Guest K. Ferrin: The Hardest Thing You’ll Ever Do

I was about nine years old when I wrote my first story. I was very excited about the assignment, I loved writing even then. But what I remember most clearly is the lightning strike of inspiration I got when the story idea popped into my mind. It seemed to come straight out of the aether - some gypsy-voodoo-black-magic that I’d somehow managed to get on me or to step in. It felt as if it had come from out there, rather than from inside of me. From that instant I was hooked, I wanted to write novels.

Like many authors, I continued to write over the years. Also like many authors, I never finished a novel. I wrote while I rode the wave of inspiration but when inspiration abandoned me I abandoned the story. For decades I left villains at their peak, deserted heroes at their point of greatest weakness, relinquished half written stories to the shadowy depths of my hard drive.

Somewhere after that first lightning flash of inspiration I’d picked up the habit of seeing writing itself as gypsy-voodoo-black-magic that came from out there. And if it came from “out there” that meant I had no control over it. If the muse stopped weaving her magic what could a mere mortal do about it?

This sort of thinking infected me in all sorts of ways. When I was nine I wanted to be a writer. By the time I started college I’d given up writing and wanted to be a biologist or chemist. I left college with a BS in Criminal Justice (pre-law) and by the time I started working in my first “real job” it was in technology.

Meandering paths are not uncommon when we’re young, but what might not be so obvious is that, for me at least, the spaces between those bullet points were because the shiny rubbed off. Things got hard and I sometimes lost my motivation. There was no magic, and there should always be magic… right?

So instead of working hard for what I wanted most, I spent my time working a little for what came easiest. It was easy to blame the fickle muse for this. To hide the path of least resistance within the guise of magic-from-the-aether. To claim I was an artist following the path of inspiration. But eventually I started to wonder about this muse of mine. What kind of sick bitch was she to start me down one path only to yank the rug from under me and send me careening off in some new direction?

Now, to be clear, we should follow our inspirations. Inspiration is an expression of our intuition, it tells us where our passion lies, where our talents reside. But believing that people accomplish things because they’re gifted with gypsy-voodoo-black-magic is a mistake. The truth is that finishing stuff is hard no matter who you are. And it takes a lot more than inspiration to carry things through to the end. The truth is, finishing is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Inspiration is designed for the start. Sweat, dedication, and courage are designed for the finish. I’d lived my life waiting for the magic. I’d made the mistake of believing all I needed was that magic and I’d forgotten all about sweat part.

But the actual writing part, the doing, is sweat and courage. It’s showing up every single day no matter where your muse is. Some days, the magical ones, words flow like warmed honey. Other days it feels like you’re crawling across a mile of used needles, bloody hospital scalpels and poo.

You see, finishing has nothing to do with inspiration and has everything to do with hard work and the courage to keep to your path. It’s refusing to give in to the blank looks you get from people when you tell them you’re a writer, it’s continuing with your efforts even when you see no results. It’s not glamorous. It’s actually quite ugly. It often involves crying. There’s almost always blood. But after all of that, at the end of the day, when you have finished, it is pure magic.

 

GetAttachmentK. Ferrin started writing fantasy just after learning her ABCs and has never looked back. Magicless, a young adult fantasy novel, was published in 2014. Across the Darkling Sea, book one of her Ling trilogy, will be available in April of 2016. She lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two dogs, and a relentless craving for pie.

W is for Writer

“What’s a writer like you doing in a place like this?” The white rabbit asked.

“Somebody told me this is the road that leads to publication.”

“Really? How long have you been on it?”

“Couple of lifetimes.”

“Oh dear.  Any luck yet?” Said the rabbit, his eyes gleaming with curiosity.

“Not so far. And once I find the son-of-a-bitch that talked me into to this, I’m gonna…”

“Whoops! Gotta go. I see my agent is calling me. Looks like we’ve got an offer. It’s been nice talking to you.”

And with that the Rabbit of Publication disappeared down the rabbit hole.

That about sums it up, doesn’t it?  A writer lost in the magical world of thinking, “If I only do this, say that, write this, follow this road, I’ll be published.”  And now the traveler having been on this road for a couple of lifetimes is weary, cynical and angry.  But reading between the lines, we also see the traveler is still on the road. They didn’t say they were getting off it.

Such has been my path to fictional publication. It seems to elude me, tease me. It builds up my hopes only to smack them down again.

Three years ago I attended my first writer’s conference. Colorado Gold they called it.

I stepped onto the golden road as a newbie. My newbie nametag was so shiny and bright it could be seen blazing in the hallways. Filled with the encouragement of my mentor and friend, I knew I was in my right place. This was the place where books, stories, novels and legends were created. I was simply happy to be there.

Everyone was so nice to me. People came out of the woodwork to greet me, show me around, answer my questions. I was home. And I was armed with an idea, and several thousand words on the page of which I was going to pitch to agent. Not only was it my first conference, it was my first pitch too. I just knew I was going to be wildly successful. Sound familiar? Ah the bliss of naiveté!

The pitch was successful. To a point. The word count was too short. Tighten it up, extend it and get back to me. Sure. No problem. I can do that!

Three years later I’m still searching for that elusive “Yes, we would love to publish your novel.” I’ve cried, torn up my office, thrown things and tried to convince myself this is dumbest, stupidest quest we’ve ever set our feet upon.

But something else has happened too. I’ve continued to attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. My world of friends and knowledge has expanded exponentially. I’ve continued to have success as a non-fiction writer. And I’ve learned tools and skills to help me keep going.

For those things alone the journey has been worth it. I’m in for the long haul, as long as I can stop chasing white rabbits.

 

GetAttachment

Najah Lightfoot is a contributing author for Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing. Her non-fiction articles appear in their Magical Almanac, Witches’ Companion and Spell-A-Day series.

When she is not busy crafting articles for Llewellyn, she is busy polishing her fictional stories and manuscripts, hoping they will someday find their forever home. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and lives in Denver, Colorado.

The Absolute, Total, No Doubt about It, Guide to Writing … by Richard Keller

Rich-KellerTake a look at the Internet – without stopping for cute puppy videos – and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of blog posts and news items labeling themselves as the be-all, end-all guides to writing. Compare them to each other and I bet you’ll find large similarities between them all. There’s a finite amount of material these people provide, and most of it comes from sites other people have put together from other people on the web have put together that –. Well, you see what I mean.

Now come back here, because I have tremendous news. I am now going to provide the absolute, total, no-doubt-about-it guide to writing. Regardless if you’re a seasoned author or someone sharpening the last pencil in their vast collection, the following is the definitive guide to become a galactically-successful author. You no longer need to go to any other site for writing advice.

1. Don’t write what you know. Let me clarify. You can write what you know if you’re a space alien ready to invade Earth, a superhero, or a super spy with a whole bunch of cool gadgets. You can also write what you know if you’re a musician/actor/artist who had a horrible childhood, gained humongous success, burned out on drugs, got clean, burned out again, got clean again, found God, and was probed by aliens. Should you be someone who’s greatest achievement is getting free premium channels when you didn’t pay for them, think about writing about space aliens, or a superhero, or –.

2. Be a snoop. Do you know how Weird Al Yankovic came up with the hit parody “Like a Surgeon?” He heard Madonna had asked her friend when Weird Al would parody “Like a Virgin” with “Like a Surgeon.” You know how J.K. Rowling came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series? She watched wizards and witches run through a column on Platform 9 of Kings Cross Station. Authors need to have their eyes and ears open at all times in order to absorb a potential story idea. Just don’t put together a book of stories inspired by overheard conversations at the coffee shop. I have that gig in the bag.

3. Admit Writer’s Block is just an excuse to watch Real Housewives. Please, you’re a creative talent! Story ideas and words should be flowing through your mind from the time you wake up to the time you to bed. And, as long as strange inner voices aren’t interrupting those ideas and words, there’s no limit to what you can put down on paper. Can’t think of the next chapter for your manuscript, switch to a short story, a poem, or a letter to Bravo asking them to start a Real Housewives of Hoboken series.

4. Copy current trends. Let’s see … that means you should imitate the following themes: dystopian futures; apocalyptic futures; dystopian, apocalyptic futures; teen angst; dystopian teen angst; apocalyptic teen angst; dystopian, apocalyptic teen angst; futuristic, dystopian, apocalyptic teen angst; and cookbooks.

Finally,

5. Well, maybe you should go to other sites.

A version of this post was first published on Patricia Stoltey's blog in November 2014.

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

New Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers member Richard Keller is the founder of Wooden Pants Publishing and the Associate Director of Northern Colorado Writers. Richard has written over two thousand articles over the last three decades for various media outlets, including USA Today, RM Parent, Fort Collins Magazine, BellaSpark, The Coloradoan, and AOL TV. Richard resides in Northern Colorado with his wife and five children. In his spare time, Richard likes to read, travel, perform Improv, and sleep in a sensory deprivation chamber to get at least one minute of peace.

To learn more about Richard and his publishing company, visit the Wooden Pants Publishing website. He can also be found on Facebook.

Romance – my addiction of choice … by Desiree Holt

DesireeHolt200x263Okay, okay, so I’m a sucker for a happy ending. But here’s how I look at it. Every day there is so much pain and misery in the world, not to mention the problems we face dealing with everyday life. When I curl up with a book, I want to know that the ending will be happy and satisfying and the hero and heroine will end up together. Oh, their road to happiness will certainly be filled with rocks and thorns. Where’s the fun in having them meet, fall in love and just trot off into the sunset? And who’d believe it , anyway?

Because romance, for all that it’s fantasy, also has to be grounded in reality. The readers I know who love romance want to change places with the heroine. They want to meet the hero, flawed though he may be, and be the woman he falls in love with. They want to be tall, short, thin, curvy, blonde, brunette, redhead—something they are not in real life. Because even in the happiest and most fulfilling relationships, there is always the desire to dream and fantasize. Romance gives women that opportunity.

I didn’t come to the romance genre at once, though. I thought I would write mysteries, because that’s what I read growing up. But when I finally sat down to write that first book, I could not get past chapter three. Then I read my first romantic suspense and I thought, This is what I am going to write. I wrote that first book in an effort to create my own hero like the one I’d fallen in love with—dark, dangerous, self-controlled except in bed. A bad boy who did good. And so sexy I wanted to find a way to bring him to life.

It certainly wasn’t all skittles and beer after that, though. There were far fewer opportunities to “break the barrier,” so to speak, then there are now. Self publishing wasn’t even on anyone’s horizon. But I plugged away at it (totally necessary) and eventually got my first break. Others followed. And as my backlist grew along with my readership,. I discovered I could spread my wings and test other subgenres.

Maybe it was my age. I was seventy years old when my first book was published, arriving at a time in life where I didn’t feel constrained to be bound by strict rules. I read two romances about wolf shifters and fell in love with the genre. Five series have been born of that. I love the wolf. I think he is a magnificent, romantic animal so writing about wolf shifters was easy for me.

2015_Holt_DH_RawEdgeofDanger_KindleI enjoy action adventure movies and television, and read thrillers by several authors, so it was natural for me to say, okay, let’s try that subgenre. And what fun that turned out to be. No one told me I couldn’t do it, because by then the marketplace had changed drastically. I loved creating those darkly adventurous men who jumped out of helicopters, fought terrorists and took down the bad guys. And of course, were incredible lovers. As a writer I was free to let my imagination run wild and I did, drawing with words the kind of heroes I wanted to drag into my house and lock the doors!

Then I got a little more adventurous, and created heroines I wanted to be myself. They practiced at gun ranges, were crack shots, could take down criminals without blinking an eye. And were rewarded with a romance that sizzled their toes.

It has been and continues to be such fun letting my imagination run wild. As I said before, you reach an age where you ignore restrictions and create in the pages of your stories the kind of life experiences you’d like for yourself. And romance is really the only genre where you can do this unfettered.

I’ve met a lot of people on my journey. I should probably dig out my tee shirt that says, Careful or you’ll end up in my next book. Because that happens so often. I meet interesting or good looking people and immediately start creating a story line for them.

But let’s complete the circle and get back to romance. In a romance story you can push the boundaries, give your imagination free rein, write scenes that your readers can live vicariously. As you get older, it becomes so much easier to do that. To “cast off the bonds of restriction.” To write yourself into a story, playing out your fantasy.

Do you have a story in your head? A character you’d love to create? Or meet? Then sit down and put your fingers on your keyboard. Let your imagination flow and go wild. I promise the end result will be worth it.

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

Known as the oldest living author of erotic romance, Desiree Holt has produced more than two hundred titles in nearly every subgenre of romance fiction. Her stories are enriched by her personal experiences, her characters by the people she meets. After fifteen years in the great state of Texas, she relocated back to Florida to be closer to members of her family and a large collection of friends. Her favorite pastimes are watching football, reading, and researching her stories.

Learn more about Desiree and her novels at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook and her Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

Note from Desiree: I will pick one commenter at random (using random.org) to receive a $25.00 Amazon.com gift card. This giveaway is open to anyone anywhere, but please post your comment by midnight U.S. Mountain Time on Thursday, December 17th.

The Power of Communal Marketing … by Mari Christie

2015_Mariana GabrielleA year ago, I released my first Regency romance as an indie author, Royal Regard, under the pen name Mariana Gabrielle. Two days ago, one of my books was mentioned in USA Today, a box set that has been on the Amazon Hot New Release and Bestsellers lists for three months, and today, my newest book, a perma-free novella, hit the Amazon lists for the first time.

So, does this mean I am “successful”?

At the risk of breaking the secret author code, let me jump into the numbers a bit. I have increased my income this month—from $1/day to $6/day—though one never knows when such a drastic change will occur or how long it will hold true. As of August, I had been pretty consistently selling an average of half a book a day for months, with occasional rises for new releases and sales. For the past three months, I am averaging three hundred downloads a day (though the royalties do not accrue to me), and I have momentum, which, to me, feels meteoric. I don’t have an agent or publisher or virtual assistant, but somehow, I have managed to claw my way onto the very first rung of the ladder to becoming a HistRom lower-mid-lister. A milestone, by the by, that doesn’t even remotely come with a paycheck yet.

At this rate, after all the promo copies and contests and swag, and box set royalties to charity, I won’t break even financially for another 100 years—1000 years, if you think I should be paid for my time, too.

Bluestocking Belles logo-02But still, ‘tis the season for gratitude and celebration! So, I decided to reflect on how I got here in a year. There are a couple of primary factors, foremost the holiday box set featured in the USA Today column, which was predicated on the best marketing decision I have made thus far—creating the Bluestocking Belles.

To be clear, I have been a marketing and promotions professional since pre-Internet days, but the “E-Book Marketing Milieu” is really a whole new world for me, often highly uncomfortable. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and I have been a co- and cross-promotion proponent for years. When I saw Mark Coker’s general advice, about a year ago, in a spectacular Smashwords blog post on the future of the industry, a few things really resonated: “Take the long view. Network with fellow indies. Take risks, experiment, and fail often. Publish multi-author box set collaborations. Dream big dreams. Celebrate your fellow authors’ success.”

As members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, of course, we believe in the power of writers banding together to advance ourselves and our industry, but this article made me wonder, as a long-time co-promoter, whether it might it work in a more targeted, individualized, sales-focused way, even in the Amazonian jungle of a marketplace? These ideas coalesced into a general online call to other historical romance authors interested in long-term co- and cross-promotion. After talking to a couple dozen writers over the space of a couple of months, eight of us finally committed to a long-term group plan and officially launched The Bluestocking Belles in March 2015. I have no compunction in suggesting that we are the hardest working Regency writers online, busting our tails to entertain our readers.

And it has paid off nine months later, to the tune of 300+ $0.99 downloads per day of our box set (guesstimating about 9,000 total by the time this blog posts), with the 35% royalty going to the Malala Fund. With another three months left in this sales cycle, we have already raised more than $3,500 for charity via royalties and direct fundraising, far more than I could have raised alone. And as far as sales of my income-generating books, my perpetual half-a-book-a-day is currently three books a day. (Meteoric, I say!)

To be sure, the success of the box set was also predicated on many hours of work the Belles have put in on other projects, establishing ourselves as a brand in the historical romance marketplace.

On top of our own individual marketing efforts—blogs, websites, social media pages, etc. —common to all of the Bluestocking Belles, managed by various individuals and committees, we have a website; an excerpt book; a twice-weekly Regency “gossip rag,” the Teatime Tattler; Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages; a monthly book discussion group; a quarterly newsletter; constant online events, an impromptu storytelling group on Facebook, the Bluestocking Bookshop; and a very active street team with its own, secret web page.

2015_Gabrielle_booksThis “communal marketing” concept is not a game for the faint of heart, but it has, in the main, been working.

  •  Our first box set, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, has spent three months in multiple Top 20 Amazon Hot New Releases and Bestseller lists, in Regency Romance and Holiday Fiction, earning thousands for the Malala Fund and many new readers for the Belles’ books.
  •  Our excerpt book, The Bluestocking Belles’ Guide to a Good Time, which we use as both promo tool, street team gift, and prize, features more than fifty pages of games, puzzles, riddles, and historical romance excerpts, available as a free PDF download or bound as a fundraiser for the Malala Fund.
  •  All of the Belles (even “Bluestocking Belles,” with its own Author Central page) have, at some point or another, now seen an author ranking in the Top 100 of Amazon Historical Romance writers.
  •  All of us are seeing increased sales to varying degrees.
  •  Our monthly book discussion group and guest spots on the Teatime Tattler have attracted appearances by multiple USA Today and New York Times Bestselling HistRom authors, like Grace Burrowes, Ava Stone, and Lucinda Brant.
  •  Our street team members are recommending and sharing Belles’ books and posts regularly and automatically, and are steadily reading their way through our 34 (and counting) books and writing reviews.
  •  Our books appear next to each other regularly in “Also Bought” and “You Might be Interested in” on retailer sites.
  •  We have a central “swag depot,” where one Belle acts as “swag queen” and postmistress general, making sure our contest winners get everyone’s materials.
  •  We all now have a physical presence at personal events and appearances we couldn’t otherwise attend. My coupons will be at a table at the Wairarapa Book Fair in New Zealand next week, and our Belle in Dubai can give out signed excerpt books at the RWA convention without lifting a finger.
  •  We have a communal marketing budget, an attitude of sharing when it comes to ideas and opportunities, and an inherent circle of support when it is needed.

The process of uniting into a functional group was not without its growing pains (still) and it has required a stalwart bunch, with reliable senses of humor, broad and complementary skill sets, and a lot of communal wisdom, but if I had to start over as an indie tomorrow, and I could only choose to bring one of my marketing tools with me, there is no doubt, it would be my Belles.

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

Mariana Gabrielle is a pen name for Mari Christie, who is not romantic—at all. Therefore, her starry-eyed alter ego lives vicariously through characters who believe in their own happy-ever-afters. And believe they must, as Mariana loves her heroes and heroines, but truly dotes on her villains, and all bring hearts bruised, broken, and scarred long before they reach the pages of her books.

She is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience, and a member of the Bluestocking Belles, the Writing Wenches, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She has released four Regency romances, Royal Regard, Shipmate, ’Tis Her Season, and La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, and will soon release a mainstream historical, Blind Tribute.

You can learn more about Mari and her books at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, on her Amazon Author Page, and Goodreads.

About the Belles

The Bluestocking Belles' books carry you into the past for your happy-ever-after. When you have turned the last page of our novels and novellas, keep up with us (and other historical romance authors) in the Teatime Tattler, a Regency scandal sheet, and join in with the characters you love for impromptu storytelling in the Bluestocking Bookshop on Facebook. Also, look for online games and contests and monthly book chats, and find us at BellesInBlue on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Come visit Amy Rose Bennett, Susana Ellis, Sherry Ewing, Mariana Gabrielle, Jude Knight, Vanessa Riley, Caroline Warfield, and Nicole Zoltack at www.BluestockingBelles.com and kick up your bluestockinged heels!

You will find the Bluestocking Belles’ fundraising campaign for the Malala Fund at www.classy.org/BluestockingBelles.

Words of Warning …. by Kay Bergstrom

Kay BergstromThere are no bad words...only bad writers.

Some words, however, set off warning alarms, signaling that the writer is venturing toward a danger zone and should back away slowly. Before you use these words (if you must) be aware of what you’re doing.

Here are a few examples:

Suddenly: The word is okay to use in children’s books because children’s books are limited in word length. The author doesn’t have time for motivation, transition and goal. “Suddenly, I came upon a dragon” is perfectly fine. In fiction targeted at grown-ups, “suddenly” might indicate that the writer hasn’t made a transition. Where did the dragon come from? How did you find it? Or “suddenly” could show a lack of motivation. What does it mean to find a dragon?

Almost: Catalogued with almost are: nearly, kind of, sort of, a little bit, and so on. Check these qualifiers. You’ll almost always (sorry, it got by me) find a stronger way to say what you want. “A little bit of scotch” becomes “two fingers of scotch.” “Almost afraid” becomes “afraid.” “Kind of greenish-blue” becomes “jade and teal.” Almost isn’t accurate, i.e., almost pregnant.

Very: Consider the same warning as almost but in the opposite direction. A “very large kitchen” becomes “a kitchen as big as a basketball court.” There are times when “very” is accurate. As any mother who has been even a few days overdue will tell you that there is a state of “very pregnant.”

Laugh: The phrase “we laughed” doesn’t make the reader want to laugh. We laughed so hard that we all fell down and peed our pants is worse. Pointing out humor doesn’t make it funny. As writers, we have accept the fact that much of our cleverness and wit will go unnoticed by the reader.

Smile: Imagine the variety of emotions Meryl Streep can convey with a smile. She could be sad or loving or menacing or nervous or angry, etcetera. And the observer would understand because he could see her face and hear her tone of voice. Alas, as writers we don’t have a Streep to illustrate what kind of smile is being given. There are many words to describe facial expression. Pick one that more clearly indicates what the character is feeling.

Walk: While we’re on the topic of finding the best word to suit the action, “walk” is a warning word. Whenever I use “walk,” I visit Ms. Thesaurus to look for something better: sashay, stride, shuffle, dance, leap, bound, skip. Each of those words conveys an image that plain old “walk” doesn’t show.

Exclaimed: It’s hard to think of a situation when “exclaimed” isn’t redundant. Use an exclamation point! I have two digressions here. 1) There’s nothing wrong with exclamation points as long as they aren’t popping up on every page. 2) In dialogue tags, using “said” doesn’t become redundant. Similar to a script where each piece of dialogue is labeled, “said” disappears.

Phat and other cute slang: Slang that’s current now is dated in a couple of years. I’ve never thought of my books as something that would be read years from now, and so I have been known to indulge in slang. At times, I threw around “dude” like Wayne’s World. The joke is on me. My first book was pubbed in 1984 and is available as an e-book.

“Ah jist knows dat’s de bestest.” Dialect should be used very gently. Consider whether you want the reader to stumble.

F-Bombs and all their x-rated friends: I love the f-bomb and use it frequently in first drafts to convey down and dirty rage. In final draft, the profanity usually comes out. There are too many readers that get pulled out of the story by cursing.

Not a car: If you’re writing anything set in Colorado, your character will probably be in a vehicle. Be careful not to identify the character as the car. “I made a U-turn” isn’t accurate. The car turned, you didn’t. Nit-picking, but why not?

Feel: As a writer of romance and suspense, my characters are feeling all the time. They’re scared, sexy, courageous, seductive, outraged and hurt. Whenever I use “feel” (guilty admission: yes, I use it), I stop and think about another way to say how the character feels. Better yet, I need a better way to show how they feel. Is it worth a scene to show? Where did the feeling come from? Do I need a flashback?

It: Not the Stephen King novel. Each and every time you use “it,” you’re missing a chance to say something more descriptive. Unfortunately, “it” is one of those necessary words that can’t be totally avoided. “It” is always there, like Pennywise the Evil Clown. When you see “it” on the page, let it be a warning to you. There might be a better way.

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

Kay Bergstrom (aka Cassie Miles) is the author of 79 novels of romance and suspense, has been on the USA TODAY Best-seller list and has twice been RMFW’s Writer of the Year. Her next book, Colorado Wildfire, will be available in January 2016.

Kay is starting a developmental editing service. Contact her at: kaybergstrom (at) hotmail (dot) com

Friends Writers Need and When to Shut Them Out … by Margaret Mizushima

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” ~Picasso

Margaret MizushimaWhen I was a kid growing up on a cattle ranch in the panhandle of Texas, I had a tumbleweed for a friend. Seriously. Miles from the nearest neighbors and school, our home was surrounded by thousands of acres of natural buffalo grass, cattle, and yes—weeds. To keep my tumbleweed from blowing away in the never-ending wind that swept the plains, I tied it to our back porch with a piece of yarn.

My mother negotiated a deal with the public librarian in our closest town: we could check out all the books we wanted as long as we brought them back each month when we made the trek into town for groceries. So, while friends were sparse during those days, my inner life became rich and fanciful. (How else could a child enjoy the companionship of a tumbleweed?) My parents and teachers often called me to task for daydreaming. Little did they know that I was a young writer in training.

Writing is a lonely business, but that loneliness can be countered with the right friends. (And many of these friends should be people.) Find fans—or at least one—who love what you write; mine are my adult daughters. Fans don’t have to be writers, but it’s helpful if they love to read, and it’s best if they like to read in your genre. The fan role is to encourage you along the way, cheering you on when you want to give up. They read your work, tell you they love it, and then answer your specific questions about characters, plot, and scenes to tell you how they think it could be improved. After a fruitful visit with these friends, you need to return to the solitude of your writing space and revise.

Mizushima_Killing TrailThen take your work to another group of valuable friends: your critique group. This group of friends must be made up of writers. They will give honest feedback on the work; pick apart grammar, plot, and character development; scribble “show, don’t tell” in the margins; and sometimes leave you wondering why you ever attempted to write in the first place. But what’s most important is that these friends will help you improve your writing.

Showing your work to your friends requires that you have written something. It means we writers need to shut out our friends and abandon our tumbleweeds on the porch so we can enter the solitude we need to complete the serious work referred to by Picasso. Most of us don’t have the luxury of an office or studio to write in. We eke out a creative space in the back bedroom, den, or basement. Some people have an extraordinary power of concentration and can write in coffee shops or while sitting with family in front of the television. I once saw a seasoned writer sit in the hallway at a writing conference for hours, surrounded by people, tapping away at a keyboard. (No, I didn’t stay to watch him; I merely observed him every time I came out of a session.) I admire that type of focus, but I don’t have it. I write in the back bedroom at a desk surrounded by photos of friends and family, motivational greeting cards, and inspirational sculpture and posters. I light candles made by my daughter before beginning my writing sessions.

So it’s okay to embrace your tumbleweed, but beware the prickles. It can be fun—dare I say great fun—for writers to mingle with friends in coffee shops, in online chat rooms, or on social media talking about their characters and ideas for all the wonderful books they’re going to write. But at the end of the day—or better yet for me, at the beginning—we must write! We must be alone to create our masterpiece. Fight for your own space within the house; hang up that sign that reads, “Do not enter—murder and mayhem reign behind this door.” Balance friends and fun with the solitude of work, and do the work until you finish. You’ll be glad you did.

Who are your writing friends? Where is your creative space, and why is it perfect for you?

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

Margaret Mizushima is the author of Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery to be released December 8, 2015 by Crooked Lane Books. After earning a master’s degree in speech pathology, Margaret practiced in a hospital and her own rehabilitation agency, and now she assists her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. Her short story “Hay Hook” was published in the 2014 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology Crossing Colfax. She enjoys reading and hiking and lives in Colorado on a small farm where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website.

Guest Post by Piper Bayard: Little Darlings Anonymous

I’m Piper Bayard, and I’m a Little Darling Addict.

Hi, Piper. Welcome.

Thank you. It was hard to come here today, so I knew I needed this meeting.

I’m back at Step One. I am powerless over my imaginary friends, and my manuscript has become unmanageable.

My editor called and asked me for my draft. I told her, “It’s not ready.” The truth is that I’m not ready. I’m not ready to part with my Little Darlings.

We know what they are. They are 68 out of 75 main characters. They are detailed scenes designed to show off our expertise. They are the cool one liners we saw on Twitter and worked into our dialogue, even though our characters would never talk like that.

*sniff* *reaches for tissue*

And they are the entire scenes and sections of our manuscripts that we love most, but that serve nothing to move the plot . . . Our Little Darlings. Our babies.

While writing is an art, publishing is a business. We give birth to our babies, but most of us don’t try to sell them on Amazon. That’s reserved for the products of our business.

And so I come here to these rooms to stay honest. I know that I owe it to my readers and to myself to rise above my ego and let the editing begin.

Thank you for your support.

 

12 Steps of Little Darlings Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our imaginary friends, and that our Works In Progress had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that an Editor greater than ourselves could restore our prose to sanity.
  3. We made the decision to turn our will and our manuscripts over to our Editors, whoever we understand them to be.
  4. We made a searching and fearless critical inventory of all of our Little Darlings.
  5. We admitted to our Editors, to ourselves, and to our beta readers the exact nature of our self-indulgences.
  6. We became entirely ready to have our Editors remove all the Little Darlings from our Works In Progress.
  7. We humbly asked our Editors to mercilessly slaughter all of our Little Darlings when we had not the strength.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had subjected to our original manuscripts and became willing to make amends to all of them who had not hung themselves by page fifty.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would cause them to injure themselves or others at the mere memory of our manuscripts.
  10. We continued to undergo edits, and, when our Editors sniffed out Little Darlings, promptly submitted them for termination.
  11. We sought through study and daily word count to improve our conscious contact with our plots, as we understood them, seeking only the knowledge to distinguish between Little Darlings and actual elements of our stories.
  12. Having had a literary awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to other Little Darling Addicts, and to practice these principles in all of our written endeavors.

 


The Writers Serenity Prayer

Grant me the 
serenity to accept that things have got to change;

The courage to 
change the things I can;

And a good Editor to help me know the difference.

 

 

41eqKpv+-kL._UY200_Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She's also a belly dancer from way back and a former hospice volunteer. She is currently the managing editor of Social In Worldwide, Inc., and pens post-apocalyptic sci-fi and spy novels when she isn't shooting, baking cookies, or chauffeuring her children.

 

Many Hats: Making the Most of Your Author Platform … by Margo Christie

2015_MargoChristieWe all know the challenge of selling fiction to the reality-crazed techie generation. Time and again we’ve been told we need a “platform” – that area of specialization that enables us to sell books to people who aren’t necessarily shopping for them.

In writing my debut novel, THESE DAYS, I was partly motivated by the resurgent interest in the Depression-era art of burlesque. THESE DAYS takes place on an historic burlesque strip, The Block in Baltimore, which also happens to be where I came of age in the late 1970s.

In 2007 when I sat down to write, “New” Burlesque was in its formative years. I was 45 – well past “formative” but still agile enough to compete as a performer. And I had that special something that appealed to aficionados of the art: I’m a “baby legend”: a performer who was around at the tail end of old burlesque. As one who bridges the gap between the old and the new, I knew my tale of coming-of-age on a notorious burlesque strip would appeal to the newbies of the craft.
With the aid of social media, I connected with the Denver burlesque scene and began performing. Author/Burlesque Performer: I wore two “hats.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t make me an instant success. I’ve sold books at burlesque shows and discussed burlesque, old and new, with bookstore audiences. I’ve given readings in towns where I’ve performed, thus tying the two together. Still, selling books in areas where I’m unknown is a challenge. I have little trouble getting events in Baltimore, where THESE DAYS takes place, or in Denver, my home for 16 years. Other cities have presented more of a challenge, however. While performing in Laramie, I gave a reading to a bookstore audience of four, one of whom was my husband and two of whom were employees – I’ll let you do the math.

This past winter, while on my third Baltimore book tour, I reached out to a bookstore in Philadelphia, ever-hopeful but expecting the usual spiel regarding the need for a local following. That came, but with a twist: “Can you teach a writing workshop?”

I hadn’t taught a workshop, but I’d talked with many in the burlesque and literary areas of my life about the process of creating. I sat down with literary and burlesque friends to brainstorm. The concept that came up most often was that of dressing up.

Writing fiction and performing burlesque both involve dressing up. In burlesque, performers spend countless, unpaid hours fashioning elaborate costumes. To entertain and amuse, we create characters that are sub- and super-human; over-the-top, even. In fiction we want our characters to be relatable; down-to-earth, yet we still strive to give them that extra “umph” that will make them walk, talk or dance their way into readers’ hearts.

We also strip them bare, manipulating them in and out of tricky situations to show what they’re made of. We do the same in burlesque, but with flair and tease – There’s nothing like expectation to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. We can make a tight-fitting gown without spending our extra dollars on sequins and rhinestones. It will suffice for peeling out of at just the right moment, but will it pop off the stage, shining at its biggest and brightest best?

No. Nor will our fictional characters be their best without details, details, details. Their backstories, motivations and predicaments are what make them shine. For better or worse, details are their “sequins.”

At Philadelphia’s Big Blue Marble Bookstore, I filled a room with aspiring writers and a few curious passers-by. I sold a dozen or so books and gained a bit of a following in previously uncharted territory. Thus I discovered “hat” number three: Workshop Presenter.

On November 7, I will present “Dressing Up and Baring All: A Workshop for Fiction Writers” at the Standley Lake Library in Arvada (Denver). Bring a sample of your writing and be prepared to “dress it up.”

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

Event Details
Dressing Up and Baring All: A Fiction Writer’s Workshop

Burlesque Performer and Prize-Winning Author, Margo Christie will present a workshop on dressing up your fictional characters to make them larger than life and stripping them down to keep them real. Through her experience on the burlesque stage and examples from her own and other novels, she will talk about “adding the sequins” to otherwise everyday characters then “baring it all” to keep readers emotionally-hooked. She will also demonstrate ways to supercharge your public readings by adding some G-rated burlesque pizzazz.

No matter your style or genre, Margo's exercises will help you bring your characters to life.

November 7, 2015
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM Mountain time
Standley Lake Branch Library - Jefferson County
8485 Kipling St.
Arvada, CO 80005

FREE FOR MEMBERS & NON-MEMBERS
No RSVP Required

Learn more about Margo and her work at her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Guest Post by Samantha Ross: Four Things to Do

I remember when I first started out writing, I'd stumble, slam into a wall, some days I would realize I was clueless, other days it was pointed out. Again and again I heard “Just keep writing.”

I agree with it.

Up to a point.

I will never be a better writer if all I do is write. It means I repeat my weak areas over and over again. Yes, I write, but I have found I need four other things also.

I need to read. Not just my genre, but read craft books. Instead of fumbling around, I read a book on whatever it is I am struggling with. I visit webpages and blogs on writing. If I really want to grow as a writer, I need to educate myself. Honing my writing is a life long lesson.

Classes, events and conferences. These get budgeted in my calendar, and hopefully into my finances. There is incredible information to be had at these. RMFW gives some of the best, usually for free with their monthly events hosting big name authors and agents. I am amazed at the things I have learned, the contacts and friends I have made by going to these. I ask questions, get answers. I surprise myself sometimes that I didn't need to ask anything, I have conquered that specific weakness. I went to my first conference in Crested Butte, Colorado where I ran into an old friend who pointed me to RMFW. I wouldn't be writing this blog otherwise.

I joined writing groups. I need to talk shop with someone. I did more than just sign up though, I participate, attend meetings, and volunteer. I need others who understands the lingo of plot, character arc, and deus ex machine. Writing groups come in all shapes and sizes. Online and in person, some offer support, some critique, others get together and set writing goals. I found a combination that works for me. I was astounded when after years of looking for a writing group, the local library started one and writers came out of the woodwork. I thought there were only a handful of writers in my area. Now, there are a few formal and informal groups I go to every month. I found my first critique group by going to an event at RMFW. Never underestimate the benefits of joining a group.

I don’t know it all. I will never know it all. No one knows it all. I need a mentor, a "Been there, done that" person. I have found several people who fit this to varying degrees on numerous levels. I love my mentors. And yes, I have more than one. Mentors can come and go, others are for life. I change, they change, goals change. People want to help other people, share knowledge, advice, encouragement, cheer on success. I am a firm believer in mentors, whether they be one on one, through their writing, or their teachings. I am thankful for my mentors and for the other writers who look to me as one of their mentors.

It does not matter where you are in your writing life, do the following:

Join a group, you are not an island.

Read, read, read. Read. Read. Read. Read some more.

Take a class, don't be stagnant.

Be inspired. Find someone you admire. Pass it on.

And keep writing.

 

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.

https://authorsamanthaross.wordpress.com/