Banned Books: Why Won’t You (Dis)Like Me?

By Julie Kazimer

A few weeks ago was banned book week.

My favorite time of year.

This is when we honor the long tradition of idiots banning books, and thereby making the author and the book famous. Book banning has a long history both in the United States as well as many other places in the world. Some extremists have even taken to burning said books, which doesn’t quite work the same in the digital age. It will be interesting to see how e-readers go up in the fire.

Now I’m no expert on this banning stuff, but I would ask those in the banning community to do me a favor, and ban all of my books. I’ve seen what challenging a book can do, on a much smaller scale, with the release of my F***ed Up Fairy Tale series (this is not a shameless plug, begging you to buy my books. The begging comes much later, so please keep reading).

Little ole me got an interview with the finest local news agency this side of the **********, CO city limits when CURSES! was released in March of 2012. Yes, I had hit the big time. Take a moment to bask in my coolness.

Moment up, as was my coolness.

For, a few hours before the interview, the reporter called me, said she had to cancel because the editor, felt my book, mind you he had never read it—like so many people who have never read, but nevertheless banned books throughout time—was inappropriate for their obviously highbrow readership unaccustomed to seeing asterisks where letters should be.

At first I was upset because the inappropriateness of my book and apparently of me, had this unintended effect. A reporter with The A.V. Club heard about the cancellation, and in 1st amendment style, wrote a piece on the whole sordid deal. Therefore, instead of an interview guaranteed to land on the driveway (and probably sit there for a few days) of a thousand potential readers, my book hit the inbox of tens of thousands.

This was a valuable lesson in marketing for me and hopefully for you.

Controversy is key to selling books. Forget if they are any good. Who cares about writing when people are tossing matches at your work. Love? Hate? It doesn’t matter as long as you sell thousands and thousands of copies.

Of course, I’m joking .

Who throws matches anymore? That’s what lighter fluid and those long grill lighters thingies are for. Safety first, people.

And with that lifelong lesson, please take a moment to buy or check out the following top 100 books challenged or banned from 2000-2009 (according to the ALA) from your local bookstore or library (might I suggest my favorite book of all time, number 21 on the list).

And then in this next decade, let’s really work on banning or challenge all my books. Seriously. Help a writer out. I’d be happy to burn your book in return.

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Fran

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

RMFW Spotlight

Mike Befeler, who posts here every other Monday, is recovering from a recent health setback. Mike, we send you lots of good wishes and prayers for a quick and full recovery.

While Mike gets a little R&R, we thought we'd take this time to introduce a few of our RMFW officers and volunteers. We sat them in the hot seat, shined the bright light on them, and channeling our best inner Oprah, plugged them with a few questions.

Today, we introduce you to Vicki Rubin, RMFW's esteemed and much appreciated Vice President. Vicki we are so grateful for all you do for our group and the time you took to answer a few of our questions.

 

Let the grilling begin.

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

I am the RMFW Vice President. As such, I have few official duties. In fact, none. It’s a great gig. In addition to being VP, I am Co-chair Volunteer Coordinator. I get to help Scott Brendel recruit volunteers when the need arises. In both positions I get to meet people and help them figure out ways to become involved in RMFW. Being involved with RMFW allows me to visit with interesting people and learn how they create amazing worlds and fascinating characters.

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

I’m working on a couple of short stories with a Twilight Zone flair as well as a manuscript about two reluctant (yet effective) sister private detectives: Calli Sheridan and Buttercup Rollins. In this book their adventurous grandfather, Chance, an ex-jewel thief, has been charged with--dang--jewel theft. He promised he’d gone straight. The sisters must clear him or he’ll lose his apartment at Beautiful Gardens Retirement Community and have to live with one of the women. That will never do.

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?

I am a “worlds-biggest-ball-of-yarn” girl. I love to see stuff that is unique and incredible, like the Corn Palace in South Dakota or a moonshine still hidden in the Okefenokee Swamps of Georgia. In addition, I enjoy participating in things that scare the life out of me. I’ve zip-lined, tightrope walked, and rock climbed. Don’t ask what possessed me to do those things. I’m still trying to figure it out.

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

Being Southern, telling stories comes naturally; we have an oral tradition down there that I took to like a moth to a flame. Writing those stories down is a little more challenging for me. I duct tape myself to my computer to produce material. It’s not pretty, but it is effective.

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

I suppose I love the solitary life.The eyestrain acquired by glaring at a computer screen for hours at a time appeals to me. Not to mention the posture problems. Then there are the public conversations I have (complete with hand gestures) with people who aren’t there causing the people who are there to give me a wide berth. Honestly, what’s not to love about writing?

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

Rejection is not about me. It’s about not being in the exact right spot at the exact right time with the exact right manuscript. No more, no less.

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?  

My blond-wood flattop desk is a wreck most of the time with different sized stacks for different projects on different corners sharing apace with reference books and a printer. My laptop has a little clean spot in the front center. My desk is next to an oversized chair where I read with Gracie, my Dalmatian. Mostly she pretends to read, but is really sleeping.

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

Just finished a writing book recommended by Angie Hodapp. It’s by David Farland and is called Million Dollar Outlines. He presents lots of insight into what makes a strong story and creates a solid bond with the reader. It was terrific. Thank you, Angie! I’m also reading Lee Child’s books because I love Jack Reacher.

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

Thank you, Vicki, for being such a good sport and granting us this opportunity to get to know you a bit better.

Stay tuned to October 21st to see who is the next victim...er...gracious volunteer for our RMFW Spotlight series!

 

 

 

Talk to the Paw: The Sound of Silence

by Karen Duvall

When I write, I like complete silence. No music playing in the background, no television noises to distract me (unless it's football, of course. The sound of cheering keeps me motivated). My pets know my demands, and the cats are lovely about keeping quiet. The dog, on the other hand… She claims she can't help herself. I'll be right in the middle of a pivotal scene, concentrating on what the characters will do next, when all of a sudden… BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARK! I nearly fall off my chair.

Sammy         Kinsey

Sammy: What's wrong with you?

Kinsey: Looks confused. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Sammy: The barking. At everything.

Kinsey: I do not bark at everything.

Sammy: You see a leaf fall from a tree, you bark. The birds gather at the feeder in the yard, you bark. A neighbor walks by the house, you bark.

Kinsey: I'm a watchdog. It's what I do.

Sammy: Watch things and then bark at them?

Kinsey: Growls.

Sammy: You're making Mom a wreck, you know.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy: Are too.

Kinsey: She knows I can't help myself.

Sammy: She calls you Lady Barksalot.

Kinsey: Well, if a burglar ever comes in the yard or tries to break into the house—

Sammy: You'll break his ear drums with your high-decibel barks. I know.

Kinsey: Looks smug. You're just jealous.

Sammy: Excuse me?

Kinsey: You do nothing but eat and sleep all day.

Sammy: Untrue. I keep Mom's lap warm while she's writing. My purring always puts her in a good mood. I'm her muse.

Kinsey: Looks thoughtful. That's not what I heard.

Sammy: What did you hear?

Kinsey: That you're trouble.

Sammy: Just because my sudden energy bursts sometimes knocks plants over and sends vases crashing to the floor doesn't mean I'm trouble.

Kinsey: Just keep telling yourself that.

Sammy: Hisses and swats at Kinsey's retreating backside.

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

MeKaren Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

 

http://www.karenduvallauthor.com/

http://www.karenduvall.blogspot.com

https://twitter.com/KarenDuvall

http://www.facebook.com/Karen.Duvall.Author

New Adult: Defining it in Art and in Life

By Trai Cartwright
Part Three of a Six-Part Monthly Series

If you haven’t already heard, the writing world has a Hot New Thing. It’s called New Adult, and everyone’s after it – but no one can agree on what it is.

I’ve been known to take a poll or two, collecting data until there are enough consistencies to connect the dots, draw a conclusion, feel well-informed. You know, the old-fashioned way to self-educate, before memes explained everything in tell words or less.

So I’ve been polling all the writers, agents, and editors I meet lately and ask them: What is New Adult?

Here are some of the answers I’ve gotten:

  • New Adult, or “NA,” is a relationship-driven story in which said relationship has transformative healing powers.
  • NA is about 18 – 24-year-olds who go to college. Or get their first jobs.
  • NA is any story about a person aged 18-35 who is doing something in the Adult World for the very first time (so marriages, new home ownership, zombie apocalypse, world travel, world travel during a zombie apocalypse…).
  • NA is Chick Lit from 10 years ago.
  • NA is YA with sex.
  • NA is YA, basically, but with a sophisticated writer’s voice. Like, a story about a 16-year-old, but with a voice that isn’t quite literary so only oldsters would read it, but isn’t glib and chatty or texty or slangy like much of YA.
  • It’s rooted in the real world. If you do all of this in scifi or fantasy, don’t call it New Adult Fantasy, just call it Fantasy or Scifi.

Egads. Does the publishing world even know what they’re all so fired up about? I even saw one contest seeking to award a New Adult manuscript but the contest rules didn’t even define what New Adult was to them!

Then it occurred to me that a great place to look for NA models was TV and the movies. Hollywood has been doing New Adult their entire existence, updating as the audience got more diverse, sophisticated, and/or more morally corrupt.

Here’s a five-second list of on-screen New Adult titles:

Johnny Got His Gun

Veronica Mars

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in the last seasons, it seamlessly transitioned from YA to NA)

Rocky

Norma Rae

Alien

Silkwood

Wall Street

Badlands

Bonnie & Clyde

A billion action movies staring some hot young stud / studette who is at the top of their car racing / parkour / psychic / super- / computer hacking / spying skills.

Any war movie ever

And perhaps the most definitive New Adult movie ever:

Risky Business

Here’s the dots I’m connecting across all mediums:

  • School of any kind may or may not be a part of the main character’s world, but it’s not a key component. Mostly these protagonists need lessons school can’t teach. They often leave their school at the mid-point.
  • They are newly-forged adults in a world that hasn’t laid out a red carpet for them to take their place in it. And our main characters may not want or care about that red carpet (golly, I wonder if this ties in to all the anti-hero stories we’re seeing…?).
  • The main characters are all under 30. Because apparently if you haven’t figured out how to start working the system by then, we cast you out of our society and/or start writing mid-life, book club-bait dramas about you.
  • There absolutely is Scifi and Fantasy with new adult qualities. Tons it, actually. They practically forged the genre. But yes, the publishing world really does just call it Fantasy or Scifi. (Or Horror.)
  • Unlike YA, in which the young person who, no matter how heartily she rebels, still realizes that in the end, she needs a community to survive, and must tamper down that rebellion and take her place in society, New Adult isn’t about finding your place in society. It’s about surviving the reality of being responsible for yourself in a tricky, dangerous, complicated world.

So here’s my conclusion: while it might well include a grab bag of other components from above, in general New Adult fiction is about:

  • Young people facing graphic adult issues. Like sex, violence, domestic issues, disease, addiction, job loss, etc., but it’s not a “rite of passage” to adulthood. It’s just part of their world, and it might be all of that stuff, all at once.

Because sometimes that’s what being an adult is.

Now swim.

I almost feel a responsibility to write New Adult now, to give guidance to our young people graduating high school and trying to get out of their parents’ basement and not completely fall to pieces. It’s a scary world and a lot is expected of them. The least we can do is pass on what we know. And maybe if it’s packaged just right with a shiny new genre title, the young ‘uns won’t mind that it’s an oldster telling them.

Any books you’ve read that you think of as New Adult? Any components or definitions you've heard for New Adult?

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

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.

Trying to Retire

By Carol Caverly

Carol CaverlyI've been in the writing business for a long time, since the late fifties, I think. It's been a long wondrous, fascinating journey. But as the years have passed, and the business changing completely (some for the better, some for the worse) the fire in the belly has disappeared, or perhaps worn thin like a creaky joint. The book in progress has been in progress too long. The idea is still intriguing but the long days of hard work needed to complete it are not appealing. I decided the time had come to throw down the pen/pencil/keyboard and do all those other things I've always wanted to try.

It wasn't easy. I mean, I couldn't do it right now. I still had to get the third book in my mystery series onto Kindle and finish up with a big well-planned promotion before sending the aging darlings off into the ether to live or die among all the millions of other books out there. So, okay, that would be my final project.

Happy to not be sitting at my computer, I wandered into Barnes and Noble looking for one of those learn-French-the-easy-way books (one of the other things I want to do,) gathered a couple of possibles and looked for a place to sit down. As you probably know, B&N no longer has comfy chairs scattered all over the place, just a couple of wooden benches and hard chairs opposite the magazine racks. I sat in a well-worn arm chair and glanced at the racks. Directly in front of me were copies of The Writer, Writers Digest, and a Writer' Digest Yearbook edition boldly titled Novel Writing. With a rush of nostalgia I put the French books aside and grabbed the magazines. Way back when I was a young bride on a ranch in Wyoming, a chance encounter with The Writer, which I borrowed from a friend and quickly devoured, was the beginning of my writing adventure. A life long reader, it never occurred to me that just anybody could be a writer. I thought they were a special breed. How enticing the articles were. I was snagged.

For twenty years I read every issue of The Writer and Writer's Digest from cover to cover. The Writer was smaller then, printed on pulp paper, but very dignified. It stuck quite closely to "good" writing. Writer's Digest was much noisier. It covered everything--fiction, poetry, articles, true confessions, westerns, greeting cards, me and Joe stories for outdoor magazines, picture books for children. I loved it all! I added books to the mixture and eventually found, built and joined the writing community that has been an important part of my life ever since.

But that was a long time ago. The discipline is gone. I don't want to spend all that time alone staring at a computer screen. Priorities change. Now is the time for families and travel.

I selected French in 10 Minutes a Day from my pile, gasped at the price of the magazines but decided to buy them, too. For old times sake. I'm sure you know where this is going. Of course I read the magazines. Of course I found a market that sounds like a good shot for a short story in my files. Of course I found an article in the newsletter that encouraged me to respond to the call for bloggers for the RMFW blog. I've never written a blog post before.

So I've been hedging my bets a bit. Here are my new rules for retirement: I don't have to write, but if I feel compelled...yes. No more novels (unless compelled.) Stick to shorter projects and maybe a blog here and there. And no matter what happens, I'll never give up my writing friends.

I'm on page two of the French book.

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

Carol Cavalry is the author of the Thea Barlow Wyoming mystery series, All the Old Lions, Frogskin and Muttonfat, and Dead In Hog Heaven. Though now living in Colorado Springs, Carol used her extensive background of Wyoming ranch living for the settings of her mysteries. Her books also appeared as selections of the Detective Book Club. Her latest short story was included in the anthology, Homicide Host Presents. Her books are available on Amazon with the first two also available as Kindle editions. A Kindle edition of the third will be available in November. You can learn more about Carol and her books at her website.

Making the Long and Winding Road to Publication a Little Shorter with RMFW

by Mark Stevens, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers President

As she accepted the Writer of the Year plaque at Colorado Gold, Linda Joffe Hull talked about living and writing for a decade in the “purgatory of almost” before finding a publisher for one of her books.

As she will tell you, it was a long and winding road.

But Linda credits a certain organization (its initials are Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) for the final break-through. As she talked about the two books she has launched in the last 12 months, she talked about the relationships she developed by taking an active role in the group.

Our group.

Yeah, yeah, yeah—for the last few weeks it’s been all Colorado Gold this and Colorado Gold that. (See paragraph #1 above.) It was three days of good times for us fiction nerds.

But RMFW is so much more than Colorado Gold and, I dare say, the tremendous variety of other events on the calendar offer an even better chance to develop relationships and make new friends who might have that one key introduction to an agent, an editor, a publisher. The conference can be, you know, intimidating. Fun, sure, but pressure too.

I’m not saying the conference isn’t cool, but now it’s another 12 months away (Sept. 5—7, 2014).

In the meantime, there are plenty of other chances to dive in and make friends—and develop your network—in a more casual setting. (And, in some cases, free.)

Check it out:

  • Later this month, a free two-hour workshop titled “Diving In: Character and Motivation” by Courtney Koschel. Location: Arvada Public Library, downtown Arvada. Date and time: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1p.m. Courtney is the senior acquisitions editor for Month9Books. Senior. Acquisitions. Editor. Enough said.
  • Also this month, the experienced Trai Cartwight is offering a dirt-cheap online course called “Building a Better Book” that will help you demystify the process of novel building. It’s all about asking—and answering—key structural questions at the heart of every well-executed novel. Trai has roots in Hollywood, among other places. Get to know Trai and it’s one degree of separation between you and Stephen Spielberg. Or something like that.
  • Next month, there’s a free two-hour workshop titled “World Building: Don’t Let the Dream Collapse.” Location and times are still being finalized, but the program will be given by Colleen Oakes, author of the best-selling Elly in Bloom.
  • Also online soon, Sharon Mignerey (a true RMFW legend—she helped start our group about 30 years ago) is running a dialog workshop called “Let Your Characters Do the Talking.”
  • Also next month, over at our Grand Junction home away from home, best-selling author and RMFW stalwart Jeanne Stein is leading a day-long workshop titled “A Publishing Primer.” The first 20 people who register have the chance to pitch to Angie Hoddapp with Nelson Literary Agency and/or receive a two-page critique and 10-minute meeting with Warren Hammond, author of the KOP science fiction series. (Warren also won the Colorado Book Award this year!)

Cool programs, great opportunities to improve your craft and, maybe give you a chance to get to know other writers, develop connections and work your way out of the “purgatory of almost.”
All the details are available at www.rmfw.org. You probably knew that.

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

2013conference66Mark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.

You can learn more about Mark and his novels at his website. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Introducing the Only-Slightly-Frazzled Blog Editors, Julie and Pat

Pat: Well, Julie, here we are wrapping up two full months of the new Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog. Thanks to our techno-goddess Wendy Howard, Mark Stevens and the RMFW Board of Directors, and a great team of regular and guest bloggers, I think it went pretty well.

Julie: I’m loving the blog but really broke a sweat pulling it all together. Oh wait, you already revealed the true worker bees and brain children behind the blog’s success. Yes, they were and are amazing, as were you and your step-by-step directions on how to edit posts (The “first, turn on computer” step was so helpful!)

Stoltey_webPat: I believe in starting with the basics, but maybe that was going a little too far. Anyway, now that we have a few minutes (seconds?) to chat, I think it would be fun to kick back and get to know each other better. Full disclosure: I’ve been going to Weight Watchers since September 2010, and I’ve almost lost 30 pounds. This photo I’ve been using lately was taken at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in 2011 when I hadn’t made much progress yet. Check out these chubby cheeks. And stay tuned for an updated photo in ten more pounds.

Julie: Wow, that’s fantastic, Pat. Well, we do have a lot in common. I signed on to SparkPeople about 6 weeks ago, and have been working on shedding some weight myself. My cheeks are still a little chubby though. I call my extra face padding my natural Botox-- puffs the wrinkles right out!

Pat high school0001Pat: Okay, I just grabbed a piece of chocolate from my secret stash, so I guess it’s time to change the subject. Not too long ago on my blog, I told my readers three things I didn’t like when I was a kid and invited them to share their own dislikes. After that post, I thought of many more…I guess I wasn’t very easy to please. My hair, for instance. I hated my hair when I was a kid because I wanted to wear it long and straight and silky--like yours in your author photo…but my hair was thick and wavy and preferred to do its own thing. As a result, some of my grade school photos look as though I’d combed my hair with an egg beater (something one of my uncles often told me). By high school, I'd figured out how to set my hair on big bristled rollers to get something remotely resembling a page boy.

Julie Lueck_high schoolJulie: Isn’t it funny how we always long for what we don’t have? I had long, straight hair and always wanted full, fluffy hair with lots of body. I could never make it do the Farrah feathers in the front without cans and cans of VO5 (that was before we knew about the whole ozone depletion thing, of course). Thank goodness the blue eyeshadow and LaDisco jeans with colored stitching help deflect some of the attention away from my flat hair. But enough about hair; surely there was more to dislike in life than that...

Pat: Oh, you want something else? No problem. I was a farm kid with lots of chores to do, and one I really disliked was gathering eggs. The hen house was inhabited by a gang of nasty-tempered hens who persisted in sitting on those eggs and pecking the backs of my hands black and blue when I reached inside the nest. What I hated even more? The huge, vicious white rooster that stood guard. Yes, he would attack. I approached that task armed with a baseball bat…or a pitchfork. I was so traumatized by that damned bird that he was still in my mind and got a whole sentence to himself when I wrote The Prairie Grass Murders.

Julie LueckJulie: Writing therapy--very effective against latent rooster resentment. My mother-in-law tells me her brothers used to chase her with the chickens after they cut off the heads. Her phobia ran so deep, to this day she won’t eat chicken.

I grew up in the suburbs; I don’t remember any animal fears (unless you count rogue squirrels). My dislikes ran more to things like gym class in school. I still shudder to think of the little one piece shorts outfits they made us all wear and the Presidential Fitness tests I could never complete. It was scarring.

Pat: Was your one-piece gym uniform a magenta color? I had to wear one of those back in my day too. For me the worst thing about gym was that test where I was supposed to shinny up a rope. Shinny was not in my vocabulary. Can’t shimmy either...but maybe we shouldn’t go there.

Instead, let’s turn this question over to our readers and the members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Come on, tell us. What did you dislike most when you were a kid? You can comment here, or find us on Facebook and tell your story there. Julie on Facebook is here, and I'm on Facebook here.

Talk to the Paw: Mud Puppy

Mud Puppy
Look, Mom! I found a puddle!

As some of you may know, I was out of town last weekend and left the furkids home while I attended the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver. We had a pet sitter stay at the house with them, hoping that's all it would take to keep them out of mischief. The cats did very well, same as they always do. They're easy to care for: Food, water, litterbox cleaning and that's about it. Catitude aside, all three of them are fairly self-sufficient.

My dog, on the other hand… Well, Kinsey is both bright and spirited. Her behavior can be unpredictable so we never know what to expect. As my husband and I packed for our Colorado trip, she knew something was up. We spied her having heart to heart conversations with our Sammy cat. And sure enough, she made sure we'd know her displeasure at being left behind.

Me: Really, Kinsey? Did you have to?

Kinsey: Holds chin up and blinks. Yes, yes I did.

Me: Shakes head. You know how I feel about tracking mud in the house.

Kinsey: So? You weren't here to see it.

Me: Obviously.

Kinsey: And the sitter wasn't always watching me very well.

Me: Don't blame it all on her.

Kinsey: What's important is that I had fun.

Me: Breathes in an exasperated breath. Now who do you think has to fill the hole you dug in the yard?

Kinsey: Dad can use the exercise.

Me: Smiles. How did you like your bath afterward?

Kinsey: Hangs head. No comment.

Me: Okay, the mud hole is one thing. The quilt on our bed is quite another.

Kinsey damage
After Kinsey gutted our quilt.

Kinsey: You know I can't resist pulling the stuffing out of things.

Me: You have toys for that.

Kinsey: Shrugs. I had to show you I didn't appreciate you leaving me.

Me: Sighs. It was only for a few days. And you weren't left alone.

Kinsey: Promise you won't leave me again.

Me: I can't promise you that. But if you keep digging holes and gutting my quilts, I promise to put you in a kennel next time.

Kinsey: Wails.

Me: Stop being such a drama queen. If you can prove to me you'll behave, we'll get you a sitter again.

Kinsey: Pants. Okay. I'll behave.

Me: Long pause. Now uncross your paws and say that.

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

Karen DuvallKaren Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

I Took Way Too Many Notes at the Colorado Gold Conference

By Patricia Stoltey

I felt obligated to stick to the same word count I suggested for the rest of our blog’s contributors and guests, but it was hard. I took so many notes, and I learned so much, that I still feel as though I fell off my diet and stuffed myself too full. Let’s see if the post will be lean enough if I give you the name of the session, the instructor’s name, and one thing I learned (all paraphrased). I’ll skip details about the guest speakers and just tell you they were all wonderful.

On Friday, I worked the registration table until 2:00 PM and then had to check into the hotel room, so I didn’t get to my first session until 3:00. That was Bill Konigsberg’s Seven Deadly Sins of Dialogue in Young-Adult Fiction.

First deadly sin: Overuse of slang

Agent Panel with Sally Harding, Natalie Lakosil, Kathleen Rushall, and Sarah Joy Freese.

One of the worst things an author can do in his query letter is not talk about his book. The format to follow is “The hook, the book, and the cook,” and all need to be brief.

In the Middle: Pluses and Minuses of Small Press Publishing, Katriena Knights

Contracts with small presses tend to be shorter in duration and often for only one format. This allows a book to have 2-3 good life cycles.

Denver Skyline from Our Conference Hotel Room Balcony
Denver Skyline from Our Conference Hotel Room Balcony

Saturday was an amazing day filled with difficult choices. Picking which workshop to attend was hard, and I often changed my mind at the last minute.

The Artist’s Way: Still Fresh, Robin Owens

When challenged to write pseudo-morning pages for ten minutes, I discovered some authors (Janet Lane, for instance) are very creative at 8:00 AM. I, however, was just grumpy and mostly scribbled on about needing another cup of coffee.

Why Would Librarians Buy Your Book—Or Not?, Mary Gilgannon and Alice Kober

The mini-synopsis (story blurb) on the back cover (and often included in book catalogues) is critical to librarian selection.

How to Art Direct Your Book’s Cover Design, Karen Duvall

The latest trend in covers is to use models in headless shots, or silhouettes, or from the back.

The Point of No Return: Crossing the Threshold from Traditionally Published to Self-Published, Jeff Shelby

The new exploding market is New Adult for young women age 18-25 with plenty of romance, sex, drama, and bad boys. Normal length: 65,000 words.

An Agent Reads the Slush Pile, Kristin Nelson and Sally Harding

Don’t do world building in a prologue. If you use a prologue, it should set up a question or establish a scene that will become important later in the story.

Who’s Your Narrator?, Ronald Malfi

Dialogue needs to reflect each character’s voice, even when the chapter or scene is not from that character’s POV.

The Hybrid Author, Karyn Marcus and Kristin Nelson

I learned all about the story of Hugh Howey who began by self-publishing and was later picked up by a major publisher for his compiled book, Wool. I’d never heard anything about this author before. The story is too long to tell here. Sorry about that.

Sunday morning I skipped the continental breakfast of fruit and pastries and joined friends in the restaurant for a real breakfast. The waitress forgot to bring my bacon. Can you believe that? Forgot to bring my bacon!

I attended the 8:00 AM session, still upset, but quickly settled in to enjoy The Road Map to a Successful E-Pub Career Shift, Cate Rowan

Cover art for e-books needs to pop when it’s displayed in thumbnail size (that’s where the online bookseller shows a line of books that were purchased at the same time as the search book).

I, You, Them: How Perspective Powers Your Story, Trai Cartwright

Holy cow! I still have new things to learn about Point of View. Do you know the difference between Third Close Dramatic and Third Close Limited? I had them confused. Sigh! I’m not going to try to explain them here. I’d probably get it wrong (even though I think I took really good notes).

And that’s my super-condensed version from twenty-seven 4 1/2” x 6 1/2” pages of notes. I could go on and on…

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPatricia Stoltey is the author of two amateur sleuth mysteries published by Five Star/Cengage in hardcover and Harlequin Worldwide mass market paperbacks. The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders are now available for Kindle and Nook. Her blog is known for featuring guest authors who write in a variety of genres.

She can be stalked on Facebook and Twitter.

Passion is Inspiration

By Nicole Disney

We've all had that moment. You're driving on the highway, in the middle of your shift at work, in the shower, and inspiration comes. The words draw each other together like reunited lovers in bursts so poetic and fleeting you must find a pen. Whether that means leaving the steering wheel of your speeding vehicle in the hands of your seven year old or turning your hair into a gum of leftover conditioner is hardly the point. The only problem is that there is an equal and opposite force out there that will leave the cursor blinking on a screen much too bright for the black room hours of paralysis have darkened.

Following another brilliant Colorado Gold Conference, I suspect most of us are still feeling buzzed on new ideas and potential agent and editor connections. Now may seem an unnecessary time to muse on inspiration. But like a New Year's Resolution, this energy of immersion can so quickly fade into the tedium of reality. How do we hold onto this magical feeling of hope and motivation?

I can easily recall an uncomfortable number of times I spent my entire day fantasizing inside my characters' minds and worlds, counting down until I could clock out from work, go home, and write. But something happened around hour nine or ten of work. Thoughts of my keyboard and favorite pens turned to thoughts of cuddling with my kittens, a movie, and bed.

Now I've learned to remind myself to compare writing not with what else I could do at home, but what I don't want to do at work. Family time, meals, and sleep was never what we writers set out to replace, that's just the way it often happens. But if we ever want to reach the coveted combination of laptops and cuddles, we have to boot the day jobs to the curb. It's not writing versus reading a good book and sipping on wine; it's writing versus waiting tables and double shifts.

That may be enough to get you to the keyboard, but what if all your brain will manifest is a vague and distant knowledge that you should probably blink more often to temper that kind of blank staring? Some will say write anyway. Force it, even if you know you're going to delete every word of that cumbersome garbage. While I do appreciate the value of getting the pen moving, I've recently discovered something much more entertaining, something more fun than sheer will power.

I sit down and make a list of questions. Not just any question will do, these must be the most thought provoking, hot button, or otherwise offensive questions you can muster. Compile every subject a socially unobtrusive person would avoid and then go there. If you can figure out what makes other people mad, then you know what makes them care. Figure out what makes you care, and you're a short step away from inspiration. A warning should be inherent in this exercise. Whether you go out and actually provoke people is completely dependent on your sense of adventure. What follows may be a disaster or great material, depending how you see the world.

Even if you only consider these issues in your mind, and even if you never actually write a story about any of them directly, these arguments with multiple valid and understandable stances are the guts of great stories and of believable characters. How they make you feel can be the oil that starts the wheels turning again. Passion is inspiration.

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

Nicole Disney is the debut author of contemporary lesbian fiction novel, Dissonance in A Minor. She lives in Denver, Colorado where she continues to write dark, edgy novels. She is also a martial arts instructor and teaches Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Karate. For more about Nicole, please visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.