Tag Archives: writing

Northern Colorado Writing News

Registration for the 12th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference is January 9, and I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s lineup. This time last year, when I took over directorship of NCW, the only thing we had done for the 2016 conference, was a secured venue. About six weeks later, we had most of our faculty set, but I was minus a few brain cells. I was so jazzed about the 2017 conference, that I got to work early on it and once again, we have a stellar conference on our hands. It also allowed me plenty of time to continually annoy Chuck Wendig, until he finally agreed to be a presenter and our keynote speaker. Now, I only annoy him once in a while.

This year, attendees will have more opportunities to get their work in front of literary agents and editors because not only do we have twice as many industry professionals as last year, we’re offering a critique session in addition to pitches. I’m still working on a lot of details, but you can view the SCHEDULE and check out our FAQs page. We would love to have you join us!

Also, there are a few new classes NCW is offering in February. Chuck Barrett, a bestselling, self-publishing extraordinaire, will be spilling all his marketing secrets on February 7. Chuck gave an abbreviated version of this class at last year’s conference to a packed room of attendees. It was one of the highest rated sessions last year.

 

Yours truly will be offering a class on how to publish your family history or memoir on February 12. Publishing options can be confusing and intimidating for writers, so for those who aren’t writers, but want to leave their legacy, or that of a loved one, the process can be daunting. That’s where I plan to blow the cover off this whole writing thing and show it’s not that hard after all. (Well, you know, sort of.)

Rachel Weaver will be teaching Get Your Opening Chapters Submission Ready  (perfect if you’re ready to query or pitch to an agent) on February 26. This is a 3-hour workshop that will help you polish those opening chapters when an agent or editor requests to read more.

 

I’ll be adding a few more classes, so check the site periodically for updates. I also want to let you know about Ultimate Pitchfest, a one-day event in Denver where writers will have the chance to pitch to 24 different literary agents via video chat. This is a great event and had a pretty darn successful inaugural event last year.

Happy writing!

Goodreads Giveaway

Hey, folks! I’ll make this short and sweet . . . I’m giving away 5 signed copies of Folsom’s 93 over at Goodreads.

Folsom's 93 by April Moore

2016 Northern Colorado Writers Conference April 22-23

2016 Conference-Banner

I haven’t done a very good job of keeping this blog updated, but as the new director of Northern Colorado Writers, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in conference planning. Our 11th annual conference is around the corner, but you still have plenty of time to register. You can even register for one day, or just a separate Master Class. Our keynote speaker is bestselling author Grant Blackwood who will also be teaching a workshop—lucky us! And you! This two-day event will boast over 30 workshops taught by award-winning authors and industry experts from all over the country. Grant Blackwood

Plus, who doesn’t want to visit Fort Collins?! It’s the land of beer, bands, bikes, and books! (and quite a few beards, it seems) Come for the inspiration and chance to get your work in front of a literary agent then enjoy a local brew.
FTC beer

And look at this gorgeous program! 90 pages of presenter handouts and other writing information you’ll refer back to again and again.

Writing the Range

In other news, I’ll be at the Denver Woman’s Press Club Networking Event this Saturday, April 9th from 2:00-5:00. This will be a great opportunity for writers to hear from writing organizations along the Front Range and do some networking and mingling. Bring those business cards! You never know who you’re going to connect with. 
Denver Woman's Press Club Networking Event

Happy writing!

Bobbing on Sale

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. Moore

Check it out: Bobbing for Watermelons is on sale at Amazon for $10.95 (Kindle: $5.99). Want to try before you buy? Read the first four chapters for free

SAVE THE DATE: On January 9th, I will be joined by my fellow Hot Chocolate Press authors at Bookbar in Denver for a night of readings, games, and giveaways. (We all decided I will talk about my melons.) I’ll post more info soon.

Have a great weekend.

On the Rebound

According to Hindu philosophy, animals eventually will reincarnate into people, but only if the animal has no fear of humans. This can only happen if we are kind to them. How many times have we heard someone say that their dog or cat thinks it’s a human? Some Hindus will tell you that that’s because their pet is in fact, ready to be a human in its next life.

I can get behind that.

Last month, we had to say goodbye to our eight-year-old boxer after he sustained a sudden illness. I believe the only thing Moe felt differentiated him from a human, was that he took a heartworm pill every month. I have no doubt he will become a handsome and charming human and will love long walks on the beach. (Think Ryan Reynolds.)

So of course, we knew we’d miss his exuberance when we came in the front door; miss taking him for his daily walk; and miss his goofiness, especially when an exercise ball freaked him out. But as the days and weeks have gone by, I felt his loss is unexpected ways:

Nearly-empty jars of peanut butter get rinsed with water instead of being licked clean before going into the recycling bin.A dog and his peanut butter

Eating popcorn without being watched, feels unnatural.

The mail sits in the mailbox at the end of the cul-de-sac for days at a time now because we no longer go on an evening walk and often just forget to pick it up.

Bringing groceries into the house is anti-climatic because the excitement radiating from this child-with-fur whose waiting for a surprise out of one of the bags, just isn’t there.

The wood floor in the kitchen has an annoying shine because the dried drool marks are gone.

I never thought I’d miss dog farts, nose prints on the glass door, and floating dog hair in the air.

I knew it’d be lonely, but holy crap, I had no idea. The Husband and I work from home, so when he went away for a work trip, I wasn’t fully prepared for the deafening silence. Even a tank full of fish or a lava lamp might have helped. Or dare I say . . . a cat? My neighborhood is full of free range felines and I have found myself keeping a lookout for them. I’ve fallen for a beautiful black one with white paws and green eyes that actually showed me some affection.

I know he’s no good for me. I’m allergic. But would it be so bad to let him come in and walk around? Snuggle a little? I could wash my hands and use a sticky roller on my clothes later . . . I could take an allergy pill. I’m all about protection.

Yes, I’m on the rebound. I’d take in a squirrel if it showed signs of domestication.

I know, just get another dog, right? First of all, it’s too soon. Second, with our son likely leaving the nest in about two years, The Husband and I would like to do some traveling for months at a time, so having a pet wouldn’t be a wise decision.

But . . .

In 2007, Moe picked us out when we came to look at a litter of seven boxer puppies. I believe he did that because he knew we would be his best chance at becoming a human in his next life. There’s no guarantee we won’t get another dog sooner rather than later, because when a dog picks you, you have no choice but to scoop him up and take him home.

 

UnWine with Books on September 24th

D's Boutique, September 24, 2015I’ll be joining fellow author, Kelly Baugh on September 24th at D’s Boutique in Berthoud, CO for a night of wine and readings. If you’re in the area, come say hello. Kelly will be reading from her women’s fiction, Miss You Once Again, an engaging story with memorable characters and a twist of Southern charm. And of course, I’ll be reading from Bobbing for Watermelons—no Southern charm in this one, but plenty of Midwest snark.

Would love to see you there.

The Purpose of a Critique Group

Earlier this week, Katherine from my critique group, sent a link to a post by Rachelle Gardner about developing a thick skin as a writer. Gardner points out that it will likely never happen, but that you will survive. 

I’ve been in the Raintree Writers since 2003 and myself and author, Patricia Stoltey, are the only original members (we’ve obviously scared everyone off). We’ve had to learn to not only take criticism, but to give feedback in a constructive way. Over the years, there might have been a tear or two shed by members (and it’s not because someone ate the last piece of chocolate on the table). It’s because writing is a personal endeavor and when you’re first starting out, it’s like watching your toddler trip and fall on the playground for the first time. You want to yell at whoever left the little dump truck half buried in the sand for your two-and-a-half foot tall cherub to trip over. Then you want to cry (which you probably will do). 

There’s no crying in critique group. Unless they’re tears of joy, no one should cry. You’re there to give honest, but constructive feedback. Always include positive comments interspersed in  your critique and approach your concerns with sensitivity. Chances are, if it’s something that needs addressing, others will chime in, too, so don’t channel your inner Simon Cowell. I also think it’s important to never should on anyone. You should have the aliens invade before the birthday party, or You should make this character funnier.

Laura Powers, one of our critique group members, said it best:

“You can’t let others dictate your story. Fellow writers are great for offering another perspective, spotting problems, sharing techniques, and helping you through creative blocks, but we are just passengers on your ride. You are driving the bus.”

And I’ll leave you with that. 

Happy writing.

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt WednesdayHere’s your biweekly set of prompts. Remember, these prompts don’t have to be the start of a story; use one to jump start a scene or new chapter.

  • “Do  you trust me?” he asked.
  • None of her training would help her now.
  • I knew how I ended up in a locked shipping container; question was, how do I get out?
  • My mother’s announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time.
  • The broken vending machine was just the beginning.
  • The cold wind blew in from the broken window.
  • He handed me a map and said, “Good luck.”
  • I died six weeks ago, but here I am . . .

Happy writing.

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt WednesdayHave at it.

  • His breathing slowed, but everything around us sped up.
  • If I see another happy couple, I’m . . .
  • I knew the moment he handed me the backpack, I’d regret taking it.
  • I wrote the note four times before I finally left.
  • Light from the fire glinted off the shards of glass.
  • Ethan wandered into the room, not knowing . . .
  • The explosion should have killed me.
  • She didn’t mean to steal from people; their belongings just ended up in her apartment.

Happy writing.

Back in the Saddle

CA collageNever underestimate the recharging power of a vacation. We just returned from a 9-day jaunt in northern California and it was spectacular. I feel refreshed and ready to go, especially now that I have a new project underway—this time, a young adult novel. 

Yesterday, I helped out at the Northern Colorado Writers booth at Fort Collins’ New West Fest where I got to chat with people about writing and sell a few books. 

New West Fest, Northern Colorado Writers

We (appropriately) rounded off the weekend with a nice cold What-A-Melon beer from a local brew pub. Who doesn’t love a book photo op?

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. MooreI’d also like to let you in on a deal.

Baby Shoes: 100 Stories, 100 Authors will be available tomorrow (August 18th) for half price. This is a really great book featuring some amazing authors showcasing their flash fiction chops. I’m honored to be among these authors with my story, “An Affair to Forget.”

Baby Shoes Anthology And finally . . . 

Polish up those manuscripts because the Top of the Mountain Book Award will be underway in about a month. A few guidelines have changed and entrants will now have the opportunity to get their submission critiqued. So keep this contest in mind and check the site mid-September for all the rules.

NCW Top of the Mountain Book Award

Happy writing!

 

 

Get Over It, Harper Lee Fans (or ex-fans, as it may be)

Harper Lee booksAdvice to authors: watch your back, because if you have the audacity to not meet your readers’ demands, you will be skewered. I feel for Harper Lee. It took only a matter of days to rip her down from a place of reverence and admiration (a position readers have bestowed upon her over the last fifty-five years) all because readers sanctified one of her characters.

(A character who the amazing Gregory Peck gave a nice, polished finish to.) 

Go Set a Watchman tells the truth and the truth can hurt. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Finch is defending the law, not supporting desegregation. We see Atticus through the eyes of his adoring 6-year-old daughter, so it’s not hard to imagine readers becoming the same 6-year-old who later discovers disappointing truths. But to say things like, Harper Lee ruined my life; and To Kill a Mockingbird is no longer my favorite book, is childish and petty. To suggest that Lee owed readers a happy ending to the lives of these fictional characters is selfish. You don’t have to like it, but to tear her down because of it, is terrible. Get over it.

To Kill a Mockingbird took on a life of its own and it’s no wonder Lee didn’t publish anything until now. If anyone wants a happy wrap-up to the lives of Scout, Jem, and Atticus, then take to the fan fiction boards and write your own damn sequel. 

Lee didn’t owe us a thing.  

 

Help a Writer and an Illustrator Out (Not talking about me)

David Kulczyk is a talented author friend of mine who is published under the same imprint as my first book, Folsom’s 93. David’s previous titles, Death in California, California’s Fruits, Flakes & Nuts, and California Justice are excellent true crime reads; I highly recommend them. For his forthcoming book, about the murdering ladies of the golden state, he’s hired an illustrator to provide original drawings. David is working with Oalf Jens, an amazing illustrator, but of course, it costs money. If you’d like to help a couple of guys out, check out David’s Go Fun Me; every little bit helps.

Go Fund MeAs David says, “being a writer is a tough row to hoe.” Because of my own fondness for whacked out, historical true crime, I’m enthusiastic about this new book. Also, tune in and listen to David on True Murder podcast; it’s a great interview.

Thanks!

California Fruits, Flakes & Nuts

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt WednesdayI took a little breather, but now the prompts are back. Same “rules” apply: Pick one, two, or however many you want, and write something. Post it here if you’d like. Write a story, whip out some flash fiction; just write. 

  • I bought it thinking it would help me win him back.
  • I should have known the police would find me.
  • The documents burned faster than I anticipated.
  • The trick to getting out of a hostage situation is . . .
  • She wondered what he’d look like carrying a . . .
  • Margo regretted taking the shortcut to work.
  • David had on that ridiculous shirt he bought at Caesar’s Palace.
  • Ruth didn’t expect to find herself in the same situation as before. 

Happy writing!

 

You Gonna Edit That?

Grammar Books -- April J. MooreWhen our son was little and we’d eat out, he often saved his French fries for last. The untouched fries would drive my husband bananas. You gonna eat those? He clung to the hope that our son would be too full to finish them once he finally got around to it. More often than not, our son, right before jetting off to the playground, would pass the few cold, remaining fries to his dad. All was right in the world again.

I’m the same way with editing. I like to organize and clean things up, so when it comes to editing, I bask in grammar glory that there are rules about such things. And yes, I know it comes off as annoying to some, but whether you like it or not, these editing shenanigans matter. They can make or break you as a successful writer.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t always adhere to these rules and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Fortunately, those mistakes are fixable and over the years, I’ve learned a great deal. I love reading manuscripts and offering content and copy edits. When I catch plot mishaps and dangling modifiers in a piece of writing, all is right my world again.

There are computer nerds, science nerds, and there are word nerds. That’s me. So I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m now offering editing services. You thought my Grammar Nazi ways were obnoxious already . . .

You see, I just want to get paid for being obnoxious. But helpful and professional, too. Whether it’s a full or partial manuscript, or an essay, or short story, I want to help. Visit my editing services page to learn more about what I can do to help bring your writing project to the next level.

And, on a somewhat unrelated matter, here is the Northern Colorado Writers podcast where Kelly Baugh and I discuss our latest books, our creative influences, and a hot new genre we are very excited about.

Mid-week Updates

Even though I’m taking a bit of a break these last several weeks, the world apparently keeps turning. I wanted to let you in a few tidbits of happenings. 
goodreads

First, head on over to Goodreads and enter a chance to win my latest novel, Bobbing for Watermelons. The fact that it’s National Watermelon Month ought to enhance your reading experience, right? 

This week, I’m at The Writing Bug ranting about rules. I like rules . . . just don’t ask me to adhere to them playing Monopoly, because I won’t. 

My flash fiction piece, “An Affair to Forget” is in Baby Shoes: 100 Stories by 100 Authors, available for pre-order and can be yours on July 20th. There are some amazing authors featured in the book and I’m excited to check them out. And flash fiction—how fun is that to read?!

And finally, check out the NCW Podcast where Rich Keller speaks to authors, industry professionals, and everything writing. I’ll be on an upcoming episode with my fellow Hot Chocolate Press author, Kelly Baugh. We discussed Geriatric Erotica . . . seriously. So look out for that episode.

Happy writing! 

June Swoon

I grew up as a Cubs fan so I know all about the June Swoon. It’s something my father would say with a sigh as we watched the Cubbies chalk up another loss. Just when we thought they were on their way, in came the slump. My own June Swoon actually started in May, and I’m still trying to weasel out of its grasp.

This is my writing desk, newly painted. I figured since I haven’t been using it, it’d be a fine time to repaint it.

Writing desk I realized, that when I had spent more time at the desk peeling the old paint off of it, than writing, it was time to take a break. The paint-peeling worked as a distraction from the glaring blank screen, but then the ugly desk became a distraction from the writing (at least, that’s what I told myself). I could talk about how peeling the layers of paint was like peeling back the layers of a scene or a character, or blah, blah, blah, but really, sometimes peeling paint is just that: peeling paint. It was also a sign that I need to step away for a little while. So that’s what I’ve done. 

Yesterday, as I got caught up with some podcasts, I scraped, sanded, and painted. And it felt good. It’s still in the garage with its new-desk smell and will eventually be hauled back upstairs. I’ll let it sit pretty for a little while as I work on peeling back my own layers and seeing what’s underneath. (Sorry, I had to do it.)

And it all started with a killer sunset . . .

Kayaking
SunsetDo you ever feel the need to step away from a project? How do you deal with a writing slump?

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday {Song Lyric Edition}

Writing Prompt WednesdayThings have been slow around here lately, so maybe one of these song lyrics will help spark a story. Songwriters tell their own stories. What story do these lyrics tell you?

  • Will you wait for me?
    Natalie Merchant, “Frozen Charlotte”
  • As he stands there in the door 
    there’s no room for him anymore.
    She lies there saying,
    “Honey take one last look.”
    Greg Brown, “My New Book”
  • I don’t have time to go back in time.
    I already lived it.
    Pete Yorn, “Close”
  • That morning sky gave me a look
    So I left while you were sleeping.
    Blind Pilot, “Half Moon”
  • was it you on my arm 
    like a tattoo carved in
    your strawberry curls
    against my black leather grin
    Jeff Finlin, “Long Lonesome Death of a Traveling Man”
  • She said she’d call but that was three weeks ago
    She left all her things well, her books and her letters from him
    Dido, “Mary’s in India”
  • And it’s impossible to tell
    How important someone was
    And what you might have missed out on
    And how he might have changed it all
    Feist, “Intuition”
  • We tried to make it work, you in a cocktail skirt and me in a suit but it just wasn’t me,
    David Gray, “Say Hello Wave Goodbye”

Hmmm . . . I now see a somewhat melancholy theme here . . . (and they’re all some of my favorites).

Well, happy writing!

Words & Images Workshop

Kayaks -- April J. Moore

I recently participated in a photography-poetry workshop where we learned how to take photographs (even with a camera phone) and combine finished pieces with works of poetry. I’ll be the first to admit that poetry is not my forte (you can see my previous dismal attempt here). For this workshop, Kerrie Flanagan helped guide us through writing haikus and Cinquains. Turns out there’s a science to this poetry stuff. 

Basic Haiku:
Line 1: Five syllables
Line 2: Seven syllables
Line 3: Five Syllables

Basic Cinquain:
Line 1: Two syllables
Line 2: Four syllables
Line 3: Six syllables
Line 4: Eight syllables
Line 5: Two syllables

This was a great workshop that got me to try something I hadn’t done before. I’ve always loved taking photos, but I never took them much further than my camera phone (which I’ll point out, took all of these photos). And of course, dabbling in poetry—something brand new to me—was fantastic. 

Hold On -- April J. Moore

My child,
who clings to me,
I’ve no arms to pull you;
what any mother longs to do.
Hold on.
                                                     ~ Mother Earth

Canoe -- April J. Moore
Come now,
moment is right.
Smooth, calm, and just like glass.
Bring a paddle so we can then
shatter.

Self Portrait -- April J. Moore

Forget about up,
cast your eyes on something else;
see the world anew.

Toshiba Tears --April J. Moore

Toshiba Tears

Unplugged and marked free.
Still, stories unfold on screens
that no one watches.

Droplets -- April J. Moore

Droplets gather here,
safe upon this ledge of green.
Don’t drip, drizzle, drop!

Suzette McIntyre, our photography instructor and owner of Boardwalk Gallery, put together a wonderful show of everyone’s work. Part of the fun was seeing what everyone had done. If you live in the area and are interested in participating in the next workshop (likely this fall) contact Suzette. Even if you don’t take a class like this, I urge to try this activity on your own; it might spark a new interest you didn’t know was there.
Words & Images reception -- April J. Moore

Words and Images Reception

Words & Images Reception -- April J. MooreIf you’re in the area this Saturday, you ought to swing by Boardwalk Gallery in Windsor from 5:00-8:00 p.m. The show is a culmination of photos taken from during a photography workshop taught by Suzette McIntyre, combined with poetry writing lead by Kerrie Flanagan. I’m excited to show my “body of work” and check out the other works from my fellow classmates. If anything, come for the wine and cheese . . .

Hope to see you there.
Words & Images, Self-portrait -- April J. Moore“Self-Portrait”

 

Y is for Yo Moment

Y is for Yo Moment 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThis is a tiny bit of a departure from my previous posts, but it still entails family. My late father-in-law was one amazing guy. Nearly eight years ago, he passed away from cancer just eight months after my own father succumbed to the disease. Maybe it’s a Dad-thing, but both guys would say “Yo!” But it turned into almost a signature expression for my father-in-law. 

Celebratory moments would garner a “Yo!” and fist bump from him—a simple expression and gesture that told you he was beaming with pride on the inside. We don’t superfluously throw around The Yo; only certain times warrant it and those are Yo Moments. That’s when you know it’s a big deal, such as when my last book came out, or when our son aced his 5th consecutive semester, or when The Husband got the promotion he had been hoping for. 

These Yo Moments are important. They carry us along as we continue to strive and push ourselves toward that next Yo Moment, when and wherever that may be. I encourage you to strive for your own Yo Moments, such as finishing that first draft, selling an article, or publishing a story. These are moments worth celebrating.

Y is for Yo 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThis is on the shelf in The Husband’s office as a reminder that life is full of moments. Go find them.

How do you celebrate your accomplishments?

A to Z Challenge 2015

X is for . . .

Having no idea what to write for my “X” post, I’ve put it off until the night before. Had I been writing about cult classics, I could have gone with “X-Files.” Or if I wrote erotica, “X-Rated” would be a given. But my theme is writing + old family photos . . . and here are my choices.
X is for . . . 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreI suppose I could have gone with “Xtreme,” “Xerox,” “X marks the Spot,” “X-Factor,” “X-Games,” “X-mas,” but none of these jumped out at me. So this is how I feel about today’s letter of day:
X is for . . . 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

A to Z Challenge 2015

W is for Writers’ Block

W is for Writers' Block 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThere’s a wall there, you just can’t see it. Apparently, my sister wasn’t in the mood to smile. I tried to help, but there was no getting through that wall. Blocked. That’s how I felt for a while because I had been struggling with what to write next. I’m not a big fan of the term writers’ block and I think we give it more power than it deserves. Maybe that’s why I’m so big on writing prompts—they can get you going when you’re stalled in the writing process. 

Look, the muse doesn’t give a shit if you’re staring at your computer screen, fingers poised on the keyboard, asking nicely for some inspiration. In fact, I’m convinced muses revel in watching us suffer, which is why you have to take charge. If you’re struggling with a scene in your WIP, get away from it. Distance can be the exactly what you need in order to come back with a fresh mind. Over at The Writing Bug, I recently wrote about using pencil and paper to get out all my thoughts—every possibility, every angle, every idea, and it worked; it got me my new novel idea.
Pencil to Paper -- April J. Moore
I also recently picked up The Amazing Story Generator that creates thousands of story ideas. 
The Amazing Story Generator -- April J. MooreThis book combines random settings, characters, and conflicts; the rest is up to you. That’s how I feel about writers’ block—it’s up to you. You’re the only one who can get yourself past a lull in your writing, so don’t count on being struck over the head with an idea while you’re binge watching on Netflix. That can happen, but, again, don’t count on it. You’re a writer; so write. No matter how crappy it is, it’s writing—and it will lead somewhere.  

How do you get going again when you’re stalled in your writing?

A to Z Challenge 2015

V for Vested

V is for Vested 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreThis is my grandmother holding her first grandchild—my sister. Even before Amy was born, Grandma had a vested interest in her. No monies, just love. Of course the gains on that investment repaid ten fold. 

We often hear writers reference their books as their babies. There’s a lot of truth to this: we labor over it for months, or years and it can be painful and joyous. Just as squeezing something the size of a football out of something the size of pea, is one helluva accomplishment, so is writing a book—usually. (Not to minimize childbirth, but go with me on this.)

In addition to time, writers put a lot of blood, sweat, and plenty of tears, into their work, so to say they have a vested interest in their book, is an understatement. Being emotionally vested is no joke. The idea, would be that in return for the emotional turmoil of writing a fantastic book, the writer gets paid (yes, please) and that the book receives high praise. Right? We all want to experience some level of success, that of which, is different for everyone.

Do you feel this way about your work? Do you feel devastated if your work isn’t received as well as you hoped? Do you think that the amount of work you put forth into your writing is worth every writing hour; every rip-you-hair-out moment; every agonizing editing session? Or is it easier for you to cut your losses and move on if a writing investment doesn’t go as planned? 

Where do you draw the line between love and business?

A to Z Challenge 2015

U is for Uncertainty

U is for Uncertainty 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreUh, there’s some uncertainty going on here . . .

But not us writers, right? I mean come on, whoever heard of such a ridiculous thing? I mean, if there was ever a group of people more certain about what they do, it’s wri—

Ahem.

*Covers mic*

*Frantic whispering*

What?!

*Embarrassed look + nervous laugh*

Uh, well, apparently I might be wrong about that . . .

Yeah. Covered, wrapped, coated, slathered and dipped in uncertainty and self-doubt; that’s how we writers roll—at least once in a while. Will people like it? Will readers “get it?” Am I making a fool of myself? Uncertainty can get us into trouble. It can stop us in our tracks and derail our progress. It can make us over-think everything, thus, hinder ourselves. It can cause great works from ever getting read at all.

When you feel this way, here’s what I suggest:

  • Try to establish why you’re uncertain. Is the work offensive? Poorly written or executed? So personal you’re afraid of how it’ll be received? Pinpoint the WHY.
  • Let someone whom you trust for an honest opinion, read it. 
  • Decide what to do with their advice, then move the f*!@ on. 
  • If you can’t shake the uncertainty, give yourself some distance and write something new, then come back to the work in question, with some clarity. 

A lot of uncertainty comes from our insecurities. Banish those right now, otherwise, they’ll always get the best of you—and your work.

How do you deal with uncertainty as a writer?

A to Z Challenge 2015

T is for Trends

T is for Trends 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

As you can see back in 1985, my sister and I were rocking a few trends: Banana-seat bikes, leg warmers, and those heated curlers called Benders.
BendersThey were all the rage, let me tell you. Okay, trendsetters, we were not. 

When it comes to writing, do you think it’s important to follow trends?

I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve identified a trend in writing, it’s already too late to cash in. In fact, I’ve heard agents say to never follow trends; just write a great book. Andy Ward, Nonfiction Editorial Director at Random House says, “Most of the books I work on take two to four years from acquisition to publication, so I feel in some ways that trying to predict trends is a recipe for frustration or even failure. I look for books that have the potential to survive any given moment, that either present ideas or writing that will be as interesting two years from now as they are today. So I guess the trend I try to follow is quality, whenever possible.”

Usually, what dictates a trend, is an uber-popular book. Agents saw a flurry of wizard books after the first Harry Potter. After Fifty Shades of Grey, agents were inundated with BDSM. In 2008, Writer’s Digest reported that in the Romance genre, vampires and paranormal subjects were hot. For thrillers, “terrorism” was on the top of the list, and “sexy, tongue-and-cheek urban fantasy” was taking over the sci-fi/fantasy market.

Jump to 2015 . . . here’s a list of what agents and editors are hoping for. They may not become trends, but it’s good to know what they want.

  • Less dark and gritty dystopian YA, and “back into interesting worlds with strong characters and intriguing plot setups.”
  • No more heroines who think they’re weak and lack confidence (thank you!)
  • YA that features more diversified characters, particularly those with disabilities. 
  • In Science Fiction, “LGBT characters are becoming more prevalent—less a major plot point and more just a character trait.” 
  • Science Fiction with thriller/suspense elements.
  • One editor expects to “see a lot of bighearted, outlandish eccentricity in the next year or so. . .look for a lot of color and spice this year. Imagination is paramount.” (The Last Illusion, 2. a.m. at the Cat’s Pajama’s, and Preparing the Ghost.)
  • Sophisticated voices with contemporary themes that can crossover from YA to adult.
  • YA mysteries and thrillers are in high demand.
  • Less angst and more fun: “it should be time soon for lighter, frothier material to come back.”
  • Historicals set in unconventional settings and time periods.

(source)

So there you have it; now go write.

What trends are you hoping will die off? And what do you see making it’s way to bookstores?

A to Z Challenge 2015

S is for Subjective

S for Subjective 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreNot everyone will like your book. Some will love it, while others might say, “meh.” Like art, books are subjective. Readers come from all walks of life, carrying with them, different perspectives and life experiences. These play a huge role in whether or not they like a particular book. Even Book-zillas like The Help, The DaVinci Code, and Pulitzer Prize winner, The Gold Finch, were not liked by some. It happens.

If you’re lucky enough to get any feedback from an agent regarding your query, sometimes their response includes a line about the book industry being subjective. Hence, don’t give up. It’s true. Yesterday, I talked about how my mom and I share books and more often than not, we have differing opinions on them. She and I are a lot alike, so it’s interesting to see that we don’t always like the same books. But that’s how it is sometimes. 

This is so important to keep in mind when getting a not-so-good review on Amazon, or receiving a rejection from an agent; it’s subjective. (However, when they all start pointing out the same things, you might want to investigate whether or not these things should be fixed.) Otherwise, ignore them and move on.

Subjectivity is something we just have to deal with; you can’t please everyone. 

Any advice for dealing with an agent’s rejection, and/or those who leave a less-than-positive review? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

N is for Notice

N is for Notice, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore
As you notice here, I am doing my best to get noticed, but the camera is pointed at my sister. Someone noticed, however, and took my picture, but did I notice? I doubt it. I was to busy trying to get noticed elsewhere.

How often do we do this as writers? When you stare at your Facebook page, or list of Twitter followers, do you ever feel like you’re jumping up and down, waving your arms and saying, “Look at my book! Look at my book!”? It always feels like everyone’s looking the other direction. 

Chances are, the more you parade around with your book, the least likely people will take notice. Just this week, I’ve come across a few authors who have some stern advice on author self-promotion. Delilah S. Dawson, tells us why we need to just shut up; and Jody Hedlund gives us her 5 reasons for unfriending authors on Facebook. And as always. Chuck Wendig offers his sage advice on the subject.

Bottom line, it sounds like we’re going about this all the wrong way. Dawson points out, social media does not sell books (which I’m tending to agree with), so maybe it’s time to stop trying to get noticed by those means, and start looking at the other avenues that are actually there to help get your work some attention.

Goodreads. It’s where the readers are. GR offers affordable advertising for authors, as well as opportunities to discuss your book and answer questions from readers. 
Talk to local libraries. If you have a group of fellow authors willing to spend an afternoon doing readings, approach libraries with the idea. They want to draw readers, too, so it could be a win-win. They usually have author programs and events, so it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them.
Bookstores. Yes, this is usually a no-brainer, but these days—at least where I live—a lot of the bookstores are charging authors $50-$200 to have a solo signing. Usually, promotion (print and online) is included in that, but if you ask me, that’s still a lot of money. With that said, they’re still worth looking into; you never know. Plus, if you rope in a few other authors, you could make it worth the smaller fee. 
Gift shops, coffee shops, etc. What if your main character runs a cafe? See about having a signing at your favorite local coffeehouse. If you mention a certain store or city in your book, you might have luck contacting that store, or bookstores in that city willing to host a signing. Local commerce usually loves it when their fine city is mentioned in a book.
Radio shows and podcasts. I talked about this yesterday, so I won’t get into here, but it’s certainly an often-overlooked venue for writers. 
Contact websites, eZines, and magazines that fit into your book’s genre/subject matter to review the book. Have a PDF version of your book ready to go so that you can shoot it off to someone who is interested. They may be willing to trade; they’ll review it if you write an article for them. Also be willing to send off hard copy freebies to some well-known reviewers. And think big, because you never know. If you’ve written an amazing book, why wouldn’t Leonardo DeCaprio want to make it into a movie?
Offer your services. Present at conferences, or teach a workshop with the local writing organization. These are great ways to showcase your talents and pass your words of wisdom onto others. Offer readers the the chance to read the first chapter or two of your book; or if you’ve written a short story, offer it for free for a limited time. Cross promote by offering a guest post to a fellow author. Like I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not about you; it’s about readers and what you can impart on their lives.

So if you feel as though you’re not getting noticed with the usual outlets, maybe it’s time to look in other directions.

What have you found to be the best way to get noticed as a writer?

A to Z Challenge 2015

M is for Media

M is for Media 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreSpecifically, radio. A lot has changed since the reel-to-reel days of yore. This is from the early ’80s when my dad was Program Director and deejay at a radio station. Radio has come a long way and with the advent of the podcast, hitting the airwaves has never been easier for a writer. I’m hooked on listening to podcasts like Criminal, Serial, This American Life and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Check out my post at The Writing Bug where I list several free writing podcasts. Lots of radio programming makes room for authors, so here are a few to check out.

BlogTalkRadio
The Author’s Show
Writer’s Voice
Authors On Air
NPR Books

It doesn’t hurt to add radio and podcasts to your list of promotion to-dos. 

I’ve done a few radio interviews to promote Folsom’s 93, and earlier this year, I got to chat on Justice For All, a radio show in Virginia.  

My first taste of being behind the mic was probably about the time this picture was taken. My sister and I would record songs and jokes in the station studio and send them to my grandparents. For your listening pleasure, I’ve got the recording Amy and I made for my grandfather’s birthday thirty-some years ago. The first 50 seconds are echo-y, but then it goes to normal. Around the 1:37 mark, you’ll hear my sister punch me in the arm. We sing songs, tell jokes, then start to bicker. You’ll also hear my parents with some background commentary here and there. Classic stuff.

 

 

Amy and April reel -- April J. Moore

 

 

A to Z Challenge 2015

L is for Language

L is for Language 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreI love this picture of my mom. It’s 1975 and she’s holding my older sister, who is only a few days old. Mom’s at the old Denver airport and her father took this picture. She’s showing him what she thinks about having her picture taken.

It’s pretty easy to express language through gestures in everyday life, but what about writing? 

Sometimes, it’s not so easy.

While in conversation, we roll our eyes, talk with our hands, or show certain expressions that are easily translated into how we feel (and sometimes, all in the same conversation)! I love that about language. Experts say that 55% of communication is nonverbal. Just drive in traffic at rush hour and you’ll see what I mean.

With books, however, readers expect most of the communication to come through the dialog exchanges between characters. Reading about a gesture is much different than the actual act of the gesture. If we have our characters roll their eyes, well, first your critique group will point out that your eyes are not dice, so they shouldn’t be rolling; and they’ll also tag all the other instances of eye-rolling in your book and tell you to cut most of them—it’s too many; it’s redundant. But isn’t that how people communicate? Like, all the time?!  

I find it can be so difficult to succinctly describe gestures and body language in my writing, and I suspect a lot of authors do; so much so, they choose to avoid it when they can. When we grudgingly  give into an argument, don’t we throw up our arms? Toss them in the air? Well, if you’re writing about zombies, then that could literally be the case, but readers might stop and ponder it too long. It’s probably not a huge blunder, but I’m guessing an editor would flag it. 

Most of what I’m talking about, are everyday gestures that we often do without even thinking: shrugging; guffawing (what does that even look like?); scrunching our nose when we smell something foul; or showing our dislike for someone or something. 

Even though these are common nonverbal cues, we are usually told to keeping them to a minimum in our writing. I think the key is to stay away from cliche descriptions of them, but can we still get our point across? Bottom line, gestures are visual cues and so as writers, it’s our job to convey these gestures in a succinct, clear, yet unique way.

How do you handle describing common gestures in your writing? 

A to Z Challenge 2015

K is for Keeping Secrets

K is for Keeping Secrets 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. MooreDoesn’t it look like my sister knows something you don’t? A little unnerving, isn’t it?

It can be easy for writers to keep secrets from their readers, but it generally doesn’t go over well. You want to surprise the reader, or build suspense, so you withhold a few things, but you can end up pissing off the reader. It can also feel insulting, as if the author thinks you’re too dumb to catch on. It’s not fun to be reading a book, when suddenly the author drops a bombshell that he clearly knew about from the beginning, but didn’t let you in on it.

Seriously, how does it not come up sooner that her father is half-alien?!

This is particularly annoying when it’s the protagonist whose coming clean in the last chapter. There is a fine line between deceiving the reader and devising a suspenseful plot. 

There’s also a difference between building suspense and building tension. It might be more beneficial to be honest with your readers by letting them in on it and then build tension by keeping the secret(s) from other characters, for example. You want to shock and surprise the reader, but your main character can’t be deceiving. You got yourself an unreliable narrator—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be done right. 

The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie, was one of the first books featuring an unreliable narrator. We read this one in my book club last year, and we seemed to be mixed on our feeling toward it. I hate to give anything away, but basically, it isn’t until the end, that we discover our first person narrator isn’t who he says he is. Yet, somehow, Christie pulled it off. The narrator didn’t actually lie about anything; he was truthful when asked questions—it was that the other characters didn’t ask the right questions. That, and Christie created a character with a trustworthy background. 

Other authors who did this well: Palahniuk (Fight Club); Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho); and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Be careful about keeping secrets from the reader because you can end up deceiving them. If you’re concerned about doing that, have someone who knows nothing about your story or book, read it. They’ll likely pick up on that stuff right away. 

How do you feel about unreliable narrators?  

A to Z Challenge 2015

J is for Juxtaposition

J is for Juxtaposition, 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore
Look at how well my sister and I are juxtaposed. Despite our matching attire, we had very different personalities. Not opposite; just different. Growing up, comparisons were often made by teachers; not only with looks, but with behavior. (She was way more behaved than me.)

Juxtaposition is a literary device that clues the reader into the contrasts between characters, concepts, and places. By drawing comparisons between two dissimilar things/concepts/people/places, writers can create a vivid picture in the mind of the reader. When I looked up some concrete examples of this, the same darn ones kept coming up. I didn’t want to regurgitate them, but they really are great examples.

Characters: John Milton’s narrative poem, “Paradise Lost.” In it, Milton places good and evil (God and Satan) side-by-side, in order to showcase the contrast, thus, making Satan’s inevitable exodus below ground, a reasonable conclusion. 

Concepts: Shakespeare was a juxtaposition genius and there were several examples of this in his work. This part, from Romeo Juliet, Will wanted to show the contrast between “light” and “dark.” He is wanting to show that despite the darkness of night, Juliet ‘s face radiates against the skin of an African: 

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;” 

Place: Charles Dickens does this in A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

(source)

I did come up with a few examples on my own, that are more modern. In the Harry Potter books, readers are aware of the good vs. evil concept, and Rowling does a great job of doing that, by subtly placing Harry and Volemort side-by-side. Harry has a nightmare where he faces several doors, but then the scar on his forehead burns. The reader surmises/is reminded that it is the work of Voldemort. 

Stephen King is also a master of juxtaposition. In Cujo, we see the marked contrast with this vicious, killer canine and the everyday suburban life. In Secret Window, King places us in a quiet, idyllic setting with the tortured, chaotic soul of a writer. (Which is another thing he got right.) 

You follow me?

Common proverbs in the English language make use of juxtaposition:
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
All’s fair in love and war.
Make a mountain out of a molehill.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Other ways things to compare:
Young and old
Funny and sad
Warm and cold (as in emotions or personalities)
Pious and atheism
Clean and dirty (such in The Odd Couple, or prude vs. not-so prude )

You don’t have to beat the reader over the head with these differences; being subtle and consistent can be enough to show what you’re trying to get across to the reader.

Do you use juxtaposition in your own writing? If so, how?

A to Z Challenge 2015

I is for Impression

I is for Impression 2015 A to Z Challenge -- April J. Moore

I dedicate this post to Ivan Doig, a great American author, whose work left a lasting impression; a literary legacy worthy of admiration. 

Oh geez. 

I’m not sure what impression I was trying to make here, but if Facebook had been around in 1982, you bet your ass I would have posted this gem. 

I’m not always known for making a great impression, or even an appropriate one, and I often tell myself I should stick to leaving an impression with my books, essays, and stories.

Writers leave impressions because they want their name and/or their work to be remembered. Author Kristen Lamb made a hilarious impression by promoting her books using feminine hygiene products. (Seriously, it’s hilarious.) When it comes to book promotion and signings, I tend to lack the creativity to come up an impression-leaving gimmick, so I try to leave an impression with my work. 

We hear so often about having a strong beginning to snag readers, which is still important, but what about an ending? Isn’t that your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression? It could be what’ll make a reader hug the book to her chest and sigh, or close the book and say, “Hmph. I was kind of hoping for . . .” Even if she enjoyed the rest of the book, the impression you leave her with, particularly at the end, can change how she feels about the entire book. That can also be a good thing. What if the reader found the book just okay, but the ending brought it all together? It happens. Obviously, our goal as writers is to wow from start to finish. 

Every book and story is different and it doesn’t have to  be a happy ending or a cliffhanger, as long as it leaves the impression that you hope it will. Take a step  back and decide what your overall message is and bring your story around to that; hint at it, at least. Maybe you’re trying to bring awareness to a particular issue. Or that you hope readers will be more open-minded about something. Or maybe you just want them to close the book, smile, and write a raving Amazon review. 

Endings can be hard to write; they’re not usually my favorite part to come up with, but they are very important to the reader, so devote a good deal of attention to them. You only have one opportunity to leave a last impression.

How do you like to leave an impression as a writer?

A to Z Challenge 2015

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

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

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!

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!

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!

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.

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!