The RMFW Spotlight is on Liesa Malik

2015_Liesa Malik_Author1. Welcome, Liesa! Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I love being involved with RMFW! In 2003, I never imagined being so engaged, but each time I volunteer for something, new rewards come right along with the responsibilities. Currently, I am critique group moderator for the Littleton Writers critique group that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Aspen Groves’ Tattered Cover. Actually, Mike Hope does a great job taking care of Tuesdays, so I’m more often at the Thursday meetings. I also write a monthly post for the RMFW blog, and am the PAL chair, which means I welcome new traditionally published authors into the group, help with the Writer of the Year, and have the pleasure of moderating the First Sale Panel at Colorado Gold.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

Thanks so much for asking! My second book, Sliced Vegetarian, was recently released through Five Star Publishing. You can purchase the book through the major venues of B& and, but if you’re in Littleton, please check out the Barnes and Noble at Chanson Crossing (Wadsworth & Bowles) or Natural Surroundings gift shop in old town Littleton. Ron and Nina Else of the Broadway Book Mall also carry my books. And if you haven’t read my work and aren’t sure you’re ready to invest in this new author, please ask for either Faith on the Rocks or Sliced Vegetarian at your local library. Both are cozy mysteries set in Littleton, CO with a widow and retired special education teacher as the protagonist. Next up? I’m working on a story called Pot Shots—heh, heh, heh.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

To make a living writing. Seriously, I’m about as old as the Rockies and have learned that enjoying today is the real goal in life. I enjoy writing, of course, ballroom dance, sketching and watercolor painting, and my family. What else could I ask for but to win the lottery, run for president of the United States, or help make Denver the literary capital of the West?

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

In a word, Pat? Productivity. It is amazing to me how long it takes to get an idea into a readable format--all part of the downside of a plotter personality. Until I know where I’m going with a work, writing doesn’t really happen.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

Spiral notebooks, index cards, introducing myself to potential interview subjects by saying I’m a novelist, flowing pen strokes and clacking keyboards. It’s all great, and I love every bit of it—even revisions and edits!

2015_Liesa Malik_Sliced Vegetarian6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Stop playing solitaire and use your time better. Learn to read, and read voraciously. Even if you’re never published, your mind will grow and you’ll have a better chance of developing your creativity. Reading can take all sorts of forms these days, and to understand that you don’t have to read from page one to “the end” to consider yourself as having read a work is important. Learn to skim, to search for facts in the written word, to keep a quotation log, to enjoy words everywhere and in all sorts of combinations. Then go for what you want in writing. Develop that vision and make it so.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

I’m somewhat spoiled here, Pat. I have a desk with my computer and a couple of monitors on it. Very cool. But sometimes that computer can run my life more than the other way around, so I also have a table that’s clear except for my spiral notebook. That’s where I brainstorm a lot.

As for the little things on my desktop, I have a timer that motivates and helps me structure any project I’m working on. I also have a slinky because I need to be moving a lot, and my husband isn’t too fond of my bad habit of gum chewing while thinking.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

Yea! Books! This summer I had the chance to read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilvario. I also got to read some pre-published samples for the CO Gold writing contest. THANKS to everyone who entered, I had some super reading there. Lastly, I’m reading a couple of non-fiction books: Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino and The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. And yes, I keep those great writer safety nets—The Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style close at hand always. Sorry, Goodreads, I’m really far behind on updating you.


Liesa Malik is a freelance writer and marketing consultant originally from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, but currently living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband and two pets. She has always enjoyed reading mysteries, from The Happy Hollister series, through Trixie Belden and into Reader’s Digest’s Great True Stories of Crime, Mystery and Detection.

A graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in Mass Communications, Liesa has built on her writing interest with long-standing membership in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and recently joined the board of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. Most days you can find Liesa either at her desk, at a local ballroom dance studio, or on the web. Visit her website or blog. Liesa’s most recent book release is Sliced Vegetarian, a Daisy Arthur mystery.

After Colorado Gold…Now What do I do?

Twenty-one years ago, I attended my first Colorado Gold conference. I recall standing in awe of the published authors (often in the corner, scared to death, thinking I didn’t belong there). I remember how Kay Bergstrom spoke to me, offering welcome and encouragement. I went to as many workshops as I could cram in, hungry for information. I took pages of notes, wanting to learn as much as possible. I came home so excited.

But I was also exhausted and scared to death.

So, this week, I’m wondering how many of this year’s new attendees are feeling that spectacular mix of eagerness and trepidation, fatigue and desire.

Most all of us leave conference with incredible energy to write but ready to crash with physical exhaustion. It’s a strange combination and it’s unexpected for first-time attendees. But it’s also absolutely normal.

The majority of writers are introverts. Some are uncomfortable in social situations and spend the conference weekend working hard to interact with others. It takes a lot of energy to do that. Even those introverts who appear to be extroverts (that would be me, having finally realized I don’t belong in the corner) find themselves zapped by the end of the several non-stop days. That’s the nature of introversion. Socializing drains our energy while those lucky extroverts increase their energy from social situations. If you’ve never attended Colorado Gold before, don’t be baffled trying to figure out why your desire to write is higher than ever but your body is sluggish. Get some extra rest.

Minds may also take a few days to catch up. We’ve just shoved an incredible amount of information into our brains and processing it may take a while. Imagine that little guy in your head trying to keep up with the filing! It’s okay if you don’t remember everything from the workshops you attended. That’s what notes and handouts are for. And CDs of workshops can also help refresh memories. There is a link on the website if you need to order one you forgot at conference.

But, many of us are also experiencing newfound enthusiasm. This is the time to capitalize on that by setting new goals and habits. After a few days to recover, start moving forward. If you have critique buddies or writing friends (including those you met at Colorado Gold), make plans together. Challenge one another to new writing goals or new support for one another. Put new advice into practice. Rather than letting the wealth of new information overwhelm you, select a couple of the techniques you learned and try them out.

This is the time to go forth, to accept challenges, to write like you’ve never written before!

Are You Prepared to Put Yourself Out There at This Year’s Conference?

rmfw-logoHow much time should you spend networking at a conference? That’s up to you. However, forcing your book on people will get you nowhere. Treat fellow writers as allies. Networking is about nurturing existing relationships as well as making new connections. Look for these opportunities to put yourself out there, and you’ll also leave the conference with a few new friends:

1. Bring business cards and other printed marketing material to conference. There is a table for everyone’s book flyers, but only leave about half of what you bring on the table. When an attendee expresses an interest in your book or genre, physically hand him a flyer for a more memorable experience. You’ll also know who to follow up with. If a person refuses your card or flyer, don’t be offended. Better to give it to someone who will make use of it.

2. While you shouldn’t ignore friends, don’t just stick with people you know. Find opportunities to talk to unfamiliar faces. Create a list of people you want to meet such as the keynote speaker that writes your genre, the writer of the year, and contest winners. Seek them out and introduce yourself. Or ask a friend or conference volunteer to introduce you to the writers on your list. Congratulate them on their success.

3. Network while in situations you feel comfortable. If you have trouble meeting people one-on-one, schedule your networking time during the banquets, where there are more opportunities for introductions. Make reservations for lunch with old friends, and have everyone bring a new acquaintance or invite people on your ‘want to meet’ list.

4. Introduce yourself to the other writers sitting around you at workshops. Strike up a conversation by asking what genre they write or if they’re published. The discussion could lead to other shared interests outside of writing. If anything, you’ll add a friendly face to the crowd and are bound to meet again in another workshop.

5. When exchanging business cards, make notes about the person on the back. This will help you remember who’s who after the conference. Later, use your notes to add a personal touch in a follow up email or social media post.

6. And speaking of social media, during the conference in between scheduled workshops (please do not disturb other attendees by posting during classes), use the hashtag #RMFW2015 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Tell the world what you’re learning. Engage with other attendees online. This could lead to new followers and a meet up during happy hour in the lobby.

7. Presenters want feedback. Compliment them or ask questions outside the classrooms. Comment and share personal experiences and the two of you could connect on a personal level.

8. Ask questions to prompt conversation and be a good listener. This is a great way to engage the quieter members of the crowd. Everyone wants to talk about their work in progress. Inquire about workshops attendees have found valuable. Published authors are quick to share their experiences with the changing publishing industry. Or cry on each others' shoulders about disastrous pitches.

9. Sometimes people need to nudge to network. Always ask for a business card or book flyer if one is not given to you. If the person doesn’t have one, jot down her name and email address on a slip of paper. Of course, you don’t have to do this with everyone you meet, but if you want to follow up with someone, you’ll be glad you asked.

10. After the conference, gather all the business cards and flyers you collected. Sit down and prioritize who you’d like to get to know. Follow up on email and social media. Schedule a coffee date. Remember there is potential in all connections that could lead to promotional opportunities, editing gigs, critiques of your work, publication, and even new connections. Appreciate that every relationship is reciprocal. There is great reward in helping others as much as they will help you.

Networking with people you don’t know at a conference can be difficult, but we all have to do it to advance our careers and sell books. The good thing is, like anything that makes us uncomfortable, the more we approach others, the easier it becomes.

Do You Write Candy?

Do you write candy?

Or something—you hope—more filling?

Do you hope the next book you write is everyone’s guilty pleasure?

Or do you want readers to stop and admire your prose stylings like a rare orchid?

Do you want your readers to enjoy the experience as if they were going to an amusement park?

Or a museum?

Do you want to give Lee Child a run for his money?

Or Karl Ove Knausgaard?

Or ….

Or can you do both?

I’m fascinated by the line between “genre” and “literary.”

It’s an old fight. The Maginot Line has shifted over time, but not the arguments. There have always been literary snobs who look down their snouts at drivel from the “genre” hacks (who make millions).

And there have always been “genre” hacks who spurn dense tomes of navel-gazing as ponderous pieces of self-indulgence.

Can’t we all get along?

Is it possible to “upgrade” your techniques so you can reach audiences who yearn for some literary flair? Is it worth it? Necessary? A good idea?

Who says you need to upgrade and by the way, who decided it was an “upgrade”?

Should you just write your damn story and not care or worry about symbols, metaphors, alliteration or other literary devices?

Jack Kerouac said: “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.

Elmore Leonard said: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

Vladimir Nabokov said: “It seems to me that a good formula to test the quality of a novel is, in the long run, a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science. In order to bask in that magic a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading. Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.”

Tom Clancy said: “I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”

Donald Barthelme said: “The combinatory agility of words, the exponential generation of meaning once they’re allowed to go to bed together, allows the writer to surprise himself, makes art possible, reveals how much of Being we haven’t yet encountered.”

P.D. James said: “The modern detective story has moved away from the earlier crudities and simplicities. Crime writers are as concerned as are other novelists with psychological truth and the moral ambiguities of human action.” 

My pal Barry Wightman (Pepperland, a 1970’s rock n’ roll novel written with a savvy artfulness) will join me in wading into the chasm of this dispute during a workshop at Colorado Gold.

The workshop is called “From Pulp to Meta” (3:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11).

Where do you fit on the spectrum?

Where do you want to fit?

Leonard Nabokov


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Non-Human Characters

Birds and beasts, werewolves and vampires, fairies and trolls, rakshasas and dragons and inari okami (and did you think of a western European dragon or a Chinese dragon)? Aliens. Some or all of these can populate your work . . . for good or ill.

Liesa Malik and I will be talking about writing non-human characters at the Colorado Gold Conference, so this post is short because it's a teaser to come to that workshop and I want to invite you to come and talk to us about YOUR non-human characters and brainstorm with us.

I have spent my career writing non-human characters – everything from a mole (yes, a mole, the earth-digging-nearly-blind animal) to a planet (actually two planets, one of them Earth). My Heart series – futuristic/fantasy set in a Celtic pagan culture – features telepathic animal companions and has since the first book. In fact, I think the cat character in that book, Zanth, sold HeartMate.

Since then, I've written a slew of animal companions including (of course) a puppy and dogs, cats of various colors and attitudes, and have branched out to foxes, raccoons and most recently birds, a hawk and a raven.

I do my homework on the animals, how they live, their social structures, what they eat, how they might think. I want my readers to believe these animals are not just humans in disguise. And Liesa and I will talk about how to do that research, hands-on and otherwise.

Unlike many people writing urban fantasy and/or paranormal romance, I've only written one shapeshifter hero – a jaguar-man – and absolutely no vampires. Though since I write in those genres I've read a lot of books on both. I know what I, personally, like in a vampire and werewolf, and how the myths have been explored by various authors.

So, we'll add in shapeshifters and vampires as common characters – both as good guys and as monsters that can highlight your very human characters.

And Liesa, especially, has studied the market for writing animals, and the fantasy genre is full of variety, and in science fiction humans continue to interact with alien races.

Yes, we do have peeves about how animals and monsters are portrayed, don't you? Come share those with us.

And, yes, I also write ghosts, mostly of people of the Old West, but I consider those humans . . . except the evil one . . . oh, and the Labrador spirit guide. No, neither of those are human . . . .

So drop by and talk with us about your non-human characters and why you love them. And what makes them different. Or how you want to delve into a different psyche.

See you at the Colorado Gold!

Trust is Earned in the Details … by Tracy Brisendine

Tracy BrisendineI have a confession, but it’s not that juicy of one. I won’t be sharing any of those until the statute of limitations expires. But…I have anger issues.

I have thrown books, slammed the cover shut on my Kindle, and cussed so profusely that it alarmed the dog. I once boycotted an entire genre for over a year because I was so fed up.

So what makes me so frustrated and angry? Authors who don’t research or only do it half-way.

Nothing ruins my trust as a reader faster than a faulty action scene, inaccurate firearm portrayal, careless crime scene processing, or shoddy police procedure (unless your character is a dirty cop then by means cut those corners, plant evidence, and line their pockets with the bank heist money).

I’ll admit I’m far more critical than the average reader when it comes to crime and police-related stuff. Yes, I too have watched my fair share of NYPD Blue, Dexter, and CSI. But I have also worked as a street cop, processed crime scenes, attended autopsies, and gone to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations’ Crime Scene Approach and Investigation School.

Obviously I’m not an expert on every topic that appears in my writing, but I learn enough so that I can realistically tell my story. And I expect other writers to do the same.

As authors, we have to know enough to get our readers to buy into what we’re telling them. It’s about trust, and trust is earned in the details. Every time I pick up a book, I trust the author to hook me, keep me interested and entertained throughout, and not leave me feeling gypped when I reach the final line. Readers have to trust that we’ve taken the time to learn about our subject matter. If they utterly trust us, they will be fully sucked into our story, and we will have earned a fan. They’ll stick with us, and repeat business helps keep the lights on.

So how do you learn, especially if it’s police procedure, criminal law, uncovering dead bodies, and processing crime scenes? I’d highly recommend a ride along with your local police agency. Most departments have instructions and the requirements on how to set up one online. Another thing to do is read. Read the law (the Colorado Revised Statutes are available online through Lexis Nexus). Read non-fictional texts and text books, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service has thousands of downloadable PDFs available ranging from drugs and the justice system to processing a death scene.

Brisendine_Colorado Gold 2015I also just so happen to be teaching a class at Colorado Gold. How convenient is that? This particular class, Homicide for Writers Not Criminals, will be focusing on well, you guessed it, homicide. It’ll be a nitty-gritty and graphic look at the basic characteristics of gunshot wounds, stabbings, and blunt force trauma. But before I dive into the gore, I’ll be talking statistics, motives, and scene investigation.

The first time I taught this class it gave one guy nightmares and made two other attendees ill. So for those of you not interested in looking at a ton of pictures of bloody injuries, violence, and death…I’d skip the second hour. It might save your lunch. And I promise I won’t think less of you. Not everyone loves this stuff as much as I do.

Retired Lt. Cmdr. Vernon Geberth of the New York City Police Department once said, “Death investigation constitutes a heavy responsibility, and as such, let no person deter you from the truth and your personal commitment to see justice done.” He was speaking to law enforcement personnel, but it could apply to any character (fictional or otherwise) involved in the solving of a crime. Death and the bodies it leaves in its wake lead people to want the truth, and as authors we have the ability to make it a colorful, exciting, and satisfying.

As the schedule current stands, I’ll be teaching Friday at 1 pm. I hope to see all of you at Colorado Gold! If you can’t catch my class but have a question you think I might be able to answer message me on Facebook or Twitter. I love talking about this stuff. :)


Tracy Brisendine’s invisible pet dinosaur landed her in the principal's office in second grade, and it was downhill from there. To protect her mental health, she allows some of her ideas to bleed out onto the page. Her short story Ghostly Attraction appeared in RMFW’s 2014 Anthology, Crossing Colfax. When Tracy isn’t battling demons of deviance, she lives happily in Denver with her husband and snaggle tooth dog. She has seven years of experience working in law enforcement and a degree in criminal justice from Colorado State University.

My Name’s Jeff, and I’m a Failure … by Jeff Seymour

Jeff SeymourLast year, I failed hard as a writer.

I did everything right before I self-published Soulwoven. I cultivated an audience, created a marketing plan, wrote a solid book that I was happy with and that got good reviews, arranged an eye-catching cover and a professional interior, networked, tweeted, Facebooked, pushed. That first book did okay, but it was on life support toward the end of the year. Because I’d done everything right though, I had its sequel ready to go. It was an even better book than the first. It got better reviews. It dealt with serious issues. It was good art. It made a Best of 2014 list. It mattered. I pushed some more.

Thud, went my sales. We don’t care about your books, said the world. You’re going to bankrupt your family and destroy your life, whispered my fear and my self-doubt, and I had very little to say back to them.

I was not prepared for this. I’d told my wife, years before, that the hardest thing for me to handle as a writer would be a low-to-moderate level of success—enough to know there wasn’t some secret ingredient I was missing or some great conspiracy I wasn’t involved in, but not enough to justify the massive investment in time and money I’d put into becoming a writer. It was hard. Things got very, very dark for a while.

Soulwoven by Jeff SeymourBy the spring, I was still struggling. Writing was painful, because there seemed to be no point in pushing through. Getting out of bed was painful, because all my hopes for the future had been tied up in succeeding commercially as a writer and that path seemed closed to me forever. Worse, I felt I had to lie profusely about how I was doing. Nobody wants to hear a writer talk about their problems. We’re supposed to project an image of success until we become successful, and only then do our struggles (safely in the past, allegedly) become acceptable conversation.

I thought that was pretty unhealthy, so I decided to hurl an axe through the image of Jeff the Successful Indie Author. I proposed a panel on failure and self-doubt for Colorado Gold 2015. I didn’t know anyone interested in similarly tomahawking their successful image, so I shared the idea with an RMFW loop to see if any other authors wanted to join me.

People came out of the woodwork. I had more volunteers than I could fit on a panel, and in September we’re going to sit down and have an honest conversation about failure, what it looks like for different people, what it feels like for different people, and how to live through it and keep working.

I hope you’ll join us. Failing is part of making art, and preparing yourself for it is as important a step in learning to be a writer as figuring out where to put the commas, discovering what makes a character come alive on the page, or seeing the structures that underlie stories and learning how to work with them.

My name’s Jeff. I’m a failure, and it’s okay if you are too. We can hang out and be friends, and I won’t think less of you for failing or suggest ways you can be successful if you just do things the right way. See you at conference; I’ll be the one in the black-and-neon-green toe shoes.


Author and editor Jeff Seymour has been creating speculative fiction since he was a teenager. His writing covers genres from magical realism and horror to science fiction and epic fantasy. Jeff’s nonfiction has appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine and on the website Fantasy Faction, and his series Soulwoven got over a million reads online before being self-published in 2014. As a freelance editor, he helped Harlequin’s digital-first imprint Carina Press build its science fiction and fantasy line, and he has worked on titles for the Nelson Literary Agency Digital Liaison Platform and bestselling indie authors. In his free time, Jeff blogs about writing and editing, pretends he knows anything about raising two energetic cats, and dreams.

You can find Jeff on Twitter, Facebook, and at, and you can buy his books on Amazon and at most other major online retailers.

An Interview with Agent Emily S. Keyes

Emily S. KeyesBy Jeffe Kennedy

I had the opportunity to chat a bit with Emily S. Keyes, an agent with my agency, Fuse Literary. Read on to learn a bit more about her before you meet her at the Colorado Gold Conference!

Jeffe: Hi from Mountain Time! Are you in NYC?

Emily Keyes: Yes!

Jeffe: Are you a local girl or did you move to the city to be an agent?

Emily Keyes: Sort of both? I am from Connecticut, which is pretty close to NYC. I moved to New York to start the NYU Publishing program. I knew I wanted to work with books. When I was a kid I guess I thought the only book job was author. Or maybe I didn't even think of that as a job. Because I knew Carolyn Keene wasn't a real person and Francine Pascal didn't write the books with her name on them. I vividly remember seeing Ann M. Martin on TV once and I was like, "Oh so some of them are real people!"

Jeffe: That's so fun! I vividly recall that moment of discovering books came from actual people

Emily Keyes: I know - it's weird, right? How did you discover it if you don't mind me asking?

Jeffe: I was a huge fan of Marguerite Henry's horse books. My aunt suggested that I write her a letter, which was an extraordinary thought to me. I did - and she wrote me back!

Emily Keyes: THAT'S SO COOL! I loved horse books. I worked on some of her old contracts a bit at Simon & Schuster.

Emily Keyes: Anyway, I learned more about publishing in college. My university had a publishing class. I was like, "This is what I want to do." But I didn't know how to break into publishing at all. No one in my family had worked in publishing and I didn't know anyone who did. I would send resumes to the internship programs and never hear back. So I decided to take the plunge and go to NYC without a job, but I did the NYU program because they said I could have on campus housing for a semester. I think my mom thought I was going to get stabbed in the face. New York is scary at first.

Jeffe: So did you go to work for Simon & Schuster after NYU?

Emily Keyes: After I moved to NYC I got an internship at the World Almanac. Which was good for my trivia skills. And then about a year after that I started at Simon & Schuster in the contracts department.

Jeffe: And then you moved from publishing to agenting?

Emily Keyes: I left S&S in 2011. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do. I wanted to do more creative/editorial work but I also had this contracts background that I wanted to use. I applied to some agencies. I got hired as a foreign rights and contracts manager at another agency. Then I moved to Fuse!

Jeffe: Why did you pick Fuse? (Besides the fact that it's the best!)

Emily Keyes: It is the best! I started to build my own list at my previous agency and I really wanted to focus on being an agent fulltime. Fuse allowed me to come on as an agent and really go for it! Everyone was very supportive and enthusiastic. The main office is in California, and I was their first hire in NYC. Then Connor Goldsmith (Jeffe’s agent!) and Michelle Richter came aboard so now we're pretty evenly split East vs. West.

We're a virtual agency, which I like. If I could live without paper I would. Well, not paper books, but just loose sheets of paper.

Jeffe: LOL! I'm very much a virtual girl. I totally take eBooks over paper every time, but then my day job is with an environmental consulting firm.

Emily Keyes: I like pop-up books. When they make e-pop-up books I will be set for life.

Jeffe: Ha! I would love that! So what about Fuse do you think makes it a great agency for authors?

Emily Keyes: Fuse is a great agency because everyone is very supportive and collaborative. I think we're very forward-looking compared to some other agencies. We're trying to adapt to the future of publishing. And everyone brings their own knowledge base to the team. It's kind of a Captain Planet-let-our-powers-combine situation.

Jeffe: You have weekly conference calls with all the agents?

Emily Keyes: Yes we have weekly staff meetings, so we know what's going on with everyone and can brainstorm and such. Sometimes we talk for hours and hours.

Jeffe: One thing I really like about Fuse is how you all - not just Connor - make a point of engaging with me and supporting what I'm doing. I feel like you know about me and my books. I love that you all share posts of mine and so forth. Feels very much like being on a team to me.

So, the inevitable question - what are you looking for right now? What kind of authors would you like to add to your list?

Emily Keyes: I still want to add a lot to my list. I'm pretty selective about clients. I don't take on things I don't love (I know everyone says that but not everyone means it--ha!). I've got mostly YA authors right now, and a lot of what I sold was YA contemporary. I still love that area and would like a couple more. But I also want to do YA fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller--all the subgenres. I also really, really want middle grade books. Because I remember the books I read when I was 12 way better than the books I read a month ago.

I tend toward contemporary and quirky in MG. But adventure and light fantasy/SF would be fine too.

Jeffe: So people shouldn't pitch you anything older than YA?

Emily Keyes: I do some adult as well. I have a couple adult fantasy clients. I also look for women's fiction right now. I say pitch me stuff that's commercial on the adult side. I'm not really a literary fiction reader. I can always refer you to another agent at my agency if it doesn't feel right for me.

Jeffe: What is Fuse's policy on people pitching more than one agent at the agency? For some agencies, that' s big no-no.

Emily Keyes: Only one at a time. So if you have something with Connor, don't send to me too. but if he passes you could still send to me. Sometimes when more than one of us is at a conference it gets confusing because people don't really look, they just try to talk to all the agents.

Jeffe: Do you believe in the concept of the "dream agent"?

Emily Keyes: I don't know. Things I dream about tend to not go as planned. I think it's about finding someone who you can work with. Obviously, also one who is not a scam artist. I like to say the agent-author relationship is kind of like a coworker relationship. You're the head of the writing department and I'm the head of the selling to publishers department. If we don't see eye-to-eye it's not going to work. Or if you treat me like a servant. So you should talk to an agent to see if you click before deciding that they are "the dream agent."

Jeffe: Good to know! How about a book you love and wish you'd repped?

Emily Keyes: In adult or children's or both?

Jeffe: How about both?

Emily Keyes: Okay. Some recent ones (I won't say I wished I repped books from when I was a kid because I doubt I would've been an effective agent in elementary school) I really loved are NOGGIN by John Corey Whaley. I liked the voice and the realistic feel of the science fiction premise. I also really like accessible fantasy books like Naomi Novik's TEMERAIRE series. And nerdy/fun humor in nonfiction. I wish I'd thought of GEEK GIRL'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.

Jeffe: Your Twitter handle - which I love - is @esc_key - I figure it comes from your initials and last name, but how did that come about?

Emily Keyes: Yes it's my initials. My name is Emily Suzanne. But my sister, Elizabeth, has the same initials as me so I started including my confirmation name which is Catherine. And it was ESCK - and I was like "Hey, wait a minute."

Jeffe: It's such a great metaphor!

How about conference protocol? At Colorado Gold, will you want people to chat you up? Pitch anytime or save it for the official sessions?

Emily Keyes: It's fine to come up to me at pitch sessions if you're scheduled, obviously. Also after any panels or something. Even at networking events if you come up and say, "Hey, do you have a minute?" I probably will. Just don't pitch me in the bathroom or, like, when I'm trying to eat lunch.

Jeffe: This question comes up a lot - what if an author has self-published one or more books and would like to pitch a project to you? What guidelines would you suggest there?

Emily Keyes: For self-published projects, it has to have sold a lot for me to want to take that project on. But if you have self-published and have a new project feel free to come and talk to me. I am going to ask you how it did though.

Jeffe: How much do you like to get your fingers into planning your writers' projects? Do you brainstorm with them? Suggest directions? Edit?

Emily Keyes: I've pretty much always done edits with new clients I sign up. For planning the next project, I like to know what's on an author's mind. I can tell you what might be more marketable at the moment or what genre is a bit over-saturated and all that. So yes I do get my fingers in.

Jeffe: Part of the fun?

Emily Keyes: yes!

Jeffe: Anything else to add?

Emily Keyes: I don't think so? That I'm looking forward to the conference. I've never been to Colorado!

Jeffe: We’re looking forward to your visit!


What’s Going On at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers?

The Colorado Gold Conference

JefferyDeaver200x2302015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
Colorado Gold Conference

September 11-13, 2015
The Westin, Westminster, Colorado

Keynote speakers: Jeffery Deaver and Desiree Holt

Register now at the RMFW website conference page.


Colorado Gold Writing Contest for Unpublished Novelists

The deadline for entering is June 1st, 2015

New This Year
Enter the first 4000 words of your manuscript and a 750 word synopsis in one of six categories. Final judges will pick 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.

The final judges for Colorado Gold 2015 are:

Action/Thriller: Denise Dietz, Senior Editor, Five Star Publishing
Mainstream: Danielle Burby, Agent, Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency
Mystery/Suspense: Trish Daly, Associate Editor, William Morrow/HarperCollins
Romance: Latoya Smith, Executive Editor, Samhain Publishing
Speculative Fiction: Emily S. Keyes, Agent, Fuse Literary
YA/MG: Melissa Jeglinski, Agent, The Knight Agency

You'll find lots more information and submission requirements on the RMFW website contest page.


Upcoming Free Programs

Sean-CurleyThe State of Independent Publishing presented by Sean Curley

Saturday, May 9, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Grand Junction Business Incubator Center
2591 Legacy Way
Grand Junction, CO
Western Slope Free Program for members and non-members

Joining the Revolution: Self-Publishing Made Simple presented by Teresa Funke

Saturday, May 16, 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Anythink Wright Farms Library
5877 E. 120th Ave.
Thornton, CO 80602
Denver Free Program for members and non-members


The #RMFWBlog

And while you're checking out these great opportunities, please stop by the blog and scroll through the posts -- a team of regular bloggers and lots of visiting writers provide writing advice and encouragement most weekdays.

We use the hashtag #RMFWBlog on Twitter so you can always find information on the most recent posts there. We also post the links on Facebook and Google+. To make sure you don't miss anything, you can sign up for email notifications of new posts.

Twenty Years of Sharing the Dream

By Mary Gillgannon

Many RMFW members are attending the Colorado Gold conference this weekend. I, unfortunately, have to miss it due to a trip with my daughter later this month. But I’ll be waxing nostalgic the whole time. I went to my first conference over twenty years ago, and I can still remember what a magical experience it was.

I started writing fiction about two years before that, and had a completed historical romance and a second one started. I was actively marketing the first one with no success. Back then, I worked in a public library (where I’m still employed). It’s an ideal job for a writer because everyone, co-workers and patrons alike, love books and are incredibly supportive. So, of course, when my co-workers found out I was going to a writers’ conference, they were all convinced I was on the verge of my “big break”.

I was more skeptical. I’d heard all my life how hard it is to get published. But that didn’t stop me from lying awake most of the night before my pitch sessions. On some deep level, I was convinced that this was my chance and I was terrified I’d blow it.

The actual appointments with an editor and agent were kind of a let-down. The editor, who’d heard me read my manuscript opening in the previous day’s critique session, listened rather impatiently to my pitch and then said, “Send it to me.” I asked, “All of it?” and she said “yes.” The agent interview was even terser. She asked me if I saw this book as a series and I said “yes”. She nodded her head and told me to send her the first three chapters and a synopsis. Of course, she didn’t offer to waive the agency’s $50 reading fee, which meant that it would take me months before I felt flush enough to send it to her.

But it wasn’t really those encounters that were memorable about the conference. It was the exhilarating experience of knowing, for the first time in my life, I was with people who understood and shared my dream. It was that sense of camaraderie and the excitement of feeling that anything could happen for any of us, that I remember the most. Quite a number of the people I met at that conference are still involved with RMFW. Two of them have become my dearest friends.

The other memory I have is of rushing back to my room on the second night, getting out my notebook and immediately starting to revise the beginning of my book. After nearly a year and a half of writing and revising, and revising again, I had, deep down, sensed that the book wasn’t quite “ready”. But after attending several Colorado Gold workshops, the light bulb went on. I finally knew what was wrong and how to fix it.

And the real magic did happen. Nearly six months later, I got a letter from an editor who worked at the same publishing house as the editor who’d asked me to send her my manuscript. This second editor wrote that she “loved it” and wanted to buy it. Thus began the most exciting time of my life.

A lot has changed in twenty years. Nobody writes on a typewriter anymore (like I did with my first draft). It’s all about web presence now, and tweets and likes and blog hops and a dozen other things that didn’t exist back then. But some things never change. Like the joy of being part of an organization that’s all about sharing dreams, and the thrill of knowing you’re setting off on the great adventure of being a novelist with a couple hundred compatriots by your side.

Colorado Gold rocks!