All you need is #love … by Rainey Hall

All you need is #love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
Charles Schulz

How exciting. That time of year where I buy my own chocolate, and one exotic looking flower.

However, unlike my cousin who fancies a direct line to 1-800-SEXPERT, I am truly in love with a real man.

The MOST important definitions of romantic:

adjective

• stressing or appealing to the emotions or imagination

noun

someone who is not realistic or practical (ouch)
• a writer, musician, or artist…

I guess I’ve known my guy for almost 20 years now. We were introduced by a mutual friend.

But alas, he doesn’t really exist.

Estoy en amor con un hombre que no existe. Je suis en amour avec un homme qui n’existe pas. Jag är kär i en man som inte finns. No matter which syllable the accent is on, nothing changes.

Who is this tall, strong, stranger?

#Ranger. He’s “walking sex,” wears the best smelling cologne, great with electronics, and rich enough to buy Stephanie Plum a new car all the time. And yes, he’s concerned about Rex, Stephanie’s hamster becoming an orphan. Long live sensitivity! Plus, I always fall for a man in a uniform, even if said uniform consists of 1) a taut T-shirt worn over well-developed bicep and pec muscles, 2) black PDU (patrol duty uniform), and 3) guns. Real guns.

Oh sure, there’s Morelli and well, you know what they say about Italians. The down side to Morelli? His grandma is always giving people “the eye.” Frightening enough that I opt out on choosing him to love.

Anyway, thank you, Janet #Evanovich for the 23 fun reads in the #StephaniePlum series although you leave me with mere memories and rereads of Ranger.

Yeah, you figured right. I’ve moved on to other men.

Jack #Reacher. Even though he has no uniform, he used to wear one. Besides, Reacher can tell time without a watch or clock, lives by intuition and isn’t in a contest for the most materialistic possessions one man can collect. He’s a man’s man. And a woman’s man. My man.

Gabriel #Oak. I thought my imagination outdid itself when I read Hardy’s 1874 classic, Far from the Madding Crowd. Then I saw the 2015 movie version. BE. STILL. MY. HEART. Those eyes! That face! That voice! That honesty and humor. That…that manly, outdoorsy, confident way about him. Sheesh!

(Excuse me, I need to taste a pound or two of chocolate and get some fresh air, but mostly cool air. Or cold.)

Hey, sex sells.

Moving on...

Oh, the sensuous tension that writers like Diana #Gabaldon (thanks Judith) creates. OOOO!

Since Ranger and Gabriel are reruns now, I’ve decided to invent yet another gentleman. My own guy. But to do so, I plan on attending the Colorado Gold Conference (September 8-10, 2017) to learn a thing or two from Diana!

Come on, pleeeeease share the names on your list of fictional hotties.

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

A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

A special thanks to #LindaHoward wherever you are. I hope all your designs were built.

Rocky Mountain Writer #73

LS Hawker & End of the Road

This episode of the Rocky Mountain Writer is a chat with Lisa (a.k.a. LS) Hawker.

LS Hawker's third novel, End of the Road, was published last month by the Witness Impulse imprint of Harper Collins.

Lisa offers fun, interesting and heartfelt stories about her books, including an amazing story about her path to publication that took a significant turn on a famous date, 9/11.

Lisa talks about making the conversion from plotting from an organic approach to someone who now adheres to a tool called Story Grid to make sure she’s got all the necessary thriller elements in the right places.

LS Hawker is the author of the thrillers The Drowning Game, Body and Bone, and the brand new End of the Road.

The Drowning Game was a USA Today bestseller and also was a finalist in the ITW Thriller Awards in the Best First Novel category.

LS Hawker

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by 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: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Upcoming/Deadlines RMFW Events

February 2017

March 2017

How to Identify & Avoid Some Common “Bad” Publishing Deals

Business-savvy authors must learn to recognize and avoid a wide variety of scams and legal but inappropriate publishing deals. Some of the most dangerous ones remind me of my law school contracts professor’s warning that a person can make as good a deal, or AS BAD A DEAL, as (s)he is able.”

Some publishing offers are very bad deals indeed. 

Not all traditional publishers are out to take advantage of authors, but sometimes it's difficult to tell the "good" from the "bad" (not to mention the "ugly") unless you know specifically what to look for:

 

BEWARE OF “WE PUBLISH, YOU PAY” OFFERS.

The publisher, not the author, should be responsible for all the publishing costs in a traditional publishing deal. Author-publishers (aka, self-published authors) bear the costs - but also receive most (if not all) of the profits. 

Beware of any contract that claims to offer a "traditional" deal but requires the author pay for some or all of the costs to produce the book. Often, the costs are not stated, outlined, or detailed up front, leaving the author on the hook for undisclosed (and often enormous) sums. Even where costs are listed, they usually exceed the amount the author would have to pay to self-publish the work - in which case, the author is better off publishing the work himself or herself, as an author-publisher.

Remember: a contract that calculates royalties on “net receipts,” defined as “amounts received by the publisher less the costs of editing and publishing the Work or less the Publisher’s actual costs to publish and sell the Work” is actually requiring the author to pay the publishing costs. This is not a traditional publishing deal.

A potential exception to this is an up-front, disclosed, properly drafted “hybrid” publishing arrangement, where the author and publisher understand and accept the cost-sharing terms.

In a hybrid arrangement, the author does share the publishing costs, but also receives an equivalent share of the benefits and increased control over cover art and other parts of the publishing process.

However, legitimate hybrid publishers are always up front about the fact that the author isn’t being offered a “traditional deal.” Anyone who tries to tell you that the “author pays” model is a “traditional publishing deal” is trying to take advantage of your ignorance.

 

BEWARE OF “WE PUBLISH, YOU BUY” OFFERS

A publishing contract should never require the author to purchase copies of the finished book.

Traditional publishing contracts often permit authors to buy finished copies, usually at a discount. However, traditional contracts don’t ever require the author to purchase books at any price.

One publishing “offer” I seeing a lot requires the author to purchase several thousand copies of the finished work—and to pay for them in advance!

Consider: if you contract to buy five thousand copies of the finished work, how many copies does the publisher have to sell someone else to make a profit?

NONE

Unsurprisingly, these publishers generally make no effort to sell the books they publish to anyone other than the authors.

NEVER sign a contract which requires you to purchase copies of the finished work. 

 

BEWARE OF CONTRACTS WITH MANDATORY PAID MARKETING COMPONENTS

These contracts include a “mandatory marketing agreement,” requiring the author to pay the publisher (or an affiliated marketing agency) thousands of dollars to market and advertise on the author’s behalf.

This is not a traditional publishing deal, and it’s not a good deal, either.

Once again, the author pays thousands of dollars, up front, for normally-unspecified “marketing.” Where services are specified, they usually include only in-house press releases, trailers for the publisher’s own YouTube channel, writing Facebook posts, and other things the author could do for him-or-herself for free.

As with “We Publish, You Buy,” this type of publisher doesn’t make the bulk of its money from selling books. They make it from unsuspecting authors.

 

So: Never sign contracts requiring you to pay the publisher out of pocket, and if you suspect your publishing deal isn’t quite as fair as the publisher claims—don't be afraid to walk away.

The publishing "life" you save will be your own.

Voices in Your Head: How Audiobooks Can Improve Your Writing … by Richard Rieman

Do you hear voices in your head while writing? It can be a very good thing.

As a veteran audiobook narrator, I am always impressed when the writing just flows smoothly without choppiness or a staccato pattern.

Write Music

The late, great author and writing coach Gary Provost says reading your written words aloud will make you a better writer:

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words.

Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and

I create music. Music. The writing sings.

It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony.

I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with the energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So, write with a combination of short, medium and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.” *

Audiobooks Bring Your Words to Life

Good audiobook narrators are actors. They don’t just read the words aloud in a pleasant voice. They are giving different voices to the characters on each page.

The best writing helps the actors and avoids repetition. For example, the “he said, she said” scenario.

“He whispered, she fumed, he rasped, she commanded.”

The basic rules of music, including rhythm, tone, and volume apply.

Not every reader or audiobook narrator will hear your words in your head exactly as you wrote them. In fact, “but that’s not the way I wrote it” is a common reaction from authors when hearing a narrator’s interpretation. In almost every case, you don’t get to direct an audiobook or movie version of your manuscript. It is the actor’s interpretation – in the case of audiobooks, self-directed interpretation. That does not mean it’s wrong. It’s just different.

“I want to leave now.” Five words, four ways you can emphasize each word.

I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

“I want to leave now.”

You can read the sentence slowly or quickly, angrily or happily, whispered or shouted. The narrator interprets how to play the music based on the character, the scene, and the hints you have given in your text. Readers interpret your writing the same way, playing the words in their heads the way they hear them.

Audiobook narrators should prepare by pre-reading your entire book and taking notes on characters prior to giving each a voice. Are they from Georgia? Boston? Originally from New York City? Are they shy, angry, grizzled, outspoken, edgy? How old are they? I create short sample audio files of each voice, so I can be consistent if a character appears in Chapter 2 and returns in Chapter 18. It’s a terrible feeling when you reach Chapter 20 and find out Johnny has an Irish accent!

Writing with Performance in Mind

Not surprisingly, the easiest books to turn into audiobooks are those written when the author had a screenplay or movie in mind.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Social Network, Steve Jobs) told a writing Master Class I attended, “I’m not writing something that’s meant to be read; I’m writing something that’s meant to be performed. Just having written a screenplay is no more satisfying to me than if a songwriter handed out pieces of sheet music.”

Sorkin says it’s the difference between painting and a photograph. You are not just describing a scene, you are creating it, bringing it to life, letting it flow in both the dialogue and the surroundings. “Writing is painting,’ he says, “not photography.”

Writing with Audiobooks in Mind

Thinking of an audiobook performance can help your writing if you have well drawn, believable key characters. Paint them as real people with likes and dislikes. Give them dialog that makes them authentic, saying things real people say. Make them active, moving the story along. Don’t fall into the “this happened, then that happened, then that other thing happened” writing trap. It’s how the characters feel, how they are affected by events, that makes them more real, and makes your readers care about them.

So, pay attention to those voices in your head when you are writing your next novel and you may find yourself creating music, painting a picture, and telling a story that will be a great audiobook!

*Reprinted with permission from Gary Provost’s “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing"

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

RMFW member Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of “The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation,” Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

It’s Not All Hearts & Flowers – History Sucks Edition

First off, happy, happy Valentine’s day!

Now let’s quit the mushy stuff and focus on writing.

How does what happened yesterday affect your story?

 

I’ll give you two examples to consider.

Example #1 –

You based a story in Southern California in 1979 with a teen girl as your protagonist. A coming of age story. Something light and filled with girlish dreams and meandering around the sunny beaches.

Sounds like a nice tale, right?

Now through the lens of history. What was happening at that time and place?

Well, a team of serial killers were trolling for young teen girls in the Southern California area.

Therefore, the actions and reaction of the protagonist might be different. Maybe she’s less open to strangers. Maybe her parents aren’t as free with her. Maybe she’s not allowed at certain places.

 

Example #2 –

Not his example actually happened to me. I wrote a book based on my protagonist looking remarkably like Heath Ledger, who was alive and well at the time.

A week after I finished the book, Heath Ledger died of a drug overdose.

Both his death and how he died impacted my novel. People would have assumptions about my character. Or the time and place of the novel. And an emotional response to the tragic ending of Heath Ledger.

 

My advice when writing is two-fold.

First, keep your eyes on current events and climate. Do your research, even if you don’t think it will matter in the long run. Better to know than to be sorry about a factual error.

And secondly, understand that every reader comes into your book with a e=wealth of knowledge, experiences, and views. You aren’t going to make everyone happy. But seeing as your job is to keep the reader entertained, you should consider who said reader just might be and the events that impact your narration.

 

Has something like this happened to you? Have you used an icon, or a place, and then learned information that changed the perspective of your story?

Volunteers Make it Happen At Colorado Gold

We're seven weeks into the year, and workshop proposals are rolling in. Our selection committee is keeping busy reading through all the outlines, doing their best to decide which proposals will make it onto the schedule in 2017.

Like the rest of the conference staff, the proposal selection committee is made up of volunteers. And if you read any of our emails, or spend any time on our website, you know we're always on the lookout for new people to get involved and be a part of the action.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' mission is simple:

RMFW is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial fiction.

As a volunteer-run organization, RMFW can only remain beneficial to members through our volunteers’ contributions. Volunteers strengthen our community and nurture an environment of members helping members. Are you thinking about getting involved, and volunteering with RMFW? Listen to what some of our volunteers have to say about their experiences:

"Volunteering is more rewarding for the volunteer than the organization."

"[Through RMFW] I've learned how to find and build my community."

"I've learned how to speak in public, organize big events and, from hanging out with talented writers, I've learned much about writing. RMFW has helped me find my voice, both in the real world and on the page."

The success of our Colorado Gold Conference is dependent on the critical services provided by our volunteers. Each person who helps out keeps our costs down and makes a difference. Also, volunteering doesn't require huge time commitments; even the smallest jobs help us provide an exceptional experience for all attendees year after year.

"The more you put into something, the more you’ll get out of it. I credit RMFW as the one organization above all others that helped me get published."

"My first attendance at the Gold conference thoroughly impressed me, and I knew then that RMFW was the place to be if I was serious about my writing. Volunteering was a way of showing my commitment to the organization and a great way to meet people."

"...if you’re an introvert, serving as a volunteer is a wonderful way of stepping outside your shell."

Volunteering is all about giving back. Remember when you were new and nervous at the conference? Think about the people who helped you. Think about the impact they had on your conference experience. By volunteering, you bring that same experience to others. A win-win for you and the recipient of your goodwill.

"As writer I have benefited from what I have learned at the Saturday workshops, Gold Conference, and critique groups and I wanted to a way to give back."

"Honestly, I've met great people who have become valued friends and I have had a ton of fun."

What would the conference be like without volunteers? Everyone at conference needs something, be it guidance or just an extra pencil. Volunteers bring people together and ensure that everyone has a great time.

"First and foremost, meeting other writers is a great benefit to volunteering. It's a good feeling, too, to know that the volunteer work we do helps other writers on their journeys."

"The Colorado Gold conference is an important part of what RMFW does to support writers and helping the conference run smoothly results in a more valuable experience for everyone!"

Studies conducted on the effects of volunteering have shown that giving time to nonprofits makes us healthier. Boost your own self-confidence through volunteering at this year’s conference. With a sense of well-being, you’ll have a greater focus on learning.

"I want to give back to an organization that has helped me become a better writer. From the critique groups, to the free Saturday programs and even the yearly conference, my writing skills have improved because of my membership in RMFW."

"Being a volunteer allows me to expand my tribe. I am convinced that to be good at anything, you need to be around other people who do that skill better than you... If you want to grow in the craft of writing, don't just join RMFW, volunteer!"

Volunteering promotes personal growth, and your volunteer service adds to your professional experience. You are guaranteed to learn something new while you give your time.

Need an opportunity to come out of your shell and improve your social skills? If you don’t know many writers, volunteering at conference gives you an opportunity to meet people at a reduced stress level.

"Without the support of RMFW, and the friends I've made there, I'm not sure I would be a published author today."

"Attending the conference is fabulous from an educational perspective, but if you want to make the most of the time, and make more friends, you need to get involved."

"Volunteering takes you off the sidelines and helps even shy people get to know the other authors and participants much better."

Any time is the right time to volunteer for RMFW because we always need volunteers. We are one big community of writers helping writers. The more involved you are in our community the more you will receive in return.

"Volunteering is an excellent way to meet people and expand your network of writers. You'll discover that writers come from all paths and roads and freeways of life--the creative mind knows no limits."

"Volunteering is also a way to share your passion in a different way, and give back to an organization that offers so much to every person who asks for support or assistance."

"Whether you spend a few hours once a year, or a few hours every month, volunteers are cherished and appreciated at RMFW, and you'll feel the goodness."

We want your help, but before you join us, ask yourself what you want to get out of volunteering:

What skills do you bring to the table?
How much time are you willing to commit?
Are you looking to do something new and different?
Do you want to work behind the scenes or with people?
Would you like to try something outside your comfort zone?

Volunteering with RMFW is a valuable opportunity to support fellow members, learn new skills, and form friendships. Contact Angela La Voie at volunteer@rmfw.org and include 'RMFW Volunteer' in the Subject line to join our community of volunteers. Not sure how you want to help? Send an email to Angela for suggestions. RMFW has lots of opportunities that meet your expertise, even if your expertise is limited to stuffing envelopes! We thrive on volunteers and want your help.

 

We Disrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program

One of the things I keep hearing is that Amazon is disrupting the publishing business. That disruption is what allows independent authors like me to make a living in a field where - in the past - only a handful of superstars could quit their day jobs.

I've been looking at this for a couple of years now and I think we're focused on the wrong end of the paradigm.

Disruption is a technical term and happens when an innovation changes the marketplace for a new and under served populations of customers.

Who are the customers in publishing?

Certainly not the authors. Publishing has long see the authors and editors and artists less as customers than as piece work laborers, a necessary overhead cost in producing the books that they sell to the real end customers - readers.

I would argue that the disruption that Amazon has caused is in reading and they did it by changing the distribution model that a few (and shrinking) number of companies have controlled for decades. Ebooks in general and Amazon in particular gave people with limited means and limited mobility access to the community of letters in numbers that were unthinkable before. Those readers, and our ability to reach them, is what makes it possible for me to make a living writing novels.

So when the Wise and Powerful Wizard of 'Zon changes the rules, like trying out new subscription models or altering what authors get paid, remember one critically important distinction.

We're not the customers that their disruption serves. We're only the beneficiaries of that disruption.

Cash the checks and keep writing.

Image Credit:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

[This post originally shared with the Writers Discussion Group on Google+ - Aug, 2015. Nothing has changed since then.]

The Wonders of Vellum—Ebook Formatting Made Easy

One of the challenges of self-publishing is formatting your final files so they create an easy-to-read, nicely formatted final product. While you can always just upload your Word files and have the target site (Amazon or B&N or Smashwords) convert it for you, this approach doesn’t always provide the best results. There are plenty of tutorials online that tell you how to convert your file and reformat it so it’ll make its way gracefully through these online converters, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a file that’s put together nicely to begin with?

Enter Vellum. Vellum is easy to use and spits out final files that are not only pretty, but get this—they pass the vetters at Smashwords on the first try. If, like me, you’ve had issues getting your files past Smashwords, then you know this is a big plus. I still have books sitting at Smashwords that I haven’t figured out how to get through the vetter. Now I know. I’ll reformat them with Vellum.

Before I continue to rave about it, I’ll mention the two drawbacks to the program. First, it’s a little pricey. You can either pay $30 per individual book or $200 for an unlimited license. I went ahead and opted for the unlimited license, because I knew I was going to want to use it for a good number of books. The other drawback is that it’s only available for Mac. On the positive side, you can try it out for free to see if the workflow works for you. You’ll have to pay to move on to the export stage, but by the time you’ve gotten to that point, you should have a pretty good idea whether or not you want to spend the money.

If you’ve got a Mac, though, you’re all set. I found Vellum so easy to use that I didn’t even need a user guide for most of what I needed to do. Basically, you just open a new file and start copying and pasting, one chapter at a time. A “Styles” tab lets you change certain formatting styles with one click. Adding elements allows you to drop in a partially preformatted copyright page, About the Author page, and other bits and pieces. The only thing I had a bit of trouble with was adding links to the page that lists other works. I also wish there were a way to save a default element so it’s already filled in when you bring it into the document. If there is, though, I haven’t found it yet.

When you’re done adding all your chapters and other elements, you export your files. This is also super easy—just a click and save operation. When the processing is done, you’ll find your files saved in separate folders for each format, all ready for uploading.

I’ve put up reformatting my older e-books because I knew it would be time consuming and tedious. But with Vellum, I’m ready to tackle the project. If you have large numbers of books to convert, like a substantial backlist, or if you’re planning to release regularly, I think Vellum is a solid investment for clean, professional, problem-free formatting. Rating: 10/10, would buy again.

Rocky Mountain Writer #72

Marc Graham & Of Ashes and Dust

This episode features a chat with historical novelist Marc Graham and the latest installment of Writer's Rehab from Natasha Watts.

Marc is back on the podcast (listen to episode #35 for his first visit) a few weeks before the launch of his debut novel, Of Ashes and Dust.

We caught Marc just a few minutes after he returned home from attending an out-of-state workshop for writers about growing and building your online audience.

Marc offers a few tips he picked up, including some ideas about being “relentlessly helpful” when you get the opportunity.

Marc also talks about the power of knowing the core idea of your novel and how that key concept can help you both with the writing itself and with getting the attention of agents and editors.

Marc Graham is an actor, singer, bard, engineer, Freemason, and whisky aficionado When not on stage, in a pub, or bound to his computer, he can be found traipsing about Colorado’s Front Range with his wife and their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

This episode starts with a quick burst of inspiration in the latest Writer’s Rehab entry from Natasha Watts. Natasha offers ideas to help make sure your dialogue-heavy scenes come alive for your readers.

Marc Graham

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by 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: http://www.writermarkstevens.com