RMFW’s Writer of the Year Panel Night

RMFW Writer of the Year Pin

The distinguished RMFW Writer of the Year Pin

Last night, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers celebrated their newest inductee into the position of RMFW’s Writer of the Year (affectionately referred to as the WOTY).  I think the way this program works, with a panel interview hosted by the current WOTY and including the other great writers considered for the award, is both honorable and fun. This is the second time I’ve had a chance to go to the event and it was great.

First, I have to chat about the venue.  We met at the Tattered Cover on Colfax in Denver.  I’ve been to some of TC’s other locations and this one lived up to the comparison. Books, books everywhere, and plenty of comfy chairs, writing tables, and friendly staff abounded.  Sometimes I think that if you just walk into a well-run bookstore often enough, you become part of the atmosphere of writers, readers, thinkers, and wise people of all kinds. Heaven!

2014 WOTY Shannon Baker

Do you like a good mystery?  Shannon Baker may be the author for you.  I’ve watched Shannon from afar for a few years, and with each passing engagement she becomes more impressive, perhaps even more confident.  Shannon writes the Nora Abbot mystery series about an environmentalist with an appreciation for Native Americans and who seems to be haunted by a Hopi Kachina.  The series has three books to date, and Shannon announced a new book series coming out fall of 2016.

Shannon has been a great representative for the RMFW Writer of the Year position and acted as the moderator for last night’s event.  She did the job with grace and humor, asked the kinds of questions writers want asked of others who are successful and handed out a bundle of prizes to attendees.

2015 WOTY Finalists Cindi Myers and Joan Johnston

Talk about abundance of talent!  Cindi and Joan have between them written over 100 books with multiple millions of copies in print.  While Joan was unable to join the panel last night, Cindi came with plenty of wit and wisdom for our group.

I was particularly impressed with the writing schedule Cindi says she sticks to–3,000 words of writing a day, five days a week.  That kind of work led her to complete five novels and four novellas last year alone.

As a part of the WOTY selection committee this year, I had a chance to sample Rocky Mountain Rescue, and I can tell you I only wished I had more time to dive into the rest of it. And if you like historical fiction, Cindi also writes under the pen name, Cynthia Sterling.

Joan Johnston came into my life about seven years ago when she attended my critique group for a while.  I didn’t know what a big-name author she was, and just enjoyed the dynamic personality who knew publishing in and out.  I chatted with her about a couple of things and loaned her a book, and this generous person mentioned me in her next best seller, Outcast. It was my first time to be mentioned in a book, and that mention gave me all the inspiration to keep trying.  Joan has been like a guardian angel since, popping in and out of my life at the best of times.  Her book for the 2015 WOTY was Montana Bride, a great fun read.


RMFW WOTY, Susan Spann

Congratulations to Susan Spann, RMFW’s Writer of the Year.

Wow!  Talk about impressive people. I first saw Susan at a Colorado Gold writing conference in 2013, when we were both on the First Sale Panel.  She was so articulate and accomplished.  Susan is a lawyer, lover of sea horses, marketing guru and all around great person to know.  I’ve exchanged emails with her on several occasions and am always rewarded by her thoughtful commentary.

It’s no wonder that Susan would be acknowledged for her writing achievements.  She sticks to writing seven days a week, travels extensively, is involved with a few writing groups, and is in the midst of producing three books in a single year.

Last night she said, “In 2002, I got serious.  I looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘You’re not getting any younger. Now is the time to write.'” And write she did.  It took ten years and five rejected manuscripts, but in the end Susan found success with her Shinobi mystery series, set in 16th century Japan.  At this point, Susan continues to write books of high calibur.  Be sure to check her out when you’re looking for that next good read.

Wishing you a fun reading week.

Why Use Non-Human Characters in Your Writing?

I’ve mentioned before that I’ll be doing a conference session at this year’s Colorado Gold with Rita Award winning author Robin Owens. We’ll talk about the good, bad & ugly of non-human characters.  There are several great reasons to add non-human characters to your writing.  Here are a few:

Picture of Labra-Doodle, Henry1. Audience Interest in Non-Humans

The pet industry alone in the United States is a $60 BILLION industry. Can you imagine? I sure wouldn’t mind having one one-hundredth of one of those billions.  Do you think I’m cute and fuzzy enough to do that?

We adopt pets for fees large and small, and then we feed, bed, play, and otherwise engage with our “children” for many years.  All that care adds up financially, but it also shows that our hearts are fully engaged.

From the beginning of story telling through today’s blockbuster movies, animals, ghosts, monsters and other non-humans have captured our interest. Do you remember when Jaws came out?  Perhaps you learned Aesop’s Fables as a child.  Did you see the movie, War Horse? And who hasn’t experienced some version of Frankenstein, vampires, or ghosts? Every writer would do well to study non-humans and bring that knowledge forward into his or her writing.  There is definitely an audience for non-human writing.

2. Non-Humans Layer Your Writing

A little spice

A little spice

As part of a critique group, I see a lot of great stories that are just missing a little “something.”  There are exciting plots and great protagonists, even some good narrative. But the story doesn’t sparkle.  It’s missing a little–spice.

Animals can add that spice to your work.  Think about the people you know.  Who’s allergic to cats?  Who’s afraid of dogs?  Ever seen someone literally climb on a chair when they see a mouse? For $5 you can come to my house this winter.  Point is, we humans have a wide array of reactions to animals.  When you add in ghosts or monsters, we become even richer in our existences.

If you can challenge yourself to write about non-humans, you’ll automatically enrich your human characters around them.

3. Non-Humans Help Explore Bigger Issues

Trash in Rome

We’re all a part of climate change.

Just as in the days of Aesop, non-human characters can provide a mirror into our own human conditions.  I’m thinking about vampires who never die, but steal life away from others.  They show us just how evil it is to use others for gaining a false sense of richness in our own lives.

Or how about when a regretful ghost haunts us into re-examining our own lives as only Jacob Marley could do for Ebenezer Scrooge?

In Jaws, the island residents of Amity experience the terror of evil invasion, and threatening to destroy their very way of life.  Good people, not superheroes, need to collect their courage in the face of this threat and protect their homes and lives.

Now, It’s Your Turn

Your world is full of “monsters,” animals, and other non-humans (perhaps robots?).  How ’bout using your writing session today to develop a non-human character who shows how you feel about climate change, politics, or equal rights?  Create a story where this non-human may be significant, but the story is from a human perspective.  Then try the story again from the non-human perspective and see what you discover about the issue and about yourself.

Enjoy a deeper, richer, imaginary week, my friend.