Courtney S. Barr

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What?! It's research.... isn't it?

My fingers curled and uncurled as I stared at the bedside table. The joints flexed from typing all evening. An audible sigh escaped my lips as I trailed them along a stack of glorious spines. Different colors, fonts, pictures assaulted my eyes as I lay each treasure on the bed. My husband chuckles as he pulls down the covers and my dog curls up with his nightly snack. I am oblivious to their needs at the moment, giving in to the delight that begins at my toes winding up my body.

I pause only to twist my hair into a messy ponytail. My focus still on the options before me...which one...which one calls out to me...

In the corner of my eye I see the blinking green light of my laptop. I know it needs to charge, it needs a needs me to ignore the itch it creates and think only of the beauties on the mattress.

They gaze up at me, each one, side by side...I pick up the first..

its glossy pink and white is so utterly female;

then there are the dark tones of the next one - a carriage sits below a tree with eerie metal instruments dangling above it, a shiver slides over me;

a familiar frost tone and silver-blue vines appear serene if not for the red dot in the title (I have read this one 3 times yet it still remains an option);

fabric reminiscent of a world gone by wraps around a young woman in a cemetery, her head thrown back towards the reader beckoning you to read the poetic verses;

my eyes shine as topaz blue blinks in the light - a stone nestled in a dark chain curls across the black surface;

a woman shrouded in green mist seems to rise off the cover of another - her arms are graceful yet the reader knows the story will not be a soft one;

tattered edges fray on the last option, its cover smells of age and was a discovery of epic proportions yet it is a story I know by heart...

I lay down the pink & white one...gingerly pile them up on the side table and sit on the soft mattress. My husband sighs and turns his own reading lamp off to watch television...I pull the dark spine from the pile...the ominous metal objects blink in the soft glow of my lamp...

I slide down on my pillow and the dog settles against my leg...

I ignore the urge to lay it back down & answer the demands of the blinking electronic light...

Research, I tell myself, this is merely research...

Opening the pages I see a sweet dedication to her David...then I am at chapter one and I tell myself...yes - research...

until 3 a.m. I am lost in the "research"... closing the book I grin...

what a fulfilling way to research one's craft...
Do you read while you are writing? Do you justify it by calling it research? Do you truly try to learn from your selections in order to better your craft? If you do, what books lately have made it from just an average TBR pile to a true research pile?

"There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after..."
-J.R.R. Tolkien


  1. I don't write but I love your description of the book calling you :)

  2. You made those covers sound so beautiful that I want to read all those book you just mentioned...what were they?

  3. Oh, you totally have to read when you're writing. No justification necessary. Read for inspiration, for research, to admire a prose style different from yours, whatever. Just read.

    My most recent research read was Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Good God, but her prose style is phenomenal! I learned more about drifting in and out of point of views from her than from any three books on the craft I've read.

  4. Oh, Courtney, that was beautifully written. Wow. Can I come over and fondle your books with Wendy? Ha ha ha! :-)

  5. Of course! Sometimes my "research" takes the entire day though!

  6. Oh yes, for sure! I love reading whilst writing, although I usually try to read in the same genre I'm writing.

    Ah, research. There are so many things I justify in the name of research! In my other life away from fiction I'm a travel writer and oh my, do I love research. Just one more Ladurée macaron... in the name of research. Another glass of wine... in the name of research. AO, the things I do for my craft!

  7. Wow, this is great, Courtney! What beautiful and descriptive writing! What book did you read?

  8. Excellent! I was right there with you and knew you were talking about books. Yes, I read when I write. It's how I get away from my MS. It's how I recharge when I think my words all suck.

    I just read Crash Into Me. Brilliant. The Dead Tossed Waves. Fantastic. I have Pure now. It's great. Not done yet. And Shiver (yes, I'm the last person on the planet to read it). So far so good. And Sacred Scars. And The Last Days. I could go on and on about my TBR pile. Slow and steady wins the race.

  9. I'm always reading, and while it might not be specifically for "research" purposes, everything I read slips into my brain and percolates together.

    Right now I'm reading A Picture of Dorian Gray, which has absolutely nothing to do with my genre or my novel or anything, really, except I felt like reading it.

    As for the rest, well...Sometimes I tell my husband that it's for research when I come home with a stack of books. 'Course, now I have a Kindle, so he only knows I gave in to temptation when he checks the bank statement. Hee hee.

  10. I was a great reader (like Elizabeth Bennett :) before I was a writer and I just can't give up one love for the other. Even if it isn't research, it's a break. I've actually been on a reading jag recently. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Austenland, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Just Ella, a couple of others. I haven't read like this in a while. It's great and inspiring.

  11. Great post. And yes, I read when I'm doing research. And I call it research. :)

  12. Juju - thanks! always a pleasure to see you stop by!

    Wendy - A Match Made in High School, an ARC of The Replacement, Shiver, From the Shadows, The Immortal, My Soul to Save, Little Women...I chose to read The Replacement.

    Simon - SO good to see you back around here on comments! ;o) I will have to check out To the Lighthouse (it now intrigues me)

    Shannon O'-Thank you so much! Come on over - have your pick of what to read ;o)

    Betty - glad to know I am not alone ;o)

    Talli - lol! Yes research comes in many forms.. thankfully *wink*

    Steph - thank you! The Replacement (an ARC) by Brenna Yovanoff

    Elana - lol you sound like me. My pile grows, but I am grateful the itch to read comes often enough so that it dwindles then grows again!

    Summer - ;o) YOu sound like me with my iTunes account...before he saw the CDs now - not so much

    Kayeleen - it IS inspiring, isn't it? reading fills a void sometimes that we don't even recognize

    sarahjayne - thanks. That word sounds so sweet when it can be applied to our craft ;o)

  13. I so know where you're coming from! I always read - I believe I've read for pleasure every single day since I learned how. I just wish the days had more secret time just for reading :)


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