Writer’s Taboo

Guest post by Renee Wildes, Author of A Guardian’s Heart

Fabulous Romance Author Renee Wildes

No offense to Sister Maria (Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music), but we as writers do NOT start at the very beginning—it is NOT a good place to start…

All my writing life I’ve been told “You have to open with a hook to grab the reader’s attention.” “Grab first—explain later.” Now as a writing instructor and RWA contest judge, I get to wield that hammer. Agents and editors are so desperately overworked, faced with a deluge of Query emails, hundreds on a daily basis, they’ve perfected the snap-decision process to an art form. First sentence/paragraph/maaaybe page…yay or nay…move on…

Hooks are life-and-death stuff for us authors.

If you watch Indiana Jones and James Bond movies, they always open with the main character doing something related to the main story before the main story problem is introduced. The…

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Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 19, 2018

Why Champagne Books?

With the demise of Samhain, all of us in-house authors had to scramble for “What now?” Many of my friends opted to go Indie, but that’s not me. I’ve always been with a publishing house–Samhain, The Wild Rose Press, Tirgearr. (I was also offered a contract by Noble, right before they closed their doors forever–that was weird…) I am definitely not a lone wolf. I prefer a pack. I might not have been the biggest author at Samhain, but I was the second biggest in the Fantasy division–behind Bianca D’Arc–and had garnered a wallful of awards, as well as numerous 5-star reviews. So, resume in hand, I went in search of a new publisher.

Backtrack a bit to my early days in Wisconsin RWA–when I was first starting out and didn’t know ANYTHING. I entered a manuscript entitled Hedda’s Sword in the Fab 5 pre-pubbed contest (I had won the year before with Duality). When I’d heard Hedda finalled, I went to the conference to learn the results. I was of two minds about this, because I’d royally screwed up in the one-page critique the year before. They said enter your best work, and I didn’t know that referred to “make the first (opening) page your best work” so I entered what I thought was the best page…from somewhere in the middle. (Told you I didn’t know anything…)

One of WisRWA’s grand matriarchs, Jane Toombs, quietly took me aside and explained things to me. I am grateful she was kind, and discreet, but Jane Toombs was a legend with like a zillion books published and she intimidated the HELL out of little old dumb-hick me. So when she approached me THIS year, I found myself eyeing the nearest exits, wondering what did I do wrong NOW? I never expected her to say, “I judged Hedda’s Sword and regardless of what happens tomorrow, I wanted to ask a favor of you. Tell me where that manuscript lands because it WILL be published. I loved it.”

I just about fainted then and there. Jane Toombs believed in me, saw potential in my writing. Jane Toombs!

(Later on, she gave me her entire 18th century Colonial America research library. I’m planning on putting it to good use writing a historical romance that I’ll dedicate to her.)

So when I was perusing Champagne Book Group’s website, I really liked the cover art and went to list of authors to see if I could recognize any names. And I saw Jane Toombs on the list. Now, I am a Jane Toombs fangirl–she’s been around forever and she knows stuff. If she was willing to be a part of Champagne, then I wanted to go for it also.

And so I queried Cassiel Knight about Duality…and got the entire seven book Guardians of Light series signed. All thanks to the wonderful Jane Toombs!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/27885.Jane_Toombs

Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 4, 2018

HAPPY NEW YEAR – BIG CHANGES

Happy new Year and welcome 2018! I am back with lots of changes in my writing future. Since the demise of Samhain Publishing, I have a new website and picked up a new Publisher, Champagne Books, and have been working hard on edits and other paperwork. And I am excited to share them with you.

Like a phoenix, the award-winning Fantasy Romance series Guardians of Light are being reborn, with new edits, new scenes, new covers, and new titles. Starting next month, there will be a new title released every three months, as follows:

Duality = A Guardian’s Heart (coming 2/5/18)

http://champagnebooks.com/store/index.php?id_product=717&controller=product

Hedda’s Sword = A Guardian’s Hope (coming 5/7/18)

Lycan Tides = A Guardian’s Storm (coming 8/6/18)

Dust of Dreams = A Guardian’s Dream (coming 11/5/18)

Riever’s Heart = A Guardian’s Destiny (coming February 2019)

God of Fyre Mountain = A Guardian Betrayed (coming May 2019)

Moonwitched = A Guardian Redeemed (coming August 2019)

The rights to Marek’s New World will revert to me when my contract with Tirgearr expires in October 2018. Looking forward to being able to redo that one, also. Contemporary Rural Paranormal Romance!

I am editing Seditious Hearts and hope to be able to submit that title for Champagne consideration, as well. Science Fiction Romance!

 

Posted by: reneewildes1 | June 21, 2017

Life With A Chow-Chow

I have been a certified Vet Tech/LAT since 1996 and a professional dog groomer for 4 years now, and it never ceases to amaze me what a misunderstood dog breed Chows are. They’re beautiful balls of fluff that come in two body/coat types and a variety of colors, with a distinctive blue-black tongue. So many times, people ask my what breed my Abby is. When I say “Chow” the FIRST question people ask is “Is she mean?”

(Yes, b/c I would so TOTALLY keep a MEAN dog around my three kids and three cats…)

Chows are an ancient medium-sized spitz-type breed from China. They were bred for guarding and hunting. They are known to be “one-man dogs,” both independent and stubborn. They are NOT for first-time dog owners – or ANY owner who thinks a Golden Retriever is the epitome of “a perfect dog. ”

red chowChows are fiercely loyal and protective. They are intensely territorial and can be dog aggressive. They do not trust strangers. They have a high-maintenance coat that blows a horrifying amount of undercoat twice a year all over the house ands mats on a whim if not brushed regularly. They are prone to hip dysplasia, bladder stones, and eye problems. They think of obedience training as “more actual guidelines.” (Basically, they are cats that bark.)

They are also the ultimate clowns. They get into what I call “whirling dervish” mode and tear about like the energizer bunny–then curl up next to you & fall asleep. They’re not huge cuddlers for very long b/c they got too hot, but make very nice, comfy pillows. When properly socialized they are very calm, tolerant dogs.

AbbyI’ve had Abby (New Moon’s Twilight Night} since she was 6 months old. She’ll be 8 years old this coming August. She’s a black, smooth-coated Chow with a long but not woolly coat. We got her as an unofficial  “rescue”–as in, from a private owner who didn’t know how to take care of her. She was matted, underweight, had both roundworms & whipworms, NO vaccinations, and was in dire need of entropic eye surgery (both eyes were getting rubbed raw from in-turned lashes). She was not housebroken and had never been socialized. She was afraid of hardwood floors and didn’t know how to walk on concrete (she’d walk on the grass and panic when we got to a driveway to cross).

The vets at VCA referred us to Kronenwetter for her eyelid surgery, and they did all four. Said it was one of the worst cases they’d ever seen. She healed beautifully and been right as rain since. She almost died from a huge bladder stone at the age of two, and is now on prescription diet (was Royal Canin SO, now Hills C/D) for life. Her favorite treats are Dentastix. She has very thin dental enamel and the vets are leery of doing dentals on her b/c they’re trying to save her teeth surfaces for as long as possible. They have a litmus-paper-type test to check bacterial-count/gingivitis, and so far she’s been passing. Eventually, we expect her to lose her teeth and need to go to a canned diet.

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Because she was not socialized as a small pup, she is EXTREMELY dog aggressive. We worked with Cindy Stienke from K9 Elementary on how to get Abby’s respect and how to control her when she’s around other dogs. She does great with our cats, b/c when we first got Abby, Chandra marched right up to her and smacked her on the nose with her claws. Abby now has a healthy respect for cats, and they rule the roost. Sad to see a 45-pound dog completely kitty-whipped–they’ll grab her toys and take over the water bowl, and she backs right down. Pathetic. She’s great at the vet, and easy to handle for grooming. She is great with elderly people, very slow and gentle, does NOT like strange men (especially drunks and she is particularly protective of my teenage daughter), and is leery of children–they have to go slow or she hides and tries to bolt. She hates delivery people coming on the porch. She looks like a Flufferina but sounds like a Chowminator.

She knows basic obedience commands on leash, but has no recall and the minute she sees a squirrel all bets are off. She’s walked into trees looking for them. My daughter taught her a variety of tricks – including dancing on her hind legs and army-crawling (although she sticks her butt in the air and would get her tail shot off in real-life).

We love her to pieces and can’t imagine life any other way.

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Posted by: reneewildes1 | April 22, 2017

NEW WEBSITE!

Been working with Jo from Glass Slipper Web Design on my new website, Renee Wildes Romance (dot com). It’s been a long time since I had one, and it’s SO pretty. Come check it out and leave me a message from the Contact Page to say hi!

reneewildesromance.com

Posted by: reneewildes1 | March 1, 2017

Farewell SAMHAIN

 

It’s a sad day for me and a lot of fellow romance authors–the end of an era. Samhain Publishing LLC goes dark after a decade of leading the small, independent ebook/print pub pack. I started with them in 2006 and published 7 fantasy romance titles in the Guardians of Light series. I was fortunate enough to keep the same editor throughout my Samhain career, the amazing Linda Ingmanson.

I’ve head two fabulous cover artists–Anne Cain did the first three (Duality, Hedda’s Sword and Lycan Tides)

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and Kanaxa did the last four (Dust of Dreams, Riever’s Heart, God of Fyre Mountain, and Moonwitched).

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No automatic alt text available.Weird story about how I first got published. I attended the 2006 NJ RWA Conference with a bunch of fellow FFP RWA writers, and I got talked into pitching Duality to Angela James (then with Samhain, now with Carina Press). I dropped my “cheat” index cards under my chair, I was so nervous. She asked a lot of pointed questions about my twist on Cinderella, and invited me to submit the manuscript to them. When I started to type the query letter, my oh-so-nosy-and-helpful cat Chandra walked across the keyboard and sent the darn thing prematurely. Half a letter, no attachments. I just about had a heart attack, when I had to rewrite and resubmit with an explanation. *sob* Two weeks later, I got an acceptance letter from Linda offering a contract:

Dear Renee: Thank you for sending Duality for consideration for publishing. I think it’s a terrific book, really well written, with great characters and an interesting story line. I would like to offer you a contract.

The only caveat is that I probably won’t be able to schedule the release for any earlier than late summer/early fall next year. If you don’t mind a bit of a wait, then I’ll go ahead and put in for the contract. Please let me know.
Thank you-
Linda Ingmanson, Editor
Samhain Publishing
I was over the moon, and Linda and I turned out some award-winning projects:
Duality – Hedda’s Sword – Lycan Tides
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I’m sad to see it all end, and I hope I can find a new home that comes close to what I’ve enjoyed at Samhain. I wish everyone the best in future endeavors.

Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 28, 2017

Music to Write To

Music is such a visceral subjective thing, and a huge part of our world culture. Your music preferences say a lot about you as a person. It defines who and what we are.

Some people write to music, to help them think/create. My books all have soundtracks. I have general “fantasy romance” bands, and then specific bands/sounds for specific books. Thought I’d share where my stories come from.

I love Kate Price (hammer dulcimer) and Mediaeval Baebes — my go-to for all my stories. I love the Old World chants and instruments. They really set the stage for my world-building: castles and kings, peasant villages & serfs, knights and healers, bards and seers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I play Enya for love scenes, Nightwish & Within Temptation for magical scenes, and Axel Rudi Pell for my fight/battle scenes. For dark magic I’ve been known to pull Warlock out of the archives. Doro Pesch’s voice could cut glass.

Enya:

Tarja turunen:

Sharon den Adel   Within Temptation:

 

 

 

 

 

Axel Rudi Pell:

Doro Pesch:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedda’s Sword is set in Shamar, and Riever’s Heart is set in Isadorikja. Both countries experienced major political upheaval. For them I went with Nordic bands, because the minor keys and not-quite-blending harmonics leave a wonderful unsettled feeling. My kids tease me because I don’t know the words to the lyrics, but I just like the sound! Gamarna, Hedningarna & Varttina:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lycan Tides is more traditional Celtic – Danu &Leahy in particular

Danu brings Irish music to the Rialto Theater Center - Loveland Reporter-Herald:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R. Carlos Nakai - Godfather of Native American Flute playing & most famous of all NAF performers today.:

My one non-Guardians of Light published book is Marek’s New World, from Tirgearr Publishing. It’s what I call a contemporary rural paranormal. Heroine is a white wolf shifter and forestry ranger. Hero is a 2000-year-old Native American warrior. They try to apprehend a loosed demon in Kootenai National Forest. For this story I played a lot of Native American flute, esp. R. Carlos Nakai

 

 

 

 

So that pretty much sums up my musical journey as a writer. I’d love to hear what you listen to!

 

Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 24, 2017

A Few of My Favorite Things

So, just thought I’d post this as a “getting to know you.” Writer & book info is all well and good, but we’re first and foremost people, too. So I thought I’d let you get to know me a little better. Writers are first and foremost readers, and I’m no exception.

I grew up reading fantasy and watching sci fi. My first crush was Captain Apollo from the ORIGINAL Battlestar Galactica TV series (Richard Hatch).

I love reading Mercedes Lackey. My favorite was the “Storm” trilogy – I’ve read them to pieces! The book I consider my inspiration, what got me started writing is Barbara Hambly’s “The Ladies of Mandrigyn.”

 

 My favorite color is blue, my favorite flower is stargazer lily, and I can never get enough Mexican food. I usually order Cosmopolitans at the bar, but my favorite wine (at home) is Australian Shiraz (esp. Rosemont). I’m more of a stay-in person than a go-out person, and I get cold really easy so I’m usually snuggled in a fuzzy blanket with a cup of coffee, reading or scrapbooking or watching movies.

 

When I DO venture outside, it’s usually to spend time walking my Chow Abby

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and/or hanging out at my daughter’s 4H horse shows with out Morab mare Sassy (Temptation Fyre N Ice)

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I love movies with strong heroines – my all-time favorites are Jessica Lange as Mary McGregor in Rob Roy and Madeleine Stowe as Cora Monroe in Last of the Mohicans. (What, you thought I watched for Liam Neeson in a kilt and Daniel Day Lewis in buckskins? LOL)

 

 

 

 

 

I try to write heroines in the same strong-but-feminine vein, inspired by the above fictitious women. Now that I write fantasy romance, I read a lot more of it, just to see what else other people are doing. My all-time favorite fantasy romance books in recent years is Elizabeth Vaughan’s “Warprize”

So that’s a bit about the “real” me!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 22, 2017

Self-Editing Old Books

With the imminent demise of Samhain Publishing, I and my fellow authors face the big question: What to do with all our books? Many people decided to go indie, self-publish. I can’t afford to do that. I can’t even afford to buy back my covers/back blurbs to reuse. So I’m looking at resubmitting to another publisher willing to take a look at previously published works. I haven’t had to blind-query in years. I had an editor at Samhain who loved me–I’d send a book, she’d send a contract. Worked together seamlessly for almost a decade. Seven books total in my Guardians of Light series.

Now I’m out to seduce strangers, people who don’t know me and are deluged by thousands of other hopefuls all screaming “LOOK AT ME!” *sigh*

So in the interests of beating out the competition, I’m revamping these–yes, already edited–titles with a fresh eye. Why? Because I want them to be the best they can be. I’ve learned a lot since I started writing. Book 1, Duality, came out in 2008. I’ve learned a lot since then. Trends and style preferences change. The market changes. Reader preferences change.

But where to start? My two big requirements? Readability and Marketability

One of the first things I did is go back through my reviews and look at the less-than-stellar comments, to see if any commonalities jumped out at me. And they did. Several people mentioned the creative grammar & phonetic spelling/dialects as being problematic. I know the stories are good, but if people notice the writing instead of the story, it’s a problem.

Duality being Book One is the platform from which to launch a campaign to find a new home for the entire series. It’s going to be my ambassador, my sample, my handshake. In addition to being intimidatingly LONG at over 108K in its original form, it cornered the market in apostrophes and alternative words/phrasings. So my two biggest aims were to cut the word count to under 100K, and smooth out the writing until I disappeared and the only thing left was the Cinderella story of Dara and Loren and the *cough* demon that brought them together.

 

Now, there are limits to my multi-tasking. I miss stuff if I try to do everything at once as I go through a manuscript. So I have to do multiple passes, forcusing on ONE type of edit at a time. I basically have it broken down to 10 steps:

  • Step One: Reformatting – from PDF to Word, deleting all the old Samhain headers/footers
  • Step Two: Teaching Word spellcheck its new vocabulary so it quit freaking out over my fantasy-world proper nouns
  • Step Three: Tedious apostrophe search, replacing them with whole words
  • Step Four: Find & Replace – searching out modernisms/archaicisms, swapping out fake words & real ones, leaving just enough of them in dialogue to maintain the fantasy flavor while eliminating from the narrative itself
  • Step Five: Activate passive verbs & use contractions where possible (yes for humans, no for elves)
  • Step Six: Cut adverbs, excessive adjectives & unnecessary dialogue tags
  • Step Seven: Cut & Tighten, removing the fat until word count goal achieved (In Duality’s case, to 98K – I cut 10%/10K from it)
  • Step Eight: Recheck punctuation & italics
  • Step Nine: Check appearance – “white space” and “orphans”
  • Step Ten: Reread as a reader, rechecking for smoothness and readability, noting (& fixing) anything that still stops or distracts

 

Rinse and repeat with each of the other 6 books. (I’m working through Hedda’s Sword now.)

Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 6, 2017

Arabian Horses & Romance Writing

So…huh? What does the one have to do with the other?

Something you should know about me: I grew up in the Wisconsin Arabian Horse Association, and worked a lot of weekend horse shows at State Fair Park in West Allis (Milwaukee). Watched a lot of judging!

 

WisRWA Fab Five Contest

Now that I’m a published romance writer who also judges writing contests – the WisRWA Fab 5 deadline is right around the corner – I’ve been noticing some similarities I thought I’d share.

 

 

First off, Arabians in halter get judged on five main things: type, conformation, soundness, balance and quality. An Arab has to look like an Arab. Watch “13th Warrior” with Antonio Banderas. Did that little gray mare look anything like the other war horses? Nope, but she was nimble and agile and ran circles around them!

 

 

Unfortunately, many halter show horses never get trained to ride or drive, but they have to be built and able to. Conformation and soundness – they had to be able to traipse through the desert on next to nothing for weeks on end and still be able to carry a rider into battle at the end. And the all elusive “quality” – that fire and presence and grace that makes one individual stand out in a good lineup.

Now, there are no perfect horses. One has great legs but straight shoulders, another a great topline but crooked legs, etc. What we look for is balance in the whole, everything working together in an attractive, useful package with spark. I liked that the judges were always from out of town. They didn’t know the people, the farms, or the horses’ pedigrees. They didn’t know the back stories, the rivalries, the politics. They judged “THAT horse, on THAT day.” Period.

 

 

Where am I going with this? Romance writing is a lot like that. A romance has to have “type” – it has to BE a romance, rocky relationship leads to HEA. (My apologies to the Women’s Fiction and Romantic Elements writers out there. Give “type” less weight and go with the other qualities.) No matter what sub-genre you’re in, it’s still a romance theme.

 

 

 

 

“Conformation and Soundness” – Story Structure. Grammar and punctuation. Active verb tenses. Multi-sensory description. POV. GMC. Plot. Here’s where writers have the advantage, because these things can be learned, practiced and improved. Some people are better at something than others, we all have weak spots we need to work on.

 

“Balance” is the story as a whole. Three-dimensional characters. Logical plot with winding story progression. Believable problems, interesting twists, sympathetic characters, good world-building. Does the story draw you along?

 

And that elusive unmistakable “quality” – voice. It’s like a distinctive flavor you either love or hate. It’s what gives pubbed writers their readers, why readers tend to own every book by so-and-so and can’t wait for the next one to come out.

This is what writing contest divas can struggle with. If you have three judges, and two love your voice but one hates it, you final, because most contests toss the low score. If one judge loves it but two hate it, you go home with some interesting and valuable critiques. If you’re entering contests for the feedback, great. You can learn a lot from them. If you’re entering a contest for the final judge, to land on that particular agent’s/editor’s desk, it’s a roll of the dice.

 

You want the overall balance of type and conformation to rise to the top, and then make it to the one editor that recognizes quality, loves your voice, and buys your book. (And the next one. And the next one.)

 

Hone your craft, and have faith. You know you’ve got a good story, and you’ve worked hard to make it a great book, the best it can be. Believe in yourself, and have persistence. Horses or books, quality is quality – it will be recognized and rewarded someday, by someone. Just keep writing!

 

 

 

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