Finding Inspiration and Suspense in Nature

By Kim McMahill

Kim McMahillAuthors garner inspiration for their stories from a plethora of sources. Some observe, watching life unfold around them, absorbing the possibilities and twisting reality into dramatic fiction; some feed off emotions; others rely solely on active imaginations; and many embrace adventure through the endless bounty of nature. I accept inspiration whenever and wherever it presents itself, but the natural world is my greatest muse. I often find the sensational backdrops for my novels in nature, along with those forces humans try to manipulate, but generally fail to control, which add an additional layer of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, heightening suspense.

Those who follow my work may have noticed that I’ve set multiple stories in Mexico. Though I haven’t been to Mexico in a few years, I have explored its Mayan ruins, enjoyed its beaches, and I’ve done some volunteer work in the rural interior. While listening to a guide discuss the practice of human sacrifice at the Sacred Well at the edge of Chichén Itzá, my eyes darted around the perimeter, searching for any hint of danger, and my imagination ran amok (Marked in Mexico). I found it impossible to wander Cobá on a morning devoid of visitors, cautiously peering behind a mysterious ruin abutting dense jungle and listening to the insects, without needing to take the adventure much further (Deadly Ruins). And, Big Bend National Park—anyone who has been there has surely stood on the banks of the Rio Grande, looking across its muddy waters into Mexico, wondering about life on the other side, and if anything could make an American risk everything to swim for another life south of the border (Deadly Exodus-Desperate Dreams).

McMahill_bighornBut, you don’t have to travel to a foreign country to find inspiration in nature. Big Horn Storm is set in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. It encompasses over one million acres of remote country, and its abundant wildlife, evergreen forests, mountain meadows, rugged peaks, deep canyons, and cascading waterfalls make the area breathtakingly beautiful, and the perfect setting for an action packed adventure. Whether experiencing the area in the winter on snowmobile or in the summer on horseback, it is a place to be respected. The weather is unpredictable, with snow possible every month of the year; predators live in the shadows, avoiding humans when possible, reacting when cornered; and help can be hours or even days away. So, where better to set a contemporary western adventure combining a too-close-to-home military crisis, harrowing horseback escapes, and an attempt to reconcile past releationships?

Nearly all writers admit to being avid people-watchers, which is essential for realistic character development, but don’t forget about nature and the experiences we encounter within its broad embrace. Not only can we find inspiration in its varied landscapes and the creatures which inhabit its diverse and unique environments, but we can also visualize additional challenges for our characters to overcome, and discover that extra element of danger to heighten a story’s level of suspense.

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Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming, which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. Since leaving Wyoming she has enjoyed many opportunities to see the world and has lived amid some of America’s most stunning landscapes. Kim started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happy endings soon drew her into a world of adventure and romantic suspense. Learn more at her website, or follow Kim at her blog, Embrace Adventure. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

If a Blog Falls in the Forest….

By Sunny Frazier

Sunny FrazierJulie Luek asked me over here to discuss blog interaction. First, let me say, I'm honored. I entered the Colorado Gold contest early in my career and the changes suggested definitely got me a contract. This is a terrific group.

I do my homework. I've scrolled through some recent blogs on your site. Good stuff. So, where are the comments? One here, two there. And, the same responders showing up. What gives?

Then I found Aaron Michel Ritchey's “Why I Have Failed To Write a Word In 2014.” I don't know this guy, why should I care? But, the title has grabbed me. His first line: “I am the problem.” No writer admits to that. They blame writers block or a full-time job.

I have to keep reading. His clipped style and use of the word “suck” amuses me. I have no idea what “Lama sabachthani” means. I don't care. He's hooked me with the first sentence. Isn't that what we're told to do in our novels?

His piece got 21 comments. I read all of those as well. I want to find out more about this man and, if his books are as good as this post, I want to buy them. I'll even become the stalker he craves.

Aaron started with a headline that stood out. I'm from the school of journalism; it all starts with the headline. Next, he made it personal. He's not lecturing me, he's opening up. With loose language and a bit of irreverence, I know I'm in for a good time with this guy.

Frazier_FoolsI use the same tactics as Aaron, but I go a bit further. I created a Posse, a group of aspiring writers. I send them interesting posts and train them to reply. It's a chance for them to expand their contacts in the writing world, to find out who's who. It also allows them to give an opinion and perhaps mention their own WIP. They're trained to announce posts they've written. Blogging doesn't do a bit of good if nobody is aware of its existence. .

Everyone should have a Posse. It starts with friends and contacts in your circle. All that networking you've been taught to do? This is where it comes in handy. Get out the business cards you've collected and include them in your group. Don't be shy, but don't SPAM everyone you know. Figure out who will enjoy the experience you are about to give them.

Please don't waste their time. If you're only blogging to fill up space or fulfill a commitment, remember all of us are busy people. Every time I write a blog, I ask myself “Would I stop and read this?” Be sure the reader comes away a bit more aware or given a different slant on the topic.

Frazier_Angels FearDon't make a blog all about selling. It's promotion, yes, but readers are trained to smell the hard-sell from a mile away. You have to be slicker than that. Let your word usage do the selling for you. A blog should be an audition for your novel. If readers love the way you write, they expect more of the same in a book.

To pull people to your blog don't say, “I wrote a nice blog. Please stop by and read it if you have a moment.” Here's the announcement I posted today titled “Yes, I Dipped My Toes In Those Muddy Waters.” My email said “Literary fiction vs genre--sounds boring, right? Do we REALLY need to hash out this one again? Those of you who know me know I'm going to have the last word, and you can count on it being irreverent.”

My followers know I'm again thumbing my nose at the status quo and we're cyber-nudging each other, snickering to see if I can get away with it. Toes will be stepped on but I get invited back because I do something all site owners are looking for: I attract readers. The numbers go up. People are plugging into their websites and will hopefully sign on for more.

Finally, my last tip to create fans: I personally contact people who reply to my posts to thank them. Not just in the reply space. Nope, I'm going to Google you to see who you are, what you've written and let you know I appreciate the time you took to read my words. I will even Facebook you with a request for friendship. And, I will notify you the next time you want to have some fun with me over at another blog. You're important. You make this all work.

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Sunny Frazier trained as a journalist and wrote for a city newspaper, military and law enforcement publications. After working 17 years with the Fresno Sheriff's Department, 11 spent as Girl Friday with an undercover narcotics team, it dawned on her that mystery writing was her real calling. Both Fools Rush In and Where Angels Fear are based on real cases as well as astrology, a habit Frazier has developed over the past 42 years. To see her in her WAVE uniform and learn more, go to her website.

The Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very Ugly: All Manuscripts Are Not Created Equal

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Listen closely, for I am about to tell you a publishing secret no one else wants you to know.

Are you ready?

Here goes.

Not everything a writer writes is good.

Shocking, right?  J.K. Rowlings didn’t sit down one day and pound out a thousand pages of Harry Potter the first time her fingers hit the keyboard. Learning craft takes a lifetime. Some writers get lucky and the first manuscript they write is snatched up by an agent and sold to a big house for a huge advance. But they still have to sit back down at the keyboard and write book 2.

Trust me; the second book won’t be nearly as easy to write. Or as pretty.

Manuscripts are a lot like children.  Some are born cute, while others have to grow on you.

*No emails, please. Your offspring are just adorable, I swear.

But there is a beauty in the crap writing too. A freedom. Maybe it’s a freedom from inside the box thinking or story ideas. Sometimes it’s freedom from your own voice, a means to explore beyond what you know. Often, for me, my crap words are the same ones that push me for better ones. After all, how many times can my heroine roll her eyes?

The answer is 27 time, in two chapters.

Had I submitted that bit of crap to my editor, he might’ve suffered from an eye-rolling sprain.

Not pretty, I know.

Now what can you do if you find yourself with an ugly baby?

A few things:

1)      Dress it up. Add a new, exciting character with a better story line. Then cut the old characters and story line. Basically, write a new book.

2)      Rip it up. Sometimes it’s best to just let a story idea and sometimes a whole manuscript go. Too often we get stuck on a manuscript, on an idea, trying to turn an ugly baby cute when even ten million hours of scalpel-sharp revision wouldn’t make it better.

3)      Let it rip. The ugly baby might all be in our heads. This is when honest feedback from a critique group can save your precious baby. But you have to be able to trust what the critiques say. People don’t like to tell you your baby is ugly, so they nod and smile when asked. That won’t be helpful if your baby really is ugly.

4)      Embrace it. Show the world your ugly baby, and let the world decide what happens next. This is a mindset I see a lot in indie publishing. Sometimes the world loves an ugly baby, a baby that then turns out to be a swan in diapers.

5)      Toss it in a dumpster. Or better yet, that drawer in your desk where all bad manuscripts go to die. Then, in a few years, after 20 more craft classes on revision, 10 on editing, 3 on the hero’s journey, take that baby out and play with it. If it’s still ugly, put it back in the drawer before anyone sees it.

Because I love my RMFW blog readers, I’m going to share a piece of an ugly baby of mine with you:

She struggled, but not too much. Her water soaked hair turned stringy like seaweed, making it almost impossible to see the terror in her eyes, as he held her head under the icy water. He was careful not to mare her snow-white skin. A bubble burst from the water’s surface, filled with the last remnants of oxygen in her lungs. The sound it made as it broke the surface was anticlimactic, a muted death rattle and then silence.

Guess that baby needs a few more years in a drawer before unleashed onto unsuspecting, polite society. Did I actually use the words, snow-white skin? I feel sick…

Since we’re all friends here, give me a bit of your best ugly baby, a sentence, a paragraph, a page, as much as you’d like to share.  Best ugly baby will win a prize.

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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.

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Gadgets and Spreadsheets and Apps, Oh, My!

By Katriena Knights

Like most of us writers, I’m always looking for a way to increase efficiency and up my wordcount. All this while trying not to aggravate my carpal tunnels and managing to spend a couple minutes here and there with the kids. My latest quest for the perfect productivity combo has led me to what I’m finding to be a neat combination of apps on my relatively new iPad and my favorite writing program, Scrivener.

Some history on some of these items first. My best friend introduced me to Scrivener a few years ago, and when I first fiddled with the demo it was like a revelation. I switched from PC to Mac for Scrivener, which I think is a little like converting to a new religion so you can marry that hot guy who's not the same religion as you. That move alone made writing faster and easier, but it still tethered me to the computer. The next move, when my carpal tunnel started acting up, was to write by hand, then dictate into Scrivener with Dragon Dictate. Which helped my wrists but slowed me down.

I’d resisted getting an iPad for a long time, even though I really really wanted one. I mean I wanted one with the kind of intense lust I usually reserve for broken-nosed, big-shouldered, hockey-playing men. But I couldn’t justify the expense. Finally, my daughter got a hand-me-down iPad for Christmas one year, and after fiddling with it for a while, I decided I could get some use out of it aside from playing Bejeweled for hours. So I bought myself one for Mother’s Day last year.

Well, boy-howdy was that ever a good investment. I started writing ALL THE TIME. I could pop that sucker into my purse and get set up at Starbucks in a quarter of the time it took me to set up with my MacBook Pro. I even liked the touch keyboard for the most part. But using the touchpad plus Notes or Google Docs wasn’t quite cutting it, either.

Enter my BFF yet again, who ran across an app called Werdsmith. I installed the free version, fiddled with it a bit, then decided I didn’t like it and deleted it. I started working in Notes so I didn’t have to have an Internet connection to write. After I wrote a section, I emailed it to myself and dropped it into Scrivener. But that wasn’t covering my bases well enough, either. I wanted to know how many words I was writing in a session, and Notes doesn’t have a wordcount feature (if it does, I never found it, so don’t mock me or anything in the comments if it has one…). Out of curiosity, I downloaded Werdsmith again. For some reason, it made complete sense to me this time. You start with an Idea, then you add a wordcount goal to it and it becomes a Project. Werdsmith tracks your wordcount as you go. Now all I needed was a spreadsheet app. I also got a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard to reduce my weird autocorrect errors and so I could type faster.

I poked around the app store and tried out a few spreadsheet apps until I settled on iSpreadsheet (there’s a predictable app name). I’m still using the free version. I just make a new spreadsheet for each project, or, with longer projects, for each week of work. When I’m done, I export it, email it to myself as a .csv, convert it in Excel, then file it in my folder with the rest of the story files. Here’s an example, converted to a .jpg for your viewing pleasure.

Spreadsheet from iSpreadsheet

iSpreadsheet isn’t all that dynamic, but it does what I need it to do, and it’s free. Also I can put pretty colors on it, and it does a limited number of formulas. I’m not sure what the upgraded version adds other than the ability to create a larger number of individual spreadsheets and no more ads, but for now I’m doing fine with the free one.

So now my wordcount has increased to the point where I can knock out over 1,000 words in a half-hour session, as you can see on the spreadsheet. The Logitech keyboard is for some reason easier on my wrists than my laptop keyboard—maybe because I don’t bang on it as hard when I type. And with the spreadsheet and Werdsmith to keep track of my wordcount, all my tracking and goalsetting needs are in one place. I email my Werdsmith files to myself, drop them into Scrivener, then when the first draft is done, I chop the file into scenes while I’m doing my first edit. When I’m done editing, I export to Word and shoot the file off to my editor. It’s a great system for me so far, and I intend to keep using it until I find another fun gadget or app to add to the workflow.

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Katriena Knights wrote her first poem with she was three years old and had to dictate it to her mother under the bathroom door (her timing has never been very good). Now she’s the author of several paranormal and contemporary romances. She grew up in a miniscule town in Illinois, and now lives in a miniscule town in Colorado with her two children and a variety of pets. For more about Katriena, visit her website and blog

 

The Winner of Aaron Michael Ritchey’s advance review copy is….

Aaron was kind enough to offer an ARC of his new novel, Long Live the Suicide King, to one lucky U.S. commenter on his January 21st blog post. Using random.org, we selected a winner.

Congratulation, MB Partlow!

MB blogs at Partlow's Pool

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. This kind of encouragement for our regular contributors and guest bloggers is greatly appreciated.

 

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.

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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!

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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.)

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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.