Highlands Scottish-Irish Festival

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My husband and I used to go to the Highlands Scottish-Irish Festival in Estes Park, CO every year. Unfortunately, it’s the same weekend as the writer’s conference I’ve been attending for the past several years–Colorado Gold.  (Colorado Gold is my favorite writers conference ever–if you’re a writer and you’ve never gone before, I sincerely urge you to give it a try. You will leave vowing to go again the next year. And the year after that.)

But I digress. This year I decided to attend the Festival again. While I desperately missed my writing friends at conference and the loads of information gleaned there, we enjoyed the Festival with friends.

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The fun started with a parade on Saturday morning that beats any parade I’ve ever seen. And the best part? There’s absolutely nothing political. How unusual is that? Just pure fun of all things Scottish and Irish. And oh, for the bagpipes!

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So many clans in their colors!

The activities at the fairgrounds consisted of Scottish athletics, jousting, pipe band competitions, Irish dance, Highland dance, exhibitions of dogs from the British Isles, Celtic rock and folk music, sooooo much amazing food, commercial tents, a Guinness tent, (for those not familiar with Guinness beer, it’s a must while at the Festival–for those who imbibe), and so much more.

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And my favorite entertainer there since we’ve started going…none other than Seamus Kennedy. The guy has a sense of humor that draws quite the crowd.

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The weekend of September 11, 2020…Highlands Scottish-Irish Festival or Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference…choices, choices, choices. Perhaps cloning so both is an option…

A little Scottish humor: “Kilt. It’s what happened to the last person who called it a skirt.”

Book in a Day

Book

Last week was perhaps one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a long time, in large part due to Crime Victims’ Rights week (more on that next week), causing me to fall a bit behind on my Camp NaNo hourly goal. Nothing I can’t make up, though. And Saturday’s all-day event made it worth it.

Book in a Day, put on by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, was an all-day event in beautiful Golden, CO. Although, to tell the truth, I didn’t get to see beautiful Golden because I was in a conference room all day with nary a window.

But, again, it was worth it.

The event began with Stuart Horwitz, founder of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors, and Anita Mumm, teaching a class based on Stuart’s latest book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts. Given how informational and motivational the class was, I would strongly recommend the book.

Following that was lunch with fellow creatives. And there’s nothing that gets a room more fully charged with inspiration than writers brainstorming, sharing information, and networking–with FOOD! 🙂

Tummies and brains fed, we moved into simultaneous afternoon sessions, one on Indie Publishing and one on the path to Traditional Publishing. While I’m an indie author with seven published books, I attended the latter. I really enjoy being an independent author and it was my choice to do so (in fact, I didn’t even consider traditional publishing for a very long time), but with a new series brewing in my head, I’m considering shopping around for an agent. Considering. I’m still undecided. The class was taught by Angie Hodapp of Nelson Literary Agency. Now, let me say that I’ve attended several of Angie’s classes and have never been disappointed. The woman is a genius and knows how to deliver a message. In fact, when I attend the Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference in May, you can bet I’ll be attending her classes there as well.

The last session? Marketing. I tend to shudder when I say that word. Simply because if there’s one weakness I have in the writing life, it’s marketing.  The session, however, was a treat! Successful, talented, and kind-hearted indie authors (Bernadette Marie, Lisa Manifold, Corinne O’Flynn, Nathan Lowell) and, again, the wonderful Angie Hodapp, shared in an entertaining, informative, attention-keeping manner the ins and outs of what has and has not worked for them. Social Media appears to be the most agreed upon success.

To make it easy to find them, I’ve included the links to their websites. It’s well worth your time to check them out.

 

And now…I’m back off to Camp to begin week three of revising book two, Abby’s Retribution, in my Whispering Pines series. The lanterns are lit, the bonfires are burning, and the campfire conversation is flowing. I think it’s time to break out the s’mores!

 

Colorado Gold

Colorado Gold

Colorado Gold means more than the golden Aspens in autumn. To a Colorado writer, it also means the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference in Denver. Held the weekend after Labor Day, it’s the perfect way to get motivated and rejuvenate one’s writing goals and spend time in the company of other like-minded writers while ushering in the fall season. By like-minded writers, I mean those who think it’s completely normal to research how to poison someone without getting caught, which gun is the best to “do the job” and who think sitting in a chair thinking is some of the hardest, yet most enjoyable, work there is.

Some conference highlights:

The view of the Denver skyline from my hotel room was motivating in and of itself.

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James Scott Bell gave a six-hour intensive workshop titled “Writing a Novel They Can’t Put Down.” I’ve read his books on the craft of writing several times over. Some of them (Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing, both Writer’s Digest Books), I’ve marked up, highlighted, dog-eared, and stuck sticky notes to so many pages, that they look a little worse for wear. But I still refer to them often. Hearing him speak was writer’s gold.

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Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, was a keynote speaker and delivered a powerful speech on the birth of his writing career, how Eragon began as a self-published work, growing into the enormous success it is.

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Kate Moretti, author of four novels and a novella (her first novel, Thought I Knew You, was a New York Times bestseller), gave the packed room of writers hope and inspiration regarding her immediate success that led to a series of what most would consider failure. Yet she persevered, something writers all too often need to force themselves to do, and came out on top. It’s that perseverance that makes a writer a winner no matter how many rejections s/he may get.

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Four classes, “The Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty of Making Prose Pretty” and “Strip-Searching Your Prose,” both presented by Tiffany Yates Martin, and “Beyond Goal+Conflict” and “Expand! Contract! The Dance of the Well-Paced Story,” both presented by Angie Hodapp, were by themselves well worth the cost of the conference. Anytime you have a chance to listen to either of these women speak on the craft of writing, I recommend jumping on it! I promise you’ll come out all the better for it. And the class titled “Pique Those Ears! An Author’s Guide to Audiobooks” by Sue Duff has led to a contract with a narrator. My Melanie Hogan series will soon be audiobooks! 🙂

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Another highlight was sharing this phenomenal experience with good writing friends, especially my sisters from writer’s group Sisters in Crime Colorado. These ladies provide support, advice, encouragement, and shared knowledge, enriching the full writing experience.

Colorado Gold? Yes, Please!

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.                       –Francis Bacon

Writers and Writing

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Is there anything more intoxicating than being in a room full of motivated writers? If there is, I can’t think of what it would be.

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a writing workshop in Denver, Writing Commercial Fiction, by Jeffery Deaver, hosted by Rocky Mountain Chapter Mystery Writers of America, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. This was my second time I was blessed to learn from him, the first being at the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference. What a talented, generous, wonderful man!

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The five hours were packed with useful information, no fluff, no time wasted.

He started with general rules of writing fiction which included:

Define your goal as a writer, remember your mission, writing fiction is a business, adopt the mint-flavored business model (as an author it’s our job to give the reader a pleasant experience, mint vs liver-flavored toothpaste), the subject of your story and what it should be about, plan your book or story ahead of time (he’s a huge advocate of outlining and research and completely convinced me to put more time into each), and know your craft (from style, prose, grammar, punctuation, syntax, the publishing market, and technology). He touched on being aware of your shortcomings, the importance of rewriting, continuing your education via classes and conferences, that rejection is a speed bump and not a brick wall (something we can all benefit from to remember) and take your time in all aspects of writing. Hurrying the process will only result in a lesser quality piece of written work.

From there he spent time on the four elements of a story:

Plot – Continually introduce conflicts. Every scene needs to raise questions. Aim for the WOW! factor. He suggested holding off on answering those questions as long as possible. Unresolved anticipation is good, but never leave a conflict, clue, or subplot unanswered. Every question needs to be answered at the end of the book and every clue resolved. He talked about adding subplots, humor, and even a few fun facts. He explained the importance of using plot reversals and how to energize the middle of the book. I was surprised (pleasantly so since I’ve always struggled with the 3-act structure) that he doesn’t believe in the 3-act structure but rather a linear structure with a series of ups and downs. He talked about the need for surprise endings, that your twists need to have consequences, and the necessity of creating risks for your characters by incorporating physical threats, death, or a loss of something, whether it be love, friendship, a career, or any other loss that’s significant to a character. He touched on using the Goldilocks principle when incorporating research–not to little, not too much, but make sure it helps the story and furthers the reader’s understanding.

Characters – It’s good to have a protagonist with flaws but s/he needs to be likeable, don’t create passive characters, observe people constantly to make your characters better, give them quirks and tics, the best way to reveal a character (telling the reader directly, describe the appearance, thoughts, and feelings, using dialogue, through the character’s actions, and through others reactions). And we can’t leave out that even the villain needs to be a little likable. Shoot for compelling characters instead of interesting.

Setting – The setting is essentially another character but less important than plot and character. The plot should be developed first, then populated with characters, then setting comes into play. He stressed the importance of doing your research on settings. Boots-on-the-ground research is best, but if that isn’t possible, use the Internet.

Dialogue – Don’t over explain during dialogue, write as if someone is talking (use contractions and break the rules of grammar), match the characters with their dialogue, and when using a dialogue attribution “said” and “asked” are best.

This is only a brief explanation of topics covered. Each section was chock full of information, suggestions, examples, and personal stories. And when I asked if I could record his presentation, he was kind enough to allow it. That’s generosity, folks! His passion for his profession is hugely contagious. (How’s that for the ole ly adverb?)

Numerous members of my Sisters in Crime-Colorado writing group attended as well. (I’m third from the right with the cut-out shoulder shirt). To say it was beneficial to us as writers is an understatement. If he’s ever presenting at a conference/workshop in your area, I highly recommend any and all writers to attend. You won’t be sorry. It will be a mint-flavored experience!

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And now it’s back to Camp NaNo where I have a manuscript vying for my attention.

Write on. Have a beautiful week!

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
― Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

Authors Supporting Authors

Paulo Coelho

This past Saturday I was fortunate to be a part of book event at Welcome to the Bookstore with some author friends. There was a scavenger hunt, trivial pursuit, author readings, refreshments, drawings, and a whole lot of camaraderie with some amazing authors.

I’m equally fortunate to have found such an amazing writer’s group to belong to, Sisters in Crime-Colorado  (SINC-CO). What amazing and talented women we have, not to mention a lot of fun! We learn and build from each other, grow together, support each other, and celebrate each other’s successes. I get all that and I’m not even able to participate in several of the events because of this “thing” that gets in the way. It’s called busy-ness. 🙂

Being part of a writer’s group has grown my writing career beyond anything I could have hoped for, and for that, I am so grateful! I’m also a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and urge you to check them out as well. I’m over-the-top excited to attend the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference next month in Denver.

Speaking from my own experience, if you’re a writer and on the fence about whether to join a writer’s group or not, I would like to give you a gentle nudge, helping you to the other side of that fence–the side that finds you surrounded by the amazing support of a writer’s group.

Book Event with SINC-COThose of us that participated in Saturday’s event include from left to right:

Rhonda Blackhurst (that would be me 🙂 ), Karen Whalen, Francelia Belton, Theresa Crater, Donna Schlachter/Leeann Betts, Rosa (owner of Welcome to the Bookstore)

I encourage you to take a moment and check out their websites.

Happy reading, happy writing, and most importantly, happy living!

 

 

RMFW Conference

This past weekend I attended the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s (RMFW) Conference in Westminster, Colorado. This was my first–but definitely not my last–with this group. I was impressed and blessed from the moment I arrived to the moment I left. The sessions offered were exactly what every writer needs to know in order to grow, not to mention entertaining, the presenters were knowledgeable and relatable, and the camaraderie amazing. I’ve yet to meet a group of people who are more invested in helping one another grow, who so selflessly share their experiences to any and all things writing, and who are successful, whether published or not,  in what we all love to do. Write. I left a rich woman. Rich with knowledge, new friendships, and opportunities.

The scenery from the hotel was an added bonus.

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The only negative? Trying to decide which sessions to attend when there were so many I wanted to be at. As far as I’m aware, cloning isn’t available yet. 🙂

The sessions I did decide on were:

Homicide for Writers, Not Criminals, by Tracy Brisendine; The Joys, Pitfalls & Techniques of Revision, by Carol Berg; The Juggling Act: Writing for More Than One Publisher, Even Especially if One of Those Publishers is Yourself, by Cindi Myers; Birds of a Feather: Mystery, by Linda Berry; Resistance: What’s Keeping You From Writing, by Mario Acevedo & Aaron Michael Ritchey; All About BookBub, by Cindi Myers; Readers, Reviewers, and Trolls: Rules for Author Engagement in the Age of Social Media, by Colleen Oakes; Elements of the Modern Crime Novel, by Christine Goff; The Business of Writing Fiction Today, by Jeffery Deaver. (Yes, the Jeffery Deaver. For someone as popular as he is, he was kind and approachable.) And when author Desiree Holt spoke, I think she inspired everyone in the room. And there were a lot of people to inspire!

Also, I attended my first ever author reading. Why I waited so long is the million dollar question. If you ever have an opportunity to listen, grab it. You’ll be in for a huge treat! I also pitched to an editor for the first time ever, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to pitch to for my first time. At a time when anxiety is through the roof, she made the experience not only comfortable, but enjoyable. AND…she’s asked me to submit my full manuscript. 🙂

And now, after a weekend that fed and filled me as an author, I’m looking forward to taking the time to chew on, digest, and process all I was given, and to use the energy produced by the writer nutrients on both of my WIP’s.

Readers are paramount. I live to write books for them. -Jeffery Deaver

Writing Communities

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For a writer, deciding to belong to a community of other writers will be one of the best choices you make. Writers understand other writers and the struggles we all go through like no one else can. It’s similar, I suppose, to any group of people with like interests.

Cops can understand each other’s black humor and often use it as a healing method, when the rest of society might think they’re crazy and a sandwich short of a picnic.

Alcoholics draw strength and support from one another that they can’t get from anyone else, hence the huge success of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Christians find peace, joy, and acceptance from brothers and sisters in Christ among other Christians, as they come to know there is strength in numbers.

Victims of crime find comfort in the presence of those who have gone through a like experience. Other human beings who understand the pain, the shame, the healing, and the rising from the ashes.

And on and on. You get the picture.

Paulo Coelho

For writers, the benefits of belonging to a community are endless. There are groups on Goodreads for just about everything writers experience; there are online critique groups as well as in-person critique groups; there are local writers groups as well as online writers groups, some with local chapters; there’s the blogging community to connect with those who have similar interests as you or to broaden your knowledge base; and let’s not forget the magazine community (think Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writers, and The Writer.) And these are just a few of the groups out there.

It’s in these groups that you will get ideas on how to manuever through the publishing process, whether you’re aiming for traditional publishing or going the indie route; it’s in these groups that you will get ideas for and help with:

Marketing and Promotion – One of the most difficult aspect of being an author is how to market and promote your book after it’s published. It’s here an author learns that writing the piece was actually the easy part. But it doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes make it. Building from one another’s successes and learning from each other’s failures make the load a whole lot lighter to bear.

Formatting and Editing – For indie authors, formatting a manuscript for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or the old-fashioned paper format, can be a daunting task. Especially for those technologically challenged. Like yours truly. The knowledge from others in the group that are technologically savvy is priceless. And giving back in an area that is your strength is beyond satisfying.

Support and Encouragement – When a writer gets a bad review, isn’t selling any books, is having a serious case of self-doubt or writer’s block, who better to get support from than the very people who have gone through the same exact thing. Over. And over. And over.

Reviews and the Chance to Review – The truth of the matter is, as much as we would like them to, our books don’t sell themselves. Many readers depend on the sum of a book’s reviews to determine if they want to read it. Swapping reviews gives you a chance to get your book reviewed by someone who’s well-read and offers the chance to review another’s, which in turn only strengthens your own writing.

Critiques – What a better way to perfect your writing than by having other writer’s critique your work and having the opportunity to critique theirs. It’s a win-win.

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I have my blogging community where I share, learn, connect and make friends. I belong to local writer’s groups, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Northern Colorado Writers, where I learn by listening to other writers, taking classes and attending writer’s conferences. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, of which we’re starting a local chapter, and Guppies, an online chapter of Sisters in Crime. I belong to several groups on Goodreads, and participate in NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo, both of which take writing communities to a whole new level. 🙂 It’s in these communities I find myself improving and growing as an author. And it’s in these places that takes the joy of writing and turns it into a thrilling adventure.

What groups/communities do you belong to? How has it benefitted your growth?