Thursday, September 27, 2012

Frightening Flicks for the Season

Egads! It’s only September 27th but it looks like the spirit of Halloween has already haunted us with a new look! That’s okay. We welcome the All Hallow’s Eve month with open boney arms. Thanks to Janet Fogg (lot’s of scary things live in the fog) for the new head.

To kick the season off, I thought I might recommend some films to help strike the mood.

The Skin I Live In (2011) stars Antonio Banderas in a twist on the Frankenstein story. Although he is still a sultry man, rest assured ladies that the suave latin lover will not be making you melt so much this time as scaring you. An exceptional performance on his part. This foreign film is billed as a psychological thriller, but I’d call it a literary horror piece.

Robert Carlyle who is incredibly intimidating anyway will creep you out in Ravenous (1999) which also stars the chameleon actor Guy Pierce. It’s a fascinating twist on vampires, bleeding with dark humor. Warning: very gory, but done tastefully.

Finally, let’s turn back the pages a bit to the old HBO series Tales from the Crypt. Particularly, the episode entitled And All Through the House. The tension in this short about an escapee from a lunatic asylum wearing a Santa suit will drive you batty. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it’s considered one of the finest horror screenplays of all time.

And here’s one only a little over two minutes long from an impressive independent film company called Fewdio. It’s not gory, or profane and won’t jump out at you. But don’t watch it alone in the dark! It will definitely stick to your neck and won’t leave.

Ghosto Dave

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grammar Absurdities: KISS

The idiocy behind the usage of ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ is probably the best examples of how jacked up our language is.

Because ‘it is’ in contraction form has to be written as ‘it’s’, the evil twin that shows possession, ‘its’, cannot use the apostrophe—even though every other word that shows ownership sports the shallow apostrophe up there. And you know why don’t you? Because we painted ourselves into a corner.

Yep. All the brilliant academics tweaking away at our language, trying to integrate colloquialisms, had to go and stick an apostrophe in our lingo and mess it all up. They should have kept it simple. KISS. Not the rock group. Although I did use to Rock and Roll All Night. KISS stands for: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And we failed to do so with our language.

Here’s another mess caused by the apostrophe:

That is Cyrus’s house. (Or is it Cyrus’ house?)

Both possessives look like crap.

Check out how it’s done in Spanish. Es la casa de Cyrus. Clear as a chime and simple. De shows possession.

About the only semi sophisticated usage that makes sense to me is the semicolon. When kicking off this series, I kind of attacked the semicolon by asking what it was for. But here’s an excellent example of its usage taken from The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference:

I saw Meagan only three times after her divorce; once was at a dance recital in Berkeley.

I mean…that’s an awesome example. But then they cram a stinker in there like this:

A month or so later, they were back together; in fact, they plan to marry in October.

Really? Why complicate that one? Just break it into two sentences and be done with it. But NOOOOOO. Someone just had to muddy the waters.

As for the first exemplary illustration, the problem is that a dash would work just as well.

So my conclusion is this: try as hard as you may in order to become that elegant concert pianist of English. But no matter how hard you strive, your melody will always have some grit in it. And that’s what makes the art of writing beautiful.

The ever opinionated E.C. Stacy

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Looking at the Same-Old Same-Old in a Different Way

by Pat Stoltey

Our power of observation, one of the best tools we have available as writers, gets rusty when we grow too accustomed to our surroundings.

Three years ago, when my first grandchild was six-months-old, she gave me a wonderful lesson in looking at common things in a new way. Talia, for instance, was fascinated by anything electronic. The television stayed off most of the time because she wouldn't take her eyes off the screen when it was on. The laptop computer enthralled her the same way, and she thought it was loads of fun to lunge for the keyboard and make exciting things happen. And if she was allowed to get close enough, she even tried to taste it.

A tall pile of magazines was a temptation not to be ignored. She toppled the stack many times...and tasted the covers. She even tasted my sweater when I held her in my lap.

So today I'm looking at the television screen, and the computer, a stack of magazines, even my sweater, and wondering what Talia saw that I don't see. Color? Movement? Texture? Or was everything just a potential teething ring? After all, we did catch her chewing on the coffee table.

There's a lesson here, of course. As writers, we need to stay alert to our surroundings, do things that make us see the same old stuff in a new way. We tend to take the same route to the grocery store, order the same meal at a frequently visited restaurant, wear the same clothes on Sunday, follow an orderly routine first thing in the morning, or before going to bed.

What happens if we change it up a bit? Take the long way around when we drive to the store and pay attention to what we see along the way? Go to that favorite restaurant, but order something we've never ordered before and savor every bite?

Forcing ourselves to look at ordinary things in new ways can help us write better descriptions. What do you see when you look at your laptop? What do you think Talia saw when she stared at the television?

Have you tasted a sweater lately? Or a book? Smelled your garden-fresh tomato?

What do you do to sharpen your power of observation?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dear Rocky: No More Whining

Dear Rocky,

Months ago I was whining about how I couldn’t find enough time to write, and a friend, who is really organized, said I should keep track of what I do all day for a couple of days – minute by minute – and that she’d help me set up a schedule. She nagged me every time I complained (we’re good friends, really!), and so I finally did it. For three days.

OMG! I spent at least two hours fooling around on social networking every morning, just chatting or looking at photos and videos. I couldn’t believe it.  Not to mention the time I spent in the afternoon.

So I promised myself and my friend that from now on, before I do any surfing, I have to write at least one page. And it’s WORKING! I’m really making progress on my book! And I’m still having fun on the net.

I know this is pretty basic, but I wanted to share in case it might help someone else stop and think.

No More Whining


Dear No More Whining,

Thank you for sharing an excellent lesson learned.

This is a timely reminder for us all!


We invite you to email questions, share your writing tales and travails, or suggest blog topics to:

The Dear Rocky column is published on the last Monday of the month.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

President of the McIntosh and Otis Literary Agency, Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein

Interview conducted by Karen Duvall

I was fortunate to catch my busy agent recently for an interview. This is a special treat! Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein, president of the McIntosh and Otis Literary Agency, has been my agent for 4 years and she is an amazing story editor, extremely responsive, well-informed about the publishing industry, and an all around fabulous person.

CIR: How long have you been with McIntosh and Otis? What did you do before becoming an agent?

EWR: I’ve been with McIntosh and Otis for fourteen years. Before becoming an agent I worked in various areas of publishing including subsidiary rights and Audio Acquisitions & Audio Producing. I also moonlighted as a Jazz singer and composer.

CIR: How many queries do you receive a week or month on average? Have you noticed an increase over the past couple of years? Do you think more people have taken up writing fiction and if so, why do you think that is?

EWR: Hundreds! Our Agency has been around since the 1920s and we are very well established, so we have always received many queries. I can’t say that I’ve noticed any particular recent upward trend or a trend towards more fiction.

CIR: What are four of the biggest mistakes you see writers make in their queries and beginning manuscript pages? What immediately makes you say "no" and alternately, what hooks you?

EWR: One of my biggest personal pet peeves is misspelling my name (it’s sloppy and plain bad form). In fiction queries it can be a bit off-putting when the author talks too much about themselves and their inspiration vs. getting to the actual plot. Show me don’t tell me!

CIR: When you're considering a new client, how much do you take market into account? If you receive a great manuscript that's not in a “hot” market, do you pass on it? Or does a good story always sell?

EWR: A good story does not necessarily always sell (unfortunately), but if the characters draw me in and the writing is fantastic I am NOT afraid to take something on when it is “out of fashion.” I am not one to jump on trends anyway. Trends come and go, good writing lasts forever.

CIR: What genres seem to be most popular right now? What trends or themes do you see as being in high demand among publishers?

EWR: The strongest trends in publishing right now seem to be towards women’s book club fiction, commercial narrative non-fiction, and of course romance!

CIR: How has the fluctuating climate in publishing (both due to a struggling economy and changing technologies) impacted how you do your job?

EWR: It is much more of a juggling act. We are trying to explore all rights opportunities. So in many ways we not only act as literary agent, but also rights manager and PR consultant.

CIR: What would an ideal author-agent relationship be for you?

EWR: Ideally one of trust and mutual respect, with some fun and mischief thrown in.

CIR: Are you taking submissions? Anything in particular you'd love to see right now?

EWR: Yes! I’d love to see any project with a creative story, an amazing hook, remarkable characters, AND good writing!

If you would like to send Liz a query, please follow the submission guidelines on the McIntosh & Otis Literary Agency website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Three Authors, Three Questions: September 2012

Our guests for September are mystery authors Margaret Coel and Molly MacRae and novelist Stephen Graham Jones.

Welcome to Three Authors, Three Questions


Margaret Coel is the author of the New York Times bestseller Wind River mystery novels, two suspense novels set in Denver, four non-fiction books, and a collection of short stories. She recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Colorado Arts and Humanities. She has also received the Frank Waters Award for her work on the American West, and the High Plains Emeritus Award for a lifetime of outstanding work. Her eighteenth novel, Buffalo Bill's Dead Now, arrives this September.

You can learn more about Margaret and her books at her website. She can also be found on Facebook.

1. Margaret, how do you approach the revision/editing process after you’ve completed the first draft of a manuscript?

Very carefully. This is where the real work is done. I've always maintained that writing is actually rewriting. I begin with a quick overview that tells me what I need to delete. No need rewriting that! I start at the beginning and work my way through the manuscript, checking facts and consistencies, making sure the plot makes sense. Then I do a final rewrite, shaping the sentences and selecting the best words. As Hemingway put it, rewriting is about getting the words right.

2. Of all the novels or short stories you’ve written (published or unpublished), which one is your favorite and why?

That's a bit like asking a mother, Which child is your favorite? Mothers love all their children, but maybe not in the same way. I have a particular fondness for The Lost Bird and Wife of Moon. But my favorite at any moment is always the book in my head--the latest book. At the moment, that is Buffalo Bill's Dead Now.

3. What is the best writing advice you ever received? And the worst?

The best? Write what you love to read. The worst? Write what you know. I prefer, write what interests you and go do the research.


Stephen Graham Jones is the author of eleven novels and two collections -- most recently Growing Up Dead in Texas and Zombie Bake-Off -- and has two more books out this fall, and one novella. He's also had some hundred and forty stories published, and been an NEA Fellow, a Stoker Award finalist, a Shirley Jackson Award finalist, a Colorado Book Award finalist, and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for fiction. He teaches in the MFA program at CU Boulder and the low-res MFA program at UCR Palm Desert.

For more information about Stephen and his novels, visit Demon Theory. He is also on Facebook and Twitter.

1. Stephen, how do you approach the revision/editing process after you’ve completed the first draft of a manuscript?

Just let it sit for four or six weeks, ideally. So I can forget the twists and turns, be surprised at them, see if they work on second read. If they do, then I show it to friends (editors, friends, writers, readers, strangers). Then they mark it up, make this or that suggestion, and I go back in. Am right there with a novel right now.

2. Of all the novels or short stories you’ve written (published or unpublished), which one is your favorite and why?

I really like this one short story I did back in 1995 or 96, "Carbon." It's in my collection Bleed Into Me. Just got kind of lucky with that one, somehow. I mean, I've been lucky since -- the way Ledfeather ends, say, or that Growing Up Dead in Texas came together -- but "Carbon" was the first time.

3. What is the best writing advice you ever received? And the worst?

Worst advice was probably to make every line perfect and shiny. Some lines are just delivering the story from room to room, and don't need to be shiny, but work best just dull, not drawing undue attention. Best advice was to, after I finish a novel, start writing the next immediately. Don't wait for whatever 'license' the eventual reception of that done novel gives you for the next. Just do it whether you have permission or not. Then do it again.


Molly MacRae writes the Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries for NAL/Obsidian, making its debut with Last Wool and Testament. In a review, the Boston Globe said Molly writes “Murder with a dose of drollery.” Molly’s stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. She spent twenty years in upper east Tennessee, the setting for her stories, short and long. She lives in Champaign, Illinois.

You can visit Molly at her website  and at Killer Characters blog. She can also be found at Facebook.

1. Molly, how do you approach the revision/editing process after you’ve completed the first draft of a manuscript?

I’m a back-and-fill writer – I revise as I go, editing the previous day’s output before moving on – so my first draft is close to being a finished draft. But then I go back and hack and polish from start to finish – cutting extra and over-used words, abbreviating lines of dialogue, paring down self-indulgent description, clarifying situations with specifics, adding better descriptions of characters. After finishing Last Wool and Testament, I performed a Total Characterectomy – slicing a whole character right out of the story. I also have some great critique partners who tell me where I leave holes, what doesn’t make sense, and where the; punctuation? needs, help! And then, when I’m smug and think I’m finished, the Penguin editor steps in.

2. Of all the novels or short stories you’ve written (published or unpublished), which one is your favorite and why?

I have a soft spot in my heart for “My Trouble,” the first story Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine published way back in 1990, but I really don’t have a favorite story or novel. I think, though, if I asked the characters from my stories and novels to vote who amongst them is their favorite, everyone but Bitsy would vote for the ghost in the Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries.

3. What is the best writing advice you ever received? And the worst?

The best – from one of my high school English teachers: Revision is the key to success. The worst: Wait until you feel the muse.


Mini-interviews were conducted via e-mail and compiled by Pat Stoltey. Chiseled in Rock thanks Margaret Coel, Stephen Graham Jones, and Molly MacRae for graciously agreeing to participate in the Three Authors, Three Questions series.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Caption Crazy!

It is often said a picture is worth a thousand words, so we've provided the picture in hopes that you'll provide the words. Silly or serious? Either is fine!

What came to mind when you saw this picture?

Please write a caption, log line, or flash fiction and share as a comment below!

Janet Fogg
Photo by Richard Fogg

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Ode to RMFW Volunteers

by Terry Wright

Those who witnessed my speechless reaction Saturday night knew I never saw it coming when Mark Stevens announced my name as the Jasmine Award recipient for 2012. In the shock of the moment, I found it difficult to think much less express my thoughts to a crowded banquet hall that had erupted in boisterous applause. Worse, I’d just come down off the high and adrenaline overload of conducting the Colorado Gold Writing Contest Awards when this unexpected rush of emotion lambasted me. I kept thinking, “Me? What did I do to deserve a Jasmine?” Now that I’ve had time to regroup, the answer is obvious. I simply volunteered.
Anyone can do it.
I recall how I’d started off small, helping out at conference: the bookstore, driving editors and agents to and from the airport, and moderating panels. Soon, volunteering became a lot like saving money. The more I saved, the more I wanted to save.
I volunteered to run a critique group. I volunteered to judge the contest. Eight years later, Susan and Jeanne asked me to take over the contest. I agreed, became a board member, and falling back on my 36 years of experience running my own company, I decided to upgrade the Colorado Gold to all electronic. The board backed me. RMFW entered the 21st Century.
And then came the website. I had plenty of complaints about how it didn’t work. Worse, I had no idea how to make it work. Mark and the board challenged me to fix what I could and work with our webmasters to fix what I couldn’t. I became their website liaison, and due to our efforts, not just mine, the website has never been in better shape.
And I can’t forget about Chiseled in Rock. I blog here most every Thursday. I design the monthly mazagine cover (spelled mazagine deliberately) to highlight upcoming blogs. Gusto Dave should be flogged for challenging me to participate, but I do it because I belong here.
So now looking back fifteen years, I see how my love for and dedication to RMFW went unnoticed only by me, not my fellow board members, not my fellow writers and friends. The standing ovation from my peers proved that while I was doing my thing, you were taking notice, just like we’ve always done throughout the years. We appreciate each other’s service, to wit, the Gold Nugget Awards and the long list of Jasmine Award recipients, to which my name has been added, humbly and thankfully.
RMFW is dependent on its member volunteers to take care of the business of supporting writers, honing skills, and bolstering careers. So volunteer. Get involved. Give back. Your service, sacrifices, and commitment will not go unnoticed, unrewarded, or unappreciated. This I know, for I have lived it and never saw it coming.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Writers' Conferences Wear You Out

(Originally titled Foolin’ Around at the Colorado Gold)

There was supposed to be video from the soirees around the hotel where the Colorado Gold Conference was held to accompany this posting, but I enjoyed some libations just a tad bit too much. Thus, I didn’t shoot many recordings and in the ones I did, my ‘glow’ was obvious. And I got too caught up in shenanigans with old friends…which has sparked my theme for today’s posting.

It used to puzzle me as to why a three day writer’s program sent me home drained. Since I got the opportunity to just observe at this year’s conference, I realized why. Here are the top ten reasons in countdown style:

10) Nerves. It’s difficult for shy writers to talk with editors and agents. You’re surrounded by these industry big leaguers all weekend and you want to pitch your book, but you don’t want to be clumsy or rude and you know they’re inundated and…holy cow, you could wind yourself up tighter than a piano string just obsessing on that!

9) Excitement. If an editor or agent asks you to send something to them, the electricity’s got you—even if you want to look cool and collected on the outside.

8) Finding a parking spot between two cars that are spaced correctly. C’mon, just like anywhere else you go, you know you hate it.

7) The I-got-to-make-it-to-every-workshop-to-get-my-money’s-worth agenda. It’s kind of like going on a family vacation and cramming in every attraction you can between here and Disneyland.

6) Sleep deprivation. Some of this comes from your nerves crackling at night. But you also can’t just retire to your room at 8PM when you’re surrounded by like-minded writers. So, before you knew it, you stayed up gabbing way past bed time to the tune of 12:30 or maybe even 1AM!

5) Those revolving doors at the Renaissance. You can just go round and round in those for hours. Great fun!

4) Yelling. Anywhere there is at least 200 people gathered and some spirits flowing, one has to raise their voice to speak over the crowd. Then the guy next to him has to crank his volume louder than that guy. Then the lady next to him…well, you get the idea. Yelling is very exhausting. Just ask my wife. She yells at me all the time.

3) Primping. It’s hard work to make all those trips to the restroom, checking to ensure your hair is glued down just right and nothing is in your teeth.

2) Alcohol. Even in moderation, a couple of drinks will amplify all the fatigue you’ve incurred from the constant hand-wringing.

And the number one reason why writer’s conferences wear you out….

1) Complaining over and over about 50 Shades of Grey!

Gusto Dave Jackson is a writer of Urban Fantasy and YA Western Steampunk represented by the Belcastro Agency

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What's New from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers?

Here are a few of the recent and upcoming releases from members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:

Goddess On The Run: A Tale of the Holy Water Warriors, Book 1
By Marne Ann Kirk
Crescent Moon Press 9/17/12
ISBN: 978-1-937254-59-9
E-ISBN: 978-1-937254-60-5
Paperback $14.99

"All Fomorian Hells are about to break loose on earth, making human souls the daily special, if the Tuatha de Danaan can’t stop it. Teagan, a Celtic demi-goddess hiding from her destiny in small-town Colorado, wants nothing to do with her mother’s forgotten realm or the drama of a battle of the gods. And Merric is forbidden fruit she’s too smart to taste.

Merric, leader of the Tuatha de Danaan warriors, has other plans. Teagan holds the key to salvation, for both him and their worlds, whether she wants to or not. He’ll do whatever it takes to convince her of her duty. But can he find the key to her heart?"

For more information about Marne and her books, visit her website.
She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


Big Horn Storm
By Kim McMahill
Prism Book Group 8/24/12
ISBN: 978-0615679204
Paperback $9.99, ebook $2.99

"Niki Garat tolerates her job and the city, but she lives for her summer vacation with her grandfather at his sheep camp in the stunning Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming—until this year. When the U.S. comes under attack, including an aggressive attempt by foreign invaders to locate nuclear missiles hidden throughout remote western lands, the serenity of her mountain refuge is shattered. As area ranches are commandeered, neighbors and friends, including Deuce, her childhood infatuation, band together. Throughout their struggle to stay alive, Niki begins to understand what came between her and Deuce, but before past mistakes can be corrected they must endure a terrifying manhunt and a desperate fight for survival.

Big Horn Storm is a contemporary western romantic adventure set in rugged mountain country. The story combines a too-close-to-home military crisis, harrowing horseback escapes and an attempt to reconcile the past in an action-packed thriller."

More information about Kim and her romance novels can be found at her website and her blog, Embrace Adventure. She can also be found on Facebook.


The Chosen: Book One of the Portals of Destiny
By Shay West (aka Shay Fabbro)
Booktrope Editions 8/9/12
ISBN: 978-1935961666
Paperback: $12.95 E-book $2.99

"Astra. Kromin. Volgon. Earth. To each of the four planets are sent four Guardians, with one mission: to protect and serve the Chosen, those unwitting champions of prophecy who alone can save the galaxy from the terrifying Mekans. But the signs of prophecy have not yet appeared, and the decision to send the Guardians early could doom all in the galaxy to death."

You can find more information about Shay and her books on her website.  She can also be found on Twitter  and Facebook.


Information collected and formatted by Pat Stoltey

Monday, September 10, 2012

RMFW's First Timeline Banner

If you're on Facebook you've probably been "timelined," and we thought it would be fun to feature book covers from RMFW members as a banner on our RMFW page.  But how?  So many amazingly talented members with an astonishing number of fantastic books to choose from!

In the end, we thought a montage might work, and here's the first cover banner that has been shared on Facebook.  (Yes, there will be more!)

Now for some close-up shots of the banner:

Makes me want to fire up the Kindle or head over to the bookstore.  How about you?

As mentioned, we'll be changing the banner periodically to share even more book covers from RMFW members, so keep an eye on our Facebook page. What? You haven't found us on Facebook?  Here's the link. And if you haven't yet joined RMFW, here's that link!  

On behalf of the Chiseled in Rock team,
Janet Fogg
Janet is the author of Soliloquy, an award-winning historical romance, and co-author of the military history bestseller, Fogg in the Cockpit.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Marketing Savvy and The Modern Writer: Write Your Own Marketing Action Plan

Now more than ever, authors need to lead the charge on their marketing. Many agents and publishers expect their clients to have a marketing plan started before they even consider a manuscript. It can seem intimidating, but gathering some research and organizing your information to put a plan in motion is worth it.

This is what I recommend to get you started:

SYNOPSIS: Include three lengths; a log line, a short synopsis like jacket copy, and a full page.

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Draft a short bio, and some information about your platform. Platform isn’t just for non-fiction anymore. Know why YOU are the person to tell your story.

FUTURE: Know how you plan to follow up the project you are marketing. Whether you are writing or researching your next book, you want your audience to follow you as you build your brand.

CUSTOMER: Knowing your audience is crucial to positioning your project for success. Understand your genre, and where your work fits on the retail bookshelves, as well as in online markets.

COMPETITION: Know who your competition is. Having competition is important. It means you have an audience, and people are hungry for what you are writing.

MARKET OPPORTUNITIES: Once you have identified your customer and competition, you can identify market opportunities. Where are your customers buying books and entertainment? Online? In stores? What else do they read? What are their interests? These are the places you want to feature information about your book and consider spending your hard earned dollars for advertising.

IMAGES: All authors should have a good headshot in a digital format. When your cover art becomes available, having that in digital form is great for publicity too.

PRESS RELEASES: Once you have a publication date, having a press release for your book is the way to get your information out to the public with the media. Releases are also a good way to get reviews, announce a book tour, event appearances, speaking engagements and more. Always make releases timely and use the correct format.

MEDIA LIST: Start building a list of local media outlets including newspapers, magazines, online publications, radio and TV stations and find out how they accept press releases. There are also online services like that can help you distribute releases for a fee.

THE BIG INTERVIEW: One of the goals of your press releases is getting interviewed by the media. Draft a list of interview questions to make it easy on your interviewer. Many media professionals really appreciate it. Also take the time to rehearse answering your questions with family and friends to get comfortable speaking about your work.

CREATE AN ONLINE PRESENCE: In today’s world having an author website is essential. It is also a good idea to build a mailing list and offer a rewards program to your readers. Blogging and social networking are two more great ways to get your name and project out in the world.

Once you’ve gathered your research and created these elements, many of them can be used in your virtual press kit. Your Marketing Action Plan will evolve of the course of your book launch and sales, and you’ll be glad you started early. Today’s writers need to dedicate time and energy to the business of writing regularly, and having a basic plan in place can really help you navigate the process effectively.

Remember, you write the story of your career. Choose your words wisely. Your success story is waiting to be told.

October: Big Ideas, Small Budget - DIY Marketing Tips for Writers

Susan Mitchell has a degree in English from Northern Arizona University. Her work has appeared in literary magazines including George and Mertie’s Place, Poetry Motel and Wordwrights. She writes and produces local television commercials, promotions and programs. She has written and produced projects for TLC, regional ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates. She is a frequent speaker at writer’s conferences and enjoys helping writers grow their marketing arsenal. Susan is currently completing work on a darkly humorous horror series.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Getting Online with RMFW and Colorado Gold

By Pat Stoltey

If you’re attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in Denver this weekend, and if you’ll have your laptop or a gadget with access to the web, here are a few things you’ll want to know.


The official RMFW Twitter ID is: @RMFWriters

Watch for and use this hashtag for conference tweets: #RMFW2012

The Twitter ID for Chiseled in Rock blog is: @Chiseledinrock


Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is here:

Chiseled in Rock blog is here:

Hope to see you this weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Why Bother?

By today's special guest, Frank Dorchak.

Look, you’ve been writing your ass off. For years.

You’ve given up lots: sleep, time, movies, dates, workouts. Sometimes a relationship or two. Life. Gone to all the conferences, read all the How-Tos. Attended more ego-stripping, goal-stomping critique sessions than you care to relive. Maybe tried your hand at self-publishing. Blogging.

Then you get it, the question that surprisingly cuts to the oh-so-delicate-soft-pink-quick of your misery laden soul: why do you write? Sure, you answer it with typical public aplomb and cockiness with something like, because it’s in my blood, I’m not good at anything else, or I can’t stop the goddamned voices in my head.

But you know you, even if you don’t admit it to yourself.

Why do you write if you’re not getting published?

What is your major malfunction, soldier?

The sobering truth of it is this (let’s attack it head on, shall we?): Many of us will never get traditionally published. It’s just not gonna happen.


Now, self-publishing opens up whole new vistas to those of us in this boat, but that doesn’t always help, either. It’s just not the same thing. And, sure...some of us are good writers...yet for one reason or another, will still never land that coveted publishing contract. You’ve heard it all, over and over--publishing just ain’t what it used to be--and does traditional publishing even matter anymore? can’t silence those damned voices. You continue to write with nothing to show for it.

I began writing when I was six. I’ve been writing seriously (every day, up at 3-3:30 a.m. kinda thing) for over 25 years. Been to critique groups, did a Writer’s Digest correspondence course, attended conferences. Presented at a conference. Read books on the writing process. Was a one-time editor for a small-small, start-up magazine. Self-published a novel, done booksignings. Belong to a couple of writer groups. Been interviewed on Internet and local radio. Write two blogs, regularly comment on other blog sites. Have an agent. Have helped other writers, been helped by them. Have short stories published here and there, even one overseas.  Am currently working on a series idea with my agent.

Why bother?

I’ve given up much over the past 25 years, on the bet-with-myself that it all meant something. That with all the hard work I put in, something would pop, and I could finally devote myself to one thing, and one thing only...but it hasn’t happened. I have yet to sell an agented manuscript, and that began to weigh on me. I began having trouble starting new manuscripts. So I began working on already created material. Those done, still no sales. Again tried new work, because that’s what we do. Ehhhh, still not flowing like it used to. And by “flowing,” I mean completing a 100K first draft in a month on two hours a day (plus “whatever” on the weekends) effort. It used to be easy for me, doing a first draft (not that I sold them, I’m just talking pure mechanics). My agent says it’s harder now because my writing has grown, contains more depth.


A couple of years ago a weird thing--for me--happened. I hit a deep writing depression and I’m not one to get depressed. It didn’t last long, but it sure hit like atonnabricks. I remember it was in a November, but don’t remember the year. I’d been banging my head against that brick publishing wall for most of my life. I knew my work was good, readable, likeable--maybe not Pulitzer material--but it was legit. I’d been told so by third parties including my agent (heck, I had one, right?). I began to deeply question my efforts. WTF, was my major malfunction? And WhyTF was I doing all this? Killing myself with the crazy, driven hours I was putting in at the expense of other things (like sleep!), with nothing to show for it--at least what I was expecting to show for it?

But there was something else to the above incident:  I’d a portion of me had died.

Really up and died.

It literally felt like a portion of me had passed on, and took a portion of my soul with it. I’m not kidding. That’s how it felt. I felt a seriously deep, hollow feeling inside, like something had been ripped way. In my non-traditional belief systems, I believe in other, simultaneous lives, and this incident of mine actually felt like another version of me had literally passed away. Perhaps the “muse” parallel-writer of me? Maybe some other parallel-me with whom I was in deep, unconscious contact? I don’t know, but that was when I really began to wonder if all my lofty literary efforts had been worth it and WhyTF should I even continue, since in the near-second-half of my life, I had only a few short stories and one self-published novel.

The epiphany was devastating.

So, I blew it all off. Writing. For a spell. Quit my annual conference attendance. Let the issue stew (I love a good, meaty, stew). I knew it wasn’t the end of my life, but whatever had happened was surely a serious, huge impact to my life.

WhyTF bother?

Here’s what I figured out when I came back to claim my stew:

Dead parallel-self or not, I simply like writing.

Sure, I could do any number of other things, I have all kinds of interests, latent abilities, but writing is fun and utilizes aspects of me other things simply cannot. End of story. Dénouement still to be written. I also realized that just cause one is a writer, does not mean one will get published. Perhaps my life had other meaning, and being a writer was just part of the Grand Scheme. Not The Grand Scheme. But, if it happens, it happens, and I’m not gonna [figuratively] kill myself over trying to get there. Already “been there.”

So, I continue to write(and maybe my mechanics have become slightly less organic)...but I also continue to engage life. Recently got back into archery (not sure how long I’ll continue, but for now, it’s fun). Put more time into blogging (I’ve been tagged with the “F.P. Dorchak, Blogger,” descriptor; weird). If there’s something else I want to do, I go do it, if I run into a dry spell, I roll with it...but if I have a project, I write.

Make no mistake, I’m still a writer. And when I have a project, I’m in it 110% (thanks, Lou Ferrigno!). And I still want that publishing contract. But at this point in my life, I’ve made peace with myself and have widened my perspective; accepted that maybe now I have to write with a thought-out synopsis, rather than totally by the seat of my pants. Though I understand what others say when they tritely toss out such comments as “I have to be a writer” or “I’m not good at anything else,” I do not believe them for an instant. Sure, great sound bites and all, and easy to say once you’ve “hit it,” but damned untrue.

Humans are a highly adaptive organism, especially when forced into corners, usually (I’d wager a guess) of our own making. We’re all capable of a multitude of endeavors, whether or not we admit it to ourselves, and writing is only one.

Writing is one part of our lives, and if we do it--or anything else--we should ask ourselves why? Is it fun? Cathartic? Cheaper than drugs? Something to do while walking this Earth? But we also have to live life. And there’s only one way out of that, and it flies by fast, so put some serious consideration into it. Not being a writer is not going to kill anyone, no matter how much you think it might. It’s not the end of your life. It’s just simply not the case. And if you have to adapt to a new way of writing to write, do it. If it’s a little harder to write than when you were 25, so...just do it. If you truly love it. It’s not a race. The only end of your life is the end of your life. Between now and then there’s a lot to fill in. Everything between birth and death enriches those two milestones, and it’s up to each of us to find our own way.

Get involved. In something. Something else. Find other things to do. Take your mind off your writing for a spell, recharge...gain Expand your horizons. Not only will it do the aforementioned, but it’ll also fuel your writing. I love writing, but do have to step away from it every now and then.

Why bother?

Because it’s part of you.

Because you can.

Because you’re a writer.

Enjoy the journey.

You can learn more about Frank Dorchak and his writing on his website.