Author Archives: Wendy Howard

About Wendy Howard

Wendy Howard is the Website Liaison for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She grew up near Chicago and now lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado with her ever growing family. She writes stories mixed with dark comedy for all ages and has won awards for her work.

An Awkward Confession

By Mary Gillgannon

I’ve been writing historical romance for over twenty years. In the beginning, the genre was also my favorite reading material. I read the best-selling romance authors to find out what magic they worked to rise to the top. I read the “up-and-comings” to see what they offered and get a feel for the direction the market was headed. And I read pretty much anything in my preferred sub-genre, medieval and Viking romances. I once heard that before writing a book in a particular genre, you should read a hundred books of that type. Over the first few years of my writing career, I probably did that.

But gradually I got away from reading historical romance. I discovered historical mysteries, which helped me immerse myself in the world and time period I was writing in and often gave me new ideas for stories that were more unique than the ideas I got from romances. I dabbled in literary fiction, which had been my preferred reading in college and immediately afterwards. Chick lit came along and I ate it up. Fantasy started getting popular and I added it to my reading “oeuvre”. Then, a few years ago, I stumbled onto a contemporary mystery I really liked and started reading them too.

I’m currently writing my fifteenth historical romance, and yet I have to guiltily admit that, except for books written by friends, I haven’t read a historical romance from start to finish in years. I have good intentions. I purchase e-books that sound interesting and download free copies to help other authors get exposure. I order historical romances for the library where I work and sometimes even check them out. But some other book (or books) always seems to be calling me, and I never get far into the romances before I move on.

It doesn’t help that I acquire fiction as part of my job at a public library and read dozens of reviews every month, covering fiction in all sorts of genres. I usually skim the non-fiction reviews, too, adding to my choices. When I check in the new books (to confirm the cataloging is correct, etc.) I set aside the order slips of those I’m interested in. I now have a pile about fifty order slips on my desk. I’d like to read these books, but it seems like there’s always something new and irresistible and I seldom end up going to “the pile”. I guess I’m sort of ADHD when it comes to reading for pleasure.

Lately I’m obsessed with gritty contemporary mysteries set in the British Isles. I could never write stories like these. I don’t have a good feel for contemporary dialogue and as an American, I certainly couldn’t pull off the slang or the authentic local details that make these books so intriguing to me. For the most part, I avoid portraying much violence in my own stories (they are romances, after all), while these mysteries are full of dark and disturbing scenes. They also don’t have “happily ever after” endings. Indeed, sometimes the endings are downright grim.

I suspect that my preference for reading books that are nothing like what I write is a little weird. When I read interviews with writers and they discuss their reading habits, they may mention stories that are a bit different than what they write, but not usually the complete opposite. I’ve tried to analyze why my tastes are this way. Maybe it’s because when I’m writing, I’m living in that world on a much more intense level than when I’m reading. When I’m writing as a character, I really am that character, and I don’t want them to endure too much violence, pain or suffering because I don’t want to experience it myself on that intense level.

It’s one thing to be exposed to darkness and evil vicariously. Another to feel like you’re actually living it. In the books I read, I identify and care about a lot of the characters, but I don’t become them the way I do my characters. I can read a gritty mystery and go on an exciting, vicarious ride. But I don’t envision my real self in that world.

I’ve heard other authors complain that writing fiction takes away from enjoying reading it. You become too critical of technical details, too aware of pacing flaws and places where the characterization is weak, etc. You stop reading as a reader and start reading like an editor. For the most part, I’m pretty forgiving and tolerant of these things. If I find the story compelling, I can ignore a lot of issues that might bug some of my writer friends.

At least when I’m reading non-romances. When I read a romance, it’s much harder for me to turn off the editor in my head. And even if I have no problems with the writing itself, it’s hard for me not to think about how I would write the story. That puts a distance between me and the story and makes it hard for me to really immerse myself in the book. More specifically, other authors’ fantasies are not my fantasies, and that is ultimately a very important component of the romance reading experience.

Despite all these things, I plan to keep trying to read more romance. After I get through the two mysteries and the historical novel I’m waiting to come in at the library, and that book I just ordered that sounds so interesting and well… you know the rest.

What about you other writers out there? Is there a big discrepancy between your reading and writing interests?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mary GillgannonMary Gillgannon writes romance novels set in the dark ages, medieval and English Regency time periods and fantasy and historical novels with Celtic influences. Her books have been published in Russia, China, the Netherlands and Germany. Raised in the Midwest, she now lives in Wyoming and works at public library, where she she has the enviable task of purchasing adult fiction. She is married and has two grown children. When not working or writing she enjoys gardening, traveling and reading, of course! For more about Mary, visit her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook.

RMFW Spotlight – Wendy Howard, Website Liaison

Introducing the wonderful board members and volunteers who do so much for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is one of the missions of this blog. This month we shine the Spotlight on Wendy Howard who works behind the scenes to inform and educate writers at all levels, whether they belong to RMFW or not. Her job is neverending. Thanks, Wendy. We couldn’t have brought this blog online without you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

wendy12131. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I do a number of things for RMFW, my main job being Website Liaison. I’m a long-time computer geek, and serving as Website Liaison gives me something fun to do when I need a break from writing and editing. If you have any questions or suggestions for the website, contact me at website_liaison@rmfw.org.

I’m also a member of the Publicity team. I prepare and distribute email communications twice a week to remind everyone about events, classes and such. If you have a new release or event to promote, email the details to communications@rmfw.org. Time permitting, I’ll include your announcement in an email.

And I recently set up our new RMFW Google+ community. I help run the page with other members of the Publicity team. Be sure to join us at https://plus.google.com/communities/104404222760779325232.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available? (Feel free to attach photos of book covers—platform opportunity time!)

My current work in progress is a re-work in progress. Heavy sigh! The first in The Courier series, Call for Obstruction won an award in 2009 and was published by a small press late 2011. Unfortunately, the publisher went out of business and returned my book shortly after it was published. Instead of being upset about losing a publishing contract, I decided to take advantage of the situation and restore the book to the short length I originally intended it to be. That meant cutting out 150 pages, one of the hardest editing task I’ve ever tackled. It’s almost done, and I’m hoping to self-publish it in April. My long-term goal is to find another agent and editor and do the traditional publishing thing with it again.

3. We’ve all heard of bucket lists– you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish– what’s one of yours?

Go on an archeological dig anywhere in South America, but if I do it, I’ll probably never come back to the U.S.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what’s yours?

I’ve been a professional writer for over 25 years and I still struggle to call a work complete. I want to edit to perfection and there really is no such thing.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

Developing a new story from an idea, especially inventing the characters and creating new worlds or planets. I also enjoy research and writing the first draft.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Don’t be in a hurry to publish. Learn the craft and be cautious with editors, publishers, and other writers. Over the last five years, I’ve worked with and managed small presses, and have moderated online networking communities for writers and filmmakers. While I’ve met some of the most amazing people, I can also tell you quite a few horror stories. Join a writer’s organization like RMFW. Being a part of a community is an important step to becoming a better writer and protecting yourself against predators in the publishing industry.

wendydesk7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it? (Include a picture of your work area, if possible)

I move around a lot while writing and editing, and work outside as much as I can during warm months. There’s just something about a change of scenery that stimulates my imagination. I do have an office and on my desk are my idols: Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. Whenever the going gets tough, I sit back and look to them for inspiration. And every now and then I rub the Laughing Buddha’s belly for a little luck.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I just finished Faith on the Rocks by fellow RMFW member Liesa Malik. I attend the Southwest Critique Group with Liesa when I can and sat in on a few critique sessions for Faith on the Rocks. I bought her book at conference last year and had her sign it. I really enjoyed the read, probably more so for knowing a little about the blood sweat and tears Liesa put into her baby.

I’m also reading Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger by Jeff Wise. A very interesting read, and one I’d suggest any writer read. Halfway through the book I’ve learned better ways to torture characters and describe their panicked reactions.

You can also find me on my website, @by_wjhoward, Google+, and sometimes on Facebook.

Old Writer, New Tricks

By Mary Gillgannon

I’m what I call an intuitive or “into the mist” writer.  I have a general idea of what the story is about, but I don’t really plot. I’m also a linear writer. I start from the beginning and keep going on the rough draft until I reach the end. Between “non-plotting” and writing straight through, I usually end up with a complete mess and then have to go back and rewrite extensively to get a coherent and compelling story. It was pretty typical that for a 120,000 word novel, I’d write about 30,000 extra words. For my 160,000-word historical novel, I probably wrote 300,000!

About five years ago, I decided I wasn’t up to all that floundering and struggle and wasted words. I was going to learn to plot. I attended workshops, read books and talked to other writers about their plotting process. It all sounded good to me… until I sat down and tried to do it. Nothing happened. No story ideas came. My mind went blank and my muse refused to speak to me.

So, I went back to “writing into the mist” and writing linearly. I seemed to be getting better at it with my romances. But when I tried to write a fantasy series, I ended up with a 200,000 word book that needs to be about half that. Not to mention, I can’t market the series yet because I don’t know what happens in the second book, let alone the third and fourth. (I know. George R.R. Martin probably doesn’t really know where his series is going either. But he’s clearly better at this stuff than me.)

The feeling that there has to be a better way keeps gnawing at me. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve found it with my latest project. It’s a fantasy romance that I first started years ago. Because I was trying to sell on proposal back then, I actually wrote a very rough synopsis for this book. I started writing based on the synopsis, and after a few chapters, inevitably, the plot began to change. But then I did something different. I didn’t keep writing. I went back and started revising the synopsis to fit the story. As I did that, I realized there were lots of story questions I hadn’t addressed. So I went back and rewrote parts of the first few chapters. In the process, the whole story became clearer to me. For once, I wasn’t writing “into the mist”. I could actually see where I was going.

I’ve decided I would keep up with this new technique with this book. I’m beginning to think that maybe the problem isn’t that I don’t plot, but that I keep writing forward even when I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe if I try to plot as I write the book and fix things as I go along, I won’t end up with such a disaster at the end.

I’ve been writing novels for over twenty years. It would be really exciting if I finally figured out a better way to do it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mary GillgannonMary Gillgannon writes romance novels set in the dark ages, medieval and English Regency time periods and fantasy and historical novels with Celtic influences. Her books have been published in Russia, China, the Netherlands and Germany. Raised in the Midwest, she now lives in Wyoming and works at public library, where she she has the enviable task of purchasing adult fiction. She is married and has two grown children. When not working or writing she enjoys gardening, traveling and reading, of course! For more about Mary, visit her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook.

NEW RMFW Online Classes

DuvallYour Novel’s
First Five Pages

Presented by Karen Duvall

2 Week Course

Start Date: Monday, August 5

End Date: Sunday, August 18

$25 Member Registration

$30 Non-Member Registration

It’s vital that your novel hook readers within the first 5 pages because that’s what it takes to reel them in and keep them reading. Make those pages count from the very first sentence.

In this two week course, we’ll cover methods to aid you in creating the start of a compelling tale that will engage readers and convince them to stay for the long haul.

Areas that will be covered include:

  • Frequent mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Start the story in the right place
  • Introduce pivotal characters your reader will connect with
  • The importance of revealing genre right away
  • Make all 5 senses count
  • Ground the reader in your setting
  • How voice determines your story’s tone
  • Establish the inciting incident
  • Create tension and conflict right away
  • The importance of clarity and context

Lessons will be sent three times a week and homework will be assigned. Student interaction and questions are encouraged.

Karen Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was recently released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology alongside the work of NYT and USA Today best selling authors Ann Aguirre and Julie Kagawa.

Karen has presented writing workshops for a number of conference venues including Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Bend Christian Writers Conference, and the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

July Program: A Discussion About Investigations

David KeilJuly Program

A Discussion About Investigations

Presented by David Keil

Saturday, July 13, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Lakewood Public Library
10200 West 20th Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80215

Come learn everything you ever wanted to know about private investigation from a veteran investigator! David Keil has been a practicing private investigator for 30 years. Over his long career, Mr. Keil has been involved with the investigation of all manner of criminal and civil cases, including crimes of violence, international drug trafficking, theft, sex crimes, and bank robbery. His current emphasis is on white collar crime, including complex financial fraud, such as banking, brokerage and real estate schemes. Mr. Keil’s efforts have helped recover millions of dollars of victim losses in some of the largest Ponzi Scheme cases in US history.

Working both as a victim’s advocate and as a criminal defense investigator, his client roster includes many highly successful and colorful con artists. Mr. Keil is also a lifelong reader of mystery and crime fiction, and has lent his technical expertise as an investigator to several published authors.

Denver Monthly Programs are free to both members and non-members. They are usually two hours long on a Saturday morning or afternoon at a public library in either Jefferson County or Denver. Topics vary. No registration is required. Questions? Contact programs@rmfw.org. Check out the Events page on the RMFW website for more information about our programs and classes.