Q: Fiction or Nonfiction? A: Both.

I spoke to a writers’ group in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after the publication at age twenty-six of my first book, a nonfiction guide to backpacking and camping in developing countries. I described the vagaries of finding an agent and publisher, and revealed to the audience my real dream as a writer. I told the group that while I was proud of my nonfiction debut, what I really wanted was to write and publish fiction.

I made clear in a know-it-all way—as twenty-somethings are wont to do—that while nonfiction was all well and good, I saw fiction as the only true form of writing.

An elderly woman in the crowd was kind enough to not put me on the spot during the Q&A se

ssion that followed my remarks. Instead, she confronted me afterward, face to face.

She told me she was writing a memoir about her family’s roots, and that she’d found her nonfiction work to be extremely challenging and wholly satisfying, even as she was aware that her manuscript—nearly complete after several years’ work—had little chance at publication. Why, she asked me in conclusion, was I disparaging the very type of writing I’d been so fortunate to have published?

I backpedaled clumsily and offered the woman my apologies.

In the years that followed, I poured myself into writing and publishing several more nonfiction books, one of which won the National Outdoor Book Award. I wrote each book with pride and enthusiasm, and always with the woman’s comments in mind.

But I always kept alive, in the back of my mind, the desire to write fiction.

 

Four years ago—twenty-five years after the publication of my first nonfiction book—Torrey House Press published my debut work of fiction, Canyon Sacrifice, book one in my National Park Mystery Series. I’ve written three more installments in the series since then, with book four, Yosemite Fall, scheduled for release by Torrey House in June 2018.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing fiction these last five years—so much so, in fact, that I had assumed writing nonfiction was forever in my past. But when I ran across a fascinating, true-life historical tale while researching Yosemite Fall, I surprised myself by leaping at the chance to develop the story as a work of narrative nonfiction.

In returning to nonfiction after my mystery-writing stint, I’ve found tha

 

t the woman who confronted me thirty years ago knew what she was talking about. I’m relishing the challenge and satisfaction of writing nonfiction again.

Moreover, I’m leaning hard on everything I learned while writing my mysteries to make my new book as compelling and fully realized and many-layered as anything I’ve ever written.

After three decades as an author, it took my move from nonfiction to fiction and back again to recognize what the woman in Albuquerque tried to impress upon me at the very start of my career: it’s the writing itself that matters. When the question is fiction or nonfiction, the answer, I’ve finally learned, is both.

 

Scott Graham is the National Outdoor Book Award-winning author of the National Park Mystery Series for Torrey House Press. The fourth book in the series, Yosemite Fall, will be released in June 2018. Graham lives in Durango, Colorado. Visit him at scottfranklingraham.com.

I could hardly breathe, listening to Yunike’s story.

Our kids were playing marbles in the dirt road outside of her Borneo home. The electricity had been off in my friend’s neighborhood for hours. The stifling air added to her story, the heaviness of the moment turning into sweat running down my face. Yunike Hermanus, my Indonesian friend, was telling a part in her life story I’d never before heard.

She was dying on that day almost 20 years ago, in a remote Borneo village where she and her husband worked, unconscious from her sickness. Someone took her on a boat to a village with a dirt airstrip that villagers had carved out of the jungle by hand years beforehand. A small Cessna 185 plane picked her up and took her to a hospital—where she spent three months recovering.

“I don’t know if I’d be alive today if that airplane hadn’t taken me,” she said, then leaned closer to me, studying my face. “I told you all this before, right?”

I shook my head. I’d heard other stories from her life since I’d moved to this Indonesian town with my relief pilot husband, Brad, whose job it is to fly those little planes in the remote jungle villages like hers. Yunike had told me the one about how her daughter was born two months early—in that same village—and how she’d kept her frail body warm by heating up water and pouring it into plastic bottles that flanked her daughter. And then there was the one about losing her husband. She moved afterward, as a widow with young kids, to this town where we both live, making a life for herself there.

But she hadn’t yet told me this one—this long-ago trauma that was still so impactful that she was weeping with the telling of it.

I’ve lived in two different Indonesian towns for 12 years now. I’ve listened to many stories of life in the midst of some difficult circumstances. This is due, in part, to a culture rich in story-telling. Stories of war and love are told by dancers with glorious feathers on their heads, or by musicians with instruments made of bamboo, or by my neighbors in words over cups of hot tea—the ticking clock of time going disregarded.  Sometimes I watch painful stories unfold with my own eyes, like the sick baby girl my husband flew in from a remote village, who only ended up dying soon after in the hospital.

Many of the stories haunt me. I can picture the pain, the violence, and the desperation late into the night.

I started writing novels right after the death of a close, young Indonesian friend. I was pregnant with my first child when her accident happened. I turned on the computer and wrote the first two scenes for my fictional characters—one of a child’s birth and one of a funeral. I had so many questions. I needed to figure it all out.

I didn’t. Not all of it.

Instead, created characters who were on the same quest as I was, who made it all less lonely. And also, I discovered something that felt powerful—with the good kind of power. I started to learn how to shape a story in a world that seems, at times, to run amuck against our wishes.

On that recent hot Borneo day, I drove home, mulling over the parts of my friend’s stories in which bad things that shouldn’t happen to anyone had happened to her. And then I remembered all the other stories Yunike had told me…the ones in which she happened to her stories. Her ingenuity saved her daughter’s life. Her courage helped her heal from her sicknesses. Her friendship with me connects me, the foreigner, in a deep way to this community. And her generosity in giving me permission to share her story here broadens its impact.

I see the power of her trauma. But I see the resilience from her courage. I’ve got my own struggles I’m working through right now. But I’m finding my own courage. And we connect through our stories—through the choices we make, the redemption for which we pray and the good that somehow emerges from the worst of circumstances.

Today I’m partway through a several-month visit to the States after three-and-a-half years of being away in Indonesia since my last visit (and a total of 12 year of living abroad). But I have to admit, I was nervous about returning to the States at the time that it struggles with racial tensions, refugee needs, political division.

America’s story has some difficult pieces right now. It has had hard chapters at different times in the past. The future will, inevitably, contain pain, too.

I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish everything was going well and nothing was wrong and evil didn’t exist.

But I’m doing what I’ve always done when it all disorients me and I start to lose hope. I lean into the stories. I listen to people I meet at the pond share their own stories of courage and redemption while our kids, oblivious, chase after the ducks. I go to concerts and close my eyes and let the crescendos expand over me until they end on a satisfying note.  I go on hikes through the mountains with my husband and I talk and he talks and we listen and keep going and sweat and enjoy the vistas and look back and see how far we’ve come.

And I write.

“It’s a gorgeous cycle,” K.M. Weiland writes in a blog post, How to Benefit from the Biggest Reason for Storytelling, on her site www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com . “We use our art to interpret life, but, as artists ourselves, we also get to use our art to create and expand upon life.” (link https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/benefit-biggest-reason-storytelling/ )

Weiland next quotes author Caryl Phillips: “A writer begins by breathing life into its characters. But if you are very lucky, they breathe life into you.”

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

Rebecca Hopkins writes young adult novels while living in 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 twelve years. Read more about her writing and life in Indonesia at www.rebeccahopkins.org .

Best Writing Books

How do, RMFW? Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey here again with the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Blog Tour redux. Between us, we’ve published over twenty books (S: I love saying that because I get the credit for the bulk of the publishing Jess has done.) Shannon’s latest is the second book in the Kate Fox mystery series, Dark Signal (Forge). Jess’s newest addition in her humorous Murder by the Month series is March of Crime (Midnight Ink). We hate to tras

 

h our reputations, but the honest-to-goodness truth is that we did not shoot from the womb knowing all there is to know about writing. (Jess here: but we did shoot from the womb with a full head of hair each, so picture that as you read.)

Almost everyone needs to learn their craft. Teachers earn an undergrad degree and have continuing education, accountants and lawyers get diplomas and study to pass extensive bar exams, doctors and veterinarians go to school ‘pert-near forever. So why should anyone think great writers are born, not made?

There are any number of terrific workshops and conferences, online classes, MFA programs, not to mention the Colorado Gold Conference, where I learned so much. But today, we’re going to go the self-help route. What are the best writing books you know? (Book links point you to Indie Bound, because we love our indies!)

Shannon: Since I get to go first, I’m going to rattle off the low-hanging fruit of Best Writing Books Of All Time. Let’s start with the ever inspiring and practical, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, and Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, and On Writing by Stephen King because they will speak to the writer in your heart and teach you to translate your passion to the page.

Jess: You stole the best ones! Fine. When it comes to plotting, I recommend A Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. Also, although I hate writing short stories, I stumbled across Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction a few years ago and found the advice game-changing when it comes to structuring novels. Shannon, do you have plot and structure go-tos?

Shannon: Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks, Save the Cat by Blake Synder, and of course, Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel. All of these are loaded with step by step plans to get you from the opening sentence, through the sagging middle, and cruising to the exciting cli

 

max. I recently picked up Hallie Ephron’s Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. This book lays it all out, with exercises and downloadable worksheets.

Jess: I couldn’t agree more about Hallie’s book. It’s worth its weight in royalties. Shannon, we’ve both listed a few different books that have taught us to deepen our craft, but if you had to pick a single one, above all others, what would it be?

Shannon: My true writer’s Bible, the book that taught

 

me the most basic terms, structure, detail, logic, and by far, the driest book on writing I’ve ever read is Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight Swain. This book was published in 1981, and believe me when I say it will teach you how to write a novel. You have to add the creative and color, because ol’ Dwight won’t provide it on the pages of this book. But, hands down, if you could read only one how-to write book, this would be my choice.

Jess: I’ve never read that one and now I must. I personally don’t have a single Writer’s Bible, but the last couple books, I find myself returning again and again to The Emo

 

tion Thesaurus so I don’t keep reusing the same old words to describe fear, terror, shame, etc. Love that book!

Shannon: This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are more books I’d shout my praises for if we had the space, but that’s what the comments are for, right? I do want to jump on the rooftop with my megaphone for this addition to the cannon of great writing books. Jess Lourey’s newest classic Rewrite Your Life. I promise, this book will take you to your deepest soul so you can write your truest stories.

Jess: Thank you. J I’m proud of that one.

Okay, this is where you help out your writing comrades by telling us your favorite writing books. We are each giving away three books on the Double-Booked Tour. Each comment you make on our tour will net you a better chance at winning, so comment now, comment often.

September 2            Mysterious Musings

September 5            Janice Hardy

September 7            The Creative Penn

 

September 9            Write to Done

September 12          Wicked Cozy Writers

September 20          Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog

September 21          There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room

 

September 23          Femmes Fatales

September 24          Writer Unboxed

September 25          Dru’s Book Musings

September 27          Do Some Damage

October 3                   Terry Ambrose

October 12                Jungle Red Writers

 

 

Jess Lourey (rhymes with "dowry") is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." S

 

he is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft's Excellence in Teaching fellowship, a regular Psychology Today blogger, and a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 201

6 "Rewrite Your Life" TEDx Talk. March of Crime, the 11th book in her humorous mystery series, releases September 2017. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com

 

Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy

 

Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was

 

voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 and 2017 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com

How to Avoid the Dangerous Trap of the “Perfect Writing Life”

We all have that one dream in our heads.

You know the one. It’s the dream of the perfect writing life, the one where you don’t have a day job or a house to clean or a car to fix or errands to run. Instead, you have hours of empty time you can fill as you like with your writing.

There’s nothing wrong with dreams, unless they interfere with your ability to move forward. Unfortunately, that’s what the dream of the prefect writing life often does.

 

When the Dream Interferes with Your Progress

I used to think about this dream a lot, especially before I my first book was published. I firmly believed that if only I could find a way to ditch the day job so I could go away somewhere and just focus on writing, then I could finally make my novels good enough to get that traditional publishing contract I wanted.

I was working a lot of hours at my day job, which meant I had little time or mental energy left over for my fiction writing. A lot of us are in the same boat these days. Even published authors find themselves drowning in marketing activities that can rob them of their creative writing time.

We can get so wrapped up in what we wish would happen—and what we think needs to happen to take our careers to the next level—that we can completely stall our work in the real world.

 

The Dangerous Mindset of the Writing Dream

Creative people love to talk about following their dreams. We’re dreamers, we writers. We spend a lot of time in our imaginations, and we love to think up new and amazing scenarios, often for our characters, but sometimes for ourselves.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live up in the mountains where no one would bother you and you could write all day at a table by the lake?

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to work all day and you could just get up when you wanted to, eat a nice relaxing breakfast, and spend the day writing?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could chuck all your responsibilities and spend three months at a writing retreat where people brought you your meals in your room and you looked out on the ocean and wrote in the company of seagulls?

Sometimes you can make these dreams (or a more modest version of them) come true. The danger is if you allow yourself to imagine that only in this dream version of the perfect writing life can you succeed.

This often happens when you get discouraged, tired, and run down. You work extra hours, and have to deal with more life emergencies than you’d like. Feeling helpless and a little out of control, it’s common to imagine an easier life that is more encouraging to the creative arts.

The danger occurs when you start to let the dream take over. You get discouraged with your lack of progress, and start to believe that you’ll never get where you want to go. You wanted the perfect writing life, but you didn’t get it, so you start to believe that you never will, and you start to walk away from your dream.

 

A Successful Writer Doesn’t Let Dreams Stop Her

A successful writer enjoys dreaming, but doesn’t let it slow her down. She realizes that dreaming is nice, but that her writing has to fit into her life as it is right now. She knows that no life is perfect.

Yes, maybe someday she’ll have more time to devote to her stories, but for now, she needs the paycheck from her day job, and she wants to help take care of her elderly mother, and she wants to be involved in her children’s lives, so she has to make writing work in that scenario if she wants to succeed.

So she does. She takes little steps every day. She writes for fifteen minutes in the morning before the kids get up, and for 30 minutes at night after they’ve gone to bed. She leaves work early on Fridays and heads to the park where she steals 30 minutes to write before going home to make dinner. She makes a point of attending at least one writing conference or other related event each year. She sets deadlines for herself, and makes sure that she keeps them.

Would she like oodles of time to devote to writing? Of course. But she’s not going to let that stop her from putting making time in her life right now.

She knows that the only way to make her dream of the perfect writing life come true is to fit writing into the life she has right now, today.

 

Colleen M. Story is the author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: Boost Productivity, Improve Time Management, and Replenish the Creator Within—a motivational and inspiring read full of practical, personalized solutions to help writers escape the tyranny of the to-do list and nurture the genius within. Discover your unique time personality and personal motivational style when you get your copy from Amazon and other common book retailers. Enjoy your free chapter here!

She has worked in the creative writing industry for over twenty years and is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com). To find more information on Colleen and her work, please see her website (colleenmstory.com), or follow her on Twitter (@ colleen_m_story).

 

 

The Critical Importance of Look Alike Words

A word from Conan the Grammarian:

Concerning the Critical Importance of look-alike words, or similar or commonly mistaken words. Learn the diffs! As Conan has often admonished writers, this is not advanced rocketry or even higher mathematics.

In no particular order, these words often appeared incorrectly in this year’s contest manuscripts.

Stanch & staunch

The first means to stop up or prevent from bleeding; the second means stout-hearted, loyal.

Of course a character would never stand stanch at the hero’s side, so please don’t go staunching any wounds!

Discreet & discrete

The first means circumspect or tactful; the second means separate, distinct: individual.

Conan finds that scientists and engineers often write about characters who act discrete, because apparently they don’t know there is another word (the same way lawyers often have characters waive instead of wave).

Rack & wrack

The first means to torture (as in the eponymous medieval device); the second is debris from a storm.

Characters who wrack their brains not only commit cliché, but they perform a very odd non-action, too. On the other hand, characters may go to wrack and ruin, but never to rack and ruin (though that’s a cliché, too).

Lead & led

The first is a soft, toxic metal or the present tense of the verb to lead; the second is the past tense of that verb. Memorize this!

Pour & pore

The first is a verb meaning to decant liquids (or rain); the second is a noun meaning a teeny tiny hole or a verb meaning to scrutinize.

One ought never pour over a document, unless one spills something by accident.

Grill & grille

The first is a type of cooking device or the act of cooking on that device; the second is a grating or lattice.

One could, Conan supposes, grill burgers on a makeshift grille, but Joe’s Bar and Grille is trying to be fancy and ends up looking ignorant and pretentious.

Rain & reign & rein

Rain falls from the sky; emperors, queens, and terrors reign; riding horses and some metaphors require reins.

It rained for ten days after King Mutt’s reign ended, causing his people to rein in the celebrations.

Council & counsel

The first is a noun meaning committee or board; the second is verb meaning to give advice. A counselor is a lawyer or other professional advice-giver.

May & might

For the verb indicating possibility, may is present tense; might is past tense – past tense as in the tense most storytellers use most of the time.

Alright & all right.

The first is not a word (yet) in accepted English; the second is how it should be spelled.

Conan admits that languages change over time, but alright remains nonstandard, and Conan will fight it to the death. All right has nothing to do with already, so the attempt to “normalize” one into t’other is as foolish as the egregiously erroneous rules that one must never split infinitives or end sentences with prepositions.

Pack Up Your Media Kit and Smile!

As I sit down to write, I’m remembering that game we used to play as kids—the one where someone starts by saying, “I’m going on a trip and in my bag I packed…” You sit in a circle, and the starter names one item with each player listing previous items in turn and then adding another until you can’t remember the sequence anymore. I’m hoping to start a list that others will want to add to in the comments section at the end, because an author’s media kit may contain any number of items and no two media kits are alike.

You worked hard to publish your book. But now the promotional push has begun, and it will continue until you retire. A well-stocked media kit will save you oodles of time as your book list grows and you venture forth into various promotional arenas. Here are some ideas for what yours might include:

  • Your Photo. If you’re lucky you can sign up at the Colorado Gold Conference and have author and super-photographer Mark Stevens shoot you. J But if the timing doesn’t work, invest in a headshot done by one of your local professional studios. You’ll want the high-resolution digital version, and be sure to obtain a written release of the photographer’s rights transferred to you.
  • Your Book Cover. Again, you’ll want a high-resolution cover shot.
  • Your Business Card. You can have one professionally designed or do it yourself at a company like FedEx Office. I’ve done it both ways. Since I like to add a new book onto my card each year, I’ve saved some money by learning to design my cards myself.
  • Author Bios. You’ll need at least two: a short bio of less than one hundred words and an official bio that can be longer.
  • Book Endorsement List. Create one document to copy all of the industry review pull-quotes and author blurbs that you accrue as you publish your books. Whenever you need a media quote for a given book, one will be right at your fingertips.
  • List of Links to Online Articles, Interviews, and Guest Blogs. Again, build one document by pasting in each link. It saves so much time to have that information in one place, and the guest appearances add up over the years. If you have audio files from radio interviews, you can add those here too.
  • List of Cover Flap Blurbs and Short Book Descriptions. I like to have all of my book descriptions in one place, the longer ones from the cover flap or back of the book as well as the short one-to-two liners. When you need a book description for an announcement, you won’t have to search to find it or take the time to re-create one.
  • The type of promotional items to give out at events is a personal decision and varies from business cards only to elaborate gifts—and everything in between. My first year I used business cards, the second I added bookmarks, and this year I’m adding pens as well as bookmarks, for no reason other than I simply enjoy receiving these two items from other authors when I attend their events. I’ve read that swag should reflect your book content if possible, which seems like a good idea, so I sometimes give out doggie milk bones in party favor bags at my signings. And though not related to the content in my murder mysteries, but a gesture that reflects my gratitude, I love to give out kisses and hugs to readers…the chocolate kind.

Okay, here we go now. Smile and enjoy the journey! This is a good list for starters—but what else should we pack in our media kit?

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

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (2015), an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee; Stalking Ground (2016), a Colorado Book Award and International Book Award finalist; and Hunting Hour (2017), an RT Book Reviews Top Pick. She lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Engaging Your Newsletter – Subscriber Quality Matters by Stephanie Reisner

We all know that building a newsletter email list is an essential part of an author's marketing toolbox.  Your list provides one thing your social media doesn't. A direct line to your readers. See, Facebook and Twitter, they purposefully don't show your posts to all of your page or feed subscribers. So unless your readers are stalking you - they're going to miss sales, new releases, and other vital information.

This is where the newsletter list comes in. It makes sure that those interested in your books are getting timely information about said books directly in their email.

As an author with four pen names, I keep four different lists and in the past six months, I've been measuring the quality of these lists. I've used numerous methods to boost my subscriber numbers. I've given away freebies. I've offered exclusive content. I've done giveaways and contests. All of these things have done their job to grow my lists.

However, the effectiveness of a newsletter can't be measured in the number of subscribers. It has to be measured in engagement. You can have thousands of subscribers, but if you're sending out two thousand emails, only getting four hundred opens and one hundred clicks, the quality of your list, and the quality of your newsletter overall, comes into question.  A big list where few people engage is a lot worse for an author than a small list that is very engaged. Don't worry - I'm not going to insist you start dumping the non-engagers from your list. You can, potentially, turn non-engaged subscribers into engaged subscribers by regularly evaluating your content.

Since engagement is so important, there are two steps you can take to increase engagement.  The first step to building the engagement of your existing list is to find out just how engaged your readers currently are. Start by keeping track of your click through rates (minus unsubscribes because, in many newsletter apps or services, those will show up as click-throughs) with each newsletter. By doing this, you're going to find out which newsletters got the most attention, good or bad. Study the newsletter and figure out what you did right or wrong. Start taking notes. Note that just because you have unsubscribes doesn't mean a newsletter was bad. It likely just means you probably got a few freebie hunters who decided to move on. Unsubscribes happen - even to good newsletters.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to subscribe to the successful newsletters of other authors and see what they're doing, making notes of things you find particularly effective.

Next, take it even further and note which subscribers (individually) are the most engaged. Some newsletter services or applications make this easy to do. Some may even do it for you.

I have four main lists my subscribers can subscribe to, but on the administrative end, I keep track of email addresses attached to click-throughs in separate, private lists that can only be seen by me. If someone is engaged and clicks through, I check the box next to the appropriate click-through list. I can then choose to send special newsletters to these people exclusively, instead of the entire list if I want to get feedback, reward loyal readers/fans, or give them exclusive content/information. I am still experimenting with this, but so far, it's been quite effective. I've even had fans drop me an email asking if they could be put on the same "special secret" list their other fan friends are on. (Hey, it works for me, I write darker, mysterious stuff, and my readers like the idea of special super-secret lists.)

Keeping track of this information for six months (or longer), is going to help you strengthen your newsletter content and identify key readers who want what you're writing.  While it can be a bit time-consuming, it's totally worth the time you take to do it.

Ideas for newsletter content to keep your readers engaged:

  • List only giveaways.
  • List surveys.
  • Exclusive offers and deals.
  • Contests (naming characters etc...)

How do you engage your readers?

 

Colorado native Stephanie Connolly-Reisner grew up with a love for reading and writing. She started penning her first stories in grade-school and never stopped. Now much older, she’s a prolific writer who lives along the front range of the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and a couple of very pampered house cats. You can find her and her four author personas at www.the-quadrant.com. She can also be found at Facebook. Stephanie writes under four pseudonyms: S.J. Reisner, Audrey Brice, Anne O'Connell, and S. Connolly.

http://www.the-quadrant.com

How Do Online Classes Work?

The answer to this question always makes me smile because I want the first answer to be, “Easily!  Seamlessly.”  Except, if you’re nervous about a new technology, there may be nothing easy about an online class.  At least, at first.

Online classes are a way of taking a class at the times of day or days of the week that you most prefer in the comfort of your own home or favorite coffee shop during the specified duration of the class.  In general, you can expect the following:

  • Classes are offered for a specified period and are generally two to four weeks in length.
  • The level of structure within a class varies widely based on the preferences of the instructor.
    • Some instructors follow a defined schedule and hope to see feedback within a specified few days.
    • Some instructors like the freedom students have with self-paced study.
  • There are generally two to four “lectures” per week (text or video or a combination).
  • Participants can log into the class whenever is most convenient for them.
  • Participants have the opportunity to ask questions and post comments via a discussion board that works a lot like Facebook.
  • Some instructors offer one or more “chat” sessions during the class, which are schedule for a specified time that allows participants to engaged with others in real time.
  • Participants have access to the classroom materials for a couple of weeks after the class ends.

RMFW University runs on a classroom platform called Moodle (used by colleges and universities), which gives users a richer experience than available with a Yahoo group.  To help people interested in classes at RMFW University feel more comfortable with the tools, there is a Quick Start that is a self-paced tutorial structured to emulate how most classes are organized.  If you would like to see what the RMFW University classrooms are like before enrolling in a class, send an inquiry to moodleadmin@rmfw.org requesting access to the Quick Start.  The tools are so simple to use, this tutorial should take you no more than an hour to figure out, even if you regard yourself as technically challenged.

A list of upcoming classes is posted on the RMFW website under the tab for Education and Events.  If you have ideas for classes that you’d like to take, please let us know.  Or, if you’re a person with a skill that you’d like to teach others, let us know that, too!  We are actively expanding the catalog of offerings.

What could be easier?  The classes are reasonably priced, and you can attend wearing your favorite faded PJs and slippers.  We hope to see you there soon!

~*~

Sharon Mignerey (www.sharonmignerey.com) is a long-time member of RMFW who was recognized in 2016 as one of RMFW’s Guiding members.  She is the 2000 WOTY, and she has been published with Silhouette, Zebra, and Steeple Hill.  She has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, and she has a passion for sharing the tools and techniques of writing and story-telling with other writers.  She divides her time between the Texas Gulf Coast and a family cabin in Colorado’s mountains.

I Did It My Way (But Why Would Anyone Want To?)

After more than thirty years of writing genre fiction, I will finally be able to answer “yes” to that irksome, miserable question that all would-be novelists get at cocktail parties, “Are you published?” On November 2, 2016, I signed a contract with Five Star (Cengage/Gale) for publication of my historical romance, Love’s Last Stand. Yes, yes, yes, the publication monkey is off my back forever. I am finally a so-called “real” writer. But getting published took so long I thought I’d also answered that other nagging question would-be novelists sometimes get. “If you knew you’d never get published, would you keep on writing?” Lately, my answer has been, “Well, yes, I’ve pretty much done that already.”

I first started writing fiction in 1981, in the most clichéd manner possible. I heard somewhere that Harlequin would give you $1500 for three chapters and an outline. How hard could it be to write romance? Yes, dunderhead, harder than your thick skull. I didn’t get my advance or a contract, so I went to law school. But the writing bug had bitten, and I simply couldn’t abandon that story I’d started. After graduating and working for the Department of Justice for three years, I managed to finish the book, and without ever taking a writing class, reading a book on writing, or attending a critique group. How good could that book be?

Lo and Behold! My classic story of romance took second place (or was it 3rd) in the RMFW contest, way back when we still awarded places. I was a genius! Fortune and fame were close enough to touch. Ask me about my smug smile, please. Alas, it was not to be. The story, which I still love, violated every rule of fiction writing imaginable, especially those of romance writing, and I invented a few new rules to violate along the way. I shudder at the memory. That manuscript will remain forever buried, not in a drawer, but even further out of reach, in the murky depths of Word Perfect 4.0, where no one will ever find it, except perhaps, Robin Owens.

Undeterred, I continued to write. And, more importantly, I found RMFW and my critique group, not to mention my future wife (thanks, RMFW!). I was still not getting published, but it could have been my fear and loathing of rejection, as much as the quality of my writing. I simply didn’t query much. At least not as much as I should have. Not as much as you should, if you’re not already published. I much preferred the writing and, if I wasn’t going to publish, the one thing I could do is win or final in a contest.

And contests I did with a passion. Between 2002 and 2016, I was a contest finalist twenty-seven times. On top of that, I won the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest twice, and got first place in the Crested Butte Writers Friends of the Library Contest (twice), the Southern Louisiana Romance Writers Dixie Kane Contest, the Land of Enchantment Romance Authors contest, the Central Ohio Fiction Writers contest, and the San Antonio Romance Authors Emma Merritt Contest. I was Champion of the Contest World! But I still wasn’t published.

Eventually, I simply read ten pages for Five Star editor Tiffany Schofield at the RMFW conference, and the rest is history. What to make of it? You tell me, please. Was it as simple as not sending out enough query letters? Was everything I wrote “over the top,” as one agent told me? Was it just plain dumb luck? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time all these years? Truly, I don’t know.

Mine may be a cautionary tale, and I can’t recommend my strategy for getting published. What I can recommend is finding a good critique group, continuing to write come hell or high water, and, of course, never, ever giving up. Sorry, there’s nothing new or innovative in my advice.

I may never get published again, but at least now I know it’s possible, even for me. As long as it took, I’m not ready to rest on my laurels. My smug smile has been replaced by one a bit more knowing and patient.

After all, I’m just getting started.

 

When he’s not writing fiction, Steven Moores is an attorney for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to law, he has degrees in journalism and fishery & wildlife biology, and his interests in writing are as varied as his education. He has written contest-winning stories in romance, mystery, young adult, and middle grade genres, and he is currently under contract with Five Star Publishing (Gale/Cengage) for publication of his historical romance, Love’s Last Stand.

#Gravity and a Toast to Science Fiction

In the song written by John Mayer and Mike Perry—Gravity—John explains that the words are about making sure you (still) love yourself, making sure you (still) have your head on…because it’s easier to mess up than it is to stay here (successful).”

Another explanation I heard about this song is “…staying up even when you’re melancholy, staying grounded in a fast-paced, quickly-changing world, fighting the gravity of everyday challenges in order to achieve your goals...”

Werner Von Braun said this: “We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.”

Cameron Diaz let us know her thoughts on the subject: “I’ve been noticing gravity since I was young.”

I too have noticed the results of quantum particles for quite some time. And hey, thanks to gravity everything above my knees is at a whole new level.

Sylvester Stallone had this to say about the topic, “I think that gravity sets into everything, including careers, but pendulums do swing and mountains do become valleys after a while…if you keep on walking.”

Remember the movie, Happy Gilmore? Here is what the character, Gary Potter said which, in a roundabout way relates to Earth and its gravity: “Oh yea. Lotta pressure. You gotta rise above it. You gotta harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. Feel the flow, Happy. Feel it. It’s circular. It’s like a carousel. You pay the quarter, you get on the horse, it goes up and down, and around. It’s circular. Circle, with the music, the flow. All good things.”

And he said it with a straight face. You’ve gotta love actors!

This quote is for you Sci-Fi/Military writers: “What’s aerobraking? That’s a way to use the gravity and upper atmosphere of Earth to slingshot a ship either deeper into space, or slow it down to be ‘captured’ by Earth’s gravity.” Buzz Aldrin

As a kid, I used to watch the black and white series, Sci-Fi-Fic; maybe on channel two. The shows made an indelible impression on my mind. People that really know me can attest to that fact.

Just thinking about my first experience with H.G. Wells is, well quite horrifying. War of the Worlds. (Oh crap, is it real?) The Invisible Man (I keep listening over my shoulder.) Of course, The Time Machine is…The Time Machine.

Michael Crichton (and screenwriter David Keopp) are masters of tension—and dinosaurs.

Space Odyssey—Arthur C. Clarke was 51 when he co-authored the screenplay for this movie.

Farenheit 451!  Ray Bradbury scored big with this hit.

Orson C. Scott = The Ender’s Game.

Jules Verne. Need I say more?

Do you know an aspen tree’s anchor root is relatively minuscule when compared to the height of the tree? That’s applicable to particles that make us stick to the surface—isn’t it?

Okay, here’s one for you hardcore Sci-Fier’s. Can any of you explain why rocks in the garden defy gravity? Over and over and over…

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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 Prote