Guest Post: A View from the Critique by George Seaton

Several years ago when I was attending critique a lively discussion was prompted by one of the members asking the group if we thought of ourselves as writers or authors. I was surprised by the fervor some exhibited in response to that question. The person who’d brought it up was the group’s constant devil’s advocate, a young man whose demeanor was firmly categorical, his criticism blunt and sometimes unkind. When a few said they were authors, the young man aggressively responded that authors were published writers. There was disagreement on that point, and the young man countered with, “Well, raise your hand if you’re a published writer.” (I suppose one could argue that asking such a thing of folks whose singular ambition is to be published is a kind of shaming; if your hand doesn’t go up, well shame on you.) None of us had been published at that time, and no hands were raised. I gave a passing thought about the uselessness of labels and concluded the young man was as usual just giving another performance, just letting us know his ego was stoked that night. Who knows? Maybe that young man was just as frustrated as the rest of us; none of us had yet to publish our Great American Novel, and, by God, when would somebody see the worth of our talent?

I didn’t stay with the face-to-face critique group for very long.  Even though they were good people who shared my passions—to write and become published—I just had no talent for it. I was lousy at it. Who was I to tell another writer how they could improve their work? Hell, I had enough problems trying to figure out my own. The criticism? I took it well except when I didn’t. Besides that I found I was devoting more time preparing for critique than actually writing anything I was happy with.

After I’d left face-to-face critique, I joined an online group. We had three members, one of whom wrote from an assisted care facility way out on the eastern plains of Colorado. She was a delight. Her stories were as homey as I imagined she was. I don’t know where the other one lived, but from her writing I got the impression she was a Highlands Ranch soccer mom who had an interest in Biblical lore and murder mysteries which formed the basis of her storytelling. I believe it was the soccer mom who left first, and I left after that because, as I said, I was spending too much time on it. I did regret leaving my buddy out there on those pancake-flat plains to fend for herself. Though, if memory serves, the critique chair promised to hook her up with another online group. I hope that happened. Her stories were precious and they reminded me of Kent Haruf’s gems—clean construction and salt of the earth.

I’ve had some success over the years since leaving critique. My first published novel appeared in 2010. (I don’t count the novel I published in 2005. It was the product of a vanity press for which I paid a goodly sum. It was not ready for eyes other than mine to see. I’m not ashamed of it, but just a wee bit embarrassed that I had thought it was ready to see the light of day when now I know it clearly wasn’t. I suspect if I’d been attending critique at the time, and had let others see what I was up to, I probably would have heeded the criticism and polished it a lot more than I had.) The 2010 novel was published by a New York publisher. No,  not in Manhattan but Albion, six hours from the Big Apple and just off the shores of Lake Ontario. Small presses do abound, and I hooked up with one of them. Since 2010 three more of my novels have been published, as well as several novellas and short stories that have appeared in anthologies and some as stand-alone. I’ve not delved much into self-publishing and, truth be told, prefer to let someone else handle that part of the process. And, like every other writer I know, I’m working on several WIPs, writing every day, holed up in my writing room where the rest of the world knows to knock before entering.

I don’t think I’ll ever return to critique. I know I’d still be lousy at it. But, as I write this, I know there are those whose dreams have a much better chance of being fulfilled by attending critique than by not bothering with it. Not only for the constructive criticism that is essential to the process, but from the camaraderie as well. Something like everybody being in the same boat, working their oars, and all searching for landfall in the distance. That’s fine, some may say, but you didn’t stay with it. You gave up the ship. Well, I’m reminded of C.J. Box’s—former RMFW Writer of the Year and a New York Times Bestseller—response about his experience with critique: He said, and I paraphrase, “It just wasn’t for me.”

The point of all this is that we’re all different. I, for example, am a solitary writer with a quirk about letting anyone read my stuff before I send it off to a publisher. Others write good stuff in Starbucks, share it with fifteen friends, their critique partners, their Aunt Sybil in Paonia, and their Uncle Ted in Tulsa and then send it off for evaluation and hopefully a contract. We all do what we do because, yes, we are who we are. We can call ourselves writers or authors or whatever the hell we want to. I suppose what we can’t do, though, and I know you all share this sentiment, is give it up.

We breathe therefore we write.





George Seaton lives and writes in Pine, Colorado. Learn more about him at




Do You Write Candy?

Do you write candy?

Or something—you hope—more filling?

Do you hope the next book you write is everyone’s guilty pleasure?

Or do you want readers to stop and admire your prose stylings like a rare orchid?

Do you want your readers to enjoy the experience as if they were going to an amusement park?

Or a museum?

Do you want to give Lee Child a run for his money?

Or Karl Ove Knausgaard?

Or ….

Or can you do both?

I’m fascinated by the line between “genre” and “literary.”

It’s an old fight. The Maginot Line has shifted over time, but not the arguments. There have always been literary snobs who look down their snouts at drivel from the “genre” hacks (who make millions).

And there have always been “genre” hacks who spurn dense tomes of navel-gazing as ponderous pieces of self-indulgence.

Can’t we all get along?

Is it possible to “upgrade” your techniques so you can reach audiences who yearn for some literary flair? Is it worth it? Necessary? A good idea?

Who says you need to upgrade and by the way, who decided it was an “upgrade”?

Should you just write your damn story and not care or worry about symbols, metaphors, alliteration or other literary devices?

Jack Kerouac said: “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.

Elmore Leonard said: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

Vladimir Nabokov said: “It seems to me that a good formula to test the quality of a novel is, in the long run, a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science. In order to bask in that magic a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading. Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.”

Tom Clancy said: “I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”

Donald Barthelme said: “The combinatory agility of words, the exponential generation of meaning once they’re allowed to go to bed together, allows the writer to surprise himself, makes art possible, reveals how much of Being we haven’t yet encountered.”

P.D. James said: “The modern detective story has moved away from the earlier crudities and simplicities. Crime writers are as concerned as are other novelists with psychological truth and the moral ambiguities of human action.” 

My pal Barry Wightman (Pepperland, a 1970’s rock n’ roll novel written with a savvy artfulness) will join me in wading into the chasm of this dispute during a workshop at Colorado Gold.

The workshop is called “From Pulp to Meta” (3:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11).

Where do you fit on the spectrum?

Where do you want to fit?

Leonard Nabokov


Guest Post: “We’d like to request an R&R” By Janet Fogg

Receiving any sort of positive response from an editor or agent is always a shiny moment, but when one such response included an acronym with multiple definitions, I found it impossible to resist substituting a few of those alternatives.

Excerpt from an editor's recent email after reviewing full manuscript:  [We've] highlighted a number of ways that the story could be tightened and angled a little more towards the target audience. We’d like to request an R&R if you’re open to taking a look at the notes.  Please let me know how you’d like to proceed.


Rest and recuperation?  Reading our manuscript must have exhausted this editor.  Poor thing.  Yes, please take some R&R.  Wind and waves?  Mountains and trails?  Regardless, margaritas are on us.

Refuse and resist!  This could work.  In fact a friend of mine had an agent request revisions three times before declining to represent her manuscript.  That didn't seem fair when it happened and it still doesn't sit well with me.  I suspect my friend might refuse any query-related R&R unless it's for rest and recuperation.  And margaritas.

Roles and responsibility?  This one's easy!  My role is to write a terrific book.  Yours, dearest editor, is to offer a multi-book contract with a million dollar advance.  Wait, that creates too much performance pressure.  How about a nice six figure advance?  Yep.  That'll work perfectly.

Revise and resubmit?  Or request for revisions?  This is what the editor meant and his notes  provided some terrific insight.  Did I agree with all of his suggestions?  After re-reading our manuscript with his suggestions in mind, I did.


My first agent tried to sell my third novel for about six months, and after a number of declines she received a request for revisions (R&R) from an editor.  As in, change the book from dark fantasy into a romance.  A complete re-write.  I pondered this for a long time.  After all, I'd hooked that agent with the dark fantasy version.  Plus, I'd never set out to write "romance."  After some R&R (Research and Reconnaissance) about what was selling well (Romance and more Romance), I decided to try a few chapters, which evolved into my changing the entire story.  And that version did sell, ultimately earning a HOLT Medallion for Best First Book. (Romance Rocks!)

For this newest manuscript, even though the editor liked the revisions, he eventually declined because of word count.  (Hello!  We only cut 2,000 words!)  But all is well.  I'm enormously grateful for his R&R (Review and Recommendations), as the new, improved version is so much better and already under consideration by an agent.

Do I love R&R?  You betcha!  (Rock and roll, baby!  Rock and roll!)

Have you received a request for revisions from an editor or agent before signing a contract?  Did you choose to edit your manuscript?


Janet Fogg

Janet Fogg’s interest in writing began in the 5th grade when she won bronze for a statewide essay contest. Her focus on writing flourished while CFO and Managing Principal of OZ Architecture. Several decades and 15 writing awards later she resigned from OZ to follow the yellow brick road, and 10 months after that signed a contract for Soliloquy, her HOLT Medallion Award of Merit winner. Her military history, Fogg in the Cockpit, co-written with her husband, Richard, received an Air Force Historical Foundation nomination for best WWII book reviewed in Air Power History.

Janet joined RMFW in 1993 and has volunteered at conference and served on RMFW's Board of Directors. She has also served on the boards of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Boulder, Inc., OZ Architecture, and KGA Studio Architects, P.C.


Life is Fun with Carol Caverly

Author Carol Caverly
Carol Caverly, still writing and enjoying life today.

Carol Caverly said recently that she’s the kind of person who goes from being interested in something to becoming almost obsessed once she’s had a chance to see what’s going on. It’s no wonder then, that when she borrowed her first Writer’s Digest magazine as a young Wyoming mother in the 1980’s, both the magazine and creative writing in general sucked her in. Soon she was writing more and more, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers benefited as a result.

“It was all so much fun!” said Carol. Over the years she’s written three books and several short stories, was a founding member of Wyoming Writers and then Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She participated in Mystery Writers of America as a chapter president and is a long-standing member of Sisters in Crime.

The death of her first husband resulted in Carol moving from Wyoming to Colorado, where she met among others, Kay Bergstrom, Pat Dalton, and Jasmine Cresswell, and helped to set-up RMFW.

“I found the three or four gals, and we started getting together to discuss writing. The group kept getting bigger and bigger and we added critiques as well as meetings,” said Carol. “Our first RMFW Colorado Gold conference was held at the Aurora Public Library where I worked. I remember we had sack lunches and donuts for food, and Rex Burns was our keynote speaker.” The meeting was quite a bit different from the 400 member strong Colorado Gold conference held these days.

Carol seems to have fun wherever she’s involved, and writing has been a big part of it all. She’s been an avid reader since her childhood just outside of Chicago, Illinois. There, she enjoyed Nancy Drew books from the library, and shared that interest in mysteries with her mom. Years later, when her books won recognition as Detective Book Club selections and local best sellers, she was filled with nostalgia for those times spent reading with her mother.

While in Wyoming, Carol subscribed to Writer’s Digest and read every issue for 20 years. She also read every book she could get her hands on with regard to writing and still has a copy of Dean Koontz’s How To Write Best Selling Fiction which she pointed out currently sells for over $50 on (a check in August revealed the book is now worth $72).

“His books are excellent,” said Carol. “Of course, I love his writing.” She said that Donald Maass is also her guru, and she keeps a copy of his book handy too.

One of the best things about talking to Carol is the story of all the people she’s met and shared writing memories with.

“At one of the first conferences we held in Colorado Springs, Clive Cussler was a speaker,” said Carol. “He was a nut when we were signing books together. I remember he signed a book for a woman who didn’t know him at all. He wrote, ‘I’ll never forget that wonderful evening we had here.’ That woman about died! What would her husband say?”

“But when my first novel came out and I was at a signing in Cherry Creek, Clive came in with his wife and bought one of my books because I was a new author.”

Carol also is good friends with Deni Dietz, one of the visiting editors to Colorado Gold this year.

“We used to carpool to critique in Colorado Springs together,” said Carol. “She’d tell me her plots as we went. I’ve been so proud of what Deni’s done. She works hard to this day, and is very diligent. I’m really happy for her.

“The first time Deni came to conference to hear pitches, I signed up for a session with her, even though I had nothing to sell. I sat down and said, ‘So you’re an agent now. Good for you!”

Carol said that she has had fun watching everyone’s careers take off, that she soaked it all up, and has enjoyed the entire writing community, from dear friends like Christine Jorgenson to Sharon Mignerly to Kay Bergstrom.

“Kay is an inspiration,” said Carol. “She’s one of the few who earns a living with their writing. She’s so knowledgeable, and she’s funny—just delightful.”

Carol will be one of the celebrated Guiding Members at Colorado Gold in September and left with this last piece of wisdom:

“I suppose it’s most important when you want to write, is to write right now. So many say they’re working on a novel or a thriller, and will probably write them when they retire. I say, do it now.”

And one more thing. If you’re Carol Caverly, be sure you’re having fun.

I’m Better Than You

So in this writing game, part of the currency authors are paid in is status. Money might come, but even more important than fabulous cash prizes, in some circles, is status.

And how do you get status? Oh, the status game has many markers.  Who is your agent? Oh, that’s your agent? Wow. You get a hundred status points.

What is the name of your publisher? Oh, you signed a book deal and got a huge advance? You get two hundred status points. And since you earned out, you get bonus status points!

Friends on Facebook? One status point for every friend. Each like above one hundred likes gives you a status point. Traffic to your blog? You have to get at least five hundred hits a day to start accruing status points.

Twitter, Instagram, Wattpad, all work similarly. Email me privately and I’ll let you in on how status points work on those platforms.

A good review in the Publisher’s Weekly? That’s fifty status points, and if they like it, more bonus points. A starred review gives you the gold star bonus. I’ve heard you get special powers if you get the gold star bonus.

A good Kirkus Review? Well, that depends. The Indie Kirkus review only gives you twelve bonus points, but if you get a “real” Kirkus Review, well, that’s forty-nine points.

Are you an Amazon bestseller? Well, in what subcategory? You see, if your book is in the top 100 across all of Amazon, that is a thousand status points. If you are a bestseller in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children's eBooks > Science Fiction, Fantasy & Scary Stories > Fantasy & Magic > Coming of Age>Judaism>Horror>Golems, well, you get an honorary five status points, but not much else.

Are you a U.S.A Today bestseller? Impressive. I’ll give you forty-eight status points.

Are you in the “real” game? Are you a New York Times Bestselling author? For realz? If you are, I bet you don’t use the word “realz”.

For every spot on the list, you get exponentially more status points. If you’re like fiftieth, you get X amount of status points. If you are #1? You get X to the fiftieth power. You can use your status points to buy the following: purse dogs, private jets, a date with Kanye West (to convince him to read novels), and a spot on Oprah, which I know is so over, but we have a time machine for you.

If you are #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list for weeks in a row, your bonus points quadruple, and you transcend status points. Now, you can count your status in chits.

One trillion status points equals one chit. And one trillion chits equals a Schrute buck. Google Schrute bucks. I love The Office.

I know what you’re thinking. That Aaron Michael Ritchey (three names gives me one status point automatically) is stomping around in his own sour grapes. You are totally right. I get jealous. I have a few status points, sure I do, but not as many as I want.

In the end, I had to really think on this issue. Is status my end goal? Is that why I’m in the game?

To be honest, at first, yeah, that’s what I wanted. I wanted the golden ticket. I wanted to be intrinsically better than you. I wanted you to bow down before my genius and kiss my ring.

And then, the status didn’t come like I wanted, and you know, it might not come.

Which makes me wonder why I’m writing?

I have my answer. I want to write books. I want to write a lot of books. I want to write books with people, and I want to write books alone. And since I already wrote for twenty years without publishing my work, I want to spend the next twenty years publishing what I write because for me, if I don’t get my work out in the world, it loses its meaning. For me, writing must be a selfless act, and for it to be selfless, I must let go of my fear and publish books, by any means necessary.

The status may or may not come.

But the books? The time I spend writing?

It becomes something you can’t buy with status points, chits, or Schrute bucks.

The time I spend crafting novels becomes priceless. And when I’m holding my books in my hand, I’m holding the minutes of my life. After all, I only have a few precious minutes alive on this planet, and I want to use those minutes to write.

However, for every comment on this blog post, I get one status point. Hurray! And for the record, I don't think I'm better than you.

Rocky Mountain Podcast – Episode # 13

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #13

Mario Acevedo

Longtime RMFW member Mario Acevedo talks about the Sept. 5 workshop held in Grand Junction: "Everything You Need to Know About the Next RMFW Anthology."

Mario, who has agreed to step in as editor for the anthology, talks about the submission schedule and selection process and reveals the selected theme. In addition, Mario chats about writing short stories and about his ongoing series featuring vampire Felix Gomez.

Show Notes:

Mario Acevedo:

Hex Publishers:

Arte Publico Press:

Dwight Swain:


Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Bumpers and 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:

It’s Perfect. Almost.

I sent 25 pages of my just-finished manuscript to a contest last week, but not before I’d gone over it carefully. My critique group had reviewed it. My beta reader had gone through it. I went over it a couple more times before I sent it - damn, it looked good. Yeah!

Then it was time to get the first 10 pages of the same manuscript ready for the critique roundtable I’d signed up for at Gold. Another several rounds of edits. A few punctuation changes. Better, more descriptive words here and there. I liked it! So it got packaged up and shipped off to the coordinator.

Then, because I’m on a roll, I decided to enter another contest. It’s 25 pages again, so there were more edits to the extra 15 pages. Then another hard re-read of the whole thing. Suddenly, out of the blue, I realized that pages 2 and 3 were important, but not important enough to be there. Arrgghhhh! I cut those pages out, and put them at the end with my story notes so I can go back and work those pieces of information back in where they REALLY needed to be. Then I read the story again without the pages and, yep, it’s better.

perfectionSo where am I going with this blog? I thought the submission was ready. Then I really thought it was ready. Now I really hope it was ready because I couldn’t see anything else that bothered me. But perfect? No. I don’t think such a thing exists, in books or elsewhere. Even if the mechanics are perfect with no typos or grammatical errors, I'd be willing to bet there was more than one word or scene choice the author wishes had been different before it went to print. Something. You can bet I’ll be going through the entire manuscript several more times, as well as having beta/critique reads, before I make the mistake of submitting the whole thing to an agent or editor.

No story should be submitted until the writer feels it is as close to perfect as it possibly can be. That means critique groups, beta readers, contests, workshops, conferences, and edits, edits, and more edits. When all those others seem to agree with you that it’s a great story and no one, including you, has any idea on how it can be improved (as in, not just rearranged to death), then you need to find the right person or place to send it to. Because it’s easy to get into a rut by convincing yourself that it needs more—more or different words, more time, more pages, more something that you’re sure you’ll know what it is tomorrow. And so that book, which could be the next best seller, never sees the light of day.

So polish the heck out of it, make sure others who know what they’re looking at—and for—think it’s ready, then submit the sucker. And….Write On!

Three Rules for Writing a Novel by Leod Fitz

According to W. Somerset Maugham, “There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

I have no idea who W. Somerset Maugham is, or what he wrote, but clearly he was a man of intellect and discernment.Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 6.24.46 AM

No, I know what you’re thinking:  You’re thinking, “Leod, you’re a visionary genius, surely you’ve sorted out what one of these rules is?”

Yes.  Yes I have.  But I’m not going to tell you, and it isn’t because I don’t know, it’s because of… other reasons.  Totally legitimate reasons.

But I’m getting off topic.  What I wanted to discuss today are the three rules of promotion.  Unlike the rules of writing, the three rules of promotion were figured out years and years ago, presumably by the guy who invented the toga and then convinced the entire Roman world that not only was wearing a sheet a perfectly legitimate ‘style,’ but that they should pay him for his specially made sheets.

Or her specially made sheets.  I don’t actually know who it was selling the sheets.

This sacred knowledge has been handed down, generation after generation, century after century, hidden, lost, found again, then lost again, and finally found again.  Now, after years of secrecy, I have discovered it and am prepared to share it with the world.

Of course, those of you who’ve taken the time to look me up on google are probably asking yourself, ‘hey, if this Leod guy has figured out the secrets to marketing, why is it that the internet has never heard of him?’

Well, maybe the internet is just stupid.  Huh?  Did you consider that, smart guy?

Anyway, where was I?  Okay, the secrets of marketing and promotion.

I should explain: years ago I embarked on a sacred quest.  I scoured the earth interviewing hundreds of people, spending a small fortune searching for the hidden truths that would guide us all into a bright new world, a world where great works wouldn’t lie unread, because nobody wanted to read a book with that few reviews, and there was no way to get it enough reviews until people started to read it.  A world where a bad book cover wouldn’t spell the end for a brilliant new novel.  A world where you didn’t need to tell people the cool twist at the end of your story just to get them to start reading it.

It took years, but I found the ancient secrets in a small bodega in a middle-eastern country, owned by an ancient woman with skin so wrinkled I thought she was a bag that somebody had deflated.

I took the parchment she gave me back to home and had it translated, and here they are.  The three sacred rules for marketing.

  1. Focus your attention on the people who end up buying your product.  You’ll find that your other efforts are largely wasted.
  2. Try to make advertisements that people will notice.  The best way to do this is to avoid making advertisements that people don’t notice.
  3. While some might argue that all publicity is good, in most cases you will find that good publicity is better.

I have since learned that the woman in the bodega makes most of her money selling scraps of parchment to treasure hunters.  I wonder if I can convince her include one of my promotional bookmarks in each sale?


Alpha group 2Leod D. Fitzless has been a writer for nearly as long has he has been a reader.  Absurdly fascinated by the power of the written word, he realized at a young age that the only career which held any interest for him was that of an author.  When he isn’t pouring his blood, sweat, and tears onto the page, he’s selling his blood to plasma clinics, his sweat to a variety of employers, and his tears to pretty much anyone who'll buy them.  He’s worked as an animal caretaker, a shelf stocker, a farmhand and warehouse employee, but he’s always been a writer at heart.

The Happiness Advantage – Don’t set a goal without it!

Last month we explored the topic of happiness, and how we can regain the joy of writing we felt when we first started writing. We can boost happiness by establishing a few simple daily habits--very important, because we can think best when we’re happy. Because we naturally store negative events in a deeper, more permanent way than positive experiences, there is a dismaying propensity to embed the negative ones. We can overcome that by investing extra effort to focus on our good experiences.

Are you happy? How do you feel right now? Anxious, worried, with the ol’ inner voice whining and complaining?

Shawn Achor, head of Goodthink and author of The Happiness Advantage, talks about how we have been fed the life formula of “Success First, Happiness Second.” If we can just get published, we’ll be happy. If we can just get a higher advance we’ll be happy. If we can just win the Golden Heart or the (fill in the blank Award), we’ll be happy. If we can just lose twenty pounds, we’ll be happy.

It’s a formula that doesn’t work, because as we achieve one thing, we set the bar higher and keep chasing that next goal. The formula keeps repeating in our heads, eroding that delicate happiness state for which we worked so hard.

Achor says we’ve got it all backwards. We should not be gaining success to be happy; we should find happiness, which will help us to succeed. Happiness and optimism, she says, is what fuels the success! Positive brains are more motivated, efficient, and creative. Achor quotes John Milton from Paradise Lost: “The Mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Think of that. Your mind is beautiful. Powerful. Are we focusing on the joy and rewards of writing, or are we hung up on the difficulties, the competition, the stress, or lack of appropriate rewards?

* * * * * * *
“The Mind is its own place,
and in itself can make a heaven of hell,
a hell of heaven.”

* * * * * * *

Don’t worry, be happy. And how do we get there? And stay there? We needn’t become non-stop zombie smile fanatics, but think of the boost we get from talking to an optimistic, happy person. Like some giant, woot-woot magnet, that type of person attracts people, and their happiness is contagious. Short of hiring a talented clown as a full-time body guard, though, how do we “get” and “stay” happy?

In a Denver Post interview with Achor, he gives some suggestions. If you’ve read something similar before and forgotten it after you walked away from the magazine or newspaper, don’t walk away now. Read these tips. Re-read them, and think about how you can integrate some of these behaviors and methods, so you can be happy, and then be successful.

Three Acts of Gratitude. Just two minutes a day, write down three new things for which you’re grateful. Do it for 21 days. The frequency and repetition are powerful because you’re training your brain and, in doing so, will begin to see the world with fresh, happiness-inspiring eyes. Achor warns about generalities, because they don’t work. Rather than “My health,” my kids, my home,” etc., be specific: “I’m grateful for my daughter because she called to ask my opinion. What I think matters to her.” Or, “I’m grateful because I was alert and caught the fine print in that contract, before I signed it.”

The Doubler. Again, for two minutes a day, think of one positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours. You’re a writer, so I know you can provide details about it. This can double the most meaningful experience in your brain. Doing it for 21 days will help your brain connect the dots, and you will begin to see and feel the meaning that runs through your life.

The Fun Fifteen. 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day is, Achor says, the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant. With successful completion of just 15 minutes, your brain records a victory, which carries over into your next activity.

Breathe. For two minutes become conscious of your breath going in and out. Fill your lungs, be aware. This has been proven to raise accuracy rates and increase levels of happiness. And drops stress levels.

Happiness, Achor says, is a huge advantage in our lives. When the human brain is positive our intelligence rises. We stop diverting resources to think about anxiety.

Our creativity triples.

More next month. I’ll be asking you if you tried the Three Acts of Gratitude, the Fun Fifteen, and the Breathing. Give it a try, and let’s meet again next month and compare notes.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Non-Human Characters

Birds and beasts, werewolves and vampires, fairies and trolls, rakshasas and dragons and inari okami (and did you think of a western European dragon or a Chinese dragon)? Aliens. Some or all of these can populate your work . . . for good or ill.

Liesa Malik and I will be talking about writing non-human characters at the Colorado Gold Conference, so this post is short because it's a teaser to come to that workshop and I want to invite you to come and talk to us about YOUR non-human characters and brainstorm with us.

I have spent my career writing non-human characters – everything from a mole (yes, a mole, the earth-digging-nearly-blind animal) to a planet (actually two planets, one of them Earth). My Heart series – futuristic/fantasy set in a Celtic pagan culture – features telepathic animal companions and has since the first book. In fact, I think the cat character in that book, Zanth, sold HeartMate.

Since then, I've written a slew of animal companions including (of course) a puppy and dogs, cats of various colors and attitudes, and have branched out to foxes, raccoons and most recently birds, a hawk and a raven.

I do my homework on the animals, how they live, their social structures, what they eat, how they might think. I want my readers to believe these animals are not just humans in disguise. And Liesa and I will talk about how to do that research, hands-on and otherwise.

Unlike many people writing urban fantasy and/or paranormal romance, I've only written one shapeshifter hero – a jaguar-man – and absolutely no vampires. Though since I write in those genres I've read a lot of books on both. I know what I, personally, like in a vampire and werewolf, and how the myths have been explored by various authors.

So, we'll add in shapeshifters and vampires as common characters – both as good guys and as monsters that can highlight your very human characters.

And Liesa, especially, has studied the market for writing animals, and the fantasy genre is full of variety, and in science fiction humans continue to interact with alien races.

Yes, we do have peeves about how animals and monsters are portrayed, don't you? Come share those with us.

And, yes, I also write ghosts, mostly of people of the Old West, but I consider those humans . . . except the evil one . . . oh, and the Labrador spirit guide. No, neither of those are human . . . .

So drop by and talk with us about your non-human characters and why you love them. And what makes them different. Or how you want to delve into a different psyche.

See you at the Colorado Gold!