Endings and Endings Problems:

By Robin D. Owens

Endings are extremely important. You want the reader to be satisfied, more, to remember that you gave them a good finish and look forward to your next book.

Here are some problems I, as a reader and writer, find in endings:

I had a favorite author (male writing under a female pseudonym) whose work I loved . . . until the end. Many of his/her books felt like s/he just didn't care past a certain point, or had left this particular project until late (the romances) and had to rush. Deeply unsatisfying.

So rushing pace can be a problem.

Or abrupt endings. I have a writer friend who likes to read endings with an emotional wrap-up, even as she tends to write until the action is done and stops.

Or a slow and lingering pace. The hero and heroine have solved the crime, saved the world, fallen in love, and you spend two more extraneous chapters describing how happy they and their friends and everyone else is.

Point of view. I have had books with only hero's and heroine's point of view . . . then, rather like a long camera pan in a film, the point of view changes to omniscient. This bugs me.

For example, I read a treasure hunt romance about a lost pearl (object has been changed). The hero and heroine kiss and go off to bed. The last line went something like: And in the moonlight the pearl softly gleamed. (What?)

Cliffhangers and Setting Up a Series

I would say that unless your next book will is out or will be published within, say, a week, don't do this. It irritates folks that the protagonist remains in danger, or hasn't solved the crime, or the love interest has died/left/been dumped.

A critique buddy recently read a mystery-thriller that began a series that she hadn't realized was the first book in a series. She thought the (continuing characters) cops were stupid because they didn't investigate well and didn't solve the original crime at the end, and the main villain escaped. Though the romance in the book wrapped up well, the mystery was left hanging. She was quite annoyed and would not go on to the next book. I heard about this and we dissected the technique for about two hours.

So watch your set-ups and pay-offs. If you set up an action, especially a main problem in your book, you will have less readers upset with you if you solve that problem instead of leaving it dangling.

For myself, I tend to leave a few threads unresolved in my series, this is usually acceptable for readers and hopefully tantalizes them, and it gives me a longer arc to work on a particular story.

The romance wraps up, the character growth wraps up, but there is a continuing story thread that is not resolved.

For instance: Once a hero was disinherited and this caused major problems for his whole family over the course of 3-4 books. Lately I've introduced a violent and evil political group (heh, heh) and have whittled down some of its members from book to book, but have left one last person unknown . . . to be caught and punished in the next book. This will wrap up that particular thread that's run through three books.

A final note. What I think is most important is the emotional punch of an ending. If you make sure you get the emotion right, some lack of technique can be forgiven. Like the first line or paragraph of your story should hook the reader, so should the last paragraphs or lines evoke enough emotion to linger in your readers' memories.

I've written twenty-five books, four novellas and two short stories, and I've always worked hard at the endings – to tie things up right, leave a good punctuating emotional note that would echo after the reader finished. But I think I've done exceptional endings twice.

My most recently published book, Ghost Killer, has one of the best endings I've done. (And thus why I thought of this topic). That ending is second after HeartMate, published book #1 (which might have helped get me published in the first place).

And here's a fact about Ghost Killer's ending. It came strictly through the historical research as I was writing the book. I knew in general what I wanted, but the research supplied another couple of layers to the moment.

So look inside yourself for your ending, see if it can echo your beginning, perhaps leave a hint of the next story. And be open for the muse or fate or research or an odd comment you might hear to add that emotional note you need to make a reader smile and sigh and close the book, wishing it wasn't over.

May all your writing dreams come true,
Robin

Debunking Copyright Registration Myths

Authors are often confused about the benefits and timing of copyright registration for creative works. It's a universal issue authors must understand, regardless of the publishing path they choose, so today we're taking a quick and dirty look at some popular myths--and truths--about copyright registration.

Myth #1: You Have to Register Copyright, or You Lose It.

The truth: Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (or with foreign copyright offices, where appropriate) is not a legal requirement for copyright ownership.

Copyright ownership attaches automatically at the time a qualifying work is created. (For the sake of time and space...short stories, novellas, novels, anthologies and most other published fiction and non-fiction works generally qualify for copyright protection.)

However, copyright registration is required in order to obtain a variety of protections available to copyright holders under U.S. Law. Among them:

  • The right to sue infringers to stop infringement.
  • The right to collect statutory damages (money damages, in amounts set by law) from infringers.
  • The right to recover attorney fees against an infringer in a successful lawsuit.

Myth #2: If You Don't Register Before The Book Is Published, You're Screwed and Cannot Register At All.

(And yes, "screwed" is the technical legal term.)

The Truth: To maximize access to legal rights, an author's copyright should be registered within 90 days of the initial publication date. (Note: publishing the work for free online can constitute "publication" - so consult an attorney before you self-publish or release the work to the public in any form.)

However, authors can register copyright at any time. ANY. TIME. Although some legal rights--for example, the right to recover statutory damages and attorney fees--are lost if the 90-day window passes, other legal rights are available to the copyright holder at any time after registration, no matter when the registration is filed.

In other words: it's never too late to register. It just might cost you some rights if you delay.

Myth #3: Authors Should Register Copyright Before Querying Agents.

The Truth: Not unless the work is already published--and even then, the registration trigger is publication, not queries.

Sometimes authors think they need to register copyright to protect the work from being stolen by unscrupulous agents or publishers. To this, I have two answers:

First: why are you querying unscrupulous agents and publishers?? Do your homework and query only reputable industry professionals.

Second: Although this scenario might have happened to someone, somewhere, registering copyright to avoid an agent stealing your work is about as effective as wearing bulletproof briefs to prevent a random stranger from shooting you in the crotch as they pass by. Again...it might have happened, but if you're hanging out in places where this sort of thing goes on, a re-evaluation of life choices might be in order.

Registering copyright too early can create problems for traditional publishers, most of whom register copyright on the authors behalf. If the work is already registered, the publisher has to complete a different kind of registration, for a 'revised edition' of the work--which creates extra paperwork and headaches all around.

Myth #4: Legitimate Traditional Publishers Always Register Copyright for the Author.

The Truth: Many do, but some don't.

If you publish traditionally, your contract should contain language stating; (a) who is responsible for registering the copyright, and (b) that the publisher will include a copyright notice which satisfies the requirements of U.S. law in all copies of the work published and sold. If the language isn't there...ask for the publisher to insert it. If you don't know what language to ask for...consult a publishing lawyer.

Myth #5: Registering a Copyright is Difficult/Expensive/Requires a Lawyer

The Truth: None of the above.

Most copyrights can be registered online at the U.S. Copyright Office website (www.copyright.gov); in most cases, registration costs less than $50. The copyright office website has a tutorial for copyright registration that can walk authors through the process, step by step, with useful explanations for some of the more confusing terms.

The copyright office's tutorial isn't perfect--there are some areas where I think it could use improvement, and I'm planning a #PubLaw copyright registration booklet (when I get the time to write it...and a unicorn that takes dictation). Even so, it makes what might seem confusing much simpler, so anyone can do it.

So...when SHOULD you register copyright?

If you plan to self-publish, register copyright on your publication day if possible; definitely register within the 90-day window to preserve your rights.

If you publish traditionally, ensure your contract dictates who will handle the registration, and if the task falls to you follow through on publication day or within that first critical 90 days after initial publication.

And there you have it...a whirlwind tour of common copyright registration myths and the truths behind them. We now return you to your regularly scheduled summer fun.

Susan SpannSusan Spann is a California transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. She also writes the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. BLADE OF THE SAMURAI (Shinobi Mystery #2), released in 2014, and the third installment, FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER, just released on July 14. When not writing or practicing law, Susan raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.You can find her online at her website (http://www.SusanSpann.com), on Facebook and on Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she founded and curates the #PubLaw hashtag.

Meet Agent Melissa Jeglinski

Interview with Agent Melissa Jeglinski
By Kerry Schafer

I'm always excited to meet another member of The Knight Agency, which happens to be home base for me. I had a fabulous time with Lucienne Diver last year at Colorado Gold, and this year I'm looking forward to meeting Melissa Jeglinski in person.

Let's begin with a short bio:

"A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English with a writing concentration, Melissa began her career as an editor with Harlequin Enterprises. Looking to work with a variety of authors and genres, she joined The Knight Agency in 2008. With over two decades experience in the publishing industry, Melissa has fostered her clients to National prominence including a recent Newbery Honor. She is a member of RWA and AAR. Melissa is currently seeking projects in the following areas: Romance (contemporary, category, historical, inspirational) Young Adult, Middle Grade, Women’s Fiction and Mystery."

Me: Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to answer questions! Let’s start with genres that interest you. If the Perfect Manuscript landed in your inbox tomorrow, what would it look like?

Melissa: Oh, that’s a tough one because I want so many things. But it would most likely be a contemporary romance that is so different from anything I’ve read lately.  It will have a strong heroine with a unique past. She will not be returning to her hometown or have inherited anything. She will have a cat instead of a dog. The hero will be more than just the nice guy next door and still super sexy. Maybe he’s got all the kids but is doing well as a single dad so that’s not why he needs the heroine in his life. The writing is smooth, storyline is steamy, great cast of secondary characters. It has a happy ending, of course, but I’d love to cry while reading it as well. I’ve never not offered on a project that made me cry.

Me: What other types of projects are you looking for right now?

Melissa: I love romance but I’m specifically looking for: contemporary, inspirational, category, western. Middle Grade, really open to any genre except fantasy. Cozy mysteries with a unique setting.

Me: How agents relate to the rapidly changing publishing landscape is a hot topic for a lot of writers. Where do you stand on this? Have you ever signed somebody who has been publishing independently? Any thoughts on “Hybrid Writers” and how you, as an agent, would fit with that model?

Melissa: I’m open to working with Hybrid Writers as long we are communicating with one another about what’s going on. I have been lied to about what clients were doing outside of their contracted work through me and when trust is lost, it’s very difficult to regain. I am not currently interested in taking on a self-published author’s subrights because it doesn’t offer a great payoff for the time required. If they were to come to me with a new project, I’d be very open to taking a look but right now, I’m not wanting to place a previously published work.

Me: A really great agent/writer relationship is about so much more than genre and writing - what other qualities are you looking for in your Ideal Client?

Melissa: The agent/client relationship needs to be professional but also pleasant. So I need to genuinely like my clients and they should feel the same way about me. Our relationship works best when the client feels like they can really talk to me and ask questions and when they don’t get upset when I offer constructive criticism. Most of all, honesty is key. They have to keep me in the loop with every project, with deadlines, issues with their editor.  I am honest about feedback, sales, etc.

Me: Since agents are Human Beings (Yes, it’s a little known fact, but I think we can talk about it here) you all seem to operate a little bit differently. Can you talk about how you interact with your clients? For example, do you do a lot of editing, or expect that your writers will take care of that themselves? Are you a phone person or do you stick mostly to email? Is there a fair bit of chatter between you and your authors, or do you stick to As Needed communication only?

Melissa: I’m a fairly hands-on agent.  With my editorial background, I can’t not offer editorial advice and they should want that from me, otherwise we wouldn’t be the right fit.  I am probably best via email as I can respond quicker that way but I do set up phone chats when needed.  I welcome communication from my clients but they understand that I can’t always respond ASAP and that weekends are my time and I will get back to them first thing Monday morning.

Me: Do you have time to read for pleasure? If so, could you tell us about a book you’ve read recently that you really enjoyed?

Melissa: Honestly, I haven’t read for pleasure in so long but I just picked up LIFE IS SHORT by Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein, TLC’s Little Couple.  I enjoy a good biography because they’re not something I represent and I like to read outside my wheelhouse so I’m not comparing it to clients’ work or what is waiting in my submissions box.

Me: What’s the best way for writers to approach you at conference? Scheduled pitch appointments only, or are you open to “elevator pitches” in other appropriate locations and situations? (Note to agent-seeking writers: Appropriate locations excludes the bathroom. Really. Don’t do this. Appropriate situations excludes barging in on a conversation an agent is having with another writer, or when she is clearly busy)

Melissa: I’m definitely open to people coming to talk to me at a conference. If they see me sitting alone or maybe in a big group, feel free to join us. If I want to be left alone, I’ll be up in my room, not somewhere public. I go to conferences to meet potential clients so I’m always wanting to hear what writers are working on. I’ll ask you what you're writing, so don’t feel you have to have a perfect pitch ready. I like it to be a natural part of the conversation; I know pitch appointments can be really tough for some people.

Me: Last, but also very important. Coffee, Tea, or Something Other? And will we find you hanging out at the bar?

Melissa: Coffee, definitely coffee.  Of course you will find me hanging out at the bar—the best place to meet new people.

So there you have it, conference goers! When you see Melissa Jeglinski at the bar, feel free to start a conversation! Especially if you've got the manuscript for a romance that can make her cry but still find its way to a happy ending.

J.A. Kazimer is Dead

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Okay, I’m not really dead. At least I’m not as of writing this post. With my luck as soon as I type the last word I’ll choke on my own spit and expire on the spot. Therefore, you must forgive my rambling as I don’t want this post to ever end.

So back to my being dead.

Today’s post is about Nom de Plumes, which for those of you not fluent in pretension or ostentatiousness, means Pen Name. There are many stories about why an author picks a certain pen name and even more opinions on whether or not to use one.

I did. Sort of. I use J.A. Kazimer. My reasons are much like J.K. Rowling’s. Rumor has it, Joanne Rowling’s publisher decided to use the initials J.K. (the K is meaningless, not even close to her actual middle initial) to disguise the author’s gender so boys would buy the Harry Potter books.

Lame, I know, but a very real problem even in 2015.

Since I started out writing both crime fiction and fairytale humor, in a male POV, it made sense to use J.A. when my publisher asked. When I entered the romance genre my use of initials became a little cumbersome. They also do very little to hide my true (superhero-like) identity. Unlike my most favorite of Non de Plume tales.

One fish, two fish, red fish…What the hell do you mean Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Geisel) wasn’t a doctor? Instead he was a criminal mastermind. Okay, maybe not a mastermind, but he did throw a raging party at Dartmouth, and was subsequently booted out of his position as editor-in-chief of the school’s magazine. Mind you, this was during prohibition so he not only faced the wrath of the college but he broke federal law.

To keep writing for the magazine he'd been fired from, he wrote under the name Mr. Suess, as it seemed like the most ridiculous name he could think of.

The Dr. came later. Instead of gaining his medical license or obtaining a PhD, Seuss did it the old fashioned way. He gave himself the esteemed title as a joke, since his father always wanted him to go to medical school.

Hence, from now on, I wish to be called Princess Julie.

No. I mean it. Call me Princess. Or maybe Queen…

Anyway, one other pen name tale of note: O. Henry…well the he was really a prison guard in the Ohio prison where William Sydney Porter was incarcerated for embezzlement. Why Porter picked to use Orrin Henry’s name, we will never know, but it goes to show you. Pick a pen name that you’re willing to live with (at least until you get paroled).

So let’s play a game. If you have a pen name, tell us what it is and why you picked it. If you don’t have one, what would be your ideal one? And why? Would you use the power for good or evil? I personally pick evil, but that’s just me.

Princess Julie, Queen of All Words Staring with O is out!

Crap, here comes the tidal wave of spit...

Come hangout with me on facebook or visit my website at www.jakazimer.com.

Working with an Editor … by Mathiya Adams

Mathiya AdamsI am very fortunate to have an editor with whom I have a great working relationship. I had first approached my editor when I was trying to publish a sword and sorcery fantasy book under another pen name. I had been following this editor's blog (Tara Maya's Tales on http://bestfantasynovel.com) for some time and thought she would be sympathetic to my desires to get published. She read over my story, told me she liked it, agreed to publish it, but warned me that she did not expect it to sell very well. I asked her what was wrong with the book, and she said "Nothing. The problem is, it's only one book. Readers of this genre like to have a series of books."

I tried another series of books, under a different pen name. She reviewed them, politely told me they were nice stories, but had major structural defects. I thought that was kind of cruel, so I fought back, as any good writer would. "What kind of defects?" She started to list them. First, my stories did not fit any clearly defined genre. What difference did that make? A lot, she explained. Having a clearly defined genre, even a mixed or a new one, makes it possible to market the book. She asked me to search Amazon and find books similar to mine. I tried, and failed. Unfortunately, she was right, and the series has never gotten very far.

The Avid Angler by Mathiya AdamsFinally, about a year and a half ago, I sent her the first of a new series of stories, this time about an ex-cop who becomes a hot dog vendor, and then ends up solving crimes. Tara Maya said she was not familiar with the cozy mystery genre, or even the mystery genre, but she would do some research and get back to me.

Research for an editor like Tara Maya consists of reading a hundred books in the genre, making extensive notes about their structure, characters, themes, conflicts—everything that makes the genre distinctive. She finally got back to me and said my book had possibilities. Did I have more than one written?

Yes, I did, and I began to send them to her.

That's when I found out what working with an editor really means.

Over the next six months, as we went over book after book, my editor helped me refine my plot structure, introduced me to new tools to help organize my story, manage the flow of events so that the story built up to a climax and ended with a satisfactory resolution. She forced me to confront my characters, understand their motivations a lot more clearly, and make them behave in a more consistent manner. She challenged scenes I had ("Do you know how deep the South Platte River is there? Is it deep enough to break someone's fall? Most readers won't know, but what about the one or two who live within a thousand feet of that location? When you combine fiction with reality, the reality better be believable!") That meant I now had to go on auto excursions around Denver to check out the scenes in my book. "Your readers don't believe in Magic, Mattie. They believe in police procedures, wits, and courage. When you write, always think of your reader. Will they believe your story?"

There were a lot of times when I resented her criticisms. It's easy to point out problems, I thought, it's a lot more work to fix them. But that's all part of the writing process.

So, here is a summary of what I've learned about working with an editor:

1.  Communicate regularly with your editor. She is your ally, not your adversary.
2.  Listen to what she says. You may be the writer, but she often knows what's selling and what's not selling. If you want to sell books, she can help.
3.  She is not always right. If you feel what you've done is the best thing for your story, explain your logic, give her an understanding of where your story is going. If you can convince her, fine. Otherwise, review point 2.
4.  Keep your commitments. Yours is not the only book she is handling, in all probability. Editors are more likely to respond to the authors who meet their deadlines, follow-through on a timely basis, and help them get the book ready for publishing.
5.  No matter how much you think you can go it alone, don’t do it. Get an editor. An editor, plus your talent, just might make you a successful author.

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

Mathiya Adams grew up on the East Coast (Massachusetts and New York), moving to California in her early teens. She's always been interested in writing, first trying her hand at science fiction, then dabbling into mysteries and adventure stories. Mathiya tried to study writing in college, but became discouraged when her application to a writer's course at UCLA was turned down because "you don't show any real talent." A stint in Peace Corps over in India whetted her appetite for the strange and exotic, and once again she took up writing. This time she tried her hand at sword and sorcery, and while she had lots of ideas for subsequent books, real life—work, children, family—always seemed to provide ample excuses not to persevere.

After Mathiya's retirement, she dived into the writing life head first, coming up with dozens of story ideas she wanted to pursue. Some of them were actually good ideas and she thinks they might actually see the light of day. But one series in particular caught her interest. It was a story about a hot dog vendor, one of those people you sort of ignore except to buy a hot dog from them. What kind of life could they possibly lead? When Mathiya asked that question, the answer hit her. The hot dog vendor secretly was a phenomenal detective who only solved crimes that the police couldn't handle. That was the birth of the Hot Dog Detective series.

Now her days are filled with exploring Denver, checking out the locales frequented by Mark MacFarland and his associates; recounting the exploits of MacFarland; and occasionally attempting to write a blog to help other aspiring authors.

You can learn more about Mathiya's novel at her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Role Play for Fiction Writers

role-play·ing
ˈrōlˌplāiNG/
noun
noun: roleplay
1. PSYCHOLOGY -- the acting out or performance of a particular role, either consciously (as a technique in psychotherapy or training) or unconsciously, in accordance with the perceived expectations of society with regard to a person's behavior in a particular context.


Adult role play comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s therapeutic, sometimes it’s entertainment, and sometimes it’s both. It can even be used as a training tool to prepare someone for a future performance and to improve abilities within a role, like aircraft flight simulation and war games for the military.

I decided to blog about role play (RP) because it’s not a subject I’ve encountered in the writing blogs I follow, yet fiction is at the heart of all RP. It involves imagination and creativity, and quite a bit of make-believe; the very stuff of fiction.

Star Trek_001
Star Trek RP

Remember when you were a kid and you’d get together with your friends to pretend you were a character from a cartoon, or a super hero, or you parceled out roles for a make-believe family? Or maybe you played doctor, or cops and robbers. RP is just like that, only for adults.

Role play can be done in a number of formats, like board games, card games, email, online forums, and virtual worlds like Second Life. I’ve never role-played myself, but a lot of my clients do in the virtual reality game-world where I run a business. I create 3D designs for computer gaming, and the Second Life computer game is a premiere playground for the RP community.

History of RP. Any theatrical performance can be considered a form of RP, which dates back to ancient Rome, Greece and medieval Europe. However, today’s RP is spontaneous, not rehearsed. There’s always some kind of backstory agreed upon by all players involved, but the play itself is improvised.

Insilico_001
The futuristic city of Insilico

Genres of Role Play. RP can be based on popular novels, movies or television shows, where players take on roles of existing characters or make up new characters to parallel the storyline they’ve created. It’s typically a collaborative effort between all players who work together to create a narrative using what they know of the model story-world on which they base their RP. You might compare it to fan fiction.

Or role players can make something up totally from scratch. Create a planet and become an alien race, make up a village of dwarves and goblins and elves, produce a noir detective motif set in the forties, design your own zombie apocalypse, develop a historical community based in fact. The possibilities are endless.

Virtual Pregnancy

It’s important to know that RP doesn’t have to be fantasy. There’s military, law enforcement, and even family to name a few reality-based RPs. In fact, in Second Life it’s not uncommon for players to gather in family units and name its members mom, dad, sister, brother, son and daughter. There are child characters played by adults, usually because they’re recreating childhoods that may not have been so happy in real life, or reliving childhoods that were. Women who can’t get pregnant in real life have their avatars go through virtual pregnancies that include doctor visits, maternity clothes, baby showers, followed by simulated deliveries in virtual hospitals. RP can allow people to work through emotional and personal issues while buffeted by the support of helpful players who are sympathetic to their situations.

Snapshot_004
A version of Venice run by vampires.

RP as a writing tool. Similar to brainstorming, you can invite others to play characters from your story and work out plots together in real time. You may not know it, but you’ve already participated in RP when you did the character interviews for your story, or wrote letters in you character’s voice, or blogged about your characters from their points of view. The very act of writing your story is playing all the character roles yourself. However, traditional RP is a social game, not a solitary one.

I don’t role play, but I have dressed my Second Life avatar like my character and visited Second Life locations that are similar to my story’s settings, then parked my avatar there for inspiration as I write. I’ve found it to be very helpful.

Have you ever participated in role play?

Here's a link to some top RP sites: http://www.toprpsites.com/

If you're interested in Second Life, visit http://www.secondlife.com

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

Karen DuvallKaren 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.

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

What is Inspiration?

By Jeanne C. Stein

One of the first questions every writer gets is: What inspires you as a writer? My very first response was: everything. But then I realized I was confusing inspiration with the process of taking an idea and developing it into a story.

Two different things.

The muse that sparks an idea can be anything. I get ideas from newspapers, television shows, eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations, other books. Ideas float on the air like dandelion snow. You only have to hold out your hand to grab one.

Inspiration is something else. Inspiration is what makes me sit down at the computer every day. It’s what helps me through the dark days when it seems I’m fighting a losing battle against the indifference of critics and sometimes even my agent and editor. It’s fighting the urge to give up when a brand new writer comes out of nowhere and wins that huge contract complete with movie and TV rights and a six-figure advance.

And then reading the book and realizing, it is that good.

Inspiration is that voice inside you that says keep going. It’s the message of my female characters Anna Strong and Emma Monroe that I want women to hear. It’s the voice that says women are strong and clever and capable of great bravery—with or without super powers.

So the short answer is a writer needs to be her own inspiration. She needs to have faith in her abilities and the determination to persevere. She can take strength from those around her, but ultimately, she is responsible for herself.

We are all our own inspiration.

The Perils of Social Media

Under Contract by Jeffe KennedyBy Jeffe Kennedy

My newest sexy romance comes out July 13th! More information and preorder links here.

It's a funny thing, being an author and doing the whole social media thing to promote books. This counts - doing my monthly posts here at RMFW - talking about thoughts and my life. Occasionally mentioning a book release, as above.

But there's a pitfall to social media I never anticipated.

No, not the time-suck. Not the trolls or the haters. Though those are all real things. It's how doing this has affected my friendships.

The plus side is that I have a whole bunch of online relationships who seriously light up my life. Some of them I know in person, some I've met in person after meeting online. Others I've never met in real life (IRL). Then there's another set of people, IRL friends, some I've known for years - like my high school boyfriend - who I rarely see or talk to. But they keep up with me online.

This came to kind of a head for me over the weekend, when my old boyfriend made a snarky comment on Facebook about how I had been in Denver and it would have been nice if I'd mentioned to old friends who would've liked to see me. The thing was, I nearly had mentioned to him - my husband even suggested it - but I was feeling miffed. We'd had an email exchange, which I initiated, where I asked how he was because I hadn't heard from him in so long. I felt like he was terse with me, and then he didn't ask how I was.

So I was kind of hurt and didn't tell him I was in town.

When he made this snarky comment, I emailed again and explained - and we sorted it out. But he also said this to me:

I do care about you and what's going on in your life, but I feel like have a pretty good window into that, following all of your online breadcrumb trails.

Which, I can understand. Except I don't know about it! I suspect this happens with a quite a few of my old IRL friends. It's easy to find me online. When I do see them, I'm often surprised at how much they know about what I've been doing. Of course they do! And it's lovely that they keep tabs on me. It can be lonely-making for me, however, because I can't feel that they're out there.

Also, while I'm pretty forthcoming about myself online - after all, I started out as a writer of personal essays - I'm also pretty aware of my author brand. That is, I do present a particular face of myself on social media. It's an authentic face, but I don't share EVERYTHING. I don't think people should. The upshot is, if my friends follow my life online, they'll think that I'm happily rolling along. For the most part, that's true.

But, if I'm not, if something isn't going well in my life, I'm very unlikely to say so online.

I suppose the solution is to do what I did with my old boyfriend and be sure to reach out. Definitely more productive than sulking!

We'll be having brunch in a couple of weeks, when I pass through Denver again.

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast–Episode #8

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #8

Chris Mandeville - Author of Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure

In this episode, we talk with speculative fiction writer Chris Mandeville. In addition to recently publishing her first novel, Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure, Chris will teach a four-hour master class at the Colorado Gold conference in September. The class is "Everything You Need to Know to Write a Novel." Chris talks about her writing process, her inspirations and what she'll cover in the class.

Show Notes:

Chris Mandeville: www.chrismandeville.com

Neil Gaiman: www.neilgaiman.com

John Hart: www.johnhartfiction.com/?page id=18

Lucia St. Clair Robson: www.luciastclairrobson.com

Jeffery Deaver: www.jefferydeaver.com

Debra Dixon--Goal, Motivation, Conflict: www.debradixon.com

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

Nobody Writes Like You

By Mark Stevens

Can you write like your favorite writer?

I know I can’t.

You might have Ursula Le Guin or Patricia Highsmith or Ernest Hemingway in mind when you write something, but somehow it comes out on the page as, well, you.

Somewhere in all those choices of words, sentences, characters, images, plots, moods, dialogue, action sequences, big finishes, prologues and epilogues—no matter how much you might try to emulate another writer—you show up.

I was thinking about this recently when The New Yorker featured a podcast reading of “The Trouble With Mrs. Blynn, The Trouble With the World.” That’s a story by Patricia Highsmith (who happens to be one of my all-time favorite writers) and it was read by Yiyun Li.

The story is so simple—in a way. It’s about “Mrs. Palmer,” who is dying of leukemia in a seaside cottage in England. She is being tended to by a few people including a “Mrs. Blynn,” a nurse, who has a grating presence and inflicts various petty cruelties on her patient.

Not much happens. It’s true.

But yet—so much happens. Listen to the discussion between Yiyun Li and The New Yorker's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, and you realize how much subtext was going on around this cottage, where all the so-called “action” takes place. Instructive? To say the least.

It’s typical Highsmith. This was stuff she cared about, the needling insults and jagged edges between somewhat ordinary people. Her protagonists (Thomas Ripley, hello) are extremely flawed human beings. She crafted 20-plus novels and many dozens of short stories out of her fascination with warped humanity.

Plotting and Writing - HighsmithEarlier last week, I read a terrific story in The Guardian by Sam Jordison—“Creative Writing Lessons from Patricia Highsmith”—in which he looked at her guide, Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. One of Jordison’s many keen insights is this: that the guide itself proves it’s “impossible to walk in Highsmith’s shoes.”

Yes, I dig Patricia Highsmith—but I couldn’t write like her even if the Valyrian greatsword Ice was making its way toward my tender little neck.

I ask: what’s up with that?

Put a hundred writers in a room, give them 40 specific plot points for a novel, the setting, eight major characters and ask them all to write in the style of a noir thriller.

What will you get?

You will get precisely 100 different novels in return.

The best writers, in my mind, have their own fingerprints on the page, a dab of their own soul—sometimes a whole lot more. But unless you are outright stealing a style or lifting ideas wholesale, you will leave your mark on the page. It's part of the process. It's why we write.

What’s my point?

As a writer, I like to remind myself—nobody can tell the story the way I’m going to tell the story.

Nobody can.

Nobody will.

It’s not even possible.

And to do a decent job telling it, I better have a good idea of what’s driving me to tell it.

Patricia Highsmith (from Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction): “There is no secret of success in writing except individuality, or call it personality. And since every person is different, it is only for the individual to express his difference from the next fellow. This is what I call the opening of the spirit. But it isn’t mystic. It is merely a kind of freedom—freedom organized. Plotting and Writing will not make anybody work harder. But it will, I hope, make people who want to write realize what is already within them.”