Check out the cover for my new historical romance with pirates, releasing from The Wild Rose Press sometime spring 2022!
Authors talk a lot about being a “pantser” or a “plotter,” two schools of story process that involves how they write a novel. Do they write “by the seat of their pants,” diving into a blank page without a particular plan and allowing the story to develop organically one scene at a time? Or do they write an outline, either broad or detailed, with the ending well thought out before they even write the first word?
I definitely fall into that second category. I am a planner by nature. When I travel, I have already Googled the place extensively and have a list of historical sites and even restaurants I’d like to visit. I hate the idea I might miss something!
Writing an outline first helps, too, with the overall story arc. When I wrote my first book, I found myself a bit stuck in the middle. The plot started to drag. While I knew where I wanted the story to end up, I wasn’t sure how to keep the story interesting until I got there. I learned that if I wrote at least a brief outline with highlights of each chapter, I would get the tough work done early and this would also help me avoid writer’s block. Every morning, when I sat down to write, I knew what the next scene would be about.
Does this take the spontaneity out of writing? Not at all! I use the outline just as a guide. Most of the time, the story changes as I write. The characters I create demand that the plot move in a different direction. I frequently adjust the outline and keep moving forward. In my first novel, I even changed the murderer in my second draft as the original version didn’t make sense.
In my new release, The Three Widows of Wylder, the plot shifted somewhat from the first outline, but stuck fairly close all the way through. I didn’t feel bound to the original idea but I liked how it worked. I hope readers enjoy it too!
The Three Widows of Wylder
Tagline: Three women. Three terrible secrets.
Three women on the run.
After the death of her husband, Clara flees a hanging judge and seeks refuge with her brother in Wylder, Wyoming.
With secrets of her own and good reasons to flee, spoiled and vain Mary Rose joins Clara on the trek to Wyoming. Surely a suitable man exists somewhere.
Emma is a mystery. A crack shot and expert horsewoman, her harrowing past seeps out in a steady drip. She’s on the run from something, but what?
After the three women descend on Wylder, a budding romance leads to exposure of their pasts. As disaster looms, will any of them escape?
Emma stood, legs apart, one hand on the pistol at her hip. The covered wagon was the type used years ago by pioneers, before trains tamed the prairie, and they still lumbered across areas where tracks hadn’t been laid. Two women sat side-by-side, too focused on their argument to yet notice the camp they entered. Their one horse, overmatched by the heavy wagon, was damp with sweat, its mouth flecked with froth.
“We should have stayed on the main road.” The peevish one appeared much younger, curly gold hair topped by a large straw hat. She wore a light-yellow dress with lace at her wrists and throat, a perfectly inadequate outfit for travel. “Someone could have provided directions.”
The older woman had finely-drawn features, a few strands of gray threaded through her dark, uncovered hair. Dressed in sensible blue calico, she gripped the reins too tight and the poor horse gave a pathetic shake of its head. “The whole point was to avoid people,” she sniped.
Emma strode forward and seized the reins. “For God’s sake, you’re killing him.”
The two women gaped as though at an apparition. The horse, released from harsh hands, lowered its head and halted. Its sides heaved as flies drank at its sweaty flanks.
“Whomever let you two fools handle a horse should be whipped.” Tempted to dispatch the women to hell for their cruelty, Emma rested her hand on the pistol’s handle.
They two travelers spoke in tandem. “Who are you?” and “How dare you call me a fool.”
As Emma crooned into in the horse’s ear, her expert fingers undid the buckles at its shoulders and haunches. By the time the older of the two women climbed to the ground, the horse was unhitched and Emma led it to the creek.
“That’s our horse,” cried the one in yellow. “Clara, what is that insane girl doing? She’s stealing him.”
Emma halted, shoulders stiff. She turned and pointed the pistol at the one with lace at her throat. “I’m no horse thief.” She cocked the hammer. “Apologize.”
About the author:
Julie Howard is the author of the Wild Crime mystery series and Spirited Quest paranormal mystery series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild and editor of the Potato Soup Journal. Learn more at juliemhoward.com.
Follow her on Instagram: @authorjuliehoward
Readers, please welcome author Karen Hulene Bartell!
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. It’s a pleasure to be here!
Writing Wild Rose Pass was a stretch for me because I’d never written in the Frontier, Western, or Historical genres before—no ghosts and nothing paranormal. Adding to my dilemma, the timeline was 1880 Texas, so every phrase they spoke, every idiom they used, every food they ate, every dress and uniform they wore, as well as the roles they played, all had to be double-checked for historical accuracy. Writing it was slow going.
And although romance is always a part of my novels, I’d never written a true “Romance” before, so I had to learn how to write from two points of view and speak in both the heroine’s and hero’s voices. With few exceptions, I’d always written from the female POV. Suddenly, I had to give equal time to a male POV, often in the same scene—but from the other’s perspective.
I learned how women and men communicate differently. Men are more concise in their speech. An article in The Guardian noted that the male brain is more visual-spatial and better adapted to mathematics, while the female brain is more adept at communication. A BBC post by Claudia Hammond stated that women speak 20,000 words per day compared to men’s 7,000 words per day—men prefer action to talk.
Because the men in Wild Rose Pass were officers in the cavalry, accustomed to giving orders, I wrote their dialogue in short, terse bursts, using simple subject-verb sentences. Additionally, the hero Ben had been raised by Comanches, who taught him that “Men keep their own counsel” and “Men don’t whine.” Trained to keep his thoughts to himself, he spoke guardedly, even when he wanted to express himself.
Besides those restraints, Ben had no formal schooling. Self-taught, he felt embarrassed about his lack of education—especially when compared to the heroine, who had attended school out East. With his feelings of inadequacy, he chose his words carefully, even when he “opened up.”
Despite my learning curve, I enjoyed writing Wild Rose Pass and had fun getting into the Old West mindset. Maybe it reminded me of the old Westerns I used to watch as a kid ��
Cadence McShane, free-spirited nonconformist, yearns to escape the rigid code, clothes, and sidesaddles of 1880s military society in Fort Davis, Texas. She finds the daring new lieutenant exhilarating, but as the daughter of the commanding officer, she is expected to keep with family tradition and marry West Point graduate James West.
Orphaned, Comanche-raised, and always the outsider looking in, Ben Williams yearns to belong. Cadence embodies everything he craves, but as a battlefield-commissioned officer with the Buffalo Soldiers instead of a West Point graduate, he is neither accepted into military society nor considered marriageable.
Can two people of different worlds, drawn together by conflicting needs, flout society and forge a life together on the frontier?
Reining his horse between catclaw and prickly-pear cactus, Ben Williams squinted at the late summer sun’s low angle. Though still midafternoon, shadows lengthened in the mountains. He clicked his tongue, urging his mare up the incline. “Show a little enthusiasm, Althea. If we’re not in Fort Davis by sunset, we’ll be bedding down with scorpions and rattlesnakes.”
As his detachment’s horses clambered up Wild Rose Pass, the only gap through west Texas’ rugged Davis Mountains, Ben kept alert for loose rocks or hidden roots, anything that might trip his mount. A thick layer of fallen leaves created a pastiche of color shrouding the trail from view. He glanced up at the lithe cottonwood trees lining the route, their limbs dancing in the breeze. More amber and persimmon leaves loosened, fell, and settled near the Indian pictographs on their tree trunks.
When he saw the red- and yellow-ochre drawings, he smiled, recalling the canyon’s name—Painted Comanche Camp.
“How far to Fort Davis, lieutenant?” called McCurry, one of his recruits.
“Three hours.” If we keep a steady pace.
Without warning, the soldier’s horse whinnied. Spooking, it reared on its hind legs, threw its rider, and galloped off.
As he sat up, the man groaned, caught his breath, and stared into the eyes of a coiled rattler, poised to strike. “What the…?” Flicking its tongue, hissing, tail rattling, the pit viper was inches from the man’s face.
A sheen of sweat appeared above the man’s lip. “Lieutenant—”
About the Author:
Author of the Trans-Pecos, Sacred Emblem, Sacred Journey, and Sacred Messenger series, Karen is a best-selling author, motivational keynote speaker, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life. She writes multicultural, offbeat love stories that lift the spirit. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Westerns spurred her to write (pun intended). Wanderlust inherent, Karen enjoyed traveling, although loathed changing schools. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Hill Country with her husband Peter and her “mews”—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog.
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