Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Referencing My Reference Shelf

By Tracy Kiely

Ahhh…the writer’s reference shelf. That hallowed place from which the fountain of our wisdom is allowed to run truth. It is a calm, peaceful place we turn to in moments of doubt or uncertainty. It is revered, treasured, and protected.

We are all familiar with the stereotypical writer – we’ve seem her portrayed in countless movies, plays, and, of course, on the written page; that calm, organized, and well-adjusted, angst-free, cheerful soul. Mystery writers are even more serene. In fact, it is the total and complete serenity of their lives that draws them to the mystery genre. They use their writing to inject a bit of disorganized chaos into their otherwise sedate worlds.

So let’s take a little stroll into the writer’s study; that bastion of quiet reflection and hard, steady work. Oh, look, here comes our writer now. Isn’t she lovely? Her hair is pulled back into a loose ponytail, her face although devoid of make-up looks dewy fresh, and how elegant she is in her flowing linen pants and matching top. She glides over to her handy reference shelf and finds…six empty diet coke cans, four crumpled up pieces of paper, and a Writer’s Market Place from 1992.

Oh, wait. That’s my shelf. Crap. Where am I? Oh, I’ve fallen asleep again on my cluttered desk and had that recurring dream where I am a writer created by Evelyn Waugh. Damn.

So. Back to reality. My reference shelf is empty. It’s not that I don’t own such books, mind you – I do. It’s just they tend to wander when I don’t pay attention. Like now. Maybe they are in the downstairs study. Let’s look.

Nope, not here. I don’t think they are, anyway. It’s kind of a mess in here and why are the Halloween decorations still out?

Perhaps the car? Yes! Here’s one: Deadly Doses: a writer’s guide to poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens, left in the back seat. I had to pick up my youngest from lacrosse practice and thought I would do some research while I waited. Here are my notes in the margin. “Yes!! Perfect. Use this.”

Unfortunately, there is no indication just which poison listed on the page is perfect or how I was planning on using it.

Back inside. In the living room is my copy of Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon. That is a great tool for many, many elements of character development, but I especially love it for deciding on names for characters. I start off knowing how my characters look and then decide what their name should be. This book is filled with great ideas and has old scribbles from various plot points of mine. Oh, and here’s my library card that I thought I lost. Bonus!

Back in the kitchen. Oh, still lots of dishes strew about, I see. There are two Jane Austen books by the coffeemaker; Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Since each of my books are loosely based on a specific Jane Austen novel, I am forever referencing them. This is not to be confused with procrastinating by rereading my favorite novels; because it’s not. It’s research.

Bedroom. On the nightstand is An Uncommon Scold by Abby Adams. I start off each of my chapters with a quote. This book is full of wonderfully snarky quotes. Underneath it is The Wicked Wit of Jane Austen. It is my go-to guide for when I need to find the exact quote for my books. It also makes a nice coaster.

I should put all these books back on the shelf now. I won’t, of course, but I should.


Jacqui said...

Hehe. I love this. I'm just the opposite. My books are neatly organized on the shelves behind my writing desk for easy access. I have a second pile on my desk of books I'm currently using.

Some days I think I should throw them around, create a bit of chaos in my life!

Joshua Corin said...

I love that DEADLY DOSES book.

True story: I once brought it with me to the beach. I went out for a swim and when I returned to my chair, the book was wet. How did the book get wet? To this day I have no idea, but the cover and pages are now warped.

And yet I still love it. So very informative (and inspirational).

Meredith Cole said...

Too funny! If they were neatly on the shelf, that would probably mean that you weren't using them...

I hate when I find notes that I can't read. It's like finding half a treasure map. Argh!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Jacqui, if you need more chaos, feel free to visit!

Loved your walk down the twisty path of creativity! However you're doing it, it's working! (Shane, if you're reading, leave that last line alone).

I don't poison enough, I think. Must look into Deadly Doses..,

Shane Gericke said...

Me? Pish and tosh, Rebecca. I never comment on anything, as you know :-)

Shane Gericke said...

I need one of those scold books, Tracy, as I can never think of the right snark at the right moment. Thank you for mentioning it!