Our 2022 Holiday AGM was Amazing!


Our attendees received:

  • inspirational bookmarks
  • an RWF notebook and pen for your latest plot points and characters
  • an RWF cloth bag for books or produce


Susan Carlisle talked to us about her journey to publication. She had over 300 rejections before a yes. One tip she gave us is that she works/writes sometimes by pulling up Google Docs on her phone and dictating her ideas, then emailing them to her desktop.

We’re so thankful to Susan for her time. You can learn more about her at SusanCMay.com. She’s also at Facebook: SusanCarlisle. Susan is also presenting a workshop for us, May 14 – 20th titled, “Organizing Your Time to Write More”. You won’t want to miss it. Check it out under our Workshop tab.



Interview with Barbara O’Neal

Welcome, Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to drop by and chat with us this month. We’re so excited you’re going to be the guest speaker at our annual meeting, but for those who can’t make it to RWA Nationals this year, it is great that you came by the blog on your way to NYC.

  1. Would you consider your current books to be Women’s Fiction, Romantic Women’s Fiction, or something else?

I always have a thread of romance in my books. I like it, and I strongly feel that most of us want a partner.

That said, my last few books have leaned hard into the Women’s Fiction realm, since the stories focus a lot on other parts of the main character’s life. In The Art of Inheriting Secrets, a woman grieving her mother has to figure out why her mother lied to her, and what she wants to do with her inheritance. She’s also falling in love, but the main story is the house and the mystery. In my upcoming When We Believed in Mermaids, the focus is on two sisters who shared a magical and terrible childhood, but there’s also a romantic thread.

  1. You’ve been writing for a long time (clearly you were first published when you were twelve) and you’ve changed genres at least once. Can you tell us why, and if you like one genre the best?

I love women’s fiction the best. When I first started writing books for myself, that was what my genre was—it’s just that there was no commercial market for that kind of book. You could write gothic mysteries or big historical romantic fiction or maybe cozy mysteries, but the WF market just didn’t exist. It started to gather momentum in the late 90s and that’s when I started getting serious about it.

Before that, I wrote WF smaller in my category romances. They’re still all about issues in woman’s lives. Even my historicals are about women trying to find a life of meaning in a world that isn’t structured to give her what she wants. The Lark O’Neal books are Young Women’s Fiction, again about a young woman trying to figure out what life she wants to live.

They’re all my books. I only change names for the sake of branding. It’s crazy, but a lot of women’s fiction readers wouldn’t be caught dead reading romance. I have the discussion a lot at book clubs.

  1. You have a new book coming out soon (the week of Nationals, in fact!). Can you tell us a little bit about it?

When We Believed in Mermaids is the story of two sisters who had a magical and terrible childhood on the beach near Santa Cruz. Josie, the troubled one, was blown up in a terrorist attack fifteen years ago, but one night, Kit, who is now an ER doctor, sees her dead sister on the news from a night club fire in Auckland. It’s so unmistakably her that Kit has to try to track her down. It’s told in two storylines, the past of their childhood as the children of a restaurant on the beach and in the present day as Kit tries to track down the mysterious woman on the news. It’s about love and sisters and there is, as always, a great love interest. I truly love Kit as much as any character I’ve ever created.

  1. What kinds of things do you do to keep the creative fires stoked?

Keeping the well full is one of my crusades. I strongly believe that a writer—an artist of any kind—has a responsibility to her muses to keep them supplied with inspiration. I’ve been writing a long time, so I’ve built a life that incorporates that element. I have a ton of hobbies that fill the well—gardening, watercolors and drawing, photography, cooking. I make sure to talk to my friends and get away from the computer once a week or so to go out into the world. Of course, we have to keep regular hours and set limits on leaving the house (I have rules about that, too. Mondays and Thursdays are stay-home days. I can go for a walk or go outside in my own garden, but I can’t leave in the car, not even to go to the grocery store.

  1. You probably get asked this all the time, but are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you have a specific writing routine?

I’m in-between, and I plot entirely from character. I have to know the characters very well before I can begin, and I plot from their flaws and hungers. I like to have a few strong turning point scenes and a solid idea of what the ending will be, and I wrote a long synopsis (15-25 pages) to tell myself the story. Once I get going, I like to plot out scenes about 15-20 at a time, and I at some point, I always turn to Robert McKee’s “the negation of the negation,” which is the way he phrases the dark moment of a book, reversing the story values of the work. It’s a little mind-bending at times, but I really love the way it takes me deeper, deeper, deeper.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring Women’s Fiction writer, what would it be?

Finish what you start and when you finish a book, start a new one. It’s the way to learn to craft inside out, and also figure out your voice.

Here’s a little about Barbara in case you haven’t had the chance to read her books. Barbara O’Neal is the author of twelve novels of women’s fiction, including The Art of Inheriting SecretsHow to Bake a Perfect Life, and The All You Can Dream Buffet. Her award-winning books have been published in more than a dozen countries, including France, England, Poland, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Brazil. She lives in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs with her beloved, a British endurance athlete who vows he’ll never lose his accent.

The author of more than 70 novels, Barbara has won seven RITA awards in four categories (mainstream with romantic elements, contemporary romance, category romance, and historical romance). She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

http://barbaraoneal.com | Facebook | Twitter | Website | Newsletter

Big News! Barbara’s our featured speaker at the RWF Chapter AGM and Social at Nationals this year! Register NOW at www.rwa.org.

Sharon Struth Interview

SharonStruthPhoto 1)

We’re thankful and excited to hear from our member, Sharon Struth, who shares thoughts about her writing journey and advice for those who have recently completed their first novel.

  1.  Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction? Do you write in other genres?

I’m published in romantic women’s fiction. The book I’m currently working on, however, is straight women’s fiction.

  1. What is your last published title?

My April 2018 release is Willow’s Way, a book that took on a personal journey for me.

Here’s a bit about Willow’s Way…
Willow Armstrong, the once-famous “Queen of Weight Loss” and president of Pound Busters, succumbed to stress eating after her divorce. Now the scandal of getting caught on camera binging on pizza, and the internet-wide mocking of her new curves, may destroy her career. Add in a business advisor who drained her finances, and Willow is out of options—until she learns she’s inherited a house in England’s most picturesque locale, The Cotswolds.

Willow’s trip across the pond to sell the property and salvage her company soon becomes its own adventure: the house, once owned by grandparents she never met, needs major work. Plus, single dad Owen Hughes, the estate’s resident groundskeeper and owner of a local tour outfit, isn’t thrilled about the idea of leaving . . .

Yet as Willow proceeds with her plans, she’s sidetracked by surprising discoveries about her family’s history–and with Owen’s help, the area’s distinctive attractions. Soon, she’s even retracing her roots—and testing her endurance—amid the region’s natural beauty. And the more she delves into the past, the more clearly she sees herself, her future, and the way home . . .

This story is personal for two reasons. One, I love to travel. It was delightful to get up each day and write about a place where I have such fond memories. The second reason is more personal. I’ve struggled with my weight as far back as I can remember. Like the heroine of this story, my own self-image was formed back during my childhood, where I was very aware of my weight. Occasional remarks by adults (though said jokingly) left me even more self-conscious about my appearance. This feeling carried into adulthood. I set out to write a character with the same baggage, but who slowly learns that self-love comes from within. A notion I’m slowly taking stock of far too late in my own life.

  1. Are you traditionally published, self-published, or both?

All my books were done through publishers (Kensington for my two series), with the exception of one. Though a few publishers showed interest in The Do-To List, I genre hopped a little too much and those interested said no. Readers often don’t really care if you do this…publishers do. Fair enough. Difficulty in knowing where to shelve and market a title is a big reason they’ll turn books down. But I loved the story, so took a leap into self-publishing.

Did I love self-publishing, you might ask? Not as much as I thought I would, though there are some benefits.

Cover choice and marketing freedom (with categories and price) are pluses. But you’re responsible for everything and it’s a time sink. I’d rather be focusing on writing craft and devoting time to making my books shine. For me, writing isn’t a game of volume, but a balance of quality and volume.

  1. What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

A first manuscript is a huge accomplishment! So take a breath, pat yourself on the back, but I have one warning… Don’t rush to self-publication before asking yourself this: Is your book ready for the public? Here’s why I offer this advice…

My first manuscript is physically sitting in a drawer in my desk. It will never be seen by anyone. I call it “My practice book.” I can now see that there is so much wrong with it. BUT, the time I spent writing it served a purpose. I learned how to piece together a novel, think about where to stop and starts scenes and chapters, and how to fully flesh out story. Experience has given me some insights into what was wrong with this book. The characters lacked in real goals, motivation for those goals, and solid (not contrived) conflict to keep the reader interested. Internal emotion was missing. My dialogue came across as stilted and didn’t sound natural—almost cliché in its tone. In hindsight, I didn’t “feel” the story. I went through the motions of writing it. But hey, it was a first book and getting through it was a feat!

So back to my first comment: If you read your book and don’t feel the type of satisfaction you get from our favorite author, then try to find out what is missing. Maybe take some online classes. Get some honest feedback.

On feedback, test readers, contests (RWA has plenty and you WILL get honest feedback), even submissions to agents or publishers can highlight areas where you still need work. Warning: feedback stings. I’ve cried from some.

Here’s what I learned, though… Let the feedback sit for a day or two, then go back and see if what you got makes more sense. Yes, maybe there is something you could improve upon. Does more than one person say the same thing? Be honest with yourself. Do you need to take some classes to improve your craft? And remember, not every person’s advice will be right or valuable. You need to learn to trust your gut and instincts about when your work is ready.

If you think honest feedback will sting, imagine a bad review from a reader, publicly placed for everyone to see. Yeah, those sting even more (and we all get them). But if you haven’t done everything to make your manuscript the best it can be, then you aren’t trying hard enough. Writing is easy. Great writing is hard.

  1. Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

Writing is my full-time occupation and I have a small office set up for myself at home. People often ask, “Is it hard to work from home?” Yes, it can be. But I once heard a well-known author say she treats it like any job, where she gets up, showers, gets ready, and then works. So that is exactly what I do. I’m usually at my desk by eight each morning, and I wrap up around five or six each day. My two dogs are my office-mates (a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen and mini schnauzer). We take breaks for walks, investigate the refrigerator, and bark at any strangers or neighbors on our street. Oddly enough, on those breaks away from my desk, I have the best plot point revelations! Stepping away from the desk frees up the creative juices.

  1. What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

I’ll never forget when my first book released. As I strolled the grocery store that week, it dawned on me how people in town might have read the book. I panicked. Haha, yes, I knew the book was written to be read by others, but a realization hit me: I’d just exposed a part of myself for the world to see and judge.

So, if you’ve published your first book, here are two pieces of advice. First, start writing the next. Mainly so you aren’t overly focused on the results of the first. Second, people will tell you not to look at reviews. I say, look at them. The good and the bad. Authors need tough skin and confidence. Neither will come by hiding from what readers think. Just don’t let a bad one take you down for too long. I can get ten super reviews, and one bad. For a moment, energy goes into the one bad. When it does, I try to take Taylor Swift’s advice… Shake if off. Not everyone will love your work, but some will. That’ll make the whole journey worth it.


Sharon Struth believes you’re never too old to pursue a dream. The Hourglass, her debut novel, was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards for Best First Book. She is the author of the popular Blue Moon Lake Novels, which include Share the Moon. Her latest series, the Sweet Life Novels, are set in several European locations.

When she’s not working, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail, travel the world, and enjoy spending time with their precious pets and two grown daughters. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut. For more information, including where to find her published essays, please visit sharonstruth.com or visit her blog, Musings from the Middle Ages & More at www.sharonstruth.wordpress.com.

The Thoughtful Critique

18 RWF Blog post - Brenda - title


Disclaimer: What I’ve come to understand over the course of my writer’s journey is when it comes to critiquing another writer’s work, there is no magical one size fits all formula, nor anything new.

Then why, you might ask and yes you may, read yet another article on the subject? Simple. In helping others, we help ourselves. Giving thoughtful feedback can help a writer’s growth while further strengthening our own writing skills.

To Begin:  Start by first printing out a hard copy. Refrain from marking or commenting until you’ve given all pages a thorough, thoughtful read through.

Ask yourself questions. Did the story’s narrative draw you in? Are the characters interesting, compelling? Is the dialogue realistic? Yes. No. If you find yourself not connecting with the material, read it again.

Words Matter:  Constructive feedback should strive to convey honesty yet maintain a positive tone throughout. Keeping in mind the overall goal is to encourage not discourage. Provide feedback that is helpful and guides the writer into critical thinking while enhancing strengths.

Less is More:  Avoid overwhelming the writer with too much feedback. Focus instead on key areas where the story can be improved upon and polished for the next draft. Unless asked to proofread, don’t nit-pick at every spelling, punctuation, and grammatical error.

Do No Harm:  Imagine this is you. How once upon a time an overly critical critique affected your psyche? Yeah. Really sucked. Which is why as writers we all should strive to provide feedback that motivates fellow writers to keep on writing while continuing to hone their craft. And finally, be an encourager. The world already has more than enough critics.


About the Author:

A.M. Wells writes contemporary womens fiction with romantic elements. She is also on RWF’s board, as Treasurer.

Her story ideas are inspired from a life of observation and inspiration, but mainly flow from an overactive imagination. Susanna’s Heart, a novella, was her first published work released in 2010 with Red Rose Publishing. A few years ago, she took the plunge into Indy publishing. In addition to writing A.M. is an artist, web designer, and graphic artist.

You can find her website at www.amwells.net.




Interview with Author Edie Claire

Edie Claire for RWF post 4Author Edie Claire

In April of 2017, Avery Cove wrote a blog post on writing romantic women’s fiction.

She needed to know if there was a difference between writing women’s fiction and writing romantic women’s fiction.

One of the references she sited was http://www.edieclaire.com/rwf. Edie Claire had not only a definition but also a video clip.  

Today RWF is excited to present an exclusive interview with Edie.  

RWF: How long have you been writing? What genre(s) do you write?

EC: I sold my first mystery novel to Penguin-Putnam’s Signet imprint in 1998. I published five mysteries with Signet, then sold two contemporary romances to Warner Books’ Forever imprint and two plays to Samuel French. I republished all the novels independently beginning in 2010, and now there are twenty-four – including mysteries, romance, women’s fiction, and humor. (You could say I get bored easily!)

RWF: Why did you decide that what you wanted to write was Romantic Women’s Fiction?

EC: I was frustrated by the expectation that anything called a “romance” should meet certain criteria and fall into a particular subgenre bucket. I wanted to write about people falling in love, but didn’t want my plots to be constrained or the scope of the book to be limited to those two people.  Women’s fiction appeals because it explores family and friend relationships and the plot can go anywhere… but as a reader of that genre I found myself frequently depressed by heavy subject matter and emotionally unsatisfying endings. I knew what I wanted to write – a book that includes a romance, but also has a bigger story involving multiple characters… and a happy ending. Hello, Romantic Women’s Fiction!

RWF: You are self-published and traditionally published. Is self-publishing really profitable vs the money you’d receive from a publishing house? How do you feel about the markets today?

EC: Personally, I have had significantly better success self-publishing than I ever did traditionally publishing. I was very fortunate in timing, in that I was able to make a name for myself in traditional publishing first. That helped me get a leg-up in the self-publishing world just as the e-book boom was beginning. Today it is much, much harder to get established, no matter which way you start out. But the advantage of this market is that it puts readers, not employees of publishing houses, in the judge’s seat. We can make our product available to the audience for which we’ve written (no matter how small a niche!) without having to pass through the filter of corporate approval. That allows the work to succeed – or not – based on its own merits.

RWF: Would you say your inspiration comes from a setting or characters talking in your head? What I mean is what comes to mind, first—character(s) or a place?

EC: I’m most often inspired with an idea for a book by being someplace new. That’s why I love to travel. Every new place I experience makes me ponder fictional events that could happen there. I envision the characters who could bring the place to life, and slowly they begin to flesh out as real people. THEN they start talking in my head!

(Edie – Mountain birding at Haleakala Volcano in Maui)

Edie Claire Mountain Birding 3 for RWF post

RWF: What do you find as the most difficult part of creating a novel?

EC: The earliest stages of writing, when the characters are not quite fully formed. When the book is finished and I go back to edit, I always have to redo much of the dialogue in the opening chapters. “Oh, please,” I’ll think to myself. “Mei Lin would never say THAT!”

RWF: Do your books have a reoccurring theme?

EC: The series do, yes. The mysteries have been running since 1999, when a single Leigh turned thirty, and now she’s in her late forties and is married with two teenage kids. During that time, every extended family member has followed an arc of growth and change. That’s tremendously fun to write. So are my Pacific Horizons books, where a variety of characters find inspiration in the beauty of the natural world.

RWF: Do you save bits of your story that you’ve cut from your book or just delete them?

EC: With every book, I have a separate file called “cut outs,” because I figure I might use that particular section later, and I hate thinking that I’ve wasted my time writing it. But in reality, almost everything that gets cut eventually gets scrapped.

RWF: What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

EC: Emotionally separating failures on the business end from reader appreciation of my writing. Sometimes they are related – most of the time they’re not. That’s why hearing from readers is so important to me. If I’m down because I was rejected for an ad or because sales on a particular site have tanked for no apparent reason, having someone in Arizona or Australia tell me how much they loved Alaskan Dawn will turn my mood around in a heartbeat!

RWF: Do you read the genres that you write?

EC: I used to. But nothing kills enjoyment of a novel more than realizing you are subconsciously trying to analyze it!  Luckily for me, the one genre I never write is historical, and I love them dearly, so that’s where I indulge myself. My favorite books for leisure reading are family sagas that stretch across multiple generations and continents… the longer, the better!

RWF: Would you mind sharing some of your writing process?

EC: I change my process with every book. Seriously. I’ve written by starting out with a chapter and having no idea where I was going, and I have come up with a fully-formed book idea that was totally outlined in my head and only needed to be written down. I have used no notes, and I have filled notebooks with chicken scratches. Most books fall somewhere in between. The one thing I’ve never been able to do is decide how to write a book and then actually do it that way!

RWF: What are you currently working on?

EC: Glacier Blooming, the fourth book in the Pacific Horizons series. It’s been going very slowly, I’m afraid, due to worsening of my migraines, but I hope to release it by the fall of 2018. It takes place around Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska, one of the most beautiful places on earth – and home to one of the rarest mammals, the “blue” Glacier Bear. It’s an unusual romance (aren’t all romantic women’s fiction novels?) wrapped up in the discovery of a decades-old family secret that leaves our protagonist with an impossible choice… to be continued!

~ Wow! Edie’s Polynesian Room desk ~

Edie Claire PolynesianRoomDesk for RWF post

RWF: What is the best way to reach you and learn more about your books?

EC: My website! www.edieclaire.com

Edie, thanks so much for spending time with our group and sharing some aspects of your writing life. 

Novelist and playwright Edie Claire is a former veterinarian and childbirth educator whose three children have recently flown the nest, further indulging her compulsion to write cozy mysteries, humor, and romantic and women’s fiction. Pick up an Edie Claire work and you can be assured of intrigue, humor, a touch of romance (or a hefty dose of it, depending on the book!) and an ending that will leave you with a smile. 

RWF: Where can we find your books?

EC: Currently Alaskan Dawn and Never Buried are free on Kindle.

Edie Claire bk 1 for RWF blog  Alaskan Dawn, first in Pacific Horizons series. Link to video trailer – first version was featured on USAT blog.

Edie Claire bk 2 for RWF post Never Buried, is the first in the Leigh Koslow Mystery series.

A Perspective on Writing Romantic Women’s Fiction

RWF is pleased to have one of our own as our guest blogger. Violet Howe, author of Tales Behind the Veils series and the Cedar Creek Series, shares some of her thoughts on writing. 

Violet Howe picture for blog  

Sometimes I envy authors of paranormal romance or historical romance. When they’re asked what they write, they can answer and expect a nod of recognition in return. When I respond that I write Romantic Women’s Fiction, I usually get a puzzled look instead.

For me, it’s simple to understand but harder to explain.

I usually give a loose definition that it’s the story of a woman’s journey with love along the way. If they want more, I explain that it’s a tale of her personal growth as she encounters external and internal obstacles and seeks to triumph over them. Somewhere between beginning and end, she finds love, and because it is a romance novel, somehow they end up with a happily ever after.

But a key difference in romantic women’s fiction and a traditional romance is that the happily ever after between the hero and heroine is not the answer to all her problems. It’s not the pinnacle of her growth. Whatever happens in her love life is just a part of her story and her evolution, not the only catalyst or primary end goal.

Another difference is the romance is not the only relationship of importance in the plot. Her interaction with friends, family, and/or co-workers plays a large and sometimes more important role in shaping who she is from start to finish.Violet Howe owner. Depositphotos_31800765_l-2015 For VH's RWF blog

To me, romantic women’s fiction seems more representative of real life than its more sugar-coated counterpart.

Relationships do not exist in a vacuum with just the hero and heroine and their love for each other. We are influenced by those around us, and the issues we face in the workplace, in our families, or among our closest friends affect how we deal with life and love.

Romantic love is not the only love we need, and it’s not the only love that can cause us great joy and crippling pain. Those other relationships must be factored in to create a well-rounded story of personal growth.

Reality casts a woman in many roles. Daughter, Friend, Sister, Cousin, Mother, Lover, Wife. To be true to my main character and her story, I can’t focus on one role and ignore the others. I have to flesh out the many facets of her life and explore who she is and how she got there, then invite my readers along for the ride as she discovers where’s she’s going and who she will be at the end.

I believe this ultimately helps us relate to each other. After all, womanhood is in many ways a sisterhood. Even when our circumstances are vastly different, we can find common ground in our relationship experiences. Through shared stories, we can commiserate. We can understand each other. We can support each other.

Violet Howe owner Depositphotos_31707891_l-2015

Experiencing life through another woman’s eyes may even help us process our own failures, shortcomings, and victories.

Maybe the simplest definition of romantic women’s fiction is stories of women living their lives. And that’s what I write.

Interested in Violet’s newest book, Building Fences? We’ve got the cover and the blurb!Violet Howe's book 0218_BuildingFences_JF_Ebook

Caroline Miller has often fantasized about finding the mother who’d given her up for adoption. When an unexpected phone call gives her the opportunity to meet her birth mother face-to-face, she jumps at the chance.

But as the weekend turns into a series of mishaps and disappointments, Caroline wonders if she’ll ever be able to find peace with her beginnings.

Could a case of mistaken identity lead her to find the life she’s dreamed of and the family—and love—she thought she could never have?

This MeetCute novel by Violet Howe is the first volume in the Cedar Creek Family Collection.

Thank you, Violet, for giving us a glimpse of your view on writing romantic women’s fiction.

Violet Howe enjoys writing romantic women’s fiction and romantic mystery/suspense. She lives in Florida with her knight in tarnished armor and their two handsome sons. They share their home with three adorable but spoiled dogs. When she’s not writing, Violet is usually watching movies, reading, or planning her next travel adventure. You can follow Violet’s ramblings on her blog, The Goddess Howe. 

Author Website:  www.violethowe.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/VioletHoweAuthor

Facebook Reader Group: Ultra Violets https://www.facebook.com/groups/VioletsUltra/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/violethowe

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Violet_Howe

Violet’s Latest Release:


Interview with Mary Gardner

18 RWF Interview Photo Mary Gardner










We are excited to learn more about last year’s RWF Secretary, Mary Gardner.

Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

I write more romance than women’s fiction. My stories have a strong love story with a happily-ever-after, but primarily focus on the women’s journey.

Want to tell us what you’re working on?

My current project, MISSING, is a 95,000-word contemporary Christian romantic women’s fiction novel about a thirty-one-year-old woman who wins the lottery and learns she was kidnapped from the stroller she shared with her identical twin sister while her biological mother was shopping. An ex-FBI agent seeks to protect her from her adoptive family, who set out to kill her for her lottery winnings and helps her reunite with her biological family.

What are your favorite books to read?

My favorite books fall into the category of contemporary romance and romantic women’s fiction.

When writing do you read in genre your writing in or something else?

I’m trying to read more in the genre while I’m writing. I think it’s part of the business to stay current in the area you’re writing. My time is limited when I’m in the middle of the project, so I’m selective. I also like to read craft books.

Do you have a running theme for your books?

I write small town heartwarming books with running themes of trust, hope, healing, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

This is a hard question because I learn different things depending on each category. I’ve had more ah-ha moments from online classes, especially if they are interactive. I’ve learned more about making connections, building networks and platform building at local workshops and conferences. I’ve learned a variety of different writing techniques from writer’s craft books.

Where do you find inspiration?

I think most of my stories are based on what-ifs from stories I’ve seen on the news. The story I’m working on now came from two types of events. We’ve all heard about people who have won the lottery. Unfortunately, we’ve also heard of children disappearing and never being found. I remember hearing about a woman who took a baby and was found living in the same city as the child’s biological parents.

How do you fit writing into your life?

It can be hard to balance writing with life. I’m learning to say no to things I’d like to do in order to make more room for writing time. I find I get too caught up in other activities and allow them to eat away my writing time. The one thing I don’t say no to is my family. In fact, I’ll always pick family first. I raised two boys and always went to their events. I don’t regret a single second of the time I gave them that might have been spent on writing. I know that will be true with my granddaughters too.

How do you fit editing into your writing life and the one you actually live in?

As an unpublished writer, I don’t have the conflict with writing deadlines conflicting with the need to edit a different project.

Are you a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?

I’ve always been a pantser. I’m learning to do a combination. My manuscripts are longer and after getting lost in a few stories I’ve learned that I need an outline. The plot outline is never set in stone for me, but having a guide keeps me focused on where I want to go. Sort of like taking a trip and knowing where you are going to go but not necessarily how many stops or detours you’ll make along the way.

Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

I’m in a different stage of life that allows me to plan my writing time around my family activities. I don’t have the day-to-day care of anyone other than my cat. I can schedule my writing time around my granddaughters’ activities.

Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

Home. I’ve tried to write somewhere else but unless I’m alone I get distracted by what’s going on around me. I’m a people watcher.

Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

My stories are character driven. I know my characters before I ever sit down to develop an idea. Setting may change, but it will always be a small-town. A lot of times I know the basics of the plot at the same time I know my characters, but I have to spend time developing the journey.

Mary’s Bio:

Mary Gardner’s writing journey came in two phases. The first was focused on contemporary category romance and ended in 2008. Her second began in 2016 when she felt called back to writing. This phase of her writing is focused on novel-length Christian romantic women’s fiction.

She joined Romance Writers of America in 1981 and is also a member of several online RWA chapters and the local chapter. She also belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers and the Indiana Chapter of ACFW.

Prior to 2008, she attended several RWA National Conferences. During that time, she was blessed to final in thirteen contests, winning her category in seven. A previous version of MISSING won the Grand Prize in the Marlene Awards Fiction with Romantic Elements in 2006. Another manuscript, ALL MY TOMORROWS, was a 2007 RWA Golden Heart finalist in the Long Contemporary Category, and 2nd runner up in the Harlequin Super Romance Conflict of Interest Contest in 2008.

After a 2006 early stage breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and developing lymphedema in her arm, combined with other life challenges, she began to doubt that writing was her calling and in 2008 decided to put her writing on hold. During the pause, her youngest son blessed her with two beautiful granddaughters. Sadly, her oldest son went to Heaven at age forty-two after a twenty-year battle with cancer. Seven months later, her husband joined him after a long battle with an early onset Alzheimer-like dementia.

As she began to settle into her new normal, she began writing again. Unlike the previous phase of her writing, she knew that her focus needed to be on contemporary Christian romance or romantic women’s fiction novels and began focusing on small town, heartwarming stories about love, hope, healing, family and the power of forgiveness.

Currently her agent, Cyle Young, and his Jr. Agent, Bethany Morehead, from Hartline Literary Agency, LLC, are submitting a proposal for MISSING to multiple publishers.

You can find out more about Mary at www.marygardner.net

Personal Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/mary.gardner.581525

Author Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/marygardnerauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaryGardner6

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mary-gardner-600b1740

Thank you Mary for being a part of our RWF Interview series. If you have any comments or questions for Mary, we’d love to hear from you.



Interview with Avery Cove

Sheila - Avery

I’m excited to have our first interview in 2018 be with our new RWF President, Avery Cove.

RWF: What started you down your writing path?

AC: To make a long story short, I’d gone back to college to finish my liberal arts degree and had decided I’d major in Technical Writing. After complaining about some of the most gawd-awful-boring classes, my advisor told me I should go for a Creative Writing degree. A university from a neighboring city was offering new degrees in Writing and they’d just built a brand-new building to house both Communication and Writing Majors. I didn’t hesitate long over my career change.

RWF: What do you write?

AC: My first love is writing historicals. I’ve gotten valuable feedback on the one I’ve finished and shared. It still has some editing to be done and I’m slowly working through that. I’ve got at least four, maybe more, unfinished stories that I’d love to get back to but with time constraints…hopefully, one day.

I’m currently writing a contemporary series loosely based on a combination of two towns – one in Arkansas and one in Tennessee that I love to visit. I’ve got all four stories going – two of the books are moving along nicely. I’m really enjoying writing these!

RWF: Do you have a “day job”?

 AC: Yes. I’m head cataloger for a regional library. I spend my time cataloging library materials and I oversee the technical processing of eight libraries. Outside of writing, it’s the BEST JOB EVER.

RWF: As president of RWF, what are your plans?

AC: My goal for RWF is to make it into a group that offers every member a place to share, learn, and grow. I want our members to step away and feel they’ve gained something from being a part of this chapter, no matter what stage they’re at on their writing journey. I want them to feel as comfortable as if they were at a physical RWA chapter meeting – where hugs and cookies are plentiful. Maybe that sounds fanciful and maybe it is, but this group is a work-in-progress just like we all are. I’m a big believer in ideas and trying them. Sure, many of those ideas fall flat and simply won’t work, but without trying, where are we? I’m always open for ideas – share them, and if you’ve the time and the inclination why not talk to us – you could head the committee. Or we could possibly weave them into what’s going on.

RWF’s new board is a good team with lots of heart, and we have a webmistress, too, a.k.a., our past president. We are just getting started, stay with us, watch us, grow with us, and please get your money’s worth by participating. Pretend we’re all in a box together as writers and authors – how do we want to spend our time? What are we wanting to gain? Why are we here? What are we wanting to learn? Got questions? Afraid to express them? Email one of the board members – we certainly don’t have all the answers, but we’ll do our best to find them for you. If you want something more from the group than you feel you’re getting, talk to us. Let us try to fix it.

RWF: Tell us something about you.

AC: I’m more of a private person who is like an open book. Closed, I appear quite ordinary and unnoticed, but once open I’ll tell you most anything. If you want to know about “what not to do,” I’ve learned plenty of those lessons. As for a little of my life, I been married to my Renaissance Man for close to forty-three years. Together we have four children, eleven grandchildren, with another on-the-way, and three great-grandchildren. Hubby and I stumble and bumble around our home hiding from five demanding cats and one very spoiled dog. I write as often as possible and read more than I should. I love traveling and meeting new people, even though I can be shy to the point of seeming backward. If you meet me – talk to me, I will talk back.

RWF: Thank you Avery and we look forward to continued amazing leadership at RWF.

Avery Cove has been PRO for several years. Her current plan is to finish her contemporary series, loosely based on a town in the Ozark mountains. Time permitting, she reads, writes, dabbles at drawing, and pretends she’s making music on her keyboard. Ms. Cove lives in the hills of Arkansas where four-legged critters outnumber the people. Avery is a member of RWA and many online chapters. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Her website is www.averycove.com and she writes at Sheila’s blog.

The Power of Words

For MaryG's blog post

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

I heard that a lot when I was growing up when someone called me names. Today we call that bullying and encourage our children to tell someone so we can hopefully stop it.

I remember repeating that phrase hoping to make it true. It never became true.

As an adult, I realize it is one of the biggest lie I was ever told.

Words don’t just hurt you, they have the power to destroy you.  They can cripple your motivation, creativity, and emotional wellbeing. Families have parted ways, friendships have been destroyed, marriages ended, jobs lost, and careers ruined all because of words.  Heck, wars have been started because of words.

We all understand that words are a powerful weapon.  So, who are these enemies that use words against us?

One of them would be the person you talk to the most, right?  And who is the person you talk to the most…yourself.

We talk to ourselves more than anyone else every day.  We are often our worst critic.

We don’t really set out to harm ourselves. Maybe we just repeat what someone said to us at some point in our life and we’ve internalized the words over time. Sometimes these negative words are born from an unnamed fear.

Everyone has said “I can’t do ___” at some point in their lives. At least, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t said it to themselves or even out loud.

Okay, so I really can’t stand on my head. I know adults who can, but I’m not one of them. But frankly, I’m not willing to put the effort into practicing standing on my head until I’m able to do it. So, the real truth isn’t that “I can’t stand on my head”, it’s “I don’t want to stand on my head.”  There is a big difference.

What we say to ourselves can be so toxic that we defeat any good that is in our lives.

If we say we can’t do something, pretty soon we are convinced that we can’t do it, and then we give up before we ever try. All because we believed what we’ve told ourselves.

“I’m stupid.” “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t measure up.”  The list is endless.  Some of those things may keep people in very unhealthy relationships and keep us repeating bad habits.

As a writer I fight my Evil Internal Editor (EIE) every time I sit down to write. Sometimes I begin fighting my EIE when I start thinking about sitting down to write.  “I’m tired.” “I’ll do it later,” “I’m not motivated.” Or my favorite.  “I’ll do it after I get X, Y and Z done.”

Do you KNOW how many Xs, Ys and Zs I can come up with?

There are books written about the power of words. I’m not even going to try to list them here. But visit a self-help section of a bookstore or online and you’ll find plenty of resources. There are so many books written because turning negative words into positive ones isn’t easy.

It takes five positive words to replace one negative word.

The first step is to acknowledge the negative things we think or say. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

Second, take every one that comes to your mind and turn it into a positive. Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.

At first you may be tempted to say “I can’t ___” and turn it into “I can ___” followed immediately by “Who are YOU kidding?

Every time I catch myself saying “I can’t write this book” I stop myself because “I can write this book.”  If you catch yourself saying “I don’t know how to write this book” turn it around to “I am learning more about writing every day.”

It takes daily effort to turn our negative self-talk into positive self-talk. It’s not a quick or easy fix. Remember that it takes five positives to erase one negative.

While words can be negative they can also be life giving.  If you’ve had a parent, teacher, friend or family member say, “you look nice” or “you did a great job” then you know it made you feel good.

As your words become positive, your attitude will grow more positive, and soon you will be able to accomplish the things that are important to you.

Good luck on your journey of changing your self-talk.

It will be worth it!

Mary's Bio picture

Mary Gardner wears many hats as a Christian, mother, grandmother, writer, reader and manager of her homeowner’s association. She writes romance and romantic women’s fiction with small town settings. Although she is not yet published, she has been a finalist in several contests and won her category in a few. She was a 2007 RWA Golden Hearts finalist and the 2nd runner up in the 2008 – Harlequin Superromance® Conflict of Interest Contest. Mary is a member of RWA and is a RWA PRO. She lives with her cat near her family in a small town in Indiana.Her website: www.maryrosegardner.com

Meet the Author on RWF


It’s the first day of autumn, and we have our hard-working President here for an interview.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

JL: Romantic women’s fiction. I need my romance! See my article here for my personal definition of the genre.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

JL: I’ve written a couple of short stories in other genres. Second Chance Dress has no genre that can I name, but you can get a copy of it for free when you sign up for my newsletter. 😉 The other one is a time travel (yes, me!) that I’m waiting on for rights reversion before I self-publish.


RWF: What is your last published title?

JL: Sight for Sore Eyes. Here’s the blurb.

How many stick and stones can one woman survive?

Emma Finn once dreamed of being a photographer, capturing exotic landscapes and poignant vistas. Then a series of tragedies tore her life apart. All she craves now is stability—reliable, boring, safe.

How many bumps and bruises can one man take?

Ophthalmologist Asher Stockdale left big city life when his ex-wife took his young son away. When he met Emma, he pictured her as the centre of his new life in Clarence Bay. So why is he encouraging her to resurrect her old dream and go gallivanting around the globe? Dare he ask her to stay?

How many roadblocks can one romance encounter and still cherish the love?

If Emma goes to India, will she be able to heal, or will she regret her choice?

Carpenter ants, a rescued Pirate, and a pair of scheming seniors help Emma and Asher to see what really lies before their eyes.

You can read an excerpt at www.JoanLeacott.ca


RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

JL: Celebrate the amazing thing you’ve accomplished! Treat yourself to something special. Then let yourself, and the story, rest for three weeks before you start editing. That way you’ll both be fresh and ready to go. For the first pass, just read; resist the urge to edit. Note where you catch yourself smiling or are confused, angry, or tearful. The places of confusion get your attention first.


RWF: Do you have a running theme?

JL: Reconciliation. I didn’t start out with that in mind; a friend pointed it out. I find the revelations and growth required for honest reconciliation to be an endless source of conflict and resolution.


RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

JL: In the bottom of a pail of dirty water. 😉 When I’m engaged in mindless chores like washing floors, I reflect on events (large, small, recent, and past) in my life and that’s my greatest source of inspiration. My first story grew out of the sentence, ‘A woman goes home to help her sick mother’. I was cleaning my mom’s house while she was receiving chemo treatments.


RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

JL: I’m self-employed as a book formatter and Microsoft Word educator. You can see more at www.WovenRed.ca. The job came out of the technical skills I acquired as a self-published writer.


RWF: Are you a plotter, panster, or combination of both?

Definitely a plotter—I Y Excel to weave plot lines and keep a series bible.


RWF: What’s a surprising or little-known fact about you?

JL: I’m taking piano lessons. My parents were immigrants with five children and not a lot of money. Once I had the time and resources, I realized a life-long dream to make music.

Thank you, Joan, for taking time out of your busy schedule to come share a bit about yourself and your writing.


Joan is a renaissance woman. She is skilled in many arts—sewing, knitting crochet, cross-stitch, painting, and piano. Oh, and writing contemporary romantic women’s fiction. The skill favored by her husband and son is cooking. She spends her winters in Toronto attending plays, ballets, Pilates and Yoga classes. Whew! Her summers are spent on the shores of Georgian Bay relaxing with a book and a glass of wine on the deck.

When does she write? In every moment left over!