Author Archives: RMFW Guest

Guest Post: Cindi Myers – Successful Buzz Building

By Cindi Myers

As promised, today I’m going to talk about some promotional efforts I’ve made over the years that I felt were worth the time and money involved. Again, your mileage may vary. And one caution: the promotional landscape is changing rapidly. What worked for one author quickly becomes overdone and blasé and doesn’t work for another, so keep that in mind as you read on:

1. Media training. In my last blog I mentioned the publicist I hired to promote one of my books, Learning Curves. Another service she offered was media training. She filmed me and recorded me doing a mock interview, then told me everything I did wrong, told me how to correct my errors, then filmed and recorded again two more times until I was more comfortable with the process. This was worth the money. I learned a lot and I still remember those lessons. Plus, publishers love it when you tell them you’ve had media training. It’s also a good thing to put in press releases when you contact the media.

2. My market newsletter. This started out as a yahoogroup newsletter and is now a blog. http://www.cindimyersmarketnews.wordpress.com I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years now. It’s given me lots of name recognition. People don’t care about my political or social opinions, or anything else I might blog about, but if they are writers who are trying to sell their work (and writers are big readers) I give them useful information. The cost is pretty much zero. (When I promo my self-pubbed titles on the blog, I always see a slight uptick in purchases for a couple of days.)

3. Facebook ‘pushes.’ If you have an author page, you can pay Facebook to promote a post. I’ve spent anywhere from $5 to $20 to promote a post when I have a new book release and I always see an uptick in the ebook sales, and more page likes. And it’s cheap, which I like.

4. Bookbub. Not so cheap, but every author I’ve spoken with says Bookbub is worth it. So far, I only have experience with Bookbub placement that my publisher has paid for, but it’s resulted in huge increases in sales (for instance, going from a 70,000 + ranking on Amazon to double digits in the space of a day.) This was for $2.99 books, not free ones. I’m still trying to get them to accept me for a free promo. Friends who have done this said they easily made back their money and more with every Bookbub promo they’ve done. (I’m giving a workshop All About Bookbub at Colorado Gold this year.)

5. Making the first book in an ebook series free. Even without Bookbub, doing this led to a big uptick in sales for the other two books in the series, and a much more modest increase in sales of my other self-pubbed historical titles.

6. Web ads on targeted sites. I had a book a few years ago called A Soldier Comes Home. I paid for inexpensive ads on blogs and message boards that catered to military wives. I think I spent about $75 total for four or five ads. I got good click-throughs on the ads, the book was the top-selling SuperRomance for the month of its release, and I got great fan mail from military wives who read the book. The key for me with this kind of thing is targeted and cheap.

7. Printed excerpts. For the last few years, instead of paying for giveaways for conferences, I’ve printed up excerpts of the first chapter of a book. I print them in booklet form on my computer then make copies at the local copy shop. I either staple them into cover flats my publisher sends me, or run off color copies of my cover on cardstock and use that as the cover for the excerpts. I include information about my website, where to buy the book, other related books, Facebook, Twitter – whatever I can think of. People love these. And I’ve had people tell me after they read the first chapter they buy the book to find out what happens next. Not everyone who gets an excerpt will buy a book, but enough do that I think the expense is worthwhile.

So, those are promotional efforts that have worked for me. I’d love to hear what you have done to promote your books that has worked for you.

CindiMyers

 

Cindi Myers sold her first book in 1997 and since then has had “somewhere north of 60” books published. Currently, she writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue, women’s fiction for Kensington Books, and self-publishes historical romance under the pen name Cynthia Sterling.

Guest Post – Terri Benson: What’s a Writer to Do?

By Terri Benson

Today’s writers have so many things to think about besides the act of writing. Oh, for the days when you typed up or printed out your book manuscript, boxed it up, sent it to your publisher, then started your next book, certain that the publisher had enough invested in you that they would do their best to get lots of copies sold. I’m pretty sure those days existed at one point – they’re in the movies, anyway, so it must have happened.

These days, the majority of first time writers who traditionally or Indie publish will get a small advance or none at all, and go first to e-book. If you sell enough, they might go ahead with paperback. Publishers have very little invested in new authors. There’s the art for your book cover, but we all know there are thousands of graphic designers out there who can do a nice cover for not a huge amount of money. The quality of printed books isn’t the same as it used to be, especially in paperback. They cram more words on the page to reduce the cost of printing, and you get books that you can’t open the spine far enough to read without breaking the book’s back. And you know there isn’t nearly as much copy editing as there used to be. I rarely find a book—even by the big names—that doesn’t have blatant typos.

Writers are also pretty much required to have a platform with Facebook, Twitter, a good website, maybe a blog, and lots of followers – and they need constant attention to keep them fresh and interesting. We need to attend conferences and workshops to improve our craft and keep up with the ever-changing technology, and network like crazy.

So if you’re doing all that, how are you supposed to find time to write, edit, go to critique meetings, and read? Because you all know good writers read a lot.

If you thought that by the time you got to this point in my blog, I would have answered this question for you, you’re wrong. I don’t think anyone has all, or even a lot of, the answers for this. The state of publishing is evolving on almost a daily basis. There are more and more options for self-publishing, with the result of more books being published. But we all know many of those books shouldn’t have been published, at least not in the condition they appear. But there they are, and our books are mixed in with them, buried within thousands of other books in our genre.

I’d love to hear from those of you who think you might have some answers to the question: What’s a writer to do? For me, I’ll just keep plugging away, putting words on paper, sending queries, self-publishing when I think I’m ready, but still hoping for a call from a traditional publisher (for the simple egotistical reason that I want to say I was traditionally published, even though many writers make more with self-publishing). I’ll work tirelessly to improve my craft, dissect my book covers to see what could make them stand out in the crowd, and keep my on-line persona as visible as I have the time to, and feel comfortable with. And Write On!

 

Terri Benson 2015As a life-long writer, Terri Benson has one published novel, award winning short stories, and over a hundred articles – many award winning - in local and regional magazines and on-line e-zines. She is a multi-year member of RMFW and Western Slope events are hosted by her employer, she also belongs to RWA. Benson currently promotes Western Slope events for the RMFW Publicity Committee, pelts RMFW with articles for the newsletter, and randomly blogs.

Her historical romance, An Unsinkable Love, a truly Titanic love story with plenty of suspense, is available from Amazon in both e-book and paperback.

Pearls of Wisdom … by Guest Rhonda Blackhurst

Rhonda_Genrefest 2015Last month I attended Genre Fest 2015, an event organized by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and The Colorado Authors’ League. The speaker for the morning was David Morrell, creator of Rambo–-as well as numerous novels (both fiction and nonfiction) and short fiction-–and to say I was impressed is a serious understatement. While I expected great pearls of wisdom coming from such a successful author–-and he certainly delivered--what I didn’t expect was his level of humility. What an incredible man. Would I go see him again if he’s in the area? In a heartbeat! I realize I just used the dreaded exclamation point, but that’s how strongly I feel about it. I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to grab that sucker. You won’t be disappointed.

While I couldn’t possibly mention all of the golden nuggets of advice, some of the ones that I’ll always remember are:

His five rules for writing mystery/thrillers (and could fit with any genre) are:

1.)  Know why you're writing what you are. If you’re writing what you are simply because it’s popular at the moment, you may want to re-evaluate writing that genre. What you’re writing should be personally meaningful; because you can’t imagine not writing it; because it should be worth spending a year (or more) of your time on.

2.)  Know the history of the genre you’re writing. He states, “we can’t recognize when a plot is hackneyed if we don’t educate ourselves about the best that has been done in the genre.” He suggested that if you’re writing a specific genre, you should know enough about the history that you could give a lecture on it.

3.)  Do your research. Your research can come from interviewing experts, reading non-fiction books on the subject, physically visiting the place you’re writing about as well as doing the activities you’re writing about. This last one, in particular, opens all five senses to the experience. The Internet is another deep well to gain knowledge. What not to do is to get your research from TV or movies. The details are not reliable. (Think courtroom and police dramas.) My husband and I both work in the law enforcement arena, and trust me when I say real life is nothing like it shows on Law and Order, CSI, The Good Wife, etc.

4.)  Be yourself. His exact words are worth repeating over and over and over. And over again. “Be a first-rate version of yourself rather than a second-rate version of another author. Innovate rather than imitate.” Wow! (Yup, another exclamation point.)

5.)  Avoid the genre trap. What we write should be the most exciting and moving novel that we can write. Our job is to write a genre novel that doesn’t come off as a genre book.

Other notable mentions:

  •  There are no “odds” on whether you will succeed, get published, etc. What happens to you happens 100%.
  • One thing all of us writers are prone to is daydreaming. In fact we can’t shut it off. Children are often told to “stop wasting your time daydreaming” as if it’s a negative thing. In reality, daydreaming is not a waste of time at all. It’s where ideas come from. The key is to be aware of your daydreams. Too often they’re mini narratives that we dismiss.
  •  Don’t write what you’re supposed to. Write what you’re meant to.
  •  Don’t chase the market because you’ll always be looking at the back side.

I had David Morrell’s writing book, The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing, on my bookshelf at home waiting to be read. I bumped it ahead of all the others I want to read and I’m not regretting it.

This post was originally published by Rhonda Blackhurst at her blog, Novel Journey, on April 12, 2015.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rhonda was born and raised in northern Minnesota and now resides in Colorado. She is a paralegal, restitution advocate for a District Attorney's Office, avid reader, writer, and lover of words. Her greatest joy is her family, which includes her husband, two sons, a stepdaughter, one granddaughter and five step-grandchildren. Her love of writing blossomed at the tender age of four when she began writing with crayons on the knotty pine walls of her family home. Her first published novel, The Inheritance, was born from NaNoWriMo in 2012. She is in the process of writing the first two books in the Melanie Hogan mystery series, Shear Madness and Shear Deception.

Her blog, A Novel Journey, can be found at www.rhondablackhurst.com. She can also be found on twitter at @rjblackhurst and her author Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rjblackhurst.

The Greatest Chicken Thief in All of Europe … by Guest Mike Befeler

Befeler_For LibertyI wasn’t planning to write a non-fiction book. But all that changed in May of 2013 when I met Ed, a 94-year-old World War II veteran.

Here’s the back story. At the time I was on the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council and gave a ride to another council member. She told me about this fascinating man who lived in her senior residence. Later that day she introduced me to Ed, and he told me stories of fighting as an infantryman in Europe, becoming a prisoner of war and being liberated by the Russians. He got to one point and said, “At one time I was the greatest chicken thief in all of Europe.”

Unfortunately, I had to leave at that time for an appointment. Two weeks later I gave a talk for the book group at this senior residence, and Ed was in attendance. Afterwards, I pulled him aside to hear the rest of the story. He recounted this experience of stealing rabbits and chickens to regain the 40% of his body weight lost as a prisoner. Given his impish sense of humor, he had me laughing out loud. Although Ed expressed no interest in writing his life story, he agreed to work with me, and our collaboration began.

We met approximately once a week, and I took notes and recorded the sessions. In writing Ed’s biography, I learned that fiction writing prepared me well. Ed’s life has been full of pathos and humor, attributes I have put into my mysteries. Along the way I learned a tremendous amount about World War II. As an example, Ed mentioned the name of the captain of his company, and through Internet research, I was able to locate a write up describing how Captain Batrus had been awarded a silver star.

Some highlights of Ed’s life: He experienced an unusual early education, attending an anarchist school, and suffered through the depression. As an American of Jewish heritage, he chose to fight Hitler, and in the Vosges Mountains of France faced a number of life or death encounters with the enemy. On New Year’s Eve 1944, he was a forward observer when the Germans’ last initiative on the Western Front, Operation North Wind, overran his position. He survived behind enemy lines for two days before being captured. He spent seven days and nights in a crowded freight car with no food and the only water being from snowflakes caught on his fingers through slats in the side of the railroad car. In Stalag IV-B, he survived by trading cigarettes for food on the black market, tried to escape but was recaptured.

After being freed by the Russians and although he hated Germans, he saved four German refugees. When he returned to American command, he was almost killed in a back alley in Paris, before shipping back to the States where a medical authority informed him he would be lucky to live into his early fifties. Suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder, he almost killed himself, had a disastrous first marriage, lost custody of his son and struggled to support himself. Pulling himself out of the depths, he found his true wife, who helped him rebound and run a successful business.

An example of Ed’s puckish sense of humor. His second wife was a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. One night at a reception, he was introduced to a pompous academician who looked down his nose at Ed and said, “What do you do?” Ed replied, “Oh, I sweep the floors and clean the equipment at a machine shop,” (not mentioning that he owned and ran the business). The man raised an eyebrow. Ed then put his arm around his wife, Sonia, and said, “And this wonderful woman taught me how to read and write.” Afterwards, he got an earful from Sonia.

For me, one of the highlights of this project, was locating the son from his first marriage, whom Ed hadn’t seen in fifty-seven years, and facilitating a reunion that took place in October of 2013.

The working title for the book is For Liberty: A Soldier’s Inspiring Life Story of Courage, Sacrifice, Survival and Resilience, and it will be published this spring. And Ed is the greatest chicken thief in all of Europe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mike BefelerMike Befeler has six published books in his Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, the most recent being Nursing Homes Are Murder. He also has two published paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing and a theater mystery, Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse. His first historical mystery, Murder on the Switzerland Trail, will be released in October. Mike is past-president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

To learn more about Mike and his novels, visit his website and blog. He can also be found on Facebook.

Guest Post: Don’t Fight the Feeling – Kim McMahill

By Kim McMahill

ADoseofDanger copyWho hasn’t heard the phrase, “show, don’t tell,” in conjunction with writing instruction and advice? It may be basic guidance, but it is the most critical component of crafting a compelling story. Despite sounding like a simple concept, the skill is more difficult to master than one might think, requiring conscious effort and years of practice.

If an author is successful in showing, often the feeling comes through, but to ensure nothing is missed I always go back and evaluate how select scenes might make the reader feel. Not only do I show the fall, but does the reader feel the pain the character experienced?

Feeling includes both emotional and physical sensations. We all want readers to connect to our stories in some deep and meaningful way, to share in our hero’s sorrow or joy and to find that relatable moment in their own lives, which arouses an emotional response.

On a physical level, does the reader's heartbeat actually increase as they become completely engrossed in the hero’s life or death struggle? Does the scene suck them in so thoroughly that they might forget to take a breath, or do they wince in pain as the hero’s shoulder is pierced by a bullet? Does the reader sag with exhaustion as the scene evokes memories of extreme fatigue, or do they wrinkle their nose at a pungent odor? Sitting alone in a room absorbed in the hero’s triumph, does the reader smile without realizing it?

Physical reader responses may be challenging to generate, but I always try. I especially enjoy working with the effects of temperature extremes. If I make a reader shiver, grab for a blanket, or feel the need to shed a sweater, then I’ve done my job well.

In Marked In Mexico, I hoped to make the reader subconsciously scratch at non-existent bug bites, and suddenly crave a tall glass of iced tea and a cool shower. My latest novel, A Dose Of Danger, is set during a particularly rough winter in northern Wyoming. Anyone who lives in areas prone to harsh winters and heavy snowfall will relate to how much more difficult every task becomes when battling Mother Nature. Those who reside in more temperate areas will be thankful for where they live. Busting tracks through the drifts,

breaking ice out of water troughs, and chaining up during a storm after hours of driving on slick unplowed roads while fearing for your life will hopefully get the reader craving a tropical getaway.

One of the most important rules of writing will continue to focus on showing, rather than telling, when crafting a story. In conjunction with this tenet, try to make your readers feel, not just emotionally, but physically. Don’t be afraid to make them sweat.

A Dose Of Danger will be release May 29, 2015, and is currently available on Amazon for pre-order at http://www.amazon.com/Dose-Danger-Kim-McMahill-ebook/dp/B00V50EEBA/

Blurb: When researcher, Grace Talbot, and her team discover a possible solution for weight loss, they become targets of a group dedicated to controlling the multi-billion dollar a year diet-product industry. Her unsanctioned testing methods bring tragedy to the family ranch, and the attention of the local sheriff’s deputy. With her colleagues either dead, missing, or on the run, she soon realizes she must trust the deputy with her life, but can she trust him with her heart?

BIO: Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming, which is where she developed her sense of adventureprofile web small and love of the outdoors. Since leaving Wyoming she has enjoyed many opportunities to see the world, and has lived amid some of America’s most stunning landscapes. Kim started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happy endings soon drew her into a world of adventure and romantic suspense. Learn more at http://KimMcMahill.com, or follow Kim at http://KimMcMahill.blogspot.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kimmcmahill

Getting Critiqued in the Colorado Gold Contest—Winners Weigh In … by Jennifer Kincheloe

The RMFW Colorado Gold contest is a competition for unpublished writers of genre and mainstream commercial fiction. It is a rare chance to get your work in front of industry professionals, such as literary agents and editors, who judge the contest and also provide feedback.

This blog is the second of a three-part series where previous winners share their experiences with the Colorado Gold contest. Part One, "How the Colorado Gold Contest Changed How I Feel About My Writing," published on Monday the 27th. For today's blog, I asked them whether the judge's feedback was helpful to them in their writing. Here is what they said.

"As with all critiques, the comments are always helpful. They just need to be taken with a grain of salt. What someone else may think sounds better may not work for your story. Only you can be the true judge."

          Jessica Naab, author of the 2013 Romance Winner, Between Skin and Soul

"Matt Martz, an editor with Crooked Lane Books, was the final round judge. At the conference after the program on Friday night, he was kind enough to give me about a half hour of his time to discuss the story. He wanted to know where it was going. He’d only seen the first twenty pages. He made some suggestions and asked me to send the completed manuscript when I thought it was ready."

          Kevin Wolf, author of the 2014 Action/Thriller Winner, The Homeplace

"Yes, although at the time I didn't agree with it. They questioned my choice of POV character, and whose story it really was as I have a main character die. At the time I was adamant I wasn't changing the POV character, and yet, twelve months after winning the competition, based on additional feedback, I had made changes close to their recommendations."

          Kristin Meachem, author of the 2013 Mainstream Winner, Ten Seconds

"The judges’ feedback was fantastically helpful. The year I won the mystery category was the first year the finalists got the chance to revise their entries using the first round of judges’ feedback before the entry went to the final judge. The comments were insightful, encouraging, and constructive. My entry was greatly improved using the suggestions of the judges."

          Mary Birk, author of the 2014 Mystery Winner, The First Cut

"Extremely! The feedback helped me to recognize where my strengths are and where I could improve. I found the judge’s comments to be honest and for the most part spot on."

          Kara Seal, author of the 2014 Young Adult/Middle Grade Winner, The Shuvani's Spell

"Their feedback was extremely helpful. Fresh eyes provide fresh suggestions. There were several feedback comments that I’d never thought of before, and the edits resulting from those comments strengthened the beginning of my book. Sometimes all it takes is a single sentence added or deleted to enhance your story’s momentum. The judges offered areas I could trim, places I could expand, but they also marked what they liked. The best feedback is a balance of enjoyment and improvement."

          Michael Carson, author of 2104 Speculative Fiction Winner, Beauty is for Suckers

"Definitely. Getting that kind of critique is always great. In high school and college when I was writing creatively, receiving a teacher’s critique was always terrific. In my twenties and thirties, as a journalist, getting feedback from my editor was always helpful. And now, as I return to writing fiction, the feedback I’ve gotten from workshops, my critique partner and beta readers helps show what is working, and what, quite frankly, is absolute 100% rubbish. So to enter a contest and get feedback from it? That’s tremendous. Not only is it one more opinion to consider, but it’s one from an industry source—and those aren’t easy to come by."

          Monica Comas 2014 Mainstream Winner, The Cookbook

"Exceedingly so! My protagonist is an Iraq veteran, and by pure chance – or perhaps by providence – so was the judge who read my work. His comments, and the extra tidbits of information he provided about military life and the Iraq war, were invaluable for a cake-eating civilian like me."

          Charles Kowalski, author of the 2013 Action/Thriller Winner, Unbelievers

In part three of this blog series, winners will share where their winning novels are today. To hear about rewrites, agents, Hollywood, and publishing deals, visit my website.

For more about these winning writers and the status of their books, visit Jennifer Kincheloe's blog post "Colorado Gold."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Colorado Gold Contest for unpublished fiction closes June 1, 2015. For more information on how to enter, go to http://rmfw.org/contest/rules-and-entry-instructions/

Jennifer Kincheloe is a research scientist turned writer of historical mysteries. Her first novel, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, will be out November 3rd from Seventh Street Books.

You can learn more about Jennifer and her novel at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Just Submit, Don’t Quit … by Terri Benson

I recently submitted presentations for a conference, and just heard back that mine weren’t accepted. I also submitted full reads to two editors who requested them at a conference last year. One turned me down, the other still hasn’t responded, although he acknowledged he’d gotten it. I submitted chapters on-line to a publisher and an editor, and haven’t heard boo since.

You’d think I’d be starting to see a pattern here, but I’m not.

What I see is that I need to work harder at getting my work and myself out there to more people in more places. I need to submit to more contests. I need to make sure I attend as many conferences and workshops as I can afford and have time for, even if it means 6 hours of driving time to do it. I need to make sure I’ve got fresh pages for my critique group to look at. I need to network my fanny off.

“Why?” you ask. Well, it’s not because I’m a glutton for punishment. It’s because I know that I’m a good writer. Hopefully I’ll eventually be a great writer. And the only way I can make sure that my writing gets me further than my own front door is to get my work out in front of other people. Yes, it’s painful to get a rejection (or dozens of them). I’m an introvert, so the thought of making a presentation in front of my peers frightens me, but everyone starts somewhere, and I’ve managed to live though the presentations I’ve made in the past. There are a lot more agents and editors out there that haven’t rejected me, and I have more than one manuscript to send, so it’s way too soon to give up on even those who have said no. And of course, there’s always self-publishing.

But. And to me this is a big but (as opposed to my other big butt). No matter whether I am traditionally published, small press published, or self-published, I want my work to be as close to perfect as humanly possible. And that means someone besides me needs to give me feedback. Harsh criticism, even. I don’t want any “Oh, I love it. It’s just perfect,” because I know it’s not. I’m not sure there exists a manuscript in the world that is perfect. That has all
the exactly right words. No punctuation or spelling or grammar mistakes. No continuity glitches. No green eyes that change to blue. I’ve never read one anyway and I read a LOT.

So what I want to hear, and what I want to use to make me be the best I can be, is constructive criticism. Challenge me to use better, more descriptive words. To actually read Strunk and White and get that grammar or punctuation glitch out of my head and my hands. To ensure that what I send to those agents and editors, and ultimately my readers, is more than good. It’s great. It’s the best they’ve read (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). So I’m not quitting. I’m going to keep submitting proposals, chapters, contest pages, full reads, and anything else I can, to get my books in reader’s hands, so they can read the last words, close the book, and say, “Damn, that was great.”

How about you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Terri Benson 2015As a life-long writer, Terri Benson has one published novel (An Unsinkable Love), award winning short stories, and over a hundred articles – many award winning - in local and regional magazines and on-line e-zines. She has been a member of RMFW for the last several years, and her employer provides the location for the Western Slope events. She is currently promoting Western Slope events for the RMFW Publicity Committee, pelting RMFW with articles for the newsletter, and randomly blogging.

Her book, An Unsinkable Love, is temporarily down as the publisher has recently been bought and her rights reverted. But never fear, she shall overcome and those of you clamoring for a copy shall be satisfied! Visit Terri at her website. She can also be found on Facebook.

How the Colorado Gold Contest Changed How I Feel About My Writing … by Jennifer Kincheloe

As an aspiring author, it was hard to know where I truly stood. Was my book good? Excellent? Abysmal? People seemed to like it, but honestly, I had no idea.

The RMFW Colorado Gold Contest for unpublished writers changed how I felt about my writing. The contest put twenty pages of my novel in front of industry professionals, such as literary agents and editors, who gave me frank, expert feedback.

In 2013, I won the mystery category for The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, a slightly humorous, somewhat romantic, mystery novel set among the LAPD police matrons in 1900's Los Angeles.
Winning validated me in a way that polite critique groups and loving relatives could not.

For the first time I felt like maybe I could do this. I could be a novelist.

I asked other Colorado Gold recipients whether winning the contest changed how they felt about their writing. This is what they said.

"All writers have moments when they feel, 'All my work has been for nothing; this book will never be published and doesn’t deserve to be.' Whenever a thought like that crossed my mind, I’ve looked up to my wall where the award certificate hangs in its frame. It’s as if a guardian angel were standing by my side saying, “I beg to differ."

          Charles Kowalski, author of the 2013 Action/Thriller Winner, Unbelievers

"It definitely gave me a motivation and self-esteem boost. I didn't have much confidence in my writing before, but I thought that if I could win the contest then there may be hope for me after all!"

          Jessica Naab, author of the 2013 Romance Winner, Between Skin and Soul

"Winning the Gold was huge for me. It helped validate the years of hard work I put into the book. In order to win, a novel needs to earn high praise from two amateur judges as well as one professional serving as the final judge; so winning the contest means there are at least three strangers who think your idea, your writing, and your storytelling is pretty amazing. For an aspiring writer, that's an amazing moment. I'll never forget it."

          M.H. Boroson, author of the 2012 Speculative Fiction Winner, City of Strangers, which  will be published as The Girl with the Ghost Eyes

"It’s special to have one’s work recognized by peers and friends. The recognition gave me confidence that my efforts on the right track."

          Kevin Wolf, author of the 2014 Action/Thriller Winner, The Homeplace

"It gave me the belief that maybe I was okay at this writing stuff. To not give up. It also gave me the confidence to let people know I was actually writing a novel. Up to that point, it was my secret."

           Kristin Meachem, author of the 2013 Mainstream Winner, Ten Seconds

"Winning the contest gave me some much needed validation. Writing is a solitary occupation in many ways, and it’s nice to hear someone else appreciates your work."

          Mary Birk, author of the 2014 Mystery Winner, The First Cut

"As a result of winning the contest I feel more confident in my writing. While writing still takes a lot of work, a lot of the nagging doubts about my ability to do this have subsided."

          Kara Seal, author of the 2014 Young Adult/Middle Grade Winner, The Shuvani's Spell

"Since humor is a key element in every project I pursue, if it’s not working and readers aren’t laughing, then I’m in serious trouble. There’s nothing worse than an unfunny comedy, and this concern is always on my mind when I start a new project; it’s the little voice of self-doubt whispering in your ear. The contest has helped counter that voice, and it showed me that my writing is reading the way I intended. "

          Michael Carson, author of 2104 Speculative Fiction Winner, Beauty is for Suckers

"The short answer is no... I still think on some days that I was born to string sentences together…just as I’m still certain on other days that I’m a complete failure who can’t write at all. Winning the contest didn’t change any of that. I guess I just feel lucky that I was picked, that’s all. Sometimes you get lucky, and that contest was my lucky time."

          Monica Comas 2014 Mainstream Winner, The Cookbook

Would you like frank, expert feedback on your unpublished novel? The Colorado Gold Contest closes June 1, 2015. For more information on how to enter, go to http://rmfw.org/contest/rules-and-entry-instructions/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jennifer KincheloeThis blog is the first of a three-part series in which previous winners share their experiences with the Colorado Gold contest.

Jennifer Kincheloe is a research scientist turned writer of historical mysteries. Her first novel, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, will be out November 3rd from Seventh Street Books. You can learn more about Jennifer and her novel at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Guest Post: Maura Weiler – Your Non-Agent Might Know Best. Or Does She?

By Maura Weiler, Author of Contrition

ContritionFinalCoverWhich is worse– an impersonal rejection letter from an agent, or a personalized rejection letter with feedback that would require a massive rewrite of your book with no guarantee that the agent would revisit it? Both. Oh wait... I mean, it all depends.

I entered the submission process for my debut novel, Contrition, with this policy: If two or more agents offered the same feedback, or if one person gave feedback that resonated with me, I would listen to it. If only one person made a particular criticism I didn’t agree with, I would disregard it. My policy seemed sound until I promptly ignored my own advice.

I was very lucky to have a great return rate on my initial submissions. Two of the seven agents I contacted wanted to take Contrition on. A New York agent was ready to send it out with very few changes. A California agent hit a roadblock when the founder of the agency didn’t give her blessing. What that founder did give was two pages of notes on how to improve the story.

I was initially cranky about the rejection, until I realized what a compliment it was for an established agent to give such detailed notes on a book she didn’t want. Sobered, I stopped to appreciate that. Then I got cranky about the notes themselves.

One of her suggestions was to turn the main characters- a journalist and a cloistered nun who clash over the meaning and purpose of art- into sisters raised apart. Oh, how the delicate genius in me gnashed her teeth over that one! Twins raised apart felt like reality-show drama and would entail a major rewrite of a book that another agent was ready to send out. This fancy founder/agent clearly didn’t understand my vision.

But I still wondered if she was right. Her other notes were very insightful and she understood the market. So I told my delicate inner genius to get over herself. Then I told the New York agent I was going to spend a couple of months rewriting some elements of the book, and silly me, I believed it.

It turned out that I needed at least two months to pout and mourn the loss of my original version before I could even fathom cutting it up. I had already written numerous drafts over numerous years– did I really have to rewrite it again? Yes, I did. Because as wonderful as I felt my original version was, I would now always question whether or not it could be better.

In the end, it took me three years to rewrite the book. I made most of the suggested changes, including turning my main characters into twins raised in different homes. The twins’ separate upbringings and freshly minted sibling rivalry brings a great deal of texture and complexity to their relationship. Now readers tell me they can’t imagine the story without the characters being sisters.

By the time I finished, the interested New York agent had left her agency. My subsequent querying didn’t result in a new agent until four years later when an agent discovered Contrition in her old emails and signed me. Three years after that, she sold Contrition to Simon & Schuster’s new imprint, Infinite Words. It was all very unexpected and wonderful and I am thrilled to celebrate its publication day today.

If I had known that putting off a committed agent to do a rewrite she hadn’t asked for and I wasn’t sure I agreed with would delay the publication of Contrition by more than a decade, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But I’m happy with my choice, because Contrition is a much better book as a result.

What would you do? What’s your policy on agent criticism?

Maura WeilerMaura Weiler grew up in Connecticut and earned her BA and MA in English Literature from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, respectively. She is a former columnist for The Connecticut Post and a trash artist whose work has been featured on NBC Television and in galleries and shows across the country. As Director of Development at Blue Tulip Productions, she helped develop the screenplays for such films as Speed, Twister, The Paperboy and The Minority Report. Contrition is her first novel. For more information or book club queries, visit www.mauraweiler.com.

Facebook: Maura Weiler Author

Twitter: @mauraweiler

Simon & Schuster Author Page: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Maura-Weiler/475408214

Maura is kind enough to be giving away her novel, Contrition. Just comment below and one lucky winner will be picked at random. You can comment until Friday, April 24th by midnight. Winner will be contacted by email.

Guest Post: Samantha Ross – Recap of Carol Berg’s Western Slope Workshop

Are they real?

Are your characters real people? According to Carol Berg at the RMFW writers meeting on the Western Slope the answer has to be yes. Readers know it is a story, but the characters need to be alive. The goal should be that they are not characters, but people.

How do we do that?

Through Introduction:

Sum up the person through another’s POV. Start with the general overall such as gender, race, age and so on. Now move onto appearance. Keep in mind that you show rather than tell. What is the voice like, how do they carry themselves? Then attitude. Are they gruff, shy? Don’t forget to start showing gestures, patterns, and habits.

Maybe it’s a gradual introduction from the protagonist or antagonist. Or a few paragraphs. Create layers, and interactions with the setting and also with other characters.

Our people need to be complex. That means they have strengths, weaknesses, hopes, fears, dreams, and goals. Successes and failures both during the story, and before it started. Like everyone, they are going to travel through a range of emotions, thoughts, wants, actions, and reactions.

That character needs to want something here and now. They are also going to have a plan for the future. It may be a glass of water right now, and to win the big race next month. Remember it is colored by the emotional “why” they want it. Those whys are going to include things from the past, present, and future.

As we write this story, we need to create challenges/conflicts that showcases all the above. This person needs to be able to problem solve, take action, have the ability to grow and change as the story progresses.

Through Narrative POV:

 Whoever is telling the story at the moment has the narrative POV. Usually this is the protagonist, the antagonist, sometimes a secondary character. It is limited by the character; meaning every thing is filtered through this character at this moment.

A child at a funeral has a very different POV, vocabulary, actions and reactions than an elderly man. Even between two elderly men there will be things to contrast and compare. They each had a life before walking into the funeral that shaped them.

We learn who he is layer by layer. As he interacts with the other characters and setting, we start to understand him. We see what type of background he comes from, what he thinks of this moment he is in. There is action and reaction. There are choices, and responses. And more choices. And more responses. Dialogue both internal and external all reveals who he is, and what he is going to do. We see the contrast and compare in the narrative POV as he shows, or does not show his opinions, thoughts, and prejudices. How he acts upon these, or does not act reveals much about him. All of this shows us who he is.

We know that we have succeeded in making our characters into people when the reader says, “I knew he would do that!” When our readers thinks about this person outside of the book eagerly awaiting the next story to come out, or to simply open the book and keep on reading. Sometimes over and over.

Samantha Ross pictureSamantha Ross is a ghostwriter, freelance writer and editor. She lives on the Western Slope in Montrose, Colorado. For years she taught adults, organized lesson plans, developed curriculum, and encouraged everyone to be a success. One day she stumbled into her high school librarian who pointed her toward the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Now Samantha’s days are spent writing fiction and non fiction that covers a wide range of topics. If she’s not standing in front of her desk working, she’s spending time with her family and friends.