Three WisRWA authors, Beth James, Amy Sandas, and Tina Susedik, presented a panel on romance writing recently, at the MacMillan Library’s Fine Arts Center in Wisconsin Rapids. The panel was moderated by Eric Norton, who is both the customer service manager for the library, and an editor for Publisher’s Weekly. Tina Susedik shared her thoughts on the evening.
The evening was cold and windy, and so the attendance was lower than we’d expected. But that turned out to make for a more intimate, comfortable event. Instead of sitting at the table set up for us on the stage in the theater, we sat on the edge of the stage, making us eye level with the attendees. We were able to showcase our books as we talked and after the presentation.
The audience had many questions for us and everyone participated. Rather than a typical Q&A or lecture, the evening was more free-wheeling discussion, with the audience and authors all asking questions of each. Audience members included fans, aspiring romance authors, and even one an avid reader who had never previously read any romance. Lori Oestreich, another WisRWA member, also came to support us. It was great to see her smiling face.
We talked about the publishing world – both self and traditional. Our panel had experience in both worlds, and could offer insights into both. Other topics included creating characters, plotting vs. pantsing, what makes a romance, the part setting plays in stories, why we write romance, and how we edit our stories, and people’s impressions of the romance writing world. We talked and answered questions for an hour and a half.
A question from the reader who had never read a romance cut to the heart of the genre. She asked, “If all romances have to have a happy ending, and you know that, then why read a romance?” Amy Sandas’s response was perfect. She pointed out that it’s not unlike reading suspense or mystery novels. We know that the bad guy is going to caught in the end, yet we still read them. What’s important to the reader is the way the story is written and the journey to the end. That’s what makes the experience of reading the novel so satisfying.
Afterward, the conversation continued. A number of people attending were interested to learn more about WisRWA and RWA. And they were glad to have a chance to talk with experienced authors about their own ventures into romance writing. This is one of the best parts about being an author, and we were glad they braved the weather to come out to talk with us.
by WisRWA Member Tina Susedik
As a child, Tina always had stories floating around in her head, but had no idea those stories could be put down in book form. One day her brother (yes, her brother) introduced her to Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower. Tina’s first romance, Riding for Love, was released in the spring of 2013. Visit Tina at www.tinasusedik.wordpress.com
I think we can all agree that doing the proper research makes or breaks a book. Glaringly obvious mentions of places, events or details that haven’t happened yet are akin to all of us Wisconsinites watching Titanic and realizing that Jack Dawson could not have been ice fishing on Lake Wissota in Chippawa Falls in 1912…as there wasn’t a lake yet.
Alright, maybe I’m one of the few that is obsessed with accuracy in any movie I watch, but you get my gist. Research can not only authenticate your world building, but it can imbue your characters with truth, and a genuine placement in their surroundings. Even if you only mention something in passing, it adds a rounded, 3-dimensional depth to protagonists and antagonists alike.
If, say, your novel is set in the Civil War, even if your characters aren’t fighting in battles or even on the same continent, they’d likely hear about it in the news, or people would discuss it in passing, much like we do about major political or social news today. (If I had a quarter for every time my husband came home with a tidbit of celebrity gossip I hadn’t had a chance to hear because…babies…I’d be so rich!) Using research to allow characters to notice details, such as the pattern on the spongeware china, or the particular cut of a bodice, tells your reader that not only are they learning something, but that you did your homework.
I don’t suggest we all dive in as deeply as, say, Jean Auel did. But we can all probably create just one more small layer of richness to our novels. Those handfuls of tiny additions can really add up to one accurate story whether it is the ins and outs of a wedding planner’s job, a more involved description of a hunk’s financial schemes and clients, or the daily lifestyle of an obscure tribe in Antarctica. (I don’t think there are any…but then again, I haven’t done any research.)
So where do we get that research? Certainly the first thing that pops up in Google searches these days is some sort of Wikipedia link to potentially faulty information. But the internet is still one heck of an amazing tool with which we can supplement our information, check our facts, and hone our craft from the comfort of our laptops and pajamas.
With some time, you don’t even need to head to the library, though I’m a full-fledged believer in checking out at least one or two original volumes that might help you with some in-depth research on your most detailed subject. The internet can be completely used for research as long as you do a handful of things:
Beyond the internet hunting, however, discovering information for your book can also be a lot more interesting and interactive. Want to know exactly how to write the language of Pocahontas’ tribe? Reach out to the nation itself and ask for help. Care to get a taste for life in Revolutionary times? Go to a local reenactment (or better yet, ask if you can join in for a weekend in costume). I know Molly Maka has spoken to that notion and I wholeheartedly agree with her. Or at the very least, reach out to a few of the groups on Facebook and inquire about your needs – many old-timers will be more than loquacious enough for you.
Do your characters have a specific trade or job? Run in circles you don’t touch? Reach out via Facebook, LinkedIn, or even through your own network to get some good insight. We are authors, but we are also observers and questioners – we wonder, wait, watch and then write.
Remember when you do reach out to be:
This is not to add to the never-ending list of requirements aspiring or published authors have already. I’m merely hoping that this is just a nudge to remind you of easy and relatively painless and quick ways to incorporate accurate details in your novels and manuscripts to add flavor, desire and depth.
by Sara Dahmen
Sara Dahmen is the award-winning author of Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper, a metalsmith, American cookware designer and manufacturer, and a mom. You can reach her @saradahmenbooks or at email@example.com. Her next novel, a romantic drama, Wine & Children, is due out by November 2016.
By Tina Susedik
Most people, writers anyway, have heard of the terms plotter and pantser. It’s a question we are asked many times – are you a plotter or pantser? It’s a personal preference with one not being better than the other.
Heavy plotters, those that map out each chapter, each scene and character to the point where the book is nearly finished when they are done plotting. I once knew someone who plotted her books in so much detail, she was able to write her chapters in random order. I simply couldn’t understand how she did it.
I rather wish I was one of those writers, or at least a bit of a plotter, but I’m not. I’m a pantser. After coming up with an idea, and fleshing out my characters, I start writing, letting the story flow as my characters learn about each other. I tried plotting once, but I became frustrated when my characters decided not to do what I kept explaining I’d plotted for them. Darn characters won. Maybe I have to go back and re-write more than a plotter would have to, but I’m a much happier author.
The reason I’m blogging about this topic is because of the fall workshop the Chippewa Falls Area is hosting on October 8th in Eau Claire. Candace Havens is our speaker. The morning session is titled: “The Book Map: Plotting Your High Concept Ideas.” I’m anxious to see if she can teach me to be more of a plotter.
Beth James and I had the pleasure of meeting Candace at The Romantic Times Convention in Las Vegas last month. She is a delight and is looking forward to coming to Eau Claire and meeting everyone. After visiting with her, both Beth and I don’t know when she has time to sleep. Candace is one busy woman. An amazing fact: At the time we met with her, she had 7,800 emails to go through from all the jobs and projects she’s involved in. I feel overwhelmed when I have 200!
I hope to see all of you in Eau Claire on October 8th – or 7th if you come the night before for the pizza party and book signing. Maybe we can have a panster/plotter discussion over a few drinks.
Tina has been a member of WisRWA since 1994 and started the Chippewa Falls Area twenty years ago in October. She is a multi-publisher author, a member of PAN, and has served on the WisRWA board as Area Contact and newsletter editor.
Written by: Valerie Clarizio
I had the privilege to attend an awesome event at the Fox Cities Book Festival, and lucky for me, the author speaking was one of our very own WisRWA members. Not only did Gini Athey, author of The Shops on Wolf Creek Square series, take us on an imagination tour of the square, she also provided tips and tricks to writing a series. Her presentation captivated the twenty -five or so members in attendance, and she added a little humor for some laughs as well. After listening to Gini’s presentation, I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only author who hears voices and forgets that my characters are not actual living beings. LOL
Of course, I couldn’t leave without buying a copy of the first book in the series, Quilts Galore, and as soon as I’m done writing this post I’m going to crack it open and make the journey to The Shops on Wolf Creek Square!
WisRWA is pleased to announce the finalists for the 25th Annual Fabulous Five Contest.
Congratulations to all! The finalists are listed in Alphabetical order, and *** indicates a member of WisRWA. Winners will be announced on June 1, 2016.
Fabulous Five Coordinator
2016 FAB FIVE FINALISTS
Mary Carson – Lord Sebastian’s Honor
Jeanine Englert – Love’s Whisper
Karen Miller *** – Saving Columbine Ranch
Linda Olson *** – An Improper Pursuit
Jane Yunker *** – Mary Bishop
Debbie Archer – Written in Stone
Sandi Hoard – A Tarnished Rose
Jackie Layton – Sealed by Love
Rhonda Herren Starnes – If Walls Could Talk
Preslaysa Williams – Coming Home to Love
Brenda Davis *** – Nothing Secret
Lisa Fenley – Rewritten
Lisa Knight – Praetorian Rising
Karen Miller *** – Always Faithful
Cheryl Pitones – Chambered
Susan McCotter – Shimmer
Curtis Ochocki – Out of the Fire
Nicolette Pierce *** – Pocketful of Diamonds
Roi Solberg – The Caretaker
Stephanie Taylor – Shutter
Tanya Agler – Shell of a Chance
Sharina Harris – Fool for You
Melissa Judd – A Venture of the Heart
Stacey Kuhnz – Contained
Kate MacEachern *** – Her Christmas Kisses
Kate Dunn – Time and Again
Stacey Kuhnz – Distraction
Vicky Norton – Breathe
Kellye Nye – Timeless
Becke Turner – Murphy’s Secret
Joyce Hunt – At a Late Date
Brenda Linskey – Confluence
Suanne Schafer – A Different Kind of Fire
Maggie Smith – Where I Belong
Jessie B. Starr – So This is Love
Young Adult/New Adult
Jennifer Dyer – Blue Serenity
Jennifer Dyer – The Donor
Tif Johnson – Camille & Drew
Kimberly Nix – Base Hit
Susan Pochapsky – The Scarlet Mantle
A TIME TO CELEBRATE A WRITER’S BEST FRIEND
By: Virginia McCullough
Back in the 1970s, I worked as an assistant librarian at the Rockland Public Library, in Rockland, Maine. For one week in April, we wore special buttons at work. My favorite was, “Librarians are Novel Lovers.” We wore those buttons during National Library Week, and now the annual celebration of libraries has rolled around again, April 10-16. (April 12 specifically celebrates library workers. My three-year + stint as a library worker coincided with developing my nonfiction writing career, focused at the time on writing articles about women’s issues, family, and children’s lit.)
National Library Week is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and celebrates all libraries—public, school, academic, and special focus—and those who work in them. Each year, the week has a theme; the 2016 theme is transformation—meaning the power to transform lives in a digital age.
The day I got my first library card is one of my most wonderful childhood memories. We had to be able to write our names on the apricot-peach colored index card, and I remember forming each letter as I printed my name on the signature line. In return I got my very own library card, which meant I enjoyed the same status in that precious building as my parents and older sister. The building itself was memorable—the children’s room had famous murals painted by an artist hired in the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the 1930s. (Chicago has numerous murals painted in public buildings during that era. I was an adult before I realized how unique they are.) That library also housed the largest collection of Braille books in the city.
My mother was a professional librarian in two different textbook publishing companies, but my small-town library didn’t have money to hire a head librarian with a master’s degree. Still, back in the pre-digital age, she and the four assistant librarians did everything. I was put in charge of inter-library loans and something called “readers’ advisory,” which meant I helped patrons choose books and loaded up bags of books for shut-ins or those living in retirement facilities. (Yes, we delivered books!) We all helped with reference questions, which is how I met many other writers in the area. This library was also a jewel of stone and brick, a Carnegie endowment building and prominent in town.
In 1975, the Maine Library Association’s featured conference speaker was Stephen King. He wasn’t yet as famous as he is today, but King was still an impressive “get” by the meeting planners. He spoke at length about finding solace from problems at home by spending many of his after-school hours at a public library and reading everything he could get his hands on—great preparation for a writing career. He’s not the only person I’ve heard say something similar, including many other writers.
I’m glad we continue to celebrate the value of today’s libraries and those who work in them. I know we have a few such people among our WisRWA membership. I also am grateful for the many changes we’ve seen in libraries over the last couple of decades. Print books, e-books, audio-books, music, movies, and interlibrary loan—and all free.
Years ago, some predicted the demise of libraries, or at least a trend toward irrelevancy. But those predictions were so wrong. Sure, libraries have kept up with the technology of our era, but we still see little kids arriving with their parents for story hour and haul stacks of picture books to the checkout counter—or the checkout computer.
Libraries thrive because they’ve grown and changed with the times. The library in Rockland eventually raised money for a new addition to keep up with the growing population, and my childhood library in Chicago was moved to a beautiful new and bigger facility down the block. Fortunately, the old landmark space became the new home of the famous Old Town School of Folk Music, with all its murals preserved for future generations.
Today’s librarians continue to do what they’ve always done: they serve current readers and create new ones. That’s why I will always think of them a writer’s best friend.
My name is Beth James and I’m the Chippewa Falls Area contact person. I’m happy to announce that the WisRWA – Chippewa Falls Area will be hosting this year’s Fall into Fiction, One-Day Workshop on Saturday, October 8, 2016. Our featured speaker is Candace Havens, a bestselling author who is also an editor, journalist, and reviewer. She’ll teach us how to plot our books, create a fast draft, and shake us up with revision hell. The workshop will be held at The Plaza Hotel in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Additional information and registration is available on our WisRWA website. Please check it out because we have a book signing and pizza party for Friday night as well.
The Chippewa Falls Area is pretty excited to host our first workshop. Our group has eight active members, and we meet once a month. Our normal meeting spot is at Deb’s Café between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. One of our members lives in Tennessee, and we “Skype” with her via computer video conferencing. Two members, including myself, drive an hour to attend the meetings, while five members live in the area.
I’ve been a member of RWA since 2004, and I joined WisRWA in 2009 when I moved to Wisconsin. WisRWA has five area groups around the state, and Peg Strand, a current and long-time member, was the contact for the Chippewa Falls Area at the time I joined. She was wonderful and made me feel welcome from the moment I walked into the library where they initially met. I was excited to join WisRWA back then and I still love attending our meetings, retreats, and conferences with a wonderful group of people.
The Chippewa Falls Area has other long-time members and they include Tina Susedik, Maureen Welch, and Deb Waite. Tina started the Chippewa Falls Area group and has been a member of WisRWA for over 22 years. In fact, we’re celebrating our area’s 20th anniversary this year. We’ve had other members who’ve come and gone, and ones who are new, including Jane Yunker and Danielle Johnson. For all the members, past and present, WisRWA is a steadfast group of writers/authors who share the passion of writing romance stories, learning about the trade, and making new friends. This is proof that WisRWA is an important part of our lives and one that we treasure dearly.
I hope that we’ll be able to see you at the Fall into Fiction Workshop in October. Register early! We look forward to hosting the event and meeting all of you there.
Beth M James – Chippewa Falls Area Contact
We’re pleased to congratulate our own WisRWA Member, Karen Marcam, for being a Golden Heart finalist for her story, Saving Columbine Ranch. I asked Karen to tell me a bit about her story, here’s what she said.
“I can start by telling you it is a historical novel called “Saving Columbine Ranch.” It’s the first story I wrote and is the “story of my heart.” It has been through many painful revisions over the years as I learned my craft, so that makes it especially joyful to final with this particular story.”
By: Lianna Hawkins
The first romance story I read was Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I recall my mother telling me it was one of her favorite love stories. I was a young teen when I snuck Shanna from my mother’s shelf and hid away reading the book that would inspire me not only as I read it, but for many years as I grew into a writer. I read the beautiful, crafted words that swept me off into another world. It was as though I was there, living the adventure. As readers, we not only fall in love with the story, but the characters and the author as well. And to this day, I savor the first delicious words I read as a fresh romance story unfolds beneath my fingertips. I sigh as my world falls away and I escape to another time, a time where happily ever after is merely pages away.