

I was 12 when I wrote my first draft of my first novel in a spiral notebook and then transcribed it on an old PC in a forgotten word processing program called “Multimate.” I did so at my father’s desk. 

I remember Dad purchased it as a natural, untreated pine desk for his first PC back in 1983. One Saturday, he applied the red honey stain—and it’s remained intact for about three decades. 

When I needed a desk for my first computer and Dad decided it was time for a new desk of his own, I inherited the modest pine. I’ve always planned to get a newer, nicer desk—a handsome cherry wood or mahogany goliath with room for lots of scribbled notes. But when I recently realized how loyal this desk has been to me and my writing, I began to think: this will always be my primary writing desk. 

Of course I write in other places too—an office, writing retreats—but as long as the old pine holds up, I think I’ll remain loyal too.

I try to surround myself with things to inspire me when I write. Just about everything on or around my desk is there for a reason. Here are a few of my muses … 

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When I was an exchange student in Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, I remember spotting this Don Quixote statue in an art shop. It was a little pricey for me as a student, but I kept coming back to look at it. “It’s you,” my friends said. Finally, my Russian professor advised me that I should buy it and always have it on my desk to inspire me. I did, and I have.  

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The candle holder was purchased in St. Petersburg, Russia, at a museum. It’s a duplicate of the dragon candle holder Leo Tolstoy used when he wrote by candlelight. 

The wooden manuscript box was a gift from my kids on father’s day. Although it’s usually filled with notes, not manuscripts. 

The glass paperweight is a handcrafted rendition of Venus made with ash from the 1980 Mt. St. Helen eruption. It was a gift from my family on my 40thbirthday. It’s heavy, making it useful when the window’s open on a windy day. 

A friend and fellow writer crafted the fountain pen out of wood from the desk of former U.S. Transportation Secretary and San Jose mayor Norman Mineta. This had special meaning to me as I was born in San Jose. 

My thesaurus and Strunk & White are always nearby … although lately I tend to find my sources online. 

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My favorite author, John Steinbeck, watches over me as I write. I picked up this woodcut at the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, right down the road from his boyhood home. 

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My writing studio is small, so a friend built in ceiling-to-floor bookshelves along one wall. That allows for a lot of books. About one and a half of the shelves are filled with signed editions. The shelf also holds family photographs and trinkets I’ve collected over the years. 

But the nucleus of the room is this modest pine desk. My dad’s been through three or four desks since he gave this one up. Someday he might ask for it back.

Eric D. Goodman has been writing fiction at the same modest desk for about 30 years. His debut novel in stories, Tracks, was published by Atticus Books on June 30. He regularly reads his fiction on Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR, and at book festivals and literary events. He’s probably at the old pine desk right now working on revisions for his second novel.

Matthew Allard

This is my writing/creative space. It’s a small lofted area above my living room. If this were MTV’s Cribs I would usher you up and grandly state, “This is where the magic happens!” 

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I know I’m very lucky to have a place separate from “living” to go and operate, so I’m always reminding myself not to take it for granted. It’s crammed with all of the creative things—books, artwork, typewriters, a weird snail lamp—that I have amassed over the years, but I’ve tried to keep it very organized. Everything has a place, and I think it feels cozy, like a tree fort or nest. NO ADULTS ALLOWED. I pull inspiration from the wall of art, which is most all original work by my illustrator friend, Ian Dingman. I like colors and visuals that help my mind to wander. Meanwhile, my book collection is constantly growing, made up of old and new favorites that remind me to stay ambitious in my own work. I think to make books you have to surround yourself with books. Somehow I started collecting editions of The Great Gatsby, and I now have at least five different printings.

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Though I get so much light and a great view into the trees outside, I find that I enjoy writing here most in the late afternoon or evening. Many nights, if I’ve spent too long at the desk, I’ll end up in the yellow armchair with my laptop on my knees. That’s when I love the space most, with my reading lamp on and my headphones blaring.

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Matthew Allard is a fiction writer living in Los Angeles. Some of his stories were inspired by illustrations from Ian Dingman and made into a book called To Slow Down The Time (2010). He does freelance copy work and spends too much time on the Internet, particularly Twitter and Tumblr

Quote, Unquote

       

                                               If you would not be forgotten, 
                                           as soon as you are dead and rotten, 
                                           either write things worth reading, 
                                             or do things worth the writing.
                                                      - Benjamin Franklin

Nicholson Baker

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I work all over the house, and in the yard when it’s warm—and often at restaurants and coffee shops.  But my favorite place is to write is at our kitchen table, especially when the sun comes angling in. 

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The refrigerator turns on and off, the wall clock ticks, the cat jingles her food in the saucer as she crunches it, and there’s a nice shine to whatever fruit is in the bowl. 

Nicholson Baker is the author of nine novels and four works of nonfiction.  He lives with his family in Maine.

Jason Ciaramella

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You see that picture? It’s kind of misleading. Sure that’s where I’m doing all my writing these days, but up until a few months ago everything I ever had published was written on a cramped kitchen table next to a window that magnified the sun and always made me feel like I was being roasted alive. I’m glad I don’t have to write there anymore.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll tell you a little bit about my workspace. To start, my desk is from Ikea. I had planned to have a local furniture maker hand whittle me a desk worthy of a proper writer, but then I remembered that I write comic books and said to myself: “Hey, you write comic books. You can’t afford to pay anyone to make you a desk.”  It’s true. Handmade furniture isn’t cheap.  So, $70 and an hour of assembly time later and the incredibly efficient desk you see before you was ready to be used. The Godzilla toys were put there by my youngest son when he found out I was going to be writing a comic about the big green guy. There were twice as many a week ago, but I’ve since put a few back in his toy box. The phone is a ShoreTel 230G IP Phone which connects to my Juniper SRX100 VPN router. Pretty state-of-the-art stuff for a guy who writes funny books, huh? And don’t bother asking why I have them because I won’t tell you. Just know that I have probably used them to spy on you, and if I haven’t, I probably will. Soon.

There’s a stack of comps I just got in the mail, and my iPad which I do most of my reading on these days. I don’t like the accumulation of things (yes, even books and comics) so if I can get something digital, that’s usually my first choice. Oh, and there’s my coffee mug that’s been empty for way too long. You ever leave a little coffee in the bottom of the cup and then hours later pick up the cup and act surprised when the drop of coffee you left in there turns out to be cold? I do that every day. 

Well, that’s it. The next time you pick up an issue of something I wrote, you can close your eyes and imagine how unfabulous of a place it was written in.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jason Ciaramella is the Eisner Award-nominated writer of THE CAPE miniseries, KODIAK, and GODZILLA: KINGDOM OF MONSTERS. He is easily stalkable online and can be found on Twitter and at his blog.

Peter Straub

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The 5th floor hallway leading to my office. A photo of the esteemed Mr. John Clute is visible in the foreground.

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What you see when you get to the doorway. What do you know, it’s a desk! And a computer!

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My desk from the cockpit, with glasses, water, and book I’m blurbing. (It’s good.) I’ve been sitting front of this view since 1985, and I’ve written all or most of ten novels here, plus four other books.

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To my right, the sound system, with photo of Brubeck and Desmond. Life support, we might as well call it.

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To my right, quaint obsolete sound-modules I once could listen to. Plus awards and truncated jazz musicians.

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Directly across  from my desk, a leather couch and two Kitaj prints.

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Wall of books and CDs in cases.

Peter Straub has written twenty books and won, multiple times, every award his genre has to offer and a bunch of others, besides. He is the father of that dazzling whizbang literary ingenue, Emma Straub.

 

 

Joe Hill

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So one time I wrote this comic where a kid uses an impossible key to unlock his head. Inside his head there’s a secret world, filled with dinosaurs and legos and space invaders and so on. It’s a mindscape, crowded with the stuff he loves and obsesses over.

My office is kind of the same way for me… a rough approximation of what’s in my head, given physical form. The walls are covered in book covers and comic book art. There are framed poems by Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, flanking the stairwell. There’s a bookshelf called The Shelf of Ten and on it are the next ten books I’m going to read, in the order I want to read them. There’s another shelf for all the books written by my dad and mom and brother. There’s a door, built by a sculptor named Israel Skelton, called the Ghost Door, based on something from the comic, LOCKE & KEY.

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The psychic center of the room is the desk against the western facing wall. I’ve had the desk for going sixteen years now and have written ten thousand pages here.

For a long time, I kept the wall behind the desk bare, but this year I hung up a pair of book covers - THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET by David Mitchell, and TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis - and a 19th century advertisement for the Sherlock Holmes stories. I want to keep these fictions in sight at all times; there are things I’ve learned from Portis, Mitchell, and Doyle that I never want to forget.

For example, THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS is a textbook on the kind of writing I love best: economical and emphatic and clear and full of beautiful words. Much of the power of THOUSAND AUTUMNS is in what Mitchell chooses not to say, and for a guy like me, who tends to overwrite, my David Mitchell print is a constant reminder not to bully the reader. TRUE GRIT is a study in the power of bold, unexpected characters, driven by absurd, intensely held convictions. The Sherlock Holmes stories are testimonies to the power of a plunging narrative, shocking reveals,  hideous secrets and vigorous action. They’re racehorses of dark wonder; I’ve always wanted my own stories to move with the force of a Holmes mystery.

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I keep the carburetor of a 1967 Triumph Bonneville on my desk. A Triumph features prominently in the novel I just completed, so it seems to belong (I’d also like if my stories moved with the acceleration of a Triumph). This talisman is watched over by The 10th Doctor and Amelia Pond. If you can’t trust your goodies with them, you can’t trust them with anyone.

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Over on the eastern side of the office, there’s an eyebrow window with a view of the street and the woods beyond. Beneath it is the couch where I read over manuscripts and nap extensively. The handsome Welsh Corgi sitting next to me is named McMurtry. Interesting historical note: this photo shows the first time McMurtry has ever been allowed up on this couch. It also shows the last time! If you look into his morose, haunted eyes, you can see he knows this to be true.

In one hand I have a copy of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH. When I’m red-lining pages, I always work with PUNCH as a kind of clipboard, because it’s just the right size. Also because I’m always trying to write Tragical Comedies. That’s my primary genre.

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These are some zombies on the shelf by the couch. I told you my office is like the inside of my head. I think about zombies a lot. I think even more about ghosts. There are several ghost action figures on this shelf as well, but because they are ghosts, you can’t see them.

You also can’t hear my office. Right now it sounds like The Gaslight Anthem. At other times, it sounds like AC/DC, Steve Earle, and Seether.

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Here is McMurtry right after I told him to get down.

Joe Hill is a 12,000 year-old serpent deity who has claimed hundreds of sacrifices (primarily fine cheeses) in his current incarnation. He swallows the moon once a month and later coughs it back up, hence the waxing and waning thing. He speaks primarily in apothegms; you can read his clever prophecies and stern words of damnation on Twitter, where he lurks under the handle of @joe_hill.

When not half-choking on celestial objects, he writes novels, short stories, comics, and the occasional sonnet. His latest funny book, LOCKE & KEY: THE GUIDE TO THE KNOWN KEYS, is available in comic stores just in time for Thanksgiving. Note that in this case “funny book” is not a very accurate descriptive term.

He is also the author of HORNS, HEART-SHAPED BOX, and 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS. He has cave-temples all over the world, where, after the consumption of hallucinogenics, he can be seen by the faithful. Non-cultists, however, can learn more about him at www.joehillfiction.com.

Tom Sniegoski

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So, this is where the magic happens … it’s where something happens, that’s for sure.  I used to work out of a tiny office space in another part of our eighty year old home in Stoughton, MA, but was quickly out growing it.  I wanted to move, to get a bigger place, but my wife had another idea.  You see, there was this old sun porch that ran along side the back of our house.  It was pretty nasty, and used only to store old bikes, and pieces of furniture that we had every intention of throwing out some century.  My wife suggested that we do something with that old porch—or, have it torn down and something new and spiffy built. 

Which is exactly what we did. 

The first picture is from the doorway looking into the office that now runs the length of our house.  As you can see, I have alot of stuff, but I love my stuff … it’s what helps me to work.  If you look closely, you can see many of my reference books … they’re there, look more closely … behind the toys … see, told’ya they were there. 

At the end of the office is my spiffy new desk, which replaced an old butcher block style desk that used to give me splinters.   

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Picture two is the other side of the space, with more reference books, toys and statues, an autographed Jaws movie poster (I love that movie) … and my Green Lantern Power Battery … can’t keep Stoughton safe without my Green Lantern Power Battery. There’s my Tyrannosaurus Rex head coming out of the wall, and a glass case filled with Hellboy toys.  If you look closely you can see Hellboy’s Right Hand of Doom on top of the case.  Awesome.  That’s my French Bulldog, Kirby’s bed on the floor … he likes to keep an eye on me while I’m working.

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The next shot is from behind the desk, looking to the back of the space. That’s pretty much where I store all the comp copies of my books that the publishers’ send me. 

So that’s it, the place where I spend a huge majority of my time … abandon hope all ye who enter! 

 Thomas E. Sniegoski is a New York Times best-selling author who had written for children, young adults and adults, who has also worked in the comic book industry.  As a comic book scripter, Tom has worked for nearly every major company in the comic book market place and has written such characters as Batman, The Punisher, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Hellboy. 

      He is the only writer ever invited to work on Jeff Smith’s international hit series Bone, working with Smith on Bone: Tall Tales, and is currently writing an original Bone trilogy, Quest for the Spark, for Scholastic Books.

      Tom is the author of the ground breaking teen series The Fallen, which was transformed into three 2-hour movies for ABC Family Channel in 2007, earning stellar ratings for the cable network. A brand new The Fallen novel, The Fallen: End of Days, has just been released.

      Sniegoski is also the author of the popular adult urban fantasy series featuring angel-turned-private eye Remy Chandler, beginning with A Kiss Before the Apocalypse.  The fifth book in the series, In the House of the Wicked, will be released in 2012.

      Tom was born and raised in the Boston area, where he still lives with his wife LeeAnne and their French Bulldog puppy, Kirby.  Please visit him at www.sniegoski.com.

Christopher Golden

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My desk is a dusty mess, but you can catch a glimpse of just a few of the statues of comic book characters, including Hellboy, Moon Knight, and Green Arrow.  I’ve never seen anything in the crystal ball there.  The art to the right of my desk is by Mike Mignola, from HELLBOY: THE LOST ARMY.  To the left, a painting by Eric Powell of a character I created that never saw the light of day in that guise (lost story), an original poster from Abbott & Costello’s LOST IN ALASKA, and signed photos of Clint Eastwood and Darren McGavin, aka Carl Kolchak.  I have a thing about Carnival masks, and you can see one of them in this photo.

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To the right of my desk—DVDs, videos, family photos, more statues, CDs, and the original theatrical poster for BLADE RUNNER, my all-time favorite film.  It was a gift from my wife, a thousand years ago.

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The reverse angle…lots of books, more statues, more family photos.  Basically, my office is filled with music, movies, books, and photos of my family…in other words, my life.

 Christopher Golden is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of novels for adults and teens, including Of Saints and Shadows, The Myth Hunters, The Boys Are Back in Town, Strangewood, the Body of Evidence series of teen thrillers, and The Secret Journeys of Jack London, co-authored with Tim Lebbon.  His current work-in-progress is a graphic novel trilogy collaboration with Charlaine Harris.

A lifelong fan of the “team-up,” Golden frequently collaborates with other writers on books, comics, and scripts.  He has co-written two illustrated novels with Mike Mignola, the first of which, Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, was the launching pad for the Eisner-nominated comic book series, Baltimore.  As an editor, he has worked on the short story anthologies The New Dead, The Monster’s Corner, and British Invasion, among others, and has also written and co-written comic books, video games, screenplays, and a network television pilot.  Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family.  His original novels have been published in more than fourteen languages in countries around the world.  Please visit him at www.christophergolden.com.

 

Sherrie Flick

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I’ve taken to writing on my deck this summer. It isn’t attached to our house but instead to a garage that we converted into a writing studio on the opposite end of our property. I live in Pittsburgh on the South Side slopes. Everything slopes, it’s true. And our yard runs uphill from the house to the studio. So I must trudge upwards when I want to write. This is metaphorical on most days, yes. But I am rewarded with a view. I like writing on the deck because it’s sparse. Just a simple table and chair. I can’t get too distracted. I tend to bring up a glass of wine (I write in the early evening while there’s still light, but it’s time to drink wine.). Sometimes I bring the bottle if I feel like I’m going to be up there a while. Pen, notebook. The lovely water pitcher you can also see in this photo was made by my friend John Fleenor. I sit down and look out over my city—its downtown and Oakland neighborhoods—while I write. My garden, which you can’t see in this photo, is nestled below the deck and runs the length of our long, skinny yard. It’s abundant and inspiring as it sits below me and my scribbling. Patient. Nearly every time I sit in that chair I feel lucky. 

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Sherrie Flick is the author of the novel, Reconsidering Happiness, and the flash fiction chapbook, I Call This Flirting. She lives in Pittsburgh where she teaches, edits, gardens, cooks, and blogs about food.

Toby Ball

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I’m not sure, but I bet I speak for a lot of writers when I say that when you have a full-time job and two kids, you write when and where you can.  Most of the time that means somewhere in our house - I have an office in our guest room, the living room couch is comfortable, I write in bed a fair amount. When possible, I have a game on silently in the background so that when I take a break, there is something to distract me for a few moments.  I try to write from 7:30 - 9:30 five nights a week and carve out some time on weekends.

That being said, I’ve also spent time at libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, friends’ houses, cars, various sports fields, campgrounds, airplanes…you get the picture.

The coolest place that I do much writing is our family summer house on Lake Winnipesaukee. My great-grandparents bought the place in the 1930s and I have been up every summer of my life.  The island is a couple of miles long and has a few hundred houses along the shore and a heavily wooded interior. You have to take a boat over, there is no bridge. My grandfather used to write - mostly policy stuff - in a second story screened porch overlooking the water. I do that sometimes, but my favorite place is down on the dock, facing the lake (see the picture). If it looks peaceful, it’s because the kids shooting supersoakers from their kayaks are just out of frame.

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Toby Ball lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children and works at the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. His first novel, THE VAULTS, has been published in six languages. His second book, SCORCH CITY, is out today.

Rebecca Cox

My desk is in the front of the house, to the right of the front door. I write with a slumbering audience of two dogs. My two-year-old Jack Russell, Fred, regularly squashes his wiry-haired body behind me on this black leather chair, forcing me towards the edge of my seat. I, of course, just as regularly concede to his wishes. The bookshelves to my right contain an odd assortment of bibelot, ranging from acorns and succulents to a 2008 letter from my grandfather, who passed away last year. On the second shelf, there’s a golden lucky cat from L.A.’s Chinatown and a Japanese Daruma dolI - you’re supposed to draw an eye into the Daruma to establish your goal, but I think I’ve had it for two years and have grown accustomed to his blank countenance. Weirdly, I’ve gathered a little grouping of pinecones, because, for some reason I’ve begun finding well-formed pinecones alluring enough to pop them in my pocket while walking in Los Angeles. What else? A postcard of David Byrne because “Naïve Melody (This Must Be The Place)” is one of the most transcendently awesome songs ever created, a hodgepodge of books (most of them are in separate bookshelves in an adjoining room), a DVD of “The Wicker Man”, a gift from a friend/atheist, and a white magic book I bought in New Orleans eight years ago. On my desk is a horseshoe from Pioneertown in Joshua Tree. I paid three dollars for it. When I’m not writing here, I’m often just looking around, so I tend to surround this space with art, photography, and palpable things of beauty – a pair of sand dollars from Mexico, a dried bundle of sage from Desert Hot Springs, and the painting is by my neighbor, Gonzalo, owner and creator of the legendary Venetian mosaic house, which he shares with his beloved wife. This painting, like so many of his works, is of the two of them, though this one in particular made my heart jump.  

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As someone with an affinity for making piles (clothes, newspapers, magazines), I have a tendency to scribble ideas, words, names, and so forth, on scraps of paper and then lamely attempt to organize them in piles, held together by paperclips. I considered it totally normal to create piles until I realized not everyone does this, and while I’m sure there’s a psychological compulsion behind it, I refuse to pursue analysis. I’ve recently upgraded to lined, super-sized neon pink post-its and they’ve been life-changing, even for a pile-maker. To the right of my laptop are yellow post-its with, among other things, notes about books to buy (“Neurosis and Human Growth” and “Our Inner Conflict”, both by Karen Horney, “Tumultuous Tales of Loathing and Wit” by Robert Cohen), an Emerson quote (“We Want the Exact and The Vast; We Want our Dreams and our Mathematics”), and my FedEx password. Taped to my desktop is a fortune cookie message: Your present plans are going to succeed. Given its totally general tone, I feel like its guarantee of success can apply to everything, from the quotidian to the most magnificent, so I like to encounter it daily and assume it’s living up to its promise. When I need a break, the near-Sisyphean task of vacuuming accumulated fur from our hardwood floors, due to the much-adored, aforementioned mutts, provides an easy distraction. Looking down even now, there are tufts of blonde fur from my dog Lucie, collected in this corner, though I vacuumed just yesterday. It’s a great excuse to get up and clear out my brain at those moments when I feel like the blinking cursor is mocking me.  

Rebecca Cox, who lives in Venice, California with her boyfriend and panoply of pets, produces a fair amount of copy about mid-century furniture and interior design, writes art essays, and is currently working on a short story potentially titled, “Dancing with Odita”.  A collection of her abbreviated super shorts on love and its misadventures can be found at her blog.