Thursday, January 17, 2019

Do You Know Where Your New Year's Resolutions Are?

Writers are no different from most people in that we, too, make New Year's Resolutions, oftentimes lots of them. However, instead of pledging to lose weight, stop spending so much online, or cut down on the buttered popcorn, etc., like normal people, we generally resolve to write more.

Sometimes the resolution is specific. We pledge to finally finish that novel, poem, screenplay, biography, etc. Or we might vow to write 500 words a day seven days a week no matter what, even if that much-heralded zombie apocalypse finally arrives.

Other writers' resolutions are more general...we promise ourselves we will write more words, more often. We staunchly swear to avoid temptation in the form of chocolate or its near relative, romance. We're not going to watch television or movies and plan to totally ignore the publication of new books by favorite authors.

We'll overlook family craziness in general, particularly that created by our children. We're so sure we're going to accomplish our goals we even write them down, perhaps believing that in committing vows to paper we're somehow assuring our compliance. We're going to get up a half hour earlier to have a precious block of time to write each morning. Only when we get up early, so do our spouses who assume the extra time is intended to provide him (or her) with a three-course, five-star breakfast. Or our kids come tumbling down the stairs wanting to know where their soccer shoes are, even though the day before you almost had to blast Reveille in their ears to get them out of bed in time to catch the school bus.

So then we move our sacred writing time to the half hour after everyone else has gone to bed and the next thing you know it's six o'clock in the morning and you wake up with a crick in your neck and realize you've been drooling into your keyboard all night long and the only thing you've written is, "Jane got into her car and puttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt..."

Well, you get the idea.

So, how are your writing resolutions coming along this year? Mine are great, but I confess I have a secret. I haven't broken my writing resolutions because I didn't make any. That's based on decades of experience with the inevitable failure of my resolutions to accomplish anything, much less help me tackle something as complex and demanding as finishing a book that seems to have no inclination to get itself across the finish line. Resolutions were an epic arm wrestle for me, one that I always lost, so I stopped making them.

Yes, I understand that you need to set goals to be productive, but that's tough for me. My Muse is stubborn and shy about putting in appearances when I am alert and ready to write. She apparently has a big problem with deadlines and also seems to enjoy torturing me. Just as my eyelids are drooping each night and I am seconds from sleep in my cozy, comfy bed, she'll whisper a brilliant idea in my ear, knowing full well I'll have completely forgotten everything except that I had a great idea by the time morning rolls around. And keeping a pad and pencil by my bed does no good either because I cannot make myself wiggle out of my warm cocoon long enough to grab them. I tried keeping them under the pillow and almost stabbed myself in the eye one night.

Besides, I always believe there's no way I could possibly forget such a brilliant idea in a mere matter of hours. I am sure it will still be sitting there, shimmering in my mind like a shining beacon of literary hope when my eyes pop open. But it's not. It's always irretrievably gone. There's only a blank white space inside my head where the idea briefly existed.

Worse yet, I end up wasting half the day trying to remember what the idea was. This happens every single day.

Maybe I should have been a veterinarian.

Patricia B. Smith is a journalist who is the author of 11 published books, including Idiot’s Guide: Flipping Houses, Alzheimer's For Dummies and Sleep Disorders for Dummies.

Pat is also an experienced professional developmental editor who serves as an Editorial Evaluation and Developmental Coordinator for Five Star Publishing. She works with private clients as well and has helped many authors land their first publishing contracts. Many of her clients have achieved notable success, including two winners of the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-me Best Book of the Year Award.

Connect with Pat on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Writers Workshops January to March 2019

Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company.

Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

January 7-12, 2019: Stanley Hotel Writer's Residential Component at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, December 23, 2018-January 6, 2019: Online component offered through CU Boulder's student portal.

January 10-20, 2019 The Pacific University Residency Writers Conference in Seaside, Oregon

January 14-18, 2019 Key West Literary Seminar and Writers' Workshop Program, Key West, Florida

January 18-20, 2019 Fishtrap Winter Weekend, Joseph, Oregon

January 19-26, 2019 Annual Writers In Paradise Conference, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida

January 26, 2019 The Agile Writer Conference, Holiday Inn at the Richmond Airport Holiday Inn, Richmond, Virginia,

January 27, 2020 The 25th Annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway in New Jersey Looks like they are skipping 2019, but you can check their website for updates.

February 1-3, 2019 Rhode Island Romance Writers Retreat, Middletown-Newport, Rhode Island

February 7–9, 2019 Superstars Writing Seminars, Colorado Springs, Colorado

February 7-10, 2019 Writers Studio at UCLA Extension, UCLA, California,

February 10-15, 2019 Get Away to Write Retreat, New Smyrna Beach, FL
February 13-17, 2019 San Miguel Writers' Conference & Literary Festival, San Miguel, Mexico
February 14-16, 2019 Life, the Universe and Everything Conference, Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, Provo, Utah
February 14-18, 2019 San Francisco Writers Conference, Hyatt Regency Embarcadero San Francisco, California
February 15-17, 2019 Southern California Writers Conference, San Diego, California

February 22-24, 2019 West Coast Writers Conference, Los Angeles, California

February 23, 2019 Murder in the Magic City, Homewood Library, Birmingham, Alabama
February 28 - March 3, 2019 Coastal Magic Convention, Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, & Romance Daytona Beach, Florida,
February 28 - Mar. 3, 2019: Algonkian Florida Author-Mentor Workshop, St. Augustine, Florida
March 1-3, 2019 WhimsyCon Steampunk and Costuming Convention, Denver, Colorado

March 1-3, 2019 Free Expressions Emotional Craft of Fiction Workshop, Las Vegas, Nevada

March 2, 2019 Publishing Workshop, Hammonton, NJ

March 2-3, 2019 Tucson Festival of Books, Tucson, Arizona,

March 9, 2019 Pittsburgh Writing Workshop, Pittsburgh, PA,

March 13 - 17, 2019 Mission of the Algonkian Writer Retreat and Novel Workshop

March 14-17, 2019 SleuthFest 2018, Embassy Suites, Boca Raton, Florida,

March 18-21, 2019 Left Coast Crime, Vancouver, Canada

March 20-22, 2019 University of North Dakota Writers Conference,
University of North Dakota

March 21 - 24, 2019: Algonkian New York Pitch Conference
March 22-23, 2019 The National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium, New York
March 22-24, 2019 Clockwork Alchemy Steampunk Conference, San Francisco, CA

March 27–30, 2019 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference & Bookfair, Oregon Convention Center

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 – Tootling My Own Horn

Now, when I was growing up, I was admonished by my parents, "Don't toot your own horn," "Let your work speak for itself," and so on and so forth. In this day and age, however, if you don't pick up that horn and BLOW, no one is going to have any idea that you've got something to celebrate.

Get out there and blow your horn!
(Adriaen van Ostade [CC0]. The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1951)

Since Blood Red Pencil has designated January as the month to reflect on the past year, here are some 2018 writing-related triumphs I feel pretty darn good about.

A Dying Note, the sixth in my Silver Rush historical mystery series, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in April 2018. Whew! Seeing a book in print is ALWAYS something to celebrate. The fact that it garnered positive reviews in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus just enhanced the glow.

Just about the time that the book came out in audio (which pleased me greatly), it also won two EVVY awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA):
  • First Place in the Mystery/Crime/Detective Fiction category
  • Second Place in the Historical Fiction category
Even MORE to celebrate!

Finally, as the end of the year rolled up, I learned that A Dying Note was also named Best Mystery in the Fiction category of True West Magazine's "Best of the West 2019" list. It was also is long-listed for the Martin Cruz Smith Award in Suspense/Mystery by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA). I am a BIG fan of Martin Cruz Smith's work, his favorite of mine being Rose, so that's another "wow!" for me.

Of course, one can only bask in the glory for a little while, because it's always "What are you working on now?" and "When will you have it done?"

2019 has arrived, and the deadlines are looming. No rest for the wicked nor the weary.

Time to get busy!

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

It Doesn't Matter Where You Start. Just START!

I do not miss 2018. Yes, we're only eight days into the new year, but as time ticked us toward 2019, I was so ready to give 2018 the boot.

Looking back, I want to say that everything that could go wrong, DID go wrong--personally, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially ... even literarily.

Here at The Blood-Red Pencil, we have articles on writer's block and how to jumpstart your creativity and find inspiration. I've even written a few of them. Yet even having this place of wonderful information didn't keep me from plunging into the darkness of the Creative Void.

I started and stopped more projects than I can count. I prayed for inklings of inspiration to initiate writing. I, in a lackluster fashion, played with my photography and doodling and writing dreams in the hopes of lighting a fire under me. I questioned whether creativity still dwelled within me.

And then ... two amazing things happened toward the end of 2018 that would lead me to a brighter 2019, a year already full of possibility and ideas that speak to my heart.

My best friend, author Samara King, reminded me that I had a cover done (which she designed) for a book that needed to be published: my first short work on writing, Make Your Writing Bloom. It had been ready to be published, but fear, doubt, worry, and anxiety plagued my spirit. I fought myself hard and released the book in the fall. The emails I've received from those who have bought it, read it, and used it to reclaim the zest in their writing have moved me and strengthened me.

Months later, as Thanksgiving rolled around, a dear friend knocked on my Facebook Messenger. She'd been on me to create a class for the book. Before the book, she'd been on me to create any kind of writing class. To her, I had decades of skills and knowledge that others would pay for. I didn't believe her. But by Thanksgiving, I was tired of myself and was ready for a positive change, so I told her, "OK, I'm tired of me, so tell me what to do and let's get this started."

And now, thanks to Janie Jaramillo-Santoy's push and her mega-talents in drawing out your passion and talents and blending them into something great, my first media-enriched course is coming January 28, 2019!

The Make Your Writing Bloom - 8-Week Online Experience is a course directly tied to the book. Every week will be full of lecture, FB live Q&As, assignments, encouragement, and inspiration for those who are looking to connect to their love of writing and creativity and to embark on a road trip to planning and writing their next project.

Early-bird special price of $77 is still going until Wednesday, Jan. 9; after the ninth, the price will go to $99. You can learn more about the course and sign up at the course's CLG U page.

Let me end with a few words. These changes at the end of 2018 were not easy. I still suffer from doubt, worry, fear, and anxiety EVERY DAY, and I have to fight with myself multiple times a day to dropkick the negatives so that I can be productive toward these (and other) goals.

Despite this, there is a growing glow in my spirit that is so excited for what's about to happen and what will continue to happen in 2019 as I take one breath, one step, one action at a time.

My favorite quote is helping me stay on this frame of mind; it comes from the late Arthur Ashe, a wonderful man and a great tennis player:

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."


You can do these, too.

Creative Passionista Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically, and she has helped many writers finetune their writing for publication. You can learn more about her editing at her website and about her online courses at CLG U.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018 — A Year of Adjustments

At the end of 2018, I entered the eighth decade of my life. Physically, it was just another day. Emotionally, it was a milestone, as well as a reminder of the things I still really wanted to do.

Production-wise, the year had its ups and downs. Editing jobs were fewer and farther between, and I didn't have the energy to pursue new ones. The reissuing of my updated first two novels continued to be plagued with the ramifications of two major computer crashes and resulting file losses. (It didn't help that the company that had created my backup software went out of business, and I was unable to get the necessary tech support to access the files saved on my external hard drive.) The goal to get at least one new novel out the door got pushed into 2019 so I could update the two that required extensive polish. Where does all this leave 2018 in the grand scheme of things? Adjustments were obviously the name of the game, but upon review I discovered some surprising positives.

My critique partner had saved PDF layouts of the two books in need of work. While this proved a literary lifesaver, it also was a setback due to coding issues that developed when they were converted to a format I could work in. Still, the foundation on which to rebuild had been laid; the alternative, a total new start, probably would not have happened had they not been retrieved. Unfortunately, the process far exceeded the anticipated few weeks, and months went by in the ongoing struggle with files that refused to be edited and updated. Work on new novels ceased while the older ones obstinately fought me every step of the way on almost all changes. In November, the task was finally completed, but that wasn't the end of the story. Health issues working behind the scene for some years sapped the last bit of my strength and sent me to the hospital in serious condition.

At that point, the two manuscripts had been updated and laid out for printing, and my critique partner, Sharon Randolph (a prolific writer herself), and her technical guru took over to get them out for me. Proofs were ordered, and both books are or will soon be available. They're also creating Kindle versions, which I seriously doubt I could have done. I cannot alone take credit for this accomplishment, huge as it was, and I am so grateful for the invaluable help I received. What a beautiful end to an otherwise frustrating year!

While 2018 could have been the final straw in my writing career, it has become a stepping stone to the next phase and more new novels. Thanks to others, adjustments were made. The year ended on a high note, and I am ready to forge ahead—although it may be more like the tortoise than the hare.  :-)

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thriller. You can contact her at websites: and