RMFW Spotlight on Nikki Baird, Anthology Chair

Our second spotlight of the month features Nikki Baird who is serving as anthology chair. Nikki was happy to join in the fun because she wants to see a large number of RMFW members at her workshop tomorrow and is hoping for lots of great member story submissions for Crossing Colfax, the first RMFW anthology since 2009.

The workshop is called Short Story Breakdown: Prepping for Anthology 2014
Saturday, January 25
1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M.
Bel Mar Public Library
555 S. Allison Parkway
Lakewood, CO 80226
Members Only

The deadline for submitting to the anthology is March 14th. For more information and the submission form, go to the anthology page on the RMFW website.

nikkibaird1. Nikki, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am the anthology chair, which means that I shepherd the production of RMFW's short story anthology. The organization has produced 3 collections so far, and this will be our fourth - and my first in this role. But it will also be the first anthology produced in this wild west of self-publishing, which is very exciting.

It's been awhile since RMFW has produced an anthology, and I've increasingly realized the importance of short stories both in advancing a writing career as well as advancing craft. So I became passionate enough (or just plain crazy enough) to decide that a) this is something that RMFW should do again and b) I will volunteer to lead it. So here I am!

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

I'm actually in the process of putting out my own short story collection, as a way to dip my toes in the water of self-publishing. The collection is called Uncanny, and I hesitate to give a publication date because every time I do that, life gets in the way big time. But I'm in the process of designing covers right now, so it should be available "very soon."

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

To go to St. Petersburg, Russia and experience a white Russian night. I was a dual-major in college, and Russian was the second major (which is a really long story all on its own), but I never got to spend a semester there because that happened to be right as the Soviet Union fell apart and it became very inadvisable to travel there. Would've definitely helped my language skills. But St. Petersburg is a city with a fascinating history, built by one of the most enigmatic leaders of Russia, and it is absolutely on my list of things to see in my lifetime.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

Saying the same thing twice. Granted, I say it differently each time, and I usually like both ways - which is why I end up leaving it in on the first pass. I've had to learn to give myself some time to let the love fade, and then I can go back and ruthlessly delete all my over-writing. Either that, or my wonderful critique partners will not hesitate to point out the repeats.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

When my story surprises me. I think I will never know if the connections that suddenly emerge out of nowhere were actually planned long ago deep in my sub-conscious, or if I really did only just see the opportunity, but I love that little jolt of "Of course that's what should happen next! How did I not see that before?"

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Get over the whole grammar over-reaction (you know, the mind-numbing high school lectures on sentence structure followed by the verbal beatings and grades when it was clear I absorbed nothing). The vocabulary of grammar can be confusing and challenging, but every craftsperson should know the tools of their trade, and grammar is the tool of the writing trade. I resisting learning the language of my chosen profession for too long, and I would say it prevented me from quickly learning the "why" behind a lot of the rules out there. It, to be repetitive, slowed me down.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

You really want to see this? Just remember, you asked!

The first thing you should know is that, yes, I have a treadmill desk. I just found out that I walked 1,722 miles in 2013, which also wasn't a full year of walking because I didn't set it up until February. I will confess that most of my heavy writing is not done on the treadmill - it's hard to walk, think, and type all at once and I'm always worried I'll mess at least one of them up if I try all three. So the treadmill is only running a couple hours a day, not all day, and usually when I'm thinking or checking email, not when I'm writing.

Baird Desk1.jpgThe very colorful picture leaning against the wall is a wax art piece created by my son, and the larger black & white drawing is one my husband made in high school.

Baird_Desk 2A.jpgThe second thing to know is that the image above is missing its usual occupant, which is the family cat, Katara (named after the Water Tribe girl from the Avatar cartoon series). Next to her is the one thing I always have on my desk, which is a picture of my husband sticking his tongue out at the camera (in the heart frame). It is a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I am reading The Atlantis Gene, by A.G. Riddle. I've recently bought or downloaded a bunch of different fantasy/scifi/horror e-books on Amazon at different price points to see what the quality of each price point is. This one is pretty good - I will definitely finish it.

Achieving Your Writing Resolutions

By Kris Neri

Neri_Revenge cover artSure, January 1st is just a date on the calendar. Still, there’s something about a new year that makes us want to reboot our hopes and dreams, and bring a new determination to achieving them. For us writers, often resolutions include taking our craft to new levels, or finally finishing that WIP that’s dragged on too long.

But with determination comes pressure, and too much pressure can make writing sputter to a halt. To help you to achieve 2014 writing resolutions, I’d like to take a look at writer’s block.

First of all, if you find yourself stalled, don’t panic. You're not the first writer this has happened to. Writers practically invented procrastination. Many of us would rather perform the most dreaded household chore, instead of writing a paragraph or two. Whether your writing has sputtered to a halt, or if you simply can't begin, the inertia you're experiencing can be overcome. Here are some things to consider:

•  Identify the cause: Perhaps the problem isn’t with you, it’s with the material. Maybe your mind is trying to tell you that the way you’ve planned to write the next scene isn’t working. See if taking the book in a new direction eliminates the problem.

•  Perfectionism: Sometimes the problem isn't that you can't write — it's that you refuse to accept the level you're writing at. Writing is a craft that develops with effort over time. If you've shut down the flow of your creativity with your own unreasonable demands, you must allow yourself to write a flawed first draft. Remember that cliché: All writing is re-writing. You’ll perfect it later; for now, get it down.

•  Fears: If anxiety is hobbling you, you need look at what you’re afraid of. Loads of writers before you have let fears overcome them: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of telling the truth, and so many others. The thing to remember is that all of those fears involve something you may have to deal with in the future. Can you put them aside for now and just concentrate on the work before you?

Here are some tips to get the process started again:

•  Write something: Even if you throw it away later, at least you’ll have begun. Sometimes even copying something you've written before can help.

•  Start small: set yourself a goal as modest as just writing a paragraph. If you can comfortably expand on that, do it—but continue to keep your goals manageable, until you’re past your discomfort.

•  Start from a strength: every writer has some area that come especially easy, be it dialogue or action scenes, etc. Start writing in the area where your confidence is strongest, even if it’s a scene that will never make it into your manuscript. If you’re able to successfully write something unrelated to your WIP, that might demonstrate a hidden fear.

Here are some other hints that might prevent blocking in the first place:

•  Establish a routine: Set aside a time to write, and treat this period with the importance it deserves. You’ll feel more prepared when you start.

•  Reward yourself: Promise to reward yourself with some treat when you manage to write. No cheating! And no denying yourself the reward once you’ve earned it, either.

•  Turn off your critical editor: If you know perfectionism is a problem, be alert to the presence of that overly critical voice in your head. Shut it down the instant you hear it. And don’t say you can’t—you turned it on, and only you can turn it off. Try giving your critical editor a stupid name and poke fun at it.

•  Use your sleep hours to prepare yourself for the next day: Many writers have discovered the unconscious hours spent in sleep can be used to ignite their creativity. Before falling sleep give yourself commands for the next day, or ask the questions for which you need answers.

•  Keep a journal: While it’s true that journaling will eat up some of your writing time, your daily musings, if you're honest about your feelings, often prevents blocking or dramatically shortens its stay.

•  Gaining strength from support: Don’t hide your block as if were a secret shame. Turn to your writer friends for help. Odds are some of them have suffered the same fate, and they might have good ideas for overcoming it.

Mostly, take the long view. You know this block will pass. Besides, for all you know this little respite might provide the insights needed to make your lagging WIP spectacular.

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

Kris NeriKris Neri writes the Tracy Eaton mysteries, the latest of which is Revenge on Route 66, a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award finalist, and the Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries, the most recent of which, Magical Alienation, is a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award winner and a Lefty Award nominee. Kris teaches writing online for the prestigious Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School, as well as working as a freelance editor with many writers. She and her husband own The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, AZ.

Retreat! Retreat! Getting Away to Write

By Angie Hodapp, RMFW Retreat Chair

Headshot_Angie HodappWhen I was in graduate school, I figured out pretty quickly that my best writing happened away from home. Home was where the dirty dishes were. And the laundry. The television. The pets. The old comfy couch, which was just perfect for mid-afternoon naps.

It’s fair to say that if it weren’t for the Barnes & Noble café, I might never have finished my master’s degree.

Writing away from home has always been a powerful tool in my creative arsenal. From an hour or two at my neighborhood coffee shop to long weekends spent writing with friends in the mountains, I long for opportunities to get away from real life and immerse myself in my writing.

In March 2012, I attended the Rainforest Writers Village (RWV) retreat on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula. I’d seen a notice about the retreat in Locus magazine and was immediately intrigued. I signed up, and away I went.

Organized by Patrick Swenson, RWV is held at a rustic lodge about an hour away from the nearest town. Not only are attendees treated to four days of sunup-to-sundown writing, but they also have the opportunity to get to know thirty-nine other aspiring and published authors. Breaks are taken to hike around Lake Quinault and the surrounding mountains. Meals are shared. Ideas and inspiration are exchanged.

It was without a doubt one of the coolest things I’ve ever done as a writer—and not just because the short story I wrote while was there earned me a semifinalist spot in the Writers of the Future Contest (although that’s a definite plus)! I knew right away I wanted to bring the magic of the writing retreat home for members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

RMFW’s first retreat was held September 22-26, 2013, immediately following RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference. (Read attendee Darla Bartos’s recap of the event here). However, in order to help members defray the cost of two consecutive, relatively expensive, and time-consuming events, we will now hold our retreat annually in March.

This year’s retreat will be March 16-21 at the Table Mountain Inn in Golden, Colorado. (Next year, we may look for a more remote location. Wouldn’t Estes Park be amazing?) The retreat is open to both members and nonmembers, and flexible registration allows attendees to come for two, three, or four days. All breakfasts and lunches are included in the cost of registration, as is a Thursday-night farewell banquet. We are also excited to welcome agent Kate Schafter Testerman (ktliterary) Thursday afternoon, March 20, to provide a workshop for retreat attendees.

To register or learn more, visit the Retreat page on the RMFW website. You have until February 17 to book your room at the hotel at the special retreat rate, and you have until March 15 to register for the retreat itself.

I hope to see you there!

Why I Have Failed To Write a Word in 2014

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Aaron_Michael_RitcheyI am the problem.

Not the clock. Not the industry. Not my critique group. Not my readers. Not even my stalker fans. Wait, I don’t have stalker fans. Dang.

No, I am the problem. When I don’t write, I am the problem?

First of all, I forget so easily most everything good about the writing life. I only focus on the difficulties. I know I suck, the criticisms sting, the despair drowns me, the disappointment destroys, the rejection! Rejection. Rejection. Eloi, Eloi! Lama sabachthani!

So far in 2014, I have not written a single word of fiction and for me that is a long time because I’m a daily writer. If I don’t write daily, I fall out of the habit, and getting back into the habit takes blood, my dearies, lots of blood. And I know I have to do some writing soon because I have a new book coming out in 2014, and I have several mewling projects that need my attention.

But I’ve been so busy.

Again, I am the problem. One of my favorite excuses not to write is time. Oh, I’m so busy. I have so much going on. How can I fit it all in?

That is me lying to myself, which I love to do. My friend says he wastes his life in ten minutes increments looking at drivel on the internet. Add up those ten minute increments? Six of them gives you an hour? Do you know what you can do in an hour? I can type a thousand words, easy. I can edit ten pages. I can outline a book. One hour is a long time. How else would I want to spend any free hour I have? Doing something that gives my life meaning? Or looking at kitty pictures on Facebook? Though I do like me a good kitten pic, I’ll tell ya what.

We all have the same twenty-four hours. People can do some amazing stuff with their minutes, and why not me? It’s all about priorities and scheduling. Normally, I schedule in what’s important first, and then let the rest of my day take shape. For years, I got up early to write. Getting up early is stealing time from God.

But now? I sleep in. I read. I watch T.V. I stare out the window into the darkness. I think Kafka-esque thoughts.

I am the problem. What really gets me is the self-doubt. Stephen King said that self-doubt kills both books and writers. This is me, raising my hand.

Ritchey_LLTSK_Cover for ARCI have the notion that I will never succeed, that I will remain stalkerless, that I know exactly how my writing career is going to look, and it doesn’t include huge contracts, adoring fans, and mimosas. I assume that whatever I write won’t sell, that I’ll die nameless, and this entire endeavor will be a monumental waste of time. I might as well embrace the obesity epidemic, turn on the T.V., permanently, and just huddle up in my cocoon of Dr. Who and chili-flavored Fritos and wait for heart disease and diabetes to come and get busy on my ass.

Every day in 2014 that is how I’ve woken up. What am I doing writing books? Why am I even trying? What kind of an idiot am I?

Then I think about my next book, Long Live the Suicide King. It’s a story about a seventeen-year-old kid who quits doing drugs and gets suicidal, but the more suicidal he gets, the more interesting his life becomes. It’s a story about hope. About meaning. It’s darkly funny, reads fast, and has some definite crime novel aspects to it. It’s a project I adore, and it truly is an Aaron Michael Ritchey novel.

It was a book I was born to bring into the world.

In 2014, I’ve forgotten why I write, so I haven’t been motivated to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to work. It’s our “whys” that drive us. We all write for different reasons. For me, writing is an act of supreme courage. When I write, it’s me spitting in the face of death and despair. When I don’t write, it’s the other way around. Yeah, lugies in the eye.

The hero in my new book is certain he knows how his life will turn out, which is one of the reason he wants to die. But he’s foolish. In the end, none of know what the future holds. Lots of writers commit suicide certain they were kidding themselves about their talent, the power of their story, the righteousness of their cause. I don’t want to be another dead writer.

While I’m alive, I will write. I can blame the clock, the industry, my childhood of neglect and afternoon sitcoms, but the reality is, I have the power, I make the choice.

And today, I choose to pursue this impossible, frustrating, windmill of a dream. I think I’ll go and write a little fiction right now.

I’m doing a little giveaway for both the hopeless and the hopeful. If you’d like to win a one-of-kind Advanced Reader Copy of Long Live the Suicide King, leave a comment about why you write. What keeps you going?

Comments left on this post through Friday midnight Mountain Time will be considered. The winner will be announced on the blog on Saturday. This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.

Thanks all!

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

Aaron Michael Ritchey’s first novel, The Never Prayer, was published in March of 2012 to a fanfare of sparkling reviews including an almost win in the RMFW Gold contest. Since then he’s been paid to write steampunk, cyberpunk, and sci-fi western short stories, two of which will appear in a new fiction magazine, Fiction Vale. His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, will give hope to the masses in April of 2014. As a former story addict and television connoisseur, he lives in Colorado with his wife and two goddesses posing as his daughters.

For more about Aaron, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit his website. He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets as @aaronmritchey.

Spotlight on Vicki Law

vl profile pic.jpegThis week we are pleased to feature Vicki Law. If you've been around RMFW for any amount of time, you will recognize Vicki by her cheerful countenance and amazing, active involvement with RMFW including the annual Colorado Gold conference. As if that's not enough, Vicki is also responsible for pulling together the Western Slope contingency. It's obvious by her 2013 Jasmine Award, her outstanding volunteer efforts didn't go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Now, to adjust the light so it glares in her eyes...

1. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am currently the Education Chair; Western Slope Chair; and PR Chair. I’m looking to give away the PR Chair (any takers?). I love RMFW and what we have become. Simple as that. Interesting facts…When Marne and I co-chaired the conference in 2007, we begged agents and editors to come to our conference. Now, RMFW has A&E’s contact us and we have even had a couple of them pay their own expenses to come. That shows you how far RMFW has come in the last few years.

Last year when I contacted Jess Lourey to ask her to present at the May Education Event – her response was “You all at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers are nationally-renowned (and envied) for all you do--kudos!”

Woot! That’s all I got to say.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

Currently Pre-Published. Yes, I love that term. I’m working on a fantasy romance with flying unicorns and big bugs, but don’t be thinking pink and glittery. My flyers are warriors. The horns are for killing the bugs and the manuscript has an old-west flavor to it. Most importantly, a yummy hero and a kick-ass heroine.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists-- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

Get published of course! Winning the lottery wouldn’t be bad either, but I’m leaving that up to Mike.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Hmm, I spend a lot of time with my butt in a chair and my hands on the keyboard, but unfortunately, it isn’t always writing. There seems to be a lot of other things that need done. An excuse, I fully realize. I hear at every conference, successful writers write every day. That’s something I’m striving for, but don’t often achieve.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

The people. I know most writers are solitary kind of folk. It seems I’m the opposite. I guess that goes to question #4 above. Maybe I need to be less social and more solitary.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Listen to those who have gone before. Attend critique groups, workshops and conferences. Soak it all in and grow a very thick skin. No matter how many workshops I attend, I always learn something.

vicki desk7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it? 

Most of the time, I'm uber-organized. Unlike dear husband and fellow RMFWer and writer, Mike Ruchhoeft, whose desk is only a few feet away. Ack. Issue!

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

Love Dared, by Marne Ann Kirk…yes I know some of you are rolling your eyes and say “sure, you are”, but I am!  It came out recently and I hadn’t read it since I critiqued it several years ago. Nor had I read it since she made critique and editorial changes. Reading it on my phone with my Kindle app. It’s the only way I read.

Thanks, Vicki, for sharing with us. I know I speak for everyone when we give you a big thank you for all you do. (I'll turn off that light now. I see you're starting to sweat a bit.)

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

Vicki’s first experience with RMFW was to attend the 2006 Colorado Gold Conference with her husband, Mike Ruchhoeft and best friend, Marne Kirstatter. Immediately, she felt welcome and was in awe of the RMFW well-oiled machine. Less than an hour after walking into the hotel, she’d reluctantly agreed to co-chair the 2007 conference with Marne. After a bit of confusion regarding her own impetuous actions, Vicki got online, joined RMFW and has never regretted it. Now, seven years later, she considers RMFW her tribe. She has gone from being unable to moderate small workshops to presenting her own classes and speaking in front of large crowds. She has also gained a plethora of marketable skills from her volunteer position with RMFW. More importantly, she’s learned to write and she’s come to know the ever-evolving writing industry. Because of RMFW, agents and editors, New York Times Bestselling authors and Excellent Writers in various stages of their writing journey are among her friends. She lives in Montrose with her husband and a large, varied furry and scaly menagerie. Thankfully all six of their kids are grown and out of the house, raising their seven grandkids. On the side, Vicki manages a law office, where she has worked for the best boss in the whole world for the past 20 years.

 

Viewing the World as a Writer

By Sean Curley

As part of my efforts to publish a professional-level book independently, I went back to school at the University of Denver for a graduate degree in Creative Writing. One of the concepts school tried to teach me was to view the world as a writer. I didn't understand that for a long time. However, as my craft grew I began to see the nuances in writing all around me. I had just not been paying attention.

One key moment for me was while I was sitting at a Sting concert one evening. He was playing at the Red Rocks Amphitheater (the best venue in the world) with the London Philharmonic. The wind was whistling through the rock formations and the lights of Denver scintillated in the background. Part of the way through the concert, I actually lost track of the music for a while as I sat pondering the words and their hidden meanings. And then, I started to see how the music presented a mood to go along with and enhance those meanings. Of course, it helps that Sting is an intelligent person and writes complex, almost 3-dimensional, music.

After that, I started paying attention to the subtleties and the art of the written word. I saw it in posters and advertisements, on the sides of buses, in lyrics and speeches, in lectures and well-done movies. Sometimes, I even found it in casual conversation and wondered if the speaker knew how clever his/her statement was.

It also completely changed how I read books and possibly not for the better. Now, I tend to notice a word here or a phrase there and how they change the feeling of the writing. Poorly written books also annoy me more than they used to. Reading as a writer is improving my writing, but I think in some ways it has lessened my pleasure in reading because now I am as much critic and student as I am reader.

As I see it, viewing the world as a writer is one step in the journey to becoming accomplished at our craft. Each time we see the subtleties in how others form their words, sentences, and paragraphs, we improve our own writing.

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

    About the Author:
Sean Curley - Author Photo
Sean Curley, Author

Sean Curley (1961-) was born and raised in California. His Catholic upbringing shifted to Philosophy and Computers during college. Others have referred to him as a Renaissance man because of his diverse educational background in Computer Science, Philosophy, Management, Space Studies, and Creative Writing. He is frequently found speaking on diverse topics such as Humanism, management, parenting, separation of church and state, and religious history. He has published one non-fiction book, Humanism for Parents, and one novel, Propositum – A Novel. He is currently working on two more novels. Mr. Curley lives in Colorado with his children.

Do You Know How to Juggle … Contracts?

By Susan Spann

Last week, someone asked me if I'd ever written a post about the legalities of contracting with multiple publishers (or publishers and others) for various forms and formats of the same creative work. 

In simpler language: "What do I need to know before I license print rights to one publisher and then license audio, or translation, or film rights (to the same work) somewhere else?"

Today we're starting a discussion of that very topic. It's a complex one, so we'll come back to it for the next few months, at least.

I've mentioned before that "copyright" includes a bundle of different rights, including print, ebooks, translation to foreign languages, TV and film rights, audio rights, apps and gaming, braille, and many more. Until and unless an author licenses some or all of those rights, the author owns and can control them all.

Sometimes, a publisher wants to contract for more than one kind of rights. Some publishers take only one or two. We could write an entire book (and many blog posts) about the decision whether or not to license multiple rights at once--but for now, I want to focus on what happens when the author has the chance to split the rights among different publishers or companies.

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE MULTIPLE CONTRACTS, PLAN AHEAD.

The author needs to plan for multiple contracts from the very beginning--meaning BEFORE he or she even signs the first one.

Publishing contracts (and film, TV, app and gaming contracts also) always contain two clauses:

- A clause which states that the author cannot enter into any contract which would violate the terms of the contract (s)he is signing, AND

- A clause in which the author warrants (a fancy legal word for "promises") that the current contract doesn't violate the terms of any other existing contract or agreement involving the author and this work.

Do you see the issue?

If the author gives away too many rights in the first (or any other) contract, or doesn't make sure that each contract allows the author to dispose of the remaining rights in any way the author chooses, the author can end up trapped and unable to license additional rights, sometimes even if those rights weren't expressly included in the first contract.

BEFORE YOU SELL RIGHTS TO YOUR WORK, MAKE A LIST OF THE DIFFERENT CONTRACTS YOU HOPE TO OBTAIN 

Create a list (or a spreadsheet) containing all of the rights you might want to license. This might include:

Leave space so you can write in the name of the publisher (or company) to whom you license each set of rights.

In addition to keeping your publishers straight, this list becomes your "rights review checklist" every time you prepare to enter a contract. Make sure each contract names and licenses only the rights you want to license to the company in question. Be clear during negotiations: let the publisher know in advance that you're offering only certain rights, and that you intend to license and exploit your other rights in other ways.

You'll also need to ensure that each publishing language contains some important language protecting your rights ... but that's the topic of next month's #PubLaw post here at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog.

So tune in next month for the next installment!

In the meantime, if you have questions about this or other publishing legal issues, please feel free to ask in the comments! 

 

 Susan Spann is a publishing attorney and author from Sacramento, California. Her debut mystery novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, July 2013), is the first in a series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori. The sequel, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, will release on July 15, 2014. Susan blogs about writing, publishing law and seahorses at http://www.SusanSpann.com. Find her on Twitter @SusanSpann or on Facebook.

 

What, Precisely, Are Your Intentions?

By Kerry Schafer

Setting Yourself Up For Failure

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. More often than not, I think they set us up for failure rather than success. Some of us start out great with whatever it is we’ve decided to do: write 2000 words a day, go to the gym 5 days a week, lose 20 pounds, whatever. And then we have that day where we don’t write any words. We get busy and miss a couple of days at the gym. We fall to temptation and eat a box of chocolates. Some of us never get started at all. A week goes by, then two or three, and it’s already February and we haven’t even started on our resolution yet, or we've failed to follow through.

And then the self talk starts.

Why do I bother? I’m a failure. I’ll never be able to do this, I don’t know why I try… And this gives us the excuse not to try, to fall back to the old ways, which are always more comfortable than change.

For some people resolutions do seem to work. I’m guessing these are people who don’t have a tendency to listen to the negative self talk. They can fall off the exercise/diet/writing wagon, pick themselves up the next day, and carry on. And I’d guess this has everything to do with their focus, which is on the goal and not on the failure.

You Go Where You’re Looking

Remember learning to ride a bicycle? Part of the trick to balancing and driving in a straight line without crashing into the trash cans or parked cars is picking a spot somewhere ahead and keeping your eyes on it. If you turn your head to look at that parked car for very long, chances are good a collision is in your future. Actually, this applies to pretty much anything - skateboarding, driving a car, even walking. You end up where you're looking.

What Are Your Intentions?

So what is your goal? Often we don’t end up where we think we want to go because really we want to be somewhere else. Our subconscious minds are powerful things. So if you walk around saying that you really want to finally write that novel this year, but really there are ten other goals that are more important to you, chances are the writing is never going to happen. I like the idea of setting intentions because it takes that goal idea one step farther. An intention is, simply, a statement of what you intend to do. This is, incidentally, the best predictor of human behavior. The old standby question asked by fathers of their daughters' suitors in every comic strip everywhere, “What are your intentions toward my daughter?” is actually a good one. Not that most of those boys will answer honestly, mind you, but if their intention is marriage their behavior will be vastly different than if it’s a one time tumble in the haystack.

Try This

I believe in the power of the written word. Taking a half formed intention that’s simmering in your brain, half conscious, and writing it down (preferably with pen and paper) is a powerful action. It can also help bring you to an understanding of where you really want to go.

1. Fetch a notebook and a pen, clear a half hour somewhere in your busy day, and find some place where you can be undisturbed.

2. Now, imagine that it is December 31st, 2014. You are taking a quiet moment on New Year’s Eve to review the past year and all that you have accomplished. In the present tense, write quickly and without stopping, detailing your successes of the year and how you feel about them.

3. Take that page (or pages) that you have written, and put them in a place that acknowledges the importance of this intention to you. Ideas include: under your pillow so you can dream of what you are going to accomplish, in a special container on the windowsill, in your jewelry box with other treasured items.

4. Let simmer, and see what happens.

Next month: taking it one step further with an action plan

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

Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2013 and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on January 28, 2014. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. She is a bit of a hypocrite who does not always practice the relaxation she preaches. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books

A New Year: A New Writerly You

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Yeah, yeah, January 1st was thirteen days ago. Get over it already, you’re probably saying to yourself, or a busload of captive passengers, who, by now are looking at you a little strange.

Yes it was.

But just because half of our resolutions are already ripped apart, most by January 3rd (after all, who vows to eat more seaweed? That stuff is fine in sushi, but not great with hotdogs…). This doesn’t mean it’s over for the rest. We can always make new ones.

A few days before the New Year, I did a facebook survey (and we all know how scientific those are) on what most writers are resolving to do in the upcoming year. You wouldn’t believe the answers (oddly enough many included weird things with chocolate. What can I say? Writers are just plain weird). What surprised me most about the answers were, no one vowed to give me millions of dollars.

Right? I couldn’t believe it either.

My stingy facebook writer friends’ lack of generosity aside, the main resolution imparted was finishing a project, either one they’ve been working on or starting a brand new one and finishing it by the end of this year.

A great goal for every writer.

One of my editors, before he was my editor, asked me while we were in a pitch appointment at the CO Gold Conference in 2010, how long would it take me to write a book, from word one until it was ready to submit? I smugly said 1 year. He raised an eyebrow.

And guess what?

Our last contract was for two books, both to be finished in one year. For those writers like me who are bad at math, this means, one book every six months. Yes, I sort of feel sick just thinking about it. But in this publishing world, a book a year won't cut it for a new author. We need to push harder and write faster.

So now that you've resolved to quit writing all together...

Other resolutions my writerly friends shared involved submission (promising to send stuff out weekly or so many a month), getting an agent, self-publishing (designing cover art, hiring a copy editor, formatting, etc), and marketing (the bane of all author existence), and a few odd resolutions about plastic-wares.

Learning craft was also nice to see, but we all know RMFW and those who are thinking of joining because of this fabulous post don’t need to learn craft. We are naturally awesome (though the workshops and classes by RWFW members are, of course, the reason why we rock so much more).

The other big resolution was to write.

Simple and to the point.

We aren’t writers unless we are putting words on the page (i.e. computer screen, yellow legal notepad, college-ruled white paper, that journal you got for the holidays from your grandma, etc).

So in 2014, let’s forget losing weight, getting healthy, quitting vile habits, and instead, focus on doing what we love, which, sadly isn’t giving me money, but writing, in whatever method or madness works for you.

Did you make a writerly resolution? Did you break it yet? If not, what is it? If so, what will be your new-today resolution?

I’ve vowed to be more social, in person, so if you catch me trying to be a hermit, please call me on it.

Happy 2014 to you!

---------------------------------

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming book, The Assassin’s Heart. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator. For more about Julie, visit her website and blog.

Connect with Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

The Time is Now

By Trai Cartwright
Post 6 of a 6-part monthly series

Happy New Year’s, writers! Just like everyone else, we’re making our resolutions, dedicating ourselves to special projects. Maybe it’s a book we’ve been trying to finish, or personal essay careers we’ve been longing to launch, or short story publications we promised to pursue, if only we had the time.

The time, of course, is now. The time is always now.

In doing my own soul searching and trying to find just what was going to make 2014 extra special and gratifying as a writer, a very surprising answer came to mind: TV.

That’s right, TV.

While working in Hollywood for 15 years, I’d focused primarily on feature films; despite Buffy and The X-Files and the early years of The Sopranos, TV was never “the place to be.” It was all about film. I’d done my share of work in TV—I’d been the writer’s assistant to legendary 70’s TV writer Jay Tarses, had worked for several months for the “pixie father” of reality TV, Mike Darnell, and had even spent a few glorious weeks on a desk in Chris Carter’s X-Files office (swoon!).

And just like every other writer in town, I’d written my share of “specs:” teleplays that riffed on hit shows in the hopes of getting a staff job, and had even written three or four pilots, even though it was nearly impossible for an outsider to launch a show.

Still, I wasn’t convinced I was a TV writer. I couldn’t nail the voices like so many great TV writers can, and couldn’t fathom being in a tiny room with other writers, jamming out draft after draft for twelve hours a day. Staff writing seemed like its own special hell, and I might never get to have my own voice craft a show.

TV had always been there…and had never been of particular interest.

What a wonderful thing to discover that TV has changed.

Last month, I spoke to an agent taking pitches at an MFA residency, and this is what he had to say:

“There are so many people and production companies looking for TV content right now, there’s actually not enough. I’m disappointed more people didn’t pitch me pilots. Features are tougher than TV right now—you don’t need a show runner, you don’t need a show bible, you don’t need a resume, you just need a great idea.”

A writer friend of mine in LA just told me that 85% of the jobs for screenwriters right now are in TV.

And three things occurred to me:

  1. Without even trying, I came up with three ideas for TV shows I’d love to watch.
  2. I know a lot of people who’ve expressed interested in learning to write for TV.
  3. NOW is a great time to pursue that dream of creating a TV show.

My New Year’s Resolution: write as many pilots as I can (I’m halfway through my first one already—23 pages, so easy!), and add Writing the TV Pilot to the Film Program I’m designing for RMFW.

Not only am I going to teach screenplays in 2014, but I’m also going to teach teleplays, and I can’t wait.

So if you’ve got a pilot (or 6!) rolling around in your head, contact me, and I’ll put you on the list for this exclusive class. Join me in the newest media gold rush—it’s an amazing time to be a TV lover!

Are any of you venturing into a new writing medium?

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

Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.