The Secret is Out!

After years of writing and months of revisions, my latest "baby" made her debut into the world on July 15th--Crimson Secret, Book 4 in my Coin Forest historical romance series.

It features medieval battles during the War of the Roses, the forgotten charm of "living bridges," and forbidden love. Master bridge builder Lord Penry is a known traitor, committed to destroying Joya's beloved Queen Margaret so the Duke of York can rule. Like her family, Joya is deeply devoted to Margaret. They're both right, both wrong, both lost in the heat of an unbridled passion that threatens their families' holdings, and their lives.

Okay, end of blurb. Thanks for reading.

That expression, "It Takes a Village," comes to mind. What would I do without my critique partners? My plot buddies? My RMFW friends?3DCrimsonSecret300x354

A hearty "Thank you!" to everyone who read, helped and supported me as I worked through the chapters, revisions and marketing.

It’s such a thing of beauty, this book. It’s my first print book since 2008, and I can’t stop looking at it, feeling the smooth matte finish, flipping through the pages. Ahhh.

It’s true love. (Sigh)

And yes, I still love eBooks. The novel is available in both formats. What I especially love is that the revisions can stop, LOL.

Seriously, as I did with my previous books, I’ve given this novel my all. I’ve sent out the notices. I’ve done my mailings. I’ve blogged and Facebooked and Tweeted and advertised and submitted and received good reviews, and it feels like my birthday. All I need is a hot fudge sundae (check!) and, scheduled for tonight, a stem of Cakebread chardonnay, and I’ll be certain I’ve sneaked into heaven without having to pay admission.

Love, love, love, love, love. Who but a fellow writer would understand this bliss?

As if all that isn’t enough, new ideas are floating around in my mind, ripe for the picking, for the next book in the series. I’ve ordered two research books, and can’t wait to plunge into the next story.

I can’t stand it. Did I complain recently about writer nightmares? Poof! They’ve vanished from my memory, and I’m bathing in the warm summer sunshine.

This is it. This is why we struggle to find the right words, agonize over plot points, slog through saggy middles and the daunting demands of the market. I created beautiful new characters, and they have suffered through misfortunes and teeth-gnashing angst, experienced awesome adventures, worn fabulous fashions, enjoyed heart-melting romance, and have been launched into their happily-ever-after futures. All is right with the world.

Like any good plot, this reverie won’t last. We need Conflict! Challenge! Change! Still, trust me when I say I’m going to savor every marvelous moment of this.

If you like historical romance, please give Crimson Secret a try. It's available in eBook now, and in three days, it will be available in paperback, as well.

I'm so happy, my face hurts from smiling. I'm wishing you similar moments of bliss with your writing!

Mind, Body and Writing

A friend of mine who has endured cancer treatment and chronic pain issues for the last several years recently announced that she was taking a break from writing. Cognitive issues related to chemotherapy have made story structure and continuity, even word recall, a huge challenge for her. But even more than that, I think she is tired of the struggle to cope, to be productive and meet deadlines. And maybe she’s just tired, period.

Because writing does take a certain physical stamina. It doesn’t seem like it should. After all, you sit while you’re doing it. Some people even recline in bed as they write on a laptop. I’m pretty sure most non-writers look at writing as very non-demanding physically. I’ll never forget when Stephen King was injured in that freak car accident and one of the patrons at the library where I work said something to the effect of “Well, maybe now he’ll be forced to do nothing but write and will get his books finished faster.”

Not only did the remark seem incredibly callous, as if King being injured was a positive thing, but it also seemed very stupid. Someone injured and in pain is not going to be a productive writer. And indeed, that experience took a terrible toll on King and his creativity for a number of years, as he has documented in various autobiographical pieces.

Writing can be an escape and a rejuvenating experience. But it takes energy, and energy comes from a healthy body. Many successful writers when interviewed will talk about the importance of physical exercise in their daily routine. They know that keeping the body in shape and moving helps keep the words and story ideas flowing. And recent studies have shown that physical exercise helps stave off dementia and cognitive decline as we age.

My friend needs time to heal, to learn ways of coping with the damage that chemotherapy and chronic pain have wrought on her body and her spirit. We speak of “filling the well”—through life experiences, travel, contact with other people, through living a full and interesting life. But sometimes “filling the well” involves resting. Simply being, rather than always doing.

I tend to be rather driven, especially in regards to writing. I set goals for myself and get frustrated when I don’t meet them. I was very productive the first part of this year, but then life intervened. Both good and bad things have sucked up my time and reduced my writing pace to a crawl. My lack of productivity has gnawed at me and increased my stress. And then I met with my friend and she discussed her decision, and I realized that I need to remember to nurture and care for myself physically if I want to have the energy and spark to be a productive writer.

When I started out, I saw writing as an escape from stress and a source of positive energy. But as I’ve gotten older I realize that writing requires physical energy even as it produces positive mental energy. Which means it’s important to do things that help me increase my physical vitality. Exercise is one of those. But more subtly, taking it easy can also help. There are activities I used to see as wasting time or taking me away from writing: Puttering in my garden, reading the newspaper or a magazine. Having sociological discussions with my daughter. Hanging out on the patio and listening to music with my husband.

I used to feel guilty for doing those things, but I’ve begun to understand that they help “fill the well” in an important way. Those activities relax me and reduce my stress, which rejuvenates me physically so I have the energy to write.

Shining the RMFW Spotlight on Kevin Paul Tracy

KevinPaulTracy HeadShot1. Kevin, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am a regular contributor to the RMFW Blog and I host a critique group called Dynamic Critique which isn't exactly RMFW sanctioned, but we are all RMFW members. At one time or another I have been Critique Chair, Webmaster, Anthology Chair ("Tales From Mistwillow",) Gold Contest judge, and critique group moderator. It's entirely likely I've forgotten one. Sometimes I held these positions simultaneously.

I've been actively involved in RMFW for a couple of reasons. First, I am a steadfast advocate of the truism, "You get out of it what you put in." That applies to everything, especially life in general, but for our discussion here, particularly to RMFW. I have learned more by being an active volunteer for the organization than I would ever have learned merely attending workshops and conferences. I've met more people and made more friends, and I've gotten more personal and professional exposure, too.

The other reason is that, as a near-charter member of RMFW, I love the organization like family. I have a vested interest in seeing it continue to thrive and provide its unique services to the local writing community.

Oh, and the Golden Nugget awards are neat, too.

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

I have three current works in progress. By the time this article posts my latest thriller, Presence of Malice, will have dropped and will have made quite a splash. It's about a hired killer, an ex-Navy SEAL who may or may not have been driven mad by eight years of torture in a Chinese prison; two plastic surgeons who used to be friends and partners now at each other's throats; and an unlikely romance between an earnest young woman and a paraplegic hacker, both caught in the cross fire of a conflict turned bloody

I'm also currently working on a sequel to my most popular Thriller, Rogue Agenda, and a third in my Kathryn Desmarais vampire decology (10 books.) All of these books are/will be available anywhere books are sold, or you can email me for a signed copy.

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'd love to see one of my books made into a movie. I just think that'd be so cool!

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

That's a hard one. I would say it's that I love happy endings, except not all my books have one, not to mention that I know many who don't view that as a flaw. I might also say that I love over-the-top action which many people think stretches credulity, but I'm told by readers that's one of the things they like most about my books.

I supposed my great vulnerability as a writer is my self-confidence. I've already written about how I grew up being told I could never make it as a writer. My self-confidence is way too fragile. An editor's rejection, a bad review on Amazon or GoodReads, these things can send me into a tailspin of self-doubt that can actually make it hard to keep writing. But I've powered through and I must say the success I've experienced has gone a long way toward shoring up my confidence against future pokes and jabs.

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

In writing, I can make reality work the way I think it should. In a thriller, you can't change the laws of physics, and if you introduce a little fringe science it better be rooted in enough actual science to not totally insult your readers. But what I mean is, in the world I write in, bad guys lose and good guys win. Maybe not right away, certainly not without plenty of obstacles and setbacks along the way. And victory may even cost the good guy something by the end, sometimes something dear enough to leave the reader wondering if that sacrifice was worth it. Still, I get to leave readers with a fulfilling and satisfying end to a story, the kind of closure we almost never get in real life.

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

Easy: Never give up. Write and write and write, and completely shut out the doubts and the setbacks. In my opinion the only difference between success and failure is where you give up. If you give up after a setback, then you failed at being a writer. But if you never give up, then you never fail, you only continue to grow and learn. And when has personal growth and acquired knowledge not led to success, eventually?

Kevin Paul Tracy workspace7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

Right now my work area is constrained by space - I am taking my familial turn caring for a disabled relative. My computer occupies a folding TV tray in a bedroom not much larger than most storage sheds. I have all my reference materials close at hand, but none of my usual inspirations or comfort items. Usually (and again very soon) my desk is designed to fit facing into a corner, to shut out distractions. I have paintings and posters on the wall I find inspiring, some of which might seem rather non-sequitur to an outsider. For example the picture of a beautiful woman, bare leg exposed through a hip-length tear in her long skirt, hand out as a majestic white unicorn eats from it. Why does a thriller writer find inspiration from a page torn from a fantasy calendar? It's hard to describe, but I love how real the painter makes a scene of pure fantasy look and feel. It reminds me that a writer's job is to make a story about something that never happened feel real to readers.

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

Most recently, out of some sudden nostalgic impulse, I've gone back to reread some of the books and novels that inspired me as a young writer: Lord of The Rings, Dracula, anything by Stephen King. Right now I'm rereading Ian Fleming's James Bond series. They are flawed and dated, but fun to revisit.

And Aaron Michael Ritchey Waves His Magic Wand! Poof!

I am going to wave my magic wand, and I am going to make all your writerly dreams come true.

Yeah, my magic wand. No sex jokes.

Like Sigmund said, sometimes a magic wand is just a magic wand.

Here I go.

Do you know that story you were so excited about but every single short story market rejected you?

Poof.

You sent in query letter after query letter on the short story, and bam, a total acceptance for professional rates, ten cents a word, and you were included in a “best of” anthology. Suddenly, a hundred literary agents are knocking on your door wondering if you have a novel they can represent.

You can thank me later.

What about that cover you weren’t quite thrilled with?

Poof!

You have the ultimate cover drawn by either Frank Frazetta or Michael Whelan. Your book cover could be a movie. No, seriously, and not a movie released in January to a limited audiences, but a movie released in July with Florence +t the Machine on the soundtrack. It’s such a great cover.

You can thank me later.

What about that agent who loved your story idea, asked for the full manuscript, then eighteen months later rejected you because the market changed?

Poof!

Ten minutes after reading the full manuscript, that agent immediately called his go-to guy at HarperCollins and you are offered a six-book contract including a movie deal, and you get to meet Joss Whedon who is interested in the project.

You can thank me later.

What about that time you Indie published a book you loved more than life, more than sleep, more than donuts? It sold five copies and a week later its Amazon ranking sank into the low two millions. It’s still falling and threatens to become Amazon’s least sold book of all time.

Poof!

The day after you published the book, the Amazon ranking shot into the top one hundred. By noon? The top ten. By twilight, it was number one across all of Amazon and across all of the major categories. Suddenly, there’s a Huffington Post article on your book! How can this Indie book be dominating Amazon for weeks on end? Someone from Amazon calls you to apologize because they don’t have enough money to pay you. They’ve never seen such a book break those records. A month later, Joss Whedon calls you, personally, to ask if he can turn your book into a Netflix series.

You can thank me later.

What about that book where you did your homework, sent out review copies, made people sign blood oaths, all to get at least fifty Amazon reviews on the release day? Then? Yeah, you had two reviews. Amazon removed one, and the other was a one-star review that confused your book with the latest from Chuck Tingle.

Poof!

Not only did you get fifty five-star reviews, no, you got a hundred reviews total. And more are coming in each day. Joss Whedon left a review. And the bots working the interwebs saw all those reviews and emailed everyone across the globe—anyone with an email address—a “Buy Me” promotion about your book. You sold gazillions.

You can thank me later.

What about yesterday, when you promised yourself you’d get up early to write that one scene, which you were originally excited to write? Instead of getting up, you slept in, then wasted what little time you did have on Facebook, and then the day hit and you won’t be writing a single thing.

Poof!

Wait…

Dammit. Nothing happened?

Let me try again.

Poof!

Still nothing?

Let me check out my magic wand for a minute (no sex jokes). It’s working. I mean, it did all of that other stuff.

Oh, wait. That’s right. I can’t magic you into writing your book. That’s something firmly in your control, and yeah, it can be rough, life is busy, and dude, the Preacher comic has its own AMC show. I know. How cool is all that?

The magic wand only works on things outside of your control.

All of the wonderful things I’ve done on this blogpost are possible. They happen all the time. Magic happens to writers who finish books and get them out into the world. Sometimes great big magic. Sometimes teeny-weeny magic. But magic happens.

So do what you have control over. Write those books.

No need to thank you. You know what to do.

Are we having fun yet? … by Chris Goff

Chris-GoffI have always considered myself a "glass half-full"-kind of gal. You know, the one who always looks on the bright side, who sees the funny in things, and enjoys her work. But lately, I'm finding it harder and harder to write.

Take RED SKY, my book-in-progress. I should be thrilled. I have a contract, an agent who loves me and an editor who loves my writing. I love the thriller genre. What could possibly be better?

Except, I have a deadline that's killing me! I've already been granted two extensions and I'm late again. I have a plot that seems to be getting larger and larger, that I can't seem to wrangle, and self-doubt is mumbling in my ear. It's becoming harder and harder to write.

Take DARK WATERS, my first book in the new thriller series. It's on some kind of roll. We sold the audio rights, international rights and book club rights. It's a Finalist for both a Colorado Authors' League Award and a Colorado Book Award. It garnered some great blurbs, some great press and it's got 43 Amazon reviews. All good, right?

Except, I can't seem to shake-off the notion that if I could just hit 50 reviews (hint) Amazon's next algorithm will trip launching me into the stratosphere (am I overreaching?) OR that the last review posted (while not bad and which I should never have read) dissed a premise in my book that carries over to the next book (FYI, a premise that I adore) and now I'm finding it harder and harder to write.

2016_Goff_Owls CoverTake A PARLIAMENT OF OWLS. It was March of 2007 when my last Birdwatcher's Mystery was published. Nine years ago! Now I've found a home for my backlist and Book #6 is scheduled for release in May. The launch is scheduled for May 25th at the Tattered Cover Book Store at 7 p.m. (hint), and I should be doing the "happy dance," right?

Except every signing conjures memories of the launch of DEATH OF A SONGBIRD, Book #2, at my hometown book store, where only two people came—two!—the head boy from my high school graduating class and my aunt. I was devastated, not to mention embarrassed (the book store owner had ordered in 100 copies of my book). Fortunately, the next week, friends returning from their summer vacations descended on the book store and saved my bacon. Yet, 15 years later, I still angst about every book signing—making it harder and harder to write.

Need I go on? There are the writer gigs. Sooo much fun! And I've been fortunate to have been asked to do quite a few in the next several months. But, while I love sharing with other writers and with readers, preparation takes time. Plus it's only fair to the event planners, my publisher, and me to spend time on Social Media and promotion.

And then there's my personal life....

Okay, you see the theme (and, if you're like me, you've got the tune to the Maroon 5 song "Harder to Breathe" stuck in your head) and you're probably thinking: "What the heck is she whining about ?" because your professional and personal life is no doubt way more busy and congested than mine.

So, my question for you is: Are we having fun? If it's always fun, I want to know your secret. Please post!

But for those of you who can feel my pain, I've come up a simple strategy for putting the FUN back in writing.

1. Free up some time. I used to write every chance I could—in the evening after the kids were in bed or in the morning after everyone went out the door. I craved time to write, and every minute I carved out was a gift. My vow: to once more cherish my writing time.

2. Unfetter the muse. When I first started writing, I never worried about deadlines or page counts or plot lines or genre constraints. I used to follow the tangents to see where they'd lead, never worried about the pages I might have to throw away. It was a joy to see where my writing took me. My vow: to write with abandon again.

3. Nurture yourself. Everybody needs time to breathe. There are only so many hours in a day, and there are so many things to get done and so many things that need doing. I used to be much better at compartmentalizing my time. My vow: to find a better balance.

So, to answer my own question, of course we're having fun! Or we will be. Right now I have to get back to my writing. You see, I have this deadline that's killing me!

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

Chris Goff is the award-winning author of six environmental novels and a new international thriller series. Her sixth book in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series, A PARLIAMENT OF OWLS, comes out in May. Previous titles were nominated for two WILLA Literary Awards, a Colorado Author's League Award, and published in Japan. DARK WATERS, her first international thriller, was published September 2015 by Crooked Lane Books. Manhattan Book Review calls it “Absolutely masterful...” and it’s a Finalist for both the 2016 Colorado Authors’ League Award-Genre and the 2016 Colorado Book Award-Thriller, and a Nominee for a 2016 Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook. For more information, visit her on the web www.christinegoff.com; on facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/authorchristinegoff; or twitter https://twitter.com/christinegoff.

Linger & Mingle

Last Thursday Night at the Edgar Awards in New York City.
Last Thursday Night at the Edgar Awards in New York City.

How did I get here?

That was my question last Thursday night as I sat at the banquet at The Edgar Awards in New York City.
Technically, I got to the banquet because I’m president of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA).

That slot puts you on the national board for Mystery Writers of America and that means you get to attend a quite swanky event and watch mystery writers pick up the top award in my favorite genre.

But the RMMWA gig only came about because I also previously had the chance to do lots of things with RMFW.

But how did that come about?

Years ago, I’d started going to the monthly workshops on a regular basis. I started asking more questions. I started hanging out. I lingered. And, well, mingled. I started getting to know a few people. And then someone asked if I would like to serve as monthly workshop coordinator. Maybe? Would I?

I won’t belabor every step but suddenly I found myself in the flow of the organization. After a few board meetings, I started to see how the organization functions. Who wouldn’t be impressed by watching so many give so much?

(Don’t worry—this isn’t a ‘please volunteer’ pitch.)

(Of course, it would be fine if you did. RMFW is always in need of new voices. It would give you a chance to linger and mingle.)

By chipping in a little time and effort, showing a bit of care for how RMFW did its thing as an organization, I found it felt good to chip in and help. And then the next thing you know, I’m helping out with the mystery writers group and there you go.

So hold that thought for a second and now see if you agree with me on this (or not).

Writers are friendly people.

True? Yes?

As the Edgar Awards banquet was winding down, I hung around. Yes, lingered.

A guy who is, in my world, a pretty darn big name in the mystery writing field came up to say hello. He has won a “best novel of the year” Edgar. His new book (comes out in a few weeks) has already been optioned for film. He’s heading out soon on a national tour.

I’d met him once before at mystery conference, but I mean that “meeting” was 3.5 seconds and done.

Last week the chat was five minutes. Um, maybe ten. He said he knew my name. What? Seriously?

The banquet hall.
The banquet hall.

I handed him my business card, which has the cover for Lake of Fire on it and he was surprised. It turns out that was going to be the title for one of his books, a few books ago.

(So glad I beat him to it.)

Well, after chatting for a few minutes he said something along these lines: “If there is anything I can ever do to help you, please let me know.”

So pitching in to help run a few workshops about 10 years ago led me to this conversation with this very well-known writer who is offering me help.

???

I was telling a non-writer friend about this exchange the morning after the banquet.

She said: “Well, it makes sense, you know, it seems to me that writers have to like people. I mean, if they are going to write about people they have to like them first, be interested in what makes them tick.”

Boom. There it was.

Yeah, writers are generally good people.

We are, generally, interested in people.

Don’t we have to be?

The RMFW Spotlight is Shining on Volunteer Julie Kazimer

JAKazimer1. Welcome to the RMFW Spotlight series, Julie. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I don’t do nearly as much as others do, nor do I feel like I do enough, so thank you, Pat, for asking me to answer these very intrusive questions about myself. I do a couple of things, semi-regular. I co-edit this here blog with the awesomeness that is Pat Stoltey, as well as blog twice a month (the hardest part of my volunteering, for sure). I also was lucky enough to review workshop proposals for the upcoming conference. I have to say, damn, we have a brilliant group of faculty. Even those proposals not picked were above and beyond. I wish we had more time slots. Let’s see, I also have judged the CO Gold contest, and taught a handful of times, both at conference and for the Western Slope (a great group headed by the fabulous Terri Benson, also one of our bloggers). As to why I’m involved, that’s easy; I owe my current career to RMFW. No other way to say it. My first book deal came directly from a workshop at the conference in 2010. For better or worse, RMFW is to blame for my writing. Yep, full blame to RMFW!

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

My current WIP is a romance series about service dogs. Completely different from anything I’ve written before. As in it plays on emotions, where my other books are more suspense or humor focused. Yeah, I wake up in a cold sweat even thinking about it. As for my most recent publications, I have the 2nd book in my Assassin’s Series, The Assassin’s Kiss and a prequel novella, The Assassins’ First Date, coming out in August and July. You can buy any of my stuff or stalk me on amazon. You can also purchase most of my stuff at any other online retailer or sometimes a bookstore (for those youngins: a bookstore is a physical place you can by books. Yes, books actually come in paper. Weird, I know).

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?

Damn great question. I’d love to be a keynote for RMFW when I become rich and famous. Come back, and thank all the little people. And since I stand barely over 5 feet, little is hard to find.

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

I think I did above, but I say it again, I have a terrible time with ‘real’ emotion. I don’t do deep. In-depth gives me hives. I would rather kill a million characters than write an emotional scene. Ick.

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

The power and fame. People bow and scrape for me. Set down rose petals at my feet as I walk. Yeah, right. My favorite thing about writing is the magic that runs from fingers to keyboard. It’s not a conscious thing for me. I just type and it flows. I don’t think (which you probably guessed already).

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

Great question. I am actually teaching a workshop at the conference (No, I didn’t select my own. That would be cheating) about 25 things I learned going from pre-published to multi-published. Most of all, I’d tell myself, it’s going to be a roller coaster, one that I won’t want off of, but to keep in mind the greatest climb has a subsequent fall. Ride it for the sheer joy.

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

I don’t have a desk. I mean, I do at work, but that’s a boring 9-5 desk. I write on my lap, often with a cat, and two dogs vying for the space. FYI, the cat almost always wins, much to the sausage-like pup’s dismay.

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

I am reading so many at once, and yet, not one currently as I don’t read while I’m writing so I don’t mimic voice. What I last read is, When Good Angels Go Bad by Audrey Brice, which is the pen name of our very own, Stephanie Connolly Reisner. She’s a hell of a writer.

Thanks for having me, Pat. It’s been fun!

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

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer kills and kisses people for a living, be it a bad guy who deserved it or an arrogant frog prince who didn’t. Find her online at her website (jakazimer.com) or on Facebook, much, much too often. She can also be found on Twitter. If you go here, you can sign up for her Readers’ Group (Newsletter) and get a free book or two.

Julie's best friend shot this photo.2016_Spotlight_Julie Kazimer

 

Why, you ask? It’s a picture of the Denver Post, found as is, with her first ever review in the Post, for Froggy Style. A great review, BTW, by the incredible Tom Schantz.

The Truest Voice of All … by William Kent Krueger

2016_William Kent Krueger (2)Isn’t it amazing how everyone seems to know, even better than we do ourselves, what’s best for us as writers? We get advice from everybody on how we ought to be using our time and energy. From our agent (if we have one). From our publisher. From our readers. From other writers. From the pundits in the publishing world. Write what’s hot, they say. Leap on that passing bandwagon. Create the next Gone Girl. Emulate Stephen King. Put vampires in your work. It’s hard not to listen, especially if you’re still struggling to figure out who you are as a writer.

My own belief is that there’s only one voice you should be listening to: the one that speaks to you from your heart. And here’s why I believe this.

For most of my career, I’ve been known as the author of the Cork O’Connor mystery series. My books have been on a number of bestseller lists, including The New York Times. Several years ago, I sat down with my editor and was told essentially that my publisher was only interested in seeing Cork O’Connor novels from me. This was because the book I’d just published, my first stand-alone thriller, had sold poorly. Not because it wasn’t a good book—it got great reviews—but Cork O’Connor wasn’t in it, and readers were incredibly reluctant to follow me to a place that didn’t include Cork.

A few years later, a very different kind of story idea came to me. I knew it wasn’t a good vehicle for Cork O’Connor, and because of that, spending the time and energy writing it would be a risky proposition. Clearly my publisher wasn’t interested, and I had no idea if anyone else would be. But it was a story that spoke to me so deeply and in such a compelling way that I knew I had to write it. I cleared the decks, and over the course of the next three years, I composed the manuscript for a novel called Ordinary Grace, the story of a Methodist minister’s family in a small town in southern Minnesota in the summer of 1961.

2016_Krueger_ordinary graceI had a new editor at that point, and although I knew that Ordinary Grace wasn’t at all what my publisher wanted from me, I went ahead and sent the manuscript anyway. My editor fell in love with it. Against all the prevalent thinking in the publishing industry about what was hot, she chose to accept it and threw herself behind the championing of it one hundred percent.

Ordinary Grace went on to sweep the major awards in the mystery field. It took the Edgar, the Anthony, the Barry, the Macavity, the Silver Falchion. It found a place on many Best Books of the Year lists. It continues to sell incredibly well, and daily I receive notes from readers who tell how much the story has meant to them.

The writing of that novel remains one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I absolutely loved every moment I bent to the work. Because I had no expectation of success and because the story spoke so deeply to me personally, it didn’t matter to me whether anyone, in the end, wanted to read it. One of the things I’ve come to believe about writing, after all these years, is that it’s a little bit like sex: If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re probably not doing it right. With Ordinary Grace, I had the time of my life.

For those of us who are writers, there will always be the loud clamor of others who believe they know what’s best for us and our careers. They’re not always easy to ignore, especially when we’re doubting ourselves. My advice, based on my own experience, is to do your best to shut out all that noise so that you can hear your heart speaking to you. It’s the truest voice of all.

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William Kent Krueger is the author of the New York Times bestselling Cork O’Connor mystery series, set in the great Northwoods of Minnesota. His work has received a number of awards, including the Edgar. He lives in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves. He does all his creative writing in local, funky coffee shops, and attributes his success as a writer to all those wonderful stories he read as a child.

You can learn more about Kent and his books at his website. He can also be found on Facebook and Goodreads.

 

5 Ideas to Boost Your Writing Confidence

The blank page is to many authors what a large audience is to a shy and introverted soul asked to give a speech. Terrifying.  And it doesn’t help when writing friends are completing that next chapter, submitting another short story to an anthology, or simply garnering another 50 readers to their blog.

Before succumbing to the terror of the blank page, know that there are things you can do to bolster your writing confidence and hopefully increase your productivity at the same time.  Here are some ideas you might try and some thoughts for your own writing journey:

  1. WRITE BADLY - Yep, go out and enjoy using redundant phrases, sloppy attributions in dialog, or poetic and superfluous adjectives to your heart’s content.  Make a game of it. Try starting a story with one of these clichés and see if a spirit of fun doesn’t just take over your creative time:
    1. “It was a dark and stormy night. . .” (check out the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest if you get something good going here)
    2. “She looked into the mirror admiring her glossy brown tresses . . .”
    3. “He wore his disappointment like a badge of honor. . .”

Remember: not every piece of writing you do has to be publishable or profitable.

  1. MAKE A MESS – I used to try to buy pretty notebooks with kittens and puppies and happy sayings on them, but I found I never wanted to write in them. I feared writing the “wrong thing,” and messing up the perfect bound books. Now I buy cheap-o notebooks and often intentionally slop up a page or two. Kind of like breaking in a new pair of sneakers—what’s a little mud-slinging among friends? If you only write on a computer, try hand writing sometime--very freeing, and confidence building.
  2. WRITE NEW – Stuck in a rut with your romance writing? Try taking some of your favorite characters and putting them into a horror story. Or try writing a poem (I once wrote one about my Jeep—still have and enjoy it). Or a blog post for the RMFW blog. Or a real love letter. Sometimes taking a "vacation" from what we normally do, increases our ability to focus and be productive when we return to our work.
  3. WRITE SHORT – Think in terms of filler articles for your favorite magazines or e-zines, or maybe enter a flash fiction contest. You probably know a lot more than you think you do. The competition is fierce for these articles today, as the filler is a disappearing form of writing (a filler is a tiny article, joke, anecdote, or other copy that used to "fill" print space in the old days of typeset layouts), but more and more companies' websites need short blog posts, Twitter tweets, and other "content" for their social media. It's opportunity for the flexible writer, may give you some ego-boosting clips and maybe even put a few bucks in your pocket.
  4. WRITE DAILY – Okay, no guilt here. I don’t count words completed in a day.  Tried that. Led to increased guilt over the time I wasted counting and tracking words “completed” instead of writing something I could call commercial fiction. Instead, I try to keep that cheap spiral notebook with me for when an idea jumps to mind. There’s a notebook on my nightstand and one at my desk. I have notecards in my purse for emergency moments of brilliance, and there’s always my dictation function on my phone if all else fails. Jot down fun stuff like character names, titles of books you’ll write, a run-in with a nasty total stranger (did I ever tell you about the guy at the dog park I almost punched?) and, of course, a plot twist that will go into your next novel nicely.

And here’s a bonus tip—most of us write because we simply cannot go without writing. But when we get caught up in the “business” of writing, we lose both our fresh voice, and the thing that brings us to the writing table—our creativity. Deep breath. Relax. Write.

If you have ideas to share, please do!  I’m always on the lookout for a great motivational tip.

ON ANOTHER NOTE:

Tomorrow, Saturday April 23, RMFW will host its quarterly board meeting.  If you’re interested in how our all-volunteer organization gets things done, or want to get more involved yourself, please join us at the Sam Gary Branch Library, 2961 Roslyn St, Denver, CO 80238. The meeting starts at 1:00.

Do I have to be sad? … by Nicole Disney

2016_Nicole Disney_Author PhotoI used to think that the best writing sprouted from suffering. Whether being depressed makes you a good writer or being a writer eventually makes you depressed, I did not know, but I knew there seemed to be a link. We've all been told that if we don't have to be writers, don't, right?

The words I heard alongside “writer” were words like struggling, complicated, haunted, damaged, and poor. I didn't think that was all bad, necessarily. I thought it suggested a more authentic connection to life, required more soul searching, and that it yielded deeper truths, friendships, and experiences.

For a long time, my writing seemed to be proving this idea true. All my best work was the stuff of heartache. It was stronger, more vivid, insightful, and emotional, while the things I wrote during smoother parts of life felt flat and routine. Creating stories that shared pain, betrayal, and rage with the reader felt more intimate. Everyone is willing to share a happy moment with the world. It's much more meaningful to share the failures.

I thought I had it all figured out. The theory was put to the test when my life started to change. I came out, rather uneventfully, as a lesbian to my family. I married the love of my life. I got a job that paid more than enough. The only thing that wasn't going right was that I was having a hard time producing writing I liked. Again, I thought the theory of the tortured writer was proving true. I was too happy, surely that was it! I simply didn't have so much to say anymore. When I tried, it sounded watered down.

I attempted to pull myself out of it. I tried to read all the great authors, journaled, outlined, started new stories, abandoned them, read my older work, listened to music, discussed religion and philosophy, roamed the streets of downtown, anything and everything I thought might inspire me. It still felt flat. But surely you don't have to be the alcoholic writer stereotype to have something meaningful to say, right?

I tried to pinpoint a time that I was both happy and writing well. It brought me instantly to falling in love. Sure, during that time I mostly produced mushy poems, lyrics, and love letters, not novels, but they did have that quality I felt I had lost. They had strength.

Misery and falling in love. What about the two put me in a better state to produce quality writing? They do have something in common. They are consuming. When you feel them, you feel them with everything. The sensations are so powerful that the details are etched into our bones and a writer need only whisper of them to share the experience.

Maybe good writing has nothing to do with being happy or sad, but is more about being fully engaged in the moment, being engulfed by the beauty of whatever is happening now. It's about noticing the things that slip by when we forget the value of every second. It's about the intensity life can hold when the mind isn't shuffling through the past or organizing the future.

Often when I am reading and have to pause to admire the craftsmanship of a particularly beautiful passage, it is about something ordinary or even mundane. Many times it is that fact alone that stops me. I find it magical when a writer captures something so perfectly that he or she reveals to me something about it I would never have thought to note, but instantly recognize.

This is what happens when a writer is present. Engaged. Mindful. It is more than considering each of the five senses and jotting something down just because that is a habit we've developed. It's about breaking the illusion that anything is routine, normal, or dull. It is about not going into autopilot. Everything about experience, positive or negative, is a wonder.

Sometimes struggle and depression keep you in the moment. Sometimes love and joy do. But so can everything in between with a little, or maybe a lot of effort. A writer's life doesn't have to be great or terrible, it just has to be lived.

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Nicole Disney is a literary and contemporary fiction writer with a love for exploring the dark and controversial corners of life. Her debut novel, Dissonance in A Minor, was published in 2013. Nicole lives in Denver, Colorado and is also a 911 call taker and police dispatcher, a career which provides her with many quirky characters and situations.