Why I’m Loyal to RMFW

By Mike Befeler

I’ve been to every RMFW Gold Conference since 2002. The first year I went, I had no clue what I was doing. A writing friend had suggested the conference, so I decided to give it a shot. She was the only person I knew at the conference.

I had started writing in the fall of 2001, having made the decision that I wanted to retire into fiction writing. I had learned that if you’re 55 or over you can take any course for free at the University of Colorado with the instructor’s permission and had signed up for a fiction writing course. I also negotiated with my boss so that I could work 3 days a week, allowing me to take the course and do some writing.

In fact, the first day I was going to write for the whole morning was a Tuesday morning in September. I got organized at my writing desk and was about to start when my phone rang. It was the CEO of the company I worked for asking if I had seen the reports on what had happened. I hadn’t watched television that morning because I didn’t want to get distracted from my first morning of writing. That was September 11, and, needless to say, I never got any writing done that day.

At my first conference I learned about critique groups and over the years have joined several RMFW critique groups, which helped me improve my writing.

By 2005 I had a novel that I decided to submit in the mystery category for the contest at the conference. I didn’t place in the top 3 but received a packet back with some excellent suggestions and madly rewrote my manuscript, so by the time of the conference, I had an improved novel that I had a lot of confidence in. At the conference that year, I pitched my idea to two agents and two editors. Deni Dietz of Five Star liked the concept and told me to email my complete manuscript to her.

After the conference, I went home, completed one more editing pass on my manuscript, emailed it to Deni and crossed my fingers. Two months later I received an email with a contract offer, and my first novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was published in January, 2007, the result of a pitch session at the RMFW conference.

Attending the first conference in 2001, I took careful notes on writing craft, which helped me improve my skills. Then I started paying attention to how to pitch a novel, which prepared me for 2005. Next, I focused on sessions of what to do to sell your novel once it’s been published. I still attend as many sessions as possible, and learn more each year.

That’s the beauty of being in the writing world. It’s an ongoing education.

See you at the RMFW Gold Conference this year.


Mike Befeler is active in organizations promoting a positive image of aging. He holds a Master's degree from UCLA and a Bachelor's degree from Stanford. Author of the popular "geezer lit" Paul Jacobson mystery series, he has recently branched out into standalones such as The V V Agency.

Talk to the Paw: Being Helpful

My catI have conversations with all my pets on a regular basis. They're great listeners, especially when you need to read your work aloud to an attentive audience that will cheer you on. Well, maybe not so much cheering as yawning, ear scratching, grooming, barking... And if they could respond, I have a fairly good idea what they'd say. I can read it in their eyes. It's amazing how a furry face can express so much emotion.

I had a conversation with one of my cats the other day. You met Sammy last week, when she and Kinsey were having their… discussion. Sammy has no filters and always speaks her mind. And she talks. All. The. Time. Despite her catitude, she really is a cuddly kitty when she wants to be, and quite the purr-baby. She melts in your arms when you pick her up (she loves to be held). But you know how it is with cats. They tend to know when you want to be left alone, and that's when they make it their personal mission to get up in your business.

Me: Sammy, we need to talk.

Sammy Cat: Twitches her tail and licks a paw. Oh? About what?

Me: I've told you over a dozen times not to walk across my keyboard, especially while I'm writing.

Sammy Cat: Hey, I was just trying to help.

Me: Deleting a paragraph from my manuscript is not helping.

Sammy Cat: I beg to differ. After you read that part to me, I knew it had to go.

Me: Pauses. It was that bad?

Sammy Cat: slfkdakglalnblknsdlgglsfn

Me: It's your fault, you know, that the word "delete" is worn off my delete key.

Sammy Cat: Yawns. Always happy to help.

Me: Speaking of helping, I could have used some of that when I brought Teddy home from the vet last week. He was very woozy after getting his teeth cleaned and all you did was pick on him.

Sammy Cat: He smelled funny. Besides, making him hiss let you see how white his teeth are now.

Me: They are nice, aren't they? You're next.

Sammy Cat: Eyes grow wide with shock. No way. If I promise not to pick on Teddy any more, can I skip the teeth cleaning?

Me: You can't help yourself, Sammy. You pick on everybody.

Sammy Cat: Lifts nose in the air. Then I promise not to… uhm… I promise to stop leaping onto Kinsey's back when she's running through the house with her ball like a crazy dog.

Me: Oh, I don't mind when you do that. It slows her down.

Sammy Cat: Then how can I get out of getting my teeth cleaned?

Me: You can't. Unless you teach yourself how to use a tootbrush.

Sammy Cat: You're not serious.

Me: I'm not. Okay, here's the deal. I won't take you to the vet to get your teeth cleaned if you start using the litterbox like everyone else.

Sammy Cat: Looks horrified. What? Share a litterbox with Teddy? And Cody? They're boys! And they stink. Go ahead and pull out all my teeth, I don't care, but I will NOT use their litterbox.

Me: Sighs. It was worth a try.

Sammy Cat: I much prefer the pee pads Dad puts out for me. They're always clean and fresh.

Me: Until you get to them. So I guess this means a trip to the vet for you.

Sammy Cat: Twitches her tail. You knew I wouldn't take the deal, didn't you?

Me: Yep.


MeKaren Duvall is a multi-published author with Harlequin Luna. Her current project is a fantasy romance that features lizards, birds, Dodos, pigs, a tiger and a cat, but no dogs. Her own dog is not happy about this and is thinking about going on strike.


Knock Your Pitch Out of the Park!

By Susan Spann

Since I'm doctoring pitches one-on-one at the Colorado Gold Conference in September, it seemed natural to start my posting here on the RMFW blog by looking at pitch construction.

I've got two guest posts between now and Colorado Gold, so here's Part 1 of a 2-part series on "How to Build a Winning Pitch Pitch"

Now, there are many ways to construct a pitch, and I don't claim my way is the only one. It is, however, the one I used when pitching my debut Shinobi mystery, CLAWS OF THE CAT, and the one I use when helping other people pitch.

Winning pitches do one thing: they make a listener want to read your book.

Always keep that goal in mind. If your pitch does not intrigue, it fails, regardless of its contents. You start constructing a pitch by culling four elements from your work. We'll look at those elements today and then, on September 19, we'll put them together (just in time for the RMFW Conference!).

1. Who is the protagonist? Describe him (or her) with 1-2 adjectives.

For example: a ninja detective.

2. Who is your active antagonist?

The active antagonist is the person, place, or thing the hero is fighting against for most of the novelthe thing that creates “the stakes.” This might or might not be the same as the antagonist the hero ultimately defeats or reveals, especially in a mystery novel, because unlike a synopsis, the elevator pitch does not reveal the ending of the story.

3. Stakes! (Preferably, through the protagonist’s heart).

Note that I haven’t asked about where the hero started the journey, how many quirky talking teapots (s)he meets along the way, or why there’s a pregnant emu at the turn from Act 2 to Act 3. For purposes of your pitch, none of that is important.

Having trouble with stakes? Try to answer the question: What does your protagonist have to accomplish before “the end,” and why will the world fall apart if he or she fails?

Answer it in one sentence or less. If you can't, you might need to revisit your plot.

In my novel, the stakes are clear: a ninja detective must find a killer in three days time, or the ninja, his Jesuit friend, and a lovely young geisha will die. In addition, the death of the priest will plunge Japan into war with Portugal.

Those are stakes.

Stakes can be personal (death, financial ruin, homelessness, exile) or large-scale (war, natural disaster, the end of the world). Many novels feature both. A novel without stakes is boring, and a pitch which doesn't reveal the stakes won't pique a listener's interest.

Which brings us to the fourth and final element of the pitch:

4. High Concept.

High concept is premise. It’s what makes your story unique. In a nutshell, "high concept" is a concept with mass appeal that you can sum up in one sentence or less.

The high concept for my mystery series is ninja detective. The high Concept for the movie JAWS is "killer shark."

Your high concept might not appear in your pitch, but creating the pitch with high concept in mind will always result in a stronger pitch than one which ignores high concept.

Struggling with high concept? Try the “What if” method: summarize your story in no more than 15 words, the first two of which must be “What if?”

Between now and my next guest post on September 19, your homework is to pull these four elements out of YOUR work and get ready to pitch like a pro! Then, tune in for our second installment, in which we discuss transforming your elements into a winning pitch.

Do you have an elevator pitch for your work in progress? Does it utilize all four of these critical elements?

Bio: Susan Spann is a transactional attorney and former law school professor whose practice focuses on business and publishing law. Her debut Shinobi mystery, Claws of the Cat (Minotaur Books) released on July 16, 2013. You can find Susan online at http://www.susanspann.com, or on Twitter @SusanSpann, where she created the #PubLaw hashtag to provide business and legal information for authors.


Why You *Really* Should Finish that Book

Author Head ShotI'm taking a page from Mike Befeler, and introducing myself, since this is also my first post on the RMFW blog! I'm Jeffe Kennedy and fairly new to RMFW, though I did attend the Colorado Gold conference a number of years ago.

It's kind of a funny (read: cringeworthy) story. I attended at the urging of my good friend, RoseMarie London. I lived in Laramie, Wyoming at the time - I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico now - so it was a fairly close trip for us. I'd been writing nonfiction for some time at that point. This was maybe 2006? My essay collection, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel, had come out from University of New Mexico Press in 2004. My next project, a novel-length narrative nonfiction story, had received the thumbs down from everyone I mentioned it to. At a loss, and flailing more than just a bit, I'd started writing fiction.

I was having great fun writing this new piece, a story about a neuroscientist who accidentally winds up in Faerie. RoseMarie said that, since I was getting into writing genre, I should go with her to the conference. Besides, our buddy Chuck Box would be there and it we could party. Sure! Why not? With enthusiasm, I paid my fees and signed up to pitch to an editor.

There was one problem: I didn't have a completed manuscript.

What was I thinking?? I don't know, really. Maybe some of it was coming from the Land of Nonfiction. After all, I hadn't had a completed book when my UNM Press editor read one of my essays and invited me to put a collection together for her. The book ended up being about half previously published essays and half new - quite a few that I wrote, completed or polished for the collection. I used to joke that people wanting to get a book published shouldn't try my method at home, but somehow it had never quite penetrated my thick skull just how unusual - and amazingly lucky - that path had been.

So, there I was, nervously waiting for my assigned pitch appointment with Shauna Summers. (That might tell some of you record-keepers what year this was.) In a surprise move, apparently Shauna decided to take everyone scheduled throughout the hour in a group pitch. We all went in and sat around the table. One by one I listened to my fellow sacrificial lambs, either with stammering nerves or brash confidence, spin out their pitches. After each one, she'd nod and ask, "Is it finished?" The answer was almost always no.

What were we thinking??

I think one girl had completed her manuscript and when Shauna smiled and said "send it," it was like the rays of heaven shone down on her. I was desperately envious, I don't mind admitting, because when it came my turn and I had to confess that it wasn't finished (hell - I had maybe three chapters), she told me what she told the others. She gave us her card and told us to send it when it was done. She figured our conference fee should include the opportunity to send her our work.

An opportunity I totally blew.

It took me another year or two to actually write that book. When I began shopping it, I discovered I'd lost Shauna's card. And then it turned out she'd changed houses anyway.

That book eventually became Rogue's Pawn, published by Carina Press as a Fantasy Romance just last summer. The sequel, Rogue's Possession, comes out in October, with the trilogy cap coming out next year. I've also now published three Erotic Romances with Carina, in my Facets of Passion series, with a fourth coming out at Christmas. I've just signed a three-book deal with them for three more novel-length erotic romances. I've also signed a deal with Kensington this year, for my e-serial Master of the Opera, which debuts in January, and for a Fantasy trilogy, The Twelve Kingdoms, coming out in trade paperback starting next June. (Incidentally, a prequel short story to that trilogy is included in the anthology Thunder on the Battlefield, Volume II, which just came out August 7, the day I'm writing this post!)

So, things have been very good for me. I've been lucky. I also figured out how to finish books, which always helps.

Still, just a few weeks ago, I was signing books at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Literacy Signing in Atlanta and who but Shauna Summers came by! Only she was visiting the author sitting next to me, who Shauna edits and whose books just happen to be on all the bestseller lists. They laughed and chatted and I nearly said, "Hi, remember me? I'm the dufus who pitched to you years ago with no actual book to submit." Of course, I didn't, because she wouldn't. I was forgettable. I wanted to clench my tiny fists and wail to the sky (or fluorescent-lit convention hall ceiling) that she should have been MINE MINE MINE!


At any rate, that's me and my cautionary tale. Now go finish your books!


Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road, and Make a Left: The Journey through Publication

By Julie Kazimer

Recently a friend complained of how long it took him to finally have success as an author. In his view, success meant a third book release in a year, signing with an agent, and good sales numbers and lots of press attention. Not a bad way to define success at all. I wish I had such complaints.

And I do.

You do too.

Being a writer takes a lot of hard work, many hours of butt in the chair, many words tossed in the trash bin, many ups and downs, rejections and a few acceptances, as well as the belief, even in the face of clear signs to the contrary, you can and will succeed.

Some call this belief delusion, and eventually quit. Others, like us, keep plugging away, so deluded in our desire that one day something magically happens.  We complain. We complain about taking two years to find an agent. We complain about the two years it takes for our publisher to release our book. We complain about sales numbers. Reviews. And that questionable wart we got from that booksigning in Boulder.

It’s not that I am ungrateful for what I have, instead, I am looking at my yellow brick road, and seeing only more yellow. Well it’s time to stop viewing my journey as to how long it’s taken, or how much longer the path might be. But rather what I have accomplished thus far. I hope you will join me, or at least, not laugh directly in my face.

I started and/or finished writing a book
80%of people in the US feel like they should write a book. Most never do.
My critique group loves my book
Weird since they normally make me cry.
I’ve sent a query to a real live agent (versus those undead ones).
Over 15,000 writers query an agent a year.
I signed with an agent.
And she didn’t ask for my blood or a thousand dollars in return.
I uploaded a short story collection to amazon.
The first year it sold well over 20 copies. I thought about retiring, but decided, in the end, I liked eating more than cat food. This year it sold over 1200, retirement still not an option, but I have hopes for 2075.
I received my 1027th rejection.
I’ve received my 1027th rejection!!!!! Whoo Hoo! Two more and I win a book deal!
An editor wants my book
And he’s not imaginary. I swear it.
I got a review in PW (a bad one, but still…)
Very few new releases get a PW review, good or bad, so why not embrace it?
Amazon ranked me at 50,000.
Ha! I’m better than 450,000 other authors! (Not really, but why burst my bubble?)
I gave a workshop on publishing.
And I didn’t throw up on the crowd.
I sold 5 books at my last signing
Damn straight. The average is only 4. Suck it, statistics.
I am part of RMFW or plan to join and/or belong to another writerly organization.
Joining a writers group increases others' chances of publishing success by 68%, mine by 100% since I sold my first book at the 2010 Colorado Gold Conference.

So which brick are you on your path to publication? Share with us your last accomplishment, your last brick in your journey, be it writing a thousand words or selling a million books.

And thanks for playing along.


kazimerJ.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 romance from Coffeetown Press, 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.

Colorado Gold Conference Master Class: The Only Character Class You’ll Ever Need

We'll be featuring information about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Friday morning master classes throughout the month.

The Only Character Class You’ll Ever Need
Instructor: Trai Cartwright
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Platte River

From your hero to your villain to your comedic relief, characters are what every story is all about. Learn the key questions to ask yourself when you start creating the people that populate your fiction, how to build them in a dynamic, dramatic way, and of course, what to do with them once you’ve got them. We’ll discuss arcs, motivation, and why you never ever give your character what they want. Then we’ll move from a conceptual perspective to a craft one by breaking down 10 techniques for making our characters come to life.

This master class hits on all levels: from understanding how to build a protagonist (and a villain), to knowing how to assign roles for the secondary characters, and then of course looking at how a character's story drives the plot (I firmly believe it's not the other way around), and then even exploring motivation with some Shakespearean actor-ly input. Finally, I show them ten fiction-writing techniques, 5 overt and 5 subtexual, for taking all those those thoughts and ideas and executing them on the page in a high-level craft-intensive way.

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. More information is available at Trai's Craftwrite website.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference, scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/ The deadline to register is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee.

Additional information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org

Talk to the Paw: Say it with Catitude

By Karen Duvall


I have three cats and one dog. My diva-dog, Kinsey, you've already met. She's the most demanding of the bunch, but my other fur-babies put her through her paces. Sometimes they have… disagreements. Ironically enough it's the youngest and the smallest of the crew that has Kinsey's number. My little tuxedo cat, Sammy, weighing in at a little over eight pounds, has catitude. She never gives Kinsey a break.

My dog            My Tuxedo cat

Kinsey: Paces back and forth in front of the back door.

Sammy Cat: Relax. Mom's gonna be back any minute.

Kinsey: How do you know?

Sammy Cat: She always comes back.

Kinsey: I saw her put on her leave-the-house clothes. She's going far, far away and won't be back FOREVER!

Sammy Cat: You watched her get dressed?

Kinsey: I always watch her get dressed. How else will I know if she's staying home or leaving me?

Sammy Cat: Stalker.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy Cat: Are too.

Kinsey: Curls her lip. She's supposed to be writing today, but she left the house. I saw her take Teddy with her. She never takes that tub of lard anywhere, and he didn't even want to go.

Sammy Cat: How do you know he didn't want to go?

Kinsey: Smiles. Because he scratched her and peed all over her when she carried him to the car to put him in the cat carrier.

Sammy Cat: You told him to do that, didn't you?

Kinsey: So what if I did?

Sammy Cat: Pauses to think. He'd never do that without a bribe.

Kinsey: Lifts her nose in the air. I promised to give him back the little yarn pom poms he likes to play with. I have them hidden in my crate.

Sammy Cat: That's extortion.

Kinsey: So what? Mom shouldn't leave me! I thought she'd stay home after getting peed on. Teddy didn't want to go anyway. It was supposed to be a win-win for everyone.

Sammy Cat: Twitches her tail. Everyone but Mom.

Kinsey: Hangs her head and tries to look guilty.

Sammy Cat: Faker.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy: Are too.

Kinsey: I'm the only one who should be allowed to leave with Mom. You cats have to stay inside the house.

Sammy Cat: Twitches her tail harder this time. Are you saying you'd rather be the one riding in the car?

Kinsey: No way. I hate riding in cars. You know that. I only like to chase them.

Sammy Cat: Dogs are supposed to love riding in cars.

Kinsey: Well, I don't.

Sammy Cat: I bet that's why Mom doesn't write about you. Because you're weird.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy Cat: Are too.

Kinsey: Long pause. I am?

Sammy Cat: Bats her favorite jingle ball toy across the floor. You are.

Kinsey: Resumes her pacing and starts to whine. Mom's left us and she's NEVER coming back!

Sammy Cat: Rolls her eyes and shakes her head, swishing her tail as she leaves the room. Pathetic.


Karen Duvall is a multi-published author with Harlequin Luna. Her current project is a fantasy romance that features lizards, birds, Dodos, pigs, a tiger and a cat, but no dogs. Her own dog is not happy about this and is thinking about going on strike.



Colorado Gold Conference Master Class — Formatting and Distributing to the Big Three: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks

We'll be featuring information about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Friday morning master classes throughout the month.

Formatting and Distributing to the Big Three: Amazon, B&N, and iBooks
Instructor: Jessica France
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Ballroom A

Join author and publishing consultant Jessica France for a step-by-step workshop on how to take your manuscript from a single Word or Pages document to clean, compliant e-book formats for the top three digital markets. At the end of the workshop, you'll leave with knowledge of a reliable conversion process based on freely available software that will quickly get your book exported to files for the Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble, PubIt, and Apple iTunes marketplaces. Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptops with a finished manuscript, although it is not required. Bonus instructions will include how to further create a clean file for Smashwords submission.

Attendees will be leaving the class with lots of cheat sheets and shortcuts for working with Microsoft Word, and some bonus info on how to create their own covers for free (or very low cost). Those who arrive with Amazon's Kindle Gen and Kindle Previewer software already downloaded, the Calibre software, and Google Sigil will have a head start on the rest of the class.

Jessica FranceJessica France is an independently published author who provides publishing assistance to new and established writers across all genres. She has been writing web content and mastering the digital sphere for over 10 years and continues to do so as a business partner at Mission Marketing and Content Systems. Jessica's brain child is the indieBook Library, a website which aims to provide a wealth of free resources for independent authors and presses to help them produce the best books possible.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference, scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/. The deadline to register is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee.

Additional information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org.

Colorado Gold Conference Master Class: Copyediting for Fun and Profit

We'll be featuring information about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Friday morning master classes throughout the month.

Master Class: Copyediting for Fun and Profit
Instructor: Angie Hodapp
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Ballroom B

Copyediting is tough. It takes years of professional practice just to become proficient. Whether you’re interested in learning to copyedit for yourself or for others, this intensive, hands-on master class will set you on the right path. How do you mark up a manuscript? Why are there so many style manuals, and which one is best for copyediting fiction? Is it better to copyedit on paper or on screen? What’s the difference between copyediting and proofreading? Is editing fiction different from editing nonfiction? How do you find clients, and what should you charge? Come find out!

Headshot_Angie HodappAngie Hodapp holds an MA in English and is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute. A 2011 winner of the Colorado Gold Contest and a 2012 semifinalist in the Writers of the Future Contest, she has extensive editorial experience in both the book- and magazine-publishing industries. She has taught workshops and developed curricula for Writer's Digest University and currently works at Nelson Literary Agency in Denver.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference, scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/ The deadline to register is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee.

Additional information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org

Scrub Your Mindscape Clean

By Mark Stevens

Skip the tips.

Forget everything you’ve learned.

Put down your copy of 100 Fabulous Secrets to Better Writing Now!

Move away from the stack of books you slowly acquired ever since you first had the thought that you might want to write fiction. (Spoiler alert: all those books pretty much all say the same thing. They are as repetitive as magazines about how to swing a golf club. Or how to diet.)

That’s right.

Forget it all.

Put it aside, shove it to the back of your brain or, even better, scrub the whole mindscape clean. Lesson-free, worry-free, anxiety-proofed. Silence the inner coach.

Oh yeah, one more thing: don’t even think about your favorite author or some writing style you’d like to emulate.

There. Got it?

Now, tell me a story. Only, pretend I’m in a soundproof room and you’re going to have to slide me pages under the door as the story unfolds—as you write it down. In your writing voice. With your words.

Okay, there you go.

Here’s what I want: I want to know your character—inside and out. And, well, it would be pretty cool if something actually, you know, happened.

There must be a reason this is a story and not just an account of some random, meaningless day. Or week. Or series of connected events.

My point? My point is sometimes you have to get back to basics. And those basics are:

1. See clearly.
2. Describe honestly.
3. Keep things moving.

Sometimes (drum roll, please) you just have to write.

And write some more.

(Of ALL the writing advice you’ve received over the years, isn’t that the most common refrain? “Write every day.” “Keep on writing.” “Write, write, write.” “Write a million words.” Or some such variation. Has one writing coach or respected elder of the writing community ever suggested that you think more or suck your thumb harder? Didn’t think so.)

And after you’ve written, have some other readers check what you’ve written, to see if they get the story you’re trying to tell.

That’s it.

Your voice, your words, your damn story.

It’s bound to be one of a kind.

But if you do need a jump-start or if you’re looking for that one magical moment of inspiration, come to Colorado Gold, RMFW’s massively brilliant three-day conference Sept. 20, 21 and 22 in Denver.

For more information about the conference, visit the RMFW website.

I can promise you one thing: you won’t starve for advice.


Mark 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.