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.

Writing Unchained

By Mike Befeler

mike_befelerThis is my first post on the RMFW blog, so let me introduce myself. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mike Befeler. For those of you who do know me, I’m still Mike Befeler. In the past I’ve been know as the Geezer-lit Guy because I’m author of the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series, which includes Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living with Your Kids Is Murder, Senior Moments Are Murder, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder and Care Homes Are Murder. Like Clark Kent, I’ve now taken on a new persona. I have two published paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing. The V V Agency introduces a new type of shape-shifter called a transvictus, and The Back Wing gets back to my roots (they’re blond)—it’s a paranormal geezer-lit mystery. Don’t believe the myth that vampires don’t age. They get older, lose their teeth and gum people on the neck.

I want to thank Pat Stoltey for inviting me to join this blog. I’ll be your entertainment for the first and third Mondays of the month. I enjoy hearing from readers, so please respond, bug me, send notes, etc. I’d particularly like to hear what subjects you haven’t seen addressed in blogs that you’d like commented on.

The topic I’d like to address today is experimenting with different genres. When I started writing, which was in 2001 when I was 56 years old, I had no clue what I was doing. Some may say that’s still the case, but what the heck. Along the way I’ve learned a thing or two, which is important, because if our ancestors hadn’t, we’d still be watching cave drawings instead of Downton Abbey. One lesson learned is that we can write whatever we chose. Nothing says we have to be pigeonholed as one type of writer or another.

My first published novel didn’t even start as a mystery. I began writing a relationship story about three men and three women in a retirement community. At the same time I was writing a collection of mystery short stories featuring older people, and the two concepts combined, and Retirement Homes Are Murder was born.

The best part of the writing process for me is being intrigued with a subject and then pursuing it. As a mystery writer I can investigate different ways to kill people (don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything more than kill off people I don’t like on the printed page or e–book page). I keep a manila folder full of writing ideas—things clipped from magazines and newspapers (yeah, I still read print newspapers) and notes I make when a person, event or location fascinates me.

The beauty is we can write about anything. We can invent new worlds, take actual events to their absurd conclusions and turn the ordinary into the extra-ordinary.

That’s what brought me to writing paranormal mysteries as well as geezer-lit mysteries. I’ve also become fascinated with historical characters. Two that have led me to written manuscripts are Athanasius Kircher, the last man to know everything, and Nikola Tesla, a brilliant eccentric. So I’ve tried my hand at historical novels and thrillers.

But wait, there’s more. I recently met a 94-year-old man who was an infantryman in World War II and fought in Operation North Wind. He was captured, put in a prisoner of war camp, and repatriated by the Russians. He recounts some of the most amazing stories about his experiences, so I’m writing his biography.

So don’t feel you have to be chained to whatever you have been writing. Let your imagination soar. Try something new.

What are your thoughts?

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

Learn more about Mike Befeler and his novels at his website.

Talk to the Paw: A weekly column featuring writers and their pets

My name is Karen Duvall and I'm a writer. And a pet owner, or a slave to my pets, depending on your perspective. I work at home and my animals are my constant companions.

Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and many of us have pets to keep us company (or to distract us) as we work. I have four wonderfully spoiled animals whose antics inspire and infuriate me, so I thought it would be fun to share as it applies to my writing life. But it won't all be about me, I promise. I plan to invite other authors to share their pet stories and interviews with their cats, dogs, lizards, mice, spiders… Pets come in a variety of species and I don't discriminate when it comes to the creatures we choose to bring into our families.

Karen's Dog

Meet my dog, Kinsey. She's a four-year-old border collie/pitbull mix (aka border-bully) and quite the character. Kinsey hangs with me 24/7 so it's no wonder we get on each other's nerves sometimes. She's self-absorbed and stubborn and too smart for her own good.

My dog has grudgingly agreed to be my first guest. You'll be hearing a lot from her in the coming weeks. I don't know about you, but I sometimes wonder what my pets are thinking and what they might say if they could talk, especially if they talked with each other. First let's see what my dog has to say to me.

KD: Kinsey, say hello to the nice people.

My Dog: She yawns and an orange Chuck-it ball drops from her mouth.

KD: Can't you put that away for just five minutes?

My Dog: No. Life is all about the ball, man. Wake up and smell the Chuck-it. Play with me. Now.

KD: Maybe later. I'm still wiping the slobber off my keyboard from last time.

My Dog: Rolls her eyes. You were supposed to grab it and throw it before it landed.

KD: You ambushed me. Look, we'll have our ball time, I promise. This is my time now.

My Dog: No. It's MY time. Play with me.

KD: First let's talk about the writing life and the part you play in mine.

My Dog: Seriously? What does your writing have to do with me?

KD: You're my inspiration. I always include animals in my stories.

My Dog: But you never write about ME. You never even write about a dog. You include cats, a mongoose, dodo birds, a coyote—

KD: A coyote is like a dog.

My Dog: No, it's not. You write about Chimeras, even gargoyles of all things, and most recently I saw a tiger in the book you're writing now. And a pig! Never any dogs.

Awkward silence.

KD: You ready to go play some ball now?

Why Should Authors Care About Screenwriting?

By Trai Cartwright

This is part one of Trai's six-part monthly series.

Why in the world would a fiction writer care about screenwriting? Turns out, films are a prime educational resource for novelists, and whether you’re a fictioner or a filmite, our communal and cultural understanding of our craft is drawn from both realms of storytelling.

My background is in both realms of world building, the 50-foot high visual and the black-and-white textual. I love them both and work and play in both. However, thought I’d approach this blog as a map of my adventures as a new screenwriting resource in Denver. And what’s more appropriate than introducing myself in the story structure way?

Act 1 – Meet our main character: a teenaged refugee of Fort Collins, passionate about theater and novel writing. I went on to graduate from a highly esteemed but overpriced film school with a new passion: screenwriting! Destined to be in the world of storytelling, I embarked for Los Angeles.

Trigger Incident – Landing a job with an old school Hollywood moviemaking pro! I was mentored by an Academy Award-winning mensch who taught me the ways of the Force: how to use kindness and enthusiasm to get the best out of writers. He optioned one of my own screenplays, let me develop the scripts our company was interested in, and made me believe in myself. On to Act 2! Lots of practice, lots of dead ends, produced a few movies, worked for some major studios, always learning, learning, learning…

False Resolution – The head of CAA, the biggest talent agency in the world, loves one of my scripts! He’s going to “send it out,” and when he sends something out, careers start. It’s my big break!

Oh wait. He was just forced out by the young guns nipping at his heels. My script has been “burned.” He’s out; so am I.

Things turn dark. LA begins to implode. The writers strike, coupled with the burst of their freakishly out-sized housing bubble and the downward-spiraling economy—it all equals no jobs for writers. Or anyone else. No work to be found in the industry I love.

It’s the end of Act 2 and my lowest point…or the beginning of something amazing?

Act 3 – A move to Colorado, my home state, results in levels of professional growth and community-building I’ve never experienced. As a teacher of both screenwriting and fiction writing, I get to connect with hundreds of writers, teach in a myriad of classrooms, edit dozens of manuscripts. I’m having an amazing time, and really developing my skills on all levels. Don’t tell anyone in LA that working outside of Hollywood rocks this hard. They might get wise and get out, too!

Which brings us to The Sequel:

Act 1 – Making the big move to Denver, a storied land where many wildly accomplished and talented writers live and learn and publish. I’ve just finished a screenplay that’ll fly back over the mountains shortly and bang some drums, and I’m nearly done with my first YA book. Could I be more excited to land in the Mile High City at this crucial juncture in my own writing life?

I could, because Denver is also home to a Top 25 Film School, where I’ll be teaching future filmmakers how to get their voices heard. Connecting to the amazing film resources here is important, so I’m meeting folks from the Denver Film Society and the Denver Screenwriters.

But I’m still fiercely in love with Fiction, so I’m also looking for ways to connect to more novelists. How lucky are we that grounding this community is the amazing Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. What fun you all have, what joy you bring to the study of our craft! I’ve already had some terrific experiences with you all and can’t wait to continue. I’ll see you at the conference in September, for sure. Come find this old Hollywood hack so we can continue this conversation about our love of story.

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

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.

Rolling Out the RMFW Blog

Announcing a new opportunity for members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers to educate, promote, share, and meet other members.

The blog launches August 1st with an outstanding lineup of regular contributors including Mike Befeler, Karen Duvall, Julie Kazimer, Susan Spann, Kerry Schafer, Katriena Knights, Nicole Disney, Jeffe Kennedy and more. We have open days on the schedule to accommodate guest bloggers from our unpublished, newly published, or veteran members. Watch the RMFW Yahoo! Group and the newsletter for more information.

Please join us this Thursday for the first post in a six-part monthly series from Trai Cartwright.

NEW RMFW Online Classes

DuvallYour Novel's
First Five Pages

Presented by Karen Duvall

2 Week Course

Start Date: Monday, August 5

End Date: Sunday, August 18

$25 Member Registration

$30 Non-Member Registration

It's vital that your novel hook readers within the first 5 pages because that's what it takes to reel them in and keep them reading. Make those pages count from the very first sentence.

In this two week course, we'll cover methods to aid you in creating the start of a compelling tale that will engage readers and convince them to stay for the long haul.

Areas that will be covered include:

  • Frequent mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Start the story in the right place
  • Introduce pivotal characters your reader will connect with
  • The importance of revealing genre right away
  • Make all 5 senses count
  • Ground the reader in your setting
  • How voice determines your story's tone
  • Establish the inciting incident
  • Create tension and conflict right away
  • The importance of clarity and context

Lessons will be sent three times a week and homework will be assigned. Student interaction and questions are encouraged.

Karen 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 recently released in Luna's 'Til The World Ends anthology alongside the work of NYT and USA Today best selling authors Ann Aguirre and Julie Kagawa.

Karen has presented writing workshops for a number of conference venues including Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Bend Christian Writers Conference, and the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

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.

July Program: A Discussion About Investigations

David KeilJuly Program

A Discussion About Investigations

Presented by David Keil

Saturday, July 13, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Lakewood Public Library
10200 West 20th Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80215

Come learn everything you ever wanted to know about private investigation from a veteran investigator! David Keil has been a practicing private investigator for 30 years. Over his long career, Mr. Keil has been involved with the investigation of all manner of criminal and civil cases, including crimes of violence, international drug trafficking, theft, sex crimes, and bank robbery. His current emphasis is on white collar crime, including complex financial fraud, such as banking, brokerage and real estate schemes. Mr. Keil's efforts have helped recover millions of dollars of victim losses in some of the largest Ponzi Scheme cases in US history.

Working both as a victim's advocate and as a criminal defense investigator, his client roster includes many highly successful and colorful con artists. Mr. Keil is also a lifelong reader of mystery and crime fiction, and has lent his technical expertise as an investigator to several published authors.

Denver Monthly Programs are free to both members and non-members. They are usually two hours long on a Saturday morning or afternoon at a public library in either Jefferson County or Denver. Topics vary. No registration is required. Questions? Contact programs@rmfw.org. Check out the Events page on the RMFW website for more information about our programs and classes.