Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Six Short Tidbits from Conference by Robin Widmar

You must take yourself seriously as a writer before anyone else will.

The only “secret formula” to getting published is to write a great story.

What are agents and editors looking for? According to agent Donald Maass, “Great storytelling, beautifully written.”

Being able to summarize your story in a sentence or short paragraph means you really know what your story is about.

Characters in all genres are often not written deeply enough. Avoid making your character too perfect.

Most stories usually need more drama, not less.

Monday, April 23, 2012

And How Does That Make You Feel? by Shannon Baker

Ever have the feeling the universe is trying to stuff something into your big, fat, ugly head? Maybe it’s not so much a “woo-woo” experience as it is your inner mind focusing on something before it tells your everyday mind about it. Sort of like I kept seeing pregnant women right before I decided I wanted to have a baby. (And what was I thinking then?) I don’t like subliminal messages from myself. I rely on my normal shallow nature to protect me from deep emotion.

Cricket McRea, author of the Home Crafting Mystery series, posted a blog about Splat ( This is a technique for discovering the inner workings of your own mind so you can plumb the depths of your fear and anxiety to create more complex and interesting characters.

Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

At the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Colorado Gold Conference, I attended a three-hour workshop given by romantic suspense writer and amazing writing coach Laura Baker, of Story Magic fame. The workshop was entitled The Fearless Writer: Discovering Your Story. Among the eye-opening and light bulb-illuminating tidbits in this workshop, Laura walked us through a bit of psychoanalysis all in the name of finding a good story. Talk about stepping out of my six-inch deep comfort zone.

At the most basic, The Fearless Writer course is about discovering what made you begin writing. Before you learned you couldn’t write because you didn’t know about stimulus and response and point of view and voice and character arcs and turning points, what gave you the passion to tell the story inside of you?

Before we could answer this question, we had to go through a series of exercises, dredging up all the good, bad and ugly we’ve squirreled away throughout our lives and find out what our purpose is in storytelling. Like cats, some of us are particularly good and burying our, ahem, “unpleasantness.” And like Methuselah, some of us have enough years on our bones to have accumulated a lot of said “unpleasantness.”

Laura had us look at stories and characters we found easiest to write and those we couldn’t complete. Using our own life experiences, we drew links to our stories. From there, we can discover what our strengths are as writers. The exercises took the pain and joy in our past and associated that emotional gunk (that’s my technical term) with our stories to find themes we return to.

I’m not about to tell you all the personal dysfunction I discovered in just three hours of this workshop. It’s embarrassing how much of my therapy has been worked out in the pages of my books. But it makes for some particularly flawed characters with lots of growth potential. Obviously, Laura’s workshop is way more involved than what I’ve plastered here and I urge you to check it out.

When I fearlessly and foolishly decided I wanted to be a writer, no one told me I was going to have to pull out all the nasty little bugs hiding in the dark recesses of my brain. Like spiders in my house, I’m way happier if I don’t see them. I’m not all that into self awareness, we shallow people shy away from that.  And now the dagnabbed universe is banging me on the head with a sledgehammer and telling me to dig deeper. Fine, okay, I’m not stupid, I get the message. But if I have to cry to write this next book, somebody is going to be in trouble.

What about you? Do you enjoy the process of baring your soul, even in disguise, in your work?

(Originally posted at the Sisters of the Quill blog on October 7, 2011)

About the Writer:  Shannon Baker has a right brain/left brain conflict. While the left brain focuses on her career as an accountant, her right brain concocts thrillers, including her 2010 release, Ashes of the Red Heifer. A lover of mountains, plains, oceans and rivers, she can often be found traipsing around the great outdoors. The first book in the Nora Abbott Mystery Series will release in the fall of 2012 from Midnight Ink publishers. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Winning a Three-Legged Non-Fiction Race! by Janet Fogg

Editor's Note: This is the third post in a three-part series. View Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
(Originally posted at the Chiseled in Rock blog on January 24, 2011)
Why collaborate on a manuscript?  Is the sum truly better than the parts?  In this case it was!

This week I’ll share lessons learned while collaborating with my husband Richard on Fogg in the Cockpit, a military history book released world-wide by Casemate Publishing in 2011.

First I might mention that the book is based on the diary Richard’s father kept while flying Mustangs and Thunderbolts out of England during World War II. When Richard and I disagreed on an issue, because it is his father's diary I felt Richard’s opinion should carry more weight. As I’d recently seen my first novel published, and since I also spent more time on this book than Richard, he often tried to defer to me. Most small issues were resolved in this manner, but we did have periodic debates where one of us had to persuade the other to his or her way of thinking. Unfortunately, there were two issues we discussed a number of times with no resolution. We just didn’t agree, and ultimately, one of us simply acquiesced.

We recommend you discuss how you'll resolve a major difference of opinion before you start writing. Describe that process in a memo or letter agreement, or better yet, include it in your collaboration contract. As a side note, our publisher recently complimented us for “putting together such a clean package of text and photos,” so they didn’t stumble over either of our two problem-children. Whew!

Non-fiction lends itself to collaboration. Tasks can be allocated. Research, writing, tracking down sources and supporting documents or photos, requesting releases, editing, all of it is easy to share, more so than when writing fiction.

I started Fogg in the Cockpit by transcribing Howard Fogg’s 1943/44 diary and immediately realized what a fascinating document we had. Once the transcription was complete, Richard and I decided to create a book around Howard’s words. Richard researched significant events during the War that were concurrent with Howard’s service while I worked with the Historian from the 359th Fighter Group Association, Dartmouth College, and other sources to track down photos, maps, and reports about the 359th. Richard also tended to research technical material, such as compressibility or P-51 engine specifications, while I developed a mission map and verified geographic references. We shared efforts researching other supplementary material, including pilot terminology, military abbreviations, descriptions of the aircraft used by Allied and Axis powers, and so on.

We both drafted text for the supplementary material and we both edited our own work and each others. We were extremely fortunate to have an enormous number of reports and photos available from the Group Historian, and Richard and I spent days studying everything and debating what to include. Since then we’ve discovered that the Historian had a few other reports we were unaware of. While we might not have used them, I do regret not being aware of those documents until very recently. Lesson learned? Keep asking your sources what else they might have!

The week before our submittal deadline Richard double-checked facts we presented in the supplementary text while I edited based on the extremely detailed Author Guidelines from Casemate – both nit-picky, time consuming tasks. I also coordinated the 116 image releases while formatting the images electronically, as Richard drafted and refined the accompanying 15 pages of captions.

I should now mention where collaboration saved us. We had a working draft before sending out queries, but Casemate wanted a bigger book, and they wanted that bigger book submitted two months after we signed the contract.

We brushed up our original draft, verified facts, finalized images, and added 121 pages in a combination of new text and excerpts from the 1944 Group Historian's Reports - all in 53 days.

It’s good to have a partner!

What if you’re the “writer” partner collaborating with an expert in some obscure field? Or you've been asked to ghost-write a story? You need a contract that describes how you'll work together, who's responsible for what, how decisions will be made, how you'll share royalties or be paid, and who gets credit for what. Be clear before you start.

Next, when I look at collaborating on a novel, I’ll include a list of points for you to discuss with your collaborator, as well as an example of a simple collaboration letter agreement.

About the Writer:  Janet Fogg’s focus on novel-length fiction and screenplays began in the 1990s when she was CFO for the coolest architectural firm in Boulder. Numerous manuscripts and fifteen writing awards later, Janet resigned from OZ Architecture to write full-time, and ten months later she signed a contract for Soliloquy, her award-winning time-travel romance. In 2011 Casemate Publishing released Fogg in the Cockpit, co-authored by Janet and her husband Richard Fogg. Based on the wartime diary of Richard’s father, Fogg in the Cockpit offers a first hand look at Howard Fogg’s fascinating and often unexpected story as a fighter pilot during World War II.

Janet is a long-time member of Pikes Peak Writers, RMFW, and two fantastic critique groups. In her free time she has fun with cars with Richard.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Wallflower Guide to Networking by F.T. Bradley

At a fan conference a few years ago, I met this writer. He walked up to me with a friendly smile, told me about his book (which sounded very interesting), and how he was up for an award. He handed me a promotional bookmark, and moved on to the next person. It was flawless networking.

I’m not that person. I couldn’t sell water in the middle of a desert (I would probably give it away, since everyone looked so thirsty). And the thought of having to walk up to strangers someday and talk about my book—I have to be honest: it terrifies me.

But at this same conference, I met other authors. Ones who don’t come right out of the gate with a sales pitch, but to you. They’re friendly, smart, interesting, and most of all, they’re passionate about their books. Without a sales pitch, these authors had me standing in line at their book signings.

This experience taught me that every author is different. Not everyone can wear buttons with their book on it, or hand out bookmarks with ease. Some of us (like me) don’t have that natural sales ability. I would be miserable if I tried to act otherwise. I also learned that I don’t have to. At the conference, I was surprised to find how many people already knew me and had read my published short stories. I was flattered. I had joined online mystery writers groups, gotten short stories published, and made a lot of friends, slowly, along the way. I had networked, and I wasn’t even trying.

Here are some easy ways to network, for my fellow wallflowers:

Join a Group
If you’re reading this blog, you likely belong to Pikes Peak Writers already, which is a great start. But are you going to the Write Brain sessions, or the member nights? Make sure you know all the benefits each group has before joining, and make the most of them. The Write Brain sessions are free, and they’re a great way to meet other members and learn something new at the same time (plus, the snacks are to die for). For online groups, check around (your genre’s organization, like RWA, is a great place to start), join their loop, and lurk awhile to see what people are like.

I know, I know, it’s the V word. But the great thing about volunteering is that you get to contribute (everyone will love you for it), get to know tons of people, and have a great sense of accomplishment in the end. I volunteered during Left Coast Crime in Denver in 2008, and met lots of (famous) authors. Before you volunteer, make sure it’s for a task you can manage, and one you’ll enjoy. Nobody likes a cranky volunteer.

“I am writing already,” you say. Try your hand at an article or an interview. The Pikes Peak Writers blog is always looking for contributors—not only are you contributing to PPW, but you’ll walk away with a publishing credit for your resume or query letter. I was amazed when I won the Reporter of the Year award this year; I had just been having fun, writing articles, and meeting authors for interviews. You already love to write, so why not use it to network at the same time? Check around within your genre, too. Sisters in Crime and RWA have many chapters with newsletters that need to be filled. There’s usually no pay, but the rewards are priceless.

Try on Some Shorts
No worries, you don’t need to go to the gym to tone your legs; I’m talking short stories here. Sure, that novel project is important, but short story writing comes with significant benefits. The time investment is smaller, you can send out your own work (no agent required), and you might even get paid. Short story writing is also a great way to experiment with different genres and get some experience working with editors and writing cover letters. Check for markets.

Get Online
When I first started writing, I lived in the middle of nowhere, with no PPW or other writers’ group nearby. I had to find other writers online—and I’m so glad I did. I now have writer friends across the globe, people I have been lucky enough to meet at a few conferences, people I consider good friends. And although I didn’t befriend these writers with networking in mind, these contacts have led to anthology invitations, blogging invites, and freelance work. Don’t be afraid to branch out beyond your geographical area. With the abundance of ways to meet people online (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), you can meet without even leaving the comfort of your home. Just make sure you proceed with caution when going online, to protect against the creepy few who are not who they say they are.

Be Nice
I know, you’re nice already. But at the last Pikes Peak Writers Conference, did you make an effort to meet other writers? Sure, networking with agents and editors is exciting, but it’s just as important to meet your fellow writer-in-the-trenches. Next time you’re at an event (because you’re inspired to go now, right?), walk up to a fellow attendee and introduce yourself. Ask the person: What are you working on? I promise you’ll have plenty to talk about. Don’t forget that today’s budding writer could very well be next year’s hot ticket.

Remember: networking doesn’t have to feel like networking. Meet new people, volunteer, write an article or two, and make a few friends while you’re at it. Just get out there. By the time your first novel is released, you’ll have a whole army of supporters, ready to toot your horn. I can hear the noise already, can’t you?

(Originally appeared in The Pikes Peak Writer, Volume VIII, Issue 5, September/October 2009)

About the Writer:  F.T. Bradley is the author of Double Vision (Harper Children's, Fall 2012), the first in the middle-grade adventure series featuring Lincoln Baker and Benjamin Green. Find out more at

Her husband's Air Force career has F.T. and their two daughters moving all around the world, but for the moment the family lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Write Brain – Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Write Brain Session on "Everything You Need to Know About PPWC 2012" -- fun and informative for all PPWC attendees, essential for newcomers.  

When:  Tuesday, April 17 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Where:  Aspen Leaf room at the Colorado Springs Marriott, 5580 Tech Center Drive, Colorado Springs.  


No RSVP required.  

See you there!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 PPWC Faculty Addition

Evan Gregory from Ethan Ellenberg Literary will be attending this year’s conference.  Evan is an Associate Agent at the Ethan Ellenberg Literary agency, and is currently seeking new clients. To see what he represents, check out his profile on the Association of Authors’ Representatives web site.

This brings our 2012 faculty to 7 agents, 4 editors, and 46 authors and specialists who will be giving over 70 workshops.