Getting to Know You: The RMFW Q&A Project #10

The Getting to Know You Project was intended to introduce RMFW members with short responses to three questions, a photo, and a few social media links. This will be the last post in the series for now.

Mike Houtz


1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I spent 15 years practicing medicine before deciding that raising my own children and pursuing a passion for fiction writing was a better life lived than 90+ hour weeks at the hospital ignoring those closest to me. After working on my first project, a medical thriller (naturally), I’m now currently seeking representation on my second novel, DARK SPIRAL DOWN, an international thriller. I just received a call that DARK SPIRAL DOWN is a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. The only thing better would be a 2017 Colorado Gold! I write when my two young sons are at elementary school. My office overlooks the front range just a mile away, the beauty never ceases to amaze. I’m still discovering my ideal writing method. I see the chapters in my head like a movie and type out what my mind’s eye captures. I’ve found careful plot outlining keeps me from getting "too" off course. I’m trying a slightly different tactic writing by the synopsis of my medical thriller, revisited, for my next effort (or, is that the first? I’m confused.).

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I spent thirteen glorious years performing all over the country as the lead guitarist for a cajun/zydeco band, Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies. I think my fellow classmates were stunned that I could balance intense medical studies with performing. Proof that if you love something, you will find a way.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

I absolutely love watching my boys compete in their respective sports. One in fencing and one in lacrosse. We’re constantly on the road all over the country with their competitions. Unfortunately, it will all be over in the blink of an eye, and I know I’ll cherish those times for the rest of my days.


Diane R. Jewkes


1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

Hi! I write historical romance primarily. I grew up loving history and reading romance so it was a natural progression when I decided to start writing. My first book, The Heart You Own, was published in 2012. I started writing it before the invention of Word (it took a long time)! My second book, The Heart You Need, was published this year. I live up in Conifer and have an office in my house where my two assistants, Albert and Rizzi, keep me company and remind me to take them out so I don't sit at my desk all day. I'm a pantster, so I get an idea, sketch out a rough plot and research my time period and place. I keep composition books for each idea with all my scribbles, questions and scenes. I like to write first, type later.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I have a degree in journalism and worked on a small newspaper in New Mexico. In the short time I was there I covered 4 murders, got to submit reports on the Santa Fe Prison riot to the Associated Press and helped come up with the Deming Duck Race. I also had an entry in the first duck race. He was fitted out with a satin cape and little satin spats for his feet!

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

I love spending time with my children and grand-children and traveling.


Patricia (Pat) Stoltey


1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I write primarily crime fiction, including a historical mystery called Wishing Caswell Dead to be published in Five Star's Frontier Fiction line this November. Previous books were The Prairie Grass Murders, The Desert Hedge Murders, and Dead Wrong (a thriller finalist for the 2015 Colorado Book Awards).

I write because it's the only way to quiet my busy brain which is always thinking about stories and characters and settings...probably the result of all the reading I've done over the years. I'm a binge writer, so I create in bursts over a period of days...then slip back into periods of goofing off. I mostly write in my own little office at a desktop...a room cold in winter, hot in summer, and placed just beside and above the neighbor's garage where one of the grown kids practices on his drums. I write at the computer and usually have nearby a cup of coffee in winter or a glass of iced tea in summer.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I spend at least one hour every morning reading for fun/learning while I get myself fully caffeinated and take care of Katie Cat's morning demand for lap time. Soon after, I spend at least twenty minutes with Sassy Dog in my lap at my computer while we watch cat and dog and other critters on You Tube videos. My husband and I are downright silly about our pets!

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

This is hard because so many things that used to bring me joy, like travel (especially flying anywhere) or cooking (especially since I'm always trying to diet), are no longer appealing. I think my happiest moments these days are those I spend at home, dressed in sloppy and comfy clothes, gardening or playing with watercolors or daydreaming in the sun, and just being. And I do love a good nap on the couch with Sassy Dog sacked out on my stomach to keep me warm.


Thanks to Mike, Diane, and Pat for participating in the Getting to Know You Project.

Getting to Know You: The RMFW Q&A Project #9

The Getting to Know You Project was intended to introduce RMFW members with short responses to three questions, a photo, and a few social media links. The last post in the series will appear tomorrow.

J. A. Kazimer

Another Facebook:

1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I’ve always wanted to answer with the ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you’ line. But that doesn’t really help when getting to know me as I haven’t killed anyone in a really long time.

So instead, here goes, I write in a few genres. Mainly mysteries and romance. But I’m best known for my F***ed-Up Fairy Tales. I started writing in 2001, found an agent finally in 2006, and sold my first series in 2010 at a RMFW conference. Since then I’ve published over 15 books both traditionally and indie. Currently I’ve been working with a film studio on film adaptations and a mystery series of novellas based on a YouTube personality’s life.

As for when I write, it’s in spurts. I’ll write a couple of thousand words one day, and not write for weeks. The where is usually on my couch, with a puppy on one side and a cat on the other. I write on a computer as I can’t read my own handwriting. Had this been fifty years ago, I would’ve become a doctor.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I worked as a PI in Denver for a few years. The least fun part of that is, on a stakeout, you have to pee into a bottle. Being a girl made this career choice not the best.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

My dogs. I love those spoiled things to pieces.


Jim Van Pelt


1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

When I was teaching high school English full time up to 2015, I mostly wrote in my classroom from 3:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon, and then from 9:00 to 10:00 in the evening at home, but now that I only teach in the morning, I write from noon until 3:00 or so. After three hours my brain feels melty and I have to take a break. I do almost all my writing now in a comfortable recliner in my living room where I've decorated the wall with science fiction and fantasy art that sets the mood for me; and in the middle afternoon, I'm the only one home, which means I'm also uninterrupted and control the music. It's practically ideal.

Although I've written several novels, about 90% of my output is science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories. I must have a short attention span. Growing up in a house with an aeronautical engineer father who loved science fiction, and a mother who loved to read pretty much steered me toward a love of those genres. Dad took me to the movies when I was little, and Mom bought me books. When I started selling work in the early 90s, they became my biggest fans. They'd buy copies of everything I published to send to friends and relatives.

I started my writing career because I loved what reading did for me. There's a subset of kids who spent much of their free time reading, and I was one of them. To be able to do for someone else what a good story did for me seemed like the best goal imaginable. I still write partly with that motivation in mind, but I've also grown more interested in writing as a challenge in shaping a story and using language. Some stories come out of setting a barrier for myself: Can I write a first person narrative that never uses the word "I"? Can I break the "rule" that a story shouldn't start with the weather? Can I structure a story like a well-done song? Etc. But mostly I try to make a story come out as compelling on the page as it sounded in my mind while taking a shower.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

Most of my RMFW friends know the writer side of me, but most don't know how much I've enjoyed my teaching life. There's a magic in the classroom when the students are excited and I'm jazzed about the lesson. The hardest part of thinking about retiring from teaching is walking away from that. I love writing and being an author, but I don't know if anything I've ever written has changed a life. I'm pretty sure, though, that I made a difference for a few kids in high school.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

Fortunately, I married my best friend. I think my greatest joy besides writing and teaching is spending time with her. We both like to run and bike. She's working on getting me to do triathlons, which will probably happen. There's a lot of the world we haven't seen yet that I'm looking forward to seeing with her. Everybody should be so lucky.


K. B. (Katy) Wagers


1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

*waves* Hi all! I currently write holed up in a cave, kidding though I kind of wish that were true. Right now I either write in my office at home or in Starbucks just depending on the mood and time of day. Most of my writing gets accomplished after working hours on the week days and early mornings on the weekends. I write science fiction on my laptop or Surface and carry around a notebook that’s primarily used for plotting and story essentials (character bios, geography, and the like).

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I’m a Colorado native and grew up on a farm on the eastern plains. We had pigs when I was a kid and I wanted to be a writer from a very young age, with a brief break in my teenage years when I was going to be a rock star.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

My most favorite non-writing activity has to be lifting weights. I discovered the joy of fighting gravity a few years ago and there is little else like the feeling of winning against that beast—even if only for a few seconds!


Thanks to Julie, James, and Katy for participating in the Getting to Know You Project.

PubCon 2017, Early Bird Pricing Ends March 31st

PubCon 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017, 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Table Mountain Inn
1310 Washington Avenue
Golden, CO 80401



Morning Session | 9:00 am - 12:00 pm | Traditional Publishing

Our panel of experts will discuss the process writers who want to be traditionally published will likely follow. This includes finding and submitting to the right agent, editing, how the agent determines the best houses to submit work to, what the editors look for when they receive a submission, how the process of contracting for a book works, basic information on royalties, who has the responsibility for different parts of the process, time frames, the non-writing parts authors will deal with, marketing, and many other aspects of being traditionally published. During the workshop, attendees will be able to place questions in a box and they will be drawn and answered randomly, as time allows at the end of the workshop. Speakers include Gina Panettieri, Linda Hull, and Ben LeRoy.

Lunch Keynote | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm | Susan Brooks

Each author's path to publishing is as unique as they are. Susan Brooks will discuss the differences and similarities between self-publishing, indie publishing, and the big 5 publishers to help authors decide which path to publishing might be the best fit.

Afternoon Session | 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm | Self-Publishing

Our panel of self-publishing experts will discuss the process of self-publishing your book, including how to know if/when your manuscript is ready, front and back matter, cover art/fonts/copyrighted images, determining keywords and placement for your genre, what self-publishing platforms are available, potential costs and revenue, being a “publisher,” where to look for help, various types of marketing, budgeting, timelines pre-and-post release, and much, much more. Speakers include Lisa Manifold, Bernadette Marie, and Nick Zelinger.


Early-bird registration through March 31
Full Day | Members $70.00, Non-members $80.00
Half Day* | Members $40.00, Non-members $45.00

Regular registration April 1 - April 21
Full Day | Members $80.00, Non-members $90.00
Half Day* | Members $45.00, Non-members $50.00

*Half-day registration includes either breakfast with the morning session or lunch with the afternoon session.


Gina PanettieriGina Panettieri | President and Editor, Talcott Notch Literary

Being an agent is all Gina can imagine doing. Books, and the amazing people who write them, have been the focus of her life for more than two decades. It makes her feel like her inbox is Santa's magical Christmas bag. It's always full, always overflowing, but brimming with the potential of something spectacular. All I've got to do is pull the little ribbon... With fiction, I love quirky, edgy characters, women's fiction, paranormal, urban fantasy, horror, science fiction, historical, mystery, thrillers and suspense.

Linda HullLinda Hull | Author of the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series, freelance editor

Linda is a native of Saint Louis, Missouri, but currently resides in Denver, Colorado. She is a longtime member and former president of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and is currently on the board of Mystery Writers of America. She was also honored to be named the 2013 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year. Her debut novel, The Big Bang, was published by Tyrus Books in 2013. Frog Kisses, her romantic comedy, was published by Literary Wanderlust in 2015. Linda is also the author of Eternally 21, Black Thursday, and Sweetheart Deal, the first three titles in the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series.

Ben LeRoyBen LeRoy | Editor with Tyrus Books





SusanSusan Brooks Brooks | Editor-in-Chief, Literary Wanderlust

Susan has been on the board for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers since 2009. She holds a master’s degree in publishing from George Washington University and has many years of editorial experience, including working as a developmental editor, acquisition editor, proofreader, managing editor, and production manager. You can follow her at @oosuzieq on Twitter and read her syndicated blog on writing craft at


Lisa ManifoldLisa Manifold | Multi-Self-Published Author

Lisa is the RMFW 2016 Independent Writer of the Year. She is the author of the Sisters of the Curse series, based on the Grimm Brothers fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Her new series, The Heart of the Djinn, is a trilogy that shows what happens when a free-lancing djinn does his own thing. Three Wishes, the first book in The Heart of the Djinn series, is out now. Book two, Forgotten Wishes, will be out soon! Her new Realm trilogy will feature Brennan, the Goblin King, making his debut.

Bernadette MarieBernadette Marie | Bestselling Author, Owner of 5-Prince Publishing

Bestselling Author Bernadette Marie is known for building families readers want to be part of. Her series The Keller Family has graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011, along with her other series and single title books. The married mother of five sons promises Happily Ever After always…and says she can write it, because she lives it. A chronic entrepreneur, Bernadette Marie opened her own publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors come true too. Bernadette Marie is also the CEO of Illumination Author Events.

Nick ZelingerNick Zelinger | NZ Graphics

A book designer for over 25 years, Nick has worked for ad agencies and printing companies; been an art director for an aviation magazine; designed product packaging for sports and fitness manufacturers; created large signage for store fronts, company vehicles and Rapid Transit; designed promotional material for the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, KOA Radio and Clear Channel. His cover and book designs have earned his clients more than 100 national and international awards, such as Best Cover Design by USA Book News, the Indie Excellence Book Award, Foreword Reviews Book of the Year, Next Generation Finalist Awards, Global eBook Awards, CIPA’s EVVY Awards, The San Francisco Book Festival Awards, and many more. Nick is also the co-author of Another Nightmare Gig from Hell: Musicians Tales of Wonder and Woe. He has been a recording and performing musician since the age of 16. He currently serves on the board of, and is an Associate Member of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA).

Go to it! (Pursue what makes you come alive!)

I read the most touching article last week. Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a well known children’s author and filmmaker. It was titled, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It was written along the lines of a profile, and it described the charms, kindnesses, and deep expressions of love her husband had shown her over their 26-year marriage.

Eight days later, Amy, 51, would pass away from ovarian cancer.

Tragic, yes, but what I discovered about Amy after reading the article made me think of my RMFW friends, and the joys and challenges inherent with the creative path we’ve all chosen.

One of Amy’s tenets was included in her obituary. “I tend to believe whatever you decide to look for you will find, whatever you beckon will eventually beckon you," she said during a 2012 TED talk.

I watched that TED talk and her message inspired me, so I am sharing it with you.

Amy begins by talking about coincidences such as the proliferation of “7” in our lives—seven days in the week, seven colors in the rainbow, seven wonders of the world. Seven music notes. Her TED talk is called “Seven Notes on Life.”

She mentioned walking the beach with her mother-in-law, when she discovered a heart-shaped pebble. Once she had seen that first one, she looked for another, and found many heart-shaped pebbles. Her mother-in-law was astonished, but Amy was not. She had observed many times that we find that which we seek out. “When our eyes are open, there is a subtle shifting of awareness.”

To demonstrate, she told the TED audience that she would imagine that she was speaking to a totally red audience, and once she focused on that, she would see instantly all the red clothing there.

She went through the seven musical notes. “F” stood for, “Figure it out as you go.” We don’t have to have it all mapped out before we embark on something new. Get a good idea, invest in it, and learn and adjust as we go.

These thoughts and others inspired me, but what left the lasting impression—the one that made me feel connected to you, my RMFW friends, was this: All the cell phones, iPads, laptops, and other technical devices create a huge amount of technical “noise” in our lives. All that modern noise demands something from us—a reaction.  Once we turn off the cell phones and all the technical “noise” in our lives, we become disconnected from the chatter, and are left with empty space. And what do we find in that newly empty space?

It is no coincidence, she pointed out, that with the individual letters rearranged, another important word emerges from “reaction.”

REACTION {changes to} ….. CREATION.

She ended the talk with a quote from Howard Thurman:

            Ask not what the world needs.

            Ask what makes you come alive.

            And go to it.

What we need is people who have come alive. What, Amy asked, makes you come alive?

Go to it. Move toward what makes you come alive.


A Chicago native and longtime resident, Rosenthal completed more than 30 books, including journals, memoirs and the best-selling picture stories "Uni the Unicorn" and "Duck! Rabbit!" She made short films and YouTube videos, gave TED talks and provided radio commentary for NPR, among others. Her loving optimism will be missed.

Read more:

The TED talk:

Rocky Mountain Writer #77

Diane Byington & Run Away Home

Diane Byington is the guest with a story about the long and winding road to finding a publisher for her first novel, Run Away Home.

After seven years of work and writing and re-writing, Run Away Home is due out later this year or early next from Red Adept Publishing.

On the podcast, Diane talks about the inspiration for her first novel and why she couldn’t let the idea go, even after dozens of rewrites.

Diane Byington has been a tenured college professor, yoga teacher, psychotherapist, and executive coach. Also, she raised goats for fiber and once took a job cooking hot dogs for a NASCAR event. She still enjoys spinning and weaving, but she hasn’t eaten a hot dog or watched a car race since.

Diane and her husband divide their time between Boulder, Colorado, and the small Central Florida town they discovered while doing research for the book.

More about Diane Byington

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens:

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.


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 Rebecca can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Spring Cleaning: Give Your Writing Space a Makeover

I have several writing spaces, including the couch, the library, and (weather permitting) the patio. But when I really need to focus, I have a designated, distraction-free place I can retreat to. I call it my “cave,” but it’s more like a hobbit hole: cozy, comfortable, and colorful. Here’s how I did itcomplete with photos!and what to consider when creating or reviving your own writing space.


For most people, a writing space needs to be quiet, isolated, and close-able—meaning you can shut the door when needed and not be disturbed by noisy children, spouses, televisions, etc.

I chose a nook in my spare bedroom, partly because it was one of the few unused areas in my 800-square-foot apartment, and partly because it has a window. (I’m not sure why, but I’ve always believed there’s a special creative energy that comes from placing a desk under a window. Or maybe I just like looking up from my writing and being reminded that there is, in fact, a world outside the one on the page.)


This is how much flat space your desk or table offers. More is usually better—personally, I like to have room for my laptop, a notebook, and a mug of cocoa at the very least. I would have loved a nice big L-shaped desk, but since space is at a premium in my apartment, I had to settle for something relatively small. I found a cute little desk at a thrift store for $20, then spent a weekend repainting it and replacing the hardware.

And don’t forget your desk’s necessary sidekicks: a comfortable chair and good lighting. Seriously. If you’re going to do most of your writing here, you need a place to sit that won’t give you chronic back pain. And if your room doesn’t have an overhead light, you’ll need to add a desk lamp or floor lamp. Otherwise, as my mother would say, you’ll ruin your eyes trying to write in the dark.


It’s important to have additional storage so your workspace doesn’t disappear under a pile of clutter (trust me, it happens faster than you’d think). Wall shelves, a hutch, desk drawers, and desktop organizers will put everything you need within easy reach while leaving plenty of room to write.

Although my writing desk doesn’t provide as much workspace as I’d like, it makes up for it with four spacious drawers. I’ve put them to good use, storing things like pens, paper, binders, staplers, writing resource books, lip balm, and emergency chocolate bars.


This is your space; spruce it up in whatever way speaks to you. For me that means bright colors, cute knickknacks, inspirational quotes, photos of my family, and any potted plants I can manage to keep alive. Many of these have some kind of meaning or positive memory attached—the owl statue I rescued from the dumpster, the glass bird my in-laws bought for me in Ireland, the inspirational quotes given to me by my mother. Obviously, you don’t want anything that will trigger negative emotions. Think rainbows and unicorns (or Hufflepuffs and hippogriffs—whatever floats your writerly boat).


Last but not least, my writing space wouldn’t be complete without my Wall of Encouragement. This is where I frame my successes—stories I’ve gotten published in magazines, the cover of an anthology I was featured in, an award I got in a novel contest. Any time I’m reeling from a rejection, struggling to write a tough scene, or just feeling discouraged, looking at this wall boosts my confidence and helps me get back on the horse.

Instead of a wall of encouragement, you could do an inspiration board where you tack up photos, magazine clippings, and quotes that help you visualize your work-in-progress. Or you could have a vanity shelf, filled with the books you’ve published or magazines you’ve appeared in—even if it’s empty, it’ll remind you of where you’re headed. Or you could hang up meaningful things like the first story you wrote as a child, the brochure from your last conference, a photo of you shaking hands with Neil Gaiman…whatever works to boost your writerly mentality.

Now, let’s see how I’ve incorporated these elements into my writing space…

What does your writing space look like?

Is your writing moving along like you hoped for in 2017?

I don’t know about you, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get my writing life better organized which included writing more often, mucking out my office-cum-storage room, getting a business plan done, and deciding if I was going to go ahead and self-publish the first three completed historical romances in the series I had been working on before I started the Bad Carma mystery series.

So, how am I doing? Well. Umm. You see, it’s like this….

Guess it’s not hard to tell that I haven’t kept that resolution very well. HOWEVER, I do have NovelRama  on my calendar, I am attending Pub-Con  the end of April to find out more about both traditional and self-publishing, and I am almost finished with my WIP, which I have an agent interested in from an earlier version (requested at 2016 Gold - so needless to say, I want to go to Gold in September as well). I also submitted a workshop proposal to Gold as part of my platform building and professional development plan (you, too, can submit through the end of March!), and plan to enter the Colorado Gold writing contest again this year.

I haven’t started on my much-needed business plan even though as a coach at a Business Incubator it’s a major part of my job to help small business owners put their plans together. And I am a small business. I charge money for my writing and I intend to continue to make money from my novel(s). So as a small business owner I need to know my target market(s), my budget (revenue, expense, and cash flows), timelines for completion of work, if I intend to continue to write/sell/publish articles and short stories and to whom, and the different lines of business (books/series) that I intend to complete during the plan’s life. And since a business plan is a living document I also need to make myself go back to it on a regular basis to see how I’m doing and what modifications I might need to make.

We’re a quarter of the way through the year. Are you on track with your plans? Do you HAVE a plan? Remember, Fail to Plan/Plan to Fail.

My recommendation: Get your s**t together and Write On!

Do you have any other recommendations to kick the 2017 writing year into gear?

Contests and Competitions

Tis the Season

NEW YORK - APRIL 29: Atmosphere at the 2010 Edgar Awards banquet at Grand Hyatt Hotel on April 29, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)

Now is a unique time for writers. In the mystery world, early in the year is the time when judging is beginning, nominations are being requested for a number of prize awards or Awards are being announced. Probably because the awards are for books published in the previous year. That said, RMFW's call for judges got me thinking—what is it about awards that make them so important? Who nominates your books for awards? Should you submit your own book? How does it all work?


Clearly there's a difference. The competitions for the unpublished are geared toward evaluating manuscripts and proposals for submission to editors and agents. The plus for entering is, in nearly all the contests held today, your work has a chance of getting into the hands of an editor and/or agent—once it passes the hurdle of the published writers who are judging most of these competitions.

Traditionally vs. Independently Published

For anyone published, honors are awarded based on any number of criteria, and they're usually readers' choice or judges' choice (including librarians, readers, writers, reviewers, etc.). Sometimes they are for best overall, sometimes they are for best in a genre, they can be given by any number of writers' groups and organizations, and who is eligible to enter varies.

I know the mystery genre, so I'll speak to that. For the Edgar Awards (the Oscar for Mystery Awards), up until now, entries must be traditionally published. Even so, judges receive hundreds of books in a number of categories. I have judged the Edgars twice in the Best Novel category, and both times we had over 500 submissions. There are also awards given at many of the conferences: The Anthony Awards at Bouchercon, The Lefty Awards at Left Coast Crime, the Agatha Awards at Malice Domestic. Writers' organizations also offer award opportunities. The Private Eye Writers of America have the Shamus Awards. There are the Barry Awards, the Macavity Awards, etc., etc. Many states have individual book awards, like the Colorado Book Awards, and then there are also a number of national awards, such as the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize Award, etc. Just know, as long as you meet the criteria, all of these are available for you to enter.

Note : Independently published authors are sometimes barred from entering some of the organizational awards, but they have their own list of opportunities. Some indie-pub only awards include: ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award, the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Natilus Book Awards, and here at home the Colorado Independent Publishers Association Evvy Awards.

So why enter?

For the unpublished, the most important thing is feedback. I am constantly amazed at how many people don't request critiques on their work. The fee for a critique when entering these contests is so nominal. Don't pass up the chance to learn what works and what doesn't work in your manuscript, something crucial to your ultimate success as a writer. Plus, I'm blown away by how quick we are to discount criticism of our work. As unpleasant as the message can sometimes be, we should be grateful that someone (almost always a volunteer) cares enough to tell us what works and what doesn't work for them—for them being the key words. You're bound to get some bad or conflicting advice, or advice that just doesn't resonate with you. However, never forget, the intent of the judge is to help you in your quest for publication. This isn't about them showing off their own skills, or about anyone trying to change your work or your vision. They just want to offer assistance to you in reaching your goals. In my opinion, it should be welcomed.

For the traditionally and independently published, awards are all about increasing exposure for your work. Nearly every award receives some media attention, which results in additional book signings, which means more sales, and that's what it's all about—at least for most publishers. Winning an award (even being nominated) is also a sign that others love your work, and that's invaluable to the author who writes alone and wonders what type of reception their work will receive. Last, awards can open doors!

Which award contests are worth entering?

This is where you have to do your research. You need to be cautious. All of the awards are run differently, and certain awards are more prestigious than others. It depends on your interest what will serve you best. There are hundreds of literary awards given yearly in the United States.

Be sure and weigh the costs. Many charge a fee for entry. In Colorado, the Colorado Book Award's entry fee is $53. They accept ALL published works. Plus, some competitions pay prizes. The National Book Awards has an entry fee of $125, but the winner in each category receives $10,000.

If you win, milk it!

Get as much mileage out of being nominated and/or winning as you can. Get the word out early. Tell your publisher, your agent, your family and friends. Shout it out through social media, on your website. Attend any and all scheduled signings in relation to the awards.

Many organizations will give you stickers for your books. Use them.

Make bookmarks, stickers, flyers.

Leverage solo appearances at bookstores that may not normally welcome you to sign and get in touch with your local library. Consumers like to read books that have hit the bestsellers list and/or won awards. It signals that the book is worth their time to read it.

Send out press releases.

Remember the rule of three. It takes at least three times of someone hearing about your book or reading about your book before it sticks in their memory. Make sure to use every avenue you have to get the word out multiple times in multiple ways.

So, how do you create a winning book or proposal?

The correct answer is: write a great book. But even with a great book, you may need to generate some buzz to make it successful. Buzz garners attention. Buzz drives book sales. Awards help create buzz.

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 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.