Author Archives: April J. Moore

About April J. Moore

Director of Northern Colorado Writers and author of Folsom's 93, a historical nonfiction and Bobbing for Watermelons, a women's fiction. Visit her at apriljmoore.com

H is for Harmony

2015 A to Z Challenge, H is for Harmony -- April J. MooreIsn’t it great when things work in harmony? As you can see, my sister and I are enjoying our harmonious photo session. There are lots of ways authors can have projects that work in conjunction with other projects of theirs. 

For example, I recently learned at the NCW conference, that children’s book authors should look into creating an app based on their book(s) so that they can not only offer more to their readers, but broaden their audience as well.  

Kelly Baugh, author of Miss You Once Again, which takes place in Mississippi, will be releasing a companion cookbook filled with her Southern grandmother’s recipes. 

I’m contemplating writing a novella based on the alter ego that the main character of my novel has. Maybe you have a secondary character who’s worthy of his/her own story? It could make for a great companion book. 

What about creating a Facebook or Twitter account for one of your characters? Or create accounts for two characters and entertain tweeps with their banter? Pair up with another author and have a battle of tweets and promote each other at the same time. Perhaps you build a website with a bunch of “extras” for readers to enjoy. 

Branding. Come up with an idea, a book for example, and then create products that work in harmony with your book. J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, and Veronica Roth also have companion materials to go along with their books. (They’re huge, so of course they do.)

With some creativity (c’mon, you’re writers!) you can create some great ideas that can work in perfect harmony with your current book(s). 

How have you extended the life of your book? What ways can you think of that can expand your audience?

A to Z Challenge 2015

G is for Grace

Grace 2015 A to Z Challenge, G is for Grace -- April J. MooreHave you ever met an arrogant author whose book you’d like to shove down their throat? 

I don’t think I have. I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented and humbled writers who never make others feel inferior, but rather, who offer support and guidance. And I mean that.

But let’s be honest, I’m sure we have all, at one time, experienced a little jealousy toward peers who are enjoying some writing success. Even if you don’t like the book, or you think the author is a self-serving windbag, it’s always good to exhibit grace and congratulate them. Same goes for when you hit the big time: be gracious about your successes. People won’t forget how you acted toward others and their accomplishments, and will remember those times when you’re experiencing your fifteen minutes of fame.

Nothing’s worse than someone who whines, wallows, and whimpers about not being as successful as so-and-so. And no one likes an arrogant s.o.b. either. There have been some very well known authors who have publicly insulted other authors (who may struggle with character development or rules of grammar, but can suck readers in with a compelling story). It really bugs me when people try to bring down others and their successes. I may agree with them; that the writing stinks in these books, or that the characters are lifeless boobs, but I’d never join in on the bullying. 

(I should point out that I’m talking about books that don’t promote hatred, racism, bigotry, intolerance, etc. Those who do write that crap deserved to be skewered, so fire away.)

Anyhow, if you’re a pretty well known author, then chances are, you’re a pretty good writer, so then you shouldn’t feel threatened, right? Just do your thing and shut up. And when you come across these high-horse writers, you don’t have to say congrats—choose to smile and nod. Be an example of grace and class, otherwise, it can come back and bite you in the ass. 

A to Z Challenge 2015

F is for Feelings

2015 A to Z Challenge, F is for Feelings -- April J. MooreMy sister hated surprises; still isn’t a big fan of them. Her feelings toward them, came out loud and clear. (Love ya, sis!) Remember that scene from The Princess Bride, when Count Tyrone asked Wesley how he was feeling after getting a year of his life sucked away? He genuinely wanted to know—for research purposes. (Yes, I’ve referenced this scene before.)

Maybe we should spend more time asking our characters how they feel about things, then let them ramble on, as if on a therapist’s couch, while we jot everything down. Take the time to really listen to them and figure out what makes them tick. How do they feel about climate change? About Broadway shows? About the demise of the Twinkie? Ask them all  kinds of questions—tough ones, where they really have to dig deep to come up with an answer. (Why does it make one cry when others sing “Happy Birthday” to them?)

Oh, and do this without injecting your own opinion. Be an unbiased listener—that’s your job, right? Besides, wouldn’t it be fun to create characters who are nothing like us? Who do things we’d never do? Readers want to connect with characters, so how you portray their feelings is important. Remember, if you don’t give your characters unique and authentic feelings, you won’t evoke feelings in your reader. Spend some quality time with your characters and ask lots of questions. For some help, check out these questionnaires:

Gotham Writers
1000 Character Development Questions
The Script Lab

A to Z Challenge 2015

E is for Exposure


E is for Exposure, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreTo sell books, exposure is crucial. But what’s the right exposure? And where do you find it? How do you avoid over-exposure? Hell if I know; I’m still trying to figure it out. For what it’s worth, here’s my two cents:

Attend writer’s conferences. These are great places to network and get noticed. If you’re an expert in your field, or have a great workshop idea, many conferences offer opportunities to submit a proposal for teaching a workshop or doing a presentation.

Blog. I know, some of you hate blogging and I get it. You don’t have to do it, but it is a good way to showcase your writing chops. I love this post by Chuck Wendig who takes a hysterical look at whether or not you should blog. I do it because I enjoy it. I might say stupid things every now and again, but I really do try to be helpful and maybe even entertain here and there.

Offer free stuff. Many authors will tell you to never write for free, and I agree, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with offering a free chapter or two to entice readers. There’s no obligation to the reader, and if your work is the on par, it will get readers to buy. (You can read the first 4 chapters of my novel, Bobbing for Watermelons HERE. I didn’t plan this. I promise.) I talk about a Lead Magnet in a previous post about marketing that might help. 

Be active on social media. Choose your poison: Facebook, Twitter, Google +, whatever . . . focus on one and submit quality content. I don’t have a big Twitter following, but I enjoy using it and meeting others and tweeting helpful links. 

Join a local writing organization. This is another opportunity to network and talk shop with like-minded folks who want to help you on your writing journey. The more writers you connect with, the more writing/book events you’ll attend, which will lead to getting your name out there.

A couple of don’ts:

Don’t over-tweet or over Facebook your book. That’s over-exposure and people will soon ignore you because they’ll think you’re a narcissistic ass-clown.

Don’t post pictures of your bare ass.

That is all.

What do you do for maximum exposure? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

D is for Determined

D is for Determination -- April J. Moore
This is probably the face I gave when I was told to do something, like to come inside when it got dark. I probably also shot this look at those who said I couldn’t do something. Either way, I likely used it often and according to The Husband, I still do. I like to think it’s my determined look. It’s the I’ve-Got-Stuff-To-Do face . . . so watch out. 

I think we should all take a picture of ourselves with our best determined look and post it where we’d see it everyday. Mine is on my bulletin board in my office. It’ll serve as a reminder that not only do you have the ability, but you have the drive to accomplish what you set out to do, so get out of the way and do it!

I was determined to get my novel published, and after much personal growth and determination, my book came out two weeks ago. If only I had the motivation to apply the same principles to cleaning out my laundry room. 

Do you find it’s easy to stay determined? Any tips?

A to Z Challenge 2015

C is for Collaboration

C is for Collaboration -- April J. Moore

If you ask my mom, she’d probably tell you that collaboration wasn’t mine and my sister’s forte. We had our moments, though. My bedroom closet had this giant step in it; a carpeted platform on one side, on which we could climb. It had a shelf along one wall and a little desk on the far end. It’s where I conjured up all kinds of trouble. And It. Was. Awesome. My sister and I made up this game called “Connie & Connie” . . . two quirky office gals who apparently did . . . office work. Using my tape recorder, we’d record ourselves pretend-typing and once, recorded me falling out of the closet. Funniest thing ever. Wish I still had that tape.

Anyway, Amy and I didn’t always collaborate well, and we differed more than just with appearances. (I’m on the left.) But we still made a go of it and had a helluva good time. Usually.

Sometimes, it’s peoples’ differences that can make a project exciting; what we bring to the table as individuals, can also make it a successful project.

I’ve collaborated with other authors on books and it’s been great fun. I’m also hoping to have a children’s book out later this year, that I’m working on with the amazing Kerrie Flanagan. I urge you to connect with other writers and artists and come together for a common goal. You don’t have to be alike; in fact, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk by working with someone you may otherwise shy away from—it could be the start of a beautiful collaboration.

How have you collaborated with others on  projects? Any advice/tips?

A to Z Challenge 2015

B is for Bad Habits

B is for Bad Habits, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

This picture was taken by my grandfather. In fact, many of the pictures you’ll see this month from me, were taken by him. He was an amateur photographer and myself, along with my sister and all of our cousins, were the subjects of hundreds and hundreds of pictures taken by him over many years—same with our kids. He was also (and still is) a smoker. The glasses in the picture belonged to my grandmother. Despite not being a fan of cigarettes and smoking, I like this picture. It’s a slice of life within a slice of time that holds a lot of great memories for me. (It makes for a great writing prompt, too.)

Bad habits can be hard to break. We know this as writers. These habits can pertain to writing itself, such as improper comma usage, passive voice, or run-on sentences. Other bad habits can sabotage our efforts to write in the first place. Fortunately, unlike smoking, I think these habits are a little easier to break.

Playing it safe. We don’t always take risks as writers and push ourselves, or our characters, to new limits. If we don’t, we’ll never see what we’re capable of. Try writing in a different genre, or in a different style; write characters who scare you, or write about a subject matter that makes you uncomfortable. You can take risks in lots of different ways to beef up your writing and show readers what you’re capable of.

Not setting a writing schedule. I’m certainly guilty of this. Sometimes, I only write when I’m feeling it. Such a lame excuse. Just the act of sitting down and free writing can make you feel it. It’s the same when I’m not “inspired” to hit the gym, but when I force myself to, it doesn’t take long for those endorphins to kick in and I end up being happy I dragged myself out of bed. If we all waited until inspiration struck, we’d rarely produce any work. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron urges us to keep “morning pages,” in which we free write at the same time every morning, typically after we wake up. Writing is the fuel for our creativity.

Quitting when the going gets tough. It’s so easy to say, “Screw it!” when things don’t turn out the way we want, or we come upon a difficult scene to write. We oftentimes want to throw in the towel when we start accumulating the rejections, but that’s when it’s time to either trudge through that difficult scene, or to take another look at the query letter. Something may not be working, so look into another way of doing it. 

Comparing yourself and your work to others. We all have authors we admire and even emulate, and that’s okay; we can learn a lot from them. The problem is that we can fall into the trap of thinking we need to be them in order to be respected as writers. Other times, it’s easy to get wrapped up in jealousy of fellow writers who are enjoying success. It’s natural to get sucked into all of this, but we need to embrace the reasons we’re different from those authors and start channeling that envious energy toward mastering the craft, as well as your own unique style.

Being negative. Stop beating yourself up! Many writers, whether they say it to themselves, or to others, the constant, “I’m never going  be good enough,” or “I suck,” does nothing but create this dark cloud hovering over your head. Plus, it annoys the hell out of those around you. If you think you’re so terrible, try to pinpoint what areas you think you need help in and focus on that area: go to the library and check out reference books, enlist a friend to help read over a troublesome chapter, take a class through the local writing organization. Even getting away from your WIP and trying something new can rejuvenate your writing mojo and cast that black cloud away.

These are just a few of the bad habits we as writers can easily fall victim to. What are some others and how do you just say no to them?

A to Z Challenge 2015

A is for Androgynous

A is for Androgynous A to Z Challenge, April J. Moore

Oh, goodness. 1989, aged 12. Around this time, I had been in California visiting family and spent a day playing with a kid named Ray, a friend of my cousin’s. Apparently, the whole afternoon, he thought I was a boy. He obviously hadn’t caught my name, so when it came time to leave, something came up about names. “April? But that’s a girl’s name,” he said. Androgyny happens . . . especially when sporting a pre-pubescent short haircut. But I think I could go either way in this picture.

In 1832, poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous.”

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf interpreted Coleridge’s quote by saying, “And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female . . . The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating . . . Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine . . .”

Woolf asserted that “an androgynous mind is present when one is working at the absence of sex-consciousness, thus producing output at its highest capacity, without impediment and free from gender-biasness.” (source) Woolf believed that “to write without consciousness of sex is to see the piece of work for itself not as its author.” Much of this theory stems from the sexist treatment she and other women writers had endured. 

Woolf received a great deal of criticism for this view, resulting in a ping-ponging of arguments, but the whole idea of having an androgynous mind is fascinating to me. Recently, author, Andrew Smith got speared for some comments he made when asked why his books lack female characters:

“I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though. 

A lot of The Alex Crow is really about the failure of male societies. In all of the story threads, there are examples of male-dominated societies that make critical errors, whether it’s the army that Ariel falls in with at the beginning, or the refugee camp, or Camp Merrie-Seymour for boys, or the doomed arctic expedition, they’re all examples of male societies that think that they’re doing some kind of noble mission, and they’re failing miserably.”

Some authors accused him of calling women “less than human,” while others said Smith was only being honest; that the underpinning issue is that as a culture, a book’s default is to feature white males.

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not entirely sure, but I found Woolf’s theory intriguing. Can “a single person of either sex  [embody] the full range of human character traits, despite cultural attempts to render some exclusively feminine and some exclusively masculine?” And thus, create authentic emotions and insights of characters of both genders? Is it even possible? Or are we merely guessing when we write the viewpoints of the opposite sex? 

I wasn’t offended by Smith’s comments. I think he unintentionally kicked a beehive. I’d be interested to hear what Woolf would say, however. Are authors (particularly male authors) obligated to include female characters in their books? (And of course, they can’t be gun-toting, bikini-wearing blondes, right?) 

I realize this is a much deeper issue than what I’m making it out to be, but in order to scratch the surface, I’d like to know, 1.) Is it possible to write with androgyny? and 2.) Are we being sexist if we don’t?

A to Z Challenge 2015

Blogging A to Z Challenge

A to Z ChallengeI will be participating in my first A to Z Challenge beginning tomorrow, April 1st. I’ll be posting old family photos and writing about how these old memories (some, painfully embarrassing) pertain to writing—which I hope will be of help to all of you. I’m looking forward to checking out the many other bloggers who are participating in this alphabetical challenge. If you’re also a blogger taking part in the challenge, let me know so I can be sure to include you on my blog travels.

Old pictures--April J. MooreBest of luck to everyone who signed  up for the challenge!

2015 Conference Creative Team Video

Here it is. Yes, it’s low-budget. Yes, it’s cheezy. Yet somehow, it’s still a crowd-pleaser.

If you thought that was corny, wait until you see the others:

2014 NCW Writer’s Conference: 2014: A Writing Odyssey
2013 NCW Writer’s Conference: The Artist and the Writer
2012 NCW Writer’s Conference: Writer vs. Wild
2011 NCW Writer’s Conference: Safety Briefing

Enjoy!

A Few Things I Learned from the NCW Conference

Another amazing NCW Conference. What a weekend of fantastic presentations and workshops. Here’s a sampling of what I learned:

Publishing Industry changes/trends

  • Consumers are the new publishing gatekeepers. Websites like WattPad, which allow writers to post their work online for readers to critique, is getting the attention of agents of editors, who want to know what readers want. Those in the book industry peruse sites like these to find out what readers are reading and will approach writers with contracts.
  • E-books are having little to no impact on print book sales.
  • Dystopian books (particularly in YA) need to be extremely unique and must stand out from similar books to be considered by an agent.
  • New Adult fiction, aimed at 18-25 year-olds, is gaining lots of momentum.

Children’s book Publishing

  • According to Laura Backes of Children’s Book Insider, children’s book sales (both e-versions and print) are way up; board books are especially hot right now.
  • Editors are seeking middle grade books right now, particularly those geared toward boys.
  • Word counts are changing in kids’ books. Picture books (ages 3-5) are at 500 or less, and for ages 4-8, the word count is 800 or less.
  • Illustrations are doing more of the storytelling these days (thus, the decrease in word count)
  • Turn illustrations into an app; broaden the story’s capabilities.

Creating Compelling Characters from Todd Mitchell

  • Weaknesses in a character are what make them interesting and bring your character into focus.
  • Characters should have both conscious and unconscious desires that may or may not conflict with one another, and plot drives a character’s unconscious desires to the surface.
  • Make your characters do something that you would never do; have them make big mistakes.
  • Be interested by your character, but if you know them too well, they won’t surprise you. If you don’t allow your characters to surprise you, they won’t surprise your readers either.
  • Mitchell offered a great way to get started on developing a character by filling in the blank: He/She is the kind of person who ______________________. For example, my answers were: She’s the kind of person who turns the toilet paper roll around in other people’s bathrooms. He’s the kind of person who makes restaurant servers cry. These are great ways to “find a window into your character.”

Plot from Todd Mitchell

  • Plot must escalate and accelerate. Each scene should increase in tension, making things worse for the main character and show what’s at stake.
  • Focus on internal rather than external problems by challenging your characters in emotional ways. The action in a story works best when it’s the external representation of an internal conflict. 
  • Killing off the main character is often a cheap way to avoid change. Life is more challenging than death.
  • Keep turning up the heat on your characters. Find ways to constantly challenge your characters until they’re exhausted; then see what they do.

Marketing with Jon Bard 

  • Create a “tribe” made up of people with a common passion, concern or viewpoint, and when the time is right, market your book to the “tribe.”
  • The author/reader relationship is a connection, not a transaction.
  • Instead of having links on your blog that direct readers to where they can buy your book (which never really sells books) offer readers something else based on your common interests and passions. Once you’ve established a relationship, then offer links to your book.
  • Do this by creating a Lead Magnet. Offer something, such as an informative video or a free ebook, or top ten list, etc., that is only available to those who offer their email address. 
  • Participate in groups where your “tribe” members reside, then use social media to point people to your Lead Magnet. Reach out to bloggers, podcasters, e-zines, etc. 
  • Stop pushing your books on readers and start pulling them to you. It’s not about you; it’s about your readers and what you can impart on their lives.

Queries & Synopses with literary agent, Kimiko Nakamura

  • Queries: Agents like when it shows you’ve cyber stalked them; just don’t send flowers
  • Queries: Don’t bury the lead, such as title, genre, and word count.
  • Queries: Cliche beginnings can pigeonhole your work; originality counts so stand out.
  • Synopsis: must have clarity of plot and pacing.
  • Synopsis: Knowledge of industry-standard formatting is extremely important. It shows you’re in the know.
  • Synopsis: Agents/editors expect to know the ending; don’t hide anything.

There were several presentations I wish I could have attended, but it’s tough to be in two places at once. Overall, the conference was a huge success. As soon as our conference Creative Team Video is available on YouTube, I’ll post it.

I’m also thrilled to announce that Edward Hamlin‘s fiction submission (Grace), for the Top of the Mountain Book Award took first place and Jerry Eckert‘s memoir (Weeping Kings and Wild Boars: Moments of Magic and Sorrow from Forty Years of Trying to Save the World) took home the top prize for nonfiction. I’m very excited to see both of these books in print, which I suspect will be within the next year or so. 

Happy writing!

 

Good, Clean Fun

This Clean Reader debacle has become quite humorous. So the app only works on books you purchase through Clean Reader’s store and can be turned off if you so wish. Set to “Squeaky Clean” mode, the app thoroughly searches for words Clean Reader deems offensive and replaces them with words they’ve chosen for the offending word. They change the word “breasts” to “chest,” but are unable to distinguish between “chicken breasts” and women’s breasts. 

Hilarious. 

Let’s cook up some chicken chests tonight.

“Vagina” is changed to “bottom,” and “penis” has been relegated to a “groin.” “Christ” is changed to “gosh,” but Passion of the Gosh just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And praise Jesus, doesn’t feel the same as “praise Gee.” 

So bottom-line (that’s vagina-line to us UnClean Readers) is that readers can do whatever they want with books they purchase, and perhaps readers want someone to bleep out their books for them—and that’s fine. What really bugs me, is that Clean Reader is making their own determinations, or judgments, on what is profane and what words they choose to replace the profanity with. It’s not just curse words, but words describing body parts. A penis is a penis; a vagina is a vagina; they’re real words for real parts of the body, so why can’t they be called what they are? If you’re over a certain age, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the names of body parts. You’re not having to say them aloud; you’re reading them. It’s a stupid app. If you can’t handle profanity, then don’t read romance, erotica, or other books you know will likely be riddled with “offensive” words. In many cases, changing the wording fucks with freaks with the context, rendering the text confusing and oftentimes, comical. 

Again, it’s a reader’s choice to do what they want with a book they’ve purchased and we have the choice to think it’s stupid. I do think this is something to keep a watchful eye on, as I can see this easily turning into a issue where sanitized books will be resold without author consent. Just saying. 

If anything, the app brings MORE attention to the profanity by replacing these words with hilariously ill-suited words. Beware, if your characters order “beans and wieners” at their favorite hot dog joint, I hope they don’t mind getting beans and groins.

 

Washing A Book’s Mouth Out with Soap; There’s an App for That

profanityMy, my, sometimes nothing sums up a situation, emotion, or feeling, like a good old fashioned f-word. I’m no stranger to throwing in some profanity into blog posts and stories; these wicked little words are part of our language and culture and they serve a purpose. 

It appears that an app called Clean Reader allows readers to replace/hide all profanity in books. And they’re not calling it what it is: censorship and copyright infringement. Text is changed/edited without the author’s consent. 

I first heard about this over at Chuck Wendig’s site, who wrote a fantastic commentary about this growing issue and I urge you to check it out. I also encourage you to read an email that author Joanne Harris received from Clean Reader and her stellar response

Regardless of how you feel about profanity, is it right for anyone to alter someone’s book? Fuck no.

UPDATE: I should note that Clean Reader only allows readers to change words/text after they’ve purchased the book and are reading it on their own private devices. Sure, anyone can do anything to a book after it’s purchased, and according to Clean Readers, they’ve consulted with a gaggle of attorneys to ensure copyrights are not infringed upon, but something about this still irks me. There’s also a rumor floating around that the developers of Clean Reader are reselling “scrubbed up” versions of books . . . it’s worth investigating.

Here’s another take on the issue I recommend checking out.

NCW Podcast: Conference Creative Team

April Jenny Kelly--NCW Podcast

For your listening pleasure, here I am with my fellow NCW Conference Creative Team members (and authors) Jenny Sundstedt and Kelly Baugh, talking about the behind-the-scenes magic of the conference. We had a fun time getting cheeky with our host, NCW Assistant Director, Rich Keller. Have a listen!

Bobbing Hits Bookshelves March 22

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. MooreGreetings from Vancouver. I’m on a bit of a break before the exciting cluster eff of the release of my book and the NCW Conference. This is the the kind of cluster eff I like. Bobbing for Watermelons will be available this Sunday, March 22, but you lucky folks can get a sneak peek at Hot Chocolate Press and read the first four chapters now. Both print and e-versions will be available. I also wanted to let you know that I’m Patricia Stoltey’s guest blogger today, so mosey on over if you have a moment and enter to win a copy of my book. 

I also stumbled upon a nice surprise at Chapters’ bookstore in Vancouver . . .
Folsom's 93 by April MooreFinding your book in a bookstore never gets old, eh?

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt WednesdayIt’s that time again. I hope one of these prompts will give your writing mojo a kickstart. As always, feel free to share your flash fiction, poetry, or story here, or link it. Looking forward to what you’ve got for us, Dean.

  • It happened in front of me.
  • Everyone has secrets; mine can get me killed.
  • I had no choice but to write the letter.
  • Shane picked a bad time to confront me.
  • I never meant to hit . . .
  • The aroma of [fill in the blank] lured me into the [fill in the blank].
  • I brushed away the leaves from the grave marker.
  • I immediately regretted opening the [fill in the blank].

Happy writing!

This is Happening

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. MooreEarlier this week, my publisher and I celebrated my almost-here book, Bobbing for Watermelons, with the Korbel TwinsIt will be available in a couple of weeks, just in time for the NCW Conference.  I made a few notes in the proof copy . . .
IMG_0036(At least you know it’s thoroughly edited.) I’m a big proponent of reading your book from start to finish in one or two sittings because you’re bound to catch things you wouldn’t have if you’re doing a piecemeal edit. I’m picky, too. I went after extraneous words like just and even, and replaced many exclamation points with periods. I tend to overuse them!! When I came across a part where I mention my characters had been married for 18 years, it immediately caught my attention because several chapters back, I had it at 20 years. I likely would have forgotten the first reference if I hadn’t of read it an hour earlier. I’ll also point out that 39 of those mini Post-Its are because an early chapter number was missing, so of course, I had to make sure each subsequent chapter got marked. So don’t ever underestimate the power of a proof copy and reading it straight through!!! You might get hungry, but that’s why restaurants deliver.
Happy Friday!!!!

NCW Conference Magic is Happening, plus Contest Finalists Announced

Another Northern Colorado Writers Conference is only a few weeks away! This is the fifth conference I’ve been in the Conference Creative Team, and this is the conference’s 10th anniversary, so we’re pulling out all the stops for this one. I get to work with authors Kelly Baugh and Jenny Sundsteadt on the conference’s theme, decorations, and activities. This year, we’ve gotten a little rebellious with the decor (the theme is the Roaring Twenty’s—“The Lawless Decade,” after all) by using . . . glitter, deemed the syphilis of the craft world (thanks, Kelly for informing us of this).
GlitterThat’s all I can show you right now. The Fort Collins Hilton has always been so accommodating when it comes to our grand ideas of previous conference themes, but using glitter is typically frowned upon. We figured if it’s glued down, we’re not disregarding rules completely. It will be worth it, I promise.

We are also working hard on finalizing our annual video that the three of us write and perform in, to be shown opening night. For a sneak peek, you can check out our cheesy trailer:

I’m also thrilled to announce that our 2015 Top of the Mountain Finalists have been announced! So check them out HERE.
There’s still time to register for the conference, but don’t wait too long; attendance is capped at 130 participants. Hope to see you there.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt Wednesday

In honor of National Grammar Day, here’s a list of prompts that . . . ah . . . have nothing to do with grammar. Just celebrate this day by picking a prompt (or two!) and write something. Honor this momentous occasion with a short story, poem or flash fiction. You’re welcome to post it in the comments section, on your own blog (link it, baby) or among the pages of your journal. 

  • Evan couldn’t believe his luck, when the elevator doors opened and . . .
  • At first, the lake appeared flawlessly iced-over, then Amy saw . . .
  • Dave knew he’d never be allowed back . . . 
  • It wasn’t supposed to get out of hand.
  • The memory of her walking . . .
  • The man stood behind the glass and waited . . .
  • Layla took one last swig of beer and  . . . 
  • I hated that he knew about . . .

Happy writing!

5 Reasons Why Your Manuscript Gets Rejected

Being a writing contest coordinator and having been a judge myself for several writing contests, I’ve seen why many manuscripts don’t win. They’re the same reasons agents and editors pass as well. These 5 manuscript killers are what usually separate a winning manuscript from those that fail to make the cut.

Rejected

1.) No beginning hook. It also needs to be sustaining. Some authors try to open with a bang on the first page because they know it’ll grab the agent’s attention, but then it fizzles, and they dive into backstory. It seems as though they’re toying with the reader, saying, here’s my fabulous hook, then yanks it away and goes into backstory. Nice try, Sparky. A brief opening hook will wear thin if the subsequent narrative slows down. The reader may resent the maneuver, and thus, put the book down . . . for good. A strong opening with great pacing is what will keep the book in your readers’ hands.

2.) Too much backstory. We’re writers: we have a story to tell and characters to introduce—who have history. Sadly, most aspiring authors drop it all on the reader at once—in long narratives. Get to the action and weave in the backstory through dialog, inner thoughts, and character mannerisms. You have a whole book, so spread the information out and only use what’s important to the story and to the character. The last thing you want is for the reader to start skimming and miss that one crucial tidbit you threw in. Good novelists will space out these details, periodically feeding you just enough breadcrumbs to keep you reading.

3.) Passive voice. This is usually a big killer. Do a word search for “to be” verbs, especially “was” and “were” and replace them with active verbs. Check out my post for The Writing Bug yesterday where I discuss how to eliminate passive voice. Passive writing is one of those things that can out you as an amateur pretty quickly, so be discriminatory when it comes to “to be” verbs.  

4.) Bland characters. I get that it’s a challenge to create fleshed out characters without diving into backstory, but it can easily be done through dialog; character gestures and mannerisms; their inner thoughts; and how they react to their surroundings, as well as others. Don’t tell the reader every detail about their childhood in order to tell us why the character has this one particular habit. You can show that through other more concise ways, rather than going into his/her past right off the bat. Dialog is a fantastic way to accomplish two things: it reveals character traits, quirks, and history, while at the same time, it moves the story along.

5.) Poor Dialog: Dialog should always have a purpose, so leave out conversations that won’t lead anywhere, or don’t have a point. It’s there to move the story along and to create tension. It’s okay to have your characters say hello to each other, or to have a line or two of formalities once in a great while, but keep it to a bare minimum. Dialog must serve a purpose by moving the story along, and ideally, creating tension and conflict. While we’re at it, mainly use “said,” and “asked” as tags, and remember, “smiled,” “laughed,” “grimaced,” and “smirked,” are not tags. Another big mistake is that punctuation often gets overlooked. Don’t forget that a comma goes before a name. For example: “I don’t know what you see in her, Bob. She’s can’t conjugate her verbs.” Same with: “Hi, Phil, you look dashing in that track suit.”

Bonus: Overusing certain words. I think just is the most overused word. Ever. Even manuscripts that are otherwise well written, have a plethora of justs. Stop it. Most of the time, the word adds nothing to the sentence, so take it out. Also look for really and very.

Bonus Bonus: (sorry, I can’t help it) Poor formatting. Lots of entries show up with poor indentation, two spaces between sentences (the standard is 1, but at least pick one or the other and do it consistently), improper punctuation, and typos. These should be freebies! So many authors get marked down for these mistakes and unfortunately, can ruin an otherwise strong submission. There’s no excuse for poor mechanics—there’s typically one way to do these things. Learn them, so your story doesn’t get rejected. It’s like losing the game because of a missed free throw.

There you have it. 

Happy writing!

Making the Most of Book Launches & Signings

A recent post by Jody Hedlund about creating a book launch team, got me jazzed up about getting the wheels in motion for my upcoming release of my book. Last night, I joined several other NCW authors for a night of readings at Bas Bleu Theatre. I read an excerpt from my new book, which is not only great practice for reading aloud, but it generated buzz for my book. My publisher also made up this awfully cute bookmarks to help promote it.
NCW Reading, Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. Moore

When Folsom’s 93 released, the launch took place at the prison itself. The museum that sits outside the prison walls, provided the perfect venue. For all of the events, I had many of the book’s mug shots printed into foam board, which guests of my local launch had a great time with. It was a great way to get people involved in your book launch/signing.
Folsom's 93 book launch April J. MooreI also have album with all the mug shot in it so people can flip through them—which is a great icebreaker when you’re at a book signing and people are afraid to come over to the table.
Folsom's 93 mug shotsJust recently, I had these cool business card magnets made up with some of my favorite Folsom guys:
Business card magnets, book promotion, Folsom's 93These are inexpensive ways to get readers interested in your book, and more importantly, remember your book. Making your presentation and signing memorable is going to draw readers in and chances are, impress their socks off. 

Patricia Stoltey went all out for her last signing by providing refreshments and big baskets of giveaways.
Patricia Stoltey signingAnother way to generate an audience, especially before the book launches, is create ads with your book and tweet them. Author Kenneth Harmon used this technique and gained over 10K Twitter followers in a few months time. You can read about how he did it HERE.
Kenneth Harmon
Have a launch/signing at a location mentioned in the book
It doesn’t have to be the exact place, especially if it’s not possible to travel there, but think about similar venues in your own city. Consider what your character does for a living; play up that. Think about the various  places and things in your book that you can incorporate. Not all signings and launches have to take place in a bookstore.
Incorporate props
I got to have the actual gallows trap door for my book launch, which was pretty spectacular, but there may be other (smaller) items that are portable enough to bring with you. One author, who writes about zombies, decorates his table with zombie props and dolls. (I’d think writers of erotica might really garner some attention with props!)
Create ads with book info and include any author blurbs you scored
Like what Ken Harmon did, he added text to pictures he took himself. If he acquired a blurb from another author, he added that. It’s a great way to generate buzz, especially on Twitter.
Bookmarks and postcards
This is another great way to get interest, especially if you do a reading before the book is released. Your audience needs something to remind them of your upcoming book. 
Have items such as magnetic business cards, mousepads, pens, and mugs made up using the book’s cover to other pictures that may be in the book
.
These are great for including in a giveaway basket or placed on the table. Check out places like Snapfish, Overnight Prints, and Vista Print.
Partner with an organization that your book can be associated with
If your book has an underlying message or theme, or brings awareness to a certain issue, contact organizations that might be interested in partnering up. An author friend is pairing up with her local cat rescue since her book is about a shelter cat.

I realize I’m just scratching the surface when it comes to creative book launches and signings, but I hope it launches some ideas for you. Your branding and how you promote your books is an important part in creating an audience. This may be a daunting thing for a lot of writers who’d much rather spend their time writing than promoting their books and actually talking to people, but that’s why some promotional items can be an icebreaker—both for the author and for the potential buyer. Above all, make it a fun experience.
Book Promotion April J. MooreWhat are some of your ideas for making the most of your book launches & signings?

 

 

My Early Work . . .

Clearly, writing drew me in at an early age . . . specifically, first or second grade. 
Oh, geez, what can I say?!I find it difficult to believe I came up with this myself (even though there was a lovely pussy willow tree in the backyard of the house I grew up in), but I also have a hard time envisioning a teacher picking out this poem for the class to write. In either case, it must have triggered a lively discussion in the teachers’ lounge. 

Happy Monday.

Write What You Don’t Know . . . Sort of

internet research photoWe’ve heard it so many times: Write what you know. It’s good advice. But don’t we usually interpret it as, write what you already know? Of course, that’s a good start for any writer—sit down and write something you’re familiar with. But what if you have this great idea for a novel that involves mutant sea life and a brave oceanographer who has the brains and courage to stop the rogue whales from attacking kayakers? (I’m almost certain this nearly happened to me while kayaking off Victoria Island two years ago. True story.) Anyhow, you’ll probably need to brush up on your marine biology, not to mention deep sea diving, in case that’s not your forte either. In this day and age, with information at our fingertips, it’d be hard not to find what you need to write that future bestseller. 

A few years ago at the Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference, I got a chance to hear bestselling author, Margaret Coel, whose novels take place on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. She said that twenty-some years ago, she didn’t know a lick about Arapahoes, but with a desire to know, she hit the books (pre-internet! *GASP*). She is now considered an expert on Arapaho culture. With this, comes a word of caution from author, Anita Diamant, who incidentally, spoke at the same writer’s conference. She said that it’s easy to get caught up in incorporating everything you learned into your manuscript. She writes historical fiction, and when she got a little heavy handed with the details, her editor said, “Your research is showing,” as in, “Psst . . . your slip is showing!” Your job as a writer isn’t to tell your readers everything you learned; it’s to give them a vivid picture and general understanding of the details in your story. At the same time, leaving them with unanswered questions and fuzzy math isn’t good either. You don’t want anything to distract your audience from the story you’re trying to tell.

When writing the book, you don’t have use everything you learned, but you should know it. You may not describe in detail the impact mutant whales may have on mankind, but you should at least have a damn good idea, so that you understand which details you can leave out and which ones are crucial for the reader. 

A few days ago, I came up with a novel idea that involves a teeny-tiny thing called physics, specifically, quantum physics. Since childhood, I’ve had a fascination with physics, but the right side of my brain won out and I took a much different path. The interest, however, never went away. But interest in a subject, doesn’t equate to knowledge of said subject. Plus, understanding quantum physics isn’t enough; I need a grasp of the fundamentals of physics. Via a Nova special on YouTube, I came across Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos and it’s been off to the races since. 
ResearchI also found the online courses that Greene teaches (for free!) at World Science U. Because it’s something that has always fascinated me, I’m enjoying it (although I don’t exactly comprehend it very well at this point). But even if I decide to not write this particular novel, hopefully, I’ll retain a few things about quantum physics that I toss around at my next dinner party.

How have you used research in your writing?

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt Wednesday

 

You know what to do. (But in case you don’t . . . these prompts are a way to help you get the writing juices flowing. Post a story in the comments section, journal it, post it on your blog, or get a jump on a short story; whatever. They’re here for the taking.)

  • Knowing his name meant little to her.
  • Fallen ash from his cigarette collected in a pile below his hand.
  • I stood at the edge of woods and listened to . . .
  • Paul knew he shouldn’t have looked . . .
  • I should have told my wife the truth that first day when I . . .
  • “I wouldn’t drink that; it has [fill in the blank] in it.”
  • In the beams of the dying headlights, stood . . .
  • The morning sun peaked through the trees. He told me I’d be dead by sunrise.

Happy writing!

An Emotional Laxative: Cathartic Writing

FallingWriting is cathartic; we’ve all heard that, if not experienced its cleansing powers ourselves. I’ve written essays about my late father that will probably never leave my computer, but they had to be written.

I’m once again in need of purgative writing; an emotional laxative, if you will. I think if I “get it out,” I’ll be able to move forward, past a humiliating incident.

About three weeks ago, I fell out of a parked car. That’s right, smacked right down onto the pavement from the height of at least three feet, specifically, from the seat of a Toyota 4-Runner. It was before my son started driving himself to school. He and I would hit the gym before school so that he could practice his indoor climbing skills and I could practice my stair climber skills. (If you knew how uncoordinated I am, you’d understand why I call this a “skill.” Oh, as it turns out, you are about to find out.) Still practicing his driving, my son would then drive us from the gym to school and I’d get out and jump into the driver’s seat. This was our routine. I had on my new workout pants that I thought were pretty snazzy and per my modus operandi, my “gym bag,” an old Eddie Bauer pack with a long strap, sat at my feet. 

This particular morning, we ran a few minutes behind schedule, so the outside of the school was abuzz with kids, parents, and teachers. As he stopped, I swung open the door to jump out. It all happened so quickly; I never stood a chance. Just as another car pulled up behind us in line, I exited the car—knees first. Like an anvil being dropped by Wile E. Coyote, I plummeted to the asphalt, landing on both knees and my left elbow. My chin nearly made contact as well. A baseball bat to the joints, swung by Babe Ruth, would have produced similar results. 

Despite my shock, I stood up quickly, aware of not only the many stunned faces turned toward me, but that the car had begun to roll backward. I yelled to my son to pull the brake, which he promptly did. The girl being dropped off from the car behind us, looked downright confused—Did that lady just fall out of a car?! 

My son came around from the other side, genuine concern on his face. “Are you all right?” I waved him off, wincing. Every movement hurt. I turned to the car and saw the culprit: my gym bag. It hung from the seat lever, threatening to dump its contents: my wallet, phone, and water bottle. I grab the bag and threw it back in the car before walking around to the driver’s side, desperate to not limp. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone, except my son, who gave me a sympathetic look and a wave goodbye. 

Shaking, with two aching knees and a throbbing elbow, I pulled away from the school. My ego also slowly formed a black and blue splotch. It wasn’t until I got home and yanked the delinquent, mischievous bag, that I realized how it had happened. The strap of the bag had gotten wrapped around my foot (or feet—unsure how many appendages were involved) and as I exited the vehicle, I brought the bag with me. It wouldn’t have been so bad to drag the pack with me, but the damn thing, apparently having second thoughts about following me, encircled its strap around the lever underneath the seat, stopping its progression—and mine.

It was like getting clotheslined, but with my feet. Yes, it was that bad.

When I explained to The Husband what had happened, he felt terrible. Later in the day, in an attempt to comfort me with, “You know, in time, you’ll be able to look back—” he chuckled—“and laugh—” I cut him off with a fiery glare. There would be no laughing about this. Ever.

Until now, I had only told one other person about it . . . a friend . . . over text. My knees and elbow still show remnants of bruises, as does my ego, but they’re going away. They also still ache, but that, too, is lessening.

I don’t know if writing about it has been cathartic, but I did manage a chuckle as I wrote about the experience. I guess that means I can laugh about it now—and that’s a good start.

So don’t leave me hanging; has writing about a humiliating experience ever help you move forward? 

Literary Contest Tips & Etiquette

first placeAbout five years ago, I approached Kerrie Flanagan, director of the Northern Colorado Writers, with the idea of incorporating a book contest into the association’s annual conference. Other conferences around the country have similar contests, so why not have our own? As a writing organization, the NCW loves recognizing high quality fiction and nonfiction, and thus, the Top of the Mountain Book Award was born. I’ve been the contest’s coordinator since and am blown away by how much it has grown in these last four years. During that time, I’ve learned a lot. I’d like to share my tips and suggestions on submitting to fiction and/or nonfiction contests.

Follow Contest Guidelines to the Letter. It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed at how often people don’t do this. (I have a better appreciation for what agents and editors gripe about.) Most contest rules, especially with formatting, mirror what agents and editors ask for, so it shouldn’t be difficult to tailor your submission to a contest. Some of the rules may not make sense to you, such as how they want the document saved as, but trust that there’s a method to their madness, and go with it. They have specific requirements for a reason, so if they ask for a 3-page synopsis; it’s a 3-page synopsis—not a 2 or 2-1/2 page synopsis. Agents and editors expect the same guideline considerations. And if you’re not sure about something, email the contest coordinator and ask. It’s much better than submitting and finding out later your overall score suffered because you didn’t ask about something first. 

Don’t Ask for Exceptions or Special Treatment. Rules are rules, man, what can I say? If we let everyone submit an extra page because “that’s where the action starts,” then first of all, maybe you should rewrite your opening, and two, we’d have a bunch of submissions of varying length and it wouldn’t be a level playing field. Most rules are going to be pretty general, so unless they’re asking you to send a vial of your first born’s blood with your submission, there shouldn’t be any rule you can’t adhere to.

Only Send Your Most Polished Work. Again, probably a no-brainer, but also a reminder that if you want to win, or even be a finalist, your work better be the best it can be. Even if you’ve had your entire critique group look it over, I suggest having one other person—who has never read it before—have a gander at it. You’ll be surprised the typos or plot issues a fresh pair of eyes can catch; it can make or break your submission.

Be Open to Criticism. It can be difficult to send your work out to be judged. Some contests will offer written critiques, and some will not. If they do, be open to hearing what they have to say, but at the same time, remember that it’s all subjective; it’s one reader’s opinion. Judges for the Top of the Mountain are instructed to leave constructive feedback and to offer practical advice, but not all contests are like that, so be prepared . . . or don’t send anything out until you’re confident your work is the best it can be.

Do Not Pitch a Fit. You’d think I wouldn’t have to mention this to adults, but sadly, it happens. Last year, we had a very disgruntled author who didn’t make the cut and after several threats, the police had to get involved. Yeah, not fun. Do not pull a Kanye West. Not only would you likely be asked to never submit to another contest of theirs, word may get around that you don’t like to lose, or have your work critiqued, and you don’t want that following you around. A contest is a contest and if your ego can’t take rejection, well, you’re in the wrong business. So be nice. Be gracious. Keep learning the craft. And keep submitting.

Other things to consider:

  • It’s perfectly fine to send a follow up email to confirm your submission was received. If a contest coordinator has a problem with that, then it’s not a  contest I’d want to be associated with. If you’re paying a fee, you should be able to find out if your entry arrived safely.
  • Don’t end your submission with an unfinished sentence. Tie it up for the judge, otherwise, it shows you didn’t take the time to polish your submission, and that you just saved the required number of pages and sent it off.
  • Judges are often donating their time and efforts. Entry fees typically go toward the cash prizes, PayPal fees, and other admin costs. 

That’s about it. Literary contests are a great way to get your work recognized and grab the attention of an agent or editor. So follow the rules, submit your best work, and wait for the prize money to roll in.

Announcement: Upcoming Readings Feb. 24th

Reading by Writers feb 24 2015If you’re in the area, stop by Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins at 7:00 p.m. on February 24th, for an evening of readings. I’ll be joining my fellow Northern Colorado writers who are presenting their poetry, novel excerpts, or essays. I’ll be reading from my upcoming novel, Bobbing for Watermelons that’s due out next month. Tickets are $5 and you’ll also have an opportunity to purchase books, if you feel so inclined. Hope to see you there!

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. Moore

 

Artists Behaving Badly

Just yesterday, I was talking about toddlers and temper tantrums, so I’ll continue with that thread and talk about Kanye West. On Sunday, during the Grammy award show, he nearly repeated his infamous onstage rant of 2009, when he hopped on stage after Beck won for album of the year. He didn’t follow through with his tirade, but later pouted and cried, telling US Weekly Magazine:

The Grammys, if they want real artists to come back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. Flawless, Beyoncé video, and Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé. And at this point, we tired of it because what happens is, when you keep on diminishing art, and not respecting the craft, and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration.” 

Wow. Talk about arrogance on an epic level. Chrissy Teigen, wife of musician John Legend, defended West, laughing about it on The Today Show, saying she thought it was a joke. Legend called the incident “funny.” Even jokes can be low-class and tasteless and shouldn’t be defended with giggles and eye rolls at those who find it distasteful. This isn’t about free speech either. It’s about being a sore loser, whether it’s he himself who lost, or someone he was rooting for, in this case, Beyonce. 

I’ve always liked Beck’s music, and his response makes me respect the guy even more (although I thought it was almost too nice). Aside from West’s immature and disrespectful behavior, the sad conclusion, I see, is that he’s in it for the accolades. He wants his music and the music of his friends to be recognized. Apparently, that’s how he measures his self worth, which is unfortunate, because an award shouldn’t validate you. The guy’s a talented musician, no doubt about it, but is that license to take away another musician’s incredible moment? 

This sense of entitlement translates to all professions, including writing. Late last year, author Ayelet Waldman threw a fit for not making the NYT’s “100 Notable Books of 2014.” Is that what’s she’s in it for? Is that why anyone does what they do? To be recognized in front of millions? Sure, that would be nice, but if that’s what you’re in it for, excuse me for not supporting your quest for stardom. Isn’t selling millions of copies or even having thousands of 4 or 5-star reviews enough? 

Perhaps when you reach a certain level in your career, you feel you’ve earned that award, or that coveted spot on some list, but to me, the second you step away from your humility and grace, is the second you start losing the respect you’ve spent so much time garnering. I doubt I’ll ever be that in position anyway, but at least I write because I love to, not because I want to fill a space on my shelf with an award.

That’s my rant for the day. I’m going to go download Beck’s album now.

Got Your (Writing) Hands Full?

When my son was around two or three-years-old, we figured it was a good age to teach him simple card games like Old Maid and Go Fish. At that time, the only cards we could find were these jumbo playing cards . . . made specifically for children 3 and up. The package even said, “Jumbo Cards for Little Hands.” 
Jumbo Cards for Little Hands

It was no wonder someone later came up with a card holder. Have you ever seen a toddler try to hold these giant cards in their hands? It may be comical (to parents) for a few minutes, but eventually, the cards end up spread out on the floor, or jammed back in the box. I also didn’t understand the jumbo Crayons and markers thing, either. Jumbo blocks and puzzle pieces, yes. I’m sure there’s a bunch of science behind overwhelming three-year-olds with these ill-proportioned toys, but now that my son’s sixteen, I don’t care. 

There are days I feel like my hands are so full of tasks, that I want to stomp my feet and throw a temper tantrum—even at the grocery store. These days, I’ve got a lot on my plate, so I have to be organized and stick to a plan. Here’s a few tips if you’re feeling like your hands are full of “jumbo cards.”

Get Organized. It sounds simple, and essentially, it is. I have a big white board in my office that lists everything I need to do. Buy several markers and color code projects  by importance. If possible, have it on a wall facing you, staring you down, so you have no excuse to ignore it. This is a great place to list top priority items and their deadlines. Identify the tasks that might have flexibility, or ones you might be able to get an extended deadline for. Also, keep a filing system that separates documents and other papers that pertain to the tasks.

Estimate time needed. If you have a general idea of how much time each project will take, plan your day or week accordingly. I suggest overestimating a skosh to allow for unexpected interruptions. This is a good opportunity to really see how much time you spend on social media and checking email, etc. Is it all necessary? Chances are, you could streamline those activities and carve out extra time for these tasks. To avoid burnout on one project, you might want to switch between tasks. I find that I can approach certain projects with a clearer mind if I step away from it for a while, even if it’s just an hour or two. 

Say Uncle! if you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if what you’re working on is a group effort; it’s better than producing rushed, poorly-executed work. Plus, talking through the project with someone, might put it in a new perspective that’s easier to work with. And don’t be afraid to say no in the first place. It’s hard for me to turn down writing and/or creative opportunities, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. Otherwise, I’d irritate myself and make my family crazy with my meltdowns. 

What are your tips for keeping your sanity when your hands are full?

Wearing Stories on My Sleeve

Inked LadyPen and ink; needle and ink. They both tell stories. I love art and writing, so it’s no wonder I love tattoos. JC Lynne wrote a great post at The Writing Bug last week about the author persona, and if writers need one in order to sell books. Lynne, who’s also an inked lady, was encouraged by her husband to take on the “badass tattooed writer” persona. She argued that her persona should be that she “wrote a good book.” I agree.

I can’t say that I’m a badass because of tattoos; I just like them. Each one I have has special meaning and tells a story, and frankly, doesn’t have anything to do with persona—at least, I don’t think so. Does an author’s tattoos tell readers the type and even quality of what they write? In addition to lots of other topics, I’ve written about executions, prisons, and women’s fiction, but hell, whatever gets a reader’s attention, I’m all right with that. (Although I’d rather it be from my writing.)

After I got my sleeve, a family member told me that she didn’t like it when women got tattoos of—and I quote—“skulls and dead things,” on their arms. I’m pretty sure the only place she’s seen such tattoos on women was maybe once on an episode of “Law & Order.” She was relieved I didn’t, as if that meant I’d start skinning rabbits in my backyard and displaying their skulls on sticks.   

Anyway, that’s really beside the point . . . I think. Whatever I have inked on my skin, whether it’s an owl or dead things, I don’t want to be judged by my cover. Who does? But I like telling stories on paper and on my skin, where I can truly wear my heart (and stories) on my sleeve. 

“I’ve just sucked one year of your life away.”

You know that scene from The Princess Bride, when Wesley is in the Pit of Despair? And then Prince Humperdink sucks a year of his life away?
Pit of DespairThat’s exactly what switching host providers for this site did to me. And that’s the second time I’ve done this process; I switched another site over last year, and lost a year of my life then, so I am officially . . . two years older. You’d think, after the first time, I would have learned, but I must have repressed it, or somehow forgot the pain. It must be like childbirth; you forget the pain and then go and do it all over again.

Anyway, what’s done is done. Right now, my “baby” is a little ugly and needs some tlc. I should be able to manage the rest without too many labor pains. Thanks for sticking with me.

Writing Prompt Wednesday {Dialog Edition}

Writing Prompt WednesdayIt’s that time again. It not uncommon for a story or novel to open with dialog, and it can  be very effective for dropping the reader into the middle of the action. Even if you chose to not open with one of these dialog pieces, one might at least inspire a conversation between two characters. Have at it!

  • “You think that’ll stop me?”
  • “I know I’m late, but here I am.”
  • “Well, aren’t you a pretty little thing.”
  • “Seriously, I’m not above begging.”
  • “My doctor told me I couldn’t do that.”
  • “Please tell me you read the instructions.”
  • “I wish you’d shut up.”
  • “I’ll tell you what really happened.”

Happy writing!

Which Came First: The Character or the Plot?

Oh, the age-old question . . . or something like that.

When you started your fiction work-in-progress, did you begin with your character? Or your plot? Maybe both? My forthcoming novel, Bobbing for Watermelons, began with a quirky housewife and I left the rest up to her. “Do your thing, you crazy lady. Make a story.” From there, I wrote the book chapter by chapter, with no road map or compass. I was having fun putting her in sticky situations, but where was it going? If I wasn’t careful, her antics would wear thin with the reader. I quickly learned that characters need direction—a place to “do their thing.” Fortunately, I got it together and gave my character a path to follow in a fun world I created just for her. 

Conversely, if you’ve come up with a unique plot with twists, turns, and an ending that kicks ass, do you have enough left in you to create a memorable character who’s thrown into your well-thought out story? For another novel I started working on last year, I came up with the plot first and my characters last, who frankly, are as boring as watching golf. (Yes, I said that, and yes, I meant it.)

Based on my own experiences, I’m theorizing that the first born tends to be stronger. It used to be we heard the terms, “character-driven,” and “plot-driven,” when it came to books. Perhaps we still do, but it seems to me, readers want both, and why should’t they? Some believe plot is more important in an action-packed thriller (who cares if the guy in the midst of the action hasn’t an emotional marble in his head, he sure looks good in a suit). He’s only there to carry out the action, right? 

Well, I’m no expert, but I’m getting the feeling that readers want it all: character and plot, packaged together and wrapped with pretty paper. Quality writing notwithstanding. (That’s another blog post.) So,what’s the point of all this? I’m not entirely sure, but I’d like to know which came first for you: the character or the plot and is it stronger than the other? 

 

Friday News: Flash Fiction Anthology Update

baby shoes

I’m thrilled to announce that Baby Shoes: Celebrating Flash Fiction has made its e-book funding goal! Woot-woot! There are ten days left and we hope to  make it to $2200 so that we can do a print run as well. Thank you to everyone who has contributed thus far. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out this amazing project that will be featuring 100 authors and 100 flash fiction stories. You’ll find some familiar names among the author list such as Linda Needham, Joe Lansdale, Danika Dinsmore, and Walter J. Williams. Yours truly will have a piece in the book called “An Affair to Forget.” I’m also honored to be among some of my favorite local authors, Katherine ValdezShelley Widhalm, and he who shall not be named . . . because he’s using a pen name. 😉 Thanks again for the support.

TulipTree Publishing

TulipTree Publishing

TulipTree Publishing is a great new publisher looking for quality content for TulipTree Review, their literary journal; TulipTree Online, a separate online review; and TulipTree Books, printed works of authors, including anthologies. Editor, Jennifer Top, is looking for submissions and now’s a great time to submit. Plus, each quarter, $1000 will be awarded to first place winners in short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. 

From TulipTree:

TulipTree Review is seeking entries for its first round of contests for its inaugural issue! A first place prize of $1,000 will be awarded in each category of short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Second and third place winners will receive $200 and $100, respectively. Winners and all those selected for publication will receive a free subscription to the new literary journal. The theme for the first issue is BEGIN. Deadline: March 9.

Check out TulipTree Publishing to learn more and be sure to Like them on Facebook

Good luck and happy writing!

My Space

My Space -- April J. MooreA fellow writer recently asked me what I need to write. I need to channel Stephen King or Ivan Doig and write as often and as well as they do. But alas, that ain’t gonna happen. For now, I’ll take my little rituals and little space in our guest room and click-clack away. Notice the space heater . . . this is Colorado and The Husband and I are on opposite ends of the thermometer. I keep my room at a roasty-toasty temp and no one can tell me to turn it down. (It also keeps anyone from bugging me while up I’m here writing.) I found a table at a flea market, painted it, and wedged it in the corner. On the oppose wall, is a closet full of supplies and books.

Books -- April J. Moore
On my crookedly hung bulletin board (I have no idea how I managed that), I have notes, a picture my niece drew, a newspaper photograph I’d like to paint someday, and various little things. (Yes, that’s me on the Big Wheels.)
My Space -- April J. MooreThese are a few things that I don’t necessarily need to have in order to write, but they make me smile: a ceramic bird I received after my father passed, my prayer flags from the Shambhala Center, and the creepy, faceless figurine called the “Angel of Hope.”
MySpace -- April J. MooreI don’t know that I really need anything other than a pencil (mechanical, please) and paper, in order to write, but this space works for me. It’s peaceful and allows me to do what I love. The rest is up to me.

Do you have any writing rituals? What do you need to be a productive writer?

Folsom’s Hits New York City

Books on the Subway -- Folsom's 93I love New York City, but if I can’t be there, at least my book can be riding the subway system, courtesy of Rosy from Books on the Subway. Rosy, an avid reader, heard of Books on the Underground, based in London, and thought, why not do the same in NYC? Isn’t it novel? She calls it a “public library on the go.” The books are labeled with a BOTS sticker, so readers can pick up the book, read it, and then return it to the train for someone else to enjoy. I sent Rosy a couple copies of Folsom’s 93 and she just dropped them off at 28th street station. How cool is that?! I hope my 93 guys enjoy their rides. Look for Books on the Subway on Twitter and Facebook, and check her site to see how you could get your own book to ride the rails, too. 

#OneOfThoseParents

Driving

My son got his driver’s license yesterday. He asked me not to post a picture on Facebook with the caption, “Yikes! We have a new driver on the roads, look out!” In fact, he wanted absolutely no FB documentation whatsoever. He didn’t, however, say anything about not posting here. He doesn’t read my diatribes—he gets enough of them verbally. 

So what does all this mean? That I’m one of those parents who has to share everything about my kid and his milestones? 

Well, yeah.

Hey, I’ve earned it. Being a parent is hard and sometimes it’s important to document that we haven’t strangled these beautiful life-sucking miracles yet—we’re doing something right. What did those moms of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s do? They had to pick up the phone. “I have a whole list of people to call. Besides, you’ll see your friends at school tomorrow.” They carried brag books and did scrapbooks. Do parent still do those? (I got as far as his first haircut.) 

I’m sure the proud parent pandemic dates back to prehistoric times when cave women depicted their stick-figure offspring making their first mammoth kill, or riding on the back of a velociraptor. Ha! Just kidding . . . (like they were able to tame those dinosaurs enough to ride one). Geesh.

I digress.

Bottom line: I’m proud. I’m in awe. I’m scared shitless. This is also the start of my perpetually anxious existence for the next two to three to four years. Should you begin to see irrational, manic, and depressive writings that borderline horrific—particularly late at night—you’ll know why.

So bear with me and go easy on parents like me; we spent a lot of time molding and shaping these helpless little forms into responsible, intelligent young adults—and teaching them to drive stick. Surviving that, is my personal milestone. 

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt WednesdayYou know the drill. (Dean, I’m expecting big things from you, my friend.)

  • There’s never the right moment to tell . . .
  • The marinara sauce dripped down the wall . . .
  • As usual, I said something . . .
  • The remote trail led to . . .
  • Something didn’t feel right when I entered . . .
  • His keys hung from . . .
  • The shrubbery concealed . . .
  • The ER nurse gave me . . .

Happy writing!

So, You Say You Want to Write?

Quite often, I’m approached by people who are either just getting into writing, or have a finished manuscript, but don’t know what steps to take next. I’ve talked to retirees who are finally getting around to that story in their head, and the stay-at-home mom whose kids are now in school full-time, so at last, she has quiet time to write. So how do I get started? How do go about publishing my book? Ah . . . as many of you know, those are very loaded questions that require more than a quick chat over coffee. But they need to start somewhere, so I have five pieces of advice that will hopefully point them in the write direction.
The End (Now What)

1.) Connect with a local writing organization. Some people think that you can either write or you can’t, and for those who think they can, they don’t necessarily see the value in attending writing workshops and classes. Well sure, we all like to think we can handle this writing thing on our own, but quite frankly, even seasoned authors are constantly improving on their craft. There’s always room to grow and improve as a writer—especially with help from other writers. Writing doesn’t have to be a solo venture. The support and camaraderie between writers is a beautiful thing—we learn from one another, not only about the craft, but the business of writing as well. Plus, when your short stories, articles or book comes out, you’ll already have an audience ready and willing to read, Tweet, and review. Networking is just as important in writing as it is in any other occupation.

2.) Join a critique group. Vital. I can’t reiterate enough how important this is. This is also another great reason to join a local writing organization—they will likely be able to hook you up with a group that would fit your needs. Don’t subject your friends and family to your “shitty first drafts,” as Anne Lamott calls them; that’s what your critique group is for. Plus, a critique group will be more honest with you and have the writing chops to help. Another great reason to join one is that they keep you on track and accountable when it’s your turn to submit, otherwise, it’s easy to veer off the writing path. And besides, it’s fun to get your name in the acknowledgements page of their books (because your feedback was so valuable!)

3.) Perfect your query letter (for fiction). There’s a special place in hell for query letters. Many writers say that the query letter is harder to write than the damn book. Your amazing story is relegated to 1-2 paragraphs that has a killer hook in the opening. But it can’t be cliche. And it shouldn’t open with a question. Or can it? But you have to include the word count and some want it in the opening paragraph and some want it in the end. Oh, and don’t forget the brief bio and what other writing credits you have. And most important: never, ever, forget to . . . um, hmmm. . . . can’t remember. See what I mean? They suck. Luckily, there are a number of sources out there to help—though they all vary to some degree. I recommend Give ‘Em What They Want: The Right Way to Pitch Your Novel to Editors and Agents. Also check out Query Shark to get very blunt, to-the-point advice on writing a query. For some new writers, finding out that agents are practically the gatekeepers to traditional publishing, is like a punch to the gut. “You mean, you don’t send the manuscript and cover letter to Simon & Schuster?” Nope. That’s why I also recommend Agent Query when it comes time to start the glorious process.

4.) Perfect your pitch or book proposal (for nonfiction). These are usually just as heinous as the query letter. For most book-length nonfiction, a proposal is often sent with . . . brace yourself . . . a query letter too. I know, I’m sorry. (And that’s if you’re lucky!) Sometimes agents will take a proposal right off the bat (check their online guidelines). Oftentimes, you have to query the book proposal! Plus, the book doesn’t need to be finished, like it does with fiction. Many agents and editors want to be able to move things around and tweak a nonfiction manuscript, but you still need an outline and sample chapters to present in your proposal, which is often 30 pages or more. Fortunately, there’s help. Check out How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. For pitching magazine articles, Kerrie Flanagan, freelance writer and director of the Northern Colorado Writers says that in your query, open with a catchy hook; give the editor a brief description of the proposed article (and how it ties to their guidelines); tell them what their readers will get out of reading it; and finally, tell them why you’re the perfect person to write it.

5.) Set up a blog. For some, this is more daunting than the query letter. When an agent sees promise in your query or book proposal, they want to find out more about you. And what better way than Google? A lot of agents and editors believe that you need a web presence, no matter how stellar your book is. It won’t sell itself. You don’t have to be a Super Blogger like some of those in my previous post, but you have to let people know that you and your book exist. You’ll also need a page where you post links to any online clips so that magazine editors can get a feel for your writing style. Blog a couple of times a week—the key is quality, not quantity. Start building your audience, especially if you’re an expert in a certain field and are shopping your nonfiction how-to, for example. It’s a necessary evil. But wait, there’s more. Follow other writers’ blogs and comment! The more you put yourself out there with quality content, the bigger the audience you’ll build—agents and editors will love you for it. 

So there you have it: my 5-step, Get Published Quick Scheme. Well, more like writing scheme, and sometimes, that’s all you need to get going.

What’s your best advice for a new writer? (Besides turn the other way and run?)

Writing Blogs to Follow

I know, all of you probably only follow me and hang on my every word, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I get my wisdom from other writers and industry professionals. Here’s my top 8 writing blogs I like to follow:

  • Make a Living Writing Carol Tice is a freelance writer based in Seattle and her posts are full of amazing advice. 
  • Jody Hedlund Hedlund is an award-winning author who offers tons of advice from creating strong characters to how to navigate the publishing industry.
  • Terrible Minds Chuck Wendig . . . I’ll let him tell you what his blog is about: “novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. This is his blog. He talks a lot about writing. And food. And the madness of toddlers. He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.”
  • Helping Writers Become Authors K.M. Weiland is a bestselling author who talks about (among many topics) common writing mistakes, how to structure a book, and writing inspiration.
  • Writer Unboxed Focusing on the business and craft of writing fiction.
  • Write it Sideways: “Write It Sideways’ has been helping you see the world of writing from a fresh perspective. Our experienced team can help you learn new skills, define your goals, increase your productivity, and prepare for publication.” Need I say more?
  • Live Write Thrive Get your grammar on here with novelist, copyeditor, and writing coach C.S. Lakin.
  • Quick and Dirty Tips from Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty is a true grammar maven. She makes remembering grammar rules easy.

What are some of your favorite writing blogs?

Being a (Productive) Stay-At-Home Writer

I originally posted this back in July 2012 for my critique group’s site, but I wanted to share it here because I sometimes find myself falling off the writing wagon and need a reminder. Hopefully, I’m not the only one . . .

I think many writers relish in the idea of a secluded place to work; a long retreat, free from interruptions and time to master our craft. However, this concept never seems to end well for Stephen King’s writer characters. Before you head to a vacant mountain hotel, or a remote cabin in upstate New York, consider these work-from-home tips that won’t involve axes, poltergeists, or dead bodies.
The Stanley

First, Take Care of Distractions

I’m easily distracted, whether it’s something shiny or a pile of laundry. Sometimes, no matter how determined I am to get several pages written, even small things can veer me off the creative path. Working from home poses a plethora of distractions that can keep you from settling into work mode. Combat them by dealing with those things before you flip on the laptop. Wake up early and take care of that load of laundry, pile of bills, or a sink full of dishes. Schedule your chores and writing time. Perhaps designating one day to household tasks can enable you to work the rest of the week. Another distraction is the internet. Aren’t you curious about your blog stats, Twitter updates, or the latest viral Facebook video? If you don’t need internet access to write, then turn it off. What about noises? One word: Earplugs.

Get Organized

Treat yourself to a shopping spree at an office supply store. They say if you buy great workout gear, you’re more likely to get your butt to the gym. Same goes for writing. If you want that fancy pencil holder, get it.  Do what you need to do to create a productive work environment. For my first book, organization was critical for me since I had 93 dead guys to keep track of. I bought a few file boxes with hanging folders and together, my label maker and I went to town. Each inmate had his own folder containing absolutely everything pertaining to him: transcripts, newspaper articles, and even critiques from my writers group when I submitted his story to them. If your work is disorganized, you may not feel motivated and driven. Get the right tools to help you.

Go To Your Room

If I had known how much I could have accomplished as a kid when my parents sent me to my room, I’d have a seven-book series by now. Today, I treasure alone time in my room where instead of plotting revenge on my sister, I actually get quality time to write. Claim your own space, whether it’s a room, a corner, or a table. Your area should also consist of only what you need to write. Don’t work at a desk where you pay bills, or do other hobbies. You need to focus on writing. My area is the guest bedroom. I found a small desk at a flea market, painted it and parked it by the window. The closet, situated behind the desk, houses my weapons of writing: reference books, research, and all those extra office supplies I stocked up on. (You can never have too many Post-Its.) Make the space inviting—but only to you. You need to be left alone, so politely inform your spouse, your kids, and your dog (who’s holding the leash in his mouth) to not bother you while you are in this special space of yours. 
redrum

Break it Down

I tend to freak myself out thinking about the amount of work I have ahead of me. Nothing like a bit of fear to kill your motivation. I must remind myself to take baby steps. I tackle one task at a time, sometimes two. If your project feels like deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls, then break it down. Work on one scroll at time—or half a scroll. Don’t put more pressure on yourself than you need to. Shoot for a certain number of pages a day to get done. Maybe it’s one chapter at time, or one article a day, or the introduction of your book proposal. You will feel more accomplished and productive if you take on only what you can handle that day. When I applied this method, I had those scrolls deciphered in no time.

Reward Yourself

What does your little heart desire? (Think small for this, okay?) Maybe it’s a new book, a nice bottle of wine, or going to the theater to see a movie. Now, choose the task or project you need to do and set a deadline. When you meet that deadline, reward yourself. I know this may sound simplistic, but it works. Yes, you could give yourself the reward anyway, but show some willpower, because trust me, that reward is way less satisfying if you truly didn’t earn it. Write your deadline and reward on a board or post it on the refrigerator to keep you motivated. Get the family involved to help support you on your journey because it’s even more rewarding when others can share it with you.

With a bit of creativity, it’s possible to be a productive writer without fleeing to deserted beach house, or a lonely cabin in the mountains.
Secret Window

Cover Reveal: Bobbing for Watermelons

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. Moore

As promised, here it is! Ain’t she a beaut? I am thrilled to bring you the cover of my forthcoming novel, Bobbing for Watermelons. If you’re like a lot of people, you might be wondering what the hell “bobbing for watermelons,” even means. First, I have my husband to thank for the title—it fits the story perfectly. I then added a short bit in the book explaining it: 

“Sometimes, finding happiness is a lot like bobbing for watermelons. We take on more than we can handle and can’t get a grip. Kinda like going for that watermelon and ignoring the smaller fruit in the tub.”

I will post tantalizing snippets here and there to hopefully wow and amaze you into buying a copy from Hot Chocolate Press come March. 

A Weekend of Writing

A weekend of writing events, that is.

Folsom's 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men

Yesterday, my publisher emailed me and asked if I could do a live, one-hour radio interview this Saturday to discuss Folsom’s 93. I thought, ‘Gee, I don’t know. An hour to talk about my book? Writers hate that stuff, right?’ I did have to cancel my luncheon with Beyonce, but she’s always calling to come over, so I’m sure we’ll reschedule. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chat with George Yates, host of “Justice For All,” a radio show broadcasting out of Chesapeake, VA on WHKT. We go live at 2 p.m. EST/12 p.m. MST, but if you can’t tune in, don’t fret; it’ll be available online—I’ll update with a link. UPDATE: CLICK HERE to listen in.

Hot Chocolate Press Festival

Then it’s off to more book bliss with the Hot Chocolate Festival happenin’ Saturday evening from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. I will be joining other Hot Chocolate Press authors for readings and book talk. I’ll be revealing the cover for my women’s fiction, Bobbing for Watermelons, and I have to say, I love how it came out! (And I hear that Boardwalk Gallery will be decked out like a winter wonderland for the event . . . who’d want to miss that?!) Click the link for more information.

The Eclectic Reader Bookstore

The Eclectic Reader bookstore is having their first-ever Open Mic Night January 10th from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The night will feature “Fragmentary Writing.” From their website:
“‘Fragmentary writing,’ what’s that?” you ask. Well, that’s what most of us do first (before we publish our Opus Majus). It’s bits and pieces of stuff, snippets, shards of thought, letters, diary and journal entries, short prose pieces, poetry, aphorisms, short essays, punchy letters to the editor and character sketches Oh, and songs…so music is welcome, too.
We’ll put out a money jar for a prize…winner takes all. Audience to be the judge.
Join us for some fun.
On the night of this frenzy of exposition, all books in the store will be 20% off.
Questions? Call 970-223-4019

Have a great weekend and happy writing!

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt WednesdayIt’s that time again where I attempt to wow you with these sure-to-inspire writing prompts. I’m also going to try real hard to stump Dean this time around . . . (check out Dean’s wicked prompt skills in previous WPWs).

  • “You’re a terrible liar,” Adam said.
  • The slash marks . . .
  • The sisters made a pact . . .
  • She didn’t recognize the car.
  • His laugh scared her.
  • They only had seconds before the . . .
  • Like a bad omen . . .
  • I had sworn I left the box . . .

Happy writing!

Anthology, Conference, and Contest . . .Oh My

So I have just a few reminders for you. . .

baby shoes

First, the Kickstarter for Baby Shoes: A Flash Fiction Anthology will be relaunching this Friday. In the meantime, check out the Facebook Page for it. My piece, “An Affair to Forget,” about a man who sees his imaginary girlfriend deep in conversation with his wife, will be nestled among 99 other authors who are participating, like Linda Needham, Joe Lansdale, Danika Dinsmore, and Walter J. Williams. This will be a great project to support, so I’ll keep you posted on the progress. 

10th Annual NCW Conference March 27-28 2015The Northern Colorado Writers Conference is open for registration. This is the 10th annual conference and as part of the Conference Creative Team, I can tell you, it’s going to be one hell of a party conference. 

NCW Top of the Mountain Book Award

And that’s a good segue into the 4th annual Top of the Mountain Book Award that we  give out at the conference. You don’t have to be an NCW member (or even a Colorado resident) to enter, and the contest is open to both published and unpublished authors. You also don’t have to attend the conference to enter. Submit the first 20 pages of your fiction or creative nonfiction manuscript, plus a 3-page synopsis by February 1st, and you could win $1000. It’s so easy it’s ridiculous.  

That’s it for now.

Happy writing!

Sunday Inspiration

Something to get you writing today (and hopefully, everyday) . . .

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”

~ Alan Watts

What is one of your favorite writing quotes?

Interview with Literary Fort Collins

Literary Fort CollinsRecently, I’ve had the honor of being interviewed by Emily Wenzl of Literary Fort Collins. Wenzl discusses (as you might guess) everything literary about this fabulous Northern Colorado city. I talk about . . . ah, me pretty much. Okay, a bit about how friggin’ hard writing can be, and I also dote on my critique group a little too. Anyway, check out Wenzl’s great blog if you get the chance.

Happy New Year!

My New Writing Gig

Northern Colorado Writers

The Writing Bug

If you’re not completely sick of me, then I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to know that I’ll be a regular contributor to the Northern Colorado Writers blog, The Writing Bug starting January 14th. I’ll be sharing Wednesdays with the talented JC Lynn. I’m excited for this new endeavor and I hope you guys can find the time to stop by and visit me, JC, and the other amazing authors at The Writing Bug. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve already been told that I have to keep my trucker mouth in check while I’m over there.)

And if you’re really not sick of me yet, you can see me with my fellow Conference Creative Team members in a trailer for the 2015 NCW Conference on March 27-28. Have you signed up yet? It’ll be a smashing good time! (Click above, not on the video pic).
NCW Conference Trailer

Hot Chocolate Press Festival

I suppose it’s time to announce that my second book—this time, a novel, will be published in March 2015 by Hot Chocolate Press. Remember when I talked about what fun it is to revise an old manuscript? Well, it wasn’t all for naught. Bobbing for Watermelons, my women’s fiction is finally going to be  real book. If you’re in the area, stop by the Hot Chocolate Festival at Boardwalk Gallery in Windsor, CO January 10, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for readings, art, and hot chocolate.
Hot Chocolate Press FestivalAnd if all goes well, I’ll be revealing the book’s cover as early as next week. In the meantime, check out (and Like) Hot Chocolate Press on Facebook. I hope you all had a great holiday and getting lots written. After two months of no snow, we received several inches last night, so I’m spending the day cozy-ing up and writing, well . . . editing actually. 
Colorado Winter

My view today.