1, 2, 3: How to reach your goals

Wannabe goals. We all made them for the new year, right? Unbelievably, we're now knocking on the door to June.

Often our goals are unspoken but sincere, something we know we need to accomplish to advance our writing. They inspire us for a moment then, in the face of our busy lives, we allow them to fade.

Write my synopsis. Develop my marketing plan. Finish my outline. Finish/Revise my book. Query my top five publishers. Learn how to blog. Get reviews. (Fill in your goals here.)

You know you need to do it. You keep thinking you will. But you don’t.

Read this. Follow the steps, and you’ll do it.

It starts with number one. Three Dog Night sang, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” When it comes to goals, I consider it the most difficult number.

If you're having trouble reaching your goals, try starting with number one. It will help you progress to number two. If you’re not prepared to tackle number one, don’t read this blog. This information is only for those who are tired of letting important goals evaporate in the face of procrastination, laziness or fear.

Still reading? Okay, here’s the not-so-secret formula.

NUMBER ONE. Tell someone important. Your critique group. Your most stalwart friend who supports your dreams. “I am going to (specific goal) this (week/month/summer).

It must be specific. Not, “I’m going to write more,” but “I am going to write to The End by August.” Not, “I’m going to market more,” or “I am going to develop a marketing plan,” but rather, “I’m going to write a marketing plan by August.”

Something good happens when you commit to another person or group. The goal becomes real. Increase your odds of success further by insisting that your friend follows up weekly to ask about your progress.

NUMBER TWO. Generate ideas. Browse the Internet, searching for topics such as “How To (Goal)” and “Top 10 Ways to (Goal).” Then create a mind map, incorporating what you’ve learned from your initial research.

You complete number two to better achieve your number three goal.

NUMBER THREE. Brainstorm with someone with RMFW who has accomplished this goal. (Having completed number two, you will have learned enough to ask good questions and you will demonstrate to your expert RMFW member that you’ve given this some thought, and have taken those first steps already. Show you’re committed to learning, and others will be more willing to help you.)

Many RMFW members have become known for their expertise in writing, editing, public speaking, workshops, book tours, blogs, reviews, podcasts—the list is extensive. Connect with fellow members through the on-line loop, the free monthly educational programs, and special events such as our upcoming annual conference. Browse the workshops and see who’s presenting a workshop in your area of interest. Most are free with your conference registration, some are reasonably priced master classes. Your RMFW membership is a big, big asset. Harness it and feel the power and inspiration of having even more friends cheering you on.

Remember that this is brainstorming, not mentoring, which represents an extensive commitment that may scare off your targeted expert. Make it clear you’re only looking for suggestions and resources that you will pursue to complete your own plan of action.

NUMBER FOUR. By now, you will have gathered a daunting amount of information and options to consider. Sort by level of difficulty, easiest to most challenging. If your goal includes some area of marketing, sort by affordability. Sort also by effectiveness, based on what you learned in steps three and four.

NUMBER FIVE. Create your action list. Based on the completion date you initially told your critique group or stalwart supporter, put dates on this action list that will reasonably bring you to the finish line.

Make adjustments, if needed. Share your list, and if you keep a hard copy or digital planning calendar, insert those dates with a big star, color code—whatever triggers you to remember the importance of your intermediate goals.

It’s a simple concept, proven over time and as reliable as gravity. It’s also proven over time that you must take step one first.

Go for it!

Singing the Book Promotion Blues

With a new book coming out in June, I have had the pleasure—and the pain—of deciding what I need to do to get the word out. My decisions are similar to the ones anyone launching a book makes. Being realistic, there is only so much time and money, and never enough. There is also a limited payoff to the some of the choices, so where do you get the biggest bang for your buck. I figured I would share the marketing plan for my upcoming release, RED SKY, in the hopes that it might help some of you.

Timing is everything

There are a lot of things you can do to promote your book, and some of them must be done months in advance. Early in the year, my publisher sent me a marketing plan with the dates of actions to be taken and the name of the person responsible for taking those actions--one advantage of having a traditional publisher, and still the tasks are the same. I added to it things like signings, travel, promotional items. The time frame goes something like this:

6 months ahead of pub date

                               RED SKY Advance Reader's Copy    

Pitch the book for print reviews, guest articles and to local media. This includes sending galleys and later finished books to reviewers. My publisher's PR department took responsibility for this, and it resulted in some nice reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, as well as guest blog assignments and local media interviews.

Give away galleys and books to help create buzz. There is a community of booksellers, librarians, media professionals and book lovers interested in reading e-versions of pre-published books. My publisher puts my book up on NetGallery, and later does Giveaways to boost reviews on sites like Amazon, B&N and Goodreads.  I've added to it by doing Giveaways of the book once I receive my author copies--but those are limited. Sometimes you have to buy more, and that can get expensive.

Set up signings at the local bookstores. Some stores have longer lead times than others, and if you want a time close to your launch it doesn't pay to wait. Once you know your pub date, have your publicist call (r you call) the bookstores where you want to appear. My advice is to choose wisely. Venues differ. Upside, at Tattered Cover you'll be asked to speak and then sign books. Downside, if you don't have a traditional publisher willing to pay the fee, it will cost you $150 to set a date and you may have to consign your books. At a Barnes & Noble, you'll find yourself at a table in the front of the store hawking your book to their customers. Mark Stevens is the king of hawking, and he enjoys this type of venue. I don't, so I avoid this type of signing like the plague.

Promotional Poster for Hearthfire Books

OF NOTE: A publicist once told me not to set up too many signings in one locale. The theory being, you can only ask your friends, family and fans to show up so many times. With Red Sky, which launches in June, I've only set up two signings—one at the Tattered Cover-Colfax store; the other at Hearthfire Books, in my hometown of Evergreen.

Two months ahead of publication

Order promotional materials and swag. Most authors do bookmarks or postcards. Some give out chocolate. Some do tchotchke items. For example, Suzanne Proulx, who wrote a series of books featuring a hospital risk manager, ordered pens that looked like hypodermic needles to promote her novel, Bad Blood. Robin Owens printed the cover of her book on the back of a pocket calendar. Brilliant! I carried that card around for a year, flashing it numerous times in front of numerous people. The key is to be creative. Put something into the hands of bookstore owners, librarians and fans that will make them want to order and buy your book. Make sure you have a good design, and research your printer. There are a number of companies that offer discounted printing, but quality differs—and quality matters.

OF NOTE: One of the best promotional values around is Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blue Mailer. If you’re a PAL or iPAL member, for a modest fee you can place a blurb about your book in three consecutive bi-monthly mailers sent out to regional booksellers and librarians. For an additional charge you can include an insert. NOTE: there are specs for mailings and inserts, so be sure you meet expectations.

One month before publication

New Ebook cover for down-priced version

Take advantage of other opportunities

Library talks are fun, and a great way to get your book in front of readers. So are local book club talks. I've been lucky and my books have sold to the national book clubs, including Harlequin Book Club for my upcoming RED SKY. The entry on my publisher's marketing plans reads, "Cross promotion between all clubs. Coming soon email, new arrivals email and comparable titles email." I have no idea what that means, but I'm thrilled the publisher is handling things.

Agree to speak or teach, or sometimes you can simply show up.  Just make sure it fits with your goals. Last weekend Mario Acevedo, Nathan Lowell and I attended "Books and Brews" in Greeley. What can beat twelve authors, and a room full of readers playing trivia, and specialty beer? In June, I'll present a workshop at the Parker Writers Group monthly meeting, and in September I'll teach a workshop at the Colorado Gold Conference along with WOTY Nominee Shannon Baker.

Donate to auctions. I am constantly being asked to donate signed books to auctions. I usually do, but I always try for added value. I want not only the winning bidder to remember the book, but the lookie-loos, too. For example, my fellow Rogue Women Writers and I donate baskets to mystery and thriller convention auctions. We each contribute a signed book, and then we add interesting things from the Spy Museum in Washington D.C. in keeping with our international espionage themes. Things like: Campbell soup can concealers, "rear view" mirror sunglasses," truth detector" devices, top secret bags, mugs and hats.

Segueing to conventions, every genre has one. In the mystery field, it's Bouchercon. The regional equivalent is Left Coast Crime (LCC). For cozies it's Malice Domestic. For thrillers it's ThrillerFest. And, trust me, they can cost you an arm and a leg. Mike Befeler and I once calculated that it cost a minimum of $1,000 to attend an out-of-state conference. Double that for ThrillerFest. We were taking into account airfare, hotel costs, meals, promotional items, and registration fees--yes, unless you're a star, you're expected to pay your own way--so there may be some additional hidden costs. The message is not to not go, but to figure out which cons are important for you to attend. For instance, at ThrillerFest I can meet with my editor and agent, as well as rub elbows with the big hitters in my genre—many of whom I can later ask for book blurbs. Colorado Gold is near to my heart, and I would go just to see all my friends.

OF NOTE: Always accept a panel assignment, and try not to be that difficult writer who can only speak at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday alongside Lee Child. Word gets around.

There are other cons, too. The Independent Booksellers across the country hold conventions, and a number of states sponsor book festivals. Many of the writers groups will have a presence at these events, and it's worth it to volunteer to man the booth for an hour and meet the booksellers. This year, I'm going to Chicago for the American Library Association convention in June. I'm paying my airfare, but my publisher has agreed to donate 100 books for me to sign and giveaway.

Be sure and budget!

Rogue Women Writers promo poster at ThrillerFest

Only you know what you can afford to spend. My advice, make a plan and stick with it! Don't be me. I'll admit, there have been times when I've transferred attending a con into the "personal fun" category rather than assess the expense to my book promotion budget. Don't tell!

Seriously, if you're not careful you'll spend every dollar you make writing books, twice.

This year my goal is to expand my readership, so I'm going to ThrillerFest and Bouchercon for some face time with my editor and agent, and to connect with East Coast and Canadian readers. I'm sending out mailings, creating a display poster for the ThrillerFest hall, making donations, guest blogging, speaking at several events. Just to give you a sense of the cost, my total in expenditures to promote RED SKY so far are—wait for it—a whopping $5,660. Not as bad as you might think. I budgeted $5,000.

OF NOTE: For what it's worth, Diane Mott Davidson second-mortgaged her house to fund a tour of the west coast with four prominent cozy writers. She also gave away scads of cookies, sometimes with the help of friends. Ask Chris Jorgensen about how she and I sat in the back seat of Carol Caverly's car and stuffed chocolate chip cookies into small giveaway bags enroute to the Omaha Bouchercon. In addition to writing good books, Diane's marketing efforts eventually landed her a gig on "Good Morning America" and a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list.

Now, I'm not advocating you refinance your home, or that you sell your first born. But give some thought to how much you can afford to put into promotion, and make a plan. Allocate wisely and it just might pay off!

Beating Writer’s Block—by Not Writing

Exhibit A: Earrings

I’ve been having some issues with writer’s block lately, so I decided to write about writer’s block. Then I got writer’s block regarding my post about writer’s block. (Insert Inception joke here.) Just to put some icing on the cake, I’m also teaching a class about how to deal with writer’s block at Savvy Authors in May.

What have I done to myself?

I think I’ve given myself writer’s block.

Anyway… Over the last few days, I’ve managed to get pen to paper again and found some words coming out. Not a huge number, although I did squeak out about 800 today, which is a vast improvement over none. And I’m beginning to wonder if it’s because of the Sculpey.

What does Sculpey have to do with writing, you ask? Well, I have no idea. It’s just a theory. But recently, getting frustrated over my lack of wordflow, I got a sudden urge to buy either a cake decorating set or a stack of Sculpey bricks. The Sculpey was cheaper and has considerably fewer calories, so, armed with a coupon, I marched into Michael’s and bought a box of assorted colors and a book featuring Very Impressive Sculpey Art I Will Never Be Able to Do.

And I made some earrings.

Two days later, I started writing again.

Coincidence? Maybe. But I’m going forward on the theory that there’s a cause/effect relationship here. I was feeling blocked, so I looked for another creative outlet. I found one, expressed it, and in the midst of finding some form of creative zen, the words started flowing again.

It’s made me wonder if this kind of thing has happened in the past, and I just haven’t put two and two together. I frequently get obsessed with creative things. I’ll go into a craft store and buy a bunch of colored pencils, or watercolors, or a stack of pastels. One time I went on a rubber-band-bracelet kick. It’s as if sometimes my brain needs a swift kick in the creative rear—or a break from the particular creative demands of writing.

Let’s face it—writing a novel is a long-term proposition. It takes tens of thousands of words all strung together in an order that (hopefully) makes sense. You have to stay focused for weeks and months and even years sometimes. There are a gajillion small details. So maybe our muses get intimidated, and approaching another art form helps soothe them. Think about it. I made a pair of earrings a couple nights ago. It took me less than an hour. I have a final product I can do something with. It was physically soothing and achieved a nice result. That’s a lot different from putting one word after another for weeks and weeks before I can slap “The End” on a book.

Many other forms of creativity are also more physical. Putting paint on a canvas. Smooshing pastels into a piece of paper. Kneading bits of clay. Knitting a sock. They’re meditative, too, and in many cases while you’re creating a smaller, more physical project, the writing part of your brain can wander around and play with ideas while you’re not really paying attention.

I think it just might have been the key (although I hope it doesn’t stop working now that I’ve made that connection). So next time you’re feeling like the writing isn’t quite clicking, maybe give it a try. Buy a bar of Sculpey, or just bake up some Play-Doh. Draw some birds or paint a picture. See if it shakes the words loose. It’s worth a try, and even if doesn’t take care of the writer’s block, you’ll still have something to show for it.

Conference Bookstore & Friday Author Signing Event

The Colorado Gold Conference Book Sale is a great way to promote yourself as an author and sell copies of your books. Not only are there over 400 attendees, the public is also invited to attend the Friday night book signing. Please spread the word to your friends and fans.

Sign up begins June 1st at 10:00 AM

Eligibility

There are two book sale opportunities at Colorado Gold:

1. The Conference Bookstore (Fri 1pm - Sun 2pm)
2. The Friday Author Signing Event (Fri 8-10pm)

Lots of people ask if they are eligible for the bookstore and signing on Friday. Here is a breakdown of who is eligible for both of these things:

Eligible for Bookstore:

  • Keynotes, Mentors, Special Guests, Presenters, and Panelists.
  • All RMFW Members, even if you're unable to attend the conference.

Eligible for Friday Night Author Signing:

  • Keynotes, Mentors, Special Guests, Presenters, and Panelists.
  • RMFW PAL members (Traditionally Published Author League)
  • RMFW IPAL members (Independently Published Author League)

For information on how to become a member of RMFW PAL or RMFW IPAL, click the links or locate the information under the menu above: About > Published Authors > IPAL or PAL Membership.

Ways to Participate in Friday Night Author Signing and/or Bookstore

  1. CONSIGNMENT (Bring your own books): 
    • New for 2017: If you choose to consign your books, this will be handled through RMFW. RMFW will pay you 85% of the selling price of your books sold. You will be responsible for bringing your own books and checking them in at the bookstore on Friday. If you are coming in from out of state and consigning, we have arranged for you to be able to ship your books to us ahead of time. Be sure to contact us to arrange this.
  2. ORDERED through WHO ELSE! BOOKS:
    • If you choose to have your books ordered and brought to conference by Who Else! Books, Nina and Ron Else are happy to order your books for the conference bookstore.

How Are Authors Chosen for the Friday Author Signing Event?

VIPs, Mentors and Special Guests, our Honored Guiding Member, and WOTY and IWOTY nominees are guaranteed a table at the Friday night book signing. We are currently working on the floorplan for the Friday night event. At the time of this writing, it appears we will have a total of 54 spaces for authors. Because space is limited, we are implementing a first-come, first-served sign-up for all other authors. There will be a proportionate amount of space allocated for IPAL and PAL members, based on their membership.

After the sign-up process, we will contact you personally to confirm the information you submitted about your books. We will also post the authors on the website in case emails don’t reach recipients. Also note that if there are any cancellations by those authors who were assigned a table, the next name on the waitlist will be chosen as a replacement.

When and How to Sign Up

Sign up begins June 1st at 10:00 AM and runs through July 15th at 11:59 PM (or until we are at capacity). You’ll fill out a form on the rmfw.org website, accessible from a link on the home page and conference page. The form will ask for the same information as in previous years. Make sure you complete the entire form.

Everyone who wants to be in the bookstore and signing must complete the form. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • How you plan to participate: bookstore, Friday author signing, or both
  • Author information including your name, pen name, and email address
  • PAL/IPAL membership status and additional information about your eligibility
  • Information about each of your books for ordering and payment purposes
  • Whether you’re bringing books on consignment or prefer to have your books ordered
  • Any additional special instructions

Now mark your calendar! Return here to the RMFW website on June 1st and reserve your spot in the bookstore Friday author signing event. Because space is limited, we are implementing a first-come, first-served sign-up for all other authors. There will be a proportionate amount of space allocated for IPAL and PAL members, based on their membership.

Note to Presenters: If you plan to recommend any books on writing craft during your sessions, we appreciate your sending the titles to Nina of Who Else! Books at who_else@att.net. She will do her best to include your recommendations in the conference bookstore. And don’t forget to mention during your workshop that the bookstore has your suggestions in stock.

Correction: 5/8/17 - This blog was originally posted with language that stated books ordered through Who Else! Books would pay a percentage back to the authors. This was incorrect. Only consigned books will result in payments back to the authors. 

 

Mortality and the Writer

I just finished a book and went through my usual ritual of cleaning my office while mourning a little for the characters who have been such a large part of my life the last year. Now it’s time to start the next book. In the past, my first consideration would be the market: What book could I write now that I would have the best chance of getting published? What book is most likely to attract readers and earn me the most sales?

But I just hit a milestone birthday, and I realize I no longer think like that. All at once, I am keenly aware I have only a finite number of years left to write books. With time ticking away, I’m starting to think of my career as a legacy rather than a business concern. What do I want to be known for as a writer?

I am proud of my epic historical fantasy, but I’m not ready to return to the world of early Roman Britain. And then there is the fantasy series I dabbled with for three years. I would like to finish it, but my instincts tell me I still don’t have a vision of the story arc that I need to do justice to that tale. My Regency romances have sold the best, but I think as a writer my hallmark has been my dark age and medieval stories. The book I just finished is set in medieval times, and I really love the medieval world. And I have a proposal that’s been whispering to me ever since my trip to Wales last year.

So, I decided to heed that whisper and start writing it. I feel especially good about writing a book that connects to the last one. If there is one mistake I made throughout my career, it was bouncing around in different eras and worlds. This time I’m going to keep going in the same one. I want to finish a solid “series”.

That decision may seem pretty obvious. But in the past, I would probably have switched to a romance sub-genre that is popular now, like the Regency or Victorian eras. Or I would have tried to come up with a mystery since they seem to be selling well, even though I have no solid ideas in my head. In other words, I would have “written to the market”, instead of following my heart.

But I’ve decided it’s too late in my life not to follow my heart. When I first got published in my early 30’s, I was surrounded by authors who saw writing as a career and believed that part of being a professional was to write books that advanced your career. For several years I fought the urge to write what would sell and was indulged by my editor, who allowed me to make a lot of questionable career decisions. Then my career fell apart and I spent the next ten years chasing the elusive dream of recapturing what had been a promising career.

The last few years I’ve finally given up the dream. Not in a bitter, resentful way, but a calm resignation. And I’m in good company. I know few authors who are where they would have hoped to be when they started out, at least if it was ten or more years ago. But we keep writing because it feeds our souls. Because it is who we are.

The gift of age is knowledge and insight. The downside is the lack of time to use that knowledge. For all of you young writers out there, do what you must, but remember that writing time, like every aspect of our lives, is precious. Use it wisely.

How Busy is Too Busy?

For writers, and most other people, this is an individual question. How many things you work into your schedule, and how much time you choose to spend not writing, is predicated by your life and will never be like anyone else’s.

If you’re like Corrine O’Flynn, the coordinator for the Colorado Gold Conference, you must be working in your sleep in order to put together that massive, amazing event, take care of kids in all kinds of activities, work, keep up with social media, write…I’m tired just thinking about it.

For me, I hit that wall a lot earlier. The RMFW Annual Event with Traditional, Indie, and Self Publishing tracks, is coming up on the 29th (like, right now!) and I’ve been working a lot on it over the last couple of months. My day job has been very busy for the past year, even though everyone keeps saying it will slow down. My husband has been gone more than home lately for his job, leaving me to manage some of the things that are out of my comfort zone. I’m writing this at 4:00 a.m. on a Saturday, because I woke up at 2:00 and realized how many things are not done that need to be.

Did you notice that I didn’t mention anything about writing in that last paragraph? I did, and that’s the problem. It’s been all work and no write and it’s making Terri a very grumpy girl. I’m looking at the weather and know that it’s time to get the garden ready, massacre the already-prolific weeds, and generally get the yard in shape before it gets out of control, so I find myself looking at this tunnel of yuck when I want to be looking at my WIP.

After I submit this blog, I plan to drag out my calendar and start scheduling myself – you know, that thing where you put stuff on your calendar today so you can move or delete it tomorrow when you realize life got in the way again. But at least I’m going to try, because Colorado Gold is coming up and I want to submit for the contest, I just found out I’ll be presenting again this year, and I really, really want to have at least one story submitted to the Anthology. Not to mention I need to enter all the edits I made on the hard copy of my most recent Bad Carma manuscript.

If any of you have found the magic bullet (not you Corrine – you must have cheated and got a clone or two made of you!) that allows you to keep on task for your writing, and get everything else you need to get done, please shoot me with it. I’m sure there are lots of you out there who are like me. What do you do to help keep on track?

Hope to see you all in Golden on the 29th, but no matter where you are, Write On!

The Big Wait: What to do when you have nothing to do

So here we are. As of the writing of this post, I've found myself in a strange place. Limbo, some call it. That place of infinite waiting caught inexorably between supposed and longed for happiness, and that of dejection, unrequited feelings of elation and acceptance. "But Josh," you may say, as I place these words in your mouth by way of my head, "These other places, are they heaven and hell?" "You might think that," I replay with a reverent whisper, definitely not talking to myself in this dark and lonely room. "But, no. For these places are known well among our kind. They are: Published, and unpublished."

DUN, DUN, DUH!

I know, right? Never saw that coming.

So, okay. I may have gone a little overboard there, so perhaps I should move onto the actual point of this post as it reflects my own current state of affairs in my writing career in a way you might find useful. The Big Wait, referring to the period of time as you wait for your manuscript, sent out by your agent, to be picked up by an editor for a publishing deal. It really is a sort of limbo, biblical references and spirituality aside. So here I sit, thumb firmly up...somewhere. Why? Because I'm waiting. Waiting to see what happens next with my book as publishers pour over it, judging it, and probably saying mean spirited things about it like the cool girls in highs school. Sigh. So I continue to wait, the fate of this thing I've spent far too many uncertain hours stressing over. And so the question remains...what do I do now?

Now, this isn't some personal existential crisis, but a real thing, easily applicable to other similar situations during your writing career, such as: After you've finished a draft on a novel. After you've queried agents and are waiting for a response. While your agent reads and re-reads your novel, giving you suggestions for changes. And, my current rent-free apartment in hell, while you're waiting to hear back from publishers to see if you will finally receive the external validation you so desperately, and perhaps foolishly, crave in the form of a publishing contract. So...now that you've got all this time, what now? Well, here's a few things you can do in that terrifying meantime:

Start a new project:

I think this one explains itself. Don't sit on hind quarters, waiting for your one little baby to sprout its wings and fly as only a mother knows it can. Do something! Write the next book in that series. Write the first book in a new series. Write a short story. A novella. Anything! The sky is the metaphorical limit in the finite ways the publishing industry works.

Take a break from writing:

Some people might disagree with this one, but I find it useful. Sometimes you just get burnt out. This can be especially true after completing a big project. Don't let yourself drown ever so slowly in the white hot mud of mental exhaustion. Not cool, bro! Take a break. Don't think about writing...if that's possible. Do something (and this is key)...else! Find something that completely absorbs your mind that isn't writing related. Then come back fresh and ready to burn the sweet smelling oils of midnight.

Read (many) something(s):

Books. Fiction. Non-fiction. Play a video game (with good writing). This blog (ha!). So, ya know. There's a lesson there...somewhere. Writers read. So do it.

Attend a conference:

Conferences are great for people in all different phases of their writing careers. Beginning. Middle...not middle. Whatever. Attend a conference. Learn some things. Meet some people. Have drinks. Comport yourself in the ways of a fool. I hear Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers throws a pretty mean conference (Teehee)! Check it out.

All of the above:

There you have it. Laid out all nice and neat, and possibly even semi-presentable. As craftsmen (and craftswomen), we have a lot of tools in our belts. Or purses...or knap-sacks, or fanny-packs, or handkerchiefs dangling from the ends of our hobo sticks. And it's our job to utilize them to keep our writing (and ourselves) sharp. So if you're in a similar spot as me, don't just wait around slowly strangling yourself in the brittle spider-webs of solitary hope, uncertainty, and self-loathing. DO. SOMETHING. ELSE. Now get to it.

 

Spring! Time for cloud-watching!

Puffy white cyber-sites feed creativity

Ah, spring—longer days, warmer temperatures. I strive to invest my BICHOK (butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard) time daily, but there are times my brain wants to get off the gerbil wheel of word quotas and plots and marketing, and put in some time just staring at the clouds.

There are “clouds” of sorts on the internet, not those storage sites, but sites that re-charge the brain. I visit those that provide inspiration, little bursts that refresh me after a good writing session.

Here are some I’ve enjoyed. Slip into your hammock, look to the sky, and enjoy!

http://lauradavis.net/category/prompts  Author Laura Davis offers prompts that let you mine veins of gold from your own experiences. Here’s a sample:

     Tell me about a time you found the courage or necessity to express yourself from the deepest part of you—a time you truly showed your soul.

Answering questions of this depth can help you discover and/or clarify your author’s mission statement, and help you find your writer’s “true north.”

http://inkygirl.com/  If you’re having a bad day, set your timer for fifteen minutes and drop by Ohi’s website. She authors and illustrates children’s books, but she also creates cartoons about the writing life that resonate and make you laugh out loud. After reading a few of them, you will not take yourself so seriously, which makes for a much more fruitful and creative you.

http://marthaalderson.com/what-motivates-you-to-keep-writing/  Alderson has a wealth of tips to help you become and stay productive and motivated. I listed the motivation blog because it seems like a real spring topic—the beginning of a new season, and the wonderful promise of spring.

thestorystarter.com  This website generates over 39 billion story starters. Like many generators, it can trigger more than just a story. It can provide a setting for your next scene. Trigger an idea for a secondary character. Help you decide on a dominant emotion for your next scene. It beats letting Facebook suck you into its rabbit hole, and its wild randomness helps loosen the rusty hinges in your mind. A sample: The brilliant Olympic gymnast painted a portrait in an abandoned toy store during the hurricane.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-387  Brewer offers prompts for poetry, a wonderful way to “clear the palate” and digest one delicious word at a time. It’s a chance to re-discover the power of the right word, the right combination of words, and the beauty of cadence.

http://www.hughhowey.com/eyes-like-hers/  Described as one of indie publishing’s great successes by Writer’s Digest, Howey tracks his lessons learned through both self- and traditional publishing. I apologize ahead of time for this, but the story’s too beautiful to overlook. The power of a short story—it inspires me to dig deep, to get the emotions on the page.

Last one:

http://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/book-title-generator.php#.WMWzoclzU5s

Book title generator that covers several genres. Beware—it will entertain you for much longer than the allotted fifteen minute “cloud-watching” session, so set your phone to bring you back to earth.

Did you like these? Do you have some sites to share? RSVP, and happy cloud-watching! --Janet

 

Rocky Mountain Writer #82

Margaret Mizushima & The Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series

It’s been about 17 months since we had Margaret Mizushima on the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast, way back on episode number 23. At the time, her debut novel Killing Trail was a few weeks from publication and the buzz was just building for the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series.

Now, her second book Stalking Ground is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the release of her third, Hunting Hour, is only a few months away, and she is writing her fourth. And the series is set for its United Kingdom debut in early May with plans for publication in France coming, too.

So it's hard to imagine a better time to chat with Margaret Mizushima, who catches up with her cast of characters, including K-9 cop Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and local veterinarian Cole Walker.

Margaret also talks about how being under contract and facing deadlines has changed her writing process.

After earning a master’s degree in speech pathology, Margaret Mizushima practiced in a hospital and her own rehabilitation agency, and now she assists her husband with their veterinary clinic and her of Angus cattle. She enjoys reading and hiking and lives in Colorado on a small farm where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Margaret Mizushima's website

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

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

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

Rocky Mountain Writer #80

Kevin Ikenberry & Sleeper Protocol

Sleeper Protocol started with one sentence on a blank page. The sentence became a short story.

Then the short story became a novella and soon Kevin Ikenberry realized he needed to write the story as a full-length novel.

Now, Sleeper Protocol is a finalist this year in the genre fiction category for the Colorado Book Award.

Kevin is a life-long space geek and retired Army officer. He’s a former manager of the world-renowned U.S. Space Camp program and a former executive with two Challenger Learning Centers—learning environments that engage students in dynamic, hands-on opportunities to study space.

All the way along, through college and beyond, others noted Kevin’s talents as a writer but it took years for Kevin to take his writing more seriously. A serious disease prompted Kevin to bear down on getting Sleeper Protocol in final shape and ready to search for a publisher.

In short, Kevin Ikenberry’s story about writing and getting published is one you won’t soon forget.

Kevin Ikenberry

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

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

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