Still Learning

I'm on a borrowed computer at the moment because yesterday I tried to update my system software and it failed. Now the darn thing won't even boot. Computers are such a pain. So it means a trip to the repair shop later this morning.

This post is a continuation of my last post about the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop called How Writers Write Fiction. I'm currently taking this free workshop online and it's incredible. Last month, the program had just started and I believe we hadn't even turned in our first assignment yet. It's an 8 week  program and we just completed Lesson 6. I'm really going to miss this class when it's over.

So what makes this course so special compared to the hundreds of other writing courses available online? Aside from the price being right (can't beat free), this workshop teaches from a perspective I rarely see in fiction writing classes. It's focused on creative writing. Isn't all fiction writing creative? It is, of course, but most of us, at least those of us in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, are writing commercial genre fiction. There's a slight difference.

The session we just finished is on description. Most people don't think description is a big deal, that it's basically exposition used for setting a scene, less is better than more, and that's partially true. Too much and you can bore your reader, not enough and your narrative becomes thin and underwhelming. So when it comes to description it's important to have balance.

I learned about a new sense in this class, a sixth one to include in my "sensorium." We all know to use sight, sound, taste, touch and smell, but the sixth one is called proprioception. This last sense is the sense of our bodies as we move through space. I'd always taken this sense for granted, but after this last week's session, I'll never forget it. Did you know that we go through life filtering out our sense impressions because they can be too overwhelming for us to get through a typical day? But when we write, we want to hone in on all these senses to help our readers live through our characters and experience the story from a wholly new and different place. Realizing this has made a significant impact on my approach to writing description.

Description needs to create a vividly experienced world for the reader, reveal a characters' psychology and development, and influence the progression of plot. This week's class on writing immersive fiction fired up hundreds of discussions among my classmates and was explored in a video with lectures by 3 award winning literary authors. It was a very enriching experience for me as a writer.

So for this week's assignment, we had to write a thousand-word scene using description that had all the elements a scene needs to propel a plot forward, like tension and conflict. It would seem impossible, but it really isn't. To share an example, here's three paragraphs from the assignment I turned in a couple of days ago:

The door looked like a jaw that creaked open on rusty hinges and it groaned with a widening yawn. I stepped onto the ladder--the attic's tongue--and entered its dark throat that filled my nostrils with a dank scent of mildew. The wooden joists and bare frame of the walls were its teeth. They appeared rotted with decay, but when I tugged the chain attached to a bulb on the ceiling, light chased back the shadows so that I could see the wood wasn't rotten, just discolored with age.

I blinked through a rain of fluttering dust motes that swirled around cardboard boxes of all shapes and colors and sizes. Some boxes were labeled, some were not, some had rips and smashed corners, others appeared almost new. Wide strips of shiny tape sealed them from the elements and I suddenly felt eager to rip them all open, like a child stumbling upon unexpected presents on Christmas morning.

I slid a dusty box out from the center and spun it around so I could read what was etched onto its side with a thick black marker. In capital letters was my dead brother's name: NATHAN.

You can still sign up for this class that has about 2 weeks left. It's free, and though you can't participate in the earlier lessons, you can still read the discussions and view the teaching videos. You can find information about it here.

Do you struggle at writing description? Do you usually skim over passages of description while reading? What makes description interesting and what makes it boring?


Immortality – would you really want it?

I first published this post two years ago on another blog, but recently, I got into a discussion about immortality and it made me revisit the subject.

I write about immortal characters –vampires and more recently, a siren.

If you write about vampires, immortality is a subject you give a lot of thought. It goes with the territory. Besides needing to drink blood to survive, the one constant in all vampire mythos is eternal life. In fact, it’s what distinguishes vampires from other supernatural creatures—while a werewolf, for instance, emphasizes what is mortal in us—primal urges—a vampire emphasizes what is immortal—never ending life.

As I get older, the thought of immortality sounds better and better. For the first time in my life, I may have more years behind me than ahead of me. It’s scary. I think back on all that’s happened in my lifetime. Wonders of space and technology, both for good and bad, are opening up new frontiers.

Who wouldn’t want to be around for a hundred or a thousand more years to see what will be accomplished?

But at what cost?

My protagonist, Anna Strong, a newly turned vampire, has a human family and she deals with the ramifications on a daily basis. She knows she will have to face the loss of everyone she has ever known and loved. Can she ever regain the warmth of a family? Or will her existence be reduced to mere survival?

Can vampires fall in love? Can they really care for each other? Power and control are part of the makeup of a vampire. Does being forced to associate with such beings make eternal life more of a curse than a blessing? In literature, vampires often seek relationships with humans and not just as a convenient food source. Perhaps vampires recognize that having a finite life span enables mortals to have deeper, more meaningful relationships than immortals with unbounded lives.

In the case of Emma Monroe, the siren in The Fallen Siren series, while she is not a predator, she, too, is a cursed character who has been sentenced to live as a mortal until she can redeem herself in the eyes of the vindictive goddess, Demeter.

Her crime? Allowing Demeter’s daughter to be kidnapped by Hades. No matter that she and her sisters were tricked by Hades. No matter that the loss of their friend Persephone was as devastating to them as it was to her mother. No matter that Demeter got her daughter back. Emma roams from one mortal life to another, prohibited from finding love, alone, separated even from her sisters. Redemption is her only hope and in this life, the way she tries to accomplish this is by rescuing women in peril with the FBI’s Kidnapped and Missing Persons Division.

A high price to pay for immortality.

So the question I put to you today, is would you accept the “gift” of immortality? How much would you be willing to give up to live forever?

I look forward to your comments.

PS. If you’re curious about the Fallen Siren series, there is a free prequel novella, Captured, available on Amazon. Hope you enjoy it!

Rocky Mountain Writer #21

Angie Hodapp - Inside the Nelson Literary Agency

The guest on this episode of Rocky Mountain Writer Angie Hodapp, who takes us behind the scenes of Nelson Literary Agency. Angie Hodapp holds a bachelor's degree in English and secondary education and a master's in English and communication development. She is a graduate of the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver and has taught courses on the craft and business of writing at Writer’s Digest University, Lighthouse Writers Workshop and various writing conferences, including RMFW’s Colorado Gold. She has worked in publishing, in one form or another, for fifteen years.
Show Notes:

Nelson Literary Agency

NLA Digital

Code Named Verity - Elizabeth Wein

Alex Bledsoe

Denver Publishing Institute

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens:

How to Write a Bestseller

016You ever notice that the people who teach how to write bestsellers are not actually writing them? I always wonder about this...

Anyway, as writers, we spend a fair amount of time contemplating, discussing and, yes, taking workshops on how to write bestselling books. We pretty much all want to have our books sell well, and that's the pinnacle. There's a lot of reasons to want that - money is always useful and we'd all love to have lots of readers. I suspect even the most Zen among us would dance a happy jig to hit the NYT Bestseller List.

One of the problems with thinking about writing a bestseller, however, is worrying about likability. Obviously, a bestselling book appeals to a great number of people. So, above and beyond our usual concern that we want our books to be loved and celebrated, we start thinking about getting All The People to love and celebrate our books.

Even though we know that's impossible.

This is on my mind because the novel I finished last week has a difficult heroine. Now, I often have flawed characters. That's part of who I am as a writer. And when I set out to write this book, the story appealed to me because the heroine is unusual and not terribly likable. Okay - she's a hot mess. She's damaged and, as a result, does some pretty awful things.

Predictably, one of my critique partners came back with notes that I was going to have a problem with likability. She cited several things that readers would object to, particularly romance readers.

I started fretting about it.

And reconsidering if I should change some things, haul it back.

The thing is - this IS the story I wanted to write. I knew going in that not all readers would love it, and yet I keep going back to the desire to modify it so they will. As if it's possible to find a way to please everyone.

I have a note pinned up next to my desk: "What would you write if you weren't afraid?" I should make it into a big poster. Because this is all about fear. Being afraid that readers will push back, that the book will fail, that I will fail and not in some tragically romantic starving-in-a-garret way, but in a with-a-whimper way.

And it's all nonsense.

Nobody knows how to write a bestseller. If there was a magic formula, wouldn't everyone be using it? Everyone is guessing and hoping. The best we can do is be true to the stories we want to write.

As long as we obey our feline overlords, we'll be just fine.

Facebook: To Page or Not to Page?

facebookOver the last year I’ve taught a few workshops on writing and being a writer. Inevitably I hear the same question in each class, and surprisingly it isn’t, can you even tie your own shoes, but I digress… The question is—should I create a Facebook page or use my profile?

The answer: I have no clue. I barely know you. Stop staring at me like that.

Okay, the real answer is similar: You tell me what works for you.

Yes, it is that simple.

And far more complicated.

Confused? Good. Marketing yourself as a writer is a confusing world. You can ask anyone for advice, but that doesn’t mean what works for them will work for you. That being said, I do have a few pros and cons for the fan page versus the profile.


Fan Page                     


Ability to schedule posts: Yes, you can schedule posts if you use a third party software, but the ability to do so directly from Facebook is only available on a fan page.

Insights: Learn about those who view your page, when they view it, and what they interact with.

Ads: This is my favorite part. You can create an ad specific to your target audience. Don’t know who your target is, research! Let me give you an example, 84% of romance readers are women, age range of 30-54. Now if I was creating an ad, I would pick women who like books (you can get more specific) in that age range. I could even go as far as to target women who’ve LIKED a particular author or book. Can’t get better than that. And you pick the cost of the ad.

Tabs: You can make tabs for new pages like a website. I have a newsletter signup form (using mailchimp), a page for giveaways, and an events page among others.

Shop Now button: I have a button on the top of my page that says shop now. It takes people to my amazon author page, and all my available books. Quick and easy. You can create a button for most any call to action.



LIKE ME: For people to see your page without you boosting the post (which costs cash) they have to have LIKED the page.

Impersonal: The fan page can feel a little impersonal, if you let it. You need to put effort into cultivating your fans. You need to be as open and genuine on that page as you are in real life. Or if you suck in real life (I’m totally sure you don’t. Really. Don’t you look pretty today…), you should keep that suckiness under wraps. Which is great life advice too. So you are welcome.

Easily Ignored: I tend to ignore requests to LIKE someone’s page, and yet, I am willing to be ‘friends’ with anyone. You might be different, but I am guessing based on the response of my own friends to LIKE my page that that is true. I am also less likely to read a post from a fan page.




You already have one: No mess, no fuss.

Most engagement:  Again, it might just be me, but I tend to engage with a post by a profile more than I do a page. It might contain the same information, but I trust a profile more. Which makes me an idiot, but you knew that already (see my inability to tie my own shoes comment earlier).

Friends are better than fans: If you can turn a fan into a friend, then you have won the marketing game. Fans are wonderful. I love people who adore me. Not sure why, other than it is awesome. But a fan is 2D. I don’t know them. A friend, on the other hand, is someone I can engage with at any time.

Newsfeed: It’s just not the same on a fan page. I love my newsfeed. I love knowing about other’s perspective. Yes, I am FREAKING NOSEY. Always have been.



Opening yourself up: Using your profile opens you up to anyone you accept as a friend (and sometimes, depending on your settings, to anyone in general). Now I don’t have a problem with that. I am the same on either my profile or page, though I am more active on my profile.

No Ads: You have to have a page to create an ad.


I suggest you create a fan page, just to see how you like it. If you don’t, just delete it. It can’t hurt, and it might make you famous. Remember to remember the little people when you are. (Yeah, I’m pretty short).

Do you have a Facebook fan page? If so, link it in the comments and I’ll LIKE you. Or give us your profile link and I’ll friend you.

I also wanted to give a shout out to all the veterans. Happy Veterans' Day! Thank you for your service!

Ann Hood – 2016 Colorado Gold Keynote Speaker

AnnHood-smRMFW is pleased to announce Ann Hood is our 2016 Colorado Gold Conference Sunday afternoon keynote speaker.

Ann Hood wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. Her favorite books when she was a kid were Little Women and Nancy Drew. Later, she loved Marjorie Morningstar, Les Miserables and Doctor Zhivago, obviously choosing books by size!

A Rhode Island native, she was born in West Warwick and spent high school working as a Marsha Jordan Girl, modeling for the Jordan Marsh department store at the Warwick Mall. She majored in English at the University of Rhode Island, and that's where she fell in love with Shakespeare, Willa Cather, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

When she was in seventh grade, she read a book called How To Become An Airline Stewardess that fueled her desire to see the world. And that's just what she did when she graduated from URI--she went to work for TWA as a flight attendant. Back then, she thought you needed adventures in order to be a writer. Of course, she now knows that all you need, as Eudora Welty said, is to sit on your own front porch.

AH-AnItalianWifeBut she did see a lot of the world with TWA, and she moved from Boston to St. Louis and finally to NYC, a place she'd dreamed of living ever since she watched Doris Day movies as a little girl. She wrote her first novel, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine, on international flights and on the Train to the Plane, which was the subway out to JFK. It was published in 1987. Since then, she’s published in The New York Times, The Paris Review, O, Bon Appetit, Tin House, The Atlantic Monthly, Real Simple, and other wonderful places; and she’s won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, Best American Spiritual Writing and Travel Writing Awards, and a Boston Public Library Literary Light Award.

Over a dozen years ago, Ann began writing stories about the Rimaldi's, a fictional Italian-American family who, like her own Italian-American family, arrived in Rhode Island in the late 1800's. The Rimaldi's struggle with homesickness and alienation, and the desire to be American as they try to stay connected to their culture and traditions. When she finished a Rimaldi story last year, she realized that she had over 300 pages about the family. She printed them, placed them in chronological order--spanning one hundred years!--wrote two more, and with great delight created a family saga that centers on Josephine Rimaldi and her children and grandchildren. Josephine and her daughters and granddaughters seek love and acceptance, suffer loss and disappointment, live through wars and historical upheavals. But like all of us, they make their way--in family, in regret, in dreams, and desire. An Italian Wife is, really, everyone's story.

Visit Ann’s website and blog and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Fate and the Crooked Pathway

I recently had a dream about the boss who fired me. I remember being pleased to see him (in real life he’s been dead for nearly ten years) and wanting to thank him for firing me. Because it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. If he hadn’t fired me and I hadn’t struggled to find a job and ended up staying home with my toddler children, I might not have started writing. Bored and frustrated, I channeled my angst into poetry and then a novel. Although I only wrote a few chapters of the novel, a family saga, before I realized I was way over my head.

If I hadn’t been fired and finally been forced to take a job working at a bank where I sat all day, the discs in my lower back might not have given out, resulting in back surgery. Because when I signed the paperwork for the surgery and got to the part where it said I could potentially die, I realized I couldn’t die. Not only because I had two small children, but because I hadn’t written a book yet.

If I hadn’t been fired and been forced take the bank job I hated, I might never have considered applying for a position at the local public library. It wasn’t a career job, and it didn’t pay very well. But because of what I’d gone through, I applied for the job and got it. And it was working at the library where I discovered the genre of historical romance and realized this was a kind of book that I could write.

Being fired, which was devastating at the time, set all the steps in motion for me to become a writer, and also for me to get published. Because it was the support and encouragement of my co-workers at the library that made it possible for me to see myself as a writer and to take the necessary steps, like joining RMFW, which gave me the connections to sell that first book.

Since then, my career has been very up and down, with a lot of downs. But on my journey, when things have been very grim, I’ve reminded myself, that a lot of the time, bad things happen for a reason. When doors slam shut in your face, it means you’re supposed to backtrack and go a different direction. And even then you may still find you’re not going the right way. You may have to alter your path several times before you find the right one. The one that will lead you to where you need to go. Although where you need to go might not be the place you expected.

My philosophical outlook may have no meaning beyond being my personal coping mechanism. A way for me to see my checkered career path in a positive light. But even if that’s all it offers, it still has value. By allowing me to remain positive, it’s given me the strength to fight through the tough times and keep writing. And since writing is a big part of my personal happiness, that’s definitely a good thing.

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast #20

Margo Christie - Dressing Up and Baring All

The guest on this episode of Rocky Mountain Writer is author, performance artist and educator Margo Christie. Margo is on a mission to blur the lines between high- and low-brow art. Her debut novel, "THESE DAYS, A Tale of Nostalgia on a Burlesque Strip," won a second prize in Amazon's 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award and was labeled "as original as it is addictive" by Publisher's Weekly. A 16-year resident of Denver, she's now semi-retired in Tampa Florida, where she's working on a second novel, tentatively titled "Memory Motel," and a collection of travel-inspired essays.

On the podcast, Margo chats about the writing ideas and concepts behind her workshop, "Dressing Up and Baring All."

Show Notes:

Margo Christie

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens:

Interview: Mariko Tatsumoto

Mariko TatsumotoThis month I had the great privilege to interview author Mariko Tatsumoto, author of thelovely and wonderfully heartwarming middle-grade novel Ayumi's Violin.

What made you aspire to be a published writer?

I accidentally took a children’s writing class. I thought I was signing up for a creative writing class. Our “final” was to write a picture book. The instructor praised my work and encouraged me to get it published. I later took a creative writing class from the same instructor.

How long have you been a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers?

About ten years. I learned so much at the Gold Conferences. I always attended a session every hour, I never skipped. I also bought CDs of sessions I couldn’t attend. I relished in listening to stories speakers told. By attending conferences, I made writing friends whom have become vital in my writing life. I joined online critique groups set up by RMFW. The writers in those groups have taught me so much and have given me so much support, I could never thank them enough.

Who are some of your own favorite writers? What are some of your favorite books?

Michael Connelly, Tony Hillerman, J.K. Rowling. I used to own hundreds of books, many of them first editions or signed, but I decided to pare down only to those I really care about. Now I own about a hundred print books. I only have about a dozen ebooks. Some that I could never give away are: Tom Sawyer, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Snow Falling on Cedar, October Sky, The Wave, and all the James Bond books by Ian Fleming because they were my father’s.

What are you currently reading?

Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown

Ayumi's ViolinWhy was it important to you to tell Ayumi’s story?

I think the hardships we endure in our lives never leave us, and we want others to understand what we’ve gone through. Immigrating to a foreign country is a difficult transition. Many people don’t understand how tough it is to make a new life in a new country where you don’t speak the language and you don’t understand the culture.

In some ways Ayumi’s father is subjected to the same mistrust and racism as Ayumi, and yet his experience with these things differs from Ayumi’s in fundamental ways.

Especially in 1959, being white allowed many privileges, such as traveling unrestricted and not being judged by his looks by strangers. As the book progresses, he learns to stand up for Ayumi more, but he doesn’t carry racism and resentment from his childhood like Ayumi. Father can get another job and speak up for racism.

While to Ayumi the violin represents her connection to her mother, from her death bed mother said, “I will always be in the music.” Not in the violin itself. Why is this distinction important to what happens later?

To Ayumi, when Mother tells her to take care of her violin, the violin embodies her mother. But Ayumi’s mother knew that music is what is important to Ayumi. The violin is only how Ayumi expresses her music. Even when she can't play her violin, wherever there is music, her mother is there.

While Brenda resents sharing her parents with Ayumi, it isn't the same as the racism of those who hate Ayumi but do not know her.

Brenda is jealous of a new sister in the house, not because Ayumi is biracial. Brenda is pretty much color blind, which children are if they are not taught to be racist. Jealously of other siblings is normal and natural, racism is learned.

Diego’s presence in the story is critical to show how his experiences with intolerance differs from Ayumi’s.

People stereotype depending on the race: Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are lazy, Blacks are thieves, Asians are smart. Of course in 1959, Asians were not attributed with any positive stereotyping, but I threw that in to show that not all stereotyping is bad, such as Blacks have rhythm, Blacks are great athletes. Because different races are thought of differently, Diego, being Mexican, is thought of as being dishonest, prone to stealing. Thus, he’s fingered whenever there might be a burglary. Ayumi, on the other hand, isn’t regarded automatically as a thief.

If there is one message you wish families to take away from the story of Ayumi and her violin, what would it be?

Never let go of your passion, it will carry you through your darkest times.

What are some of your own personal writing habits?

I think about my book, such as plot, dialogue, scenery or whatever away from my computer. I think about those things while I’m hiking, driving, or lying in bed. When I’m at my computer, I’m putting words on the screen. I don’t allow myself writer’s block. I don’t have that kind of time to spare. If the next scene isn’t coming or I can’t figure out how C gets to D, I work on something else. Maybe I work on a scene or a dialogue that’s way beyond where I’m currently working on. Maybe I rewrite a previous scene. I keep going, not always chronologically, but that doesn’t matter.

The ages old question for writers: to outline or not to outline?

A flexible outline. If I don’t know where the story is going or don’t know what the theme is, I don’t know what scenes to write, what words to put into characters’ mouths. But if a character says something unexpectedly or a scene twists a different way than planned, I go with it. In those times, the story often takes an unusual curve that turns out to change the book for the better.

What can you tell us about any upcoming writing projects you have in the works?

I have two manuscripts that are ready to publish, which I plan to release in the next 6 -7 months: Accidental Samurai Spy and Kenji's Power. I’m currently working on a book with a working title of The Messanger about twelve-year-old Lilly in an internment camp during World War II.

Thank you so much, Mariko, for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm sure all of our members are grateful to you for sharing your insights into writing with us, as well as some details about Ayumi's Violin. Good luck! Or as they say in Japan, work hard and persevere!

Words of Warning …. by Kay Bergstrom

Kay BergstromThere are no bad words...only bad writers.

Some words, however, set off warning alarms, signaling that the writer is venturing toward a danger zone and should back away slowly. Before you use these words (if you must) be aware of what you’re doing.

Here are a few examples:

Suddenly: The word is okay to use in children’s books because children’s books are limited in word length. The author doesn’t have time for motivation, transition and goal. “Suddenly, I came upon a dragon” is perfectly fine. In fiction targeted at grown-ups, “suddenly” might indicate that the writer hasn’t made a transition. Where did the dragon come from? How did you find it? Or “suddenly” could show a lack of motivation. What does it mean to find a dragon?

Almost: Catalogued with almost are: nearly, kind of, sort of, a little bit, and so on. Check these qualifiers. You’ll almost always (sorry, it got by me) find a stronger way to say what you want. “A little bit of scotch” becomes “two fingers of scotch.” “Almost afraid” becomes “afraid.” “Kind of greenish-blue” becomes “jade and teal.” Almost isn’t accurate, i.e., almost pregnant.

Very: Consider the same warning as almost but in the opposite direction. A “very large kitchen” becomes “a kitchen as big as a basketball court.” There are times when “very” is accurate. As any mother who has been even a few days overdue will tell you that there is a state of “very pregnant.”

Laugh: The phrase “we laughed” doesn’t make the reader want to laugh. We laughed so hard that we all fell down and peed our pants is worse. Pointing out humor doesn’t make it funny. As writers, we have accept the fact that much of our cleverness and wit will go unnoticed by the reader.

Smile: Imagine the variety of emotions Meryl Streep can convey with a smile. She could be sad or loving or menacing or nervous or angry, etcetera. And the observer would understand because he could see her face and hear her tone of voice. Alas, as writers we don’t have a Streep to illustrate what kind of smile is being given. There are many words to describe facial expression. Pick one that more clearly indicates what the character is feeling.

Walk: While we’re on the topic of finding the best word to suit the action, “walk” is a warning word. Whenever I use “walk,” I visit Ms. Thesaurus to look for something better: sashay, stride, shuffle, dance, leap, bound, skip. Each of those words conveys an image that plain old “walk” doesn’t show.

Exclaimed: It’s hard to think of a situation when “exclaimed” isn’t redundant. Use an exclamation point! I have two digressions here. 1) There’s nothing wrong with exclamation points as long as they aren’t popping up on every page. 2) In dialogue tags, using “said” doesn’t become redundant. Similar to a script where each piece of dialogue is labeled, “said” disappears.

Phat and other cute slang: Slang that’s current now is dated in a couple of years. I’ve never thought of my books as something that would be read years from now, and so I have been known to indulge in slang. At times, I threw around “dude” like Wayne’s World. The joke is on me. My first book was pubbed in 1984 and is available as an e-book.

“Ah jist knows dat’s de bestest.” Dialect should be used very gently. Consider whether you want the reader to stumble.

F-Bombs and all their x-rated friends: I love the f-bomb and use it frequently in first drafts to convey down and dirty rage. In final draft, the profanity usually comes out. There are too many readers that get pulled out of the story by cursing.

Not a car: If you’re writing anything set in Colorado, your character will probably be in a vehicle. Be careful not to identify the character as the car. “I made a U-turn” isn’t accurate. The car turned, you didn’t. Nit-picking, but why not?

Feel: As a writer of romance and suspense, my characters are feeling all the time. They’re scared, sexy, courageous, seductive, outraged and hurt. Whenever I use “feel” (guilty admission: yes, I use it), I stop and think about another way to say how the character feels. Better yet, I need a better way to show how they feel. Is it worth a scene to show? Where did the feeling come from? Do I need a flashback?

It: Not the Stephen King novel. Each and every time you use “it,” you’re missing a chance to say something more descriptive. Unfortunately, “it” is one of those necessary words that can’t be totally avoided. “It” is always there, like Pennywise the Evil Clown. When you see “it” on the page, let it be a warning to you. There might be a better way.


Kay Bergstrom (aka Cassie Miles) is the author of 79 novels of romance and suspense, has been on the USA TODAY Best-seller list and has twice been RMFW’s Writer of the Year. Her next book, Colorado Wildfire, will be available in January 2016.

Kay is starting a developmental editing service. Contact her at: kaybergstrom (at) hotmail (dot) com