Tag Archives: Colorado Gold

I Took Way Too Many Notes at the Colorado Gold Conference

By Patricia Stoltey

I felt obligated to stick to the same word count I suggested for the rest of our blog’s contributors and guests, but it was hard. I took so many notes, and I learned so much, that I still feel as though I fell off my diet and stuffed myself too full. Let’s see if the post will be lean enough if I give you the name of the session, the instructor’s name, and one thing I learned (all paraphrased). I’ll skip details about the guest speakers and just tell you they were all wonderful.

On Friday, I worked the registration table until 2:00 PM and then had to check into the hotel room, so I didn’t get to my first session until 3:00. That was Bill Konigsberg’s Seven Deadly Sins of Dialogue in Young-Adult Fiction.

First deadly sin: Overuse of slang

Agent Panel with Sally Harding, Natalie Lakosil, Kathleen Rushall, and Sarah Joy Freese.

One of the worst things an author can do in his query letter is not talk about his book. The format to follow is “The hook, the book, and the cook,” and all need to be brief.

In the Middle: Pluses and Minuses of Small Press Publishing, Katriena Knights

Contracts with small presses tend to be shorter in duration and often for only one format. This allows a book to have 2-3 good life cycles.

Denver Skyline from Our Conference Hotel Room Balcony

Denver Skyline from Our Conference Hotel Room Balcony

Saturday was an amazing day filled with difficult choices. Picking which workshop to attend was hard, and I often changed my mind at the last minute.

The Artist’s Way: Still Fresh, Robin Owens

When challenged to write pseudo-morning pages for ten minutes, I discovered some authors (Janet Lane, for instance) are very creative at 8:00 AM. I, however, was just grumpy and mostly scribbled on about needing another cup of coffee.

Why Would Librarians Buy Your Book—Or Not?, Mary Gilgannon and Alice Kober

The mini-synopsis (story blurb) on the back cover (and often included in book catalogues) is critical to librarian selection.

How to Art Direct Your Book’s Cover Design, Karen Duvall

The latest trend in covers is to use models in headless shots, or silhouettes, or from the back.

The Point of No Return: Crossing the Threshold from Traditionally Published to Self-Published, Jeff Shelby

The new exploding market is New Adult for young women age 18-25 with plenty of romance, sex, drama, and bad boys. Normal length: 65,000 words.

An Agent Reads the Slush Pile, Kristin Nelson and Sally Harding

Don’t do world building in a prologue. If you use a prologue, it should set up a question or establish a scene that will become important later in the story.

Who’s Your Narrator?, Ronald Malfi

Dialogue needs to reflect each character’s voice, even when the chapter or scene is not from that character’s POV.

The Hybrid Author, Karyn Marcus and Kristin Nelson

I learned all about the story of Hugh Howey who began by self-publishing and was later picked up by a major publisher for his compiled book, Wool. I’d never heard anything about this author before. The story is too long to tell here. Sorry about that.

Sunday morning I skipped the continental breakfast of fruit and pastries and joined friends in the restaurant for a real breakfast. The waitress forgot to bring my bacon. Can you believe that? Forgot to bring my bacon!

I attended the 8:00 AM session, still upset, but quickly settled in to enjoy The Road Map to a Successful E-Pub Career Shift, Cate Rowan

Cover art for e-books needs to pop when it’s displayed in thumbnail size (that’s where the online bookseller shows a line of books that were purchased at the same time as the search book).

I, You, Them: How Perspective Powers Your Story, Trai Cartwright

Holy cow! I still have new things to learn about Point of View. Do you know the difference between Third Close Dramatic and Third Close Limited? I had them confused. Sigh! I’m not going to try to explain them here. I’d probably get it wrong (even though I think I took really good notes).

And that’s my super-condensed version from twenty-seven 4 1/2” x 6 1/2” pages of notes. I could go on and on…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPatricia Stoltey is the author of two amateur sleuth mysteries published by Five Star/Cengage in hardcover and Harlequin Worldwide mass market paperbacks. The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders are now available for Kindle and Nook. Her blog is known for featuring guest authors who write in a variety of genres.

She can be stalked on Facebook and Twitter.

Passion is Inspiration

By Nicole Disney

We’ve all had that moment. You’re driving on the highway, in the middle of your shift at work, in the shower, and inspiration comes. The words draw each other together like reunited lovers in bursts so poetic and fleeting you must find a pen. Whether that means leaving the steering wheel of your speeding vehicle in the hands of your seven year old or turning your hair into a gum of leftover conditioner is hardly the point. The only problem is that there is an equal and opposite force out there that will leave the cursor blinking on a screen much too bright for the black room hours of paralysis have darkened.

Following another brilliant Colorado Gold Conference, I suspect most of us are still feeling buzzed on new ideas and potential agent and editor connections. Now may seem an unnecessary time to muse on inspiration. But like a New Year’s Resolution, this energy of immersion can so quickly fade into the tedium of reality. How do we hold onto this magical feeling of hope and motivation?

I can easily recall an uncomfortable number of times I spent my entire day fantasizing inside my characters’ minds and worlds, counting down until I could clock out from work, go home, and write. But something happened around hour nine or ten of work. Thoughts of my keyboard and favorite pens turned to thoughts of cuddling with my kittens, a movie, and bed.

Now I’ve learned to remind myself to compare writing not with what else I could do at home, but what I don’t want to do at work. Family time, meals, and sleep was never what we writers set out to replace, that’s just the way it often happens. But if we ever want to reach the coveted combination of laptops and cuddles, we have to boot the day jobs to the curb. It’s not writing versus reading a good book and sipping on wine; it’s writing versus waiting tables and double shifts.

That may be enough to get you to the keyboard, but what if all your brain will manifest is a vague and distant knowledge that you should probably blink more often to temper that kind of blank staring? Some will say write anyway. Force it, even if you know you’re going to delete every word of that cumbersome garbage. While I do appreciate the value of getting the pen moving, I’ve recently discovered something much more entertaining, something more fun than sheer will power.

I sit down and make a list of questions. Not just any question will do, these must be the most thought provoking, hot button, or otherwise offensive questions you can muster. Compile every subject a socially unobtrusive person would avoid and then go there. If you can figure out what makes other people mad, then you know what makes them care. Figure out what makes you care, and you’re a short step away from inspiration. A warning should be inherent in this exercise. Whether you go out and actually provoke people is completely dependent on your sense of adventure. What follows may be a disaster or great material, depending how you see the world.

Even if you only consider these issues in your mind, and even if you never actually write a story about any of them directly, these arguments with multiple valid and understandable stances are the guts of great stories and of believable characters. How they make you feel can be the oil that starts the wheels turning again. Passion is inspiration.

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Nicole Disney is the debut author of contemporary lesbian fiction novel, Dissonance in A Minor. She lives in Denver, Colorado where she continues to write dark, edgy novels. She is also a martial arts instructor and teaches Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Karate. For more about Nicole, please visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Post Conference Post

By Julie Kazimer

Well it’s done. Another fabulous Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference is the books. My head swells with information, not to mention a little too much time in the hospitality suite. I met new and old friends alike. This conference had over 100 new attendees. First timers are the lifeblood for us old hats, at least for me. I love the excitement and buzz in the air as people explore new writing and craft territory.

And let me just say, there was plenty to learn. Being a total, all knowing publishing pro, I opted for the business/career track of workshops. I was not disappointed. Okay I was, only in that, I found out I am NOT a total, all knowing publishing pro.

Bestselling author and indie pub guru, Jeff Shelby led us on a few wonderful forays into e-publishing. Carnia Press editor, Jeff Seymour (a personal hero since he saved my workshop by loaning me his laptop) taught a riveting class on how to write back cover copy for indie publishing. I took advantage of this right away, and I swear my cover copy has never sounded better.

The famous Susan Spann did her stuff by teaching us some legalness when it comes to author and publisher rights. Bree Evrin taught us social media illiterates how to hashtag like the best of them. Lynda Hilburn shared secrets on how to fix that one thing…the thing writers dare not mention…rhymes with Biters Lock. Rockstar Angie Hodapp shared her expertise on vivid description. Mario Acevedo, Warren Hammond and Betsy Dorbusch crushed it with a panel on two of my favorite things, crime and noir. The agent and editor panels were, as always, fascinating. And how could I forget Karen Lin’s Book to Script workshop. I’m ready for my close up, Mr. Deville. And all the billions in royalties once I become the darling of Hollywood. (No, I am not still drunk from my extended time in the hospitality suite). There were plenty of other amazing workshops and presentations. Forgive me if I didn’t mention yours. The editors, Pat and Julie like me to keep my posts under a million words.

What else to share? The Friday night booksigning was a blast. Nina and Ron Else from Who Else Books (The Broadway Book Mall) are two fo my favorite people to see at the conference. Not only do they sell my books, and make me look good while doing it, but they are wonderful people. As I arrived at my booksigning station this year, a small package sat in front of me. Nina had given me a tiny princess who grows 600% in water. Now I should’ve read the directions more carefully, because it did say in water, not whiskey. But I love my tiny princess at the same, and Nina for giving it to me.

That same night, Writer of the Year, Linda Hull, gave an inspiring speech about persistence, pain, and the joys to be found in both publishing and in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization itself. This is a woman who spent years waiting for her big break, suffering the ups and downs of the industry, and now is quickly rising to the top. I wish her and the other Writer of the Year nominees the best, as well as all those who finaled and won the Colorado Gold contest. You are great writers who are moments away from achieving your dreams.

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who made this conference possible, especially Vicki Law and her cohorts, who raised over $4000 for CO Flood relief. And a huge shout out to Susie Brooks, the conference chair. Great job by all.

Here’s to hoping all of you who pitched to an agent or editor fulfill your publication dreams. And thank you to all my new writerly friends and my old ones as well for a fantastic weekend. Now quit reading this (in a few more sentences) and go write!

There was so much more to share, but I’m exhausted.

What was your favorite conference moment? And does anyone know where I left my left shoe? I can’t seem to find it. I know I had it at dinner…

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J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include The Body Dwellers, 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.

 

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.

 

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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?

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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?

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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!

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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.