Why yes I do have action figures for my characters. (Melissa Robbins)

I have been looking forward to this post.  As a quirky person, I have an assortment of quirky things in my writing area.  You’ll have to forgive me.  I can’t share just one.  

First, I have Connor’s plane complete with noseart and markings.  I assembled and painted the Spitfire myself.  Yes, Connor’s kite is missing a wheel, courtesy of my six year old son who played with it.  The boy loves planes as much as his mummy.  I didn’t glue the wheel back because there is a scene in my second story (written before the damage) where Connor has to land his plane on one wheel.  And yes, here are my characters as action figures (sort of).  I assembled and painted my little Connor, Jack, and Wren, too.  I love how Jack has his coat slung over his shoulder all cheeky like.   I’ve resisted playing with them to act out scenes.  Are you wondering why Jack, who is U.S. Army Air Force, is wearing Royal Air Force blue?  Yeah, Wren was wondering the same thing.  ;0)  Looking at this Wren makes me laugh.  This figurine is a lot calmer than Wren was in the scene.  She wanted to strangle and hug her brother at the same time.    
            Near the plane, I display pilot wings, like Jack would have worn, in an antique printers’ tray.  

    Here are 1940 editions of Murder on the Orient Express and Biggles – Secret Agent.  In my first story, Wren carries around the Christie paperback in her gas mask bag and it helps her solve an important code.  Wren uses the Biggles book to communicate code messages with a certain pilot.  Biggles inspired my flyboys and is probably the reason I have a fascination with pilots.  That and watching Top Gun at a tender age. 
     What we were talking about?  Pilots.  Right.  Here is my bulletin board for inspiration and distractions.  On top, we have Jack’s Bacon and Connor’s Raven noseart.  Between them, I have my own propaganda posters.  The British government created a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ one.  ‘Keep Calm and Write On’ was something Fran told me and it’s become my mantra ever since.  The blue ones are real signs from WW2.  I also have some sketches of my favorite boys (Jack, Connor, and my YA brothers, Dermot and Carrick.)  Oh look!  Who is that devilishly handsome man in the RAF uniform?  That would be Rupert Penry-Jones from Charlotte Gray.  If you want to know what Jack looks like in RAF blue, there you go.  Except you need to muss up his hair a bit.  Those pictures are SO distracting!  Sigh.  Where was I?  The black and white photo is of a real WAAF who reminds me of Wren and below that is a wireless patch she would have worn.  Underneath that is a fortune from a cookie I received recently that reads, “Bide your time, success is near.”  The image of the RAF ranks and insignias helps a lot determining which rank to use. 
          Adjacent to the bulletin board, is a nifty WW2 calendar a writer friend gave me for Christmas. Each day has a significant event that happened during the war.  Funny thing though, I was SO busy drooling over the bomber squadron for January that my friend had to point out the events.  I hadn’t noticed! 

            So there you have it, my collection of quirky items.  I also have a shelf full of WW2 books. 

What's the Most Unusual Thing in Your Writing Space? (Penny Rader)

What’s the most unusual thing in your writing space that inspires, entertains or humors you?

When I saw the topic for this month I sort of panicked.  I don't have a space dedicated to writing...yet.  I will soon.  In a couple weeks or so a writing room/library with a bulletin board and a white board or two and lots and lots of bookshelves will be mine, all mine.  Bwah-hah-hah-hah. (Yay!) Nothing much inspiring, entertaining, or even all that funny about the unorganized mess I have going on now.

So while I was at work last week, in between freaking out about tax season and the looming deadline, I looked up.  Maybe I should backtrack just a bit.  When I first went to work at the accounting firm I shared an office with our very own Starla.  She has amazing collections.  Along the top of her desk she had really cool ceramic houses and lighthouses and such.

When she moved to her own office a year or so later I told her I didn't mind at all if the village continued to live on what would now be my cool desk.  I still get a kick out of them and often wonder who the inhabitants might be.

So last week I looked up and knew what unusual thing inspires me.  Or rather, shames me.

picture by Kathy Sparks

"Have you written today, matey? This week?  This month? Aaargh."

I really hate it when my answer is "No."


Tell me about your writing space.  What inspires or entertains you or makes you laugh and dive into your current wip or a new project?

Trivia about hair

Hair is an interesting topic, to me. I am a very visual person. When I create my characters, I find pictures from somewhere online, in magazines, or photos I find from a number of other places. As I write and attempt to describe my characters, I refer back to these pictures.

Recently I did a blog post on my Starla Kaye website about resources for writers concerning hair: the history of hairstyles, hair color, men’s hair and beards. It was fun and useful gathering the research and you are welcome to check it out at “Let’s Talk About Hair.”

I decided to take that a step farther and share some trivia tidbits about hair. Did you know that…

• blonds usually have more strands of hair than redheads or brunettes
• a strand of hair is as strong as a wire of iron, can support 2 ½ pounds, and it takes a 60kg force to rip it
• we lose about 40 to 100 strands of hair every day
• crash dieting can trigger temporary hair loss
• female hair grows slower than male hair
• the lifespan of a hair strand is 2 to 7 years
• hair grows faster in warm weather
• humidity stretches the hair
• Renaissance women lightened their hair by coating their hair with a mixture of lye and saffron
• to help cure his baldness Aristotle rubbed goat pee on his scalp
• Hippocrates used a mixture of opium, wine, olive oil, horseradish, and pigeon poop to help with his baldness

April Meeting Canceled

The April meeting of the WARA group has been canceled.

Discovering Inspiration Along the Way

What's the most unusual thing in your writing space that inspires, entertains or humors you?
I've been thinking a lot the last fourteen days about what I'd write about today and been coming up with very few inspiring ideas. After ten plus years of writing, I finally have my own writing space and what have I done to make that space inspiring? Not much.

After two moves in the last three years I've been living out of boxes with a few stacks of books making their home near my desk. I have come to a point in my life of starting over. My third child has left the nest and I've taken over her bedroom as my office area. After a year, I still feel like I'm trespassing in her room and while it thrills me to finally have space that is my own I've been struggling with truly making it mine.

I do have plans and ideas for this space of mine but I think it will be built a little at a time as I rediscover myself and refocus on becoming the writer I dream of being. I hope to someday have pictures of heroes and heroines on my walls, screaming out at me to write their stories. I've always wanted to develop a better plotting style as well and have writing and plotting boards to help my stories past that first blank page. It's a fun journey thinking about what really inspires me. Who am I and what would I like to have around this space that will motivate me to move further along my writing path.

But for right now in this moment in time, on my desk I have a teddy bear and a small pink convertible. The teddy bear was a gift from a very special person who has shown me that romance truly does exist in the world. My fluffy bear inspires me every day to write about that love that for a very long time I didn't really believe in. The pink convertible was a gift from a friend after the 2007
RWA conference in Dallas. It brings back memories of friends and fun and gives me hope that some day I'll have a car and drive again and go to other conferences and meetings.

As I continue my life and writing journey, I have my teddy bear, my pink convertible and my secret stash of peanut butter M&M's. I am inspired, humored and entertained, but I am never finished growing and learning.

What about you? I want to hear some of the things other writers have in their space that inspires them to give me some ideas of what to do with mine.

To Be (Inspired) or Not To Be (Inspired)

What's the most unusual thing in your writing space that inspires, entertains or humors you?

To be honest, Toby isn't all that inspiring.  He's more of a nuisance, especially when it comes to insisting on making my desk his favorite snoozing spot.  (That's a 22 inch monitor.)  Having his furry, gray, and tubby body covering the space needed for notes isn't all that entertaining, although I do get some exercise lifting him him down from the top of my desk to plop him back on the floor...about every five minutes.  Humorous?  Maybe.  In the beginning.  Until he decided my desk was his spot, not my working space.  Stretched out, he's nearly three feet from head to end of tail, and even though I've created a desk that is almost 9 feet long, to hold drawers, two desk lamps, a phone, dictionary & synonym book, a printer, several three-ring binders and other smaller items that keep finding their way to my desk, he's pushing his luck.  And he's not my cat!  He belongs to my youngest daughter.

So what do I have in my writing space that inspires, entertains, or humors me?
  • The poster board needed to create a vision board.  However, it's still blank after two or three months and still not on the wall.  
  • Four 6 1/2" X 8 1/2" plaques, two of chairs on the beach, two of seashells, that I bought because they're calming and inspiring.  They aren't on the wall yet, either.  
  • A collection of family photos, waiting to be mounted in frames.
  • 12 framed covers of my published books, also waiting to be hung on the wall.
  • Miscellaneous projects, all inspiring, entertaining or humorous, plus a lot of things that need to find new homes, preferably unseen. ;)
Before you all scoff, my space isn't as pitiful as one my think.  Instead of all the pretties and things listed above that really would be wonderful to look at daily, I do have three things that especially remind me that I should be writing and keep me on track when I am.

Two sets of plotting boards and another catch-all board that contains photos (of WARA members at conference and book signings, granddaughter, and high school memories), more notes and receipts. One board is for the current WIP, and the second is for a story I've been working on for more years than I want to remember.

Yes, another plotting board that awaits anothor WIP that's been put on hold while deadlines are met on current and next current (not yet on a board) WIP.

Confused?  Me, too!

Chelsea, my #3 daughter (there are 4) and a huge Tinkerbell fan, gave me the plaque last year for Christmas.  Since then, I've been looking for some of that pixie dust, because most days I could use a little to make writing and life go a little more smoothly.  Couldn't we all?  I haven't found it yet, but I'm working hard on those faith and trust things.  Maybe once I have them, the pixie dust will be magically supplied.  One can hope, right?

Whatever makes the day go easier, inspires us to work harder and reach higher, and brings a smile or a laugh, are the special things in life.  Enjoy!

Happy Easter and Passover, everyone!

Inspire? Entertain? Humor? All and More!

When I first considered what in my writing space inspires or entertains or humors me I was stuck. Then my eyes lit on a copy of a painting on my wall. It is of Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore (1761-1809). He is a particular favorite of mine and inspires me not only because of what he accomplished but how he did it. He developed the innovative training regimen that turned out the first modern superb light infantry troops. In reading several Moore biographies he appears an exceptionally humane officer and a respected leader. He was placed in charge of the British force in Spain after the recall of Generals Burrard and Dalrymple who basically threw away Wellesley’s (Wellington) first victory in 1808. When faced by Napoleon and 200,000 French troops with only a force of 20,000 he led a heroic retreat and saved most of his men. They were being loaded on ships during the battle at Corunna in which Moore himself was wounded and died.

Considering Moore brought my answer into focus. I didn’t need to choose between the inspire, entertain, or humor because I have something in my office that does all three. This collective “it” also educates and elucidates.

To the right is a photo of the section in my bookcases that contains the memoirs, diaries, letters, reminiscences of the men who served in the Peninsular War ( Portugal and Spain). Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula Letters & Diaries of Major The Hon. Edward Charles Cocks is truly inspires me to do my best. Cocks was such a lively, intelligent and dedicated officer that I was near to tears when I read of his death at the battle near Burgos in 1812.
Diary of a Cavalry Officer 1809-1815 by Lt. Col Tomkinson always entertains. In fact I used his explanations of one of the times he was wounded as an inspiration for the wound suffered by my hero in Honour’s Compromise. Another book full of information but with laugh-out-loud passages is Kincaid’s Adventures in the Rifle Brigade; Random Shots from a Rifleman. I’m still trying to find a way to work some of his escapades into a book. Another entertaining work is On the Road with Wellington: The Diary of a War Commissary by Schaumann. These are just a few I could name.

When I first began collecting books on the period in which I write I did so from a thirst for information and to have that information at hand. I obtained that but I also hold the beauty of the period as well as its pathos on my shelves. I can’t help but be inspired, entertained, humored, and even romanced by the examples of all the authors, of all the men and women with whom I share my office. I can't wait to read what inspires the rest of my fellow WARA writers.

Salute Your Inner Armadillo by Reese Mobley

The most unusual thing in my office has to be the stuffed armadillo. Not stuffed as in once alive and now not so much thanks to the local taxidermist. No, my armadillo is soft, gray and furry--much like my husband. It was a gift from my dearest friend, Pat. (the stuffed animal--not my dh)

We were in Dallas attending an RWA conference and we'd just listened to a speaker from Texas report on the massive weather condition that had destroyed her part of the country and the one thing that seemed to survive and even thrive were the armadillos. As a person who is easily moved to tears, I remember her speech was quite moving and motivating. The whole point was that if the critters could survive such devastation that as writers, we should try to be more like them.

Resilient, thick-skinned and strong enough to adapt to the ever-changing landscape.

Pat found the stuffed armadillo in the gift shop and rewarded it to me along with a note reminding me to always be strong. Like the armadillo. I look at that critter every day and know that even though I don't look like an armadillo, even if I squint really hard, I can have the same characteristics. I can be tough. I can be an armadillo.


It's crowded in here.

Pat Davids here wishing you a happy April.

It is April already! Can you believe it? Normally, at this time of year we are praying for the temperatures to warm up and the flowers to start blooming. The weather this year has been unusual, to say the least.

And unusual is our blog topic for the month. We're going to be blogging about the most unusual item in our writing spaces. Right off the bat, I think it's probably unusual to have numerous invisible people clamoring to make you write down their words. Perhaps not unusual for writers, but certainly unusual for the general population.

We all have them. Those characters that aren't in our current work in progress. They whisper their secrets, they tease us with glimpses into their personalities, and they tempt us with a story that seems so much more exciting than the one that we are only halfway through writing.

Making them stay quiet long enough to actually finish a book can be challenging. I try not to give into them, but sometimes I am forced to jot down notes that will help me when I'm finally ready to tell their story. Let me share with you some of the unusual characters that are knocking on my brain because they want out.

Leah, the Amish school teacher who saw the man she loved marry her sister out of duty because his brother got her pregnant and then ran off. Now, the brother is back in town. Can Leah forgive him for the harm he caused so many people?

Jake, a contemporary cowboy convicted of cattle rustling, who is trying to rebuild his life in the community that openly distrusts his motives. It doesn't help that he is falling for the daughter of the judge who sent him to prison.

Roman,. A man whose badly injured arm has put an end to his dreams of becoming a professional ballplayer. Did he leave the Amish for the outside world? Maybe. He isn’t ready to tell me the whole story. He’s not done growing.

Buck, a man of the old West bent on revenge for the death of his murdered brother and family. I know Buck well. He’s grown from a boy to a man in a previous story, but he is patient. He’ll wait for his turn.

Kira, the Princess of a planet overrun with evil, who must find a way to save her people even if it means surrendering her very life to a reclusive but powerful wizard in order to gain his help.

Rhonda, a quiet Amish spinster who adores fishing. She wants to know who her love interest is going to be in her book. I have no idea, but he's in here somewhere.


What is a poor writer to do? How to pick and choose? What makes telling one story more imperative than the others?

Writers, you must remember one important thing. It is your brain. While your characters might think they are in control, they are only guests. They have no voice until you give them one. Hold them hostage until they are needed. Unless, of course, you are one of those lucky people who can work on more than one story at a time. I can’t.

Leah is going to have her story told in my next book. Everyone else gets beaten to the back of my brain where they must rumble around and grow into fully developed characters that are ready to come forward and reveal their tale.

These are some of the unusual characters that share my writing space. Tell me about the unusual characters that inhabit your writing space. How do you keep them in check? What’s your method for keeping them straight? Do you have trouble making them stay silent until you need them? If you have kept them quiet for a long, will they speak up when you need them? Come on, share. I know I’m not the only one that keeps unusual company inside my head.