The AHA Moments

Every writer has one—or two—or three.

When I first started writing fiction, I was writing blind. I was a trained journalist and understood non-fiction, but writing a novel… Suffice it to say, it presented a number of new challenges. At the time, we were living in Frisco (Colorado), and there were no writers groups, no published authors, and no creative writing classes offered at the mountain college. Then in rode Maggie Osborne.

Maggie, a founding member of RMFW and an award-winning romance writer, moved to Summit County around 1986. Her first summer, she gave an author talk at the Frisco Library. I went up at the end to chat, and ended up cajoling her into putting on a workshop. By the time the librarian barred the door, Maggie had agreed to teach 5 two-hour sessions, once a week at her house, for $20, provided I could find at least two other writers to join in. A bargain, to say the least.

It didn’t take long to find two other interested parties, and we were brimming with excitement that first session. Maggie focused on character—point-of-view, motivation, physical attributes, flaws, strengths, desires… At the end of the session, she asked each of us to go home and write a few paragraphs from the POV of our heroine and bring back the pages the following week.

I was the only one who showed up. During the course of the week, the others had decided it was too much work, claimed Maggie was demanding too much. But I wasn’t complaining—we’d paid upfront, which meant, I had four one-on-one sessions coming with a master.

My first AHA moment came during that second class.

Here’s a sample of that early work.

“Why should I?” Lauren stepped back as Alex moved a step forward. “Look, my ex-husband introduced us. Once. I hardly know the man.” She returned Alex’s defiant glare.
Alex felt the muscles twitch in his neck. He had been furious when his contact suggested Lauren was involved in her partner’s business indiscretions. If they discovered that she knew Woodley, it would only fuel his colleague’s doubts.
“Did you mention Harmon’s accident in the conversation?”
“Yes, I didn’t realize it was a secret.” She studied him with dark eyes. “Now, it’s your turn to explain something to me.”

The important lesson that night was about POV. As Maggie pointed out, in addition to wonderful choreography, the above four paragraphs included four POV switches. Not to mention that Lauren can magically see her own “dark eyes.” It was like a lightbulb went off.

Is it any wonder that this book never got published?!

My second AHA moment came during critique.

I was at Lee Karr’s, another founding member of RMFW and award-winning romance writer. Here’s a small slice of what I offered up:

“Hello, how are you?”
“Great, great. Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Beautiful. They say it’s supposed to reach 90 degrees.”
“A scorcher, which reminds me, you were getting hot when you started asking questions about…”

The important lesson that afternoon was about Dialogue. When it was Lee’s turn, she pointed out that the dialogue served no purpose whatsoever. Her advice, make sure your dialogue does one if not two of the following things:

1. Advance the plot.
2. Characterize the characters.
3. Create suspense and intensify the conflict.
4. Reveal motivation.
5. Control the pace.

Another lightbulb moment.

My latest AHA moment came during this year’s RMFW conference. I signed up for a master class with Stuart Horwitz, Book Architecture. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. His method encourages a pantzer-plotter-pantzer/plotter type of model. In the first draft, you just write. Whatever you want, in whatever order you want. Pantzer technique. In the second draft, you apply a method for structuring the novel, cutting up the scenes and reordering them as necessary, discovering what you put in that you don’t need and what you didn’t put in that you need. Plotter technique. In the third draft, you rewrite, in any order you want. You punch up the scenes already written, write the scenes that you left out and add transitions between chapters. Of course, this is a very encapsulated version of a four hour workshop, but the point is—I think Horwitz’s method may be just what I need.

Here’s to all the AHA moments.

Including the ones yet to come. That’s why I still go to critique, still attend conferences like the Colorado Gold. It’s important to me to stretch my abilities as a writer, to always write a better book. It’s my hope that the AHA moments keep on coming.

2017 Colorado Gold Mentors & Special Guests

Things are coming together at Conference HQ! The proposals are all in and the proposal committee are making their selections for the workshops and panels we will be offering at the upcoming Colorado Gold Conference. If you submitted a proposal, notifications will be sent on or before April 20.

Be sure to check the conference home page as faculty and add-ons are updated on a regular basis. I am very excited about this year's lineup, and I hope you'll find a lot of value at this year's event no matter where you are on your publishing journey.

Don't forget to check out the Conference Facebook page.
Registration for Colorado Gold opens May 1st.

Thank you!
Corinne

Mentors & Special Guests

I am very excited to share our mentors and special guests for this year:

David Gaughran is Irish and lives in Dublin, where it rains every day and conversation is a sport. He is the author of the historical adventures Liberty Boy, Mercenary & A Storm Hits Valparaiso, and has helped thousands of authors to self-publish their work via his workshops, blog, and two popular writers' books: Let's Get Digital & Let's Get Visible. He has been featured in the Telegraph, the Irish Times, the Guardian, the Irish Examiner, the Sunday Times, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Forbes, Mashable, New York Observer, Newsweek Polska, il Giornale, The Star Malaysia, and, most pleasingly, the Journal for Maritime Research.  http://davidgaughran.com/

Susan Spann is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year and author of the Hiro Hattori mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo. Her debut, Claws of the Cat, was a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award (Best First Novel). Her fifth mystery, Betrayal at Iga (Seventh Street Books), will release in July 2017. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. Find her at http://www.susanspann.com, on Twitter (@SusanSpann), and on Facebook (/SusanSpannBooks). Photo Credit: Mark Stevens

Heather Webb is the author of historical novels BECOMING JOSEPHINE and RODIN’S LOVER, which have sold in six countries and have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. RODIN’S LOVER was a Goodreads Pick of the month in 2015. Up and coming, LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, an epistolary love story set during WWI will release October 3, 2017 from HarperCollins. Heather is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend.

Angie Hodapp holds a BA in English and secondary education and an MA in English and communication development, and she is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. She has worked in publishing and professional writing and editing, in one form or another, for sixteen years. She currently works at Nelson Literary Agency as the Director of Literary Development and loves helping authors hone their craft and learn about the ever-changing business of publishing.

 

Jeff Seymour writes hopeful, heartfelt fantasy that blends modern characters with timeless plots and offers something new and fantastic on every page. His debut middle-grade novel, Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue, will be published by Putnam Young Readers in 2018, and his epic fantasy Soulwoven got over a million reads while being featured on Wattpad. In his day job as a freelance editor, Jeff helps shape and clean up stories for a talented roster of bestselling sci-fi and fantasy authors as well as newcomers to the business. In his free time, he plays more video games than he should, serves as support team to a wife with an incredible career of her own, pretends he knows anything about raising children, and gathers ideas for stories everywhere he goes.

Susan Brooks has served on the board of directors for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a non-profit educational organization supporting both published and aspiring writers of commercial fiction, since 2009. She holds a master’s degree in publishing from George Washington University and has many years of editorial experience. She currently serves Literary Wanderlust, a small Denver-based traditional publisher, as Editor in Chief. You can follow her as @oosuzieq on Twitter and read her weekly syndicated blog on writing craft at susanbrooks.wordpress.com

Stuart Horwitz is a ghostwriter, independent editor, and founder and principal of Book Architecture (www.BookArchitecture.com). Book Architecture’s clients have reached the best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and in the most prestigious journals in their respective fields. He is the author of three books on writing: Blueprint Your Bestseller (Penguin/Perigee), which was named one of 2013’s best books about writing by The Writer magazine, Book Architecture (2015) which became an Amazon bestseller, and Finish Your Book in Three Drafts which was released in June of 2016.

Ever enamored by the experience of others, Sami Lien has always sought out opportunities to put herself in the way of a really great story. After 10 years in promotions, marketing and business management in a variety of industries, Sami stumbled into the world of publicity in 2011 and has found a tremendous joy in connecting individuals all over the map to their own passions and pursuits. She provides professional guidance, coordinates national tours and works closely with online and print media outlets to create a memorable and captivating experience for her partners in work. In addition to authoring a number of feature articles for entertainment publications, Sami holds a degree in Journalism and a Masters in Business and Entertainment Management. http://www.rogercharlie.com/ https://twitter.com/samijolien

Anita Mumm is a freelance novel editor based in Denver. Before starting Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services, she worked in submissions and foreign rights at Nelson Literary Agency. Her editing clients include traditionally published and indie authors at all levels of experience, from international bestsellers to first-time novelists. In addition to her editing projects, she frequently teaches classes and workshops about writing and publishing, both online and in person. For more information about Anita and her work, visit www.anitamumm.com.

GET READY – GET SET – GET GOING! … by Margaret Mizushima

Colorado Gold Conference is scheduled for September 8-10 this year, and that might seem like a long time away. But it’s not.

Many members of RMFW met our agents and editors at Colorado Gold. And now is the perfect time to focus your writerly energy and creativity on your work-in-progress, set goals, and determine your targets for that irresistible pitch that you’re going to develop. This is the absolute best time to start.

Get ready.

Finish your work-in-progress as soon as you can by setting weekly writing goals. If you write 5,000 words/week, you can finish a 90,000 word first draft in roughly four-and-a-half months. At 3000 words/week, you can finish in seven-and-a-half. This will give you time to let it sit for a week or so and than revise. But however you do it—writing at a scheduled pace or binge writing—get that manuscript done!

Get set.

Once the conference program is posted and registration opens up, take a look at the guest agent and editor bios. Decide which guests might be the most interested in your genre, register for the conference early, and request a pitch appointment with your top three choices. As the conference approaches, write a short synopsis (1-5 pages), develop a pitch of around twenty-five words that you can use in elevators or during table conversation, and run them both by a few of your writer friends or critique group. Practice the pitch on anyone you can. Maybe even a stranger or two!

I met my future acquiring editor by pitching to him at the Friday evening dinner in 2014. I pitched to all three of my targets that year: one in my pitch appointment, one in the hallway, and one at the dinner table. Colorado Gold provides you with the best venue for meeting a number of industry professionals in one weekend. Take advantage of it.

Get going!

The agents and editors that come to Colorado Gold want to meet you. They want to talk to writers and hear what they have to offer. That’s why they’ve come to Denver, despite having to brave that pesky altitude sickness. Unless your research fails you (and sometimes that can happen), most guests will either request that you send a partial (first 10-50 pages and a synopsis) or the whole manuscript.

Now here’s the key: Send it! Send it right away. Don’t wait. This is why you started early. This is why you completed everything in advance and were ready by conference time. The industry is fickle, and just because your target might be interested in your genre now, doesn’t mean he/she will be still interested six months or a year from now. If you’ve learned something at conference that you feel you absolutely must incorporate into your manuscript, by all means revise; but do it quickly. Take no more than three to six weeks.

Sometimes we do everything we can to get things right, and things just don’t work out. I had pitched four different manuscripts over the years and finally gained an agent, an interested editor, and a publishing contract on the fifth one. I’ve heard a few people tell overnight success stories in our industry, but most people tell stories of long-term persistence, preparation, and practice. And sometimes they mention they also benefited from a little bit of luck.

Don’t give up, and give yourself the very best possible opportunity. Your fellow Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers are rooting for you!

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

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (Crooked Lane Books, 2015) and Stalking Ground (Crooked Lane Books, 2016). She has a background in speech pathology and practiced in an acute care hospital before establishing her own rehabilitation agency. Currently, she balances writing with assisting her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. She enjoys reading and hiking, and she lives on a small ranch in Colorado where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/Author Margaret Mizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Are YOU Ready to Make a Difference in 2017? … by Angela La Voie

As writers, the very first encouragement of our work likely came from a parent or teacher. As we mature in our writing careers, peer support and encouragement buoys us through rejection, missed goals, and abandoned projects. And that support helps us reach important milestones, take on new challenges, and celebrate success. That support and encouragement is at the heart of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers mission.

Dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial fiction, RMFW brings you programming, information, education, critique groups, and special events through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers each year.

As Volunteer Coordinator, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank each of you who gave of your time and talents in 2016. I’d also like to extend a special thanks to those of you who volunteered in more than one role! To all of our volunteers, please step forward again this year—in the same role or in a new capacity that appeals to your 2017 focus.

Volunteering gives you the opportunity to interact with members, make new friends, and expand your horizons. Volunteering enables you to share skills you already have and to acquire new ones.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert and whether you like to give a little here and there, help with a specific project, or contribute on an ongoing basis, there’s a volunteer role for you.

There are dozens of ways you can contribute your skills through RMFW, allowing you to give back to those mentors and colleagues who’ve uplifted you and to pay it forward. The time and skills you share with other members can give another writer the insight that fuels the crucial manuscript revisions that land him that first agent. Maybe it’s a newsletter article or blog post you write that helps someone make it through the first edit letter (or through the third edit letter on his fifth book). Your encouragement as a presenter may help an author break through with her next release.

There’s no pressure to be a miracle worker to volunteer. Everyone has something valuable to offer.

Here are some of the volunteer roles that keep RMFW thriving:

  •  newsletter contributor
  •  blog contributor
  •  monthly program presenter
  •  RMFW Gold Conference:
    •  presenter
    •  table host
    •  registration-desk assistant
    •  workshop monitor
    •  mentor-room coordinator
    •  workshop-proposal reviewer
    •  pitch coach and mentor
    •  bookstore-setup assistant
    •  author-signing assistant
    •  author-reading emcee
  •  RMFW Gold Contest intake coordinator
  •  RMFW Gold Contest judge
  •  WOTY and IWOTY selection-committee member
  •  critique-group leader
  •  social media assistant
  •  Moodle administrator
  •  website developer
  •  forum administrator
  •  podcast assistant
  •  podcast guest

Each of these roles presents the opportunity to make a difference in the course of our organization. Whatever your schedule, skillset, and interest permit, I hope you’ll consider volunteering with RMFW today!

Leadership Opportunities

Many volunteers assist in more than one role over time. Many also choose to serve in a leadership capacity at some point. Here are some of the key RMFW volunteer roles currently available:

Programs Chair (Denver-Area)

Recruits presenters for monthly free programs for members. Coordinates program logistics. Coordinates promotion of monthly programs through the website, newsletter, emails, and social media. Participates in board planning, discussion, and reporting.

Hospitality Chair

Coordinates with Programs Chair and provides refreshments at Denver-area monthly programs. Provides refreshments at all board meetings and announcement events, such as Writer of the Year/Independent Writer of the Year Event. Plans and coordinates the annual holiday party. Participates in board planning, discussion, and reporting.

Blog Editor

Works with co-editor to plan regular and guest contributor posts. Works with contributors to ensure timely submission of content. Schedules content through WordPress and troubleshoots posts. Requires keen eye for detail, impeccable grammar, and knowledge of WordPress.

How To Get Started

Send me an email at volunteer@rmfw.org. I’ll send you a volunteer application with all the questions and information needed to help you find the right volunteer role for you. The more information about your skills and background you include in your application, the easier it is to match you with the perfect volunteer opportunity. Once I review your application, I’ll pass it along to our board members and other committee chairs. Most committee chairs prefer to interview prospective volunteers themselves. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about the key duties and the time commitment involved. Together, we’ll work to ensure you’re volunteering in a capacity that’s fulfilling for you. To volunteer for the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference, complete a volunteer preference form.

Remember, for the hundreds of hours we stay glued to our seats honing our craft, volunteering gives us the chance to connect with others, share our knowledge, develop new skills, and expand our horizons. And while writing may be a solo occupation, a writing career is forged through the endeavors of all the teachers, mentors, editors, publishing contacts, and other writers who’ve helped to shape our work. Volunteer with RMFW and help shape another writer’s future. Here’s to a terrific 2017 and to the volunteers who make RMFW so vibrant!

-----

Angela La Voie is RMFW volunteer coordinator and newsletter editor. Her articles have appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times, Daily News of Los Angeles, The Dallas Morning News, Detroit Free Press, on MS-NBC.com, and through The New York Times News Service. She’s also published poems and essays in a variety of literary journals and magazines. She holds a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) in English and communication from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She is currently working on her second novel, her fourth book overall.

Announcing our 2017 Colorado Gold Keynote Speakers!

As embers of 2016 Colorado Gold Conference cool and the ashes are brushed away and collected in the bin, I find it's hard to get back to everyday life. Time with our tribe ignites the flames of creativity and comradeship, reminds us that we are part a larger whole, and—if we're lucky—fuels us until the next time we can gather together.

There is some awesome stuff brewing for next year's conference that I can't share just yet, but in the interest of stoking the flames for next year, it is my distinct pleasure to be able to share the identities of our 2017 Colorado Gold Conference Keynote Speakers.

Please join me in welcoming authors Sherry Thomas and Lori Rader-Day!

keynotesgraphic

Sherry Thomas is a hybrid author who writes historical romance, historical mystery, and young adult fantasy.

On the romance side, she is one of the most acclaimed authors working in the genre today, her books regularly receiving starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

On the young adult fantasy side, THE BURNING SKY, book 1 of the Elemental Trilogy, was a finalist for the 2014 RITA® Award for Best Paranormal Romance, the 2014 Pick for Tayshas State Reading List (Texas), has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and been named to the Autumn ’13 Kids’ Indie Next List.thomassherry_coversOn the historical mystery side, her brand-new A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN, releases October 18th, 2016 (available for preorder) and has already received critical acclaim:

“Clever and absorbing. Thomas’s gorgeous prose and expert characterizations shine in this new incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. Readers will wait with baited breath to discover how Thomas will skillfully weave in each aspect of the Sherlockian canon, and devour the pages to learn how the mystery unfolds.” – Anna Lee Huber, National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mysteries

"Gender bending is just the first sign that unusual happenings are afoot in this origin story for a revamped Sherlock Holmes series by bestselling author Thomas...There is also a tantalizing, slow-burn love story between Holmes and a longtime friend befitting Thomas' skills as a romance novelist....The ground has been laid well for future incidents in the professional and intimate life of Charlotte Holmes." —Kirkus

Sherry writes in her second language. She learned English by reading romance and science fiction—every word Isaac Asimov ever wrote, in fact. She is proud to say that her son is her biggest fanboy—for the YA fantasy, not the romances. At least, not yet…

Be sure to check out Sherry's website and follow her on social media:

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads


Lori Rader-Day is the author of the Anthony Award-winning mystery THE BLACK HOUR  and the Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning mystery LITTLE PRETTY THINGS, both from Seventh Street Books. Her third novel, THE DAY I DIED, will be published by Harper Collins William Morrow on April 11, 2017 (available for preorder).

raderday_covers

Her fiction has been previously published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, TimeOut Chicago, Crab Orchard Review, Freight Stories, and in the anthology Dia de los Muertos (Elektrik Milkbath Press), and others. Bestselling author Jodi Picoult chose her story as the grand prize winner of Good Housekeeping’s first fiction contest.

Originally from central Indiana, Lori grew up frequenting the local libraries, reading all the Judy Blume and Lois Duncan she could get her hands on. Then she discovered Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark. She may have wandered off the mystery writer path a few times, but everyone knew she would get back there eventually.

Lori studied journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, but eventually gave in to her dream and studied creative writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Now a resident of Chicago for fifteen years, she has a favorite deep dish pizza and is active in the area’s crime writing community. Lori is the president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and a member of Sisters in Crime Chicagoland, and the International Thriller Writers. Chicago is a really great town in which to be a mystery writer.

Be sure to check out Lori's website and follow her on social media:

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads


Hooray! The new year hasn't even turned over on the calendar and already our 2017 Colorado Gold is shaping up to be fantastic! I'm looking forward to sharing more new and exciting updates for conference as our plans solidify. Can you feel the heat of the Colorado Gold crackling in the background? I sure can!

Wahoo!

 

The RMFW Spotlight is on Corinne O’Flynn, Conference Chair

Our monthly feature, The RMFW Spotlight, is intended to provide members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers with more information about our board members as well as featured volunteers. This month we're pleased to finally corral the Colorado Gold Conference chairperson, Corinne O'Flynn. Her focus on Colorado Gold in Denver on September 9-11, 2016 kept her very busy, but she's finally recovering and ready to roll as one of our regular contributors.

2016_corinneoflynn1. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am currently the Conference Chair for Colorado Gold. 2016 was my first year as chair, and I am super excited to be planning 2017 already. Before this, I was Technology Co-Chair with Wendy Howard. Before that, I was an aimless writer. I got involved because I believe in being active in the communities where I belong. It's the best way to meet people and be a part of the momentum. 🙂

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

My most recent publication is TICK TOCK: Seven Tales of Time, an anthology I did with six other RMFW members through our publishing company, Wicked Ink Books. It recently took home two CIPA EVVY awards! We’re working on the next anthology now. I am also working on PROMISE OF THE SCHOLAR, Book Two of my fantasy series, The Expatriates. You can find my books on my Amazon author page.

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?

I am currently working on meditation and making time to mindfully slow down in my life. I operate at a pretty high speed, which is great when there are a lot of balls in the air, but I find moving at this pace is less sustainable as I get older. I would love to make meditation a daily habit, but I struggle with finding time for everything.

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

Ah... it’s like you saw that coming. My problem in writing and in life is time management. I am incredibly organized but not very disciplined. It’s something I struggle with daily.

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

I love the discovery that comes with writing. Its seems like everything is an opportunity to dig into and develop. And, of course, I love my writing tribe!

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

I’d tell myself not to stress so much about the timing of everything. When I was first starting out I felt this urgency about getting it all done. There was a rush to write, to finish, to query, to enter contests, to publish, and, and... I’d tell myself that the urgency is not real.

2016_oflynn_office7. 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 love my office! I am a memento keeper and I also hang on to most of the stuff my kids give me as presents. So, my office is like a gigantic scrap book. When I am sitting at my desk, I have a stack of books on my left that act as a lamp-table and a writing shrine full of things that inspire me and have meaning. One of my favorite things is my moss terrarium which was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS. I loved that story.

One of the more inspirational things in my office are the sparrows. The morning I published my first book in 2014, I woke up to find a sparrow flying above me in my bed. We were in NY visiting family so it was doubly disorienting to wake in a strange room with this sparrow circling a few feet above me. It didn't seem real. One source of animal wisdom I found said that the sparrow signifies power, productivity, and self worth. It also is one bird that persists in many climates despite external factors. That felt extremely meaningful and resonates with me today.

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

I’m currently reading CLOSER HOME by our very own Kerry Anne King (Kerry Schafer)! It’s fantastic and I highly recommend. Before this I read BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty and HEART OF THE GOBLIN KING by our IWOTY, Lisa Manifold. On deck is a re-read of DIVINE EVIL by Nora Roberts because it’s mentioned in a writing class I am taking and I am intrigued to revisit it as a writer with my class notes in hand!

Thank you, Corinne. Your hard work for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and this year's Colorado Gold Writers Conference is much appreciated. We'll be looking for your regular posts on the blog (the second Monday of the month starting October 10th).

The Evolution of a Writer

2016_chris-goff_bouchercon-2
At Bouchercon 2016

2016 has been the year of the question: What kind of writer do you want to be?

It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for years. When I was young, I loved writing stories. Then in Middle School, I wrote a column for the school paper, The Ram Page, and decided I wanted to be a journalist. I studied Journalism in college, and started writing columns and articles for a regional paper. Then six years post college, two years post marriage, I found myself writing stories again. It didn’t take long for me to figure out I had a lot to learn.

With very limited options, I signed up for an Institute of Children’s Novel Writing class, sent off my money, received my course instructions, read the first chapter of the workbook, wrote a chapter, sent it to my instructor, repeat. She (or he—I never knew) read my work, critiqued the pages, sent it back with suggestions and instructions, repeat. By the end of the class I had a YA novella that was totally unpublishable.

Then I met Maggie Osborne. She was speaking at the local library, was well-published and willing to teach. Under her tutelage, I wrote a Harlequin Intrigue that was totally unpublishable. A few years later, my husband and I were moving back to the Front Range and she introduced me to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. That was in 1988. Since then I have been part of the RMFW family, made a number of lifelong friends, found my voice and a support system that has sustained me through the good and the bad of publishing.

In the summer of 1998, I was offered a three book contract for my Birdwatcher’s Mysteries. Then, with the first book in the series scheduled for release, the second book turned in and three more books on contract to write, life threw me a few curve balls. One required I spend two months in Israel in the Fall of 1999 while one of my daughters received medical treatment for an auto-immune disorder; the other required a prolonged battle against breast cancer (ultimately successful) that delayed the fulfillment of my contracts in a timely fashion.

It turned out serendipitous. In Israel, I came up with the idea for DARK WATERS (published in Sept 2015), while the battle against cancer meant I was late turning in manuscripts in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series, impacting the momentum of sales. While my editor was supportive and understanding, the publisher viewed it smart business to cut their losses and chose not to renew my contract. I was devastated. BUT being out of contract meant I could focus on writing DARK WATERS.

It was a joy to have the time I used to have to write books. I could write at my own pace, ruminate over story, research to my heart’s content and polish my prose to perfection. Fast forward, I now have two publishers—one for the thrillers and one for the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series. DARK WATERS is out, Book #6 in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series is out, and I’m midway through my editor’s revisions on RED SKY, scheduled for June 2017. AND yet I’m once more facing decisions.

Writing two books last year was hard. So, do I write Book #7 in the Birdwatcher's Mystery series or work on another thriller? Do I sign new contracts or take the Tony Hillerman approach, write a complete book nomatter how long it takes, polishing until I'm satisfied, and then try and sell it? Or do I sign a new contract with my traditional publisher, opt to go Indy, or quit and take up traveling full time?

Simple choices? Not!

While writing is art, it’s also a business. We may love to write, to play with words, and create stories that captivate readers, but once we’re under contract, there are expectations. It becomes a job! So, do I want to work on deadline, do I want to make money, do I want to practice the art of writing, can I do all of the above? Do I want to keep writing to a theme, or branch out and write a different book, a different genre altogether?

As a new monthly blogger, I plan to tackle some of these questions, share some of my own insights, struggles and perspective. If any of you have a topic you’d like me to address, please send me an email.

Bouchercon in New Orleans 2016
Bouchercon in New Orleans 2016

Meanwhile, for me, September has been the month of conferences. First there was Colorado Gold (a great con), and now there’s Bouchercon. These are two very different conventions. Colorado Gold is a teaching conference where you can take writing classes, meet agents who may want to represent you, read for editors who may like your book. Bouchercon is a mystery fan conference designed to showcase mystery writers and introduce them to readers, where already established writers can meet with their agents and editors and attend publisher parties. This year at Bouchercon I was up for an Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook, a big award in the mystery community. I didn’t win. Hard! But “it’s an honor to be nominated.” In truth, I had several people tell me that “the win is in being nominated.” Maybe, but I thought winning meant walking away with the Anthony. One dear friend put it best, “It sucks not to win. I’ve been a loser seven times and it never gets easier.” She bought me a drink and made me laugh. But, while it may suck to lose, I'm counting my blessings. It’s much better to have lost to Louise Penny than Paula Hawkins.

The real “win” for me was the opportunity to sit on a panel with Lee Child. The Rogue Women Writers (a group of eight women writing international espionage and geopolitical thrillers, who blog at www.roguewomenwriters.com) were assigned a Friday afternoon slot with Lee moderating. For those who don’t read the genre, Lee Child is the #1 international thriller writer of the Jack Reacher novels. Now, I’m smart enough to know that nearly everyone in that room was there to see Lee, but still…what a thrill it was speaking to a standing-room only crowd. Thanks to all my RMFW friends who attended. A lot of you know how intimidating it is to sit in front of an audience and talk about yourself. Not only were you there to support me, but you Tweeted, Facebooked, shared photos, posted comments and took the time to tell me you thought the panel went well. FYI, I thought you all did well, too!! In my book, RMFW and the whole Rocky Mountain writers’ community rocks!

RMFW and me . . . and you.

RMFW's Colorado Gold conference is in a few weeks, and, of course, I'm going.

In fact, this year I am an "Honored Guiding Member" which means I've been in RMFW for a **mumbledy mumble** years. Okay, we'll just leave it at decades.

And, yes, RMFW has given me some awesome awards (I've been Writer of the Year twice and received the Jasmine service award). And, yes, I've been a member of a few . . . several . . . many committees and boards.

But that's not what's important to me. What's important is that Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers taught me how to write.

That is the simple truth. My critique group taught me how to write.

And my critique group continues to help me with my writing. They are my closest friends.

So that's the basis of my relationship with RMFW. It gave me friends and it taught me to write, and when a volunteer organization does that, a person feels like they have to give back, so I did and I have.

The basic unit for me of RMFW is my critique group.

After the critique group are the larger classes, the get-togethers. When I joined there were monthly in-person business meetings followed by seminars or presentations. I attended most of those, soaking up technique and different points of view and processes of writing...and information on publishing. Now, I attend the presentations when a topic applies to my work (private detectives), or when I'm asked to help out (earlier this year).

So, basic unit the critique group, next level up is the monthly presentations and gatherings, then come semi-annual Writer of the Year revelation and panels and the winter holiday party. I rarely miss those.

Another level is the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, more often than not, I judge contest entries, though I have had busy years with deadlines that I haven't been able to be a judge. I swung back into that stream this year and am pleased to see a couple of the entries I judged have made the finals, as well as one by a critique buddy.

Yes, I'm pleased to help beginning writers, and I enjoy reading good work that is completely different than my genre and world view (I write fantasy and fantasy romance).

Finally, there is the one and only Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' annual Colorado Gold conference. I can't recall the last time I missed one. In fact, I don't think I have missed one in . . . decades. This year I changed the dates of a family trip because I wouldn't miss the Colorado Gold – and I gave up my dibs on the family Bronco tickets to the Broncos-Panthers game because it is the Thursday before conference which is the meet-and-greet with our out of town guests (for volunteers).

Yes, I try to present a workshop myself at the conference, mostly on self-motivation or on characters. This year, as an Honored Guiding Member, my topic is on writing series (on Sunday, one of the last sessions). I'm in the midst of two series now, and have written another two.

But most of all at the conference I enjoy meeting with other writers, no matter what genre or level of writing they're at. If brainstorming is needed, that's fine. Or character motivation or development. Or finding your own writing process.

There's nothing like talking to other writers and knowing that their eyes won't glaze over in two minutes.

So, at whatever level you are in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, WELCOME! I hope you find a home here like I have.

And may all your writing dreams come true.
Robin

Conference Workshop Preview: 25 Things I’ve Learned Going from Pre-Published to Multi-Published

Since I typed the END to my first manuscript to the release of my 10th traditionally published book on August 15th
(The Assassin’s Kiss,if you’re interested) I’ve learned so much about the business and industry we’re in. Some good. assassins_kissSome bad.

In September at the RMFW Conference I’ll be facilitating a workshop on the things I’ve learned, but in the meantime, I’ll spill some BIG INDUSTRY SECRETS.

Like I know any.

But I do know the struggle--the ups and downs, the roller coaster of signing contracts, marketing, failing and getting back up.

If you didn’t already know, I hold a record of specific distinction around town. I amassed over 1,000 rejections before I sold my first book.

So trust me when I declare, this business is all about patience. That’s my greatest advice. The slow and steady wins this race. Write. Work hard. Submit. Grin and bear each rejection. And celebrate the hell out of each victory.

25 Things I’ve Learned Going from Pre-Published to Multi-Published

Friday, Sept 9th 4-4:50pm Durango Room

Last workshop of the day! Margaritas welcome and very encouraged.

Do you have any burning questions about going from pre-pubbed to multi? Or better yet, any advice for the journey you’d give a new writer?

Conference Spotlight: Agent & Editor Critique Round Tables

RMFWConference_Chalkboard_RoundTablesThinking about signing up for a critique round table at conference? Act now, because registration is required and registration for those sessions closes this week (July 15).

The critique round table sessions are among the most popular offerings at RMFW Colorado Gold. Three and a half hours in length, the round tables offer you a chance to receive detailed critique on ten pages of your work and allow you the time to give feedback on the work of the other members in your group.

The round tables are a unique opportunity to experience specific critique with other writers as well as an agent or editor.

This year, we have 15 sessions to choose from, monitored by an attending agent or editor. Attendees may sign up for one or two round tables. Sessions are offered Friday morning at 8:00 AM and Friday afternoon at 1:00 PM. The tables are open to 8 critique participants and 2 auditors.

Critique participants: You will submit the first ten pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page synopsis of your story, to be critiqued by the agent/editor of your choice as well as by the other participants at your table.

Critique Auditors will only observe; you will neither submit pages nor offer critiques to participants. This is a great way to see how critique works and be a fly on the wall. Hear other authors' feedback on the submitted work and listen as the attending agent or editor shares their insights.

Once registration closes, participants will receive further instructions from RMFW volunteer, Scott Brendel, who manages all the things with Round Table Critiques, and will provide details on everything, including where and when to submit your pages, which will be due in August.

These sessions are a $40 add on for participants, $15 for auditors. Deadline to register is this Friday, July 15!