Thursday, December 1, 2011

Awkward? Ya think?

    Ian, behind Max, hand on the hilt of his sword and the Kaltenschnees, flanking their brother, weapons at the ready, left no doubt as to the serious nature of the conflict.

    The above sentence was tagged as awkward by one of my critique partners. I have no argument with that. My only question is; who wrote it? I didn’t write it. For one thing my attention span isn’t long enough. It had to be an anti-muse.

    Just because nobody has ever seen an anti-muse doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Antis are like black holes; they can’t be observed directly but we know they exist by their effect on other things. Black holes bend light making it appear an object is light-years from its actual position. Antis bend thought and take your story light years from where it should be. Black holes can perturb orbits, sometimes sending objects careening off into inter-galactic space. Anti-muses perturb plots sending them off... Young black holes suck in matter and produce gamma-ray bursts. Anti-muses suck in prose and produce awkward sentences. Lucky for us there is an anti-anti-muse thingamajigger. Unfortunately, you can’t buy an anti-anti-muse thingamajigger. You have to find one or form one. They are called critique groups. A good crit group can uncover the work of the anti-muses.

    Crit groups come in many shapes and sizes. Online and face-to-face, juried and open. Some you stand up and read your thing. Others you hand out pages. Still others you submit pages to be taken home and discussed the following week. You could go cross-eyed trying to think it through and decide which is best. You just have to get out there and give one a try. If it doesn’t work, try another.

    Finding groups can be a problem, but they are out there. Some are sponsored by writing groups like, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. You should be a part of a larger writing group anyway so join something and see what they have to offer. Web-sites geared toward writing often have something set up. If not actual crit groups, an area where you can post your work for review. You could try the library, put a note on their bulletin board. You can find them with a little effort.

    Another option is building one from scratch. You can form a group online but I prefer face-to-face. This requires more work but it will be good for you. Trust me. You will have to put yourself out there, make friends and acquaintances, tell people you write, ask people to read your stuff. You’ll have to get out of the house, go to meetings, events, write at the library or a coffee shop. You’ll have to introduce yourself as a writer.

    I heard a collective gasp. I suspect writers may be more introverted as a group than the general populace. We hide in our little corner with our characters putting on our puppet show for nobody. Time to stop it. Anti-muses love this environment. Get out there, get in a crit group, meet new people, show your work, learn, listen, laugh. It’ll be fun.

    I’ll end with a few guidelines for crit groups. You can make a whole bunch of rules and have someone be the sheriff but I prefer things a little more relaxed.

    First, try to give as much positive feedback as you can. People learn from their mistakes but they also learn from success. Tell them what worked so they can keep doing it.
    Be honest. Don’t gloss over something in your crit partner’s work that you think is a real problem. Explain what’s not working and why, also offer a possible solution. If you are on the other end, relax and think about what you are being told.
    Allow for questions and brainstorming. Many groups don’t allow the writer to speak up during the critique because there just isn’t time. Our group is smaller. We have time. So we brainstorm if we need to. I like it better that way. 

    One note of caution. It’s your story and sometimes you have to disregard the advice of your crit partners. Do so if you must but do so at your peril.

    I think I’ll do another crit group blog in a week or so. I didn’t cover everything I wanted.

Go have fun, Mike

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our First Live Workshop (And A Promotional Gig for RMFW)

We are so very excited! Why? Well...
Vicki and Marne are presenting our workshop, "Keeping Track of Your World: How to Create a Story Bible," LIVE! It's going to be the bomb! We are doing this workshop for half an hour, and then we'll be brainstorming what is needed to create a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' presence on the Western Slope. We want a writing group, complete with a critique group and monthly meetings/workshops, so let's see what we need to do to make that happen...

Here are the details:
Date: Saturday November 19, 2011
Time: 9:30 a.m. until whenever...
Where: 800 Colorado Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501

So, yes, it is tomorrow. But, if you are a writer on the Western Slope area, please come support our adventures. You might get something out of the experience.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


    I am trying to write the last chapter in the book I’m revising. My crit group opined that I hadn’t tied up enough of the plot thingymabobbers. Let me just say right here, endings suck.

    So, I’m going to ask you all what kind of endings you prefer. Does the protagonist need to be happy, healthy, and satisfied with his lot? Does the antagonist need to be dead, incarcerated, or reformed? Do you need to know if the secondary characters are living productive lives as you turn the last page? These are the nagging questions I’m asking myself on behalf of my prospective readers. I just don’t know how much I want to tie up.

    Time for some ferinstances.

    Egon, the protagonist, has some feelings for this girl he met while recruiting men to help him defeat the witch, Katerina. He kissed her, he thinks about her time to time, he’s kinda got a thing for her. When last he saw Jessica she was pissed because two of her brothers were killed and one maimed while fighting Katerina. Heat of the moment, he’d just told her they were dead, she tells him she never wants to see him again. Done? Or do you need to know more in the last chapter?

    Acinom, a secondary protagonist, a winged humanoid female and the last of her kind has helped Egon become a leader and gave him tools to defeat Katerina. She’s kind of a mentor though a very unconventional one. She has been flirting with Egon throughout and the two developed a psychic connection. She is an alluring, wanton, free spirit without many boundaries and has told Egon that she and he should start a new race, half her, half him. Oh, and she’s okay with Jessica being in the mix. Haven’t seen much of her toward the end because mentors have to fade. She’ll make an appearance in the last chapter but do you need to know if Egon is going to father her babies?

    Lars, a sixteen year old boy and one of the first to join Egon. He’s a smartass and he hears the whispers of dragons. We last saw him on the back of the dragon circling above the castle. He’ll have at least a mention in the final chapter but how much do you need to know?

    I see him living in a stone cottage near a cavern high atop a cliff. Gradually, the constant whispers of the dragon drive him mad. He takes to stealing chickens and kidnaping robust middle-aged women. I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say, mental illness is a terrible thing. But, someone else might have a different imagining of Lars’ future. Someone else might imagine him married with three kids living on a small farm. He’d have a herd of dairy goats, the dragon would keep the predators away and he’d teach his children to make yogurt. How do I end it with Lars?

    How much does the reader want? How much do I give them? How much control do I exert over the direction the story takes from here? That’s the real question isn’t it? And I haven’t a clue.

    How about you? Do you like everything wrapped up? Do you like to wrap everything up. Or do you like to let your reader’s imaginations wander willy-nilly?

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Few Tidbits

Is that right? Is it tidbits? Tid-bits? Tid Bits?

Don't know, however, I digress. Here are a few tidbits of news. First of all, we've been meeting with other writers on the Western Slope (of Colorado, that is) to get Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer meetings and events happening on our side of the mountain. We've met with great enthusiasm and a couple volunteers already. We're looking forward to making new writing friends.

The first Western Slope RMFW meeting is slated for November 19th. If any of you are in the area and want to join us, give us a holler. The meeting will be held at 800 Colorado Ave, Grand Junction from 9:30 to Noon.

Secondly, Marne and I are doing a story bible mini-class at the meeting. We worked on the presentation tonight and all I can say is  - Marne rocks! She's already given this class online, so she had the majority of the work done.

Lastly, Mike, Marne and I are doing NaNoWriMo this year. Marne found us a wonderful place to write, complete with kitchen, living room, family room, and a huge dining room table. Nope, not her house, but an adult daycare center which is empty every evening. It's perfect!!!  Again, we are meeting new writing friends, this time through the Grand Junction NaNoWriMo group. Our little offshoot is the Delta/Montrose branch of the GJ organization.

Come join us on Tuesday nights in November:

1402 Howard Street
Delta, CO

And if you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, see this website:

Do you have any writing news you want to share?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Disturbing Characters

    I have a book that lists among my weaknesses the word, ‘DISTURBING’ Just like that, all caps. The only thing that disturbs me about that is that they consider it a weakness. Hell, if I can disturb somebody and there are no consequences, like getting arrested or fired, I’m going for it. Besides, we’re all disturbing in one way or another. Religion, politics, social and societal convention, we are all disturbed and disturbing by and to someone. The question is: should you make your characters disturbing?

    Hell yes. Even if you are writing a piece about well meaning people on two sides of a divisive issue and everyone will be redeemed in the end through compromise and group hugs, someone needs to be disturbing or the boredom will be excruciating.

    I can hear you thinking, ‘Huh, I’ll just have my antagonist be disturbing.’ Does it disturb you that I can hear your thoughts? Now, you can have your bad guy be disturbing, most of them are in one way or another; they’re bad guys. So make them disturbing in their actions. Have them swerve to hit bunnies on the highway, pee in the office coffee pot, try to see the future in the entrails of their victims, etc. That’ll disturb some readers but we expect that sort of thing and we expect bad guys to have disturbing thoughts if they have a POV. By all means, make the bad guy disturbing but also do the unexpected. Give your protagonist disturbing thoughts.

    Heroes are better characters if they are flawed, we all know that. This is just one more way to bring them to life. I don’t have room here to give examples because there are too many possibilities. Think sex, murder, torture, violence, kinky sex, violent sex, torturous sex, vandalism, suicide, autoerotic asphyxiation, homophobic, homosexual, pee in the office coffee pot thoughts.

    I can hear you thinking again and some of you are reluctant to sully your good guy with less than heroic thoughts. You love him because he is so strong and brave and virtuous. He is your idea of a perfect person. You can’t have him think stuff like... No!

    Okay. Many books have been written and published with nary a thought out of place on the part of the hero. The tension comes from insurmountable odds, the hero’s fear or feelings of unworthiness, or his desire to save the villain, etc. There is a large audience for that.

    Not my cup of tea.

    I prefer Han Solo to Luke, Rooster Cogburn to Marshal Dillon, Ironman to Superman, Grace Anadarko to Joe Friday. I want heroes with grit. I want them dirty, nasty, sociopathic in their thoughts and borderline criminal in their deeds. I don’t care if they fight their demons or embrace them. I just want them to have demons.

    Now, I realize this sort of thing can be overdone. So don’t obsess over thinking up and putting in inappropriate thoughts. But there are situations where a reasonable person might think something that would get them arrested if they said it out loud. If one occurs to you, try it out.

    What do you think? Gonna do it?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Is Your Stuff in A Pile?

Marne and I are both working on new projects. Marne started the third book of “The Fae Dragon Chronicles". I’m working on a whole new project, which blends the old west, (my first love) and a little fantasy (my second love).

We’re both excited, motivated and diligently writing. Yay.

Normally Marne has a canvas bag sitting next to her computer when she writes. The bag holds notebooks, three rings binders, sticky notes, bits of get the idea. Her filing cabinet full of information regarding her stories. Character sketches, tidbits about her world and the creatures and people who live in it.

Me, I’m more of a electronic person. I don’t have a canvas bag, but I have a pile of thumb drives. Sometimes I pick them all up and play with them. They click together very nicely, kind of like dice. It’s a sensory thing.

Each thumb drive holds various files and folders, (and, truth be told, various versions of the same files). I pretend my thumb drives are color coded.

The blue one holds notes and research.
The black one, versions one and two (and maybe three and four) of my manuscript.
The red one submissions and feedback from critique group.
The other black one (with the little plastic cap) contains ideas for future work, brainstorming, and things. I don’t exactly remember what.
The purple one backs up the black one, because you should always have several backups, right?
The pink one with flowers, well it holds backups of personal stuff and important spreadsheets.
The red one with the black skulls doesn’t work any longer, but I’m afraid to throw it away. I don’t remember what’s on it.
You get the idea...Marne’s canvas bag on disc.

Unlike my brilliant husband, who doesn’t seem to need a story bible, my memory sucks. Between Marne and I, we’ve written more than a few manuscripts over the years and there are times I remember more about her characters than I do my own.

We were both spending too much time looking for information.

I don’t remember who first realized we needed story bibles. I’m pretty sure I was first to create my computer file, complete with an index and page references. However, Marne’s memory is much better than mine and she says her “big” three ring bible, with tabs and a written index, came into creation first.

Regardless, we are both stoked. We are organized!!!!

And, we’ve fed off of each other. Marne now has an electronic story bible, but I secretly covet that very cool binder that has a plastic pocket with colored pens and highlighters. When she isn’t watching, I run my fingers along the tabs, flip through the pages and doodle with her pens. What writer doesn’t love office supplies?

Our story bibles have morphed from mere information dumps, into the structure of our worlds. We can click on a highlighted page number and add to the paragraph explaining the rules of our world’s magic; with the push of a button, we are re-analyzing our villian's GMCs; in seconds we’re able to read what we wrote last month about our protagonist’s culture. And now when I can’t remember if my heroine’s eyes are sea-green or sky-blue (I am a romance writer, after all), it just takes a click of my mouse to find out.

Dang we’re good. Sometimes it just takes two heads to figure it all out.

What about you? Do you use a story bible. If so, how did you develop it? What’s in it?

If not, how do you keep all that info in a pile and accessible? Maybe you just have a better memory than I do. It wouldn’t be hard, cuz like I said, mine sucks.

Just as important, do you have critique partners and writing friends to help you solve problems?

I have a world to create, as well as creatures, religions and, of course, the characters.

All I needed was a story bible.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crap! Back to work.

    Crap! I gotta get to work on my stuff. Sure, I’ve done a little but not enough. The summer has gotten away without getting much done on my manuscripts let alone any of the other projects lurking about. I catch glimpses of them daily. The boxes of flooring hunch in the corner of the front-room. The new trim waits patiently in the garage. The wall around the plot next to the patio begs to be filled with dirt. Errk! I need to win Mega-Millions and hire a handyman.

    Okay, enough whining. Too much really. I went to conference, got a request for fifty pages of two manuscripts and it’s time to buckle down.

    What does buckle down mean exactly? Where’d that phrase come from? Hitch up your pants and tighten your belt before getting busy?
    There goes my ADHD again. In my case it ought to be HDAD; High Definition Attention Deficit. So, where was I? Oh yeah, getting down to it. Getting down to it? A mining term possibly? Never mind.

    So, what’s my plan? A reasonable, logical person would come up with a plan. But I’m not much of a planner. I live in the moment and I don’t say that with pride. I know plans are good things and I ought to embrace them but I don’t like them. I don’t like them the way I don’t like rodents. I’m not afraid of them, I have no phobias I’m aware of. I loathe them. If there is no reason not to, I kill rodents. In my world, because my wife is in it, there are reasons not to kill rodents. I don’t understand them but they exist, just trust me on that. Uh,oh, HDAD again.

    My plan is to work on my manuscripts every day, even if only for an hour. Seven hours a week minimum, that’s my goal. I’m not sure if set-up time is included. Not all the details of my plan are worked out. Do I include the time driving to the coffee shop and getting out my laptop? Or, do I start the timer once my fingers hit the keyboard? I don’t have a lot of experience with plans after all. My sense of it is, that it should be actual writing so that’s the way I’m leaning.

    The trouble is I’m at the point where it’s not actual writing. I have to go through and fix things, define things, clean things up. I know that’s part of writing but I like the first draft part better. Hence the need for a plan. (Whew, almost started whining again but I pulled it back.)

    Anyway, that’s my plan. I’ll write seven hours a week minimum and some every day. I hope that by writing every day I’ll get in more than seven. That way the things get done and out so I can start a new project. I also hope that, by posting my plan, I’ll stick to it.

    So, what’s your plan? Got one? Like’em? Hate’em?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Few Reasons It's Called Colorado Gold

Last weekend, Mike, Vicki, and Marne Ann were at the Colorado Gold Writers' Conference in Denver. If you're a writer, agent or editor, and you've never been to this conference, you need to put it on your list of to-do's for 2012. It is an amazing experience. The workshops are phenomenal, the people are inspiring, and the hospitality suite has some fantastic after-hours partying.

This year, I (Marne Ann) met some new people and I learned from them. I'd like to share my experiences with you...

From Julie Kazimer (aka: J.A. Kazimer), I learned perseverance and a happy spirit are essential to life. She is such a sweet soul and I'm so excited for her recent sales! Congratulations, Julie!!! (fyi, she would be bubblegum goth girl #3...just so you know. I'll explain soon...).

From Angie Hodapp, I learned all about something amazing and beautiful and creative. She called it "bubblegum goth music" and from that I founded the bubblegum goth gang (of which Angie would be bubblegum goth girl #2...I get to be #1, because I stole the term from her fair and square). Think the dead poets' society or the chipettes all grown up and writing instead of singing. It's an attitude of sweet and sophisticated, yet fun and naughty at the same time, and the knowledge that this is okay, lol.
Thanks, Angie! (Are you ladies sick of being involuntarily connected to me yet, lol?)
BTW, Miss Vicki is BGG #4. Anyone else who would like to join our little writerly group only has to ask, lol...

From Aaron Ritchey, I learned joy is everywhere and sometimes getting what we want is a bit scary...and that's okay. And I learned I have a ways to go before I can do stand up comedy as well as him...and I learned boys can write YA romance, too.

So, Aaron Ritchey, Julie Kazimer, and I were on a First Sales Panel with some other great authors, Kevin Diviness, Betsy Dornbusch, and Courtney Schafer. (Here's the pic, but sadly, Kevin and Aaron are a bit missing...)

Still, it was a fantastic panel and these authors are people to watch for. Each one of them has amazing talent. Keep an eye out for their books. (Angie's not contracted yet, but trust me, she will be. Soon.) Buy their books. Spread the word on their awesomeness.
Did I mention Aaron is a fellow Crescent Moon Press author? I thought it was pretty cool getting to meet another Crescent Moon Press Author.

There were so many old friends we met up with and enjoyed, but if I posted their pics, this post would be ages long. Just know it was fantastic seeing all of our writer friends.
The great thing about conferences is you learn new things about the writing craft, and the business of writing and publishing books, and you connect with people who are just as crazy as you about writing and reading books.
And I get to hang with some of my faves...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing News...

What Writerly News do we have?...
Let's see...

Our friend and fellow RMFWer, Mark Stevens, was at the Barnes and Noble in Grand Junction, CO on the 20th.
Mark Stevens at the Grand Junction, CO
Barnes and Noble

He was doing a book signing for his new release, "Buried by the Roan," and we just had to stop by and show him some love (and buy books, of course).

Mike, Vicki, and Marne stopped by to show him some love. (And Mike put up the rabbits)
Huge Congratulations, Mark! We wish you well!

Our Gail had a book-signing at Barnes and Nobles in Grand Junction, too (but we don't have any pics of the event, and Marne is so sad). So, at the next time Gail has a book signing for "Images of America: Ouray," we will be there with bells on!

And on September 1, Marne went to Denver for RMFW's 2011 Writer of the Year Event. It was a blast! Here's a great pic of Robin D. Owens, the 2011 Writer of the Year, Laura Reeve, and Maggie Sefton, the other nominees. These ladies are all wonderful authors and they really made the night special! Pam Nowak, the 2010 Writer of the Year, moderated the event, and she did an amazing job, too!

Then, last weekend, Mike, Vicki, and Marne went to the Colorado Gold Writers' Conference. It was fantastic (and a blog for another day...)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hey, please join me for a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Grand Junction this Saturday, August 27th from 2 to 4. It’s been a year since my non-fiction book was published, and I’m slowly working on the promotion part of writing. My book Ouray was published by Arcadia publishers and is a photo journey that highlights the history of the city of Ouray. Maybe one of these days, all this research will morph into the setting for a historical novel?
I’m the kind of writer that likes that cup of coffee in a quiet place and days of solitude so it’s hard to make myself get out in public and put my book out there. A friend called from Denver and asked if I’d seen last Sunday’s Denver Post. Under an article headlined “Historic peeks into storied Colorado locales” was a review of my book Ouray. This week has been a reminder that I need to get myself more out of my everyday world of being on call for everyone and everything and schedule in more writing time.
So come by Barnes and Noble and meet me. I’d like to get out of my writing malaise and visit with other Western Colorado writers, Gail

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Do You Get Your Mojo Back?

Today is a ho-hum day. The dog-days of August are almost over, the garden is pretty much doing its own thing now (thanks to my DH and his amazing weed-matting in the Spring), school starts (for us, anyway) tomorrow, and the summer family plans are all over.
Not the kind of day I write on.
Not the kind of day I do much of anything on.
It's a Mojo-Suck Day!
However, it struck me a few minutes ago... "The Fae Dragon Chronicles: Love Chosen" is soon to be published, the second book in that series, "Love Dared," is with Crescent Moon Press now for consideration, and I'd like to finish book three, "Love Desired," sometime before book two comes out (I'm being hopeful they'll pick it up, as well).
In order to, ya know, continue on with the whole writing business dream I have, I need to not let those ho-hum days suck my Mojo.
So this question is for anyone, writer and reader alike... What do you do to kick it in gear when it feels like life has kicked you in the pants?
My answer? Well, today I called my bestie, played a riveting game of Mario with my son, and then picked veggies from the garden with one of my daughters.
I think it worked...
Now I'm off to write something.
But what about you?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Real Heroes

I've started Book Three in "The Fae Dragon Chronicles," (meaning I'm profiling my characters, creating scene sketches, improving on my story bible...ya know...brainstorming). I've decided book three, "Love Desired," needs to be Queen Morgana's story (which everyone will understand once books 1 & 2 come out, lol).
I know Morgana, inside and out.
However, I do not know her hero, yet. I've met him once, briefly, but he's still a stranger.
In "Love Dared" (Book 2), I learned: this character is strong enough to lead the enemy's army, yet a gentle father-figure to a young boy. Until yesterday, I didn't even know his name.
But poor Morgana has a story and she desperately needs some love.
So, this has me thinking about heroes and what makes a great hero, a hero the reader doesn't forget, a hero we all want to take home and... let's go with cuddle up to...
I have a hero I took home, and I find bits and pieces of him in each of my stories.
My husband is my hero, and yesterday he reminded me of this several times:
He rushes to help damsels in distress: My brother (well he might be happily married with kids, but we always called him Josephina, which makes him a damsel to me) had broken down out of town. My DH didn't hesitate. He dropped his chores, because I asked, and saved my brother (and the car).
He romances the heroine in little ways: Out of the blue, my hero said and did the sweetest things, like he brought me a watermelon (because it is my absolute favorite fruit!), and he came up behind me and whispered, "have I told you how sexy I think you are?" as he walked by.
He romances the heroine in big ways and solves complex problems (which showcases his superior skills and big heart): (I know, I'm rolling two in one...) My hero installed my dishwasher. I know, you're probably wondering exactly how that's sexy; but, trust me, watching him install the beast and knowing he was making my life easier? Totally sexy!
The hero slays the dragon (or other totally monstrous beastie): At ten-thirty last night, we were all so tired. We'd worked on the yard, pulled potatoes from the garden, pulled weeds, saved my brother, installed the dishwasher, played with one of our grandsons, and did five thousand other things. So, at ten-thirty, I look out my window and what I call the 'Danger Will Robinson light' is flashing in red neon, lighting up the dark yard.
Oh poop.... "Um, Honey?" I say, a bit cautiously. But I'm wondering, if I close my eyes and tap my heels three times, will it shut off?
"Yeah?" He says.
"The light's on."
"What?" He's getting a bit exasperated.
"The light. The light, dear. It's flashing." I sound a bit disjointed, I know, but it's because I'm quite stressed out by now. How could this happen? Why now? I really just wanted to shower and go to bed, and now I can't.
He glances out the window and sighs, presses his lips together in a stiff line, and kind of stomps outside.
The door shuts quietly behind him.
Later, I'm holding a flashlight and he's up to his elbows in...well, we live in the country and when that light goes on it means something is wrong with the pump connecting us to the city sewer system. It's a pre-warning system, so our house doesn't flood with, well, everyone else's waste water (can you say, "ick?").
Some people hire a plumber (who would probably hire an electrician, since it's electrical), but my husband's an electrician so...
And as I'm holding his flashlight, and my honey is slaying my latest nasty, stinky dragon, I'm thinking I have an amazing hero, right here in real life. I think I tend to model my romance heroes after mine, in one form or another, when I write.
What about your heroes? Do you have preferences? Stories? Please share...
P.S.- It should be noted, however, I don't always feel quite so sweet and admiring toward my hero...we are married, after all, lol!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Character Kinks

    Yes, it's about exactly what it sounds like.

    Hey all, I’ve been really busy with...stuff and such. But, I’m here now and I think a short set-up for the blog topic is in order lest you think some untoward thoughts about me. Not that they couldn’t be true but I want to keep up appearances in case I ever want to run for public office. I just finished reading one of my crit partners subs. In it she, or rather, one of her characters refers to Spanx Shapewear. I wrote in the margin, (Spanx = Spanks. Is she Kinky?) From there my mind went hither and yon as anyone who knows me can imagine. So, lets get to it.

    Some of you may avoid putting kinks in your characters because you don’t want people to think you enjoy a good spanking yourself. Okay, that might be valid but I write female characters and nobody thinks I’m a woman. My reason for not putting them in is that I just hadn’t thought of it...yet. Oh sure, I’ve got Katerina who is a nut and a deviant of sorts, but that’s just her. I haven’t given any sane characters kinks and I’m rather disappointed with myself. How could I not have thought of that?

    Now, I’m not suggesting you start writing bondage erotica but if you have a sexual component in your work, put a little something different in it. Suppose your heroine is a bit of a sadist and she is attracted to your hero. That’s going to put a whole new level of tension in there: first, in her internals and second, in their interactions. Now, for a happy ending, he’s going to have to be a bit of a masochist whether he knew it before or not. But, what the hell, it’s fiction and it ought to be fun. And what’s more fun than kinky sex?

    Now, suppose this same heroine needs to get some information from a bad guy. Ha, she’s got a set of skills that the reader knows about and she can really show her stuff. I’m laughing just thinking about it. The hero is a little reluctant to use force and she just wades in and starts clamping stuff on. He, the hero, is incredulous and much to his surprise, a little turned on. Now we’ve got some fun stuff happening.

    And you can go the other way. A strong willed heroine likes to be spanked. She obsesses over his hands: their size, just right shape, how rough and rugged they are, perfect for spanking. Or, a determined hero has a foot fetish that distracts him. How fun would it be if the hero kept looking at the heroine’s feet, enough that she notices and says something. Freudian slips create awkward moments. Thoughts unbidden create distraction and attraction. I can hardly wait to start something new to work this in. And research. I’ll have to do research. What fun. I usually hate research but now I’m excited.

    But, don’t go overboard, I’m prone to that. Just put a little in. Unless you want to write bondage erotica, then go for it. I’m thinking of using it to round out the characters. And not every character and not in every story. Maybe even keep it within the character and never let it be known to the others. A festering kink yearning for expression could be worse that unrequited love.

    A kink will influence a character and that’s what I’m after.   

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interview with Author, Kaki Warner

I first met Kaki Warner at the Crested Butte Writers’ Conference, in June, where she was a guest speaker. She writes gripping western stories with romances that capture the reader’s heart and lingers there; and she does this with finesse and humor (and oh dang, is she funny!).
As evidence of Kaki’s phenomenal story-telling ability, the first novel in her Blood Rose Trilogy, “Pieces of Sky,” won the 2011 RITA Award for First Book.
Huge Congratulations, Kaki.
She likes to say she’s a “nearly almost semi-famous author,” but the rest of us think of her as totally a soon-to-be famous author and I can’t wait for y’all to get to know her. You can go to her website, , to learn even more about her, and I’ll post her bio at the end of the interview.
So, let the grilling…er…questions begin….
Welcome to Cowboys and Dragons at the Café, Miss Kaki. I’m so happy you’ve taken time out of your writing and chicken and owl watching schedule to interview with me. Thank you. (She’s a bit of a bird twitcher, but just specific birds... a subject for another day)

Thanks, Marne, for inviting me to the Café today.  And thanks, too, for all the kind words.  You’re very astute—I especially like “phenomenal.”  So few people realize that about me.  By the way, Chicka-Boom-Boom and Owly send their love—tattered though it is.

They say a good author writes what they know. Is that the case with your writing, Kaki? Will you tell us a little bit about why Western settings and why these three brothers in your Blood Rose Trilogy?

I love the west—the landscape, the mindset of the people, the raw openness of it when you get away from the cities.  There’s a lot of stuff out there that can kill you—other than people and climate, of course—which adds drama to the story and allows the setting to become a character on its own.  The people who survived those hard years after the Civil War had to endure alot to prevail, and I admire that.  As for the brothers…that sort of evolved.  I started with a guy with a troubled past who had inherited a bit of a mess—a blood feud with the previous owner of his ranch, two brothers to watch out for, thousands of cattle running wild over tens of thousands of acres in the desert mountains in New Mexico.  But that was the task he’d been given, so he did it, and not always in a gentle, civilized way.   But by the time I’d finished that book, his brothers were all like “so where’s my story and I want a woman, too”—whine,  whine,  whine—so I thought, heck, I already had the setting and knew the characters, so why not?  Also, thinking it might help sell that first book, I lied on my queries and said it was book 1 of a trilogy.  Berkley fell for it, and suddenly I had to write two more books in the next nine months.  Gads.

People often ask an author what their favorite book to write was. I’m not asking that… Twist it, just a bit. Which book is your favorite one to return to? The one that you find yourself remembering and quoting, daydreaming about?

Well, here’s the thing.  Once a book is accepted, the editor will probably want revisions—which will necessitate a re-read.  If those are accepted, the book goes on to copy editing.  They fix all your dumb mistakes and send it back for your approval, last changes, etc., and another re-read.   Then the advance copies come out (ARCs) and you get to look that over for any problems before the final printing.  Re-read number three.  And then, if they decide to re-release the book in mass market (if it was previously released in Trade or Hardback) you get to read it over one last time.  That’s four readings on a project you’ve already gone over maybe a ga-zillion times before it’s finally finished.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like my books.  I’m proud of them.  But remembering and quoting and daydreaming about them?  Not so much.  The characters, though, they’re in my head forever.  Bless their hearts.

Talk to us about how you first became published, about your journey there.

It was long and twisty and full of potholes.   Sort of like that run between Gunnison and Montrose earlier this summer.  Twenty-five years ago I read a crummy book and thought I could do better. I eventually did, but it took me a long time because I’m easily distracted.  Life kept getting in the way and I’d put the project aside for years at a time.  About five years ago we retired and I looked at my husband and thought, holy crap—I gotta get a hobby quick.  That was when I got serious about writing.  I dug the ms out of storage, entered contests, made changes, polished and buffed.  Then I stopped weenie-whining about it and finally sent it out.   You know the rest.  But the point is, no matter how long the journey is, you have to get to the finish line if you want to be published.  So don’t ever give up.

Again Kaki, congratulations on your newest release, “Heartbreak Creek.”  It isn’t a part of your Blood Rose Trilogy. Tell us about it. Is it a different animal altogether from the Blood Rose (other than, you know, the Blood Rose Trilogy being stories about three brothers and all.) It is the first in its own series. Can you dish any goods on future stories, so we know what to look forward to?

HEARTBREAK CREEK is Book 1 of the Runaway Brides trilogy.  It’s lighter in tone and heavier on humor than the Blood Rose books.  Probably because it centers around four women who are clueless about life in the west:   A southern belle mail order bride and her half-black half-sister, both of whom are desperate to escape the Reconstruction south—an English photographer who has given up on her absentee military husband—and a Yankee with a checkered past, a valise full of purloined railroad shares, and a really pissed off groom back in New York.  Add to that a burdened rancher/sheriff and his four rambunctious children, a Cheyenne Dog Soldier, a wounded Scottish cavalry officer, and the best friend of the really pissed off groom in New York.  Then top if off with assorted bad guys, set it in a dying mining town in the Rocky Mountains, add some romance, railroad issues, yadda-yadda, and you’ve got a real dog and pony show—especially since there’s also a deaf horse, an Irish wolfhound, and a yapper whose mother was a sound sleeper with questionable morals.  And of course there’s still the obligatory cussing and killing and creepy moments, but overall, it’s a fun group.  But then, I’m prejudiced.

Writing a series is more detail-sensitive (I think) than writing a stand-alone novel, because you have to keep track of your hero and heroine as well as the threads from the other stories. Writing historically accurate novels is even more of a challenge. How do you keep it all straight? Do you have any tools/strategies you use in your writing to share with other writers?

Google.  A writer’s best friend.  Especially the timelines.  And doing a series is not that hard if you know your characters well.  Think of it as a family.  The action and the setting are basically the same.  It’s the individual motivations and reactions to the plot that will be different.  The Blood Rose books were easier because even though each brother had a different story, the family history, the setting and main characters were basically the same throughout.  The Brides books have been harder, since there is no common backstory or shared history.  I had to start from scratch with each lady—then bring her to Heartbreak Creek, where their lives weave in and out of each others’ stories.  There was a lot more research for this second trilogy, too, because their interests were so varied.  Not to mention having to juggle so many speech patterns—English, Scottish, Irish, Cheyenne, Southern.  What was I thinking?

The one sad, sad thing about your stories, in my opinion, is they are set in a time when the poor fools just didn’t know they were missing out on great coffee experiences… Sad day. Since we are in a café, I have to ask you, what would you like to drink ma’am? Are you a coffee, black? Tea with cream? Café Macchiato with a double shot kind of gal?

Mocha latte.   And lots of it.  Maybe a pastry.  Or a scone with jelly.  Quiche.  Whatever.

Thanks so much for coming and hangin’ with us at the café, Kaki… and for not killing any horses.

It was great fun.  I thoroughly enjoyed you Montrose ladies at the CB Conference this summer, and hope to see you again next summer.  And I love your website.  Cowboys AND Dragons…what’s not to love?  Thanks for inviting me to visit.   

In honor of Kaki’s new release, “Heartbreak Creek,” we are giving away one copy of Kaki’s book to one lucky winner. Here are our rules: You must leave a question for Kaki or a comment (preferably about how great she is). You must leave an e-mail addie where we can contact you to let you know you won. Oh, and if you let your friends know, via Twitter or Facebook or another medium and send us a link, it'll earn you another entry into the drawing for her book. Total win/win for you, yes?
 Hmmm, what else… you must …? That’s it. That’s the Marne Ann Rules…

And here is Kaki Warner’s much anticipated bio and pic (although you can stalk her so much better if you go to her website:
Kaki Warner is an award-winning
author and long time resident of the
Pacific Northwest.  Although she now
lives on the eastern slopes of the
Cascade Mountains in Washington
State, Kaki actually grew up in the
Southwest and is a proud graduate
of the University of Texas.  Her years
spent riding horses and enjoying the
expansive views of Texas became the
inspiration for the backdrop of her novels - the wide-open
spaces of historic New Mexico Territory.
Several years ago after their two children had left for college,
Kaki and her husband, Joe, moved from the city to their hilltop
cabin overlooking the scenic Methow Valley.  Kaki now spends
her time gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and soaking in the
view from the deck with her husband and floppy-eared hound

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sense of Place: Writing Settings

I spent the weekend in New Mexico helping my son and his family clean up after the fires in Los Alamos. I did get to attend a workshop in Taos presented by the University of New Mexico. The subject was “a sense of place” led by author Summer Wood.

We visited the farm of Patricia Quintana. A former Washington D.C.lobbyist, she’s living her dream on the land she inherited from her grandmother. Churro sheep, who were brought from Spain as many as 500 years ago, wander on her fields. She has kept the culture of her ancestors and integrates her lifestyle with land. So how do you incorporate setting into your writing? The main point I came away with is that characters need to be placed into the landscape or the descriptions will sound like a travel log. The “character” can be a human or one example given was animal, perhaps a dog, moving across a landscape. History, food, building styles, and human interface with their environment are all a part of “place.” Examples include nostalgia for a time when the land was in a healthier condition or a desire to profit from development. Summer’s list of books that “contribute something fresh and valuable to the role of place in writing” include:

The Meadow by James Galvin

Home Ground by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney

Mayordomo by Stanly Crawford

Power by Lin Hogan

Wisdom Sits in Places by Keigh Basso

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Is that “sense of place” important to you as a reader/writer?  How do you write setting so they are more than the physical location of your story?

<posted by Vicki Law, however written by Gail Saunders>

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting Write

We spent the last five days in the beautiful San Juan Mountains at a place called Priest Gulch Campground, RV Park, Cabins and Lodge.

( )

This is Mike's and my second year writing in River House 2 (see cabins). Marne joined us this year.

What motivation the mountains, trees, river and wild birds were for me. No matter where we were in the cabin, we could hear the river. Marne and I spent most of the time on a wonderful wrap around porch overlooking the Dolores River. Each of us with only one headphone on. Tuned into our favorite music on Pandora with one ear and the river with the other. Thank goodness for Pandora, because Marne and I have very different taste in music and music is important to each of us when writing.

No cell phone service or phones in the cabins, but we did have WiFi. None of the teenagers could reach us except through Facebook. :)

Having Marne and Mike clicking away on their computers next to me helped my motivation as well. I accomplished much, both on my story bible and my manuscript. Twenty new pages of work I’m excited about. I’m loving my story and my characters. Mike and Marne seem to be happy with their accomplishments as well.

I don’t have pictures, because although I always bring along my camera (and phone), I never think to use either one of them. No doubt Marne will post a couple of the pics she took.

What motivates you? Do you get the chance to get away to write? Where do you go?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Character Who Won’t Leave Me Alone and How I Misplaced His Voice

I started my first manuscript well over ten years ago. Late at night, after tossing a best-selling author’s book across the room and telling myself I could do better.

My first attempt was full of cliches, passive writing and confusing POV. I was excited that I would soon be a New York Times best-selling author. Along with a bad case of new writer syndrom, I had the where-with-all to know there were other writers out there I could learn from and I went on a quest to find them.

Those first chapters pretty much sucked, but there, from the ashes of bad writing, arose a wonderful character. I knew his history. I knew where he came from and where he was going and why. I knew what was stopping him and how he would get around barriers. I gave him life and he’s taken up residence in my mind and still talks to me at the oddest moments. I think that’s why writers are weird people. It’s difficult to be normal when you have someone else riding shot-gun in your head.

Three or so chapters into this character’s story, I learned a few things about writing and made changes. Then I learned a few more things, attended writers’ functions and became thoroughly depressed. I scratched much of what I’d written and started over, but the heart of my character stayed.

Digressing...I love books and always have. The written word fascinates me. I have a very distinct memory of my mom walking by me, stopping to look at me with a smile on her face, then taking a book out of my hands to turn it right-side up and put it back into my clutches. I remember where I was sitting when that happened. I was probably about three years old. Yep, I’ve always loved books and reading, but once I learned a little about writing, I came to love it more.

I finished that first story, after giving it chapter-by-chapter to my critique group and incorporating their suggestions. I received good feedback, from writers, readers and contest entries. It finalled with, according to the contest coordinator, the highest first-round score they’d ever had. I was proud and, with the feedback I received, I started editing. I found an online critique partner (because my in-person critique group was tired of reading that first story). The new partner said, “This is ready. Get it out there.” I thought she might be right, but I was still editing. I was also working on newer work, but that first story just wasn’t quite good enough yet.

Then Mike and Marne said, “This is ready. This is good. Get it out there. And for God’s sake, leave it alone.” I thought they might be right, but I was still editing.

Our critique group went through a few changes. People left,  new peopled joined. Fresh opinions! I submitted the book again. I didn’t realize it then, but I am somewhat of a perfectionist. When the new blood made suggestions, I saw problems with the manuscript and I set aside other projects and started tearing the book apart. Fixing things, changing things, re-writing.

Now, ten years later, the story is in pieces. Worse, along the way, while trying to make it perfect, I lost my voice with this manuscript. It’s tragic. I mourn often.  

Unlike other losses I have had in life (which, I’m fortunate enough to say, are few) time has not healed this wound. My character is pissed. He tells me about it daily. He wants closure. It's a good story. I screwed it up by trying to make it perfect.

I have a new belief from this experience. I believe there is no perfection in writing, because perfect writing is boring writing. No perfection, only story, characters and voice. Someday I’m going to let Jesse out to play and I’m going to tell his story. I have to distance myself from the mess he’s become first.

What do you think about perfection in writing? How about your characters? Do they holler at you while you’re trying to hold meaningful conversations with your children, your spouse or your boss? What about your first manuscript? Did you finish it? Did you submit it?

Are you still in mourning like I am?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Not Captain Kirk and A Lil' Morgan in my Writing

Spoiler Alert: I'm not talking about Captain Morgan here... has been amazing and busy. Two weekends ago, Vicki and I went to Crested Butte for the Crested Butte Writers' Conference (huge Shout-Out to all our new friends). OMG, the town was such a surprise. Quaint and haunted... Need I say more?
My manuscript, "Love? Please!" placed third in the final round of their contest, the Sandy. And GREAT things came out of the weekend.
I decided to change my writing name to Marne Ann Kirk, but I'll talk about that and Branding another time.
And this last weekend, I spent four nights partying with my honey, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Craig Morgan, Sawyer Brown, Alan Jackson, and two thousand of their closest friends.
So, what I have NOT done for the last two weeks?
Write much :-(
But THAT isn't what I want to talk about.
I had one of those thinking "aha moments" while drooling over Craig Morgan in concert, and THIS is what I wanna know...
Are your characters the real deal? Do they have those qualities that make them human? Make them characters readers can relate to?
Craig Morgan is an incredible entertainer, and as close to a real-life superhero as I'll likely ever meet! (He saved two children from a fire, because he was there and it needed done)
But, and here's the part I started asking myself questions about with my characters, his heroic qualities are revealed, not by his current profession, but in the little things he does and says in his daily life.
The day of his concert, he spent time quite a while with a little girl from Grand Junction who has cancer. Then he brought the girl on stage and sang a song to her (doesn't that just melt your heart?). During his performance he spoke about the men and women serving in our military, and how thankful he was for their service (yet he didn't talk about his own service, which includes something like nine tours to Iraq). He talked about the love of his life, his wife of 23 years (and sang his newest song, not yet released, but written for her...). His song, "This Ain't Nothin'," came out after he and his band went to perform in (I believe) Oklahoma, and ended up elbows-deep in Tornado aftermath cleanup instead. Why? Because it needed done (and then he wrote a song about the experience).
My point is, I learned so much about this man from what others said about him or from what he said while extolling the strengths of others.
And those little details make me feel like I know him, like I can relate to him, like I can connect to him.
Do your characters have that connectivity? The little details that make the reader feel what I felt?
Do you think the little details are vital to your protagonist? What about your antagonist?

Monday, June 20, 2011

What's it like?

    What’s it like?

    I spend a fair amount of time trying to figure that out. So do you, probably. If you’re a writer of fiction, things happen to your characters that never happened to you. Likewise, your characters do things that you’ve never done: evil things, noble things, courageous things, things they can’t help and things they relish. What’s it like?

    What’s it like to gouge someone’s eyes out? Or rescue a child from drowning? Kill someone for personal gain? Or in self defense? What’s it like to meet a sentient being from another species? Witness a murder? Be hung by the neck? Save your one true love? Save a people? Save a world? Save a galaxy? Destroy the universe? Sheesh, we writers get ourselves into a hell of a pickle.

    Fortunately, we don’t have to experience everything we write about. Were that the case, my genre would almost certainly be erotica. What a wonderful excuse for hedonism; “I must do research for my book.” But alas, we have imagination, darn it.

    However, raw imagination is not enough. We, as writers, have to direct our imagination, personalize and internalize the scene. If we imagine something as an observer, the best we can do is a newspaper article. To write it like we want to write it, we have to live it in our imagination. We have to be the aggressor or the victim, the hero or the coward or the killer, the rapist, the husband, the wife, the doctor, the get the point.  We need to be actors. We need to immerse ourselves in the role. We need to imagine ourselves the character and live the scene.

    That’s the way I do it anyway. As I write, my imagination forges ahead twisting and turning, wringing my brain like a threadbare dishcloth. Often, I look up and ask, “What the hell am I doing here?” Then I have to back up and unleash the imagination again.  But, most of the time, my imagination gets me where I need to go; deep inside the head of one of my characters as they endure or perpetrate, flee or pursue, or fight or kiss or whatever. Until I started writing and took control of my imagination, I never knew you could have so much fun and never leave your head.

    Well, reading is kind of like that, but not exactly. Reading is like a roller-coaster ride; you are put aboard and the thing takes off twisting and turning and wringing your brain but your imagination is on rails. Writing is akin to flying an F-15; no rails, you are in control, you, with the help of your trained imagination, direct the action. The twisting and turning are free-form, the route and destination are up to you. That’s what makes writing fun, and torturous, and disturbing, arousing, humorous, frightening and fulfilling.

    All of it is something. Imagining what it’s like to fly on the back of a dragon is exhilarating, imagining what it’s like to be tortured or worse is disturbing. But it’s all important. It’s important because I want to take others where I’ve been. It’ll be on rails for them, that’s true but I want to make it a ride they’ll remember. I want to scare the crap out of them. I want to make them laugh, make them cry, arouse them, make them hate and love, ache and burst. I want control of their feelings. I  want to take them deep inside my characters and give them a dragon ride followed by a little time with a pair of thumb screws. That’s what I want.

    How about you? Do you imagine what it’s like to make love, or whatever as one of your characters?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crested Butte Writers' Conference

So, Vicki and I are off to the Crested Butte Writers' Conference this weekend and we are dragging our mysterious new non-fiction writing critique partner with us (whose name we will not mention, until she gives us permission. Just know she's very cool and y'all will LOVE her). We are very excited about the fun we're going to have and the things we're going to learn.
For the writer friends among us, what do you enjoy more: the workshops, the opportunities, or the networking?
Personally, I love making connections with both writers and the agents/editors. Everyone at a conference is so excited about the writing world and that is cool!
And I love learning new things, so the workshops are usually pretty great too...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

novel finished, again

OK. just finished my novel again. Third time.  Oops. found one more critique and will have to re-enter that mine field.  Still, I'm almost there, still eager, still full of energy to do it.

still writing

Susan here.  I have spent three days organizing (very organized) my writings that have accumulated in boxes over the last seven years.  wow. A lot of duplicated papers and tons of sheets about where to submit my work.  Obviously I have some weeding to do and it may take two weeks  (if i did it all at once, which will never happen)  Freaked me out so much I had to run down to the local sushi bar and gobble up a California roll. Starches serve me well as pacifiers. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Finding Inner Zen...

Summer's in full swing (meaning the garden is growing and I'm getting tan), I'm finally warm and happy, and what I consider "the conference season" has officially begun. Next weekend, some of us (Vicki, myself, and a new recruit to our critique group) are off to the amazing and fantastical land of Crested Butte (sounds like 'Ute,' not like 'butt.') for a writers' conference there (where I'll finally find out what the final judge of the romance category thought of "Love? Please!" Woot, woot!!).
And it's going to be amazing. A small, intimate conference with top notch editors and agents, and not nearly the numbers of other writers to have to fight like a bunch of ravens after the last meaty bone on roadkill for time with those editors and agents. Plus, one day will be almost completely devoted to writing, reading, renewing my inner Zen...
Oh, I cannot wait!
But with the on-coming frenzy of summer (and whatever busy things that means for you) sometimes the important things get buried under the manure of the little details. For me, writing gets buried under my family's priorities (you know the "country jam is next weekend and we're not ready." Or "mom, I need you to take me driving or I'll never get my license." And yes, she is 17 going on 18. But she's the slacker, not me.)
Now, I'm not complaining about my family being busy or needing me (because a)I created that monster, and b)I enjoy feeling needed); but sometimes I lose my priorities.
When I lose my way, I ask directions.
So I'm asking...
How do you refocus your priorities when life gets hectic?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Last stop on the road to RMFW's June Education Event: Interview with Charlotte Cook

First off, tell us a little bit about how you got into the writing/publishing industry. When/how/why you became an editor.
Since I was ten years old I wanted to write and teach. Somehow the force of Story and the ability to bring people to their own realization of their talent and the opportunities of Story has always held my imagination and focus. Then in 1991 several career opportunities collided and produced a world in which I could teach writing ... and teaching writers to be better readers ... at prominent local adult schools. I began with how to write a mystery. The class was an immediate hit, drawing almost thirty people and several local well-known writers and journalists. From there my reputation grew, and I became the central writing teacher at two adult programs.

Also at that time I took a wonderful writing class from a young writer Craig Collins who found within my writing much talent and lots of bad habits. His work with me, his focus on giving me better habits in place of the naive and sometimes melodramatic ones I fostered, and his support of my writing showed me several things: A teaching style based on identifying habits and raising a writer's levels of talent by centering attention on the positive to strengthen the writer's unique capabilities, and a love of sensitive reading and how it plays an important role in writing.

Because of Craig, I entered an MFA program where I worked with excellent literary writers such as Pam Houston, Christopher Tilghman, Lynn Fried, Jervey Tervalon, and Louis Birney as well as wonderful teachers such as Ed Biglin, Carol Lashoff, and Alden Reimonenq. Pam Houston I owe a grand thank-you. She developed and reinforced my ability to read a work with the sensitivity of a reader who loves to read and therefore find more subtly and creativity in my own works. Maybe a small thing to some. To me, I learned to measure the completeness of the writing effort by the writer's ability, craft and commitment by the ability to be absorbed by the writing. 

There too in graduate school I learned that my unique contribution in workshopping was to articulate how a story stayed on target, how well characters stayed "in character," and why readers turn the page. Christopher Tilghman celebrated my talent one evening when he said, "You all aren't too sure about Charlotte's ability to get you turn pages and her comments on how you could better stay focused to do the same. Well, if you want to be published and have readers, Charlotte is the best example among you of understanding and employing what's needed to her own and your writing."

After earning an MFA, I went into the business of editing and teaching full time always being cited as a "Story Editor" for my ability to make a story "work." I taught some thousand students over the years, more than 10% of them getting published, winning awards and even getting into special programs as a result of working with me. Several even placed in the top 100 of the Writers Digest Annual Story Contest, out of some 40,000 entrants. So statistics may seem strange to cite, but my results with my students and clients are often better than more well-known editors and teachers. And recommendations often include: "If you want to write at a higher level and if your goal is to be published, maybe you should be studying with Charlotte."

Then in 2005 I was asked to start KOMENAR Publishing. I was approached by someone who wanted to be published and also start a publishing house that focused on first-time authors. The money was provided for the publishing house with the understanding that I would build the business from scratch, acquire the titles, supervise all the necessary publishing functions and story edit the individual works. Across five years we published six novels, all of them breaking industry sales records for debut novels from a small publisher and most winning prestigious awards. Also two have gained increasing Hollywood attention along with agents and bigger publishing houses showing interest in second novels from several of these authors. When 2009 economic forces drove KOMENAR into hibernation, I made plans to move on to the the part of the industry that most feeds my own creativity ... helping talented authors complete polished and publishable works. 

Then around the same time I met Jon James Miller, an award-winning screenwriter with a multi-award-winning script he wanted to adapt into a publishable commercial mainstream novel. We worked together on his manuscript through the completion of Garbo's Last Stand, now with agents. And we discovered that our love of Story made us an excellent creative and business team to write the book Adapting Sideways. We also created the business also entitled Adapting Sideways, based on being adaptable to the times, economics and talents of the industry to reach writing and publishing goals ... If you can't go straight at something, Adapting Sideways has the strategies and can find industry professionals who can still make "it" happen for the writer and project by just adapting differently to the circumstances!

As further validation for the criteria I hold dear regarding publishable books and my experience with the industry, I have twice been a major judge for an international book contest held annually in coordination with Book Expo America (BEA). This year I judged seven separate categories as well as choosing the three grand prize winners in fiction. I have done similar judging for reputable writers conferences, but this opportunity was an acknowledgement of my work along with Jon's successes with contests and judging, as the standards and process of judging evolved out of our work. As the market place adjusts to eBooks and self-publishing, I am fortunate and honored to be considered as an industry professional who can see the past, present and future in the current crop of published fiction works. 

This Saturday, you will be the presenter for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, first annual Colorado Western Slope Education Event. You presented The Final Edit fworkshop last May in Denver for RMFW and received great reviews from the attendees. Can you tell our readers a little about the workshop and what attendees can expect.

Writers don't really know what acquisition editors and agents do and think when we open a submission from a writer. My goal is to make that process as open and understandable as it should be. 

Too often people who are neither acquisition editors or agents tell writers what goes on ... but I am a former acquisition editor and now a "pre-agent," someone who matches ready work to appropriate agents and even publishers who will take unagented work. I know this process intimately across some 5,000 submissions; 1,000 clients; and 100+ published writers. And I can articulate it in practical terms and strategies to committed writers.

In this interactive and practical workshop, I will read and share first impressions, praise and suggestions to participants based on the pages they bring to the workshop. That's it. Our whole focus will be on what's in my hand and what I would do if I were the agent or publisher.

We'll discuss and question. I'll draw diagrams and suggest agents and publishers who might be appropriate. I'll also counsel patience and preparation. Basically we will increase your chances of being successful getting an agent, being published, and being rewarded with great exposure and sales based on how a publisher reaches out to readers, reviewers and booksellers. After all that's what publishing is--whether you publish your own work or Random House offers you the deal of a lifetime.

In addition to being an editor and speaker, you have a book out. Tell us a little about Adapting Sideways and how it came about

Jon James Miller and I wrote Adapting Sideways to articulate the elements that make a manuscript publishable--in this case specifically one adapted from a screenplay. But the big take-away is that a polished manuscript that your author and writer friends think is great may or may not be ready for a publisher's investment. Knowing how to insure that your work is publishable should be as major a goal to a writer at that point in time as completing a polished manuscript earlier.

We published through my old publishing house KOMENAR for timing sake. We needed to have a salable book available Fall 2010 after Creative Screenwriting Magazine published a three-page feature article on our work and philosophy for the Fall issue and that year's LA EXPO. Now we're using it as a template for a longer manuscript represented by a top nonfiction literary agent. And another book is in the works: Lights! Camera! Novel! This book combines Jon and my love of film and literature and how to use film to make novels more effective on the page. Note: We didn't say "screenplays," we said "film."

I understand your publishing house isn't currently active, what are you doing, besides presenting workshops?

My creative and business relationship with Jon has opened a new world of writers. Working with screenwriters turning to novel-writing and advising nonfiction writers on how to manifest more Story in their work has brought some amazing and talented people to us. Also we are called on to work in more industry settings to comment on the industry and impact of the changes and the chaos. But most of our clients are novelists, memoirists, and short story writers who are working to raise the level of their craft as well as complete that work or start the next one. My goals are to see strong writers polished, published and successful. So anything that feeds that need is my passion. 

KOMENAR is actually not my publishing house, but the one I co-founded and ran for five years. My ties to KOMENAR are professional and helpful but I am not an employee or shareholder. Though I do work regularly with several of the novelists and others with whom we sought to work. 

When not working, what do you do to have fun?

I am an avid reader across a wide arena of subjects, styles and eras. I am also a committed short story writer, having finished one just days ago. Literary short stories are like Rubik's Cubes to me. So much to do in a refined space of words and paragraphs. I'm most interested in the dimensions of emotional challenge and fulfillment. 

I also watch a lot of films, which I totally enjoy deconstructing with Jon because we are such Story and Structure fiends. Also we're both quite visual and metaphoric in our appreciation of Story on the page or film. Recent favorites include: "The Fighter," "The King's Speech," and surprising little films such as "Everything is Illuminated." Some films I watch over and over again. I'm currently watching "It Happened One Night." Oh, and British mysteries are so wonderful that I bought a region-free dvd player so I could watch the most recent episodes of "Lewis," only available from

Beyond that I have a husband whom I deeply love who is a scholar and bookseller. We love to travel when we can. Otherwise we love our home and family of friends as well as our pets, most central to our family being two dogs Jewel and Bella. Both are rescues and female German Shepherd mixes. One is barely 50 pounds and almost 13 years old, while the other is 85 pounds and not two years old. The younger, bigger one is a great indulgence for me as Bella is all surprises, from her mix (GS, pit bull, Doberman, and hound) to her extreme attentiveness. We all have our weaknesses, and Bella is mine. In surprise fact of Bella's pit bull heritage so staggered me that I wrote a piece published in the Oakland Tribune about how I overcame my quickly rising and very consuming fear of pit bull mixes in the face of an adorable, affectionate and very large puppy.

Anything else you would like to tell us about?

When learning to write and working to complete a manuscript, your best peers and coaches are writing teachers (from those who work in adult schools to those with degrees in grad programs), fellow writers, and authors. 

When taking that manuscript to an audience of industry professionals (from agents and publishers to reviewers, publicists, designers and marketing people) your best peers and coaches are people with industry experience publishing books, not having books published. 

The difference in the two objectives ... writing and publishing ... should alert the writer to the difference in the best populations from which to seek advice, counsel and support. That and patience ... time works for you in this industry ... will give you a writing career if not the realization of a successful project.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Third Stop on the Road to RMFW's June Education Event: An interview with author, Robin Owens

Just a few days before the workshop in Grand Junction and tonight we are interviewing fantasy romance author, Robin Owens.

Along with Christine Goff and Mario Acevedo, Robin will meet with workshop attendees to answer questions and critique pages.

Thank you for being here, Robin. We can't wait to see you in person on Saturday.

Please welcome, Robin Owens.

First off, tell us a little about yourself and when/how/why you started writing.

I'm Robin D. Owens (added the middle initial after I sold my first book and the website was not available).  After a relationship bombed, I took a writing course through Colorado Free University and met Kay Bergstrom who introduced me to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.  I've told myself stories (particularly before I fell asleep) all of my life and have been writing seriously since the class, mumbledy-mumble years ago.

I write fantasy romance for Berkley Publishing Group – the "Heart" series, and fantasy with romantic subplots for Luna Books.  I am currently working on my eighteenth contracted book, Heart Secret.

My tenth book in the Heart series, Heart Search, will be issued in August 2011, and the second in my Mystic Circle series will be out – heaven and editor and copy edits willing – in January 2012.

The Heart series is set on another planet called Celta and colonized by Earth people with psi powers four centuries previously.  The books feature telepathic animal companions (cats, dogs, foxes...) as mentors and comic relief...

The Mystic Circle series is urban paranormal.

Rejection letters: How many did you receive before you were published?

Ouch!  Hard to recall.  But I do know that about two months before I sold my first book (fourth completed manuscript), I decided to cut back on my writing.  I'd been working hard on it every evening and weekend for about 8-9 years and was completely discouraged.

You are participating in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers JUNE Education Event, meeting with attendees and maybe critiquing the first 2 pages of their wip. In your experience and opinion, what is the biggest mistake or misconception new writers have? Did you as well, when you were new to the industry?
For writing, the biggest mistake I see made in genre fiction is not having a hook up front and having too much backstory.  I think I actually avoided those mistakes with my first manuscript (never to be published), but made a different error in starting with a dream sequence.  But I've made both mistakes of burying a hook and too much backstory since.  Sometimes it's necessary for the WRITER to put in all the backstory to understand the character and story, but that backstory doesn't need to stay in the manuscript.

For business purposes, the biggest mistake I see is thinking that mastering technique is easy and as a writer not taking advice and/or critique.

How often do you write? Do you stick to a schedule or work it in around life?

I am single and define myself as a writer.  Writing is what I am, not just a job.  I usually write every day, though I understand that time must be taken off to refill the creative well.

When not writing, what do you do?

Huh?  Ok, most of the things I do revolve around writing, other than spending time with family and friends.  I scout settings (recently, Red Rocks for the climax of Enchanted Ever.  Windsor Castle in England for my Summoning series; Cliveden, also in England, for Heart Choice).  I play an online game that lets me create characters down to the length of their noses, and helps with character arcs as well as being a background career for a couple of my own characters.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Road to RMFW's June Education Event: Interview with Mario Acevedo

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' June Education Event is one week from today. Whew. What fun we've had planning and attending the two workshops.

This week we will continue to interview the presenter and authors who are gracing us with their presence at the workshop in Grand Junction on June 11th.

Please welcome Mario Acevedo and be sure to ask Mario any additional questions you have or leave a comment or two.

Welcome Mario!!

First off, tell us a little about yourself and when/how/why you started writing.
I started writing seriously about 23 years ago and from the time I decided that I wanted to get published until I got the "call," it took 17 years (and six manuscripts). I started writing to quiet the voices in my head and I've found that I prefer my delusions to reality.

And your books, what do you have published and what are you working on right now?
I thought I was writing contemporary satire and instead it was urban fantasy--a five book series (and a graphic novel) about a detective-vampire/Iraq war veteran.  I've got a couple of short stories in print, the most recent of which is in the anthology You Don't Have A Clue from Arte Publico Press. I'm working on a variety of projects to enrich my coffers for my scheme of world domination. So far I'm up to $11.57.

Rejection letters: How many did you receive before you were published?
I measure my rejection letters by the pound and use them as ballast in my fleet of yachts.

You are participating in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers May Education Event, meeting with attendees and maybe critiquing the first 2 pages of their wip. In your experience and opinion, what is the biggest mistake or misconception new writers have? Did you as well, when you were new to the industry?
New writers need to read more and better understand their genre. Also realize that the process can take a long, long time. Be accepting of criticism as long as it is positive.

How often do you write? Do you stick to a schedule or work it in around life?
I write almost every day. I'm at the literary sausage machine by 7am and stick to it until noon or 1pm.

When not writing, what do you do?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

POV Characters Immortal or not?

    Hey everybody,

    Can, or rather, should you kill off a POV character in the middle of a book? Obviously it would be a mistake to kill a POV character in a one or two POV book. And, we all know that the bad guy can, and often does, die near the end of a book, that’s okay. But what if you have multiple POVs? Can you kill one of those?

    I’ve seen forum posts on this very thing and often, it depends, appeared somewhere in the post. It depends on how you treat it. It depends, does it further the plot? It depends on the phase of the moon. Well, maybe it does. But I’m going to take a stand and say, “Damn right you can, and you should. Why? Star Trek.

    That’s right, Star Trek. The original series with Captain Kirk and Spock and Bones and Scotty, that Star Trek. The greatest sci-fi series of it’s time and progenitor of movies, tv series, action figures, and worldwide conventions. But, Star Trek had a flaw.

    Only the guys in the red shirts that you’d never seen before ever died. Oh sure, every now and then a main character was put in mortal danger but you knew they weren’t going to croak. You knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt so, no matter how artfully contrived the pickle, your fear and dread were less than they could have been. Now, I understand that sort of thing is a constraint of an ongoing tv series but we aren’t writing a tv series. Even if we are writing a series of novels, I would argue that you have to kill a main character once in awhile and, if you have multiple POVs, you ought to kill one of them.

    The argument against killing POV characters seems to be that you might upset the reader. Okay, that may play in certain genres where there is an expectation of a ‘happily ever after’ ending. But fantasy, my genre, isn’t one of those.

    Killing a POV character changes the dynamic for the reader. The reader, once invested in the characters, will fear more for them. Tension will increase if anyone in the cast can die. The momentary, “Crap! I liked that guy.” reaction will soon be overcome by the need to find out if the rest of them make it. The reader will have to see what peril the rest of them face. Will they overcome or succumb?

    I have a novel that needs a lot of work. It’s the first one I wrote and it’s sitting in a drawer, and on my hard-drive, and on a couple sticks and one day I’ll pull it out and work on it. Many things will change; the antagonist needs some redeeming qualities, the protagonists need some work, I might pull a few scenes and write new ones. The one thing that will not change is the title character being killed two thirds of the way though. He dies for a reason and that reason is central to the book. He dies to demonstrate to the readers and the characters that the danger is real and imminent. He dies to demonstrate that his plan, no matter how vital and necessary, is likely to get some, maybe all of them, killed. And that, even should the plan fail, they must try again, no matter the cost. 

    That’s a pretty good reason to kill him. But I don’t need one that good. POV characters find themselves in threatening situations all the time, They can’t survive them all. If they all do all the time, the story will become predictable just like Star Trek. I don’t want any guys in red shirts in my books. POV characters will never get a free pass in my books. But those are my books.

    What do you think as a writer? As a reader? I’d love to hear it.