WisRWA Calendar

Oct 06
2018
WisRWA 2018 Fall Workshop
Mark your calendars for the 2018 Fall Workshop on October 5-6, 2018 at the Grand Lodge Waterpark Resort, Rothschild, WI. For more information, click the Workshop tab.
Apr 05
2019
WisRWA 2019 Write Touch Conference
Mark your calendars for the 2019 Write Touch Conference April 5-7, 2019 at the Milwaukee Hyatt in beautiful downtown Milwaukee. The conference will feature Maya Rodale as keynote speaker, and Lisa Cron as one of the headliners. More details to follow!

Meeting Times

May 02
2018
Green Bay
11:30-3 at 1951 West 1951 Bond Street, Green Bay

Deep Point of View

As authors, we hear it all the time - but what does it really mean, and how can we incorporate it into our novels? Join us as we find out!
May 12
2018
Chippewa Falls
10-12:30 at Deb's Café 1120 122nd Street, Chippewa Falls

Conference Preparation

Conferences are a great opportunity to meet other writers, learn about craft, and of course, meet and pitch to editors and agents. Come and learn how to get the most out of your conference experience!
May 12
2018
Wausau
10-12:00 at Marathon County Library 300 North First Street, Wausau

Using Canva to Help Market Your Books and your Brand

Want to learn how to design memes? Lyn Cote and Amy Sandas will teach us the ins and outs of Canva, a program that enables anyone to become a designer!
May 19
2018
Milwaukee
9am-11:30 at the Mayfair Mall (Garden Suites Community Room, lower level), Wauwatosa

Stress Relief for Writers

Join our authors as we hunker down to write, share ideas, and brainstorm to solve any roadblocks we've met. WisRWA member Vicky Hinshaw will focus on Stress Relief for Authors.

WisRWA Newsletter



General

Building Sandcastles

“’I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” -Shannon Hale

When I saw this quote late last year, I didn’t realize just how much it would affect my writing from that day forward. It has, however, now become the mantra I chant when I barrel through 5,000-10,000 words a day. That simple sentence changed the way I write… and I’d like to think it’s for the better.

The first novel I wrote took a few years of on and off dabbling. When inspiration struck I wrote a paragraph here, a sentence there, until finally I typed those two magical words. The end. The feeling I had when I finished was a sense of accomplishment unlike any I’d experienced before. I wanted to go back and do it again… to feel the rush of knowing I’d done it. I’d written a novel.

So I started a new one. Again, a paragraph here, a sentence there but always waiting… waiting for inspiration to guide my hand and craft the words into something beautiful. Hours could be spent staring at that damn flashing cursor waiting for that poetic sentence to come together. It was then I saw the quote.

That night I started typing. Fast. I had the story in my head and the characters were off running. Rather than trying to find the perfect words to describe their every move and feeling, I just started pouring words onto the page like a court reporter transcribing everything I saw. I was amazed at how fast the story was unfolding, and how many more layers I could see, smell, and hear when I wasn’t distracted searching for the perfect word. Instead, I was standing inside my story in the middle of the action just scribbling as fast as I could to keep up.

When I was done that night I had typed 11,000 words. There were errors galore. The grammar police would have locked me up and thrown away the key. That road to hell paved with adverbs? I was skipping down it with a grin stretched wide across my face. But even with all the ugliness, I had created something quite beautiful. A story… or at least part of it.

The next day I did the same. Then the next, and the next. In under two weeks my entire novel was done. It wasn’t beautiful… but it was done. The skeleton and skin were laid and now it was time to go back and slap some hair and makeup on that motley looking creature. I was Professor Henry Higgins and my novel was Eliza Doolittle. Charming, but in need of a lot of refinement.

With the story sorted and the scenes set, I was shocked how easy it was to rework my sentences and find those perfect words quite effortlessly that I struggled with before. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t trying to create a story and a sentence all at once. The story was done, now I just needed to add some flourish to it.

Since changing my approach to writing, I am now writing faster than my publisher can keep up. I finished a new novel before they even had time to read the previous one. My “get ‘er done” writing style is not only more enjoyable for me since I get to throw myself into the story, but it has made me much more effective. With this new system, writing a novel is no longer a daunting mountain to climb, but more like small hills I need to jog up and down several times. It’s still the same distance in the end, just broken up into much more manageable pieces.

When I am in a scene, I’m trying my best to write sentences that flow and won’t leave me cringing when I come back through sporting my editor hat. However, when I get tripped up over a word or a phrase I ask myself “Do I need to know this right now or can I come back and figure this out later?” If it’s the latter, which it usually is, I slap down an adverb or an ugly sentence and keep on trucking.

After a particularly long stretch of writing my latest novel, I was in a fight scene and didn’t want to lose my rhythm. When I wasn’t sure how to describe my villain, I threw a sentence in that said “He’s ugly as hell. Work in ways to describe him.” That’s a direct quote. From my novel. Well, it was a direct quote before I went back and edited it to work in a very appropriate description. The point being, rather than lose my momentum by stopping to word-craft, I followed the energy of the story and came back later to pretty it up.

If you find yourself struggling to complete your manuscript, I encourage you to try this technique. Focus on writing the best you can without slamming on the brakes to obsess over what words best describe the color of your hero’s eyes. Just call them blue and move on. Later you can send us swimming in cerulean pools frozen beneath winter’s breath. Just write. Let your story unfold and follow it without delay. When you reach the finish line, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and then sit down in the sand you just shoveled and start building those sandcastles.

Katherine HastingsKatherine Hastings loves love. It’s why she writes romance novels. Getting lost writing a romantic adventure is one of her favorite past times. When she’s s not on an adventure in her mind with her characters, she can be found at her home in Wisconsin snuggling her husband, two Boston Terriers, and the world’s naughtiest cat. Two things make Katherine want to leave her happy home these days…going for rides on her dressage pony or floating at the beach in her big inflatable raft. Writing her novels while floating in the lake is one of her ultimate pleasures…that and Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds, of course.

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An Interview with Judy Roth from Custom Editing

Before sending their manuscript out into the world, some writers choose to have their work reviewed by a freelance editor. There are several advantages to having an editor join you in the revision process.

Whether you plan on self publishing, pursuing a traditional publisher, or seeking to find an agent, hiring an editor to polish your story is a powerful tool to help present yourself in a professional manner.

After authors dedicate large amounts of time and effort to their manuscripts, it can become hard to see much-needed changes.

As an author, if you are gearing toward establishing a writing career, then working with an editor is a great step toward building a solid foundation to grow from. Not only does an editor polish your work, but you learn as well throughout the editing process.

Judy Roth, Freelance Editor HeadshotI had the privilege of interviewing Judy Roth from Custom Editing. Judy opened the doors for business in 2012. She has been writing and editing for over 20 years. With a New York publishing house background she currently works with a large and diverse group of authors covering most genres of fiction and nonfiction, publishing both traditionally and independently. She takes very seriously the privilege of working with such talented writers—novice and bestselling alike. She is also a conference and writing group workshop leader and thinks she has the best job in the world!

In this article, I have asked Judy some questions about the editing process.

Why is it important for writers to hire an editor to review their manuscript before showing it to the world?

An editor has a practiced eye. She is unbiased and works for you. She has the time, whole days of it often, to devote solely to your work. She has the experience to tell you if something is or isn’t working in a constructive manner and offer concrete examples of how it can be improved if need be. An editor is on your side. She wants you to succeed, and it is her job to help you do so.

What are the most common mistakes you see in a manuscript?

Aside from basic technical errors, I think it’s less about mistakes and more about honing our craft. It’s an ongoing process—an adventure—and a good freelance editor guides authors in this process while respecting authors’ artistic vision.

At what point in the writing process is it a good idea to hire an editor?

The traditional answer is when the manuscript is as done as possible. (When that is, is an entirely different question.) But the beauty of hiring a freelance editor who works for you is that is not always the only answer. An author might want the editor to look at the first few chapters to see if the manuscript is on the right track plot wise and/or style wise. Or, returning to the question of how the writer knows if the manuscript is finished, an editor can help determine that and if need be give suggestions for how to take the story to the next level.

RevisionsHow much time should an author expect to spend on the revision process?

This is an individual process depending on many factors. In any case, it’s important to remember the editing process is as vital as the writing process. With that in mind, try to budget enough time to ensure larger developmental edits are implemented consistently throughout and sentence and paragraph structures are varied and move the story forward. Try to avoid getting bogged down by holding on to something that isn’t working. It could be a plot point that’s dear to you but just feels off in this story. It could be that one perfect sentence that makes you laugh and cry and think deep thoughts, but you’ve moved it to ten different places, and it just no longer works. Let it go—hit delete. It’s actually quite liberating, like cleaning the basement, very satisfying once it’s done, and nine out of ten times we never miss our favorite coat from high school or our kids’ first bikes. And here is the coolest part, it’s no risk. You can hit Undo. If you take it out, you can put it back. It’s your manuscript. And a tip: Keep a separate folder for those wonderful words you have deleted but don’t want to lose. I call mine Hidden Gems. Who knows, those words may come in handy in the next story, or if not you can still go visit them, laugh and cry and marvel at your genius, whenever you want. They are your words!

What advice would you give authors going through the revision process?

Try to keep an open mind and be true to yourself. It sounds obvious, but it’s dang hard to do both at the same time, especially if you are receiving critiques.

And one very practical piece of advice is whenever you make any revision, even as small as a comma change, be sure to read not only the full sentence the revision is in but at a minimum the sentence before and after it as well.

What services do you offer authors?

I edit most fiction and nonfiction. I work with authors who want to publish independently and those who want to spruce up their manuscripts for submission. I offer several different packages of full developmental edits, line edits, and proofreading. I also offer coaching services. And I love talking with writing groups, big and small—always a blast.

What is your favorite part of being an editor?

Oh gosh, I love my job. I meet such talented writers, learn something new every day. I get to look up the most outrageous things on the Internet. Chat with authors about body fluids, who wore breeches, pantaloons, or trousers when, and the merits of an em dash—love ’em. I’m a mamma bear and being an editor I’m able to nurture without ever having to send anyone to timeout, no one gets hurt, and when all is said and done authors actually say, “Thank you.” What could be better than that?

By Lisa Romdenne (w/a Lianna Hawkins)

Lisa Romdenne has been an RWA(PRO) member since November 2014 and a WisRWA member since September 2015. Currently, she serves as President of WisRWA . She writes western romance under the pen name Lianna Hawkins and is presently working on a historical western romance series.

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New Release Tuesday – March 2018

NewReleaseTuesday2

Each month, WisRWA will announce the new books our members have published. We call it New Release Tuesday.

Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.

 

The Shopkeeper's Secret by Nancy Sweetland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shopkeeper’s Secret by Nancy Sweetland

 

To Discover a Divine by Tessa McFionn book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Discover a Divine (Rise of the Stria Book One), by Tessa McFionn

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Oh, Pioneers!

Photograph of Eleanor Hibbert

Eleanor Hibbert

For three years, I had the privilege of working at the public library in the small mid-coast town of Rockland, Maine. I won’t say exactly how long ago it was, but I was young and the classic oak card catalogue and a date stamp machine were not. Over the years, I met many dozens of women who read books by authors on a long list of pioneers; writers who paved the way for all of us in the broad romance genre. My coworkers and I created waiting lists for these authors’ new releases, and in some cases we bought more than one copy, a big deal for an underfunded small town library.

Remember Eleanor Hibbert? Me, neither. But I do remember Victoria Holt, a pioneer in gothic and suspense romance (The Shivering Sands, India Fan); Philippa Carr, author of historical romances (Daughters of England, a 20-book series); and Jean Plaidy, who also wrote historicals. These books were perpetually checked out or on reserve, and some of the shut-in readers would ask me to pick out anything by Holt, Carr, or Plaidy. Another British author, Catherine Cookson (The Lady on my Left, The Bonny Dawn) wrote over 100 books. I recall dragging out glue and tape in our “book ER” as we tried to hold her books together just a little longer. (Cookson suffered a genetic bleeding disorder and other illnesses, which caused great hardship in her life, recounted in a memoir found after her death, Before I Go.)

We also had long waiting lists for books by a Mainer, Elizabeth Ogilvie (The Tide Trilogy), who wrote 40 books for adults and young readers. She lived On Gay’s Island and rarely came to the mainland, but when she agreed to give a talk at the library, her fans showed up in droves. No one could draw a crowd like Ogilvie.

Who can forget Phyllis Whitney (Spindrift, Amethyst Dreams)? In her104 years she wrote 70 books for adults and young people. She was labeled the Queen of American Gothic, but she described her work as “romantic novels of suspense.” Now a subgenre all its own. Born in Japan to American parents, this trailblazer had a penchant for exotic locations. She also wrote A Guide to Writing Fiction—I read this long ago and loved it.

In the 1990s, when I lived in Asheville, North Carolina, I was driving to a speakers’ conference in Florida, but ended up seeing a highway exit sign for St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. Hmm…it sounded vaguely familiar. Curious, I went to have a look and soon realized I was visiting the adopted home of the wildly popular author, Eugenia Price (St. Simon’s Trilogy), and many other books based on historical figures in the region. I ended up visiting the lovely churchyard where she’s buried, now a regular stop for tourists-fans. In a case of serendipity, that day I learned about an annual writers’ conference held on St. Simon’s Island and attended every year thereafter until I moved to Wisconsin in 2001. I later set Island Healing on a fictional version of that island.

When these pioneers began writing, they faced real barriers for women trying to break into the fiction market (let alone garner any respect). Somehow, they took what was a narrow path to success and independence and bulldozed it to make room for all of us. Today, romance, in all its variations, remains the top-selling fiction genre. So, thanks Victoria/Jean/Philippa, Catherine, Elizabeth, Phyllis, and Eugenia…and so many others!

An active member of WisRWA since 2001, Virginia McCullough lives in Green Bay and writes romances for the Harlequin Heartwarming line and award-winning women’s fiction. LOVE, UNEXPECTED, Book 3 of HER Two Moon Bay series, is due out in May. Virginia also writes and edits nonfiction and is a writing coach. Please note: this blog post has been adapted from a post on Heartwarming authors blog, 10-2017.)

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Promotion Thursday – March 2018

Promotion Thursday - October EditionIt’s Promotion Thursday for March. Check out where you can find our WisRWA authors this month.

 

Barbara M. Britton will be at The Columbus Books & Beer Book Club at the Black Kettle Pub in Columbus, WI on March 22nd at 7 p.m.

Lois Greiman will be presenting the workshop Beyond the Honeymoon with Michele Hauf at the Rosemount Writers Festival on March 24th. They will also be accepting manuscripts for critique.

Cheryl Yeko will be on Tina Blog Talk Radio on the March 13, 2018 at 3:00 PM EDT. She will also be teaching the course Your Novel’s Blue Print at SavvyAuthors from March 12-23.

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Fabulous Five Contest Author Critique: Sara Dahmen

The 27th Annual Fabulous Five contest for unpublished authors and authors not published in book length fiction in the last five years is open for entries. WisRWA is pleased to be able to offer entrants of the 2018 Fabulous Five contest a chance to win one of eight detailed critiques from a published WisRWA author. We wanted to introduce everyone to each of these authors, and share a little bit about their writing journey. Without further ado, please meet our eighth author: Sara Dahmen.

Headshot of Sara DahmenSara lives in Port Washington, Wisconsin. She is a cookware manufacturer and metalsmith apprentice. Sara’s non-fiction book on the history and science of cookware is due out at the end of 2018, and she loves to pretend it’s 1820 and camp at outdoor rendezvous in the summer. When she’s not writing, she’s working on her House Copper cookware line, or spending time with her husband and three young children.

WISRWAHow long have you been writing? Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

SARA: My writing journey started long long ago as a child, and I’ve written stories all my life – throughout middle school, high school, and beyond. But as a professional writer, my career started in 2014 when I started self-publishing. It was self-pubbing all the way until my first novel was picked up by a publisher, re-worked, re-edited, and released as a debut and the first in a series of six books on Feb 14.

WISRWAWhat is something that you learned along the way that proved to be a light bulb moment and still is relevant to your writing today?

Book Cover for Widow 1881 by Sara DahmenSARA: Honestly, the thing I’ve learned the most is that our writing styles evolve as our lives, experiences, and knowledge grows and changes. Plus, having a team of editors really makes a difference. They’ll push you way out of your comfort zone, which forces you to truly figure out who you are as a writer and what your voice is…but also gives you an opportunity to look at your work and step out, leaving you a chance to create something even more amazing, if you keep an open mind.

WISRWAWhat is one piece of writing or industry advice you can offer to unpublished authors?

SARA: I’d say…keep writing. It’s a little cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s true (and said so often because it IS true!). You will only get better with practice, and going over and over your words. Even reading your manuscript backwards and working on your editing and picking out words. Just keep at it. You’ll end up polishing it perfectly in the end.

WISRWAAny new books coming out in the near future?

SARA: Widow 1881, the first in the Flats Junction series, just came out on Feb 14, 2018. I’m so excited because it’s filled with dozens of illustrations, maps, telegrams etc, so it’s a visually pretty book. But the next book, Smith 1865, is supposed to come out at the end of 2018 as well. Which I’m excited about because no one has really written about a female tin and coppersmith. 😊

Fab 5 Contest Badge

 

 

For a chance to win a detailed critique by Sara, don’t forget to enter the Fabulous Five contest. She will be offering a detailed a detailed critique for one lucky entrant from all the entries. For more information about the contest and to enter, click here.

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The Biggest Book Club in the World!

Authors dressed in Hippie Theme for Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend WeekendWe all talk about book clubs as if they are one of the arteries of writers. And guess what? They are! Without book clubs, there’d be fewer forums (in person or online) to create a reading environment. Without book clubs, there would be less people reading in general. Without book clubs, there’d be no homegrown, grassroots way to get a following.

This was the second year I attended the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in Nacogdoches, Texas hosted by creator and founder Kathy Murphy, the ultimate book club queen and founder of the PQs.

Because most of us who belong to WisRWA live north of the Mason-Dixon line, this club and the Girlfriend Weekend event is not well-known (yet!). The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys is the biggest book club in the world, citing over 750 chapters internationally, and thousands of members.

As an author, attending the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend is outrageously awesome. Hundreds of readers pile into a big ballroom, and they actively want to hear about your book, your process, the backstory and what makes you and your book tick. The best part? It didn’t end after my speech and panels. You interact constantly with dedicated readers all weekend long, and several end up on my Christmas card list.

Sara Dahmen and Jamie Ford at the Big Ball of Hair BallWhile we Wisconsinites tend to be a little more reserved, the ladies in the south are fabulous at getting dressed up for any occasion. Each night of the event had a themed party, and the costumes were bigger and better as the weekend went on. The extra cherry on top turned out to be the personal relationships I made with fellow authors. I personally was in awe of most of them, and they were so welcoming, warm, and kind both during and after the event. Authors from around the nation and the globe attend, spending time with one another and readers alike, with fantastic keynote speakers from bestselling and local, small or first-time authors. Kathy Murphy, while selective of her reading list, is wonderful about supporting authors from the first book to their 30th, and celebrates them all the way. It is eye-opening and touching and overwhelming.

I walked away this year with more contacts, a renewed respect for what goes into coordinating a big book club bash, and rejuvenated from seeing wonderful author friends once more. Plus, seeing readers from other years, connecting with new ones, other first time authors, and wonderful established ones.

So, what’s the moral of this blog post? Book clubs rock. They’re meant to connect readers with words, and the words are yours. Make them count, connect with people through them, and create relationships. It’s a serious and real way to touch the people holding your books, to let them get a peek into who you are, why you write, and how you write. Let your inner passion for your work shine and blast onto them. Let them feel that glow, and they’ll likely fall a little more in love with your book because of it. And if that gives joy, that’s all the better.

The Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend event is always in January, so check your calendars for 2019 and consider a road trip to East Texas. If you want to read more about Kathy Murphy and the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, here are three links:  the first one is titled “Three Questions with the Founder of the World’s Largest Book Club,”,  and the second (and most recent) one is a feature article from the November 29, 2017, issue of Parade Magazine. For general information, check out www.beautyandthebook.com.

P.S. 2019’s theme is How the West Was Won. Imagine the costumes….

Sara Dahmenby Sara Dahmen

Sara Dahmen is the award-winning author of Widow 1881, a metalsmith, American cookware designer and manufacturer, and a mom. You can reach her @saradahmenbooks or at sara@saradahmen.com.

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Fabulous Five Contest Author Critique: Jennifer Trethewey

The 27th Annual Fabulous Five contest for unpublished authors and authors not published in book length fiction in the last five years is open for entries. WisRWA is pleased to be able to offer entrants of the 2018 Fabulous Five contest a chance to win one of eight detailed critiques from a published WisRWA author. We wanted to introduce everyone to each of these authors, and share a little bit about their writing journey. Without further ado, please meet our third author: Jennifer Trethewey.

Jennifer is an actor-turned-writer who has moved her performances from the stage to the page. In 2013 she traveled to Scotland for the first time, where she instantly fell for the language, humor, intense sense of pride, and breathtaking landscape. Her love for Scotland was translated into her first series of historical romance novels, the Highlanders of Balforss. The sexy, adventurous first book of the series, Tying the Scot, released in November 2017.

WISRWAHow long have you been writing? Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

JENNIFER: I’ve been writing performance pieces for the stage since 1997 but I started writing romance novels in earnest in 2013. I had two personal discoveries and two big boosts on my journey to publication. The first discovery was that I didn’t know what I was doing. The second was that there were people out there who did know what they were doing and were happy to share their knowledge with me. The two big boosts came from the facilitators and members of Red Oak Writing Studios (where I learned buckets about writing) and from RWA and WisRWA where I learned how to craft a romance novel, found an agent, and then found a publisher. WisRWA meetings, members, workshops, conferences, retreats all helped me to find my way and they continue to help me learn and grow. That’s why it’s so important to me to give back.

 

Tying the Scot by Jennifer TretheweyWISRWAWhat is something that you learned along the way that proved to be a light bulb moment and still is relevant to your writing today?

JENNIFER: I realized early on that the more a critical remark bothered me, or raised my hackles, or just plain hurt, the more I needed to sit up and pay attention because that was the bit I was most insecure about, that was the weakest link. When I relaxed, listened, and made an adjustment, the writing always improved.

WISRWAWhat is one piece of writing or industry advice you can offer to unpublished authors?

 

JENNIFER:

 

Read in your genre, follow blogs that share writing advice, read craft books, get a critique partner or critique circle, and take as many workshops online and in person as you can afford. In other words, keep seeking knowledge.

 

WISRWAAny new books coming out in the near future?

 

JENNIFER: Entangled Publishing, Amara, will release my second novel in the Highlanders of Balforss series, Betting the Scot, on April 23rd.

Fab 5 Contest Badge

 

 

For a chance to win a detailed critique by Jennifer, don’t forget to enter the Fabulous Five contest. She will be offering a detailed a detailed critique for one lucky entrant in the Historical category. For more information about the contest and to enter, click here.

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Fabulous Five Contest Author Critique: Amy Sandas

The 27th Annual Fabulous Five contest for unpublished authors and authors not published in book length fiction in the last five years is open for entries. WisRWA is pleased to be able to offer entrants of the 2018 Fabulous Five contest a chance to win one of eight detailed critiques from a published WisRWA author. We wanted to introduce everyone to each of these authors, and share a little bit about their writing journey. Without further ado, please meet our first author: Amy Sandas.

Author Headshot of Amy SandasAmy writes historical romance about dashing, and sometimes dangerous, men who know just how to get what they want and women who at times may be reckless, bold, and unconventional, but who always have the courage to embrace all that life and love have to offer.

She lives in Northern Wisconsin where she spends her early mornings writing then heads to her “other” job, dreaming of the day she can write full-time. The rest of her time is spent trying to keep up with the kids and squeeze in some stolen moments with her husband.

 

WISRWAHow long have you been writing? Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

AMY: I started writing romance in little scene snippets and false starts when I was still in high school. It wasn’t until college that I finally committed to starting and finishing a complete manuscript. It took me seven years. And the story was horrible. At that time, I was not yet a member of RWA so I researched online how to write a query letter and synopsis and how to submit to agents. I received a lot of lovely rejections and tucked that poor wreck of a story into a dark corner—never to be seen again.

My next finished manuscript was better—still not great, but good enough to hook an agent. Unfortunately, she left the business while she was still shopping that title around and I was left hanging for a while. I’m positive that manuscript wouldn’t have been published as it was, but I hope someday to revise it and give it another go. The story that followed interested my current agent and was my debut novel with Samhain in 2012.

WISRWAWhat is something that you learned along the way that proved to be a light bulb moment and still is relevant to your writing today?

 

AMY: A light bulb moment for me came when I got The Call from my agent telling me we had an offer on what became Rogue Countess. I had envisioned that moment so many times in the years leading up to it that when it finally came, it was sort of a let-down. I didn’t scream or jump up and down or pop open a bottle of champagne. My only thought was “Okay. What’s next?” Because in that moment (and in all the significant moments that have come since in my writing career), my focus was on the fact that there was more to come. More to DO.

Each milestone I reach pushes my gaze forward to the next one. One novel does not make a career. And a career as a full-time author is what I have wanted from the start. For me, that pragmatic approach keeps me motivated when that ultimate goal feels so far away.

WISRWAWhat is one piece of writing or industry advice you can offer to unpublished authors?

Book Cover for The Gunslinger's Vow by Amy Sandas

AMY: Since the industry is often still a great mystery to me, I’ll offer some writing advice that continues to help me out. Whenever a story feels off and I can’t pinpoint exactly what the problem

 

is, I go back to my characters. I’m usually struggling because I am trying to force my hero and/or heroine into behaving in a way they wouldn’t.

 

So, I stop everything and complete a handful of character development worksheets that I’ve found to be helpful. I dive deep into who these people are and then I look at my story on a big scale to seen where they might have gotten off track. After that, I go through each scene to see if they are acting and reacting in a way that is true to who they are. Once those necessary adjustments are made, things tend to get rolling again.

It’s all about the characters!

WISRWAAny new books coming out in the near future?

AMY: In June 2018, the first in my Western Historical series will be coming out. The Gunslinger’s Vow kicks off my Runaway Brides series about three high society ladies from Boston who decide to take a chance on freedom, adventure, and love in the American West of the 1880’s. The second in the series, The Cowboy’s Honor, is expected to release in fall of 2018, while The Outlaw’s

Fab 5 Contest Badge

 Heart should be out in the first half of 2019.

For a chance to win a detailed critique by Amy, don’t forget to enter the Fabulous Five contest. She will be offering a detailed a detailed critique for one lucky entrant in the Paranormal category. For more information about the contest and to enter, click here.

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The Origin of Valentine’s Day

1900s Valentine PostcardI love history. I write historical fiction. I have a degree in American History. And, I’ve always been fascinated in the origin of things. St. Valentine and Cupid, one real and one a myth, are the two figures most closely associated with Valentine’s Day. Who was St. Valentine? The answer to that question is unclear.

The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all martyred. One was a priest who served in the third century Roman army. Emperor Claudius II believed single men made better soldiers, men not distracted by a wife and family, so he made it illegal for his young soldiers to marry. Legend has it this soldier priest defied the decree by secretly officiating at the marriage of young soldiers who had fallen in love. When the emperor learned of this, he ordered Valentine put to death. Other legends suggest Valentine, while imprisoned and awaiting his execution, may have been killed helping Christians escape from the tortures of Roman prisons. According to another legend he actually composed and sent the first “Valentine” after falling in love with a young girl, perhaps his jailor’s daughter, who visited him regularly. He is supposed to have signed his greeting “From your Valentine”. The one thing the legends all have in common is the portrayal of Valentine as a sympathetic, romantic hero. By the Middle Ages, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Perhaps the most familiar symbol of Valentine’s Day is Cupid, that fat little winged angel with the arrows that supposedly cause their target to fall in love. This vision of Cupid, son of Venus, Goddess of Love, comes from Roman mythology. However, Greek mythology envisioned Cupid much differently.

Cupid_and_Psyche_(Boston_Public_Library)

By L. Prang & Co. (publisher) (Flickr: Cupid and Psyche) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Eros, the son of Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love, was a handsome young man who made the mistake of falling in love with a mortal woman, Psyche, said to be even more beautiful than his jealous mother. Aphrodite sent a plague to Earth and made it known the only way to end the suffering was to sacrifice Psyche. The King, Psyche’s father, bound her and left her to be devoured by a fearsome monster. Eros rescued Psyche and married her. His one requirement, though, was that his bride never see his face. This did not bother Psyche as she was happy with her husband who was a wonderful lover by night and left her to live in unimaginable luxury by day. Unfortunately, Psyche had two sisters who were just as jealous of their sister’s beauty as was Aphrodite. They convinced Psyche her husband must in truth be a horrible monster. So one night Psyche lit a candle to see for herself. Instead of something ugly and fearsome, she saw the face of a god. As Psyche gazed at the sleeping Eros, her candle dripped hot wax and he awoke. Angry at her betrayal, Eros flew away. Devastated, Psyche begged her mother-in-law for another chance. Aphrodite set Psyche on a quest to complete four tasks in order to win back Eros’ love. Psyche managed to accomplish the first three tasks with the help of ants, a reed, and an eagle, but the fourth task became her downfall. Aphrodite sent Psyche to the underworld to steal a box of Persephone’s beauty cream. Again with help, Psyche found the entryway to the underworld and snuck past the guards Charon and Cerberus; but, as Aphrodite predicted would happen, Psyche could not resist the temptation to open the box. Psyche reasoned that if the most perfect goddess Aphrodite could be made even more beautiful by this cream, imagine what it would do for her, an imperfect mortal. Upon opening the box, Psyche fell into a deathlike sleep. With the help of Zeus, Eros brought his sleeping wife to Olympus, where she was given nectar and ambrosia and thus made immortal. On Olympus, in the presence of the other gods, Aphrodite was forced to accept Psyche as her daughter-in-law. Psyche would soon give birth to a daughter named Pleasure.

In Latin the word Cupid means “desire”, that emotion celebrated on February 14th with cards, flowers, candy…perhaps that much-anticipated ring. Desire…it’s what romance writers struggle to create for our readers every day.

May your lives be filled with the love and desire promised by the gods, St Valentine, and Cupid. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.

Jane YunkerNew to romance writing, Jane Yunker has been a WisRWA member since 2015 and the Chippewa Falls area contact since 2016. She is a blogger, published poet, and published short fiction writer. She recently completed her first full-length romance novel, “Mary Bishop,” which finaled in the 2016 Fab Five Contest historical category, and has started work on her second. She grew up in Wisconsin but spent almost thirty years living in Rochester, New York, before returning to Wisconsin in 2011. She currently lives in St Croix Falls with her husband.

Jane is also a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association (WWA), the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP), The Northern Lakes Writers Guild, and the St Croix Falls Historical Society archival committee.

 

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