Denise Miller Holmes, Director

Denise Miller Holmes, The Witty Wise Woman, is the author of How to Write Characters Who Are Fascinating and Likeable: Amazing Heroes, Antiheroes, and Villains.

She used to hate reading fiction until she taught herself to love it in junior high school. She taught herself to like fiction by reading children’s books because they are fast paced and short. The quick read made her feel accomplished.

Her favorite shows as a child were “Star Trek,” “The Avengers,” and “I Love Lucy.” By junior high, she thought “The Partridge Family” was awful, but loved “The Monkees,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” and “Hawaii Five-O.” And, she thought the films The Planet of the Apes and Logan’s Run were awesome.

By high school, she was reading thick books such as Dune, by Frank Herbert, and Dragonwyck, by Anya Seton. She also craved and devoured as many mysteries as she could find, including Agatha Christie mysteries—Death on the Nile and The Mirror Crack’d. Miss Marple mysteries were a great introduction to the genre that became Cozy Mystery.

And let’s not forget to mention Isaac Asimov’s future fiction such as Pebble in the Sky and The Stars Like Dust.

You’re getting a theme, here, yes? Crime and Mystery, Science Fiction, and Comedy. That thread runs throughout her life.

In the 70s, they didn’t have this “be happy now” philosophy that is currently popular. Instead, the Disneyland motto “there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow,” was adopted wholeheartedly into Western culture, and the philosophy that “the future is where it’s at,” influenced her greatly.

She was an unhappy child and adolescent, so the future seemed her only hope. The comedy shows added to her coping abilities, and she had no idea all these forces were coming together as ingredients for her own fiction and non-fiction ideas.

In college, she read “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and more Agatha Christie mysteries. Nancy Drew got in on the act a little bit, a series she neglected in junior high and high school, but, even as a new adult, she enjoyed them. Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer series and Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave series were so much fun! Great writing! (Huh. We just noticed that there was an emphasis on crystals. The seventies were rather crystal-focused!)

Anyway, she loved the seventies fiction, along with the classical English literature she was reading for school. But, it was at this time she got confused and believed that Star Wars was classic lit. She became very focused on those wacky, heroic spacemen. Good times were had, my friend, when she watched it several times in the theater, then bought the high-tech DVD to watch it more. A smile crosses her face at a distinct memory of driving home with Mom after seeing it in the theater. Denise was driving an AMC Pacer and fantasizing it was a spaceship. (Not hard to do in a Pacer.)

It was in the college years that she became aware that self-help books were, well, helpful. When I Say No, I Feel Guilty was a huge friend when she began to heal from her childhood, and so were other books such as Games People Play, and Psychocybernetics. Basically, she learned it’s okay to set boundaries, what to watch for when dealing with head-gaming hobbits, and not to blame herself when she makes mistakes. When she makes mistakes, all she needs to do is forgive herself and adjust her trajectory toward what she really wants. The last lesson is echoed in the book by James Clear, Atomic Habits, a book she has taken to heart.

The clock on the wall says it’s time to talk about her education. Denise graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California in the discipline of Public Relations. That is before the School of Journalism became the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She is older than you, probably.

In her last year of U.S.C., she married a great man. He’s cute, and smart, and funny. He likes Science Fiction and Crime Fiction, so he’s a keeper. You don’t let that combo go.

In their first decade of marriage, they watched hours of “Star Trek” and “Murder She Wrote.”  As an aside, she refuses to believe she is a nerd, however. She’s just an introvert who likes science and solving puzzles, that’s all. And, she thinks holding a small dinner party with the sole purpose of analyzing the Sherlock Holmes canon is true entertainment, not this raucous, big, let’s-tell-naughty-jokes party. That’s dull. But she’s not a nerd. Not. At. All.

Denise loves to brag she has no addictions. Those that love her will remark that having 9,500 books in her Kindle reader might be considered an addiction. What do you think?

Even if it is an addiction, it doesn’t mean she’s a nerd. Okay?

Back to hubby. He’s a great partner in Denise’s writing process. He looks over everything and makes her change things. Grrrrr

At the end of the eighties, Denise went back to school and earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. And yes, that informed her understanding of people and therefore her fiction. The conflicts between people were easier to write because she understood personalities and the impact of drama on people’s lives. Absolute fuel for fiction!

When she and hubby moved to Colorado with their bird and two cats, she found a writers group a few years later, just down the block from her house. She bought a Kindle and crammed every writing-craft book she could find into it (and her head). Three years later, the writers group needed a director, so she became Director of Words for the Journey Christian Writers Guild. The group is mostly online now at Go there to see what we’re up to, including when to expect the YouTube videos that are coming later this year.

Before we go, let’s not forget to talk about her speaking. As director, Denise spoke every week, just about, at the WFTJ meetings, and also taught at a conference or two. She was a frequent guest speaker at local American Christian Fiction Writers meetings.

Oh gee. How remiss are we? We haven’t told you all about her latest influence—the cozy mystery. Currently, she can’t get enough of those cutsie things because they contain all the elements she loves. There’s the mystery and crime, the small town, the libraries and coffee houses, warm luscious food, cats, dogs, and bookstores. And, let’s not forget the humor. Geez, what’s not to love? They also have a special emphasis on the people. The quirky people make the whole story, so that’s her chosen genre for her first fiction. In the future, you may have guessed, she will add some sci-fi to the mix and have a series not unlike the TV show, “Eureka”. Yeah, think about it, all the cozy elements, plus science. Heaven.

She has also written non-fiction on the topics of writing craft, and success and self-improvement. The titles are How to Write Characters Who Are Fascinating and Likeable, and Atomic Habits: Summary and Commentary: For Goal-Setters and Wannabe Achievers, with Insights for Writers (due out sometime in 2022­).

You can sign up for her “Success with a Smile” newsletter at Click “newsletter” on the menu.  It is fun, educational, and inspiring. It speaks to fiction and non-fiction readers, fiction writers, and anyone who is trying to achieve a goal or just wants to improve their life. It’s edutainment at its best. “Success with a Smile” comes every two months in your email inbox, and in it, you will not only be edutained, but will get updates on when her books are expected to be released, if you like that sort of thing.

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