Wednesday, April 9, 2014

5 insights from best-selling authors - by Jami Gold

After nearly two years of sticking with only online writing conferences, I broke down and attended my fourth in-person conference this past weekend, where I presented my “Twitter for Introverts” workshop. I’m happy to say my class went well and I survived my pre-conference panic attack.
In fact, I had a great time at the Desert Dreams Writing Conference, which always exceeds my expectations. Desert Dreams is considered a “regional” conference, with bigger names and more workshops and events. Lucky for me, it’s local.
However, not all of us are so lucky to have easy access to quality writing conferences, so I wanted to share my top takeaways from the conference. I hope you find these ideas as insightful or inspiring as I do. *smile*

#1: Rejections Are Not a “Sign”

Christie Craig, New York Times bestselling author, was the Keynote Speaker for the Desert Dreams conference. Her speech was so inspiring I don’t want to spoil the punch line, but let’s just say that it had to do with the avalanche of rejections she’s received over her writing life.
Sometimes we might look at X number of rejections and take it as a sign. Maybe we’re not meant to be a writer. Maybe we can’t cut it. Maybe we should give up.
She persevered through countless (and I do mean countless—she brought a big box-load of proof) rejections. Not giving up is how she reached where she is today.
If rejections come with a message, it’s simply “not now.” With determination, we can later turn that “not now” into a “yes.”

#2: Be a Storyteller First

Christie also shared why she didn’t give up. Partly it was stubbornness, but a bigger part was knowing that she could tell stories. If we can tell stories, we’ll succeed if we keep at it, because writing can be learned.
Even in the worst-case scenario, where we’re receiving rejections because we’re not yet “good enough,” we can study writing craft and change our fate.
As Mary Buckham pointed out in a workshop, that “changing fate through our choices” perspective powers most commercial and genre fiction. We can absorb that mindset for our own future too.
Christie is a dyslexic high-school dropout. She didn’t have writing skills when she started. But she could tell stories, and that’s what really matters. Everything else can be learned.
By studying, we can change our fate. How cool is that?

#3: Make Settings Earn Their Word Count

USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham was the featured presenter. She gave an intensive workshop on “Active Settings for All Fiction Genres.”
We often try to minimize our setting descriptions because they’re dry and boring. (She entered the living room and passed the couch to sit on the chair. *yawn*) Mary’s workshop shared techniques for making our setting descriptions work harder.
When we use deep point of view, our descriptions can show characterization, emotion, foreshadowing, backstory, etc. (Her mother’s living room beckoned, as it always did. The comfortably worn-in tweed couch whispered its memories of cushion forts and awkward teenage groping. She headed to the chair instead, just in case her mom hadn’t cleaned the sofa’s fabric since that drinking-night debacle with her brother Billy.)
If our setting descriptions are doing double or triple duty (establishing setting and backstory and characterization, or whatever combination works for the scene), we can use as many words as we need. Mary’s going to join us for a guest post soon (Yay!), but until then, we can learn from her Writing Active Setting book, where she shares tons of examples on how to empower our settings.

#4: Every Character Trait Can Be Good and Bad

Mary presented a second workshop as well: Down and Dirty Ways to Create Stronger Characters. She started by having everyone complete an Enneagram type quiz.
Surprisingly, I turned out to have nearly equal strengths in several traits: perfectionist and achiever (which I think means that I accomplish things despite my perfectionism *whew*), analyzer, nurturer, leader, and peacemaker. Apparently I’m an overachiever in Enneagram quizzes too. *smile*
Her point was for us to learn more about ourselves so we can ensure that we’re not just creating clones of ourselves for our characters. She then shared several techniques for developing unique characters.
One technique was to think of how our characters’ positive traits could be negative, like we discussed last year (where I covered Enneagram Types too). Specifically, she recommended thinking of ways every positive trait has a cost.
For example, if a character is a nurturer, what potential “costs” might that character pay for their trait? Maybe they forget to take care of themselves. Or maybe they’re a busybody who tries to force people to take their advice.
Mary suggested that we ask friends and family to help us brainstorm these “at what cost?” opposite traits. Especially if we just give them a list of traits (without knowing the character at all), we might gain new insights into our character by seeing their list of potential opposite traits.

#5: The “Duh” Insight: Writers Are Awesome

Finally, every author I met was fantastic. Several multi-published, bestselling authors let me pick their brains and shared great advice (including Christie, Mary, Calista Fox, Erin Quinn, Morgan Kearns, and Jennifer Ashley).
The lesson I took away was that no matter our situation, we can connect with other writers and grow our knowledge and our circle of friends. These bestsellers didn’t hoard their expertise. Instead they shared their insights with someone who has a blue streak in her hair. *grin*
I experienced embarrassment (Ack! Spotlight on the introvert!) and thankfulness when many authors stopped me to say how much my blog, beat sheets, and workshops have helped them. (Aww, warm fuzzies.) And I met a great group of women among the attendees (Lisa, Mary, Andrea, Carol, Christine, and a bonus dinner with Ann) and reconnected with a friend from the last Desert Dreams (Rose!).
In short, although the workshops and keynote were wonderful, what really makes conferences special are the people. The interactions with those willing to connect with us often stay in our memory far longer than any one workshop tip or speech insight, especially when we see authors take the time to help each other.
It’s those same connections that make online interactions with writers so special too. Thank you to all of you who read my blog, share your insights and advice, or reach out to me on social media. You. Are. Awesome. *smile*
Which of these was your favorite insight (or the one you want to hear more about)? Have you ever wondered if you should see rejections as a “sign”? Do you agree that storytelling comes first because writing craft can be learned? Do you struggle to make setting descriptions interesting or to create unique characters? If you’ve been to a writing conference, what’s been your favorite part?

Join Jami in her Upcoming Workshops: Build a Website on 4/22, Learn Beat Sheets on 5/8, & Become an Expert in Story Planning with “Lost Your Pants?” on 5/13. Click here to learn more and save money!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Get a professional portrait at the conference by Michael Chansley

wedding photographer Tucson 199x300 About
Michael Chansley
I have been working as a full-time event and wedding photographer in Tucson since 2004 and am available for travel anywhere in the world for your event. Photography has been a passion of mine since before I can remember. I love capturing every last detail and sharing them with the world. I shoot with a photojournalistic, non-intrusive approach allowing you to be yourself on your wedding day and allowing me to capture real moment candids that you will cherish forever.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from Brooks Institute of Photography and am a member of many professional organizations including the exclusive Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA) and Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI).  I am equipped with professional camera equipment made by Canon with a wide range of lenses and professional lighting equipment for any situation.  I am also able to edit and transmit images wirelessly on-site.
Client List:
AAMCO, Allstate, Arizona Cardinals, Bimbo Bakeries, Chevron, Circle K, Cole Haan, Dress Code, Electrolux, FOX Sports, Gatorade, Harkins Theatres, Hewlett Packard, Hughes Federal Credit Union, Intel, ITT Tech, Kay Jewelers, Madison Square Garden, Mizuno, Muscle Milk, Mutual of Omaha Bank, Neuro water, NY Post, Nike, Nordstrom, Playstation, Pop Warner Football, Primrose Schools, Radio City Music Hall, Red Bull, Robert Mondavi Winery, Sbarro, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, TransPac Aviation Academy, Trijicon, Under Armour, University of Arizona Athletics, US Youth Soccer, Verizon

Michael Chansley
Chansley Photo
5464 N Indian Trail
Tucson, AZ, 85750
(520) 241-5746
© Michael Chansley Photography Tucson Phoenix

Visit Michael's website for more information at:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Goodie bags for Desert Dreams

Last night, at the Desert Rose Chapter meeting, we stuffed the goodie bags for the Desert Dreams conference. It was fun and games as well as work, but by now, we have the technique down pat, and it took little time indeed, with everyone racing to the finish.

In the process, I noticed some choice gifts for all our attendees.

First, the bag itself with the classic red and black look of previous Desert Dreams bags, is of great quality, not too thick, easy to carry, with a large outside pocket for notes and pads.

Each bag contains at least three books, actually four novels, since the fat book from Linda Lael Miller, Wild about Harry, also contains a bonus novel by Cathy McDavid, Waiting for Baby.  A Flower for Angela is a sweet romance by Sandra Leesmith, and Hush, by Carey Baldwin is a "scintillating suspense. A winner!" according to the New York Times. Not all the bags contain the exact same books, there are many more titles from equally talented authors. All the offerings are of great quality.

There are also, free eBooks you can download at your leisure from the website on the card, like Love Unleashed by Marcia James.

Luggage tags, pens, romance cards, magnets, bookmarks, candy, calendars... you name it, it's in the bag.

I also had a glimpse of some items that will go in the door prize and raffle baskets. Some of these baskets are huge. I hope you have room in your luggage if you win.

I, for one, am counting the days to the conference. This event is always a spring highlight in Arizona. Hope to see you there.

Vijaya Schartz

Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

Thursday, March 20, 2014

PSYCHIC READING AT THE CONFERENCE with Deborah Wellborn, the Sunshine Psychic

Hello Romance Writers!

I am so excited! I will be doing readings all weekend at the Desert Dreams Conference.

for appointments at
or Text / Call me at 602-881-0436
You can also sign up at the conference registration desk.
There will be info on where my table will be at the registration desk and hospitality suite.

Readings are 15 minutes for $20
Yes, you can sign up for more than one time slot, separately or back to back if available.

Friday 9am to 5pm, 9pm to Midnight
Saturday 7:30 am to 8:30 am. 6pm to Midnight
Sunday 12noon and on.

Look for my conference raffle basket, "A Stargazer's Picnic Basket."
I'm predicting a dynamite conference experience.

I will be attending the conference as a writer, as well.
I simply can't wait!

See you there!
The Sunshine Psychic

Monday, March 3, 2014

Register before March 21st for the Desert Dreams Writers Conference

Just another reminder, registration for our Desert Dream Conference closes March 21st, if you haven't registered yet, please do so. This is the event of the year, workshops, networking, meeting editors and agents. It's also a lot of fun. You don't want to miss out.

In case you haven't checked out the website, we've added a few more editors. Jill Limber (past President with RWA) and Michelle Klayman President of Borrough's Publishing will be taking pitches along with Chris Keeslar. And Rachel Mueller of Bondfire Books has been added and she's looking for inspirational romances.

All of the workshops are listed on the website and the handouts will be uploaded to the Desert Dreams Yahoo Loop. If you're registered for the conference but aren't on the loop, make sure you apply today.

Our volunteers and organizers are working hard to make our hospitality suite worthy of its reputation. It will be a great room for everyone to go visit and relax, and meet unofficially and chat, along with scrumptious finger food. The hospitality suite will be open Saturday from 9am to noon, and from 3pm- to 11pm.

Find all the details on the website:

Please spread the word among your friends, on Fabebook and Twitter. This conference is so affordable and so well organized, with quality workshops tailored to the ever changing landscape of the publishing industry, including traditional, small press, and self publishing.

Hoping to see you there.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Realizing the Dream Contest deadline extended to February 7, 2014!

This contest is open only to the conference attendees and will be judged by editors and agents attending the conference.

In case you were on the fence about entering, or you thought you need just a few more days to polish your ms, here's your chance! We're extending the deadline for entries to Friday, February 7th. You have an extra week to perfect your synopsis, polish those 10 pages, and make them shine!

Entry information can be found on the Desert Rose website

Do let me know if you have any questions!

There's been some confusion about genres for the Realizing the Dream contest…for that, I apologize. To be clear, please note the following:

Entries are NOT judged within genres. All entries are judged together.
There is no set list of genres. The genre you specify is how YOU would classify your book.
The genre is required for the judges, so when reading your entry, they have the appropriate expectations.

The online entry form asks for "Category Entered." In this field, please specify the genre (in fact, this field should have been labeled "Genre"). The instructions should have been more clear, as well. All my fault and I'm sorry for the confusion.

If you have any questions, please direct them to me, not other members of the conference team. I will happily assist you in any way I can.

Kindest regards,

Justine Covington
"Writing love affairs in history."