Tag Archives: Colorado Gold

Pitch Like a Pro (Part 2)

By Susan Spann

Last month, we took a look at the four vital elements of a winning “elevator pitch.” This week, we’re putting the elements together - just in time for Colorado Gold!

To play along, you’ll need a list with your novel’s protagonist, active antagonist, stakes, and high concept. (Remember: high concept might or might not make it into your pitch, but you need to keep it in mind throughout the process.)

It’s easier to see a pitch in motion when you’re actually seeing it thrown, so I’ll use my novel, Claws of the Cat, as our pitch example today. I’m using it mostly because the pitch worked as intended–it found me an agent, piqued an editor’s interest, and (in a slightly expanded form) ended up on the dust jacket of the completed novel. In other words: I know this one works, and when you need an example it’s nice to have a functional one at hand.

The original pitch:

When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, a master ninja has just three days to find the killer in order to save the life of the Jesuit priest that the ninja has pledged his own life to protect.

(Note: Yes, this is rough. I’m sharing my original pitch to show you this can be done fairly quickly and doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect to do its job.)

Can you spot the four critical elements?

1. Protagonist: Here, a master ninja. Always lead with your protagonist, and use an archetype instead of the character’s name. Archetypes are more descriptive and harder to forget. Also, they give information about the novel that names alone cannot convey. Would you rather hear that “Sam” has to go find “Charlotte” or that “an undead barber” must locate “the kitten he left behind”?

Good pitches put the protagonist front and center. The listener must have no doubt who your book is about.

2. (Active) Antagonist: The pitch must tell us who or what the protagonist is fighting. (And It’s OK to imply the antagonist, as long as the stakes are high enough.)

Ask yourself: what’s the easiest way to describe what my hero is fighting? That’s your active antagonist, and you have to either state it outright or strongly imply it in your pitch.

Note: The active antagonist is NOT the various bells and whistles, twists and turns, hot dogs and lack of doughnuts that plague your antagonist along the way. Those are window dressing (even if they seem important) and don’t belong in the pitch. Big hero, big villain, big stakes get the job done here.

3. The Stakes: In Claws, the stakes are a ticking clock and the imminent execution of an innocent man, both of which appear in the pitch. Secondary stakes appear there too: the ninja has pledged his life to protect the priest – so if the ninja fails, he’s going to share the Jesuit’s fate.

Your pitch MUST explain what’s at stake in your novel. Fail at that, and the listener will not care. Stories require tension; tension requires stakes. In many ways, the stakes are the most important part of your pitch, because only the stakes make the listener need to hear the rest of the story.

4. High Concept: In my case? “Ninja detective.” However, you’ll notice my pitch never says those words. The pitch as a whole makes the concept clear.

The little details of your pitch convey high concept. “Master ninja,” and “find the killer” give a ninja detective vibe. “Kyoto teahouse” sets the novel in Japan, and suggests there’s a geisha or two in the mix.

Find the unique details in your novel. Wedge them into the spaces between your protagonist, your antagonist, and your stakes.

Every word in your pitch must add something to the whole. You don’t have room for filler words that do not “earn their keep.”

Try to use no more than one adjective per noun. Try not to use adverbs – they break the flow.

From your elements, build one sentence that describes your story in one breath’s worth of words.

If you can’t say your pitch in a single breath, cut it until you can. Then–and only then–revise until that sentence rolls off your tongue as easily as your name.

Don’t over-rehearse, but make sure the pitch is smooth and easy to say, because it’s easy enough to trip over simple phrases when you’re stressed, to say nothing of overcomplicated prose.

A single sentence is easier to remember, flows off the tongue, and inspires the listener to start asking questions–exactly what a good pitch ought to do.

Pull the four elements from your work and build your pitch. Build it strong and polish it to a shine–and then get out there and pitch with confidence!

Thank you for joining me here this week – I look forward to seeing many of you at Colorado Gold!

Bio: Susan Spann is a transactional attorney and former law school professor whose practice focuses on business and publishing law. Her debut Shinobi mystery, Claws of the Cat (Minotaur Books) released on July 16, 2013. You can find Susan online at http://www.susanspann.com, or on Twitter @SusanSpann, where she created the #PubLaw hashtag to provide business and legal information for authors.

Getting the Most Out of the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference

By Mike Befeler

Writers conferences are a blast. Having attended a number of different ones, the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference ranks up there right at the top. This will be my twelfth year, and I get something new out of each one. Here are my thoughts on getting the most out of the conference.

1. If this is your first conference, jump in and meet people. If this is your umpteenth conference, make an effort to meet the people who are here for the first time. At my first conference, I knew one other person attending. Now I have many friends I’ve made over the years.

2. Take the time to peruse the schedule and pick out a variety of sessions. For my first few years, I concentrated on craft. Then I migrated to sessions on how to pitch and sell your manuscript. Then with my first publication, I focused on how to promote your books. Now, I find myself jumping in at all levels. It’s said you need to write a million words to learn the craft of writing. I’ve written over a million words, and I’ll still learning. We all can continue to tune our craft.

3. Think about what you’re currently writing and go to sessions with the frame of mind that you’re going to learn something to improve that manuscript.

4. Volunteer. It’s a great way to meet people. I’m coordinating moderators this year and moderating. We all can contribute to making the conference a success.

5. At the meals sit with someone you don’t know. Although it’s great to catch up with old friends, meal time is a chance to also make some new friends.

6. Make an effort to pitch to agents and editors. This works much better than sending in blind query letters. I sold my first book as a result of a pitch at the 2005 RMFW Colorado Gold Conference. Just don’t follow agents or editor into the restroom to pitch to them, particularly if of the opposite sex.

7. Spend time at the book sale on Friday night. Go around and meet the published authors. If you’re a published author, stand up and greet the people coming by. For the first five people who stop by to see me at the book signing and mention they’ve read this blog, I’ll give you a free book.

8. Drop by the hospitality suite after the conference Friday and Saturday nights. This is an excellent opportunity to schmooze with editors, agents and other writers. By the way, the hospitality suite is sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Hug a mystery writer.

9. Have fun.

Mike Befeler has five published books in his Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, the most recent being Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder and Care Homes Are Murder. He also has two published paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing. Mike is president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Learn more about Mike and his books at his website and blog. He can also be found on Facebook.

 

Interview with Agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

By Jeffe Kennedy

Since the Colorado Gold Conference is coming up, pitching and querying seem to be on people’s minds. So I thought I’d interview my agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg.

You’ve been an agent now for about two years, right? First with Larsen-Pomada and now with the new agency you helped form, Foreword Lit.

I was at Larsen Pomada for a year when Laurie McLean and I left with Elizabeth and Michael’s blessing to for Foreword Literary. We wanted to dig into the tech and new fields of publishing and forge some industry standards for agents while still maintaining ethics. We’re super excited to have gotten Gordon Warnock on board early on and are very excited about the new agency.

In a relatively short amount of time, you’ve sold a lot of books. Would you share your stats – how many books have you sold, to which publishers, in which genres? And how many clients do you have now?

Some of the sales are secret ;). But I’ve sold 38 books (soon to be 40 probably by the time this interview posts) to Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Entangled, and other large and small publishers. Most of my sales are romance or adult, with YA and MG following closely behind. I have twenty-two amazing clients!

Who is your favorite client?

Jeffe, of course. Don’t tell Vivi.

What made you decide to become a literary agent?

I was offered an internship a few years ago at Kimberly Cameron as a reader. I fell in love with the entire process of making a book and when Laurie offered for me to be her assistant agent I took it! After I learned from her and sold a book on my own she let me go and I’ve been running forward every since.

Do you like it?

It is literally the best job ever. To know that you are in some small way influencing what people read and making author dreams come true is a heady experience. It makes all the bad stuff (rejections, clients who didn’t work out) tolerable.

What did you do before you became an agent?

I left college to manage boy bands from Scandinavia. Then I met Marco and worked at Yahoo for a while before deciding to stay at home with my young son who I later sent to daycare because he is of Satan. Ok, maybe not Satan but he because a toddler.

While I was home with him I created a book blog that did pretty well on the interwebz. Bookalicious is still going strong with tons of reviewers and good books being recommended.

One of the things that I think gives you a different – and useful – perspective of the world of books is the time you spent being a book blogger. How do you think that informs your career as an agent?

I think book bloggers are some of the most publishing informed people in the world. We know the market, we know what’s coming out and what has already came out, and we know the publishing staff (if the blog is big enough to have worked with publishing staff). Transitioning for me may have been easier than it is for some new agents. I didn’t have to introduce myself, I only had to introduce my authors.

In which genres are you most actively acquiring right now?

Middle Grade, contemporary romance, and genre fiction (except mystery and thriller and horror).

What’s your philosophy about digital-first publishing vs. “traditional” publishing vs. self-publishing?

I love them all for different reasons and different books. I think digital/digital-first is a great way to prove your work has merit and to finagle into a print deal if that is what the author wants to do. Traditional publishing is still going strong no matter what naysayers say and has the distribution and marketing that authors desperately need in this ever-shifting marketplace. Self-publishing has brought on a new reading level (NA) and made erotic romance a household item. These ladies are making tons of money and getting big traditional deals. They have the best of both worlds.

What’s the most common misstep writers make when querying you?

Not following my very easy submissions guidelines.

What do you think is the worst advice out there for writers querying agents?

There’s this new thing where authors query in their character’s voice. That is so weird. SO WEIRD. I’m going to work with the author not the character.

What about the best advice?

Keep it short and simple!

Any final words?

Thank you for having me.

Pam’s bio:

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg started her literary career as assistant to Laurie McLean in early 2012. By April Pam was promoted to Associate Agent at Larsen Pomada. In January of 2013 after selling twenty-one books in her first year of agenting Pam was promoted to agent. When Laurie McLean mentioned creating Foreword, Pam jumped at the chance to follow her mentor and create a new agency together.

Pam blogs at Bookalicio.us, Bookalicious.org, and Brazen Reads. She partners her blogs with her local bookseller Hicklebee’s where magic happens daily.

Pam grew up on a sleepy little Podunk town in Virginia. She’s lived in the UK, several US states, and now resides in the Bay Area of California. She has two kids, two dogs, two guinea pigs, but only one husband. You can find her mostly on Twitter where she wastes copious amounts of time.

To query please send a query, 1-2 page synopsis, and the first chapter of your manuscript (no attachments) to querypam@forewordliterary.com.

Pam is interested in the following genres:

High concept young adult in any genre. Some of Pam’s favorite recent YA books are: The Masque of the Red Death, Cinder, Shadow and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Small Damages, and Insignia.

Middle grade in these genres: fantasy. Pam’s recent favorite MG books are: The Peculiar, The Emerald Atlas, Storybound, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and Icefall.

Romance in these categories: historical, fantasy, contemporary, and erotica. Pam’s favorite romance titles released recently are: Loving Lady Marcia, Be My Prince, Rogue’s Pawn, and The Siren.

New Adult in all categories will be considered. Pam has enjoyed Suddenly Royal, and Leopard Moon in this genre.

Speculative fiction in these genres: urban fantasy, paranormal, and epic/high fantasy.

 

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

Author Head ShotJeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Conference Gold: Dos and Don’ts for the Upcoming RMFW Conference

By Julie Kazimer

It’s my favorite time of the year. As the leaves start to fall, hundreds of fellow writers descend on the Colorado Gold Conference. In case you’re not signed up, you still have time. The conference starts on September 20 – 22nd. Learn more and register at http://www.rmfw.org/conference.

If you’re already registered, I look forward to seeing you there. I attended my first conference in 2007. I can’t believe how naïve I was about writing and publishing at the time. I honestly believed I’d be a bestselling author by Christmas that year. Yeah, I was a wee bit deluded.

The delusion continued, and now I find myself about to attend my 7th Colorado Gold Conference. I still get that swell of excitement and anticipation as the conference draws near. Thankfully I’ve learned a lot since my first conference. Now I will pass my vast (yeah, right) amount of conference knowledge on to you.

Do:

1) Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Friday is usually more casual. Saturday night there’s a banquet in which some dress to kill while others wear jeans. Make sure to say hi to Marc Graham, he’s the guy in a kilt.

2) Network like mad. Too often writer make the mistake of thinking their pitch or talking to an agent or editor about their book is the most important aspect of conference going. It isn’t. The odds of getting an agent or selling your book during a pitch are low, very low. On the other hand, the odds of meeting someone at the conference, whether an agent, an editor, or a fellow writer on the same journey, who will eventually affect your writing career is all but assured.

3) Pitch a finished manuscript. And only a finished manuscript. If you don’t have the book done, then wait, and query the agent and/or editor when it is finished.

4) Meet Patricia Stoltey one of the RMWF Blog Editors. She is an amazing woman.

5) Have a 30 word or less elevator pitch ready and memorized to spout at will to anyone who asks. And they will ask.

6) Attend workshops. It’s amazing what you can learn from your fellow writers.

7) Ask Writer of the Year, Linda Joffe Hull, about her journey to publication. It’s a good one.

8) Take a risk. Do something out of your comfort zone. I’m not suggesting you dance on the bar, but why not head up to the hospitality suite for a before bed nightcap. Or take a workshop outside your genre. Join a group of writers bashing the latest bestseller even if you haven’t read the book. Hang out. Soak it in.

9) Join RMFW if you aren’t already a member. It’s worth every penny.

10) Say hi! I can’t wait to meet you.

11) Have FUN! The Gold Conference is unlike any other. Enjoy it.

Don’t:

1) Look up Marc’s kilt.

2) Be shy. Here’s an icebreaker for the shy writer. Walk up to anyone and say: “What do you write?” This is an instant conversation starter and even better, helps you to focus on your own 30 words or less description of your book.

3) Throw up on the agent/editor you are pitching. As hard as this is to believe, pitches are not the end all be all. So don’t be nervous. Your entire career isn’t on the line…

4) Hide in your hotel room. Oh, I know you…well, I know me. My name is Julie, and I’m an introvert. It’s not a sin. I just need more time by myself to recharge, especially when faced with hundreds of fellow writers. It’s tempting for introverts to stay tucked away in our hotel rooms, but don’t do it. You’ll be amazed by how much you can learn and grow in 48 hours. Be present.

5) Eat alone. If you’re planning to eat lunch at the hotel restaurant, when you’re standing in line, look for others who appear alone or in a small group and join them for lunch. You’ll be amazed by who you can meet.

6) Put too much pressure on yourself. This weekend is about learning your craft, enjoying fellow writers, and gathering energy to keep on writing.

7) One more thing, try not to laugh at Mario Acevedo’s Hawaiian shirt.

Anyone have other advice for conference season? Is there anything you are looking forward to doing or workshop you plan on attending?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

Are You Serious?

By Trai Cartwright
Part Two of a Six-Part Monthly Series

Am I misguided or perhaps a tad, a bit, a dollop delusional, or are the forces behind the world of storytelling building like a Gangnam-style viral video? Have you felt it too?

I’m convinced this groundswell of creativity has been coming on for the last year or so: more and more folks, both in film and in fiction, have been taken over by the urge not just to write, but to be amazing at it, and to be serious about it. And, as if vindicating these impulses, more and more avenues to publishing and to audiences are arriving by the digibyte-load.

Why do you suppose that is? I know when I worked in Hollywood (pre- and post-Internet/cell phones/Blackberries/Smart phones, etc. etc. etc.), business stopped in August. Had to take our month-long vaca’s from living in paradise, don’tcha know. And from mid-December to mid-March everyone was at or thinking about the Holidays, the Sundance Film Festival, the Oscars, Cannes, so no go then either.

These were the times writers wrote in earnest, knowing that the minute the executives and the producers came back, they’d look around and say, “Whoops! Guess I haven’t developed any material for a while, and without material, there’s no product to sell, and without product selling, I don’t get to travel the world on Disney’s dime anymore.”

And the floodgates for submissions would open wide.

Oh, how I loved September and April.

In the publishing world, August suffers from the same absenteeism because, really, have you tried to live in NYC during that month? Even the AC has AC. And that love of month-long vacations infected a whole nation of agents and editors. (I’m not as familiar with this world — is there another time to avoid trying to pitch because everyone’s on vacation?)

So while our erstwhile moneymen and gatekeepers and greenlighters are fanning themselves in spectacular locales (at least, that’s what I wish for them), writers of every ilk are hunkering down.

This is especially seen in the fiction world right now, right this minute. Fall is the time of year we give ourselves a stringent self-evaluation:

How much have we accomplished this past year?
Did it meet our standards and goals?
Do we have anything close to being ready to sell?
What’s it going to take to get it there?
Just how seriously we’re going to take ourselves for the next twelve months?

Why this brutal going-over now, when everyone else is watching their tans fade and their kids head off to school?

It’s Writers Conference season!

This magical time happens twice a year, Fall and Spring, and it’s serious stuff. Who among us can’t wait to spend our hard-earned money to take classes, network with writers and agents, be inspired by the new author panels and key notes, pitch the future editor or agent of our books? Or are we going to wait for Spring?

The power of a good writer’s conference can’t be disputed. There are endless stories of writers who were blocked going home charged up to write, writers who did indeed find agents (I’m one of them!) that lead to book sales, writers who learned just the right skill when they needed it, and the business acumen to act on it, writers who remembered who they were, just by being immersed in the stew of their people.

We are your tribe. No one else quite understands you the way we do. And we love you.

Needless to say, I love writers and I love conferences. I teach at several a year, and am always thrilled by the success stories I hear, the vibrant life of the classroom, the prosciutto-stuffed chicken breasts. I love seeing old friends, both presenters and attendees, making new ones, and sitting in on classes so I can keep that learning-part of my writer brain alive.

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Colorado Gold Conference is one of my all-time favorites. Most of you already know it’s coming right up, and I’ll be there once again to present. My master class on Friday morning is for the particularly brave and sadistic: “The Only Character Class You’ll Every Need.” (I’m a big believer in hyperbole and then trying to deliver on my outrageous declarations.)

And on Sunday, I’ll be teaching a high-level perspective class called “I. You. Them.” This is not just a rehash of your high school English lessons—this is a potent discussion about how story is shaped by POV, and vice versa.

If you haven’t been to a conference, maybe it’s time to go. If you’re going again, I look forward to seeing you there. Regardless, ‘tis the season to ask yourself: how serious am I? How serious am I gonna be?

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

Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

Colorado Gold Conference Master Class: Scene Craft

The five master classes scheduled for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference are featured on this blog August 7, August 8, August 12, August 20, and August 29.

Scene Craft
Instructor: Sharon Mignerey
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Big Thompson

Scenes are a basic building block of storytelling, but what makes for effective scenes? Robert McKee, author of Story, says “A scene is a story in miniature.” Writers know scenes propel the plot forward, or reveal character, or create suspense, or preferably all three. Just as one size rarely fits all, a one-scene technique rarely fits all.

Stories are made up of some combination of the opening scene, suspense-building scenes, dramatic scenes, action scenes, dialogue scenes, climactic scenes, epiphany scenes, flashback scenes, and the final-resolution scene. Each of these has a different function in a story. The more a writer understands about scene craft, the more control he or she has over the story

Sharon Mignerey is both traditionally and independently published. She’s a contributor to Many Genres, One Craft, and her articles have been published by The Writer magazine. She received an MFA from Seton Hill University in Writing Popular Fiction. Sharon’s books have won several awards, including The Golden Heart, the National Readers Choice Award, and the CRW Keeper Award. She’s an active member of several groups, including RWA and RMFW.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/. The deadline to register for Master Classes is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee. More information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org

Why You *Really* Should Finish that Book

Author Head ShotI’m taking a page from Mike Befeler, and introducing myself, since this is also my first post on the RMFW blog! I’m Jeffe Kennedy and fairly new to RMFW, though I did attend the Colorado Gold conference a number of years ago.

It’s kind of a funny (read: cringeworthy) story. I attended at the urging of my good friend, RoseMarie London. I lived in Laramie, Wyoming at the time – I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico now – so it was a fairly close trip for us. I’d been writing nonfiction for some time at that point. This was maybe 2006? My essay collection, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel, had come out from University of New Mexico Press in 2004. My next project, a novel-length narrative nonfiction story, had received the thumbs down from everyone I mentioned it to. At a loss, and flailing more than just a bit, I’d started writing fiction.

I was having great fun writing this new piece, a story about a neuroscientist who accidentally winds up in Faerie. RoseMarie said that, since I was getting into writing genre, I should go with her to the conference. Besides, our buddy Chuck Box would be there and it we could party. Sure! Why not? With enthusiasm, I paid my fees and signed up to pitch to an editor.

There was one problem: I didn’t have a completed manuscript.

What was I thinking?? I don’t know, really. Maybe some of it was coming from the Land of Nonfiction. After all, I hadn’t had a completed book when my UNM Press editor read one of my essays and invited me to put a collection together for her. The book ended up being about half previously published essays and half new – quite a few that I wrote, completed or polished for the collection. I used to joke that people wanting to get a book published shouldn’t try my method at home, but somehow it had never quite penetrated my thick skull just how unusual – and amazingly lucky – that path had been.

So, there I was, nervously waiting for my assigned pitch appointment with Shauna Summers. (That might tell some of you record-keepers what year this was.) In a surprise move, apparently Shauna decided to take everyone scheduled throughout the hour in a group pitch. We all went in and sat around the table. One by one I listened to my fellow sacrificial lambs, either with stammering nerves or brash confidence, spin out their pitches. After each one, she’d nod and ask, “Is it finished?” The answer was almost always no.

What were we thinking??

I think one girl had completed her manuscript and when Shauna smiled and said “send it,” it was like the rays of heaven shone down on her. I was desperately envious, I don’t mind admitting, because when it came my turn and I had to confess that it wasn’t finished (hell – I had maybe three chapters), she told me what she told the others. She gave us her card and told us to send it when it was done. She figured our conference fee should include the opportunity to send her our work.

An opportunity I totally blew.

It took me another year or two to actually write that book. When I began shopping it, I discovered I’d lost Shauna’s card. And then it turned out she’d changed houses anyway.

That book eventually became Rogue’s Pawn, published by Carina Press as a Fantasy Romance just last summer. The sequel, Rogue’s Possession, comes out in October, with the trilogy cap coming out next year. I’ve also now published three Erotic Romances with Carina, in my Facets of Passion series, with a fourth coming out at Christmas. I’ve just signed a three-book deal with them for three more novel-length erotic romances. I’ve also signed a deal with Kensington this year, for my e-serial Master of the Opera, which debuts in January, and for a Fantasy trilogy, The Twelve Kingdoms, coming out in trade paperback starting next June. (Incidentally, a prequel short story to that trilogy is included in the anthology Thunder on the Battlefield, Volume II, which just came out August 7, the day I’m writing this post!)

So, things have been very good for me. I’ve been lucky. I also figured out how to finish books, which always helps.

Still, just a few weeks ago, I was signing books at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Literacy Signing in Atlanta and who but Shauna Summers came by! Only she was visiting the author sitting next to me, who Shauna edits and whose books just happen to be on all the bestseller lists. They laughed and chatted and I nearly said, “Hi, remember me? I’m the dufus who pitched to you years ago with no actual book to submit.” Of course, I didn’t, because she wouldn’t. I was forgettable. I wanted to clench my tiny fists and wail to the sky (or fluorescent-lit convention hall ceiling) that she should have been MINE MINE MINE!

Alas.

At any rate, that’s me and my cautionary tale. Now go finish your books!

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

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road, and Make a Left: The Journey through Publication

By Julie Kazimer

Recently a friend complained of how long it took him to finally have success as an author. In his view, success meant a third book release in a year, signing with an agent, and good sales numbers and lots of press attention. Not a bad way to define success at all. I wish I had such complaints.

And I do.

You do too.

Being a writer takes a lot of hard work, many hours of butt in the chair, many words tossed in the trash bin, many ups and downs, rejections and a few acceptances, as well as the belief, even in the face of clear signs to the contrary, you can and will succeed.

Some call this belief delusion, and eventually quit. Others, like us, keep plugging away, so deluded in our desire that one day something magically happens.  We complain. We complain about taking two years to find an agent. We complain about the two years it takes for our publisher to release our book. We complain about sales numbers. Reviews. And that questionable wart we got from that booksigning in Boulder.

It’s not that I am ungrateful for what I have, instead, I am looking at my yellow brick road, and seeing only more yellow. Well it’s time to stop viewing my journey as to how long it’s taken, or how much longer the path might be. But rather what I have accomplished thus far. I hope you will join me, or at least, not laugh directly in my face.

I started and/or finished writing a book
80%of people in the US feel like they should write a book. Most never do.
My critique group loves my book
Weird since they normally make me cry.
I’ve sent a query to a real live agent (versus those undead ones).
Over 15,000 writers query an agent a year.
I signed with an agent.
And she didn’t ask for my blood or a thousand dollars in return.
I uploaded a short story collection to amazon.
The first year it sold well over 20 copies. I thought about retiring, but decided, in the end, I liked eating more than cat food. This year it sold over 1200, retirement still not an option, but I have hopes for 2075.
I received my 1027th rejection.
I’ve received my 1027th rejection!!!!! Whoo Hoo! Two more and I win a book deal!
An editor wants my book
And he’s not imaginary. I swear it.
I got a review in PW (a bad one, but still…)
Very few new releases get a PW review, good or bad, so why not embrace it?
Amazon ranked me at 50,000.
Ha! I’m better than 450,000 other authors! (Not really, but why burst my bubble?)
I gave a workshop on publishing.
And I didn’t throw up on the crowd.
I sold 5 books at my last signing
Damn straight. The average is only 4. Suck it, statistics.
I am part of RMFW or plan to join and/or belong to another writerly organization.
Joining a writers group increases others’ chances of publishing success by 68%, mine by 100% since I sold my first book at the 2010 Colorado Gold Conference.

So which brick are you on your path to publication? Share with us your last accomplishment, your last brick in your journey, be it writing a thousand words or selling a million books.

And thanks for playing along.

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kazimerJ.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE  as well as the forthcoming romance from Coffeetown Press, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

Scrub Your Mindscape Clean

By Mark Stevens

Skip the tips.

Forget everything you’ve learned.

Put down your copy of 100 Fabulous Secrets to Better Writing Now!

Move away from the stack of books you slowly acquired ever since you first had the thought that you might want to write fiction. (Spoiler alert: all those books pretty much all say the same thing. They are as repetitive as magazines about how to swing a golf club. Or how to diet.)

That’s right.

Forget it all.

Put it aside, shove it to the back of your brain or, even better, scrub the whole mindscape clean. Lesson-free, worry-free, anxiety-proofed. Silence the inner coach.

Oh yeah, one more thing: don’t even think about your favorite author or some writing style you’d like to emulate.

There. Got it?

Now, tell me a story. Only, pretend I’m in a soundproof room and you’re going to have to slide me pages under the door as the story unfolds—as you write it down. In your writing voice. With your words.

Okay, there you go.

Here’s what I want: I want to know your character—inside and out. And, well, it would be pretty cool if something actually, you know, happened.

There must be a reason this is a story and not just an account of some random, meaningless day. Or week. Or series of connected events.

My point? My point is sometimes you have to get back to basics. And those basics are:

1. See clearly.
2. Describe honestly.
3. Keep things moving.

Sometimes (drum roll, please) you just have to write.

And write some more.

(Of ALL the writing advice you’ve received over the years, isn’t that the most common refrain? “Write every day.” “Keep on writing.” “Write, write, write.” “Write a million words.” Or some such variation. Has one writing coach or respected elder of the writing community ever suggested that you think more or suck your thumb harder? Didn’t think so.)

And after you’ve written, have some other readers check what you’ve written, to see if they get the story you’re trying to tell.

That’s it.

Your voice, your words, your damn story.

It’s bound to be one of a kind.

But if you do need a jump-start or if you’re looking for that one magical moment of inspiration, come to Colorado Gold, RMFW’s massively brilliant three-day conference Sept. 20, 21 and 22 in Denver.

For more information about the conference, visit the RMFW website.

I can promise you one thing: you won’t starve for advice.

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Mark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.