Marketing Physics

Back in the dark ages when I took physics, I learned about the six simple machines. When dealing with marketing, I find the lever makes a good analogy. It increases the force applied by a given amount of effort. Rephrased: You don't have to work as hard to get the same result.

Call me lazy, but any time I can get the same result with less effort - especially in marketing - I'm all over it.

The concept is simple. In marketing, we need to apply effort to gain purchase - literal as well as figurative. The more leverage we have, the less effort needed.

Marketing isn't the lever. It's the fulcrum. It's base you need in order to focus the application of effort. The fulcrum needs to be solid enough to take the load of both the effort and the output. If it's too squishy, applying effort will crush it. It can't really be too strong, but there's no need to make one stronger than you need. A fulcrum that can support ten tons doesn't actually give you any advantage when you're only trying to move a ten pound load.

In this context, marketing is not what you do. It's the way you've decided to do it.

I write SF/F novels. I self-publish them. I use social media as my primary communication channels. I follow the "Big Frog, Small Pond" and "1000 True Fans" strategies. Those were my decisions regarding marketing. That's my foundation, my fulcrum.

Effort is the sum of all the forces applied to the lever. For authors, that can be time spent at conventions, on social media, or writing blog posts. It can be cash spent on ad buys and market research. It can be anything the author does to promote the works. It's built from all the decisions an author makes about strategy and model. What do you have to offer? Where do you offer it? How do you choose to make people aware of your product?

The output load in this case is the number of purchases or - perhaps more accurately - profit. After all, it does little good to spend $10 for every $1 in revenue. It might be advantageous to achieve some short-term goal, but it's a bankrupt model in the long run. Literally.

The lever is the key. The lever is what multiplies the effort and provides the applied force to the output. For authors, that's the backlist. If you only have one book to sell, then the lever is short. You have to apply a lot of effort to get a unit of output. If you have two books to sell, then you get a multiplier. Perhaps people who buy the first will buy the second. You have more visibility - a bigger footprint - which makes your lever longer but also stronger. Add a third and a fourth and a fifth and you begin to build a machine where only the lightest touch of effort can give you a huge amount of purchase.

It's just simple physics.

Thrillers, Part 1 of 4

In my four-part blog series on the Thriller genre, I'm going to discuss the core nature of the thriller and what sets it apart from other forms of fiction. In three future segments, I plan to discuss the hero(es), the villain(s) and plotting and pacing. My intent is to offer some insights to fellow thriller-writers and perhaps learn something myself along the way.

The primary thing that sets the thriller apart from its cousin, the mystery, is that most often there is no whodunit. For the most part, the bad guy (or guys...assume hereafter I mean both singular and plural, masculine and feminine) is revealed fairly early on in the plot, if not the very first page.

This leads to a temptation for many aspiring thriller writers to open their book with a prologue, in which the villain incites the story through some nefarious act that sets his plans in motion. Please resist the urge. Most editors do not like prologues and neither do I. There are justifications for prologues, but they should be the exception, not the rule. Prologues are a whole other blog article.

While the primary question in a mystery is 'who?" the big question in a thriller is 'how?' How is the villain planning to accomplish his goal? This is critical for the hero to know how to stop the villain. In a mystery, on the road to finding out who committed the crime (usually murder), finding the 'why?' or motive goes a long way toward helping the protagonist sleuth to finding the culprit. In a thriller, similar but different is the 'what?" Finding out what the villain plans to do helps our hero know how to thwart him.

Which brings us to another difference. In a mystery, finding the perp is usually the end of the story, sometimes after a brief pursuit and/or capture scene. In a thriller, finding the answer to 'how' only kicks the thriller into high gear. Our daring protag still needs to execute a spectacular plan to dismantle the villain's plans. And of course when has a plan ever come off exactly as laid out? Therein lies more fun.

Your audience for a mystery is those who like the process of uncovering secrets and following obscure evidence trails to uncover even more. In many cases, the more shocking the secrets revealed the better they love it. I know that's part of what makes me love a good mystery. Your audience for a thriller are those who like action, adventure and daring do. The pitching of two enemies against each other until one comes out on top. Where a mystery is like the old card game Concentration - uncovering clues and remembering them, matching connections when they appear - a thriller is like chess - opponents making moves in attempts to misdirect and outwit each other and win the day.

Of course, like all attempts to define something complex, these definitions (mystery vs. thriller) are not all-encompassing or true in all cases. For example, I haven't mentioned how many mysteries and most thrillers include elements of romance, or how either can take place within the realm of historical fiction or SciFi, etc. As with all forms of fiction, there is overlap. I've only attempted here to lay out the broad strokes of what makes a thriller. Your results may vary.

See you at the Colorado Gold!

The Colorado Gold Conference is upon us and I cannot contain my excitement. I will revel for three days in the company of fellow writers. I will meet amazing people. I will reconnect with old friends. I will learn about, and be inspired by, the craft of writing. I will get my batteries charged. I will surround myself with my tribe.

Colorado Gold means a lot to me.

Five years ago I was working for Denver Public Schools. I was in my early forties and I felt lost. None of the dreams I had for my professional life had come true. I was scared and angry and hurt. See, I had always wanted to be a teacher since I was in Mr. Perdy’s 7th grade World History Class. I had worked towards getting my bachelors and my teaching certificate most of my twenties, with some minor detours along the way. When I moved to Colorado in 2004 and got a job working for DPS, I thought my professional trajectory was set. But working in inner cities schools is hard. There is a lot of turnover among teachers and administrators. There’s also a lot of politics and a lot of heart ache.

Well, by 2012, I had enough. I resigned from my teaching position, thinking I would simply fine another job somewhere else. That job never came. I applied everywhere and got a couple of interviews, but no teaching positions. I was lost, embarrassed and ashamed.

Around the same time a friend I hadn’t spoken to since the late 1990s came back into my life. She had moved to Colorado because she had fallen in love. We spoke a lot over the phone, just reminiscing. Out of the blue she announced that her significant other was editing an anthology and needed short stories. Would I write one?

Now, like most Americans, I was definitely interested in writing. When I was in college I had started and stopped a novel about half a dozen times. This, however, was different. This was a legitimate opportunity for publication. All I had to do was write a short story. So I started writing.

Looking back I know the story was mediocre. But for some reason it was accepted and I was a published writer! I contacted my friend’s paramour about what I could do to further my writing career. What next steps should I take? What he said changed my life.

He told me to join RMFW. That was probably the best advice I have received in twenty years. Everything change for me after my first Gold Conference.

If you ever go to my Amazon page, or to my website, it will say “Jason always wanted to be a writer, he just didn’t know it.” All the things I pursued, or enjoyed in my leisure were always about story. Why did I love history? The stories. Why do I watch college football? The stories! Why do I follow politics? The stories! (Do you get the picture? Well I didn’t.) But I never knew any writers growing up. Writing fiction as a career was never presented to me as a career. No one in my family were writers. No one I ever knew either wrote or aspired to write.

While living my life I felt an acute sense of unease among most people. I thought I was just awkward.

But after my first Gold Conference, things changed. For the first time in my life I felt comfortable around other people. I felt comfortable in my own skin.

I was very lonely as a teacher. I always felt like I had to watch what I said. I felt like I was going to do something to upset my colleagues. Now I know why. I was never meant to be a teacher. It wasn’t them, it was me!

When I attended my first Gold Conference I was overwhelmed with the warmth and acceptance people gave me. Shannon Baker greeted me warmly. (She had just won writer of the year.) Author Christine Jorgensen gave me compliments on my comments in her seminar. I met author Catherine Winters, Corinne O’Flynn, and countless other people who befriended me, supported me and welcomed me. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. It has been that way every year I have attended.

So at Colorado Gold I plan on renewing those friendships and making others. I plan on learning and laughing and making memories. See, in RMFW, we’re not just colleagues pursuing publications, we’re not just a guild. We are family. The Gold Conference is our family reunion.

See you at the Gold.


You can follow Jason on Twitter @evans_writer.

You can like his FB author page at Jason Henry Evans

Read his blog on his website:


The Price of Our Dreams (Title Borrowed!)

When he talks about writing, George Saunders brings it all down to earth.

He’s so straightforward, so sure, so clear about every phase of the process.

And reassuring, too.

Literary snobbishness?

Zip and ola.

I’ve sung his praises before and reviewed Tenth of December, a terrific collection of imaginative short stories.

I could also post link after link of thoughtful exchanges with Saunders, including from The Big Think podcast and a fabulous two-parter on Bookworm about his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

Anyway, I really didn’t expect to see Saunders pop up on an advice podcast but there he was with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. Turns out Saunders was one of Strayed’s writing teachers and mentors at Syracuse University.

The topic was chasing creative dreams while managing, you know, little practical things like work and income. You can read the question and listen to the entire conversation, called 'The Price of Our Dreams' at WBUR.

It’s powerful.

Saunders argues you can do both—and that work and the workplace can provide a wealth of inspiration.

Saunders: “There's a crossroads moment where you say to yourself, ‘okay, either I'm going to do the starving artist route and make these kids suffer or I'm going to suck it up and find in myself the potential to go into a job that I wouldn't have dreamed of taking a year ago.’ And what I found was that actually that was great. To go in and say I have to give up my image of myself as this scrappy, cool young guy and put on a tie and go into this job. So maybe as a way of gaming myself I said ‘Ok, look, if you're a writer you should be able to find material even here, everywhere.’ Since these are human beings gathered together, this must be percolating into my artistic machinery, therefore it's not a waste."

And later in the same podcast, Saunders: “The path that lies between you and the book you dreamed of is actually not a different day to day life except the addition of some writing time. The magic that's going to make you published and beloved is yet to be found. When I was working a day job and writing my first book, I noticed that you can get a lot done in 15 minutes. In some ways, writing at work or writing when you're tired has a way of focusing your mind. I like to gently say to anybody who wants to be an artist, it doesn't always work. Your worth as a human being is not tied to your productivity as an artist, those are wildly divergent things. The pure artistic path is the one that's not too tied to the outcome but is tied to the transformation that happens.”

I like those last two sentences so I’ll highlight it for emphasis:

Your worth as a human being is not tied to your productivity as an artist, those are wildly divergent things. The pure artistic path is the one that's not too tied to the outcome but is tied to the transformation that happens.

Over and out.

Colorado Gold 2017: Some Practical Information

More Questions? Join our
for Conference attendees!

Conference is almost here!

In addition to the previous conference day-by-day walk-through info post, here is some practical information to help you get organized:

Parking: Parking is free at the hotel for conference attendees. Yay! You'll need to validate your parking ticket at the front desk before you leave.

Airport Train Info: From the airport, you'll need to take the Light Rail train, ($9.00) to the the Central Park Station, which is 0.7 miles from the hotel. If you arrive and there is no shuttle present, call the hotel. They will pick you up at the station. For more details about train times, station stops, and other info, download the RTD info flyer or check out the LIGHT RAIL schedule. There is no longer a free shuttle from the airport.

First-Timer Meeting: On Friday at 12:00pm (before conference officially begins), our New Attendee Liaison, Kevin Wolf, will be hosting our "first timer meeting" in the Vail Room.  This is an opportunity to meet some of the RMFW conference staff and get a brief orientation about conference. We will also have a special prize to give away to one lucky attendee! This meeting will last about 30 minutes. Feel free to bring lunch or purchase a boxed lunch from the hotel kiosk.

Conference Badges: Your 2017 official conference badge must be worn AT ALL TIMES. If you are not wearing your official conference badge, you'll be asked to retrieve it. Without your official conference badge you will not be able to attend the meals. If you RSVP'd to bring a guest to any meals, your guest must wear their official guest badge in order to attend the meals. There will be no exceptions to this rule.

Don't Forget! Bring a Blank Journal to Conference! RMFW Special Guest, Stuart Horwitz, is delighted to share: Book Architecture has partnered with Cocoon Journal, a non-profit organization that puts blank books in the hands of high school writers.

The idea is that by writing, they can clear their head (and maybe generate the first draft of a future project). Do you have some blank journals lying around that you aren't using? Now, the solution: BRING THEM TO CONFERENCE! Cocoon Journal will be collecting unused, blank journals during Colorado Gold this September. You can also ship blank journals to: Cocoon Journal P.O. Box 740340, Arvada, CO 80006.

Classes to Prep For: If there are classes on the schedule that you're planning to attend, be sure to read the class description in the event the instructor wants you to bring something to use in class. Some that have requested a mention:

  • Deep Revision Master Class - Heather Webb: Bring a some pages of your writing to work on in this session.
  • The Joy of Writing Great Sex - Andrea Catalano & Heather Webb: Anyone who'd like to participate in an anonymous critique may bring one printed page from one of their scenes without a name on it. We'll read aloud and talk about what's working and what isn't.
  • The Art of the Author Reading - Aimie Runyan: please bring a short cutting from one of your works! Laptop, printed pages, bound book--anything you can read from comfortably.
  • The Faster I Go, The Behinder I Get - Becky Clark:  Check the handouts download and bring a paper copy of the calendar with the times down the side.  We'll be doing an exercise with that one

Handouts: Handouts are available online. Check the HANDOUTS page often as we get closer to conference and more are added by our presenters. Please download handouts to your device or print them at home. You *can* download them at the hotel using the public wifi in the common areas of the hotel, but you will have to leave the classrooms to do so. While there is Wi-Fi in the hotel, there is NO Wi-Fi in the classrooms. 

Wi-Fi: There is wifi in the hotel public areas but there is NO WIFI in the classrooms for presenters or attendees. If you wish to access the handouts for a class but your device requires wifi, you will need to download them before your class.

Agent & Editor Pitch Appointments: If you requested one, your specific appointment details will be included in your registration packet. There will be a separate check-in table for the pitch appointments located on the third floor. Please make sure you arrive at least 10 minutes before your appointment. If you have any questions or conflicts regarding your pitch appointment, you will need to speak to the volunteers at the third-floor check-in table. Additional pitch appointments are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis while space allows. Any questions about booking additional free pitches should be handled at the check-in table for the pitches with our Pitch Master, Mike Ruchhoeft, and his team of volunteers.

Preparing for Your Pitch Appointment: We always have many questions about pitch appointments. Remember to relax and know that the agent is there to hear about your story. It's ok to be nervous. It's ok to ask questions. Your appointment should be a conversation. It's not a requirement that you have your pitch memorized; bring notes and read from them if that's what you need to get it right. For more prep, here is an excellent blog post from RMFW Pitch Coach, Susan Spann.

Have a Special Appointment? Arrive 10-minutes early please! If you have an appointment with Pitch Coaching, Mentor Room, One-on-Ones, or Agent/Editor Pitches, etc., please arrive 10-minutes before your appointment. This helps everyone stay on schedule and prevents delays.

Leaving Classes In-Session: If you signed up for an appointment, it is likely that you will have to leave a workshop in-session in order to attend. If you need to leave a workshop in-session, this is perfectly fine and happens throughout conference. Simply gather your things and quietly depart. Once your appointment is over, feel free to return to any workshop in-session.

Conference Check-in/Registration: Conference Check-in will be at the bottom of the escalators, accessible from the lobby. If you're attending a Friday morning session (Master Class or a Critique Round Table) check-in opens at 7am. If you're not attending a morning session, check-in opens at 10:30am.

Need Help? Have Questions? “ASK ME”: We have a whole army of conference veterans who know the ropes and are there for you to ask questions. If you see someone with an ASK ME ribbon on their badge… don’t be shy! Also, the Registration Table is HQ for conference. We will have volunteers there just about all the time throughout conference, so this is another place to go if you need assistance.

At-A-Glance Schedule & Brochure: The AAG is the go-to document when you're looking for the workshop schedule. There are lots of shifts that happen with the AAG over the months leading up to the conference, and the brochure updates lag behind. In the event the brochure elves slip up and there is a discrepancy, the AAG is the true schedule.

Workshop Recordings: All the open workshops/panel programming at conference are recorded. If you’re unable to be in two places at once, or if a class was especially helpful to you and you want to listen to it in the future, purchase a copy during conference at the recording room, next door to Boulder Creek. Orders placed before the end of the day on Saturday will be available on Sunday. Orders placed on Sunday will be shipped to you.

What to Wear: Dress comfortably for conference, and wear shoes that make walking easy. You’ll do a lot of walking at conference. Dress in layers to be sure you aren’t too hot or cold as the temperature shifts. Some people do dress up for the Friday Kickoff and Saturday Awards Banquets, but you’re going to see everything from jeans to cocktail dresses and capri pants to suits. Don’t be afraid to dress up, but be equally assured that you can wear whatever makes you comfortable.

Need a Break? Take a Break! You don’t have to attend a session every hour. If you need to take a break, then you’re totally welcome to skip a session, go back to your room, hang in the open areas, or find a quiet place to write.

Drink Water! CO is very dry, and if you’re not from here, it can come as quite a shock how easy it is to become dehydrated. Drink lots of water. Drink lots of water. Drink lots of water. And if you're not sure... DRINK LOTS OF WATER!

Meals: Your conference registration includes several meals:

  • Fri Lunch - ON YOUR OWN
  • Fri Dinner - Kickoff Banquet, Plated Meal, Included
  • Sat Breakfast - Continental style, Included (7-8a)
  • Sat Lunch - Buffet style, Included
  • Sat Dinner - Awards Banquet - Plated Meal, Included
  • Sun Breakfast - Continental style, Included (7-8a)
  • Sun Lunch - Buffet style, Included

Conference Badges: Your 2017 official conference badge must be worn AT ALL TIMES. If you are not wearing your official conference badge, you'll be asked to retrieve it. Without your official conference badge you will not be able to attend the meals. If you RSVP'd to bring a guest to any meals, your guest must wear their official guest badge in order to attend the meals. There will be no exceptions to this rule.

More Questions? Join our
for Conference attendees!

The Sacred Work of Storytelling

Nearly two weeks ago, the sun disappeared (at least if you were in the direct path of the eclipse). For a few minutes, the air grew cooler and the birds grew quiet. I couldn’t help but think about how ancient people must have viewed an eclipse. They may have wondered if the sun would come back. Their worry may have made them anxious enough that they came up with elaborate rituals to appease the Sun and make sure he (or she) didn’t abandon them altogether.

But who came up with the rituals, the story, the cosmography, that explained why the sun disappeared and what must be done to ensure it always returned? Priests, you say? Priests may have performed the rituals, but the person who created the myth the rituals were built around was undoubtedly the tribe’s bard or storyteller. She or he might not have had the position officially, but they were the members of the tribe with the imagination and the gift with words to explain the phenomenon.

The word religion comes from a Latin word that means"to tie or bind". And that’s what religions do—they tie the events of the world together and make sense of them. They also bind people together in a shared experience, even if that experience is a re-enactment or ritual connected with the story created by the storyteller. Storytellers make sense of the world. And that’s why I believe we will always have need of them, not matter how sophisticated the world is.

Just look at the rabid following of The Game of Thrones series. It keeps gaining momentum and attracting more viewers (and readers). We dissect and analyze the episodes and return to them over and over, trying to figure out this world George R.R. Martin has created. We want to know the "why" for all the details in this world and we want to make sense of the events that take place. Martin, the storyteller, has created a grand myth, an imaginary world that people discuss as if it were totally real.

That’s what writers do, and that’s why storytelling is so important. The worlds we create as writers connect people. In making sense of imaginary worlds, we help people make sense of the real world. (Which at times is proving to be just as horrific and terrifying as anything Martin has created.)

Despite the multitude of fans, there are plenty of people who consider TGOT escapist fiction and therefore, silly and unimportant. But I would argue the series isn’t trivial or a waste of time because it binds us together and gives us a story that we share. As we reflect on the meanings of the myth, we reflect on our own values and what is important to us. We are forced to confront questions of good and evil and what is involved in making those distinctions.

A recent study showed that reading fiction tends to make people more empathetic in their choices. Experiencing things from the viewpoint of a fictional character teaches us to get outside our own world viewpoint and look at things in a new and more empathetic way. Maybe storytelling can’t change our turbulent, chaotic and violent world, but it can help us make sense of it and connect us in meaningful ways.

Storytelling is ancient and at the heart of the very essence of what it means to be human. So next time you get totally discouraged and want to give up writing, remember that the work we’re doing as writers is sacred and essential.

Rocky Mountain Writer #98

Peggy Waide & RMFW-U Online Classes

The guest on the podcast this time is the only person in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers with the title of “dean.”

Peggy Waide is the dean of RMFW University, an online learning program that is offering an increasingly rich series of classes.

In fact, there’s a class coming up in mid-September with Sharon Mignery titled "The Art and Craft of Building Great Conflict."

Classes this year have already covered writing the dreaded synopsis, writing effective flashbacks, writing winning contest entries, and turning your novel into a screenplay, among others.

A long-time member of RMFW, Peggy Waide entered her first Regency romance in the Colorado Gold Contest and the judging editor offered her a contract. Peggy published four titles with Leisure Books and is today shopping an amateur sleuth mystery and she’s wrapping up a contemporary romance.

Peggy has served as Vice-President, Pal Rep, Colorado Gold Conference Chair as well as presented workshops at Colorado Gold conference and Romance Writers of America.

RMFW-U Online Classes

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:

How to Avoid the Dangerous Trap of the “Perfect Writing Life”

We all have that one dream in our heads.

You know the one. It’s the dream of the perfect writing life, the one where you don’t have a day job or a house to clean or a car to fix or errands to run. Instead, you have hours of empty time you can fill as you like with your writing.

There’s nothing wrong with dreams, unless they interfere with your ability to move forward. Unfortunately, that’s what the dream of the prefect writing life often does.


When the Dream Interferes with Your Progress

I used to think about this dream a lot, especially before I my first book was published. I firmly believed that if only I could find a way to ditch the day job so I could go away somewhere and just focus on writing, then I could finally make my novels good enough to get that traditional publishing contract I wanted.

I was working a lot of hours at my day job, which meant I had little time or mental energy left over for my fiction writing. A lot of us are in the same boat these days. Even published authors find themselves drowning in marketing activities that can rob them of their creative writing time.

We can get so wrapped up in what we wish would happen—and what we think needs to happen to take our careers to the next level—that we can completely stall our work in the real world.


The Dangerous Mindset of the Writing Dream

Creative people love to talk about following their dreams. We’re dreamers, we writers. We spend a lot of time in our imaginations, and we love to think up new and amazing scenarios, often for our characters, but sometimes for ourselves.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live up in the mountains where no one would bother you and you could write all day at a table by the lake?

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to work all day and you could just get up when you wanted to, eat a nice relaxing breakfast, and spend the day writing?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could chuck all your responsibilities and spend three months at a writing retreat where people brought you your meals in your room and you looked out on the ocean and wrote in the company of seagulls?

Sometimes you can make these dreams (or a more modest version of them) come true. The danger is if you allow yourself to imagine that only in this dream version of the perfect writing life can you succeed.

This often happens when you get discouraged, tired, and run down. You work extra hours, and have to deal with more life emergencies than you’d like. Feeling helpless and a little out of control, it’s common to imagine an easier life that is more encouraging to the creative arts.

The danger occurs when you start to let the dream take over. You get discouraged with your lack of progress, and start to believe that you’ll never get where you want to go. You wanted the perfect writing life, but you didn’t get it, so you start to believe that you never will, and you start to walk away from your dream.


A Successful Writer Doesn’t Let Dreams Stop Her

A successful writer enjoys dreaming, but doesn’t let it slow her down. She realizes that dreaming is nice, but that her writing has to fit into her life as it is right now. She knows that no life is perfect.

Yes, maybe someday she’ll have more time to devote to her stories, but for now, she needs the paycheck from her day job, and she wants to help take care of her elderly mother, and she wants to be involved in her children’s lives, so she has to make writing work in that scenario if she wants to succeed.

So she does. She takes little steps every day. She writes for fifteen minutes in the morning before the kids get up, and for 30 minutes at night after they’ve gone to bed. She leaves work early on Fridays and heads to the park where she steals 30 minutes to write before going home to make dinner. She makes a point of attending at least one writing conference or other related event each year. She sets deadlines for herself, and makes sure that she keeps them.

Would she like oodles of time to devote to writing? Of course. But she’s not going to let that stop her from putting making time in her life right now.

She knows that the only way to make her dream of the perfect writing life come true is to fit writing into the life she has right now, today.


Colleen M. Story is the author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: Boost Productivity, Improve Time Management, and Replenish the Creator Within—a motivational and inspiring read full of practical, personalized solutions to help writers escape the tyranny of the to-do list and nurture the genius within. Discover your unique time personality and personal motivational style when you get your copy from Amazon and other common book retailers. Enjoy your free chapter here!

She has worked in the creative writing industry for over twenty years and is the founder of Writing and Wellness ( To find more information on Colleen and her work, please see her website (, or follow her on Twitter (@ colleen_m_story).



Power-charge your blurb with hooks

As we prepare for this year’s RMFW conference, I’m guessing that many of you are tearing your hair out, trying to write good blurbs or condensing your 100,000-word novel into a short, captivating sentence worthy of the so-called “elevator pitch.”

I’m going to expand on a blog by my fellow RMFW blogger, Mary Gilgannon. She wrote, candidly and entertaining again this month, about how difficult it is to write good blurbs. When her publisher recently needed a blurb for her latest novel, she did the RMFW thing and consulted her writer friends. They met, brain-stormed, and she produced a good blurb.

I, too, cringe from writing blurbs. I’ve even given workshops on blurbs. I recognize great ones when I see them, and can de-construct them to reveal their strengths. I can write blurbs for other people. Yet sitting down to write my own? Blek.

Among her many other strengths, Kay Bergstrom is a genius at blurbs. I, too, used to use the journalistic approach Mary mentioned in her Aug. 4 blog. I thought of the blurb as a mini-synopsis. Thanks to Kay, I've come to think of the blurb more as a fishing expedition. Fish don't always want the same things, and all fish don't respond to the same temptations. Sometimes they want a sparkling lure, other times they’ll bite some drab, rubbery thingy. Sometimes its best to adjust your bobber so the hook sinks deeper in the water, other times more shallow. Whatever the variation, though, readers (and agents and editors) need to be hooked.

What are the currently hot tropes/hooks? The editors and agents are always quick to point out that they only know what they used to be—what they were last week, last month. They are ever-changing, fickle as the market.

There are some trusty tropes that seem to live forever, though. Cinderella. Survival. Strong female lead. Fish out of water. Returning home. Family betrayal. Change of fortunes.

What makes your story unique? I think this question is what paralyzes writers. Their answer (like ours) is probably … everything! “It’s my story,” we may say. “I’ve never seen anything like it, and there are many reasons why it’s unique.”  So we expound and expand.

If we stay with the fishing analogy, this would be like spilling a dump truck of junk into the water, gooey stuff that contains an odd mixture of many, many ingredients. Some of it may be really good, but it’s been amalgamated into an incomprehensible sludge.

Setting aside all the wonderfulness of your story, what sets your protagonist apart? Perhaps your response is: My novel has a kick-ass heroine. Okay, but how can you make that more interesting, and specific to your novel? Consider these from the archives:

Tough widow Norma Rae has a lot on her hands, working to the bone at a textile mill--and fighting to unionize her hazardous workplace.

Feisty young mother fights for justice any way she knows how. She takes on a powerful utility company and won’t take no for an answer. (Erin Brokovich)

 It is one woman’s fearless quest, criss-crossing the globe in an amazing attempt to save the world.  (Lara Croft, Tomb Raider)

 Gutsy Lieutenant O’Neil dares to earn a place with the elite Navy SEALS.  (G.I. Jane)

 Going beyond the cliché of something like “kick-ass heroine,” what dominant trait does your female protagonist possess? In what unique/interesting ways does she demonstrate that?

Be it kick-ass heroines, secret codes, ghosts, secrets, or intergalactic wars, remember to craft your hook as well as you crafted your book--and use tantalizing bait.

So here's your chance to practice before conference ... what's your blurb? Hook me!

Rocky Mountain Writer #97

2017 Writer of the Year Panel - Live from The Tattered Cover

We did this in 2015 and 2016 and here it is again—the live taping from the panel with the finalists and winners for the Writer of the Year and the Independent Writer of the Year.

This event was taped on Wednesday, August 23 at the Tattered Cover on East Colfax.

The moderators are 2016 Writer of the Year Mark Stevens (also your podcast host) and 2016 Independent Writer of the Year Lisa Manifold.

The panelists are Wendy Terrien, 2017 Independent Writer of the Year; Shannon Baker, 2017 Writer of the Year; IWOTY finalists Bernadette Marie and Stephanie Reisner; and WOTY finalist Colleen Oakes.

Unfortunately. Writer of the Year finalist Robin Owens, was unable to attend.

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: