NEWS From The Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference

I attended my fourth writer’s conference. Although they are similar in format, this one always stands out in friendliness and inclusivity. A positive energy source emanates throughout the Colorado Spring’s Marriott. It must be built upon a special kind of bedrock. Agents, editors, and best-selling authors are willing to have conversations with people like me; the super fans of the conference.

Here’s what inspired me and what I learned:

If you write fiction: Your blog, social media presence, and overall author’s platform are meaningless to traditional publishers. The agents suggested focusing on writing books instead. After you’re published, they are grateful if you already have a blog since they’ll want to link you up.

If you write non-fiction: The polar opposite is true. You better have a successful blog with lots of social media followers as part of your author’s platform. You should be booked for public speaking engagements, interviewed on podcasts and in YouTube videos. Publishers look at anything and everything you’ve done to build your presence, following, credibility, and to show you’re a respected expert in your field.

Sign up for critique sessions. It can be unnerving, but the input is invaluable especially if an agent you would like to pitch is giving the critique. They are the experts who you are trying to impress.

Attend the agent panel. This is a top priority for me at every conference. They talk about their pet peeves, what’s new in publishing, etiquette, and include their individual stories. You get the most up-to-date info. Every one of them chose their career because they love to read books.

What I learned: Continue reading

Pantsing While Plodding Toward Publication

writing journeyI started writing over four-and-a-half years ago. I had an idea for a non-fiction book, a snarky take on Boulder women. If you’re not familiar with how to assemble a book proposal, non-fiction is skiing down a gentle slope compared to fiction where the writer must plod along the desert and climb craggy mountains with blown out tennis shoes and holes in their socks. I’ll get to that later. At that time, I only needed a query letter, a table of contents, and a few sample chapters. Continue reading

Hitting the Halfway Point

Boulder Polar Plunge 2013 1

When I wrote my 25, 000th word for National Novel Writing Month, it reminded me of swimming through the Boulder Reservoir to touch the ice during the Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. They’re both a sink or swim venture.  It got tough when I could barely touch the bottom. My legs and arms grew heavy with the cold and they moved in slow motion. In place of the silly grin I wore while splashing into the frigid water was sheer determination and a painful wince. One of the lifeguards standing on the pier shouted, “Do you need help?” It was hard to breathe, but I yelled back, “I can do it!”

I don’t know how many have dropped out of NaNoWriMo already, but the numbers have got to be high. I think writing 50,000 words in a month takes a certain kind of endurance. Crazy endurance. It’s for crazy people who have the time to commit, or in my case should be committed, but also have a lot of nerve and stamina. I love taking on new challenges and always have.

Not everyone can sit down and write on command. It can be intimidating to stare at a blank page. I’ve never had writer’s block. Maybe it’s all those Thursdays I found myself on a deadline and would crank out a Friday flash fiction or the stream-of-conscious writing exercises from a year ago when I woke up every morning for a month and wrote one word at time in a notebook until I filled a page. In both, I wrote the first thing that popped into my head. Continue reading

Seven Ways to Thrill Me!

thrillers

How long has it been since you read a real page-turner? A while? Yeah. Me too. I think that’s why I love watching thrillers. They are the ultimate in creating and sustaining suspense. Talk about tight writing. They race ahead with twisted turns in a world where you’re hooked into finding out what happens to the characters or who survives.

My heart simultaneously leaps with the evil guy who comes into view behind his latest victim in the dreary, deserted park. “Turn around. Turn Around! TURN AROU… Oh, never mind. Too late.” I slump down in my seat, heart hammering in my chest like I ran a 100 yard dash.

I’m not a slasher or horror movie watcher although they can be thrillers too. I couldn’t get through Nick Cage’s Drive Angry, although I loved the creepy, alien-like quality of the accountant played by William Fitchner. It was too violent for me. Silence of the Lambs haunted my nightmares for years.

I love the white knuckle-busting, heart-tapping, “Oh my God, He’s in the house!” terror. Continue reading

What I Learned at the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference

This is how I looked the day after the conference. I had so many new ideas my hair exploded!

me

It is easy to be intimidated by conferences, pitches and critiques. The reason I signed up for the conference was to absorb new ideas and improve my craft. Since I’m only three years in, my sponge-like brain was ready to sop it all up.

From Chuck Wendig, I learned to “not care too much.” By that he means don’t get so wrapped up in one manuscript that you become afraid of rejections and are paralyzed. He is a great example of the opposite. He published his first novel, Blackbirds, only three years ago and cranks out books like some people bake cookies. Okay, not that fast, but he makes it look easy. Although that book crossed too many genres for traditional publishers, he has sold tens of thousands of copies. Long live Miriam Black! He has written books about writing for his beloved Penmonkeys along with a variety of fantasy novels. He blogs on TerribleMinds.com and his books can be found there as well.

Chuck Wendig and me

 

From Gail Carriger, I learned that writing can be like breathing. It is something we have to do in order to be happy. But sometimes we have to make choices. We can’t do it all. Gail had a career in archeology. Typing all day for work and writing her novel at night became too painful. She chose to write novels since it is her oxygen. She has a slew of humorous fantasy books on the New York Times and USA Today Best Seller lists, so I would say that was a very good choice! The first book of the Parasol Protectorate series called Soulless was published in 2009. She’s at GailCarriger.com and her books are here.

gail carriger

From Jim C. Hines, I learned that we all have an opportunity to include diversity in our books. We can write characters of any race and sexual orientation, and can include strong women protagonists. We can give our readers someone other than white heterosexual males to root for. His first book Goldfish Dreams was published in 2009 and is told from a young woman’s point of view. Go Jim! He has written three fantasy series since then. He can be found JimCHines.com and his books can be found here.

jim c hines

From Hank Phillipa Ryan, an investigative reporter for NBC’s Boston Affiliate, I learned to ask questions like, “Will anyone care? Do I care?” She encouraged us to work even when it’s hard since we’ll always feel a sense of accomplishment. She taught us that it’s never too late to start writing novels. She wrote her first book, Prime Time, after being a reporter for nearly forty years. It won an Agatha Award for best new novelist. Hank is my hero. She can be found at HankPhillipiRyan.com and her books are here.

hank phillipi ryan

The theme I heard all weekend was, “Writer’s write.” Authors don’t get stuck on one book, they continue to stretch and grow and learn about their craft by producing many more. We all have a voice and whether it’s heard by a few or by thousands it is still important to just write it down.

Are you writing a book?

Writer’s Conference Do’s and Don’ts or How to Avoid Abject Humiliation

A virginal experience can be frightening and take you out of your comfort zone, but it can also help you in ways you could never have imagined. This is exactly why I attended my first writer’s conference. I compiled a list of tips just for you!

Be on time.

The morning of the conference started with master’s classes and critiques which writers had signed up for weeks and months in advance. I registered the week before, but decided to sit in on a critique session. No biggie right?

When I finally made it through traffic, I was 30 minutes late. Volunteers chatted at a table set up in the entry of the hotel. I was told, “You’re late.”

“Yep. I know, but can I still audit a critique class?”

“I guess that’s alright.”

“Where do I go?” I looked around the vast atrium.

She pointed behind her. “Up the stairs.”

Think before you speak.

“Is there a particular critique group I should look for? I write paranormal thriller and wouldn’t want to end up in a non-fiction group.”

“Ma’am, we are the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. There are NO non-fiction critique groups.

My cheeks scorched while I continued to show my vast intellect. “Oh yeah. Duh.” Continue reading

How My PC Almost Killed Me

It started out like any other ordinary day. I sipped coffee while checking email and social media.

I had no idea what was coming

9:00 AM  I opened Microsoft Word to get some real work accomplished. It surprised me that I’d left three documents open from the day before. A draft of my Boob Report and a travel post listed as Document 2 and 3 hadn’t been named. The third was my book. I rewrote 202 pages during the last week and had been hitting Control, Save without changing the file name. I checked my saved files. Whoa! The last time my computer saved my book was on 8-8 and it was 8-15. My computer had been acting glitchy after downloading 5000 photos from my vacation. I had purchased an external hard drive and had freed up another 5 GBs.

Not too worried, I pressed, “Save as” expecting the file name option to come up, when my computer froze. I got an error message, “The Dialog box is open.” What the heck is an Open Dialog Box?

9:21 – I tried everything and then called my husband Danny. He gave me the name of his IT guy, Matt.

10:57 – Matt called me back and began working on the computer via internet.

11:40 – He called to give me the bad news. “I can’t find those files anywhere. I think you’re screwed. Just Control, Alt, Delete and reboot, but you won’t be able to save your files.

11:57 – I freaked out! I called Danny in tears. “I worked all week on those stories and my rewrite. What should I do?”

“You’ll probably have to Control, Alt, Delete.”

“I’m not giving up.” Continue reading