This time on the Rocky Mountain Writer we have another writer who contributed to the RMFW short story anthology Found, published last September.
Rachel Craft, who writes as Rachel Delaney, had a story called “Every Drop of Light” included in that new anthology.
Rachel Craft is a full-time engineer and part-time writer. After deciding to pursue writing as a second career, she discovered RMFW and never looked back. Her short fiction has appeared in Cricket magazine, and her first middle grade novel, Wild Magic, was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold contest.
On the podcast, Rachel talks about the distinctions between young adult and middle grade fiction and what sparked her interest in speculative fiction, beginning with a story she wrote about her fourth-grade math teacher’s evil twin brother. She also talks about how moving from state to state as a child may have helped her develop her storytelling talents.
Rachel lives in Boulder with her fiancé and Jack Russell terrier.
One of the reasons is that I live alone and I like someone to read a story to me before (or while) I fall asleep. For these, I choose books I've already read/heard before (and I DO reread and re-listen to books in my library).
Like many people, I enjoy listening to books while driving, particularly on long trips.
And I also use new books and/or new audio books as a reward for doing good work, or making wordcount.
Last night I gave myself a guilty pleasure and listened to an audio book, Sweep In Peace, by Ilona Andrews.
Advice first, then ramblings. Audio books are GREAT for getting the feel of the language, of different accents and rhythms of speech from Jane Austin's upper class British to an east Texan twang.
When I first started listening to audio books, I listened to old favorites of Jayne Ann Krentz. To my surprise, the reader put the emPHAsis on different words and phrases than I did. It was both disconcerting and illuminating. There's old common wisdom that you should read your work aloud (I don't have time with the schedule my publisher wants), and we do this at my critique group. It can help immensely, particularly if you have a run-on sentence or one of the made up words (like chwisge – whiskey) to see what works and doesn't. Sometimes I won't change a very alliterative sentence or an awkward one, but most of the time I do.
The best audio books I've ever listened to are the Elizabeth Peters historical mysteries read by Barbara Rosenblat. They are just incredible, particularly the ones that have the boy Ramses growing up, Ms. Rosenblat ages his voice...(and one of the best titles ever is The Last Camel Died At Noon). The Harry Potter audio books are exceptional, too.
I won't say the worst I've listened to – mostly because of the books themselves, not the authors' best works – but sometimes the actor screws it up. I listened to one where the actor made the hero's voce sort-of upper crust nasal, this was a ROMANCE and the hero didn't sound acceptable.
My absolute favorite audio books are romances where a husband-wife team read the hero/heroine's point of view, such as Smoke and Mirrors by Jayne Ann Krentz, and Linda Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep. When Dick Hill makes the car noises, it had me rolling...
And since I love audio books, I am more aware of dialogue in my books, providing enough tags or movement so that my narrators have the cues they need to change their voices for different characters.
First: Co-editor Julie Kazimer and I are looking for one new regular monthly contributor to the RMFW Blog. If we have several applicants, you get a bonus point if you're already familiar with WordPress. You receive a second bonus point if you are funny (as in humor writing). And you get more points if you promise to be obsessively on time (as in getting your posts in draft or scheduled at least a week ahead of time). Regular contributors educate and inform, focusing on their writing craft or writing life areas of interest. Self-promotion is minimized. Click here for the current list of contributors.
Second: Starting in January, we also need at least two guest bloggers per month and sometimes more. The submission guidelines are posted under the Blog link on the RMFW website. We'd love to see some new faces on the blog this year. If you're interested now or later, email us at email@example.com The guest bloggers are invited to add an author photo and recent release cover art to their posts, but should still aim to educate and inform.
RMFW Members Only: Occasionally we feature guest posts by conference keynote speakers, agents or editors, but those are rare exceptions. We want RMFW members for these open blogging positions. Doesn't matter if you're published or not. Doesn't matter whether you opt for traditional publishers or prefer to do it yourself. Doesn't matter what genre(s) you write. Doesn't matter if you write under your own name or a pseudonym.
What's Important: You have something of value to share with the world about writing craft or the writing life. You know your grammar and punctuation. You meticulously proofread your own work. You strive to meet deadlines.
"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." ~Toni Morrison
I've been tossing around ideas about what to write for this post for a few days now. It was tempting to bypass the state of the nation and stick to a safer topic, something like motivation or puppies. But Toni Morrison's words summarize what is on my mind, and what I think should be on the mind of every writer.
Yes, I'm about to be opinionated, and I'm not going to apologize for that.
We have been given the gift of words, and with that I believe there comes responsibility.
Yes, a lot of us, maybe even most of us, are in the writing business to entertain, but that entertainment shapes thoughts and emotions. We're not preachers or politicians, but we have beliefs and principles and values.
We have power we don't realize that we have.
I was thinking the other day about all of the books I read as a child and a teenager. The product of a strict religious upbringing, born and raised in a small town, I was very sheltered with little experience of the larger world. The books I read - fortunately - taught me compassion and understanding for people different than me. They taught me that evil can be confronted and overcome. They taught me that hope, beauty, and good can survive in even the darkest of situations. They comforted me. They gave me heroines and mentors I could relate to and look up to.
They also taught me that it's important to step out of the safe zone and take action when lives and liberties are threatened.
This, my friends, is that time. I'm not saying we all need to start writing essays or blogs or opinion pieces, although that wouldn't be a bad thing. But I believe that in the world as it now is, it's more important than ever that we think about how we are using our creative gifts.
Do we have influence on social media that can be used to give bandwidth to important messages? Are there elements we can include in our stories that will help threatened groups feel stronger? Can we write stories that might shine a light on privilege and unconscious bigotry? Can we help to build bridges and create understanding and cooperation?
I believe that privilege and even a lot of bigotry and hate hide out in our subconscious, installed there when we were children incapable of sorting truth from lies. We can do work to find these beliefs in ourselves. We can write things that make people stop and think.
Fiction often shines a light where argument and rhetoric can never reach.
If I'm honest, I'm not sure what that means for me, as a writer. I don't know how this belief is going to change the next book I write. But if I write consciously, from the heart, with the desire to make things better, I dare to hope that my stories, in some small way, can help to make the world a better place.
My challenge to all of you is to make an effort to do the same.
I'm in the dreaded days between turning the last revision into the editor and waiting for the acceptance so I can get paid. How do I fill my time? By working on the next book, of course, and, no, I don't do NaNo. I find it stressful, and a way to focus more on how many words I'm writing than the quality of the work on the pages. But I also catch up on my correspondence and turn to marketing. A dreaded word, but something that's necessary if you want to sell books.
"What, you want specifics?"
Take Social Media, please.
We all know what we're supposed to do—Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. In my case, I Facebook some; I Tweet some; and I write on two group blogs: RMFW and the Rogue Women Writers. Sharing the blogging breaks up the workload (which I appreciate), and I think it keeps the blog pages interesting.
But here's the truth. I hate Goodreads. Okay, okay, I dislike Goodreads.
I know, I know, it's a problem. Goodreads is where a lot of readers hang out. Unfortunately, because of the set up I must have two separate pages for my two separate series, and that means twice the work. I was just out there today—first time since August—and I had invites to accept and comments to respond to, on both pages. In order to look active, I have to sign in on both pages, post something, post up books I'm reading, books I've read, rate books.... It's not fun. It's work. Facebook is fun. Twitter is fun. I like writing the blogs. But I may just stop doing Goodreads altogether, except...it's where readers hang out.
Tip: Focus on what you like and have a venue that doesn't appeal to you send notices when someone posts a comment, asks a question, etc. That way you're not ignoring someone by default. It's saved my bacon a time or two.
Factor in Signings
If you think just because the book is out and has been out for a while that you won't do any more signings and/or events, think again. This week alone I've gotten calls to sign at a bookstore for Indies First (a movement to support our Independent Bookstores) and to appear at the Boulder County Audubon's Annual Holiday Sale. I said yes to both, but sometimes I don't. Sometimes I strategically say no.
"Why?" you ask.
Because you want exposure, but you don't want to be overexposed. I run that risk. I get around. (Get your minds out of the gutter.) It's a good problem to have, but it can also be a negative. In the past year, I've had two books out. Since mid-April, that's meant nine Front Range signings—three of them at the Tattered Cover and two at the Denver Book Bar. Granted, three were because I was fortunate enough to be nominated for several awards and the WOTY, but that means I had to make six others worthwhile for both myself and the bookseller.
Don't believe for a minute that a signing is about selling books. That has little to do with it. You can't sell enough books at a signing to make it worthwhile financially. What you can achieve is meeting booksellers and creating rapport so they hand-sell your book and want you to back again. It's also about introducing yourself to a few people who might not otherwise have heard about your book.
Tip: Set up signings in different venues that reach different groups of people. Go for one or two bookstores, book clubs and group events. For instance, my book that came out in May has a birdwatching theme, so I'm signing at the Boulder County Audubon's Holiday Event coming up November 22nd. Find creative places to find new readers who would be interested in your work.
Eyes on the Future—Conferences and Workshops
This is where it gets harder. What's coming? There are a myriad of conferences and events that seem worthwhile and tug at you, but what's to your best advantage? This is where you have to get serious, look at your income, look at your costs, weigh the benefits and be brutal with choices. Look at when your books are coming out, so you can plan based on what give you the biggest bang for the buck.
I live in the mystery/thriller world. My next book is coming out June 13, 2017, so what are a few of my considerations, ThrillerFest (July in NYC, 2017), Bouchercon (October in Toronto, 2017) and Left Coast Crime (March in Reno, 2018). These are the ones that I should do, if possible. This year I'm skipping LCC. It's in Hawaii, and I will have just married off a daughter on Kauai the month before. Two trips to Hawaii in two months seems excessive. But these are all "FAN" conventions. They draw more readers than writers, and play to building readership. They fit with my genre and connect me with people who are the most interested in reading what I write.
Of course, this list multiplies if you add in Killer Nashville, Magna Cum Murder, Malice Domestic, etc., etc. The thing to remember is—you have to approximate spending $1K for every con you attend out-of-state—$2K for NYC. Pick the winning combination.
And what about Colorado Gold, Pikes Peak Writers, SleuthFest and any number of other conferences held across the country? RMFW is a must for me because I see my old friends, it's my hometown conference and I have only missed two (maybe) in the past 30+ years. The rest are teaching conferences, so if I'm not teaching, I'm not going. It's just that simple.
Tip: Look at your publishing schedule, then at the coming year. Figure out what you can afford to spend on travel to promote your books, and then choose accordingly. Maybe it's better to go to the Southwest Book Festival, or Tucson Festival of Books or on a book tour vs. a convention. Maybe you can combine a tour with a convention—for example, ThrillerFest comes closer to my pub date than Bouchercon, and with added benefit of face time with my agent and editor.
Once you've made a schedule, commit to it and move on to promoting it via Social Media.
Most importantly, write. Everyday! Write on that new book. All the marketing in the world won't do you any good if you don't have something to sell.
With our 35th Annual Colorado Gold coming next year, there are some fabulous things brewing.
If you're on the RMFW Conference Facebook Group, (come over and join us!) you may have already seen my announcement that we're adding Saturday lunch to the program next year. Because of the special anniversary, we're adding this meal at no additional charge. We're also planning for some special guest authors and publishing professionals to join us and make 2017 Colorado Gold a must-attend event!
I'm very excited to share that Diana Gabaldon will be joining us for 2017 Colorado Gold!
Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as "the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting ‘Scrooge McDuck’ comics."
The adventure began in 1991 with the classic OUTLANDER ("historical fiction with a Moebius twist"), has continued through seven more New York Times-bestselling novels— DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, DRUMS OF AUTUMN, THE FIERY CROSS, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, AN ECHO IN THE BONE, and WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, with more than twenty-eight million copies in print worldwide.
The series is published in 26 countries and 23 languages, and includes THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volumes One and Two, which are nonfiction (well, relatively) works which provide details on the settings, background, characters, research, and writing of the first eight novels in the Outlander series of novels. Gabaldon (it’s pronounced “GAA-bull-dohn”—rhymes with “stone”) has also written several books in a sub-series featuring Lord John Grey (a major minor character from the main series): LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS, and THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.
Returning to her comic-book roots, she has also written a graphic novel titled THE EXILE (set within the OUTLANDER universe and featuring the main characters from OUTLANDER), but told from the viewpoint of Jamie Fraser and his godfather, Murtagh. The graphic novel is illustrated by Hoang Nguyen, and published by Del-Rey.
The eighth and most recent major novel in the OUTLANDER series, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, was released on June 10, 2014 in the U.S.A. and Canada. The book made its debut as number one on the New York Times bestseller list in the hardcover category and combined e-book and hardcover category! And the book is also a bestseller in Canada.
Diana is serving as a Co-Producer and advisor for the popular Outlander TV series, produced by the Starz network and Tall Ship Productions and distributed by Sony International, which is based on her novels. She has written a script for an episode of the series, also.
Her main current writing project is the ninth major novel in the OUTLANDER series, GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE.
Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters, which entitles her to be “Diana Gabaldon, Ph.D., D.H.L.” She supposes this is better than “Diana Gabaldon, Phd.X,”) and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before beginning to write fiction. She has written scientific articles and textbooks, worked as a contributing editor on the MacMillan ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPUTERS, founded the scientific-computation journal SCIENCE SOFTWARE QUARTERLY, and has written numerous comic-book scripts for Walt Disney. None of this has anything whatever to do with her novels, but there it is.
Diana and her husband, Douglas Watkins, have three adult children and live mostly in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I'll be updating the conference home page soon with our growing line-up of agents and editors, programming options, and of course, our fabulous keynote speakers and guests! Stay tuned as more news and announcements are posted.
Back in the Dark Times, there used to be a commercial with the tag-line "It's what's up front that counts." Their value-added proposition was that - ahem - first impressions matter. This month I thought it might be useful to look at book layout because when it comes to books, what's up front does count.
Front-matter are those silly pages that show up at the beginning of the book. Most people skip past them but they serve a purpose. Joel Friedlander from The Book Designer lists some common front matter as half-title, frontispiece, full-title, copyright, dedication, table of contents in that order.
Traditionally published authors don't deal with this but for those of us with a more DIY bent, this stuff matters because it's how to present your work professionally.
The half-title page tells the reader the title of your book. That's it. In my own work, I bend this rule because I like establishing the graphical themes as early as possible, frequently carrying an element from the cover. I do it on purpose, knowing that it's "not done."
The frontispiece isn't used that much any more. It's a graphic on the back side (verso) of the half-title. In paper, when the reader flips the half-title, the frontispiece shows on the left and the full-title shows on the right.
The full-title page carries the title, author, series name, publisher and anything the publisher wants to say about the book. Sometimes the log-line shows up here as well as the publication date and place.
Copyright statements show on the verso. So copyright date, entity holding the copyright, publisher info, ISBN, Library of Congress control numbers, contact information, and - in fiction - frequently a statement along the lines of "I made this up. That's not you I'm talking about." (I'm paraphrasing.)
The dedication will show on the next page by itself. If you're going to honor somebody, make it count. In paper, that'll be on the right side, opposite the copyright.
Following that, you'll find tables of content, forewords, introductions, prologues, and a host of other pages which might apply to a book. Friedlander suggests a second half-title to wrap up the front-matter if the section is particularly long.
Which brings me to the secret. These pieces are all part of your stylistic toolbox and are not cast in stone -- or even paper.
My own front-matter (in both ebook and paper) consists of half-title, copyright, other books, dedication, title page. Sometimes there's a table-of-contents but in fiction, I find they're not particularly useful in paper and unnecessary in ebook. I've taken my layout based on old mass market paperbacks and my own reading preferences. Nothing says you have to do it the way everybody else does.
If you're laying out your own books, putting your story in a professional looking box can give readers a sense that you know what you're doing. Most of them won't know what's supposed to be there, but some piece of their brain will tell them if something's off. They may not be able to say "Hey! This copyright page is in the wrong place" - in reality there's no real right place - but they might notice if it's missing. They may not know what a half-title or a title page is, but it'll be a familiar landmark as they get into your story. It tells them a story is coming. It tells them to settle in. They turn to chapter one and the story begins.
In June of 2012, Barb Nickless and her family were told to evacuate their house in Waldo Canyon, northwest of Colorado Springs, because a wildfire was bearing down. Authorities told Barb to plan on being gone for a few days.
Instead, Barb’s house burned to the ground, one of hundreds of houses lost in that devastating fire.
Earlier this year, Barb published her first novel, a mystery thriller called Blood on the Tracks, and that fire played a role in how Barb approached the work of writing fiction. No details here – you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
And now Barb is dealing with another wildfire—the good kind—with the sales of her book. For a few weeks this fall, Blood on the Tracks was ranked #1 in nationwide sales, ahead of writers such as J.K. Rowling. And the reviews have poured in, too – thousands of reviews on Amazon and the novel is still carrying a nearly solid five-star rating.
On the podcast, Barb tells the story of the Waldo Canyon Fire and talks about the research that went into Blood on the Tracks, which features railroad cop and Iraq war veteran Sidney Rose Parnell and her k-9 companion Clyde. Barb talks about her immersion approach to writing and the amazing story of how she found her agent during Thriller Fest in New York City. She also recounts the decision-making process that went into going with Thomas & Mercer, the publishing house that is part of the Amazon empire.
Barbara Nickless was made in Japan, born in Guam, and traveled through numerous ports of call to land in Colorado.
When she's not writing, traveling, or wandering through libraries, she is usually in the Colorado Rockies where she loves to hike, cave, snowshoe and drink single malt Scotch—rarely, please note, at the same time.
If you haven’t heard the news by now, my Kindle Scout campaign was a success! My book, Call Me Zhenya, was chosen for publication by Kindle Press. I received just under 700 page views, with a surge at the very end in both views and in time spent in "Hot and Trending." The page views necessary to get into Hot and Trending dropped significantly at the end--I'm not sure why, or if that's built into their process to get last-minute votes, or how that works. As with most Amazon algorithms, there's no real way to look under the hood. But I kept up the promotion to the very end, as anybody who follows me on social media can attest, probably with an eye-roll at my multitudes of posts. I got the notification only a couple of days after the campaign ended. Everything has happened a bit faster than their materials indicate--in a day or two rather than a week or two, for example--which is cool.
So what happens next?
Basically, what happens next is that the contract as printed on the website goes into immediate effect. I was asked to look over my full manuscript and my cover art, make any changes I wanted to make, then reupload them. The next step is to fill out financial information so they can pay me my advance. (This isn’t going as smoothly—it looks like I might have broken their site. Typical of me and my weird electromagnetic field.)
The letter I received indicated that, if they feel it necessary, I’ll receive a letter with recommended edits. After that is all settled, they’ll give me a date when the book will go up for preorder. Also, I’ll presumably receive notifications when the book goes up for special promotions. So far, I’ve heard about people getting .99 deals for a period of time, special Kindle Fire deals, and other promotions directly through Amazon. Based on what I’ve seen from other Scout winners who’ve talked with me, promotions aren’t guaranteed, and of course the success of any individual promotion isn’t guaranteed, either. But a number of people seem to be pretty happy with the results they’ve gotten.
As far as the overall experience so far—for those who like personalized communications from their publishers, this won’t fulfill those needs. Most of the communication has been via form letters, though I do have an individual I’m talking to about the problems with Amazon Payee Central. You can also request a phone call if you have any questions, which I haven’t done as of yet.
Overall, it continues to be an interesting process. I’m learning a lot of things, and have discovered a whole community of Scout winners who offer help and guidance to newbies on the block. There’s a great group of people there that I wasn’t even aware of until the announcement went out about my book, so it’s cool to know there are even more resources to delve into.
As the time comes closer to publication date, emails will be going out with information on preorders, and those who voted for the book will receive their free copies. Hopefully, I’ll get some good reviews from the Scouters, and things will be off and running.
Thanks to everyone for their support, and if you have any other specific questions about Kindle Scout, the process, or anything else, feel free to ask, either here or via email.
Next month, I’m going to chat about Thunderclap/Head Talker and the pluses and minuses I saw from those platforms.
Before we get into the popular tropes in romance, I guess I should define a trope.
From Merriam Webster: Full Definition of trope. 1a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché <the usual horror movie tropes> 2 : a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages.
I think, for our purposes, though, the Urban Dictionary comes closest: “Despite the erroneous definitions already published here, TROPE on the interwebs really refers to an often overused plot device. It can also be described as another variation on the same theme.”
I do like what Tahra Seplowin says in her article at So You Think You Can Write. “Tropes are time-tested scenarios or plot devices that appear again and again, while hooks are any element of the story that might draw the reader in. You may have heard “trope” and “hook” used interchangeably, and there are often similarities and overlaps. One fundamental difference is that tropes are always tried-and-true devices, while hooks can be either well-known or brand new.”
If the theme of the romance genre is “love wins in the end” - then tropes are the subcategories of the theme, the overarching plot within the romance.
This is the list of tropes from the Romance Writers of America website:
Top 10 popular romance tropes: (1) friends to lovers; (2) soul mate/fate; (3) second chance at love; (4) secret romance; (5) first love; (6) strong hero/heroine; (7) reunited lovers; (8) love triangle; (9) sexy billionaire/millionaire; (10) sassy heroine
I’m not entirely sure that #6 and #10 are tropes. And it seems to me there are some fairly common tropes left out of this list.
Secret baby - though not one of my favorites - doesn’t show up on the list. It’s the one where the hero left town, leaving heroine pregnant and now he’s back and shocked to find that he has a child.
Forbidden love - heck this one goes back to Romeo and Juliet, doesn’t it - though R&J wasn’t a romance, was it. This is the one where hero and heroine aren’t allowed to fall in love - maybe he’s her commanding officer - or from True Honor, she’s his lawyer.
Is “older man, younger woman” (or vice versa) a trope? I have used that one.
I really like the friends to lovers one because the hero and heroine enjoy each others company for a while before the physical longings show up. This one can work nicely with the love triangle too. Am I wrong in saying that Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak (Arrow) had a friends to lovers story? Or maybe that was a different trope - loving him from the moment she saw him but from afar. Maybe Oliver and Felicity had a “girl next door” story - or more like “office downstairs.”
Good grief! RWA might want to add some to the list.