Category Archives: General Interest

Writing Through The Dark Times

By Robin D. Owens.

I reached the end of a book in a long series I love and found a note that the series, which the author had anticipated writing for years, had abruptly ended. She’d had a major upheaval in her life and couldn’t overcome her new circumstances to reach back into the core happiness and central theme of that series and continue.

This is an epublished author and series and she designs her career. Of course, I empathized, and I’m deeply sorry that she’s going through this, and I will darn well miss that series.

I know she’s crafting a new life, but I think she is making a career mistake.

I’ve seen the promo for the new series she’s writing under another name and I don’t think the majority of her readers will follow her to it. Or if they do, the first book will have to be so EXTRAORDINARY, the characters so completely engaging that she’ll pull her readers along, and that’s a tough job. And I think her new genre is too niche to attract more than a few new readers.

Now I know something about the above. I know about writing a niche series. I know about readers following you (or not) to other series. I know about being the sole support of yourself and your family with your writing. I know about a train wreck happening in your life that changes it into a shape you’d barely imagined.

For me, in 2010, I hung onto my series (and I do write lighter, more humorous stories and that was a concern) and added a collection of stories to what I’d already contracted for.

And there is the big difference. I was contracted for more books in the two series I was writing at the time. I didn’t have the luxury of walking away from them without paying back money that was mostly spent and thrashing around in legal complications.

I had to reach into myself and still pull up what I needed to continue those books, and hope that what I found inside would be sufficiently close to what my readers expected.

I’m sure if someone really analyzed my writing before and after April 2010, you’d see it’s changed, perhaps gotten an edge here or there it didn’t have. But one of my series, the Celta “Heart” books (all the stories have “Heart” in the title) is still continuing. The other series, Mystic Circle for Luna did not, but due more to the publisher and the changing face of publishing than my personal angst.

If I presumed to give advice to this writer (who I believe is much more successful than me), I’d tell her: fake it until you make it. Or perhaps that’s not quite an exact a phrase: wring out what you can minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day and string it into a story.

Yes, writing is an emotional experience, based on inner feelings. But writing is also technique, and writers CAN be professional and carry on, especially if you have no choice.

Like I said before, you find that spot, that core of you that you reveal in bits through every story and you hang on tight to that and go there and mine it.

You also do exactly what you do during the darkISH times – the tough times we all have learned to write through. You use those processes you already have in place that work for you such as journaling (Morning Pages for those of you who follow Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), venting to friends, afternoons away (Artist Dates), rearranging your office or going to somewhere else to write. You use everything to keep on track.

You also depend on your beta readers and critique group to see if the technique and the emotion you can put in will carry you through as you limp, then return to your stride.

With this particular writer, I think that she will find she has to go back to her previous series, first because it is a money maker, then because she loves/loved it too, and she can. And I think she will try shorter pieces first with enough of the emotional resonance of her first series until she can return. Her writing may be different, but perhaps not as much as she anticipates. Time helps.

Now, that’s emotional darkness. What about LITERAL darkness? In these short days of winter light, writing can be a problem. I know it is for me. As I learned through research for my Summoning series, Denver has an average of three hundred days of sunshine a year. I have trouble writing when it’s gray. Gray days are for snuggling and reading.

Personally (and I don’t know the facts), this November and December have seemed grayer for me, and I’ve struggled, but, again, I have procedures in place and have instituted new ones. These work for me: a full spectrum light on my desk; taking a walk in the sunshine if/when it appears and if it doesn’t taking a walk in the gray; writing with friends: online in a war room, sprints on twitter, and in person.

Or grab yourself some strong coffee (or tea), some music that will put you in the mood, and just march forward word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence.

May all your writing dreams come true and may next year be even better than this year!

Robin

Protecting Your Copyright in Anthology Contracts

By Susan Spann

Happy Holidays!

Today, we continue our ongoing series on writing for anthologies with a look at copyright clauses in anthology contracts.

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Anthology writing differs from other forms of publication, and though the contracts often look similar, authors need to be aware of the critical differences between anthology contracts and those which govern publication of single-author (or even two-author collaborative) book or novella-length fiction.  

Anthology contracts should contain at least two clear statements of copyright:

1. A declaration that copyright in the author’s work remains the sole property of the contributing author; and

2. A declaration that the copyright in the anthology “as a collective work” belongs to the anthology publisher.

Let’s look at each one in more detail:

1. The Author’s Retention of Copyright.

The anthology contract should contain the following statement (or something substantially similar): “Author is the sole copyright owner of the Work, and retains all rights to the Work except for those expressly granted to [Anthology Publisher] in this Agreement.”

This ensures that the author owns the story, even after its publication in the anthology. Elsewhere, the contract should also address any limitations on the author’s right to publish the story elsewhere (tune in next month for more details on that issue). However, the contract needs to contain a clear statement of copyright ownership — which declares that the contributing author remains the sole owner of the copyright in the story.

2. Anthology Copyright in the Publisher.

The anthology contract will probably also contain a statement similar to the following: “To the extent a separate copyright attaches to the Anthology as a collective work, [Anthology Publisher] is the copyright owner of any such copyright on the Anthology as a collective work.”

The reason for this second clause is to ensure that no one else can infringe the publisher’s copyright by reproducing or publishing “pirated” (i.e., infringing) copies of the anthology without permission. A statement of the publisher’s ownership in the collective work gives the publisher the sole right to produce that collective work. The copyright in the work as a collective work is not the same thing as the copyright on the individual stories, however, and you should never give the anthology publisher ownership of your copyright in your work.

To repeat: The publisher doesn’t need your copyright to publish your work as part of an anthology or other collective work.

You may ask the publisher to add: “provided that no collective work copyright will limit or prevent Author’s rights to exploit, publish, and profit from the Work separately from or in addition to the Anthology except to the limited extent provided in this Agreement.” That language isn’t absolutely required, but it’s something authors might ask for if there’s any ambiguity in the contract with regard to copyright. (It’s also something to ask for if you don’t know the publisher well.) 

A Word About Copyright Registration

Publishers often want to register copyright on an anthology as a collective work. That’s OK, as long as the registration is clear that you, the author, own the copyright in your contribution. Make sure the contract is clear about the manner in which copyright may (and may not) be registered, and states that:

(a) The publisher will include an appropriate notice on the verso page (commonly known as the “copyright page”) of the anthology, properly identifying the contributors as the owners of the copyrighted material contained in the work; and

(b) If the publisher registers copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, that registration will cover the collective work only, and will acknowledge the author(s) as the copyright owner(s) of the contributed works. 

A little attention to detail can help protect your copyrights and ensure a more successful anthology experience.

Have you contributed an an anthology? Did you notice the copyright language in the contract?

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 on July 15, 2014. 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.

Change

By Pamela Nowak

Change…it’s a quiet word, not really representative of all that’s associated with it. For each of us, it has a unique set of implications. Since I’m in a contemplative mood, I’ll spend today exploring them.

When I was younger, change represented the unknown, with all its uncertainty. It was something I usually avoided. It often brought implications I didn’t like. I was forced into new ways of doing things and reactions I didn’t expect. Most especially, there might be risk in change and I wasn’t a fan of risk. It took me out of my comfort zone and I rather liked my little box.

We’re often advised not to make major decisions during times of change or to not make changes during times of stress—I’ve heard both bits of wisdom cited. This implies change is to be avoided, that it may be sought without thought, or that it may come back to bite us. It suggests that change somehow controls us.

Yet there is the adage that change is good. When we’re “in a rut,” change may prompt good things…new ideas, fresh takes, etc. It is the reason we build in turn-over in governing by-laws and we bemoan the lack of it when talking about entrenched politicians.

So, is change good or is it bad? I suspect it can be either—sometimes at the same time and altering upon the unique circumstance. Certainly, new ideas are to be applauded but the loss of old wisdom may be mourned. It is up to us to look at it from each angle and to adjust to it, be it positively or negatively.

At this point of my life, I choose to look at change as opportunity. How I react to it, what I do with it, is up to me. I’ve come to see that boxes can hold me back, make it impossible to stretch myself, to try different things or to react in new ways.

When I moved to the Denver area after several significant life changes, my dear friend Liz Roadifer gifted me with a gorgeous angel figure releasing several butterflies from her extended hands. The card that came with her indicated she was Arabella, the Guardian of Change. This quote was on the card: “Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.” (Maxim Gorky).

Arabella sits above my desk. She reminds me daily of the gifts that are in change and my role in releasing them. I can’t control what happens, but I can control how I react to it.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? It is a writing blog, right?

During our writing journey, from our first floundering attempts to becoming authors and building careers, we will encounter change after change. At first, we will be forced to decide if we will adapt our writing techniques as our craft develops. Will we reject painful critique or find the grains of truth in it? We will encounter reality that is different from our expectations with each rejection letter. We will see sales that may not be what we anticipated (be it low sales or a run-away best-seller). All of these are changes, all of them in addition to the changes we will meet in “regular life.” How we respond, what we find in each fork in the road, is up to each of us.

Life is not always kind, nor are our journeys smooth. The changes we are confronted with are not always those we would ask for, nor are they what we want. But they all hold opportunity…if we look hard enough. As you think on this year nearly gone and the new year approaching, I hope all of you are able to find the possibilities in the changes that have come your way.

A Book List for Holiday Shopping — Part Three

The members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers are both traditionally and indie-published in almost any genre you can imagine. Last weekend I posted a few books available for purchase along with a buy link so you can learn more about the novels (and click that “Buy” button, of course). That was just a drop in the bucket for an organization like RMFW. You’ll find Part One on December 6th, and Part Two on December 7th.

Here are a few more of our incredible authors and their recent releases.

Dorchak_PsychicPsychic
By F. P. Dorchak
Wailing Loon
Paperback

“A humble, guilt-ridden hotline psychic becomes embroiled in the ultimate government conspiracy.”

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Lane_TraitorTraitor’s Moon
By Janet Lane
Dreaming Tree Publishing, LLC
ebook

“When half-Gypsy Stephen Ellingham accidentally kills Nicole’s father, he puts her family at risk of losing their holding, so he marries her to protect her 12-yr-old deaf brother from their uncle, who covets their lands. Then the War of the Roses begins, and the uncle finds a good way to be rid of Stephen: orchestrate a charge of treason against him and send him on to the executioner.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Berg_DustandLightDust and Light
Carol Berg
NAL/Roc Books
Trade Paperback/e-book/Audible audio book

“Lucian de Remeni is humiliated when the Registry contracts him to a common coroner, restricting his magical gift for portraiture to dead beggars, starvelings, or soldiers. But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences – sensations not his own, truths he could not possibly know, and mysteries that threaten the future of a kingdom and the world…”

~~~~~~~~~~

Biafore_Fresh SqueezedFresh Squeezed
By Bonnie Biafore and James Ewing
Slow Toast Press
Paperback, Kindle, Nook, epub, Google Play

“When Juice Verrone, a former Mafia enforcer in the Witness Security Program, is pinned in his boat by agiant hot dog, fiberglass bass, and plummeting corpse, he teams up with the police chief and Rudy Touchous, a forensic accountant, to find the killer. Instead, they discover a utility with financial problems, a troop of NASCAR-addled, bass-fishing rednecks, and a vegetarian commune that is tossing more than lettuce into its salad bar.”

~~~~~~~~~~

O'Flynn_ExpatriatesThe Expatriates (Book One: Song of the Sending)
By Corinne O’Flynn
Big Ink Books
Paperback, ebook

“They told him his world was destroyed and they were the last to escape. They thought he was safe, but they were wrong.”

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Goff_A Rant of RavensA Rant of Ravens
By Christine Goff
Astor+Blue Editions
e-book

“In an attempt to escape hellish matrimony, Rachel Stanhope sojourns to her Aunt Miriam’s ranch in Colorado in search of some peace and comfort. When Rachel agrees to host meetings of the local birdwatching society, she makes a much more disturbing discovery: a dead body.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Kennedy_THE TEARSThe Tears of the Rose
By Jeffe Kennedy
Kensington
Trade paperback and digital

“Amelia has never had to be anything but good and sweet and kind and lovely. But the chess game for the Twelve Kingdoms has swept her up, and she must make a gambit of her own. ”

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Harper_ReckoningReckoning
By S. J. Harper
Roc/Penguin Group
Mass market paperback, ebook

“The second in the Fallen Siren series finds Emma and Zack entangled with political tensions in the vampire and were worlds while unraveling the mystery behind a series of kidnappings in Southern California. Called the perfect blend of magic, mystery and romance, Reckoning will appeal to readers of any genre.”

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You’ll find many other extraordinary authors from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers writing posts for the RMFW Blog, teaching classes and workshops in the Denver area and on the western slope, and showcasing their work at the Colorado Gold Conference in September. Stay connected to RMFW by visiting the website and blog regularly. Even better, join us and get all the news through our newsletter and e-mailings.

Adventures in Self Publishing

By Karen Duvall

Self-publishing continues to be a hot topic among writers and just when I think I’ve heard enough, there’s more I need to learn.

I dipped my toe into the self-publishing pool for the first time about a year and a half ago. The water was ice cold and I ran away screaming, but not without learning a few things first. I tried an experiment to see whether or not self-publishing is right for me. Having been traditionally published first, I wasn’t prepared to be the one doing all the work.

Desert Guardian SmallThat first effort was with a romantic suspense novel that had been previously published and my rights were returned, so I figured why not give it a try? However, I admittedly didn’t try very hard. I released it as an ebook only, no paperback, and only on Amazon.

Now I’m doing it again with another book, a book that’s never been published before. I’m publishing it under a pen name, Cory Dale, to differentiate it from my traditionally published books. It’s probably not necessary, and I may even regret it, but it’s something I want to try. I learned a lot with the first book I self-published, so I sort of know what I’m doing even though a lot has changed since that first effort. There are more distributors now and better software for ebook conversion, and there are a ton of experienced self-publishers willing to selflessly share their successes as well as their missteps.

I am self-publishing the first book in a new urban fantasy series that my agent shopped to New York publishers to no avail. Many of the editors liked the story and the characters, but no one wanted to take the risk. Urban fantasy was already on the downswing, and this book is a fusion of urban fantasy, alternate history and steampunk. Too different, and in a genre that wasn’t getting the same attention that it used to.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00024]Rather than let a story I believe in languor in the lonely depths of my hard drive, I decided to make it available to readers. I received feedback from beta readers (thank you, Shannon Baker, Jim Ciaramitaro and Alan Larson) and made revisions. Then I had it copyedited (thank you, Margaret Bailey) and made more revisions and corrections. Next it was thoroughly proofread (thank you, Chris Devlin) followed by more revisions and corrections. Producing this manuscript took time and money, and I now have a whole new appreciation for how hard a publisher works to produce a book. Wow.

I’ve been a professional graphic designer for over thirty years, so I designed my book’s cover for both the ebook and the print book along with the interior pages. I bought Jutoh, a highly intuitive piece of software that makes ebook conversion a breeze (unlike my first effort). Now that production is complete, I still must actually publish the book.

Sample PageSo I’ve gone from dipping my toes to wading into the deep end of the self-publishing pool. Next stop, e-tail distribution. A new player has been added since my last foray into independent publishing: Google Play. And now you can also sell direct from your website or blog, so I’ll be using Ganxy for that. I’m exploring my options.

The book I’ve been talking about, Demon Fare, is now on Amazon for preorder with a release date of December 20. The print book is there, too, and I was told it will be another week before the “Look Inside” feature is active. Setting things up on Amazon was fast and easy, probably because I already had an account with KDP for my first self-published book. Demon Fare is up for preorder on Kobo, too (not as easy to set up). It’s set to go on Nook (Barnes & Noble) and on Google Play (which was complicated and had more approval steps) just as soon as I hit the publish button. iTunes, or iBooks I should say, is the last to complete and it’s a good thing I gave myself a couple of weeks to set all these up. E-tail distribution has involved far more than filling out forms and clicking enter. Apple has its own software that you must install to produce your book for iTunes, and you have to make sure there are no other bookstore links in your ebook because they’ll reject it if you do.

Page graphicI already belong to a few yahoo groups within the self-publishing community so I’ve re-entered the fray to glean from their wisdom. There’s also the Kindle-boards to peruse for advice and warnings and recommendations. Preparing for self-publication has practically been a full time job these past few weeks and Demon Fare isn’t even released into the wild yet.

Now that my distribution channels are established, I have to get the word out about the book. I won’t go crazy with promotion because it’s my understanding a lot of promo won’t do me much good unless I already have other books available in the series. Demon Fare is the first book of my Spawnster Chronicles and I won’t have the next one published until spring.

Even though I won’t be doing much promotion for Demon Fare, I have to do something. I was fortunate to be interviewed for the December issue of Electric Spec Magazine, so that helps. I’ll be in RMFW’s next promotional blue mailer that reaches 350 bookstores and all of RMFW’s membership. I also signed up for a 5-day book blast blog tour at the end of December/start of January that includes 11 different blog stops with a mix of reviews, interviews, spotlights and guest blogs.

Reviews are tough to get. I have a month rented on Netgalley, which is a service that connects reviewers with books to review. Most book review blogs have a policy against reviewing self-published books, not necessarily because those books are badly written (though some may be) or because some reviewers have suffered harassment by authors who didn’t like the reviews they wrote, but because there are so many books. Reviewer’s can’t keep up. I have a list of indie-friendly reviewers to query, but I’m not banking on many yeses. Even so, it never hurts to try.

So there you have the beginning of my big adventure in one blog post and I’ve barely touched the tip of the self-publishing iceberg. However, I thought it might be helpful to share with others what I’ve done up to this point in case any of you want to embark on your own adventure.

Which do I prefer: Traditional or self-publishing? It’s too soon to tell, but I must say I have had wonderful experiences with my traditional publisher. Now that I’m giving self-publishing a fighting chance, I feel better about it this time around. My expectations are reasonable and my goal is the same as if I were publishing traditionally: To put my stories in the hands of readers. Wish me luck.

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Karen DuvallKaren Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, 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. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series and is self-publishing a new urban fantasy series starting with Demon Fare, Book 1 of The Spawnster Chronicles.

www.karenduvallauthor.com

Adventures in Genre Writing: Lesson Five

By Jeanne C. Stein

Story Structure – Plotting, Inciting Incident

This class we look at story structure, beginning with constructing a plot.

There are as many ways to plot a story as there are writers to plot them. When I started writing the Anna Strong series, I used the “seat of the pants” method—I knew the beginning, I knew the ending, I knew the characters. I planned to let the story unfold as I went. It had always worked before.

But I hit a snag. In my sixth book, I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Panic set in. I had only four months to write that book and I wasted one trying to get it off the ground. For the first time, I had to sit down and write a detailed synopsis.

I hate writing synopses. But it saved my butt. Thirty-two single spaced pages later, I had the story. After that, came the book. I realized my problem all along had been that I hadn’t clearly defined the story question. Now that I’m writing collaboratively with another author, we actually do a scene by scene, detailed outline so we can each work on different scenes at the same time and they will meld together.

And that brings me to the point—no matter what method you use, defining the story question should be the first step.

What is a “story question”?

The story question is the theme of your book—it’s the defining objective your protag struggles to achieve. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? For some of you, it is. You know exactly what your story question is. You have already come up with that log line (the TV guide, one line description) that you’ll use to catch the attention of an editor or agent. You are the lucky ones. For the rest of us, it may take as much time to define the question (or questions—there can be more than one) as it does to flesh out the rest of the story.

Now, let’s assume we all have our story question. As I mentioned before, there are many, many devices out there to help you translate that idea into a book. The three I’m presenting are not genre specific. They are the most popular and easy to use.

The W Curve—just what it sounds like. The top of the W (1)is the beginning; the first down stroke(2) is a setback; the top of the second upward slash is the midpoint (3), a point where it looks like our protag has won the day; the second down stroke (4) is when we realize she not only hasn’t won the day, but she’s in danger of losing everything which leads to the final upward slash (5) where she fights her way back in a stirring climax that leaves our readers breathless and clamoring for a sequel.

Stein image

The W Curve is probably the simplest plotting device of all. The beauty of it is that you can add as many “W’s” as you like to correspond to subplots. Subplots are important because they add depth to the story. Just as real life is a balancing act between what we intend to do and what we sometimes are forced to do because of extenuating circumstances, our characters should face the same dilemmas. External conflict (the main story question) and internal conflict (how our characters react) each play an important role in bringing our stories to life.

Writers who use this method, often add the “M” curve for the antagonists journey, matching stroke for stroke how the villain is going thwart the hero until the very end.

Outlining—Not necessarily the way you did it in school, although many writers use the classical form. More often it’s a list of the main points and a rough idea of what you intend to do with them. It’s setting stakes and creating conflict. It’s chronological and covers the hook or initiating event, rising action, climax and resolution. It can be a chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene breakdown, which is what Samantha and I do. It can be a synopsis.

Three Act Structure—Sound familiar? Of course. It’s the way every movie, TV show or play is constructed. A Beginning, a Middle, an End. As you might expect, the beginning introduces the characters, the setting, the story question. The middle, well, it’s just that (and it can be deadly, no pun intended.) Hopefully, your middle will be fraught with tension and escalating danger. Here’s where subplots play an important part. Where everything changes. Where it looks like our protagonist will lose it all. It’s where she experiences her darkest hour. Then, we reach the end. She faces her greatest challenge, her biggest fear. It’s the resolution. It’s the return to “normal.”

In every case, the resolution must be satisfying. It must fulfill every promise you’ve made to the reader. It should leave them clamoring for the next book.

Now that I’ve described some plotting devices, let’s look at how to use them.

Let’s assume we have the story question. We have our protagonist and antagonist. We have a pretty good idea of our secondary characters. If we choose the Three Act Structure, for instance, the beginning should comprise about the first 50-60 pages of a 400-page book. The first pages of a book are the most important you’ll ever write. Editors and agents often say they won’t look past the first paragraph if it doesn’t grab them. In fact, at a recent conference, Senior Berkley Editor Ginjer Buchanan said just that in a panel entitled “What SF Editors Are Looking For.” She won’t read past the first page if there’s not a fresh voice and unique opening scene to capture her attention. Sad but true. And what does she look for? That the writer has a command of the basics of writing, a unique story, a compelling story, a story worth reading.

So what must the opening do?

Set the hook.

With action, with character, with setting. Let’s look at some examples.

One way is to introduce your protagonist by showing her in action. If she’s a supernatural, she’ll be chasing demon bad guys. If she’s human, demon bad guys are chasing her. No long passages about the setting or the weather. No back story to explain how she found herself in that predicament. No detailed physical descriptions of how her hair is as black as a raven’s wing or her eye’s as blue as a cerulean sky. There’ll be plenty of time for that later. Right now, you want to hook the reader with excitement. Draw them into the story, set them down smack dab in the middle of the action.

With action: Here’s the opening of Jeaniene Frost’s Halfway to the Grave:

“I stiffened at the red and blue lights flashing behind me, because there was no way I could explain what was in the back of my truck. I pulled over, holding my breath, as the sheriff came to my window.”

With character: Who is our protagonist and why should we care about her?

Here’s the opening of Marta Acosta’s Happy Hour at Castle Dracula:

“If I had been a rational human being, I would have had a normal job and I would never have gotten involved with any of them. But I was not a rational human being. I was and remain a square peg in a round world.”

With setting: what can we identify with in our protag’s world…and what’s different?

Here’s an example author, Devon Monk. The first sentence from Magic To The Bone:

“It was the morning of my twenty fifth birthday, and all I wanted was a decent cup of coffee, a hot breakfast, and a couple hours away from the stink of used magic that steeped through the walls of my apartment building every time it rained.”

See the hook? Starts out sounding like a typical day in anyone’s life. Then, bang! Magic!! Not only introduced as a subject but introduced in a way that says we’re now entering the UF Zone. In one sentence we learn the age of our protagonist, that she’s hungry and thirsty, that she doesn’t live in a typical apartment building and that most likely, she’s not going to get the two hour escape she wants.

Each example establishes a unique and compelling voice using language, style, attitude and pacing.

The beginning is where the story question is established or foreshadowed. Conflict is introduced. The reader gets to know your world. It’s a lot to ask of a few pages, but it’s necessary if you want to grab and keep the attention of an editor or agent and after that, all those readers who’ll be lining up to buy your book.

Set the mood with tension, anxiety and emotional control.

Build empathy with the character.

Create setting and build the world.

Next lesson, we have our beginning, now what?

Lessons Learned: Words Hurt Your Career

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

In case you hadn’t heard, and really how could you not have since I’ve begged everyone to The Fairyland Murders_ebook (1)notice, that I have a new novel coming out…well…yesterday. The Fairyland Murders hit the streets and all of the publishing world is abuzz. Reviews are coming in. Newspapers are asking for interviews. Readers are smiling in anticipation of spending the entire night reading.

In my fantasy world.

In the real world, it’s more like a slight blip on anyone’s radar. The publishing world is hardly abuzz with my name, let alone excited by anything but the promise of two weeks off at the end of the month. Newspapers can’t ask for interviews because they don’t exist anymore.

But I hold out hope for those readers, the ones who wait months for a release. I’m that kind of gal. I pre-order than mark it on my calendar so I know when it will pop up (at 1am) on my kindle.

But this isn’t going to be a rant on how no one loves me.

Today’s post was going to be on what I’ve learned since 2012 when CURSES! first came out. Trust me, it’s a lot. But something else came on to my radar that I think might be more important to talk about.

What is appropriate for us writers to say and NOT to say on social media.

In case you haven’t read recently about a certain writer’s twitter blowup when her book didn’t make the 2014 most notable list. Now a couple of things came to mind when I read her response. The first was, though I hate to admit it, yeah, well mine didn’t either so what makes you so special? Then I started to think of all the writers behaving badly things we’re seen over the last five years. And how many writers refuse to get personal on social media and all the articles that say we shouldn’t discuss anything on social media we wouldn’t discuss over a nice dinner.

I suggest if you agree with that advice, when I invite you over for (pre-made) dinner, you say no. Yes, I see why people offer this advice, and why many writers think social media is akin to standing outside in your underwear flagging passing by cars over while singing tunes from The Sound of Music. Again, I get it. TMI is all around, especially at the dinner table when sat at the adult table and Aunt Mary discusses her latest colonoscopy results…in vivid, mind shearing detail.

However, social media proves that individuals have power. That, whether their individual voice is heard or not, documenting the world matters. In good and bad ways. If you’re not on social media or if you are and are afraid to post personal stuff, please don’t be. Yes, no one wants to hear about your colon I detail, but knowing a little about you and your personality is a good thing…until you go off the deep end, and then we can point and laugh. After all, life is about jeering your peers.

What social media lessons have you learned? How do you feel about writers behaving badly on social media? What is our responsibility to our readers?

Writing a reader-friendly historical romance

by Janet Lane

For thou with me while iuel shall I not dread…

???????????????????????????????My first inspiration to write fiction involved a thought that flashed through my mind when entering rather boring sales data into date fields. I inadvertently entered something like 1798 instead of 1998, and a “What if?” idea flashed above my head, just like in the commercials. What if my protagonist entered an ancient date and was somehow transported to that time?

That initial spark grew into a time travel romance, which has yet to see the light of day, but the vision revealed my passion for the past. I told my husband, John, that I was writing a novel. I visited Denver Public Library and hauled home a dozen monster books on England, covering the twelfth through the eighteenth centuries, and dragged them to bed with me for late-night research.

“I thought you were going to write a book,” John said. “You’ve been reading these books for a month.”

And so my research began. I eventually settled in the fifteenth century, in Somerset. To this day it feels to me as if I indeed traveled to the past.

Writing about it, though, was a different story. I studied dialogue in historical fiction novels, learning antiquated sentence structure and vocabulary, and laboriously inserted it into my story. I was bombarded by helpful contest judges with comments like, “Your dialogue is so stilted.” “Your scenes sound formal, unnatural.” And, “Don’t be afraid to use contractions!”

My research was helpful for scene-setting, describing dinners and clothing, but dialogue continued to mystify. Writing in the 1400s, was I limited to the vocabulary of the time? Fearful of being called a research flunkie, I hauled entire chapters to the library (little was available on the Internet then), painstakingly researching the history of each suspect word.

Chaucer was not much help: “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heath.” (During a plotting session, I asked Jasmine Cresswell for help. She amazed me by speaking flawless Middle English. It was exquisitely beautiful, but more suited for academic tomes than historical romances.)

Four historical romance novels later, I’ve reached a comfort level with my dialogue. Here’s what I have found useful for my fifteenth century characters.

  1. I write my first draft dialogue as it naturally leaves my pen or keyboard. I refine it later in revisions.
  2. I take more freedoms with narrative than dialogue. For example, if I find a word that came into use in the sixteenth century, I have no problem with using it in narrative. I hesitate to use such words in dialogue, however, and research further for similar words specific to my century. If I can’t find a suitable substitute, however, I am not a slave to etymology. My genre is historical fiction.
  3. I purge all obvious slang and anachronistic words or expressions that will wrench my reader from the historical world I’ve so carefully created. I purge them from both narrative and dialogue.
  4. I get help. Fresh, more experienced eyes can catch seemingly small errors that may disappoint and upset an avid reader who knows better. For example, fellow RMFW member and accomplished historical writer Denee Cody pointed out that I used a screw-top lid when a scrivener inked his pen to begin recording a legal document. Forewarned, I had the scrivener remove the stopper. (I also avoided referring to a cork.)

Contractions and more familiar sentence structure make the writing more graceful and easy to read–provided it isn’t peppered with anachronistic words or phrases such as my protagonist “rocking” his latest set of armor or having a “meltdown” moment.

Lane_TraitorCover11_14_14And there are appropriate times to inject a feeling for the past, when my characters appropriately say, “Good morrow,” “Nay,” or “Godspeed.”

To evoke the past, I added historical dialogue in my latest release, Traitor’s Moon, but I made it brief and added a succinct background for the reader. Queen Margaret is recruiting young boys to accompany the king to the Battle of Blore Heath (King Henry VI was devout and ill, and even in times of war, Margaret brought young boys to the battles to entertain him by singing hymns.)

Here’s that dialogue.
Enchanted, James clapped his hands and began singing, “Gabriel fram heven-King, sent to the Maide sweete, Broute hir blisful tiding, And fair he gan hir greet…” He sang the carol with a clear and perfect pitch, a song of the angel coming to Mary with news of the conception and salvation of mankind.

That’s my personal history on the struggle with historical dialogue. Have you had a similar struggle in your genre? If so, how did you solve it?

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

Lane_Coin Forest 1 2 3 copyJanet Lane is an Amazon Bestselling Author. The latest book in her Coin Forest series, Traitor’s Moon, released recently on Amazon as a Kindle. Her awards include Best Novel of 2006 Award–Preditors and Editors; Best Seller List–Rocky Mountain News, and Best Romance Novel—RMFW Colorado Gold contest. Her social media sites include her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

A Book List for Holiday Shopping — Part Two

The members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers are both traditionally and indie-published in almost any genre you can imagine. Yesterday I posted a few books available for purchase along with a buy link so you can learn more about the novels (and click that “Buy” button, of course). That was just a drop in the bucket for an organization like RMFW. Here’s another list for you, and if I receive more book info from members over the next week, I’ll do this again next weekend.

crossingcolfax150Crossing Colfax: Short Stories by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
RMFW published
Paperback; ebook

“Playboy Magazine once called Colfax Avenue ‘the longest, wickedest street in America.’ A hundred years ago, it was the main road into and out of Denver, Colorado. East Colfax was the address to have for many of the city’s elite, and West Colfax was a trail that led to the mountains and dreams of Gold Rush riches.”

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TitledTexansBoxedSetTitled Texans Trilogy: To Love a Lady, Educating Abbie, The Runaway
by Cynthia Sterling
Re-issued by Cynthia Sterling
Available as an ebook boxed set, or as individual ebook titles.

“The three sons of an Earl travel to America to run a Texas cattle ranch and get more than they bargain for from the three women who pursue them.”

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McGuire_Sticks and StonesSticks and Stones
by Shawn McGuire
Brown Bag Books
Available as a paperback and ebook

“When sixteen-year-old Mandy Matteo makes a wish that accidentally brings her childhood imaginary friend to life, she thinks her desire to simply be happy has finally come true. But the friend has a plan of her own that doesn’t include Mandy, and Desiree, the genie, is a hippie with an attitude problem which puts a whole new twist ‘be careful what you wish for.'”

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Break My BonesBreak My Bones
by Shawn McGuire
Brown Bag Books
available as a paperback and ebook

“When seventeen-year-old Crissy Sheets learns that her wish for a better future has been granted, she’s cautiously hopeful that she’ll be able to leave her messed-up past behind. Getting this wish to come true is anything but simple as Crissy’s controlling boyfriend doesn’t like her newfound confidence, and Desiree, the hippie-genie, can’t stop herself from getting in the middle of things.”

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MontgomeryYvonneWisdomCourtSeriesBook1EdgeOfTheShadowCOVEREdge of the Shadow (The Wisdom Court Series, Book One)
by Yvonne Montgomery
ePublishing Works
ebook, trade paperback

“Forensic artist Andrea Bellamy comes to famed institute Wisdom Court to pursue her dream of becoming a painter. As she begins trance-painting a man she’s never seen, her dream turns to a nightmare caused by the evil that has haunted the Boulder landmark for over a century.”

~~~~~~~~~~

MontgomeryA Signal Shown (The Wisdom Court Series, Book Two)
by Yvonne Montgomery
ePublishing Works
ebook, trade paperback

“Filmmaker Brenna Payne’s joy at her invitation to Wisdom Court is clouded by grief following the death of her beloved grandmother. When she arrives at the Boulder institute, she finds the place in a supernatural tailspin, and each night her terrifying dreams threaten to consume her.”

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?????????????????????????????????????????????Murder with Altitude
by Sue Star
D.M. Kreg Publishing
Trade paperback and ebook

“Nell Letterly, martial artist and menopausal mom of a teenager, finds the body of her student’s girlfriend while on a training run in Boulder CO. She has to prove her student didn’t do it, before one powerful, established family with attitudinal issues ruins her life–or worse.”

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GalacticThe Galactic Circle Veterinary Service
by Stephen A. Benjamin
TWB Press, Lakewood, CO
Trade paperback and e-book

“His family threatened by his world’s tyrannical theocracy, a young veterinarian is forced to run an interstellar veterinary service as cover for a sadistic government spy seeking intelligence in advance of a galactic invasion. Treating werewolves for mange only scratches the surface of his adventures as he makes allies of the alien life-forms he meets to help him free his parents and his world from oppression.”

~~~~~~~~~~

WillieImmortal Duplicity
by Daniel A. Willis
Bygone Era Books, Ltd.
Paperback and ebook

Edward first encounters his long-lost twin on the prairie of 1864 Eastern Colorado. After Bart delights in the Sand Creek Massacre, Edward chases him through the decades and lands in the middle of his brother’s insidious plot, nestled away in Nazi Germany.

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Tales of Firelight and Shadow coverTales in Firelight and Shadow
Edited by Alexis Brooks de Vita
Double Dragon
ebook (print version available through Lulu)

Tales in Firelight and Shadow is a collection of short stories by well-known and fresh new writers of fantasy, speculative and science fiction, retelling folktales from many lands and cultures.

~~~~~~~~~~

DeadWrongFront-264x408Dead Wrong
by Patricia Stoltey
Five Star/Cengage
Hardcover and ebook

“Lynnette Foster is a woman on the run, but she’s dead wrong about who’s chasing her.”

~~~~~~~~~~

If you’re a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, but didn’t see your book in Part One or Two this weekend, I’ll be happy to publish Parts Three and Four next weekend.  You’ll need to contact me at blog@rmfw.org with your book title, author name, publisher, formats available, two-sentence synopsis, and buy link.

A Book List for Holiday Shopping — Part One

RMFW member Bree Ervin suggested we publish lists of books available from RMFW members to help everyone with holiday shopping. Is there anything better to give as a gift than a book? Well, for obvious reasons, we think books should top your list.

I started by putting out a call to RMFW members to submit a teeny-mini-synopsis, cover art, and purchase information. Here’s the first installment. Note that books are listed in the order I received the author’s information.

Forkner_Waking Up JoyWaking Up Joy
by Tina Ann Forkner
Tule Publishing
Available in paperback and ebook

“Behind every lost dream lies a second chance…when adored town spinster Joy Talley ends up in a coma after a peculiar accident, she is surprised and incensed to hear what is being said in her hospital room, including plans for her funeral. When she finally wakes, her well-meaning, but bossy, brothers and sisters dismiss her claims, thinking her accident has knocked her off her rocker, but Joy has never felt better, and is determined to set the past right.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final CoverRisky Brides
by Bayard & Holmes, Vicki Hinze, Kathy Carmichael, Donna Fletcher, Rita Herron
Magnolia Press
Available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook

“Find your next must-read author in this limited-time-only collection from USA Today Bestsellers Vicki Hinze, Rita Herron, Donna Fletcher, Peggy Webb, Kathy Carmichael, veteran authors Kimberly Llewellyn and Tara Randel, and dynamic newcomers Bayard & Holmes. 8 novels and novellas, 8 genres, and 8 unique takes on what it means to be a risky bride for only $0.99.”

~~~~~~~~~

Tides of Maritinia
by Warren Hammond
Harper Voyager Impulse
ebook release 12/2/14, mass maker paperback 1/20/15

“Tides tells the story of an assassin on a mission to overthrow the despotic regime of a far-flung world. Working undercover, he’ll soon find himself trapped in a web of conflicting loyalties that will leave him wondering who his true enemies are.”

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CallDownTheMoon_w9128_100Call Down the Moon
by Mary Gillgannon
The Wild Rose Press
Currently available in print; ebook releases 12/29/14

“In the ninth century, Irish warrior Connar fell hopelessly in love with Aisling. When she came to a tragic end, he used magic to travel to the future to be reunited with her. In modern Denver, he must fight a treacherous enemy from the past and win the heart of his beloved, now Allison Hunter, all over again.”

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viewfromhereThe View From Here
Cindy Myers
Kensington Books
Available in trade paper, ebook and audiobook

“When newly divorced Maggie Stevens inherits a gold mine from the father she never knew, she travels to the small Rocky Mountain town of Eureka, Colorado and learns that it takes a village to heal a broken heart. Book one in the Eureka, Colorado series. Winner of the Colorado Book Award, 2013.”

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Trapline Cover with Kirkus QuoteTrapline
by Mark Stevens
Midnight Ink
Paperback

“A badly chewed-up corpse high in the Flat Tops Wilderness leaves Colorado hunting guide Allison Coil mystified and wary. Obvious signs suggest the dead man is the victim of a mountain lion attack but Allison’s wilderness-savvy bones scream otherwise.”

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book-brokentrustBroken Trust
by Shannon Baker
Midnight Ink
Trade paperback and ebook

“A fast-paced mix of Hopi Indians, wierd science, and murder, set in Boulder, Colorado.”

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Nowak_ChangesChanges (Winner of the Colorado Book Award for Genre Fiction and the HOLT Award of Merit)
by Pamela Nowak
Five Star/Gale
Hardcover and ebook

“What begins as a quest for justice becomes a search for identity as part-Sioux librarian Lise Dupree encounters ambitious district attorney Zach Spencer in an 1879 legal battle that will force them both to change the roles they have created for themselves. Their struggle leads them to confront Lise’s haunting past, Zach’s political aspirations, the dangerous prejudice of an unstable Indian agent, and the subtle differences between justice and the law.”

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The Fairyland Murders_ebook (1)The Fairyland Murders
by J.A. Kazimer
Kensington Books
ebook and trade

“Blue Reynolds knows the darker side of New Never City–the side that’s hopped-up on fairy dust and doesn’t care if your house gets blown down. Rent’s due and his PI business is all but make believe, but even Blue shudders at having to chase after the tooth fairy, Isabella Davis, a freckle-nosed redhead five feet tall on her tip-toes…if you don’t count the pretty pink wings.”

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DuvallDemon Fare
by Cory Dale
Karen Duvall
Paperback and ebook

In an alternate history New York City, steam engines rule, and demon-powered technology is the up and coming thing. A half-demon taxi driver and an exorcist become partners to stop the rogue demons, and a tyrant who controls them, from taking over the city.

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Burn OutBurn Out
by Kristi Helvig
Egmont USA
Hardcover

“Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth’s final years, Tora years to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns “red giant,” but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.”