Wanna Play? (Penny Rader)

Ever have trouble finding something to write about, or maybe you just need something to prime your creative pump? You might find writing prompts and writing exercises helpful. Scads of books and sites are loaded with prompts and exercises.

Here are a few to get you started. Choose one or more and just start writing. Feel free to share with us!

Creative Writing Prompts

“I thought I saw…”

“The clock winked.”

“You know what else children don’t know?”

Fiction Writing Exercises (Melissa Donovan)

“Two characters share a secret but it’s not what everyone thinks it is. "

“They say Old Weezie’s been reading palms out of her run-down shack for a hundred years or more. "

Writing Exercises (David Michael)

"After the door shuts and the footsteps die..."

"The Shadow Children"

"Touching the edge..."

"Between Silences"

WritingFix’s Random Daily Writing Prompts

"Was there no one else to play with? Write about the meanest or strangest kid you ever met."

"Where does that fear come from?”

“Because that's how we've always done it.”

“Can it be saved?”


What do you think? Find anything you like? Care to share what you wrote? Do you have a favorite source of writing prompts/exercises? One of my favorite things to do is pull a picture out of a magazine and write about what's going on inside the picture, or even what's going on outisde the picture.

A Coze, A Chat, A Call

I'm breaking with the theme, 'cause I've got something important to say before I forget. I've a feeble mind, but it is all my own and I've to work with what I've been given in this life. Duh, can't work with what you're not given very well can we....but enough digression into silliness. That too is a gift of mine. I wonder if an excessive amount of silliness comes with story-telling. Hmmm. Something to ponder later. (Trying to picture Stephen King being silly. Why does that image scare me?)

Recently I was given the gift of an afternoon with a writer, someone whose work I have enjoyed in the past and expect to in the future. We zoomed through the here's my kid's picture portion of the social dance and were soon immersed in the important stuff--writing. Comparing notes. A how do you do that verses why did I do this. The mind-candy of two artist professionals up to their eyebrows in the exciting stuff of life--attempting to put words to the art of creating.

We spoke of different parts of language. We exclaimed over other's important ways of achieving. We laughed over shared experiences and confusions in our writerly worlds. We talked of things we treasure for inspiration. We quietly coveted something of each other's.

We shared frustrations and talked in depth of them. And, best of all, we had enough time to help solve problems by looking at them from different directions for each of us. We, as individuals, left knowing ourselves to be inspired, refreshed, and newly girded to take on the continuing frustrations of our craft. Our poor ditched husbands had to wait on us for we couldn't bear to quit. Not quite yet.

What did all this we-ness have? A refreshing feeling of belonging, of being different but the same. A conversation with my plumber might be entertaining, intriguing, and even enlightening, but somehow it isn't the same as talking with another writer.

Writers spend a lot of time working alone. We can't find out about writerly processes and ask questions that will clarify meaning unless we find other writers willing to answer questions. My experience with RWA (Romance Writers of America) and WARA writers (Wichita Area Romance Authors) are that they are wonderfully willing to answer questions. I've been able to ask hard questions about the life of a writer once you're published and no longer working away from the public's eye. Writers have been willing to answer questions about how writing brains function. They've attempted to explain how different processes work or at the very least, how it works for them. That's important, for every writer's story-telling process is different. Sometimes they are similar in some ways. Sometimes as different as sheep from chickens.

Exploring current information about a writer's craft vocabulary is also a wonderful verbal adventure. With WARA, there always seems to be someone handy to get a term defined. Questions like what is POV? Point of View. How many is too many? Jury still out on that one. Conventional wisdom says one. Maybe two. What is WIP? Work in Progress (No matter how old or stale it is. They haven't yet coined an acronym for Work In Neutral Covered With Dust.)

The point I'm trying to make and have probably done a very poor job, is that it is vital, if you're going to be a writer, no matter if you're published or not, to TALK to other writers--in person is best, but by phone will do. Communication in other ways is fine for specifics, but there are nebulous things that come to the surface when we TALK. Important things. Even if one of the writers is a little shy. That's ok. Talking, however, is paramount. I have not found a substitute for it. Whether a coze in a cafe over breakfast or long chat over lunch at a writer's conference, verbal communication with other writers is a vital act for a writer.

I can still count on two hands my one-on-one conversations with other writers. I would not trade them for the world. Please try and get a one-on-one with another writer. You'll find yourself pleased and if you've been doing writing a long time, attending regular meetings, and doing things in a group or alone, surprise and delight yourself with just one writer for a few hours. Bring some paper along just in case, and let that margarita or diet coke do its work loosening the moment and stepping back to talk 'shop'. If you can't squeeze in a coze or a chat. A call will do.

My Favorite Authors and Their Bad Boys (Melissa Robbins)

I blame my mother for my love of romance novels. The first one I read in high school was hers, A Pirate's Pleasure by Heather Graham. I laugh now, because I “know” Heather Graham due to our mystery connections. However, you won't see me going up to her and saying, “I read your books in high school.” Ms. Graham wrote several books on those Cameron men (and one woman). I love the romance series that spans generations. How much fun is it to read about the son or daughter of a previous couple you already fell in love with?

Jude Deveraux was another author whose books spanned generations of the same family. Got to love those naughty Montgomery men. Alexander Montgomery from The Raider was my favorite.

Since starting my own mystery, I'm drawn to mysteries with romance. Nancy Martin's Blackbird Sisters Mysteries are quite a hoot. Nora attends society parties for a newspaper and always manages to find a body or two. The banter between Nora and her sisters strikes a chord with me since I have two sisters. Nora's on again-off again boyfriend Michael Abruzzo with his mob connections certainly keeps the reader turning pages too.

Rhys Bowen has a delightful series about Lady Georgie, the fictitious great granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who despite being royalty is penniless. The mysteries take place in England in the 1930's. Georgie is aided by the handsome and completely unsuitable Irishman, Darcy O'Mara. Can you guess where Rhys got his name from?

I, too, got drawn into the popular young adult books, like Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games. One particular series I'm fond of is The Mortal Instruments books about Shadowhunters, who hunt demons. Sounds dark and parts are, but there is humor, cute guys, and great lines. Jace Wayland is one of those guys you can't help but love and I am partial to the blond bad boys. Shh, don't tell my husband. “Jace's grin was a white flash in the darkness. 'It means Shadowhunters: Looking Better in Black Than the Widows of our Enemies Since 1234.'” Just ask any female TMI reader about the Dirty Sexy Alley Scene and watch her break down into a fit of giggles.

Wait a minute! I'm seeing a trend with these stories with naughty bad boys. Maybe that's just me. Why is that? My fellow mystery writer friend, Cheryl would say these men bring out the crooked halos in all of us.

I'll leave you with a quote from Isabelle, Jace's adopted sister about Jace. “Oh, he's rude to everybody. That's what makes him so d*** sexy.”

Penny’s 25 Best Tips for Doing the Conference Thing (Penny Rader)

1. Get some sleep before you leave. Chances are you won’t have a decent night’s sleep for at least 5-6 days.

2. If you get really tired, take a nap. It’s okay if you don’t attend every workshop. I usually cram as many workshops in as I can, but if you're anything like me, you'll be up late, then dragging the next day around 2 or 3 pm., right in the middle of a workshop. Refresh yourself with a nap, then get back in there.

3. Beverages. I started taking/buying cans/bottles of my favorite pop cuz those machines are darned expensive. See #13.

4. Take a sweater or a jacket. Some of the conference rooms are chilly.

5. Take a robe and socks. Those hotel rooms can get cold, too.

6. Packing list. A great timesaver for me is to make up my packing list way ahead of time. Add things to it as you think of them [jammies, workshop clothes, awards ceremony clothes, shoes, hose, prescriptions, hangers (hotels never have enough), toiletries, etc.] Check off the list as you pack. Put it in your bag so you make sure you packed everything for the trip home. Keep a copy of your list for future trips.

7. Leave your perfume at home. Many people suffer from allergies.

8. Don't make phone calls from your room. They charge you 75 cents and up for every call you make (in addition to long distance charges). If you have roommates, it's hard to tell which phone call was made by which person. Note: When I first wrote this article for the WARA newsletter cell phones were not as common as they are now.)

9. Take plenty of $1 bills for tips: people who handle your bags at the airport (you do want your bags to make it to the conference with you, don’t you?), taxi/shuttle, bellhops, restaurants, etc. And for pop/snack machines if you ignored #3 and #13.)

10. More money issues: Since I usually get to conferences by the skin of my teeth, I like to be as prepared as possible. I make a list of everything that might require money and I try to overestimate a bit so I won’t come up short. Some meals are covered by the conference fee, but not all. Remember to budget in shuttle/taxi fees for the trips back and forth from the airport. Share a room with as many people as possible. Call the hotel ahead of time and ask what taxes will be added (hotel, city, occupancy, etc.)

11. Highlight the workshops you want to attend before you leave for the conference, but be open to change. They might switch the order of the workshops. You might hear from someone else how great another workshop is. If there are several workshops going on at the same time that you want to attend, try to share notes with someone else. Also, if one of those choices is not taped, that might be the one you want to go to. Consult with your friends/roommates ahead of time and coordinate the workshops each of you wants to attend. That way you can swap notes.

12. Stay hydrated. Planes and hotel rooms dry you out. Also, keep a tube of lip balm handy. And some hand lotion.

13. Keep snacks in your room--the luncheons might not fill you up. Who knows, a midnight snackfest/gabfest might generate some great ideas for your book.

14. Take plenty of business cards. On the back of the business cards you get from other writers, jot down a note to yourself so you'll remember who that person is: potential cp; great resource on 18th century America; lady with purple hair. If you have an editor/agent appointment, jot your manuscript title on the back.

15. When heading back home, allow plenty of time for the lines at the airport. One hour probably will not be enough. I arrived at the airport two hours before my flight home from the Orlando conference and nearly missed my flight. Scared the h*ll out of me!

16. Pack comfy clothes and comfy shoes for down time, i.e. after hours gabfests/networking, sightseeing, etc.

17. Network, network, network. At meals, etc. don't sit only with people you know. Be open to meeting new people. Talk to the people around you: registration lines, at workshops, luncheons, hospitality rooms, the restroom, the various get-togethers. Sit on a couch in a lounging area—interesting people will sit next to you. Talk to them (What do they write? First conference? Attended any great workshops? Learned anything spectacular?)

18. Towels and drinking glasses. If more than two people are sharing your room, call housekeeping after you check in and tell them you'll need extra towels and drinking glasses every day. Ditto for coffee if several of you need coffee to get you going. Decide who gets the shower at night and who gets it in the morning.

19. Take a couple extra pens or pencils. Ditto for panty hose.

20. Take notes. There’s usually a legal pad in your registration folder, but I like to buy the steno pads with the nice, thick cardboard backing. Easy to flip the pages when taking notes as well as a writing surface for those workshops without any tables. If you’re lucky enough to have an Alphasmart or laptop, type quietly so as not to disturb other conference attendees. Workshops aren’t the only places to take notes. If you pick up good info and tips while chatting, er, networking with conference attendees, write it down. I want details when you get back. :D

21. All of the recorded workshops for the National RWA conference are available on DVD/CD. Great value. I download them onto my mp3 player and listen to them while driving home from work. (Note: You can also download the workshops individually.) Paying for them before you leave conference saves a few dollars. The discounted price is also available to non-conference goers if purchased within a week or two of the conference. If you are unable to attend the conference but know someone who is attending, give them the money and ask them to order a set for you while they're at the conference.  (Please note: RWA changed their policy beginning with the 2013 conference.  Individual workshops are available for purchases through RWA's site, but the entire package is offered at a discount only to the conference attendees.)

22. Breathe. Seems like everybody always tells me to breathe. :D So I thought I would pass it on. But before you breathe on an editor or agent, pop some breath mints.

23. Free stuff. Take an extra bag (such as a canvas or tote bag) for all the free stuff you’ll pick up (Goody Room, publisher giveaways, etc.) and books you might buy. If you are lucky enough to gets lots and lots of books and run out of suitcase room, ship them home via UPS so you don’t have to drag them around with you.

24. Have a great time! Wish I could be there with you.

25. Oh, and take a camera! We want pictures for the scrapbook and our website.


What are your best conference tips?

I Wanted to be Them

At first I thought romance readers had a screw loose. I was a young teenager with an attitude. After all, why would you read about romance instead of doing it? Then, under the cover of darkness (or a blanket on my bed), I started reading a Harlequin Romance that had been left laying about at a friend's house. Oh, my. Yes, I was hooked the very first book. I kept my addiction to myself for quite a while. But Harlequins in those days not only took you to romance it took you to foreign countries and foreign ways of life. Exotic, hot, exiting locations where men were men and women were women. Men, not boys. Women, not the neighborhood ladies.

I wanted to be one of those women.

Then I found Georgette Heyer and her book The Grand Sophy. That book was so much a part of me for a while I read it over four times in the first year. It was the first book I'd ever read with layers of other character's stories intertwined. Oh, my. The balance, the angst, the humor, all of it a crashing delight. It even had a monkey!

I wanted to be Sophy.

I consumed all of Georgette Heyer's regencies that I could lay my hands on. Still, The Grand Sophy is one of my favorites. But in some of her others, I began to identify with the men too. I could see their problems and feel their frustration and so I began to understand character development.

Then I grew up and discovered other writers, such as Sharon Green and her epic tales of Mida. I learned more about the insides of people and what motivates them from her work, then I ever could attending a teen party. The depth of soul in her main characters as they face the rugged doomed future is all about putting one foot in front of another and sticking with the job. I began to understand perseverance. That perseverance isn't necessarily for heroic people, but for regular ones too.

I wanted to be like her heroine.

I read some stories by Jean Auel. Do you remember Clan of the Cave Bear? Her stories were of sacrifice and survival. And then too many people praised her books for bringing history of the ice age to life and she blew it. She began to lard her books with too much description of the ice age and not enough of her characters and she killed her books. Each one became longer and more awful. I learned from her that like criticism of your work, you should also treat praise carefully. Too much praise for the settings of her stories made her wish to add more of what the public praised her for. Bad idea. It unbalanced her beautiful work. Reading the last three books was like a mouse chewing a hay bale to get to a kernel of corn--lots of work for scant reward.

I wouldn't want to do what she did.

There are so many books that taught me so much about writing before I ever thought about putting pen to paper. Reading is important. It can teach so very much that you don't realize you're learning.

Happy Mothers Day! (Rox Delaney)

Good Grief, It's Mother's Day!....Charlie Brown

I didn't plan on being late, but because it's Mothers Day and many of us reading here are mothers, not to mention we all are children of mothers, I started doing a little research. Because I'll get another stab at this month's topic later, I decided a blog about mothers and literature might be appropriate.

So here we go...

MEMORABLE MOMS IN LITERATURE   (Warning:  I did not come up with all of these myself.)

Cinderella's mom - Classic fairytale --- This would obviously be her step-mother and not on the plus side of the list. ;)
Mrs. Bennett - Pride and Prejudice
Marmee - Little Women
Mrs. Weasley - Harry Potter
Mrs. Darling - Peter Pan --- Certainly much better than Peter's mother, who allowed the pram Peter was in to roll away, while she was chatting with a friend about Peter's future.
Charlotte - Charlotte's Web
Mary - The Bible
A quick note:  Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother of Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein, was also an author.
I'd like to add one of my own contemporary favorites:  April Robillard in Natural Born Charmer.

But why stop with literature?  Why not add TV Moms?
(from my childhood:)
June Cleaver - Leave it to Beaver
Margaret Anderson - Father Knows Best
Harriet Nelson - (The Adventurers of) Ozzie and Harriet
Kathy Williams - Make Room for Daddy
(and later...)
Shirley Partridge - The Partridge Family
Marion Cunningham - Happy Days

Now is your chance to add your own favorites!

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all of our WARA members, mothers of WARA members, mothers who are reading this and their mothers! :)

My Favorite Non WARA Authors J Vincent

I inhale books, always have and hope I always will. Below are my favorite authors. I’ve read or reread (or listened to as I do many audiobooks) them in the last six months. As I set up the list I quickly saw there was a definite warp to what I read. Historicals of course. I didn’t know how to categorize Castle/Krentz since her Arcane series goes from past to present to future. >My kids loved sci fi/fantasy but I wasn’t really into it until I came across Katherine Kurtz in the 80’s I think it was. Lately I’ve been hooked on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time--now in book 9. It’s the only series I’ve ever felt compelled to read and dread doing so at the same time. Then there are the mysteries I love—in all flavors.

Just a word about nonfiction since I read so much of it. Research material can be very very dry and difficult to plow through but there are some authors who are passionate and write very readable books. Philip Haythornthwaite is one. A good thing with that last name! Most of all I love the writers of the war diaries I read. Kincaid makes me laugh, Tompkinson makes me think, and Julia Page’s biography of Edward Charles Cocks and his death in battle makes me cry.

Sweet Georgian and Regency authors

  1. Georgette Heyer
  2. Mary Balogh’s older Regency works
  3. Joan Smith
  4. Patricia Veryan—all but especially the Golden Chronicles
  5. Barbara Metzger
  6. Patricia Oliver
  7. Ashley Gardner-- Captain Gabriel Lacey Regency Mystery series
  8. Laura Willig’s Pink Carnation Series (Regency spy romance)
  9. Joan Aiken and her sister Joan Aiken Hodge

More explicit Georgian and Regency authors

  1. Jo Beverley
  2. Diana Gabaldon

Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick –especially the Arcane Society

Sci fi/Fantasy

  1. Robert Jordan’s Wheel in Time series -
  2. David Eddings’s Belgariad series
  3. Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series

Cozy Mystery series

  1. Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper series
  2. Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury series
  3. Margaret Maron’s Debra Knott series
  4. Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries
  5. Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Catering
  6. Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabodys set in Egypt

More explicit mysteries

  1. J D Robb’s In Death series
  2. Iris Johansen especially Eve Duncan books
  3. Elizabeth George’s Lynley Mysteries
  4. Ann Perry’s the Monk and the Pitt series
  5. Vince Flynn
  6. P D James mysteries
  7. Charlaine Harris’ Lily Bard (Shakespeare) Series (not the vampires stories so popular now)

To all the writers listed above and to our WARA authors—published and unpublished—for all the entertainment you’ve provided. –Thank You!


Ever stroll up to the ooey-gooey donut counter, lean in real close, glance ever so slightly to the left and to the right? Wipe the drool from the corners of your mouth so it doesn’t puddle at your feet. All in the name of scoring the one pastry with the most generous donation of rainbow sprinkles, chocolate frosting so rich it looks like it was spread by the angels above or sugar-coated donuts so plump with filling you could use them for pillows. Then you straighten up to meet the eyes of the lucky clerk who most assuredly goes home every night smelling of chocolate, vanilla and decadent cream or fruit filling and for one brief moment you wish you were them. Then the man in the suit behind you pokes you to hurry the decision process along.

But you can’t choose because you can only have one.

Well, that’s how I feel about choosing a favorite author. These days there are so many choices. Reading compliments my moods. There are times when a girl just wants to be swept off her feet with a good old fashioned love story. For that I turn to LaVyrle Spencer. If I’m craving a quick laugh and even quicker read I turn to Janet Evanovich. For family dramas with that emotional punch, no one beats Kristin Hannah. If you like the kind of book that tugs at your heartstrings, drains your tear-ducts dry and leaves you spent, well, no one beats Jodi Piccoult. Need a fix with a mix of humor, family and love then Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Jenny Crusie are your suppliers.

I could go on forever about the writers I like, but choose a favorite? I don’t think so. It would be easier to choose a jelly donut and we all know how well that goes.



Research--the Bane of my Existence (Frances Louis)

I'm an inquisitive person. I'll be the first at a dinner party to ask you where you're from and what you do for a living. I'll also, should your career or residential location sound interesting or unique, be the first to inquire more on said topic. I like to know the 'whys' and 'how's' of the world around me...but I don't fancy research.
Now wait, I guess that isn't entirely true. I did spend the last week delving into the back stories of the entire British monarchy. How else was I to prepare for the royal nuptials between Wills and Kate? I HAD to know my facts, and by golly, I wanted to know who was who and if I got the scoop on all their dirty scandals--even better.
But when it comes to writing and researching...blech. As a writer of historical novels, the whole yucky feeling that encompasses the actual 'work' part of the writing doesn't bode well for me. Research, no matter how much I dislike or loathe its role in my novels, is essential to my writing. A Regency novel simply isn't the same if I lack proper description of the setting, wardrobe, meals,and of all the nitty gritty details that make up that particular era in time. I mean, whoever heard a Marquis whisper the words, "Dag nab it?" or a lady of the ton wear 'overalls'? The simplest detail is crucial in creating a believable world that allows you, dear reader, into the work I have so carefully created.
Perhaps the biggest reason I dislike researching is because I so often have to interrupt my true passion to do it! There is nothing more frustrating than being in the writing mode and having to stop to make certain that what I'm writing is: a.) viable b.) possible and c.)factual. This is especially annoying when the research takes longer to complete than originally planned. Alas, research is a natural and normal part of the writing process, and I trudge forward with a smile on my face knowing that every minute I spend verifying the truth, is a minute in knowing that this author delivers a story that is historically accurate--at least to the best of her abilities...and hopefully, it shows.