In Reflection

As I near the end of my term as president of RMFW, I’ve become reflective. As such, I am struck by several things I’ve discovered over the past two years, about RMFW and about myself.

Most obvious is that serving as president is a huge responsibility, far bigger than I imagined it would be (though I certainly never thought it would be small). I’ve been both awed and honored to fulfill this role. I’ve learned why most of those who serve in this position get little writing done during their terms. RMFW is a huge organization, with twenty board members, each heading a committee, and presidents need to remain aware of what is happening with all of them. In addition to the organization, the president needs to be alert to the needs of individual members, listening and reacting when necessary. It means more than I can express that the membership considered me worthy of filling that role.

In doing so, there has been a less obvious realization. I have become a better person…more in tune to my fellow writers, better able to see both the forest and the trees of RMFW, and more capable in many of my personal skills and abilities. What a wonderful opportunity for development these two years have been.

I’ve also learned how many people it takes to run RMFW. I am infinitely thankful to all of the incredible volunteers who make this organization run so smoothly. In 2014 (our numbers from 2015 have not yet been tabulated) 159 individuals comprised our volunteer rank and file, filling nearly 600 volunteer positions from board members to committee members to the smallest of duties. Many performed multiple tasks. Together, they make RMFW run so seamlessly that many don’t realize all that it takes to make this group so successful.

One of the most heartening aspects to my role was becoming more aware of all the little things our members do for each other in the way of support. I’ve seen writers reach out to each other with congratulatory comments, supportive messages, Facebook posts, tweets, event and signing attendance. I’ve witnessed hugs, pats on the back, and encouragement.

RMFW is truly an amazing group of people and it has been a privilege to lead and serve these past two years. Thank you, my friends, for your faith in me.

The Company of Other Writers

This time of year, the schedule is full of holiday parties. One I don't miss is the RMFW party (and, yes, it has taken place this year). I also try to make my critique group critique-and-party, and that was yesterday. January in critique will be having me taking in the beautiful-art self-care cards that I hand out everywhere (retreats, all my seminars), before we talk about our yearly goals.

For me, these are important gatherings of my tribe.

Now, I am a full time writer, and I am in the company of other writers every day online. But I still cherish the in-person get-togethers and the conversation.

First, because my online writing-sprint group is mostly fantasy writers and we talk about that genre: multi-book story arcs and world-building and suchlike. I like talking about romance, and mystery, and thrillers and how those genres have specific demands that readers expect their authors to fulfill. How they differ – the emphasis of the story, the pacing. I get a broader appreciation for how others in my craft handle their projects.

Second, I am a long-time volunteer with RMFW and I like to talk with old buddies and make new ones.

But I also remember when I was a writer who had little to do with others, who belonged to RMFW but didn't attend the parties. I'd go to some of the seminars and sit in the corner and take notes. I'd be at conference. But the less structured social occasions I'd usually skip.

Until the first RMFW holiday party I was coerced into attending mumbledy-mumble years ago. It was a revelation. The standard questions that people asked then still works. "What do you write?" and "Tell me about your current manuscript." I'd listen and smile at the intensity of my fellow writers and feel like I belonged.

I kept coming. I could talk about problems and get a second, or third, take. Research talk would swirl around like the smoke of inspiration, just waiting for me to use it – or tuck it away to perhaps use some other time. Or, since I do write fantasy, figure out I could twist it and put it in an other-worldly story.

No one thought I was weird if I wanted to talk about herbs or poisons or how long rigor mortis lasts (yes, I often have suspense in my stories, too). Or, of late, how to make a knife out of a person's femur.

Then there's the networking. Priceless. Who's your editor? What's s/he buying? Get self-publishing tips...I've moved over to Scrivener finally after sticking with Word Perfect, it's better on a Mac. Should I get a Mac?

Here in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, we share. You need only ask.

If there's a seminar topic coming up – go. You'll meet people interested in the same thing you are, as well as learn something. If there's a social occasion, go.

Make it a priority to spend time with other writers, in person. So you can see the passion they have about writing, how they gesture, give them an outlet of a person who listens and whose eyes don't glaze over when they talk about character arc. Someone who cares about writing.

Let yourself go and follow your own passion, talk about motivation or dialogue or the research you've been doing.

We'll all be better for the company.

So, as they say in my books: Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again. May next year be your best writing year EVER.

Robin

It’s Full of Stars

In many ways, a writer's journey has much in common with Arthur C. Clarke’s novel-turned-classic-film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The hapless author boards his-or-her craft (a manuscript instead of a rocket), launches into a hostile space, and spends many months (or, sometimes, years) in what seems like suspended animation. Time passes, the author alternately waiting for something to happen and struggling with the perpetual fears that NO ONE WILL EVER OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS no matter how much (s)he begs.

(HAL’s got nothing on a writer’s subconscious. Trust me here.)

During those weeks, and months, and years, the author keeps busy, studying craft and working on as many manuscripts as it takes to reach the destination. Agents get queried, tearstained rejections get filed, and life moves on. Eventually, the writer finds an agent and a publisher, or decides the self-publishing path is the right one.

Then, just like the astronaut in 2001, the author's journey reaches its endpoint–the book release. At which point, the author stares in awe at the real, live book in her hands and whispers softly...

It’s full of stars.”

… fade to black. Journey over. Story ended.

WHAT????

Now, wait a minute.

If you're like me, you saw that ending and said. "That can't be all there is."

WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

But there's a reason 2001 ended where it did, and why it didn't tell us any more. It parallels the writer's path here, too.

When you get there, you realize the ending--whether we're talking 2001 or an author's debut release--isn't actually the ending at all.

The ending is just the start of another journey.

Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. (There’s a reason we call it “the writing life.”) The author's initial trip to publication is wonderful, scary, and filled with firsts, and yet it's merely the opening bars of a longer (and even more beautiful) symphony.

Surprise. When it's over? It isn’t over.

And now, another story.

In late December 1973 I was two and a half years old.

A neighbor gave me a pair of lovely presents wrapped in shiny paper and tied with ribbons. I opened the first, unwinding the bow and setting it gently aside before I peeled back the tape that bound the paper. Minutes passed, but I took my time. I savored every moment until at last I removed the wrapping and revealed a brand-new book beneath.

A hardback book.

I don't remember the title but I'll never forget the cool, slick feel of that cover beneath my hands. Immediately, I opened it up and began to "read" the pictures.

My mother gave me a gentle reminder: “Susan, don't forget you have another present. Why don't you open it? What do you think's inside?”

I paused, one hand on the page to hold my place, and looked at the second package. After a moment I answered, "Probably … another book.”

And then, I went back to reading.

That story has more to do with this post than you might initially suspect.

I love my debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CATI enjoyed every part of the detailed process that went into its writing, editing, layout, and publication. The book's release came after ten years of struggle, craft, and rejection, and I savored the feel of that book in my hands as I savored the beautiful Christmas book my neighbor gave me many years ago.

But by the time I held my published book in my hands, I had already boarded another craft--the second book in the series. When that one was finished...I started on the next.

Consider this post your gentle reminder to stop gazing lovingly at the book in your lap--regardless of whether or not it's published--and to continue moving forward, one the next phase of your journey.

Because the writer's journey, the writer's life, is not about a destination. Finish a project and start on the next one.

Never let your fears or insecurities stop you, no matter how impossible the journey seems right now. Don't wait on someone to open the pod bay doors and let you enter this realm--success as a writer is something you have to work for, and accomplish, through hard work, determination, and effort. And you can do it, if you try.

But on the way, take time to enjoy the process, no matter where you are.

Today is the dream.

Today is the journey.

Savor this moment.

Trust me.

It’s full of stars.

I Have a Strong Opinion – Now What?

Politics.

The Viking happened to be looking over my shoulder when I wrote that word, and immediately told me, "Don't go there."

He's wise, of course. If, as a writer, you venture to spout your political beliefs on the internet, you're going to get yourself in trouble. You'll alienate readers. You'll invite trolls. You might get into arguments with other writers. Most agents and marketing and PR people advise their writer clients to button up and stay out of the fray.

So far in my writing career I haven't had much trouble keeping my mouth shut. I'm busy. I hate conflict. And since I'm Canadian and living in the United States, I can't vote and don't really feel I have a say in anything that happens here. As for Canada, I've been gone long enough to feel detached and like I don't really understand the issues. So I keep my mouth shut and write my books and let the world fall as it may.

But I've been having thoughts about this of late. Not little, fleeting thoughts, but big, cumbersome, slow moving THOUGHTS that are insisting I pay some attention.

There is so much ugly out there. Thanks to social media, even if I don't watch the news (which I avoid like the plague) all of that ugly is brought regularly to my attention. Rape. Police brutality. Racial injustice. Suffering refugees. Sexual inequality. War and rumors of war. A constant, overwhelming, deluge of hate.

I have opinions on all of these things. Sometimes I have vehement opinions. Still, knowing that anything I put out there on Twitter or Facebook or even a blog post will be out there FOREVER, I mostly just bite my tongue, sit on my hands, and keep my thoughts to myself.

Over the last year I've been pushed to the point where I question my own silence. Things are happening out there that move beyond politics. They are moral and ethical issues involving people. Other living, breathing, human souls who are being hurt.

If a Syrian refugee child showed up starving and homeless on my doorstep would I feed and shelter her? Of course I would.

If a woman knocked at my door late at night looking for refuge from some horror of a human being who has raped her, would I take her in, get her to safety, do everything in my power to help her bring the assaulter to justice? You bet I would.

If I see racial injustice happen in front of me, will I speak up? Yes. I have. I do.

But there's this thing that happens, I think, when we're inundated by horrific images from all over the globe. Before the age of technology, people only needed to focus on what happened in their own corner of the world. Now, everywhere you look, there's somebody suffering. Every minute of every hour of every day. And, as human beings, we have a limited capacity to absorb horror and trauma and fear before we begin to suffer our own traumatic response. When we reach a certain threshold our defense mechanisms kick in, numbing our response, making it easier to see some things as "far away" and therefore not a danger or grief we need to attend to. At some point, even those things close to home can seem less relevant.

Defense mechanisms are healthy, to a point. Just as keeping our mouths shut in public is healthy to a point.

But it's also important to act, to make a difference, to be an instrument of change. As writers, we are adept at using words to share ideas and provoke emotions. I think it's important to develop an awareness of how we are using, or not using, our influence. Action, even in small ways, makes a difference, even if we are never able to see it.

Social Media isn't the only place we can express our opinions, our outrage, and our grief. I've always admired Dickens for his ability to tell a good story while condemning social injustices. Pratchett did this brilliantly, as well, so a writer doesn't have to be focused on literary fiction in order to write stories that make a difference.

To be clear, I'm not advocating that any of us get preachy. Tales told from a moral high horse seldom make for good reading. And I don't have answers for the question of how much we should share our beliefs in the public arena. But I do think some serious soul searching is in order. Knowing what we believe, having a moral compass, and allowing that to find its way into our work is an important step.

I'll be working on that. What about you? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Romance – my addiction of choice … by Desiree Holt

DesireeHolt200x263Okay, okay, so I’m a sucker for a happy ending. But here’s how I look at it. Every day there is so much pain and misery in the world, not to mention the problems we face dealing with everyday life. When I curl up with a book, I want to know that the ending will be happy and satisfying and the hero and heroine will end up together. Oh, their road to happiness will certainly be filled with rocks and thorns. Where’s the fun in having them meet, fall in love and just trot off into the sunset? And who’d believe it , anyway?

Because romance, for all that it’s fantasy, also has to be grounded in reality. The readers I know who love romance want to change places with the heroine. They want to meet the hero, flawed though he may be, and be the woman he falls in love with. They want to be tall, short, thin, curvy, blonde, brunette, redhead—something they are not in real life. Because even in the happiest and most fulfilling relationships, there is always the desire to dream and fantasize. Romance gives women that opportunity.

I didn’t come to the romance genre at once, though. I thought I would write mysteries, because that’s what I read growing up. But when I finally sat down to write that first book, I could not get past chapter three. Then I read my first romantic suspense and I thought, This is what I am going to write. I wrote that first book in an effort to create my own hero like the one I’d fallen in love with—dark, dangerous, self-controlled except in bed. A bad boy who did good. And so sexy I wanted to find a way to bring him to life.

It certainly wasn’t all skittles and beer after that, though. There were far fewer opportunities to “break the barrier,” so to speak, then there are now. Self publishing wasn’t even on anyone’s horizon. But I plugged away at it (totally necessary) and eventually got my first break. Others followed. And as my backlist grew along with my readership,. I discovered I could spread my wings and test other subgenres.

Maybe it was my age. I was seventy years old when my first book was published, arriving at a time in life where I didn’t feel constrained to be bound by strict rules. I read two romances about wolf shifters and fell in love with the genre. Five series have been born of that. I love the wolf. I think he is a magnificent, romantic animal so writing about wolf shifters was easy for me.

2015_Holt_DH_RawEdgeofDanger_KindleI enjoy action adventure movies and television, and read thrillers by several authors, so it was natural for me to say, okay, let’s try that subgenre. And what fun that turned out to be. No one told me I couldn’t do it, because by then the marketplace had changed drastically. I loved creating those darkly adventurous men who jumped out of helicopters, fought terrorists and took down the bad guys. And of course, were incredible lovers. As a writer I was free to let my imagination run wild and I did, drawing with words the kind of heroes I wanted to drag into my house and lock the doors!

Then I got a little more adventurous, and created heroines I wanted to be myself. They practiced at gun ranges, were crack shots, could take down criminals without blinking an eye. And were rewarded with a romance that sizzled their toes.

It has been and continues to be such fun letting my imagination run wild. As I said before, you reach an age where you ignore restrictions and create in the pages of your stories the kind of life experiences you’d like for yourself. And romance is really the only genre where you can do this unfettered.

I’ve met a lot of people on my journey. I should probably dig out my tee shirt that says, Careful or you’ll end up in my next book. Because that happens so often. I meet interesting or good looking people and immediately start creating a story line for them.

But let’s complete the circle and get back to romance. In a romance story you can push the boundaries, give your imagination free rein, write scenes that your readers can live vicariously. As you get older, it becomes so much easier to do that. To “cast off the bonds of restriction.” To write yourself into a story, playing out your fantasy.

Do you have a story in your head? A character you’d love to create? Or meet? Then sit down and put your fingers on your keyboard. Let your imagination flow and go wild. I promise the end result will be worth it.

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

Known as the oldest living author of erotic romance, Desiree Holt has produced more than two hundred titles in nearly every subgenre of romance fiction. Her stories are enriched by her personal experiences, her characters by the people she meets. After fifteen years in the great state of Texas, she relocated back to Florida to be closer to members of her family and a large collection of friends. Her favorite pastimes are watching football, reading, and researching her stories.

Learn more about Desiree and her novels at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook and her Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

Note from Desiree: I will pick one commenter at random (using random.org) to receive a $25.00 Amazon.com gift card. This giveaway is open to anyone anywhere, but please post your comment by midnight U.S. Mountain Time on Thursday, December 17th.

What Makes a Winning Conference Proposal?

Conference Prep Chalkboard

During preparations for Colorado Gold last year, I had the opportunity to sit on the committee that selected which workshop and discussion panel proposals would be chosen for conference.

This was my first time taking part in the selection process, and I came away with several tidbits that I thought would be useful for would-be presenters who are thinking about submitting a proposal for future conferences.

First off, a tiny bit of conference workshop trivia from 2015:

  • We had nearly 200 proposals submitted for workshops and panels.
  • 79 workshops and panels were ultimately scheduled, with a handful of these being reserved for Agent and Editor Workshops, Special Guest Classes, and Classes by our Keynote Speakers.

A lot of consideration and planning goes into the selection process on the part of the committee and then by the conference chair(s). Our goal is to ensure we are providing the widest range of classes to suit writers at every level of their career from beginning writers to published authors. As publishing continues to evolve, so will the types of workshops and panels at conference.

During the proposal selection process, the committee focused on the proposed topic as well as the proposal itself. Knowing that your proposal will be one among many, it's worth your time to make sure it showcases your workshop in the best possible way. When putting your proposal together for submission, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your topic specific, fresh, and unique? Conference will always seek proposals on writing craft basics, best practices, how to, and industry standards, but if your proposal comes off as run-of-the-mill during the proposal process, what does that say about your class? There are many ways to talk about outlining, character development, queries, marketing, and publishing as a whole, but if your topic feels stale, it simply won't stand out.
  • Is your topic relevant to the industry's current climate? Publishing is changing at a rapid pace, and authors are savvy to what's going on. If you've presented on this topic before, how have you updated your class to keep it fresh?
  • Is your topic positive in nature? One of the goals of Colorado Gold is to pump up our attendees and fill them with the knowledge and information they need to face their writing with a fresh attitude and renewed excitement. A workshop or class that is geared toward the negative or focuses solely on what not-to-do will have the opposite effect.
  • Have you taught before? It's perfectly fine if this is your first proposal and your first time teaching. We welcome fresh talent! But make sure you share your credentials so the committee can see that you're the perfect person to teach a class on your proposed topic. Also, be sure to include enough content in your description and outline so it's clear you know your subject and are prepared to teach the material. This goes for experienced presenters who are teaching a new course for the first time.
  • Are you submitting a proposal for a discussion panel? How do you plan to engage the audience? How do you plan to moderate the discussion? Have you listed all of the speakers? What topics will you discuss that will provide insights to attendees they can use? Is your topic so broad it lacks clarity? So narrow as to limit its appeal? Is your panel audience-focused? A panel heavy with self-promotion won't appeal to attendees who are looking for usable knowledge to apply to their own writing careers.
  • Does your proposal indicate concrete knowledge or skills?  What do you plan to share with your audience that they can take away and apply to their writing? Be detailed so that the committee can understand what attendees will learn in your workshop or panel.
  • Does your proposal clearly state your audience?  Is it for Beginner, Intermediate, Professional level writers? For everyone? Is it for published or pre-published writers? If it's geared toward already-published writers, does the content pertain to traditionally published, indie, or both? Does the content of your outline match the expected track level?
  • Is your outline detailed enough without being too detailed? If you submit an outline for your two-hour workshop that contains a handful of five bullet points and no supporting detail, it will seem as though you don't have enough content to fill your time slot. Conversely, if your outline for your one-hour workshop is fifteen pages single-spaced, it will seem as though you might not have a firm grasp on your subject matter or enough time to present all the material. Find a balance that allows you to show what you'll cover, how it will flow, how long it will take, and what attendees will take away.
  • Is your outline well organized?  A well-planned outline is easy to spot. It shows the main topic, the sub-topics in the order you plan to present them, and shares a bit of the direction your class will take. An organized outline indicates a solid grasp of subject knowledge and information flow, which results in a class attendees will be glad they attended.
  • Have you proofread your proposal and provided all the information requested? This might seem like a no-brainer, but think about it. Just like a resume, your proposal represents you during this process. Typos and errors reflect poorly on your proposal. You want to give the selection committee every reason to choose yours over another proposal. Do yourself a favor and submit your best possible proposal.

What are we looking for? If you have something that you think will be of interest to the attendees at RMFW Colorado Gold, we invite you to submit your proposals regardless of topic. Based on feedback from our conference attendee surveys, attendees have requested workshops and panels on the following subjects:

Writing Craft

  • Character Development, Character Arcs
  • How to Write a Beginning
  • Plotting Stories and Series
  • Genre-specific Tropes: Dos and Don'ts
  • Pacing
  • Writing Diversity: Other Cultures, Other Abilities, LGBTQ

Author Business & Professional Level

  • Marketing & PR
  • Networking: How-to, Strategies, New Avenues, What's Coming
  • Managing Financials, Taxes, Accounting, Best Practices
  • Contracts for Traditional and Indie Published Authors, Dos and Don'ts
  • Author Events, Public Speaking, Book Signings, Best Practices
  • Industry Insights for Traditional and Indie Publishing
  • Indie Publishing, What it Entails, How to Manage, DIY versus Hiring a Team
  • Social Media Management for Authors
  • Book Formatting
  • Book Reviews, How to Get Them
  • Audiobook Production, Options, How To
  • Cover Design
  • Discoverability
  • Author Platform, Building an Audience, How Tos, Options
  • Author Websites, DIY, How To, Options
  • Readers: Where to Find Them
  • Writing as a Career

This list is by no means complete, but hopefully it triggers ideas and provides some insights about the kinds of things we're hearing from our conference goers about what they want to see. 2016 Proposal Submissions will open January 1, 2016 and close at midnight on April 1, 2016. Keep an eye on the conference page, your email, and the RMFW home page for details.

We look forward to receiving your proposals and building another fabulous conference for 2016!

Rocky Mountain Writer #24

Kevin Wolf - Winning The Tony Hillerman Prize

After years of entering and frequently winning writing contests at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's annual Colorado Gold contest, Colorado writer Kevin Wolf entered and won the Tony Hillerman Prize for his novel, The Homeplace. The win means the novel will be published by St. Martin's Press next fall. On the podcast, Kevin talks about his writing process, provides a glimpse of the storyline for The Homeplace, chats about the writing approach he calls storytelling, and describes what how it feels to be working with a major publishing house after so many years of "almost." Kevin Wolf is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Crested Butte Writers. He hones his work at regular meetings of the Southwest Critique group. He lives in Littleton, Colorado with his wife of forty years and their two beagles.

Show Notes:

Kevin Wolf

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

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

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A picture really is worth a thousand words, sometimes more. Humans are visual creatures and as writers, we rely on our sense of sight above all the others. As storytellers, we use written visuals to tell a story by creating pictures with words instead of paint. The earliest known stories before recorded language were written with pictures. Prehistoric man told stories through paintings on cave walls. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics are a combination of logographics and alphabetic elements. The first historical civilizations of the Near East, Africa, China, and Central America used some form of logographic writing. It's how written language began.

So it's no surprise that stories can be told through art and photographs. Comic books and graphic novels are designed to do just that, but some artwork can tell a tale without words to go with them. As a prime example, I offer Norman Rockwell's phenomenal storytelling via his paintbrush. Growing up, I idolized Rockwell's work and would study his paintings for hours, noting every tiny detail he included that told a story about his subjects. He's quoted as saying: "No man with a conscience can just bat out illustrations. He's got to put all his talent and feeling into them!" And Rockwell did exactly that.

Rockwell painted life as he wished it really was: happy children, engaged parents and grandparents, good clean fun.

Then there's the darker side of art; the very detailed religious art by 15th century Dutch painter Heironymus Bosch. The longer you look at his paintings, the more you see. But unlike Rockwell, Bosch mined the depths of his subconscious to create what's never been seen, but only imagined, and only by him. Don't look at his paintings late at night or they may invade your dreams.

If you prefer realism to fantasy, photojournalism is an incredible true-story telling medium. A picture being worth a thousand words is the motto of the photojournalist whose goal is to capture a moment in time for eternity. Each photo tells a story that is felt as much as it is seen.

In this digital age, some artists have discovered innovative ways of telling stories through pictures. One of my favorite digital artists is Amelie Fravoisse. She reminds me of Norman Rockwell in how she stages her scenes to convey heart-warming messages of family, seasons and holidays, except that she uses three-dimensional graphic tools and objects with a computer. The details in her work are amazing, and the more I look, the more I see. Every picture makes me smile.

I'm an artist who relies on the pictures in my mind to tell my stories. I'm nowhere near as talented as Amelie, but like her, I use 3D computer graphic tools to create art and each image tells its own story. Here are a few of my own story pictures I can share:

weeping

Midnight Dance

Snapshot_003

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

Karen Duvall

Karen Duvall is an award-winning author with 5 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series in 2011 and 2012, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. Writing under the pen name Cory Dale, she released the first book in a new urban fantasy series, Demon Fare, in December 2014.

Karen is represented by the McIntosh & Otis Literary Agency out of New York city. She’s currently at work on a new women’s fiction novel with elements of magic realism.

http://www.karenduvallauthor.com/
http://www.karenduvall.blogspot.com
https://twitter.com/KarenDuvall
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/405199.Karen_Duvall
http://www.facebook.com/Karen.Duvall.Author

 

Yes, Virginia….

Okay, I'm doing something totally out of character for me. It's Wednesday and my post is due up tomorrow. Have I prepared one? No. Hence this impromptu entry which may or may not succeed. If it does, I thank the spirit of Christmas. If it doesn't, well, our intrepid editor, Patricia, will surely let me know.

What's on my mind? I imagine the same things that are on the mind of every RMFW member this time of year. First, the holidays. I think I've finished my shopping, but I always think that two weeks before Christmas and something (or someone) springs to mind and I'm off again. I've shopped online more than I ever have this year. AND I've had packages sent directly to the recipients instead of repacking and shipping them myself. Maybe not so personal, but a time and money saver for sure!

Which brings me to the second topic. Do you spend too much money at Christmas? I'm sure I do. But I wouldn't change it. I love finding the perfect gift for a friend or relative. I shop by item and not price tag. I'm also adding a special touch this year. Since I'm trying to downsize and no longer put up a big tree, I'm giving away ornaments that I've accumulated through the years. My daughter already has our heirloom ornaments, but these are "special moment" ornaments collected on vacations, etc. The recipients won't recognize the significance, I'm sure, but I'm happy to pass them on to good homes.

Next, writing. I have--count'em--four projects going at once. I didn't think I could do more than one book at a time. But let's face it, the publishing world has changed. Readers don't want to wait a year for a book anymore. While the traditional houses seem to think that's still the norm, we who are morphing into "hybrid" authors, know it's not. It's tough, for sure. But I firmly believe to succeed nowadays, AT LEAST two books or novellas or anthologies a year are  not only desirable but necessary. That means settling that butt in the chair for more hours than ever before.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, Hanukkah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, this is the time to reflect on the good things in your life. I love Thanksgiving because it's an excuse to overindulge, but this time of year, friends and family are even more in the forefront of my thoughts. I'm happy that my daughter is happy and settled in her life, that she's found a life partner. I'm happy to have critique and writing partners that I count as friends. I'm happy to have achieved a measure of success, however small, in what is my passion as well as my work. I'm happy to have a family who loves and supports me.

And I'm grateful to RMFW. I know many people say it, but I can testify it's true. I never would have gotten published had it not been for this organization. You who are aspiring writers, took an important first step when you joined. Pat yourself on the back for that, and take advantage of all the gifts RMFW has to offer you.

It's as close to a writing Santa Claus as you're ever going to find!

Happy Holidays!

 

Scaling the TBR Pile

CVlmXGkXIAEUQg6.jpg largeI’ll be giving a workshop via Skype on building romantic tension and conflict for the Orlando Public Library. You can register here. I assume the event is designed for people to attend in person, but I'm not positive. If you have questions, though, ask them, not me. I just do what I’m told.

Recently I embarked on a project to deal with my vast pile - both physical and electronic - of books To Be Read (TBR). I hoped that if I could quantify what I had, it might help me sort what to read next and also provide a cautionary number to slow me from acquiring more books.

I put all the books - paper, digital and audio - into a spreadsheet, listed by format, reason to read and priority.

As of this writing, the list stands at 269 books, which is several down from the original 272, especially given that I added several more, two to read for the Nebula Awards, one that was a gift, and one I'd pre-ordered that was released.

It has been worth the effort! I did discover several duplicates between digital and print versions. Also, being able to sort by priority and reason to read has proved to be surprisingly handy. For example, I discovered I had Neil Gaiman's NEVERWHERE as both a digital copy and in audio from the radio production. I'd been on the fence about that book because I love Gaiman's work on the one hand, so I've been reading all of his stuff, but on the other, that story didn't sound all that compelling to me. So, having finished an audio book (I'm usually "reading" an audio book, an ebook and a paper book at any given time), I spotted the NEVERWHERE audio production. I figured it would move faster than the actual book and give me a taste of the story. Sure enough, it did - and I didn't love that whimsy. I listened to the show and feel like I know the story now.

Boom! Done.

I'm also trying to read works in time to nominate them for awards - hence the Nebula reading - so the spreadsheet helps there, too.

I'm excited and hopeful about scaling the TBR Mountain and whittling down some of the glaciated layers. How about you all? Does anyone else have great methods to stay on task with reading?