Be Angry and Skim Not

Once upon an earlier time, I took an interest in Family Systems Theory. How do families work and what happens when they don’t? How are families the same from culture to culture, how are they different? The topic is absorbing, and even if you started life in a basket surrounded by wolves on a hillside, you have issues about family (or the lack thereof).

In the middle of this preoccupation, I also took an interest in the emotion of anger, partly for its universality. In every culture, there are expressions of anger, some subtle, some violent, some humorous and everything in between. Then too, anger is a handy tool. It connects us and distances us at the same time. The object of your anger, be it a person, ideology, trauma, or parking ticket, exerts great sway over you, even as you wrap yourself up in the righteous conviction that you would NEVER pass a law that lame, act like such a jerk, or otherwise resemble the object of your ire in any way whatsoever.

Some people excel at using anger as fuel. They steam around on the strength of resentments, old wounds, and seething fantasies of revenge and power. Take their anger away and their identities would collapse—countries can function this way too, of course. If you don’t know what you stand for, you can generally avoid the hard, scary work of figuring it your identity by making a loud, messy business out what you’re know you’re against.

Personally, I’m not on keen on carrying around a lot of anger, though I understand it’s a useful emotion if properly dealt with. When I feel it getting a grip on me, I try to find some micro ritual for getting off the anger hamster wheel. A good book can figure prominently in that process, but so can cleaning off my desk, taking a load of novels to the women’s jail, talking to a good friend, or journaling.

As a writer, though, anger for my characters is good stuff—not because it leads to fight scenes. Oddly enough, as author and literary agent Donald Maass has pointed out, fight scenes (like intimate scenes) can be down right skip-able, particularly if they’re all action and no empathy. (For that and other brilliant writing insights, check out his “Writing the Breakout Novel” series.)

What I like about anger as an author, and have come to respect about it as a human, is that it generally disguises some more complicated emotion. The villain is angry at the hero, but if that villain is going to pull his share of the dramatic load, then as an author you’ll reveal that hurt, loss, powerlessness, and family honor (and perhaps a hint of egomania) are all fueling the Bad Guy’s dastardly plot.

Generally, if a character is acting, speaking, or reflecting angrily, we’ll soon catch a glimpse of shame, fear, exhaustion, bewilderment, or a more humanizing emotion at work. If the Regency heroine is ready to wallop the hero’s cheek for challenging some drunken lout to a duel over her honor, behind her fuming about men’s crack-brained arrogance, you will soon sense that she’s scared not of the ensuing scandal, but of losing her beloved.

Anger for the novelist points the way to the emotional minefields that make books so interesting to write—and hopefully to read.

Was there a time though, when you read a character who was angry, angry, angry, and that character just didn’t work for you? If so, was it because the underlying emotion never quite saw the light of day, or was there another writing flaw at work?

Plugging Into My Outlet

There I was, sharing a cup of hot chocolate at Panera with my friend Graham, relating the challenges a published author faces—I was not whining—when he casually observed, “You need an outlet.”

I hopped into the Wonder Tundra and drove to California and back a couple weeks ago, with his advice ringing in my ears. What did he mean? Six thousand miles later, I have a Clue.

Once upon a time, I was an aspiring musician. I wallowed in music and got a sense of competence and confidence from my increasing skill, and a lot of joy from indulging a personal passion. Then I started supporting myself with my music, and… the game changed. I had to worry about what to play for this ballet class or that class reunion, I had to chop down some repertoire to fit into perfect eight measure phrases, I had to simplify pieces to be able to handle them up tempo, and so on.

Love became tempered by the need to eat.

When I became a mother, I adored my newborn child and got up five times a night to tend to her smallest whimper, and I delighted in doing so. A few years later, love had to be tempered with boundaries, or nobody in the house was going to be functional for very long.

When I rode horses, I did so out of sheer love for the beast, and the saddle was my happy place. I again enjoyed a sense of competence and confidence from growing (though never very impressive) skill, and when I was on my horse, the big, bad world, with its unfairness and bigotry, violence and injustice, did not touch me. I cannot afford to ride like that any more, so alas, that happy place went on hiatus.

But I still had the writing… another happy place, where for hours at a time, I could fashion worthy characters, big challenges, and a reliable Happily Ever After, which I badly needed after a day in court.

Except the writing now has to be tempered too. I need a little thicker skin for when reviews that are not just critical, but downright mean, come raining down on my parade. I need discipline, because deadlines wait for nobody’s mojo. I need marketing savvy, because the publishing industry isn’t merely changing, it’s in outright revolution. The sense of growing confidence and competence I had as an aspiring writer is tempered with caution and humility. Nobody gets published without an entire village behind them, even if it’s the publisher’s village on salary whom you never get to meet face to face.

So…tempering makes things stronger, and I hope as a writer I’m being tempered by wisdom and experience.

And yet, Graham was absolutely right: I need an outlet. A place I go to out of sheer love for the things I can do and experience there. A place free of judgment, and full of good will and the pleasure of growing skill. Maybe I’ll take up knitting, maybe I’ll write some nonfiction, maybe I’ll join… a book club (do not laugh, please).

Or maybe—radical thought!—I’ll open the lid of the piano that has sat silently in my living room for ten years.

What about you? Where’s your happy place, and how did you find it?

Why Do You Women Read That Stuff?

I had dinner with a good friend the other night, and in the course of the conversation, the question came up that blights many an otherwise sanguine exchange with a romance aficionado: Why do you women read that stuff?

What he was asking, though, was: Why do you women write that stuff? There are as many answers as there are authors, or readers, but this was a guy, a spectacularly nice guy, but a guy just the same, and I think what he was trying to find out was what I hope to accomplish by putting my books out in the world for purchase.

Or to put  it in guy-speak: What is that stuff supposed to do?

One answer that came to my mind (later, of course) was: Romance is an antidote to cable news.

We’re taught from little up that it’s a privilege to participate in a democracy, and many people around the globe throughout history haven’t had the freedoms we do. With the freedoms, and representative government, goes an obligation to remain informed about what our society is up to, and to contribute knowledgeably to the decisions it makes. This duty to remain informed has been parlayed by some, or constricted by market forces, into a presentation of the nightly news that grabs the viewer’s attention, chokes it viciously about the neck, and flings it thoroughly overwhelmed and wrung out into the corner at the end of 48 minutes of programming, and twelve equally predatory minutes of advertisements.

And what do those 48 minutes consist of?

A race among the horsemen of the Apocalypse for top story. A tour de force of misery and mayhem, and we’re told this is what it’s important to know about the world around us (though I suspect, these are the stories most likely to raise viewers for the advertised products which now support the entire journalistic endeavor—alas for the fourth estate). Yes, there are journalists who focus on the positive, occasionally, and there are human interest stories, but when are they ever at the top of the hour?

Romance, to me, is about the belief that if you love yourself and others with integrity, if you take responsibility for your personal growth and maturation, your relationships will be healthy, and your life will be blessed with love. This is a hopeful outlook, not always easy to maintain. There are big black moments in life, and they’re hard as hell.

When I face them, I do not want to be pounded with all the times my species has failed this very day to meet the challenges of living together with respect and cooperation. I want to be reminded that love does conquer all, human kindness is a quiet and powerful tide all around me, and the path of life need not be lonely even at its narrowest points.

It is important to be informed regarding current events; it’s more important to be reminded of the eternal verities.

Writing a Resurrected Dream

 My editor once observed that the heroes of my first three books are “so different.” Gayle Windham, The Earl of Westhaven, from “The Heir,” is a studious fellow with a legal bent, a man comfortable with management and the complexities of business. His older half-brother, Devlin St. Just, from “The Soldier,” excels at the equestrian arts, has little use for polite society, and loves the scent of freshly baked bread. Rounding out the trio is Valentine Windham, who by virtue of obsessive focus has perfected musical skill to the point where his book is titled, “The Virtuoso.”

At first I considered that their individual traits were simply large-family dynamics at work, where differentiation occurs because (in my opinion) parents can’t focus as closely on eight separate children the way they can one. Then too, if a child is competing for scarce parental attention, the child is more likely to hone individual strengths and even capitalize on weaknesses, the better to stand out from the crowd.

Then I looked more closely at the heroes I’d written: A consummate manager, a consummate equestrian, a consummate musician. Heaven help me, I’d written into these men three of the largest dreams I did not make come true for myself.

When I started law school, I worked for Fortune 100 firms as a contract administrator. I negotiated deals with the federal government, oversaw subcontracts in the tens of millions of dollars, and generally wallowed in commerce—only to find I stank of corporate endeavors, and it was not a pleasant scent to wear eighteen hours a day.

Before that, I’d wallowed in music. My friends were musicians, my profession was music, my academic focus was music, and my recreation was music. I was playing catch up, though, because as intuitive as my grasp of music theory was, as much as I loved music, I was a lousy performer who’d gotten a late start with my instrument. I saw a lifetime of feeling inadequate stretching before me as a musician, and I headed off to law school instead.

And the horses? I love horses, but again, my love does not equate to proficiency in the saddle. I thought I’d contribute something to the sport by managing recognized equestrian competitions. I was good enough at it, but the job was thankless, full of liability, and without remuneration. I have managed my last horse show.

I still own horses, I still have a piano, and I still run my little law practice. My musical, business and equestrian dreams did not come true, though. I’d thought I chosen different roads in the yellow wood, and set aside the dreams I’d originally envisioned. Now I find those dreams served one more purpose by defining the heroes of my first three books. Their Graces have eight surviving children, and I’m looking forward to finding more resurrected dreams in their books.

What about you? Have you set aside dreams, only to find them back in your life in some altered, more enjoyable form?

To one of this week’s blog commenters, I’ll be giving away a signed copy of “The Virtuoso.”

On the Shoulders of Giantesses

Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” (letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675-76). I haven’t read romance for almost forty years without coming across some giants, or giantesses, as the case may be.

The first was Judith Ivory, then writing as Judy Cuevas. I was at the end of a miserable pregnancy, on complete bed rest, in bed on my left side, trapped in a little apartment with My Mother the Registered Nurse, and scared to death of impending motherhood. Into this slough of despond dropped a little book called, “Starlit Surrender,” an earlier incarnation of “Angel in a Red Dress.”

I devoured it, and for the first time in my reading experience, went right back to the start and devoured it all over, right then and there. It is my all time, best ever, favorite book. Drug addiction, divorce, intrigue all in a historical package (Georgian, technically, though the feel is Regency). And the writing—sumptuous, glorious, wonderful writing, and she does it in every one of her books. If ever there was an author whom I wish were more prolific, it is she.

Then there’s Mary Balogh, author of one of this year’s Publishers Weekly Best Romances, “The Secret Mistress.”  A big portion of my keeper shelf is Mary Balogh, with the Simply’s having pride of place. And the whole time I’m reading her books, in the back of my mind, I wonder, “Is it because she’s Welsh that the language is just so exactly right? Does Welsh origin give one a spectacular touch with sexual tension? ARGH. How does she do this?” (And when can I start dating Welshmen?) I buy Mary Balogh hardbacks the day they come out, without reading the flap. Have to have them. And when I go to heaven, Bewcastle is going to give me that smile that’s worth waiting three hundred pages to see. He is.

Eloisa James is another must have. She has the knack of sketching a character’s internal landscape in little, deft strokes, even as the overall image emerges lush, nuanced, and perfectly meshing with the other characters. I could eat these books up with spoon. And I heard her speak at a national conference. For the words, “Love heals shame,” I will dwell eternally in her debt.

J.R. Ward, for many, many reasons is on this list too. I think she more than any other author has hit the nerve of men’s loneliness for each other, of their need for fathering, and brothering, and purpose shared with other men. This is touching stuff, occasionally profound, and it requires a very confident, daring hand. When it’s wrapped up in paranormal creativity, vampire libido, and alpha-dawg dialogue, it’s irresistible. I periodically read through the whole Black Dagger Brotherhood series from start to finish.

There are many other authors about whom I will gush at another time–Joanne Bourne, Carolyn Jewel, Loretta Chase, Meredith Duran, Julie Anne Long, Jennifer Ashely, to name a few. These are some of the ladies who are mega-vitamins to my motivation. For me, their books function just as effectively as pharmaceutical stimulants, (about which, more later), and you can’t overdose on them. To these writers, I cannot offer enough thanks. If I never put fingers to keyboard in pursuit of publication, I would still owe these women for the relief from loneliness, boredom, fatigue, and frustration their works have given me.

It’s a wonderful world when for just a few bucks you can stand on the shoulders of giantesses such as these, again and again and again. Now, if you will excuse me, my keeper shelf is calling me, and not even for a hot Welshman will I ignore that.

So whose shoulders do you like to stand on, hmm?


The Virtuoso’s Play List

For each book featured in a newsletter, I’d like to answer a question that either came up frequently on the blog tour for that book, or should have come up frequently and didn’t. The Virtuoso being about a musician, I expected to be asked if I listen to music when I write. It doesn’t say so on the website, but I have a Bachelor of Music degree in music history and my instrument was piano.

When Lord Valentine was acquiring his skill at the keyboard, the entire repertoire of Mozart, Haydn, Handel, CPE Bach, and some J.S. Bach would have been available to him. Over in Vienna, Beethoven would have written all but his ninth symphony, and pianist and composer Muzio Clementi would have been touring to packed houses.

So what did I listen to when I wrote “The Virtuoso?”

Unless you count the contented snoring of my bull mastiff, I listened to silence.

In hindsight, I think I would have been happier had I pursued a college degree in composition rather than musicology, because even more than I liked to create music, I liked to listen to it being created. When I listen to music, my ear is not passive. I take apart what I’m hearing the way an art historian might assess a painting, even the mass produced art hanging in a hotel room.

You hear a string quartet, I hear a cello getting too bossy and a viola hiding under the second violin. I hear magnificent close harmony, or a bass line going muddy as the tempo picks up. In other words, I listen analytically.

I cannot turn this off any more than I can turn off the senses of taste and touch. It’s work for me to listen to music, just as it’s work for me to write. I enjoy both—enjoy them tremendously—but both take focus and effort.

Composer G.F. Handel

So, no, I do not listen to music when I write. That would be like trying to dance and write at the same time—nigh impossible for me. But—and you knew there would be a but—when I was writing “Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish,” time was of the essence, and a Christmas feel for the book was also of the essence. To help me get a sense of Christmas into the book, I listened to Handel’s “Messiah” (the Christmas portion) almost incessantly when I wasn’t writing. I hummed it, I sang it, I whistled it—and happily “lost” the CD once the book was written.

The neat thing about that work is that even in the Regency period, it was popular Christmas music. Hearing the oratorio over and over, knowing my Regency characters would have been thoroughly familiar with it, helped the story flow more easily.

If there’s a question you’d like to see addressed in a future blog, send it along and I’ll try to work it in. If YOU had written the Virtuoso, what might you have listened to (beside my snoring bull mastiff)?

Web In-site by Grace Burrowes

A new author is warned that publicity will be a significant part of her responsibilities post-publication, and a website is one of the cornerstones of that publicity. I’m not a cyberphobe, but I’m not a techie, either.

And I am a Warp Nine introvert, the same as most other writers. I crave long solitudinous hours filled with only the sounds of my fingers tapping on the keyboard and my bull mastiff snoring contentedly at my feet. This business of building a website loomed for months as the nearest thing to housework: Necessary and a relief to get done, but hardly satisfying.

It will astound you to know my prognostication was wrong.

Having the talented ladies at Waxcreative, Inc., develop a website for me has meant I had to take a look at my author bios, and tell the thumbnail version of the Story of Me yet again in a way that might connect with readers. It means I’ve had to go sifting through my first two books looking for those few paragraphs that will best grab the reader, those snippets of dialogue that surprised me when I first reread them because, what do you  know, they’re good.

This is like looking at baby pictures with a younger version of me as a writer in the background. It shouldn’t be fascinating, but to me it is.

I’ve had to look at the earliest versions of my books for the scenes I deleted, some because they just didn’t propel the book forward, others had to be cut to make the almighty word count. The whole time I was on a scene-cutting revision—killing my darlings!—in the back of my mind, I consoled myself with the thought: I’ll have plenty of material for the website this way.

And of course, some of the scenes I had to cut felt as well written as anything elsewhere in the books. I loved those scenes and cutting them was painful.

Then too, I like websites with interesting little quotes sprinkled around on them, so I pawed through my Bartlett’s, hunting for the perfect words from the great and powerful, and what writer would not enjoy that exercise?

With my website up and running (soon!) I’m going to have my own blog again (to wit), and that means hunting up books to blog about. There is so much good writing out there, so much creativity and graciousness…. With my nose buried in a WIP, I forget about the pleasure of browsing among the websites of the authors who’ve comforted and inspired me as a writer.

And if that’s not enough to change my mind about the fun of developing a website, I hear from other authors how nice it is to be so directly accessible to readers. To get those encouraging emails and to be able to respond, almost real time, with the dog still snoring contentedly at my feet.

Hmm. Suppose I’ll go goggle at the pages under construction. I’ve done enough on the WIP for today and nobody is going to steal my dust woofies. What a wonderful thing it is to have a site under construction.

And how wonderful too, to be so pleasantly surprised by life, once again. To inaugurate the re-emergence of Her Grace Notes from developmental hiatus, I’ll give away a signed copy of “Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish” to one person commenting on this blog. Just leave some version of your email, and I’ll contact you for more information within the next week if you’re our winner.



Reviser’s Block

It has been my happy fate of late to have a lot of revisions to work on. This is good news—it means a book is on the way to publication and it means my editor has spotted places to gild the lily. I’m fortunate in that my editor—Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks, Inc.—will call me first and discuss the needed changes, then send me a follow up email summarizing our conversation.

The email is particularly helpful because ten seconds after we hang up, I am completely at a loss to know what we decided about that pesky adolescent secondary character (whose idea was she, anyway?), or the tweaks needed to make the finale just a trifle more resonant with the opening lines. I know we talked for twenty minutes, I know Deb had some good ideas, I know I have a deadline to make the changes, but other than that…. duh.

The precipitous drop in writing IQ and memory persists throughout the revision process. A new scene that should take an hour to write takes all day; some thread I was supposed to clarify in the dramatic arc becomes invisible to me. I drink more decaf tea, play more solitaire, check my email more frequently when I’m working on revisions than I ever do when I’m creating a rough draft. Revisions for me are daunting and painful. My only consolation is that the sense of rolling a boulder uphill befalls some other writers in the rough draft stage. Instead of having to spend a few days pushing through procrastination and brain fog, they have to suffer for 100,000 words at a time.

Still other writers must struggle interminably to come up with a plot, and most of us—I’m convinced—did not get the synopses-are easy gene. But my guess is that the revision process is largely responsible for improvements in my writing. I can’t view my own books with the objectivity of an editor, if for no other reason than after a 100,000 words, I’m tired of looking at the bleeping things. In the same vein, I think synopses are hard for me to write because I’m not an intuitive plotter. I have to work very, very hard to structure my stories so they fit into a tagline. Holy cow, do I honk at coming up with taglines.

There’s hope, though. I’m working on my sixth manuscript for contracted publication, and the synopsis is already germinating. I’m scanning my prospective secondary characters with a view toward their credibility; I’m watching for threads that go nowhere so I can pull them out before they get knit into my prose. I conclude the revision process is supposed to be a challenge for me because as I’m learning how to make one book better, scene by scene, I’m also learning how to make my writing better, and that will benefit however many books I’m lucky enough to write.

What about you? Is there an aspect of writing that once daunted you more than any other, but now shows signs of coming under control? What helped? What made it easier—or what might make it easier in a perfect world? Reprinted with the kind permission of

The next time you hear, “Whatever…”

The term, “Whatever…” is said to be among the most irritating comebacks in the language, lazily connoting complete indifference to every possible outcome  and eventuality on the planet.

It means something different to me. Christmas day the heavens gifted us with freezing rain for the duration. It came down for a good while, leaving accumulations of ice in its wake. For those of you who don’t have ice storms, consider yourselves blessed. Snow, you shovel. Ice, you wait for it to melt, hoping it doesn’t take down too many power lines first.

You can’t go anywhere in an ice storm, and if you must go outside (say to feed your horses every stinkin’  twelve hours no matter what), then you will be both frozen and soaked. But it’s good writing weather. The urge to cozy up to any heat source, including a lap top, is irresistible. A day like that brings to mind bleak moors, long lonely afternoons, mind-numbing boredom, cuddling-up-on-a-bleak-day sex, all kinds of scenes and weather driven plot twists. Hurray for freezing rainy days.

I keep a journal, and a few months ago, I got up to a fall-is-coming day. Low humidity, temperatures in the high seventies, glorious, perky weather that fills the body with joy. And that is good writing weather too, for the energy it imparts, the restless glee, the churning mental enthusiasm for life itself. Weather like that brings to mind outdoor sex, picnics, reading in tree houses, and the innocent joie de vivre of many a character at the beginning of many a romance.

A few months before that, I got up on a sultry, still, mid-summer morning. The mercury was headed past 100, it was so hot the bugs didn’t make a sound. The sky was white with humidity, and all I wanted to do was write about parched throats, summer light, and the ease of moving around at night in high summer. That was good writing weather too. In other words, it’s all good writing weather, good painting weather, good child rearing weather, good weather for whatever your creative process is.

The trick for me is to take whatever comes my way—whatever—and smack it off my bat in a productive, meaningful direction. Weather, people, cases at work, flat tires, new dishes, long road trips, whatever life tosses at me, it’s all a gift for the purpose of inspiring my writing, or my legal strategies, or my ability to love my family and friends honorably. Life sucks sometimes, and there are experiences I haven’t found any inspiration from yet, at least that I know of. But determination counts for a lot too, and waking up each day expecting to be given some nuggets of inspiration by the weather, the shopping list, the telemarketer, means I am more likely to find inspiration. Which means I am more likely to look hard for it tomorrow.

This is not a skill I was born with, mind. It’s a product of maturation, not something I consciously set out to work on. There are other names for it besides determination, like ingenuity, optimism, cleverness, resourcefulness. I don’t know about all that, I just know that after years of watching the sky, I’ve learned that it’s all good writing weather if you give it the chance to be.

Sign the Book, Turn the Page

It was my happy privilege today to sign books at Turn the Page, the bookstore owned by Nora Roberts in Boonsboro, MD. Nora was there, and I can tell you, she’s as witty, honest, and gracious in person as you’d anticipate, given her print persona.

Stephanie Dray was there with her very creative novel, “Lily of the Nile,” based on the life of Cleopatra’s historically significant daughter. I also met Jeaniene Frost, Pamela Palmer, Mary Burton, and Mary Reed, who are all lovely women who’ve written fascinating books which I hope to enjoy reading someday soon. I haven’t ordered their books yet, though there is one book I came straight home and ordered.

I was lurking in the back room of the store with several of the other romance author guests when this tall, lanky, fella came by toting a box of books. He wore cowboy boots—which detail usually recommends a man to me—but he was quite focused on riding herd on his stock of books, until one of us interrupted him (well, actually it was me) and asked him to introduce himself. “I’m Vaughn Ripley.” He stuck out a big paw. “I’m one of the longest surviving people to be diagnosed with HIV in this country. I’ve had the disease for twenty-five years….”

This man does not look like any long-term AIDS patient I’ve met, and I’ve met a few. He’s trim, true, and his complexion is pale, but it’s a Celtic sort of pale, not a sickly pale. He has a magnetic smile, a great handshake, and the easy manners of a natural story teller. He is a hemophiliac who acquired both HIV and Hep C through blood transfusions before anyone realized the blood supply could pose those dangers, and yet, Vaughn exudes physical and mental energy.

At the age of eighteen, the doctors told him he had two years to live. He began to keep a journal so his family would have something of him when he died. A few years ago, Vaughn’s wife got a hold of this document, and informed him it wasn’t just a few musings to pass on to immediate family. Because Vaughn listened to his wife, we now have a terrific and very readable book.

I asked Vaughn to what he attributes the miracle of his longevity. We didn’t finish that discussion, but I intend to read the book and find the rest of the answer. What struck me like a cinder block dropped upon my foot from a great height, was that this guy started writing not to get away from the day job or the demands of child rearing, not for his entertainment or financial gain, but out of love for his family and the desire to leave a record when he died.

He wrote in part to snatch a particle of immortality from the jaws of impending death, and he wrote so his love and wisdom would not die with him. In the right hands, writing is THAT powerful. It cheats death, it defies the dictates of mortality, and I would not be a little surprised to find that when used appropriately, writing—storytelling—can also add meaning to a life imperiled by all sorts of medical and spiritual threats. “Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia and Hepatitis C,” by Vaughn Ripley, is available from Turn the Page at the following link: or from Amazon at: I’m going to read it, and I’m going to leave a copy where I can see it when I sit down to do my own writing.