Tag Archives: the writing life

Old Writer, New Tricks

By Mary Gillgannon

I’m what I call an intuitive or “into the mist” writer.  I have a general idea of what the story is about, but I don’t really plot. I’m also a linear writer. I start from the beginning and keep going on the rough draft until I reach the end. Between “non-plotting” and writing straight through, I usually end up with a complete mess and then have to go back and rewrite extensively to get a coherent and compelling story. It was pretty typical that for a 120,000 word novel, I’d write about 30,000 extra words. For my 160,000-word historical novel, I probably wrote 300,000!

About five years ago, I decided I wasn’t up to all that floundering and struggle and wasted words. I was going to learn to plot. I attended workshops, read books and talked to other writers about their plotting process. It all sounded good to me… until I sat down and tried to do it. Nothing happened. No story ideas came. My mind went blank and my muse refused to speak to me.

So, I went back to “writing into the mist” and writing linearly. I seemed to be getting better at it with my romances. But when I tried to write a fantasy series, I ended up with a 200,000 word book that needs to be about half that. Not to mention, I can’t market the series yet because I don’t know what happens in the second book, let alone the third and fourth. (I know. George R.R. Martin probably doesn’t really know where his series is going either. But he’s clearly better at this stuff than me.)

The feeling that there has to be a better way keeps gnawing at me. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve found it with my latest project. It’s a fantasy romance that I first started years ago. Because I was trying to sell on proposal back then, I actually wrote a very rough synopsis for this book. I started writing based on the synopsis, and after a few chapters, inevitably, the plot began to change. But then I did something different. I didn’t keep writing. I went back and started revising the synopsis to fit the story. As I did that, I realized there were lots of story questions I hadn’t addressed. So I went back and rewrote parts of the first few chapters. In the process, the whole story became clearer to me. For once, I wasn’t writing “into the mist”. I could actually see where I was going.

I’ve decided I would keep up with this new technique with this book. I’m beginning to think that maybe the problem isn’t that I don’t plot, but that I keep writing forward even when I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe if I try to plot as I write the book and fix things as I go along, I won’t end up with such a disaster at the end.

I’ve been writing novels for over twenty years. It would be really exciting if I finally figured out a better way to do it!

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Mary GillgannonMary Gillgannon writes romance novels set in the dark ages, medieval and English Regency time periods and fantasy and historical novels with Celtic influences. Her books have been published in Russia, China, the Netherlands and Germany. Raised in the Midwest, she now lives in Wyoming and works at public library, where she she has the enviable task of purchasing adult fiction. She is married and has two grown children. When not working or writing she enjoys gardening, traveling and reading, of course! For more about Mary, visit her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook.

RMFW Spotlight — Bonnie Ramthun PAL Liaison

The RMFW Spotlight feature will introduce a few of our RMFW officers and volunteers. We started out with the board of directors, sat them in the hot seat, shined the bright light on them, and channeling our best inner Oprah, plugged them with a few questions. This month, we’ve interrogated our PAL Liaison, Bonnie Ramthun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1. Bonnie, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I’m the PAL for RMFW, which means the Published Author Liaison. I volunteered for this position because I wanted to give back to the RMFW community. When I started attending the Colorado Gold conference I was already a published author but I knew nothing about… well, let’s just stop there. I knew nothing! RMFW has taught me so much. The amazing workshops, the excellent publishing advice, and the support of what Mario Acevedo calls “the writing tribe” means the world to me. I found my terrific agent, Becca Stumpf of Prospect Agency, at the conference. I found new publishing contracts. I’ve discovered amazing authors whose novels take me away for hours of happy reading.

What can I possibly do to give back to such a wonderful organization? I do what I can. I volunteer at every conference, and as the PAL I manage the Friday Night Networking Tables. Each January I form a committee to select the Writer of the Year, and I present new RMFW authors with a PEN award and showcase them at the First Sale Panel at the conference. I make a poster every year of the WOTY winners and present the WOTY with a special pin commemorating their award. This past year I formed the committee to create the new Independent Published Author group, the IPAL, and I put our conference director, Suzie Brooks, in contact with Smashword’s Mark Croker to see if he would come to Colorado Gold and talk about independent publishing. (He will!) I try to think of new ways to improve our organization all the time because that means greater success for all of us.

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

I have an eclectic set of stories and novels available for readers on Amazon. If you like romance, there’s a sweet short story called Love out of Time, with a cover design by RMFW’s own Karen Duvall. My horror story The Little Hitchhiker was selected for Horror Novel Review’s anthology and RMFW author Yvonne Montgomery called it “a deftly written, fast-paced tale that veers into nightmare territory.” (Thanks, Yvonne!) If mystery is more your style, try the Detective Eileen Reed trilogy of Ground Zero, Earthquake Games, and The Thirteenth Skull. And finally I have a historical-supernatural-thriller-romance that didn’t find a niche in traditional publishing (wonder why?) called The Night Queen. Finally, if you have a youngster in your family who doesn’t like to read, I have it on good authority that The White Gates will help them change their mind!

If you’d care to write a few words in review on any of my works that you enjoyed I would really appreciate it. Reviews really help a novel and I try to write reviews of every book I read, particularly those of our terrific RMFW authors. Here are a few of my favorite covers:

Ramthun_Thirteenth SkullFrame with Christmas tree branches and vintage decorationsRamthun_night queen

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?

When you ask someone what they would do if they won the Powerball, and they say: “I wouldn’t do anything differently,” you know you’ve met a happy person. I love being a mom and a wife and a writer. I wouldn’t turn down millions of dollars, of course, but that wouldn’t change my life. Okay, except travel. I would travel more. I’d go to Ireland and Nepal and India and Australia and I’d attend every writer’s conference I could find, and I’d buy books every day, piles of them. Maybe I will buy that Powerball ticket after all.

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

I have a terrible case of writus-interruptus. If I’m in the zone and typing away and the phone rings or the dog starts barking, I’m not only thrown out of my story but I can’t get back into it for hours. I know I have this Achilles heel so when it’s writing time I cocoon myself in my room, turn the phone off, and put earplugs in my ears. Whatever works, right?

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

Writing is hard work for me. I love to write the same way I love to work in my garden: I know the backbreaking labor will bear fruit. One of the true joys of writing is receiving notes from readers who loved my books. One mom wrote to me that her son who didn’t read at all liked my book The White Gates so much that she found him under the covers with a flashlight. Another reader told me that when she finished The Thirteenth Skull she was so swept away by the adventure that she felt like she’d been on vacation. Those notes make me smile for days, and give me the strength to get back to the keyboard and keep writing.

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

I would recommend (and I do recommend, all the time) for beginning writers to join an organization like RMFW, and to scrape together all their spare cash to attend a writer’s conference like The Colorado Gold. I learn every year about my craft and about the industry, and beginning writers who have those tools are ahead of the pack and are bound to be more successful. I wish I’d known about RMFW back when I was a newbie writer.

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?

Here’s a photo of my desk, and a picture of my inspiration stones. I collect them and I like looking at them and holding them in my hands. I bought my IMac with the advance money from The White Gates, and my computer is my window to the world, my research companion, and my writing platform. My sister calls this color scheme: Cowboy archeologist librarian. Works for me!

Ramthun_desktopRamthun_inspiration

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

I just finished reading Innocence, by Dean Koontz. I’m a big fan and this latest novel chilled me to the bone. Maybe because the ultimate plot twist was so plausible? Koontz is truly a wonderful writer. Next up is Missing, by Christine Jorgensen.

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Thanks so much for answering our questions, Bonnie. We all appreciate your hard work with PAL and with RMFW.

Finding Inspiration and Suspense in Nature

By Kim McMahill

Kim McMahillAuthors garner inspiration for their stories from a plethora of sources. Some observe, watching life unfold around them, absorbing the possibilities and twisting reality into dramatic fiction; some feed off emotions; others rely solely on active imaginations; and many embrace adventure through the endless bounty of nature. I accept inspiration whenever and wherever it presents itself, but the natural world is my greatest muse. I often find the sensational backdrops for my novels in nature, along with those forces humans try to manipulate, but generally fail to control, which add an additional layer of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, heightening suspense.

Those who follow my work may have noticed that I’ve set multiple stories in Mexico. Though I haven’t been to Mexico in a few years, I have explored its Mayan ruins, enjoyed its beaches, and I’ve done some volunteer work in the rural interior. While listening to a guide discuss the practice of human sacrifice at the Sacred Well at the edge of Chichén Itzá, my eyes darted around the perimeter, searching for any hint of danger, and my imagination ran amok (Marked in Mexico). I found it impossible to wander Cobá on a morning devoid of visitors, cautiously peering behind a mysterious ruin abutting dense jungle and listening to the insects, without needing to take the adventure much further (Deadly Ruins). And, Big Bend National Park—anyone who has been there has surely stood on the banks of the Rio Grande, looking across its muddy waters into Mexico, wondering about life on the other side, and if anything could make an American risk everything to swim for another life south of the border (Deadly Exodus-Desperate Dreams).

McMahill_bighornBut, you don’t have to travel to a foreign country to find inspiration in nature. Big Horn Storm is set in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. It encompasses over one million acres of remote country, and its abundant wildlife, evergreen forests, mountain meadows, rugged peaks, deep canyons, and cascading waterfalls make the area breathtakingly beautiful, and the perfect setting for an action packed adventure. Whether experiencing the area in the winter on snowmobile or in the summer on horseback, it is a place to be respected. The weather is unpredictable, with snow possible every month of the year; predators live in the shadows, avoiding humans when possible, reacting when cornered; and help can be hours or even days away. So, where better to set a contemporary western adventure combining a too-close-to-home military crisis, harrowing horseback escapes, and an attempt to reconcile past releationships?

Nearly all writers admit to being avid people-watchers, which is essential for realistic character development, but don’t forget about nature and the experiences we encounter within its broad embrace. Not only can we find inspiration in its varied landscapes and the creatures which inhabit its diverse and unique environments, but we can also visualize additional challenges for our characters to overcome, and discover that extra element of danger to heighten a story’s level of suspense.

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Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming, which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. Since leaving Wyoming she has enjoyed many opportunities to see the world and has lived amid some of America’s most stunning landscapes. Kim started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happy endings soon drew her into a world of adventure and romantic suspense. Learn more at her website, or follow Kim at her blog, Embrace Adventure. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

The Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very Ugly: All Manuscripts Are Not Created Equal

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Listen closely, for I am about to tell you a publishing secret no one else wants you to know.

Are you ready?

Here goes.

Not everything a writer writes is good.

Shocking, right?  J.K. Rowlings didn’t sit down one day and pound out a thousand pages of Harry Potter the first time her fingers hit the keyboard. Learning craft takes a lifetime. Some writers get lucky and the first manuscript they write is snatched up by an agent and sold to a big house for a huge advance. But they still have to sit back down at the keyboard and write book 2.

Trust me; the second book won’t be nearly as easy to write. Or as pretty.

Manuscripts are a lot like children.  Some are born cute, while others have to grow on you.

*No emails, please. Your offspring are just adorable, I swear.

But there is a beauty in the crap writing too. A freedom. Maybe it’s a freedom from inside the box thinking or story ideas. Sometimes it’s freedom from your own voice, a means to explore beyond what you know. Often, for me, my crap words are the same ones that push me for better ones. After all, how many times can my heroine roll her eyes?

The answer is 27 time, in two chapters.

Had I submitted that bit of crap to my editor, he might’ve suffered from an eye-rolling sprain.

Not pretty, I know.

Now what can you do if you find yourself with an ugly baby?

A few things:

1)      Dress it up. Add a new, exciting character with a better story line. Then cut the old characters and story line. Basically, write a new book.

2)      Rip it up. Sometimes it’s best to just let a story idea and sometimes a whole manuscript go. Too often we get stuck on a manuscript, on an idea, trying to turn an ugly baby cute when even ten million hours of scalpel-sharp revision wouldn’t make it better.

3)      Let it rip. The ugly baby might all be in our heads. This is when honest feedback from a critique group can save your precious baby. But you have to be able to trust what the critiques say. People don’t like to tell you your baby is ugly, so they nod and smile when asked. That won’t be helpful if your baby really is ugly.

4)      Embrace it. Show the world your ugly baby, and let the world decide what happens next. This is a mindset I see a lot in indie publishing. Sometimes the world loves an ugly baby, a baby that then turns out to be a swan in diapers.

5)      Toss it in a dumpster. Or better yet, that drawer in your desk where all bad manuscripts go to die. Then, in a few years, after 20 more craft classes on revision, 10 on editing, 3 on the hero’s journey, take that baby out and play with it. If it’s still ugly, put it back in the drawer before anyone sees it.

Because I love my RMFW blog readers, I’m going to share a piece of an ugly baby of mine with you:

She struggled, but not too much. Her water soaked hair turned stringy like seaweed, making it almost impossible to see the terror in her eyes, as he held her head under the icy water. He was careful not to mare her snow-white skin. A bubble burst from the water’s surface, filled with the last remnants of oxygen in her lungs. The sound it made as it broke the surface was anticlimactic, a muted death rattle and then silence.

Guess that baby needs a few more years in a drawer before unleashed onto unsuspecting, polite society. Did I actually use the words, snow-white skin? I feel sick…

Since we’re all friends here, give me a bit of your best ugly baby, a sentence, a paragraph, a page, as much as you’d like to share.  Best ugly baby will win a prize.

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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 book, The Assassin’s Heart. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator. For more about Julie, visit her website and blog.

Connect with Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

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The Winner of Aaron Michael Ritchey’s advance review copy is….

Aaron was kind enough to offer an ARC of his new novel, Long Live the Suicide King, to one lucky U.S. commenter on his January 21st blog post. Using random.org, we selected a winner.

Congratulation, MB Partlow!

MB blogs at Partlow’s Pool

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. This kind of encouragement for our regular contributors and guest bloggers is greatly appreciated.

 

RMFW Spotlight on Nikki Baird, Anthology Chair

Our second spotlight of the month features Nikki Baird who is serving as anthology chair. Nikki was happy to join in the fun because she wants to see a large number of RMFW members at her workshop tomorrow and is hoping for lots of great member story submissions for Crossing Colfax, the first RMFW anthology since 2009.

The workshop is called Short Story Breakdown: Prepping for Anthology 2014
Saturday, January 25
1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M.
Bel Mar Public Library
555 S. Allison Parkway
Lakewood, CO 80226
Members Only

The deadline for submitting to the anthology is March 14th. For more information and the submission form, go to the anthology page on the RMFW website.

nbaird_hs1. Nikki, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am the anthology chair, which means that I shepherd the production of RMFW’s short story anthology. The organization has produced 3 collections so far, and this will be our fourth – and my first in this role. But it will also be the first anthology produced in this wild west of self-publishing, which is very exciting.

It’s been awhile since RMFW has produced an anthology, and I’ve increasingly realized the importance of short stories both in advancing a writing career as well as advancing craft. So I became passionate enough (or just plain crazy enough) to decide that a) this is something that RMFW should do again and b) I will volunteer to lead it. So here I am!

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

I’m actually in the process of putting out my own short story collection, as a way to dip my toes in the water of self-publishing. The collection is called Uncanny, and I hesitate to give a publication date because every time I do that, life gets in the way big time. But I’m in the process of designing covers right now, so it should be available “very soon.”

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

To go to St. Petersburg, Russia and experience a white Russian night. I was a dual-major in college, and Russian was the second major (which is a really long story all on its own), but I never got to spend a semester there because that happened to be right as the Soviet Union fell apart and it became very inadvisable to travel there. Would’ve definitely helped my language skills. But St. Petersburg is a city with a fascinating history, built by one of the most enigmatic leaders of Russia, and it is absolutely on my list of things to see in my lifetime.

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

Saying the same thing twice. Granted, I say it differently each time, and I usually like both ways – which is why I end up leaving it in on the first pass. I’ve had to learn to give myself some time to let the love fade, and then I can go back and ruthlessly delete all my over-writing. Either that, or my wonderful critique partners will not hesitate to point out the repeats.

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

When my story surprises me. I think I will never know if the connections that suddenly emerge out of nowhere were actually planned long ago deep in my sub-conscious, or if I really did only just see the opportunity, but I love that little jolt of “Of course that’s what should happen next! How did I not see that before?”

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

Get over the whole grammar over-reaction (you know, the mind-numbing high school lectures on sentence structure followed by the verbal beatings and grades when it was clear I absorbed nothing). The vocabulary of grammar can be confusing and challenging, but every craftsperson should know the tools of their trade, and grammar is the tool of the writing trade. I resisting learning the language of my chosen profession for too long, and I would say it prevented me from quickly learning the “why” behind a lot of the rules out there. It, to be repetitive, slowed me down.

Baird Desk1.jpg7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

You really want to see this? Just remember, you asked!

The first thing you should know is that, yes, I have a treadmill desk. I just found out that I walked 1,722 miles in 2013, which also wasn’t a full year of walking because I didn’t set it up until February. I will confess that most of my heavy writing is not done on the treadmill – it’s hard to walk, think, and type all at once and I’m always worried I’ll mess at least one of them up if I try all three. So the treadmill is only running a couple hours a day, not all day, and usually when I’m thinking or checking email, not when I’m writing.

Baird_Desk 2A.jpgThe very colorful picture leaning against the wall is a wax art piece created by my son, and the larger black & white drawing is one my husband made in high school.

The second thing to know is that the image above is missing its usual occupant, which is the family cat, Katara (named after the Water Tribe girl from the Avatar cartoon series). Next to her is the one thing I always have on my desk, which is a picture of my husband sticking his tongue out at the camera (in the heart frame). It is a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

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

I am reading The Atlantis Gene, by A.G. Riddle. I’ve recently bought or downloaded a bunch of different fantasy/scifi/horror e-books on Amazon at different price points to see what the quality of each price point is. This one is pretty good – I will definitely finish it.

Why I Have Failed To Write a Word in 2014

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Aaron_Michael_RitcheyI am the problem.

Not the clock. Not the industry. Not my critique group. Not my readers. Not even my stalker fans. Wait, I don’t have stalker fans. Dang.

No, I am the problem. When I don’t write, I am the problem?

First of all, I forget so easily most everything good about the writing life. I only focus on the difficulties. I know I suck, the criticisms sting, the despair drowns me, the disappointment destroys, the rejection! Rejection. Rejection. Eloi, Eloi! Lama sabachthani!

So far in 2014, I have not written a single word of fiction and for me that is a long time because I’m a daily writer. If I don’t write daily, I fall out of the habit, and getting back into the habit takes blood, my dearies, lots of blood. And I know I have to do some writing soon because I have a new book coming out in 2014, and I have several mewling projects that need my attention.

But I’ve been so busy.

Again, I am the problem. One of my favorite excuses not to write is time. Oh, I’m so busy. I have so much going on. How can I fit it all in?

That is me lying to myself, which I love to do. My friend says he wastes his life in ten minutes increments looking at drivel on the internet. Add up those ten minute increments? Six of them gives you an hour? Do you know what you can do in an hour? I can type a thousand words, easy. I can edit ten pages. I can outline a book. One hour is a long time. How else would I want to spend any free hour I have? Doing something that gives my life meaning? Or looking at kitty pictures on Facebook? Though I do like me a good kitten pic, I’ll tell ya what.

We all have the same twenty-four hours. People can do some amazing stuff with their minutes, and why not me? It’s all about priorities and scheduling. Normally, I schedule in what’s important first, and then let the rest of my day take shape. For years, I got up early to write. Getting up early is stealing time from God.

But now? I sleep in. I read. I watch T.V. I stare out the window into the darkness. I think Kafka-esque thoughts.

I am the problem. What really gets me is the self-doubt. Stephen King said that self-doubt kills both books and writers. This is me, raising my hand.

Ritchey_LLTSK_Cover for ARCI have the notion that I will never succeed, that I will remain stalkerless, that I know exactly how my writing career is going to look, and it doesn’t include huge contracts, adoring fans, and mimosas. I assume that whatever I write won’t sell, that I’ll die nameless, and this entire endeavor will be a monumental waste of time. I might as well embrace the obesity epidemic, turn on the T.V., permanently, and just huddle up in my cocoon of Dr. Who and chili-flavored Fritos and wait for heart disease and diabetes to come and get busy on my ass.

Every day in 2014 that is how I’ve woken up. What am I doing writing books? Why am I even trying? What kind of an idiot am I?

Then I think about my next book, Long Live the Suicide King. It’s a story about a seventeen-year-old kid who quits doing drugs and gets suicidal, but the more suicidal he gets, the more interesting his life becomes. It’s a story about hope. About meaning. It’s darkly funny, reads fast, and has some definite crime novel aspects to it. It’s a project I adore, and it truly is an Aaron Michael Ritchey novel.

It was a book I was born to bring into the world.

In 2014, I’ve forgotten why I write, so I haven’t been motivated to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to work. It’s our “whys” that drive us. We all write for different reasons. For me, writing is an act of supreme courage. When I write, it’s me spitting in the face of death and despair. When I don’t write, it’s the other way around. Yeah, lugies in the eye.

The hero in my new book is certain he knows how his life will turn out, which is one of the reason he wants to die. But he’s foolish. In the end, none of know what the future holds. Lots of writers commit suicide certain they were kidding themselves about their talent, the power of their story, the righteousness of their cause. I don’t want to be another dead writer.

While I’m alive, I will write. I can blame the clock, the industry, my childhood of neglect and afternoon sitcoms, but the reality is, I have the power, I make the choice.

And today, I choose to pursue this impossible, frustrating, windmill of a dream. I think I’ll go and write a little fiction right now.

I’m doing a little giveaway for both the hopeless and the hopeful. If you’d like to win a one-of-kind Advanced Reader Copy of Long Live the Suicide King, leave a comment about why you write. What keeps you going?

Comments left on this post through Friday midnight Mountain Time will be considered. The winner will be announced on the blog on Saturday. This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.

Thanks all!

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Aaron Michael Ritchey’s first novel, The Never Prayer, was published in March of 2012 to a fanfare of sparkling reviews including an almost win in the RMFW Gold contest. Since then he’s been paid to write steampunk, cyberpunk, and sci-fi western short stories, two of which will appear in a new fiction magazine, Fiction Vale. His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, will give hope to the masses in April of 2014. As a former story addict and television connoisseur, he lives in Colorado with his wife and two goddesses posing as his daughters.

For more about Aaron, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit his website. He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets as @aaronmritchey.

What, Precisely, Are Your Intentions?

By Kerry Schafer

Setting Yourself Up For Failure

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. More often than not, I think they set us up for failure rather than success. Some of us start out great with whatever it is we’ve decided to do: write 2000 words a day, go to the gym 5 days a week, lose 20 pounds, whatever. And then we have that day where we don’t write any words. We get busy and miss a couple of days at the gym. We fall to temptation and eat a box of chocolates. Some of us never get started at all. A week goes by, then two or three, and it’s already February and we haven’t even started on our resolution yet, or we’ve failed to follow through.

And then the self talk starts.

Why do I bother? I’m a failure. I’ll never be able to do this, I don’t know why I try… And this gives us the excuse not to try, to fall back to the old ways, which are always more comfortable than change.

For some people resolutions do seem to work. I’m guessing these are people who don’t have a tendency to listen to the negative self talk. They can fall off the exercise/diet/writing wagon, pick themselves up the next day, and carry on. And I’d guess this has everything to do with their focus, which is on the goal and not on the failure.

You Go Where You’re Looking

Remember learning to ride a bicycle? Part of the trick to balancing and driving in a straight line without crashing into the trash cans or parked cars is picking a spot somewhere ahead and keeping your eyes on it. If you turn your head to look at that parked car for very long, chances are good a collision is in your future. Actually, this applies to pretty much anything – skateboarding, driving a car, even walking. You end up where you’re looking.

What Are Your Intentions?

So what is your goal? Often we don’t end up where we think we want to go because really we want to be somewhere else. Our subconscious minds are powerful things. So if you walk around saying that you really want to finally write that novel this year, but really there are ten other goals that are more important to you, chances are the writing is never going to happen. I like the idea of setting intentions because it takes that goal idea one step farther. An intention is, simply, a statement of what you intend to do. This is, incidentally, the best predictor of human behavior. The old standby question asked by fathers of their daughters’ suitors in every comic strip everywhere, “What are your intentions toward my daughter?” is actually a good one. Not that most of those boys will answer honestly, mind you, but if their intention is marriage their behavior will be vastly different than if it’s a one time tumble in the haystack.

Try This

I believe in the power of the written word. Taking a half formed intention that’s simmering in your brain, half conscious, and writing it down (preferably with pen and paper) is a powerful action. It can also help bring you to an understanding of where you really want to go.

1. Fetch a notebook and a pen, clear a half hour somewhere in your busy day, and find some place where you can be undisturbed.

2. Now, imagine that it is December 31st, 2014. You are taking a quiet moment on New Year’s Eve to review the past year and all that you have accomplished. In the present tense, write quickly and without stopping, detailing your successes of the year and how you feel about them.

3. Take that page (or pages) that you have written, and put them in a place that acknowledges the importance of this intention to you. Ideas include: under your pillow so you can dream of what you are going to accomplish, in a special container on the windowsill, in your jewelry box with other treasured items.

4. Let simmer, and see what happens.

Next month: taking it one step further with an action plan

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Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2013 and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on January 28, 2014. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. She is a bit of a hypocrite who does not always practice the relaxation she preaches. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books

Six Ways to Make More Writing Time

By Lori DeBoer

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I once met a successful mystery author at a conference in Tucson who told me she wrote all of her books in 15-minute snatches of time because, as a mom, that’s all she had. Her pronouncement horrified me. I was childless and working full-time at home as a freelance magazine writer.  I could not imagine writing anything “artful” or “serious” without having hours of unrushed time to noodle over it.

Flash forward at least 15 years and my beleaguered mommy brain can’t remember the name of the author, but I remember her advice.  In between running the Boulder Writers’ Workshop, working as a writing coach, homeschooling our son and attempting to keep the house in order, I only have small snippets of time in which to write. And I make the most of the minutes I have, poking away at my writing in short bursts. Last year, one of my short stories was shortlisted for the Bellevue Literary Prize and appeared in the April issue of The Bellevue Literary Review. I also landed a spot in Gloom Cupboard.  I started 2014 with a piece in Pithead Chapel and was recently asked to be a contributing editor for Short Story Writer. which is available in the Apple Store.

Not only do I not feel deprived because I don’t have whole days to write, I’ve found that working in short bursts really works. There is something satisfying about coming back to a piece of writing time and again and watching it unfold. Consistent effort, applied in short snippets of time, yields a pretty decent word count.

When you are looking for more writing time, consider piggybacking your efforts onto some activity you already regularly allow time for.  Also, look for pockets of time that that would otherwise go to waste.

Here’s some strategies to get you started:

Arrive Early—Use the pocket of time before an appointment—whether it’s a doctor’s visit or a business meeting—to work on your writing.  Instead of twiddling your thumbs, reading trashy magazines or catching up on Facebook, you could spend a few moments fleshing out a plot point or writing a scene.  To maximize that space, plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.  As a bonus, you’ll gain a reputation for being well-organized and considerate; just don’t let on what you are actually up to.

Join the Gym—If exercise is already a regular habit, expand your discipline by writing for 20 minutes before or after your workout.  Some gyms have a café you can write in, or you can hit a nearby coffee shop.  When I was a single mom working on my collection of short stories for my MFA, I did most of my writing at the Lifetime Fitness Café.  The monthly fee came with childcare and was more affordable than hiring a babysitter. As an added bonus, my son had some fun and I eventually started exercising after my writing sessions.

Write On the Go—Many great ideas and solutions to writing challenges come on the go.  There’s no surprise there, getting out and about stimulates creativity and sends blood to the brain. Whether you are on a hike or standing in line at the bank, be prepared to capture your thoughts.  Bob Early, my former editor at Arizona Highways, is a big proponent of carrying a writing notebook wherever he goes.  Christina Antus, Colorado humorist, mom and BWW member, recommends a more high-tech approach of using the Evernote app on her smartphone. “ I can jot down ideas as they come to me. I do this through the day and can write from anywhere,” she says. “Evernote syncs to your online account so everything is on your computer when you are ready to tweak and finish up.” Colorado poet Rachel Abeyta Newlon uses a voice-recording app to record her writing on the run.

Make a (Secret) Lunch Date—Whether you spend your days at home or at the office, that regular lunch slot can offer another opportunity to make writing in snatches an ongoing habit.  If you schedule a regular lunch date with your writing, as though it were a valued friend, you’ll be that much further along. Your office peeps may wonder who you are trysting with on your lunch hour, but they don’t need to know until your book comes out.  Or ever.

Snuggle Up—With the advent of noise-cancelling headphones, laptops and tablets, there’s no reason you can’t snuggle up with your sweetie while working on your writing.  Think of it as the adult version of parallel play. At our house, my husband watches football while I curl up on the couch next to him with my computer.  He’s happy I’m nearby, doing what I love.  As an added bonus, merely sitting through a game has given me wife points.

Sleep On It (Or Not)—Instead of counting sheep or worrying about the day’s events, use that time between wide-awake and drifting off to solidify your writing plan.  “Before you drift off, think through what’s coming up next in your novel,” suggests Judith Robbins Rose, Colorado author of the forthcoming middle grade novel MISS and BWW member. “Don’t spend a ton of time, but consider the many different ways you can write that next scene.”  Be sure to capture your ideas before you do drift off.  As a bonus, putting your subconscious to work is likely to yield some creative ideas the next morning.  Can’t sleep?  No problem. “When you’re wide awake at 3:30 a.m. get up and write,” advises Mandy Walker, Colorado author of Untangling from Your Spouse: How to Prepare for Divorce. Plus, there’s no better fix for insomnia than writing a few hundred words.

Please weigh in. What are your best tips for sneaking in a little writing time? The writer whose tip gains the most likes will win a free hour of coaching, in person or over the phone. Use the little “Vote Up” arrow under each comment.

Entries will be accepted through Saturday, 1/11/2014. The winner will be announced on this blog on Sunday.

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Lori DeBoerLori DeBoer, a Boulder-based author, journalist and writing coach, is the contributing editor for Short Story Writer and director of the Boulder Writers’ Workshop. Her stories have been a Top-25 Finalist for the Glimmer Train Fiction Open as well as being shortlisted for the Bellevue Literary Prize. She’s been published in Arizona Highways, The Bellevue Literary Review, Gloom Cupboard, The New York Times, Iowa Woman, Pithead Chapel and America West Airlines Magazine. One of her clients was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and four of her clients have been finalists for the Colorado Gold Award.  She has volunteered to help edit the RMFW anthology and will be sharing information about writing short stories at the educational workshop in January 2014. For more information, visit her website and blog at www.lorideboer.net.

 

Dancing Away that Author Envy

by Jeffe Kennedy

On one of my author loops recently, a number of people were gnashing teeth over their lack of success in the publishing world. From the publisher declining to publish the rest of the books in their series, to poor sales, to perceived favoritism for “special” authors – they felt they’d gotten a raw deal.

Okay, first of all, I haven’t met a published author who doesn’t feel this way–privately.

Everybody has gotten a raw deal from a publisher at some point. Editors that left them orphaned. Two-book contracts that let the publisher decline Book 3, thus leaving the intended trilogy hanging. Inexplicable decisions not to market, to reduce print runs, to pimp other authors.

And like all things in life, there is always always always someone who seems to be getting a MUCH better deal than you are.

Usually someone who doesn’t deserve it nearly as much as you do, right?

Right.

So it goes.

The thing is, you gotta watch the perception of others. This goes for pre-published or self-publishing authors, too. How readers – and this includes other authors – see you, your books and your career is profoundly important. If an author says, “you should buy my book because my sales have been terrible and I really need the money,” he or she might get a few sympathy sales, but most people are going to think “what’s wrong with the book that no one is buying it?”

Hell, *I* think that, knowing full well that many seriously wonderful books go unnoticed for no good reason. It’s human nature. People want to like what other people like.

Back when I was in college, I was a member of a sorority. Stop your knee-jerking there – my sorority was an amazing group of women, many of whom are still friends. We sponsored and attended parties and dances regularly. We probably had 4-5 dances each academic year and one of our missions was to make sure that every one of our sisters had a date to the dance. No dancer left behind, or some such. We made sure everyone would be included.

(And sure, some of these gals were lesbians, but for the dances everyone liked to have a boy partner. Also, this was the 80s, so really no one was out of the closet. At least, not enough for formal events.)

Now, this should come as no surprise to anyone, but most guys like to date the gals that the other guys think are hot. We’ve seen this phenomenon over and over. It probably works the other direction, too, but I really saw this in action finding my sisters (and myself!) dates for the dances. Some of the women just didn’t date much. Mainly because they just never had. In my eyes, they were perfectly attractive, obviously intelligent because it was a smart school, and without socially-damming habits. But, when I’d ask a male friend to be Neglected Nancy’s date, his first question inevitably was, “What’s wrong with her?”

Because the very fact that she had no date meant that something had to be wrong.

Nearly as inevitable would be the follow-up question, “How about Hot Susie? I’ll go with her!”

And, of course, Hot Susie would have a date. She *always* had a date, which was part of what made her Hot Susie. Was this fair? No. Was it even based on anything real? Maybe. Hot Susie likely fit the beauty standard better. She might have been more practiced at flirting. But most of all, she was HOT SUSIE.

There were certain guys, ones we usually referred to as a “great guy,” who would escort Neglected Nancy to the dance and have fun doing it. After that, the other guys would be more willing to be her date. It just took a little time for the “what’s wrong with her?” stigma to fall away.

All of this is a roundabout way of reflecting on the nature of popularity.

Why are some seemingly lousy books bestsellers when other really fine ones barely see the light of day?

*shrugs*

If we knew this, everyone would write a bestseller. (Which, by the way, is why I distrust the books and classes on how to write a bestseller – if the author/teacher knows, why aren’t they doing it?)

It’s also true that some books and authors take time to build an audience. Twenty-five years later, many of our Neglected Nancy’s are doing much better than the Hot Susie’s, for a variety of reasons. This is why we should be wary of envying someone else’s seeming good fortune – we never know what trials they face that we don’t see.

Finally, to extend the analogy, find and take care of those “great guys.” The readers who love your books and tell other people about them.

Have fun.

Dance all night.

Hard to gnash your teeth while dancing up a storm.

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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.