Moving from Fear to Courage in Diversity Writing … by Rebecca Hopkins

The very first novel I ever started writing took place in a small town in Texas. The outsider newspaper reporter main character was on her way to solving some town mystery.

It was quite similar to my own life at the time. I worked as a small town Texas newspaper reporter from up north. And I was doing the one thing I knew about novel writing at that point, following the old adage—Write what you know.

But then I moved to Indonesia and I never finished the book.

Rebecca with Yuli's younger sister Erni at a Ramadan feast

I met a young Indonesian Muslim woman named Yuli. Yuli introduced me to her ancient Tidung tribal culture, took me to dance festivals where flicks of the wrist tell stories of war and love. She welcomed me into her family’s home for the end-of-Ramadan feasting, not caring that I’m neither Muslim nor had fasted for a month. And she shared her fears of evil spirits and of practicing her English with me, while I shared my own fears of cobras and of speaking Indonesian with her.

At the beginning, I understood very little of her world. But as I asked more questions, drank more tea with her mom, and then attended Yuli’s funeral after she tragically died from a motorbike accident, I fell in love with her people.

I also feel deeper in love with something I’ve always liked—the joy of not just “always knowing” something, but discovering something new.

I met many more “Yulis” over the years. The Indonesian language has an expression: “The guest is the king.” Even outsiders and strangers are embraced in the most welcoming of ways—abundance of food provided to mere acquaintances even on the most meager of salaries. Friends have invited me into some of their most intimate cultural and family events, opening their hearts about their beliefs, fears, struggles, stories, values. I feel like I get to take a look at their hidden treasure troves—at their urging. And that’s just the start. They insist my children call them “grandma” and have referred to me as their “daughter.” For a foreigner who sometimes still longs for my own family on the other side of the world, this is therapy.

I’m a writer who is passionate about sharing a good story. So of course, I wrote a novel about the things I was learning. (After five years of research.)

Indonesian Woman

I confess, I still can’t sleep on the hot Indonesian nights when the electricity goes out and I can never remember the name of the evil spirit that likes to steal babies out of pregnant women and I sometimes forget to offer tea to my drop-in guests. I’ve learned so much by being here, year after year, raising my three kids in this culture. But let me be clear, the longer I live here (finishing my twelfth year this spring), the more I realize how much I don’t yet understand about the home of most of my adult life. Though very welcome here, I am still a bit of an outsider, peering in, trying to figure out if there’s room for me here.

After I’d rewritten the twentieth draft of my first novel, the Diverse Books and Own Voices movements got under way. I’m cheering for insider voices from marginalized, underrepresented groups in the most personal way. My husband is a relief pilot into some of Borneo’s remote jungle interior villages, providing safe, reliable air transport for med-evacs and supply runs for some of the world’s most isolated and marginalized people groups. I live among these unknown (to westerners) tribes. They’re my neighbors, friends, my kids’ friends. I’d love to see the names of some of my Indonesian writer friends on a book someday in the libraries of American schools. I can’t wait to see what words and expressions and characters they use to tell their own stories in all the nuanced, deeply personal ways that only they can do.

But these well-needed movements left me feeling scared of what I’m doing—writing cross culturally. What right do I have to tell stories based in a culture that isn’t fully my own? What if I get it wrong? Am I stealing their stories?

Between the Army brat childhood in which I moved constantly (and interacted with and tried to fit into different subcultures), and my adulthood in which this Indonesian home of mine has grown and shaped me, I’ve seen many cross cultural interactions that look like crashes and ones that look like embraces. The “crashes” usually are caused by some amount of either arrogance or ignorance, and they leave behind bruises, cuts, scars, bitterness. If there’s a lot of force to it, a cultural crash creates a repulsion that knocks people far away from each other.

Indonesian Woman and Girl

Then there are the cross cultural “embraces.” They come out of the humility to know one’s limitations, the desire to learn, the listening ear, the value of another’s dignity, and of course, the welcoming that comes from the “other” culture. The embraces have a way of somehow recognizing and validating the unique differences between us while blurring those differences as we come close enough to change each other in little, but meaningful ways. We learn to feel at home in our shared humanity.

The more globalized our local circles become and the more cultures get close enough for the next crash or embrace, the more all of our stories will need an element of diversity in order to ring true. With this, the standard grows higher to treat these interactions with care and respect. The whole world is watching (and hopefully, reading).

I believe we, as storytellers, were born for this challenge. To some extent, we’re all doing these things as writers. Sometimes we’re researching people from past times. Sometimes we’re creating brand new worlds completely different than ours. And often times, we’re writing from jobs, genders, and other perspectives unlike ours. We have this drive in us to not just write what we’ve always known, but to love the discovery of something new to us, and somehow, timeless.

Unless we’re writing an autobiography (as my first novel was veering toward), we’re already, instinctually, drawn toward little d “diversity” writing. As we write, we are already asking questions for which we don’t yet know the answer, inviting our characters into a journey of figuring them out. We’re recording the unique, little-known elements of life that somehow, when written in touching prose—is so familiar to all of us. We’re creating characters who are entering journeys we’ve never had to enter…and yet somehow end up looking like places we’ve been ourselves.

I must be honest. I still have questions and struggles about the nitty-gritty of representing a story’s truth well, of figuring out which stories I was “made” to tell, and which, perhaps, I shouldn’t. But I’m learning how to welcome that process with courage, humility, understanding and a recognition that while I may not be able to achieve a completely “accent-free” rendition of the world I’m discovering, there is room for my stories—and all the mixes of cultures that continue to grow within me—on the page.

I love the Indonesian Proverb: “I am you, you are me.” It shows, exactly, the hope I find as a writer, a reader, and a resident of Indonesia. Stories of all shapes and mixes have the power to connect us. All of us. Hopefully… in the most warm of embraces.

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Rebecca Hopkins writes novels about a world of ancient jungle tribes, sea-dwelling gypsies and isolated Balinese hand signing villages. It’s a world she’s trying to make her own—Indonesia. She’s lived in Indonesia with her relief pilot husband and three kids for eleven years.

Read more about her writing and life in Indonesia at www.rebeccahopkins.org. Rebecca can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some interesting posts about this debate, looking at it from various perspectives.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/01/novelists-cultural-appropriation-literature-lionel-shriver
http://writeoncon.org/2017/02/02/roundtable-writers-on-writing-diversely/
http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/articles/voiceappropriation.html
http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10087
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/09/michael_chabon_s_telegraph_avenue_can_a_white_guy_write_about_black_characters_.html
http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2016/06/20/how-to-write-protagonists-of-colour-when-youre-white/
http://readdiversebooks.com/white-authors-fill-your-stories-with-people-of-color-but-dont-make-them-your-protagonists/

Green … by Rainey Hall

In kindergarten, my teacher read the class Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. She then treated all of us to—you got it—ham, scrambled green eggs, fried green potatoes, green milk and green biscuits. Ah, those were the days.

That night after regurgitating green stuff, I swore off eating, touching and smelling anything that resembled mold. Ten years later, hunger summoned the courage to ingest green beans, lettuce and fresh peas.

Can you believe green-colored food and drink showed up again during my teen years? Do you know some people actually drink green beer? No. No, I don’t touch the stuff, green or otherwise. I’ve come to the conclusion people ingesting said color of beer must have had the same kindergarten teacher as me.

Here’s another thing about green: summer meadows with rainbows. I was actually at the end of a rainbow. No gold. No leprechauns. My big brothers finally noticed my disappointment and eagerly encouraged me to investigate the opposite end of the bow because, “You’re at the wrong end.” Bums! Foiled again by siblings, I learned two ends do not a pot of gold make.

Maybe that’s when I began writing as a form of therapy? But I digress.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to have been pinched only once when I accidentally-on purpose forgot to wear green to school on a bleak March 17th. Sort of an experiment gone haywire. Who made up that little gem of a game? With that one and only pinch and accompanying bruises, I promised myself, all my stuffed animals, and the family dog, Zipper, to wear green every day of the year. Since that day, I have never utilized pliers or wire cutters, or eaten crab and lobster. Of course being within close proximity of a Doberman is out of the question too. I can guess the capabilities of those K-9s.

Was Saint Patrick even Irish? Did he ever wear green clothing?

Corned beef and cabbage? At the risk of sounding like a spoiled American, are you kidding? I’ll stick with grass fed beef and carrots—both dishes lacking green. Speaking of cabbage, my grandmother used to make sauerkraut in the basement, (around the same time I was pinched, discovered the truth about rainbows and learned how the Grinch stole Christmas.) Amazing I can smell anything now, let alone eat Brussels sprouts.

Okay, here’s the point: how about a new March holiday like “Don’t Fly a Kite Because the Wind Will Rip It to Shreds Day”, or “Take Time to Smell the Celestial Blooms of Spring Hyacinths Day”, or “Irish Soldiers in the Civil War Day”, or “Irish Soda Bread—even though it may not have originated in Ireland—Day”, or “The Best Irish Authors of the 20th Century Day”. I’ve got a million suggestions.

Here’s to just a few (20th century) Irish authors—get it out of your mind—I have never been green with envy over, but have admired and enjoyed the wonderfully varied talents of:

Oscar Wilde

Bram Stoker

CS Lewis

Anne Enright

Jonathan Swift

If you have the opportunity, please visit irishtimes.com and check out an article written in ‘The Guardian’ by Justine Jordan on Irish authors.

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

A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

5 Tips for Successful Audiobooks … by Richard Rieman

You wonder if an audio version of your book is a good idea. Maybe you listen to audiobooks – perhaps a Harry Potter book with Jim Dale doing over 150 different voices – and you think, it’s probably much too complicated and expensive.

Here are some common audiobook misconceptions:

1. Underestimating Audiobook Popularity

At a time when eBook popularity is waning, audiobook listening on Audible grew 38% last year. Audiobook sales growth is up 35% worldwide after 20% increases 2 years in a row. Listening on smartphones is the fastest growing way people are enjoying audiobooks. Automakers such as Honda and GM are now including audiobook apps from Audible and iTunes in their new cars.

Audiobooks also have their own fan base, so it’s a way to sell more books!

2. Overestimating What Creating an Audiobook Costs

As recently as 10 years ago, audiobooks could cost $30,000 or more to produce. Getting a recording studio, voice actors, audio editors, music rights and more meant that a major publisher would be needed.

Now, thanks to the growth of self and independent publishing in the audiobook world, and the explosion in the number of narrators with home studios and editing skill, high quality audiobooks can be produced for less than $3,000. If you are willing to share your sale royalties with a narrator/producer, the upfront cost can be reduced to several hundred dollars or less. Amazon created ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, to make it easy for you to find narrators for both fiction and non-fiction titles at relatively low cost.

3. Settling for a Good Voice Instead of an Actor

When choosing a narrator, you can easily be seduced by a beautiful voice. But what you need to look for is a voice ACTOR, who can distinguish characters by subtly using different vocal tones and inflections and glide easily into the changing emotions of your story. For nonfiction, a skilled narrator can hold your interest for hours by talking to you, not by reading to you out loud. Get a great storyteller, not just a great voice.

4. Narrating It Yourself When You Shouldn't

There are a few good reasons to narrate your own book:

• It’s your book and your words, so you can tell your story best. You know your characters, your story or subject, and the thinking behind your words better than anyone else.
• You keep more money. If you pay a narrator, you will either share royalties or pay them upfront to produce your audiobook. When you narrate your own book, your audiobook royalty payments go to you (after your publisher or Amazon take a big chunk of it.)
• You can be your own narrator if you have acting or radio/TV experience or have done lots of public speaking.

None of the above? Then get a professional to do it. It's a lot harder than it looks, and do you really want the bad reviews that come from a poor narrating performance when listeners judge you against the professionals?

5. Not Promoting Your Audiobook

It’s great to produce an audiobook, but if it falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Your audiobook needs to be shouted out to your fans and new listeners.

• Include an audiobook sample in all promotions. The “retail sample” required by ACX is ideal for this. Your book cover and audio clip can be used in all social media and your website.
• Request listener reviews from all your contacts and use a review service like Audiobook Boom.
• Create a promotional video like this one for Denver author Catherine Spader’s dark fantasy “Feast of the Raven.” You can engage a book trailer expert or use a resource like Animoto for less than $100.
• With future books, try to time your audiobook release with the print and e-book versions, so all your efforts can simultaneously share your promotion efforts.

Audiobook production, just like producing a paperback or eBook, is not easy. But it is worth it, especially when you are creating both a new fan base and new revenue stream for your already existing work.

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RMFW member Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and an in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of “The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation,” Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

This is part three of a four-part series on audiobooks by Richard Rieman. Part one: Bringing a “Mostly Dead” Book Back to Life in Audio. Part two: Voices in Your Head: How Audiobooks Can Improve Your Writing.

Spotlighting One of Our Younger Members, Zoe Smith-Holladay

It is our pleasure to introduce Zoe Smith-Holladay, a 12 year-old creative writing major at the Denver School of the Arts and a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Zoe is founder & author of kidsanimalstation.com, an animal blog that she started when she was eight. In Spring 2016, Smith-Holladay’s first fictional piece of prose “No Man’s Land” was published in literary magazine Calling Upon Calliope. Her second published work, “Ode to James Baldwin,” appeared in African Voices, http://africanvoices.com/avblog/ode-to-james-baldwin/

Her favorite genres to read and write are historical fiction, comedy, and fantasy. When she grows up, she wants to be a geneticist and would like to find a way to combine her passion for creative writing and science.

The following book review was published on her blog on January 15, 2017. We are reprinting it here with Zoe's and her mother's permission.

Writing Monsters By Philip Athans
Book Reviewed by Zoe Smith-Holladay

Recently, I read a book called Writing Monsters: How to Craft Believably Terrifying Creatures to Enhance Your Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans, a head-to-toe guide on how to write monsters and creatures in stories. As a lot of my constant readers know, I love to write, and it ended up being a very helpful book for the novel I’m working on. Everyone can think of at least one monster from classic fiction; creatures such as Frankenstein and zombies come to mind. Many writers have tried (and failed) to create the next great, popular monster, and this is a helpful guide to do exactly that. In this review, I’ll go into more detail, telling you things this book is good for, and some things you will learn about without spoiling it completely. You may be wondering what this has to do with animals, but what is and what isn’t a monster is in the eye of the beholder, just ask all those who read Cujo by Stephen King.

Useful Structural Features

There are a few features of this book that make it particularly appealing to anyone trying to create a good monster. For one, it had a ‘monster creation form’ at the front of it, that you can fill out as you go. This monster creation form is helpful for thinking about your own monster, and can answer some really difficult questions, or raise some that you hadn’t even thought of. I was having immense trouble creating my monster until I filled out this form. Another feature is that it has examples of monster creations from writers such as Frank Herbert and H.P. Lovecraft. “Learn from the best,” that’s what they say, and, in this book, you can do just that! Writing Monsters also has little side features about things such as monster archetypes, like the werewolf and the alien, and blurbs about monsters that exist in real life, like sharks. These features make the book more entertaining and thought-provoking for the reader.

Unique Perspective

This book also offers up a very interesting perspective. While it is indeed a non-fiction book about how to write, it isn’t all just writing facts, it also talks about what monsters and their creation really mean, and where, in our minds, monsters actually come from. There are a lot of spots in the book that will make you ponder about your monster and what it says about not only humanity, but you yourself. It’s funny to think about how some of our most well-known monsters reflect on humanity, not only in the story itself, but in real life. For example, I never thought about how Zombie books are more about the people and their response to them than it is about the Zombies themselves (although eating brains is pretty gnarly). Another example of monster movies saying something about humanity is the fact that there are lots of monster books and movies with monsters that are actually human, such as The Shining and Friday the 13th (not that I’ve seen any of those movies).

I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’re going old school with the photos.

Thought-Provoking Questions

Throughout the book, you are constantly bombarded with questions about what your creature is, what motivates them, and their abilities. It’s really thought provoking for a budding author to read because it makes you question what you are writing about. Some parts of the book tackle subjects that you may have not even thought about in your writing. For example, it helped me realize what my monster symbolized for my main character. (no spoilers, you are gonna have to read my book!) As expected, there are some parts that are run-of-the-mill writing advice classics, such as “show don’t tell”, and “use all the senses,” but, in the end, you come away with lots of new insights. In addition, the insights are not only about your characters and the monsters themselves, but what you want them to be, and what you want them to reflect about your story. You also get to think about what you want your readers to feel when they read your book — whether you want it to capture the specific reader’s darkest fears, or something broader that everyone can relate to being afraid of.

All in all, this is an excellent read, not only for entertainment, but if you’re searching for a good how-to guide for writing about monsters. If you want a link to buy the book, here’s that: Writing Monsters on Amazon. I haven’t been able to find any book like it. It is surely a good book, overall.

Zoe's review was originally published on Kids Animal Station blog and you can find it HERE. To follow Zoe's writing accomplishments, visit her blog regularly and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Important Things to Know About Self-Publishing–Part 2 … by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Part 1 of Laura's post was published on Friday, January 27th.

The Work Has To Be Competitive.

There’s a common refrain, heard around writers conferences and discussion forums, that runs something like, “If I can’t sell it traditionally, I’ll self-publish.” While there are some perfectly legitimate uses of this phrase, quite often it’s either meant or interpreted as, If the work isn’t good enough to sell traditionally, it can be self-published.

Well, it can. But it shouldn’t.

A self-published book should be indistinguishable from a traditionally-published book in quality, from cover to editing to layout. You know how you can spy the self-published book in a roomful of books for sale? That’s not good.

I will be among the first to say that self-published books can be just as amazing – or perhaps better, since they don’t have to be edited to a lowest-common-denominator committee – as any traditional book lineup. But the truth is, the off-cited tsunami of crap does exist, and we’ve no one to blame but ourselves.

The first time I made a piece of clothing, it wasn’t good enough to sell at a mall retailer. My early music lessons were in no way good enough to press an album. And my 5k time will never earn me a spot on the leaderboard. So why do we think early, developmental, or subpar writing should be published?

Imagine a boy, maybe 17, who isn’t sure he likes movies. He had to watch a few for school, stuff that never really caught his fancy and just didn’t connect with him because it was not his style or because the teacher made too much of the symbolism and camera angles and he hated writing the papers, but now he’s hearing from his friends that movies are really good. But he doesn’t want to drop $15 on a theater ticket to start, he’s going to try something cheaper first to see if it’s worth the investment, right? So he goes to Amazon Video to find a free or $2 flick. And he finds somebody’s basement-shot action wannabe with party-store costuming and bad sound obscuring the lame dialogue and whatever fight stunts their sixth-grade kid brother wanted to do before Mom got downstairs. (There are some… striking self-published movies on Amazon streaming video.)

Maybe that fledgling filmmaker will be the next Spielberg. But his current work isn’t impressive. And not only is he turning off his current audience (and setting up a hilarious retrospective to surprise him during his big talk show interview once he’s a household name), he’s probably just convinced our kid that movies really aren’t worth his time.

Okay, I know it’s hard to imagine anyone not familiar with movies in today’s society. But the truth is, a lot of people think they don’t like to read, because of bad school experiences or because reading was never valued in their family or whatever, and when they finally go to pick up a cheap book, they get something which just turns them off further.

Put out work which creates more addicted readers. Have a good critique group which constantly pushes you to be better. Make sure your stories are well-edited – both for structure and for grammar/typographical errors.

We Don’t Have to Be Competitive.

Look, we authors are not competing against each other. We’re really not. We’re competing against television and streaming movies and phone games.

No reader buys just one book a year; getting a reader hooked on another author just creates a bigger market for all of us. Promote other authors whose work your audience will also appreciate. But note that last phrase – I don’t promote just anyone I want to owe me a favor, I share stuff I think my readers will also enjoy. That does everyone good – other author gets a boost, my readers get something they like (they can’t spend all their time just waiting for my next release), and I gain a bit of additional reader trust so they’re more likely to stay with me. Pushing unrelated genres at readers will just confuse and annoy them. (And while I may or may not tell another author when I’m enthusing about their work, I never do it in anticipation of a favor owed. That’s not the point.)

I do several live book fairs a year, and I always if possible do a circuit before it starts to find out who is selling what. Then if I get someone at my table looking for something else – a Western romance, perhaps, or a middle grade adventure – I can point them directly to another author. They’re happy, the other writer is happy, the book fair organizers are happy, and I don’t have to deal with frustrated or disappointed shoppers. Everybody wins. (Well, except I didn’t make a sale – but then, I wasn’t going to, anyway, if they weren’t looking for what I sell.)

Help other authors with their writing craft and their marketing. (And just as important – take critique and advice professionally, not personally.) And remember, there isn’t really a divide between traditionally- and self-published authors. In fact, many of us are hybrids, doing both! It’s all about creating readers, not outselling the guy at the table or website next down from yours.

Enjoy it.

Okay, this is sixth in a list of five, but it’s true – self-publishing is more work than traditional publishing, but it’s also much less constrained and carries a great potential of fun. If you keep your eyes open and your hand to the plow, you can create an enjoyable career following your dreams.

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

Laura VanArendonk Baugh writes fantasy (epic, urban, and historical), mystery, and non-fiction. She enjoys helping other authors and will be teaching on writing craft and self-publishing with Ireland Writer Tours in August 2017. Find her at her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

All you need is #love … by Rainey Hall

All you need is #love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
Charles Schulz

How exciting. That time of year where I buy my own chocolate, and one exotic looking flower.

However, unlike my cousin who fancies a direct line to 1-800-SEXPERT, I am truly in love with a real man.

The MOST important definitions of romantic:

adjective

• stressing or appealing to the emotions or imagination

noun

someone who is not realistic or practical (ouch)
• a writer, musician, or artist…

I guess I’ve known my guy for almost 20 years now. We were introduced by a mutual friend.

But alas, he doesn’t really exist.

Estoy en amor con un hombre que no existe. Je suis en amour avec un homme qui n’existe pas. Jag är kär i en man som inte finns. No matter which syllable the accent is on, nothing changes.

Who is this tall, strong, stranger?

#Ranger. He’s “walking sex,” wears the best smelling cologne, great with electronics, and rich enough to buy Stephanie Plum a new car all the time. And yes, he’s concerned about Rex, Stephanie’s hamster becoming an orphan. Long live sensitivity! Plus, I always fall for a man in a uniform, even if said uniform consists of 1) a taut T-shirt worn over well-developed bicep and pec muscles, 2) black PDU (patrol duty uniform), and 3) guns. Real guns.

Oh sure, there’s Morelli and well, you know what they say about Italians. The down side to Morelli? His grandma is always giving people “the eye.” Frightening enough that I opt out on choosing him to love.

Anyway, thank you, Janet #Evanovich for the 23 fun reads in the #StephaniePlum series although you leave me with mere memories and rereads of Ranger.

Yeah, you figured right. I’ve moved on to other men.

Jack #Reacher. Even though he has no uniform, he used to wear one. Besides, Reacher can tell time without a watch or clock, lives by intuition and isn’t in a contest for the most materialistic possessions one man can collect. He’s a man’s man. And a woman’s man. My man.

Gabriel #Oak. I thought my imagination outdid itself when I read Hardy’s 1874 classic, Far from the Madding Crowd. Then I saw the 2015 movie version. BE. STILL. MY. HEART. Those eyes! That face! That voice! That honesty and humor. That…that manly, outdoorsy, confident way about him. Sheesh!

(Excuse me, I need to taste a pound or two of chocolate and get some fresh air, but mostly cool air. Or cold.)

Hey, sex sells.

Moving on...

Oh, the sensuous tension that writers like Diana #Gabaldon (thanks Judith) creates. OOOO!

Since Ranger and Gabriel are reruns now, I’ve decided to invent yet another gentleman. My own guy. But to do so, I plan on attending the Colorado Gold Conference (September 8-10, 2017) to learn a thing or two from Diana!

Come on, pleeeeease share the names on your list of fictional hotties.

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

A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

A special thanks to #LindaHoward wherever you are. I hope all your designs were built.

Upcoming/Deadlines RMFW Events

February 2017

March 2017

Voices in Your Head: How Audiobooks Can Improve Your Writing … by Richard Rieman

Do you hear voices in your head while writing? It can be a very good thing.

As a veteran audiobook narrator, I am always impressed when the writing just flows smoothly without choppiness or a staccato pattern.

Write Music

The late, great author and writing coach Gary Provost says reading your written words aloud will make you a better writer:

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words.

Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and

I create music. Music. The writing sings.

It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony.

I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with the energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So, write with a combination of short, medium and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.” *

Audiobooks Bring Your Words to Life

Good audiobook narrators are actors. They don’t just read the words aloud in a pleasant voice. They are giving different voices to the characters on each page.

The best writing helps the actors and avoids repetition. For example, the “he said, she said” scenario.

“He whispered, she fumed, he rasped, she commanded.”

The basic rules of music, including rhythm, tone, and volume apply.

Not every reader or audiobook narrator will hear your words in your head exactly as you wrote them. In fact, “but that’s not the way I wrote it” is a common reaction from authors when hearing a narrator’s interpretation. In almost every case, you don’t get to direct an audiobook or movie version of your manuscript. It is the actor’s interpretation – in the case of audiobooks, self-directed interpretation. That does not mean it’s wrong. It’s just different.

“I want to leave now.” Five words, four ways you can emphasize each word.

I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

You can read the sentence slowly or quickly, angrily or happily, whispered or shouted. The narrator interprets how to play the music based on the character, the scene, and the hints you have given in your text. Readers interpret your writing the same way, playing the words in their heads the way they hear them.

Audiobook narrators should prepare by pre-reading your entire book and taking notes on characters prior to giving each a voice. Are they from Georgia? Boston? Originally from New York City? Are they shy, angry, grizzled, outspoken, edgy? How old are they? I create short sample audio files of each voice, so I can be consistent if a character appears in Chapter 2 and returns in Chapter 18. It’s a terrible feeling when you reach Chapter 20 and find out Johnny has an Irish accent!

Writing with Performance in Mind

Not surprisingly, the easiest books to turn into audiobooks are those written when the author had a screenplay or movie in mind.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Social Network, Steve Jobs) told a writing Master Class I attended, “I’m not writing something that’s meant to be read; I’m writing something that’s meant to be performed. Just having written a screenplay is no more satisfying to me than if a songwriter handed out pieces of sheet music.”

Sorkin says it’s the difference between painting and a photograph. You are not just describing a scene, you are creating it, bringing it to life, letting it flow in both the dialogue and the surroundings. “Writing is painting,’ he says, “not photography.”

Writing with Audiobooks in Mind

Thinking of an audiobook performance can help your writing if you have well drawn, believable key characters. Paint them as real people with likes and dislikes. Give them dialog that makes them authentic, saying things real people say. Make them active, moving the story along. Don’t fall into the “this happened, then that happened, then that other thing happened” writing trap. It’s how the characters feel, how they are affected by events, that makes them more real, and makes your readers care about them.

So, pay attention to those voices in your head when you are writing your next novel and you may find yourself creating music, painting a picture, and telling a story that will be a great audiobook!

*Reprinted with permission from Gary Provost’s “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing"

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RMFW member Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of “The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation,” Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

The 2017 I-WOTY & WOTY Nominations! … by Lisa Manifold and L.S. Hawker

Hello Members! Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers has opened up their selection committees for the Writers of the Year nominations. The WOTY will be open to those traditionally published, and the I-WOTY will be for those independently published.

If you are a member of PAL or IPAL, and you published in 2016, please check out the website HERE and look for the guidelines and entry forms. If you know an RMFW member who would be great for this, but not enter themselves, you are welcome to enter them for consideration.

We will be accepting entries from February 3 through March 11 at 12:00 am

How the work is judged:
Each work is reviewed a couple of times before three finalists for each recognition are selected. After you have submitted your work, a quick review is made to be sure you’ve entered for the appropriate Selection Committee. As all basics have been checked, your application will be forwarded to a panel of judges. Each judge on the panel is responsible for reviewing your application and reading a couple of sample chapters from the work you submit. Every entry will receive approximately one hour of evaluation by each judge (for a minimum of five hours of review on your work). The judges will score all of the works and candidates to determine who they think represent the best in RMFW writing.

In March, the Selection Committees will meet and determine the three finalists for each award. These judges have several years’ experience writing and working with RMFW writers, and are well-qualified volunteers who want the best for not only RMFW as a whole, but all of the individual members. Still, only three finalists are allowed for each recognition, so please remember that whether or not your name is selected this is not a reflection on you or your talent as much as it is an effort to find an author to best represent the writing values of our organization. It’s a challenge to narrow down the finalists to only three with the quality of writers found in our organization.

Starting soon after April 30th open voting begins among the finalists. This is your opportunity as a member to voice your opinions on who our WOTY and I-WOTY should be. We try to give everyone plenty of time (and reminders) to select the two writers they think should be recognized as RMFW’s Writer and Independent Writer of the Year. Voting lasts until late April.

The Summer Party
Each summer RMFW gets together for our summer party, and part of that celebration includes the announcement of recognition for our Writers of the Year. There will be announcements for this event in our news emails, on our blog, and on the Yahoo groups set up for RMFW members. Keep an eye out and be sure to join us.

WOTY & I-WOTY Panel
One of the highlights of the WOTY & I-WOTY selections is the chance to visit with all of our finalists at the Tattered Cover bookstore. This annual event also marks the start of the Colorado Gold celebrations and is a fun evening of interviews, prizes, and a chance to socialize with your writing tribe.

If you’re thinking of entering your work for consideration, that’s a sign. You should! We are looking forward to seeing your applications!

To find out more about the elibility requirements, please visit the website for more information.

Lisa Manifold
LS Hawker
IPAL & PAL Chairs

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Lisa Manifold is a fantasy and romance writer living in Colorado. She wrangles kids and dogs when not glued into her office chair. The author of the Sisters of the Curse series, the Heart of the Djinn series, the Realm series, and the new Aumahnee series launched in 2017, Lisa is the RMFW IPAL Chair. She was also extraordinarily humbled to be selected as the 2016 Indie Writer of the Year.

LS Hawker is the author of the thrillers THE DROWNING GAME, BODY AND BONE, and END OF THE ROAD, published by HarperCollins Witness Impulse. THE DROWNING GAME is a USA Today bestseller and finalist in the ITW Thriller Awards in the Best First Novel category.

Visit LSHawker.com to view her book trailers, listen to her podcast with daughter Chloe, The Lively Grind Cafe, and read about her adventures as a cocktail waitress, traveling Kmart portrait photographer, and witness to basement exorcisms.

Not Yet … by Rebecca Hopkins

Her head covering was purple and she’s from an ancient Indonesian Muslim ethnic group. My pants were stained with ink marks and I’m American, now living in Indonesia. She’s pursuing journalism. Fiction writing for me.

We were two writers sitting next to each other in the airport as we both waited for our connections to different Borneo towns. We’d just been to the same Asia-wide writer’s conference in Bali. We both clutched books we’d bought from real-live published authors, both holding onto writing dreams. We mirrored that familiar mixture of desperation, inspiration and hope on both of our faces as we chatted.

“Where do you work?” I asked. “A newspaper? Magazine?”

“Not yet.”

I nodded. I’ve heard this answer hundreds of times since moving to Indonesia 11 years ago. Married? “Not yet.” Have kids? “Not yet.”

It’s the only right answer to these very specific culturally appropriate small-talk questions. Marriage and family are so important in this traditional culture that no one I’ve ever met here chooses a hard, definite “no.” In other words, “not yet” is an entirely acceptable place to be when life isn’t (yet) as they hope it to be.

We understand this as writers. None of us are choosing that hard “no.” We aren’t choosing to never write again (though I’ve pondered it a time or two when in the query trenches). We don’t choose not to get published (though the odds , at times, seem slim). We don’t want to write only for ourselves, (preferring instead to keep the hope alive for the special connection with a reader will someday happen).

photo credit: Wirasathya Darmaja from Ubud Fiction Writers Readers Festival

Our dream usually lies—very acceptably —in that “not yet.” As in, not yet settled on the right idea, but still exploring and researching for just the perfect gems that will bring the idea to life. Not yet done with the plot line or the character arc but hitting the computer keys at 5 a.m. every day to watch/force/hope for it to unfold. Not yet done rewriting, but still plodding along, shining those drab first-draft words into magical prose. Not yet got this whole writer’s life figured out, but still tweaking schedules, reading books, reaching out to others who are a little further down the writer’s track than us, balancing other important aspects of life like family and work.

And maybe…not yet published, but determined to keep querying, keep writing, keep learning, keep trying.

We write and live and connect and survive and struggle and rant and fight and create and delight and delete entire chapters and sometimes get our hearts broken and then open our documents the next day to begin to heal again. All in the “not yet.”

My flight was called, and the “not yet” journalist and I exchanged contact information, determined to keep in touch to cheer each other on toward our “not yet” but now a little more revived writing goals. Join us?

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Rebecca Hopkins writes novels about a world of ancient jungle tribes, sea-dwelling gypsies and isolated Balinese hand signing villages. It’s a world she’s trying to make her own—Indonesia. She’s lived in Indonesia with her relief pilot husband and three kids for eleven years.

Read more about her writing and life in Indonesia at www.rebeccahopkins.org. Rebecca can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.