Monday, July 21, 2014

Reminder: Saturday, July 26 Meeting!

In case you also have had days like this... 

...this is just a reminder that Saturday, July 26, is our next meeting. That's THIS Saturday! Hope to see you at 10:30 a.m. at The Artful Cup in Grand Junction, 3090 N. 12th Street.

We're working on improving our synopses for our works-in-progress. Bring yours along if you have one, and if you don't have one, or don't have yours ready, come anyway to hang out and have fun!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Release Party: "Season of Forgiveness" by Templa Melnick

Thank you for coming to the party! I'm very excited to announce the official release of Season of Forgiveness, by Templa Melnick. While we have several published authors in our group, this is the first time one of our own has had a novel release since we "officially" started our Western Slope ACFW Prologue Chapter. 

It's also a debut release, which is extra special. And, a little bird told me our dear Miss Templa is celebrating her birthday this week, as well. Now if that isn't a fabulous birthday present for a writer, I don't know what is!

Come on in and get comfortable. We're going to learn more about the book and its author, "meet" the visual inspirations for some of Templa's leading ladies, and sample (it's virtual, so it's calorie-free) some delicious treats similar to the ones the characters might be enjoying in the story!

First, here's an introduction to the story, so we'll know who we're meeting...
Colorado 1904 
A little woman with a big heart, Emma Johnson must juggle family, friends, and pioneer-woman chores, all the while dealing with threats to her own life, those she loves, and the safety of the ranch on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies.  The challenges of living in the shadow of gold fever bring opportunities to use the skills she learned from her Indian stepmother, and pray as if everything depends on the Lord. Emma finds herself involved in the rescue and restoration of three abandoned and abused women. As new life, beauty and hope blossom, the four women uncover a nefarious plot and learn the meaning of forgiveness.
There's Emma now...

She's a bit busy with one of the boys, but you're welcome to join her in the kitchen for some fresh, hot bread. Or a cup of tea. There's always tea in Emma's kitchen.

Now that refreshments are in place, let's find out more about our author... 

How did you start writing?
"I actually have NO qualifications to be a writer. None whatsoever. That is, unless you count my ridiculously over-active imagination, my life-long penchant for making things up, and a voracious appetite for reading that began at the age of three.
 I have always wanted to be a writer. When I was in second grade, my teacher asked if she could submit one of my short stories to a national publication for elementary school teachers. I still remember that story. It was about my neighbor’s cat. She said I had a unique perspective that she wanted to share with others. In that moment, Mrs. Gardner planted a seed in my life. Perhaps someday I could tell stories that other people would want to read.
  When my children were young, I used to make up stories for them. They enjoyed listening to those stories and I enjoyed creating them. It was then that the seed that had been planted in my childhood germinated. Maybe I could write children’s books! But there were soccer games and parent/teacher conferences and corporate ladders to climb. So, if I ever thought about writing, it was only as a fleeting fancy in the stillness of the night.
 And then… in a few short months, the foundations of my moderately comfortable life were shaken. I lost my job. I had a scare with the dreaded “C” word, and my kids were leaving the nest. A long list of “what ifs” kept running through my mind.  It was time to reach for the childhood dream I had set aside. The past few years have been a steady stream of writer’s conferences, seminars and “how-to” books on fiction writing. It seemed pretty miraculous when publisher Catherine Lawton agreed to read my manuscript at an Estes Park, Colo., writer’s conference in May 2013. It seemed even more miraculous when she sent me a contract for my first novel in October 2013. She and her staff have been incredibly patient with me and very helpful as we've worked towards publication. I’m honored to be among Cladach Publishing’s authors. I still have much to learn. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that… writing makes me happy. Writing stories that other people will want to read? That would make me happier still.

There's no better reason to write than that it makes you happy! So where did the idea for this story (which is going to be a series!) come from?
The idea for this series of books has actually been rattling around in my brain in one form or another for a very long time. A few years ago, my husband and I took the kids to a cabin near Leadville for a short vacation. I was intrigued by the mining history and spent a lot of time wondering what it was like to live in that harsh climate during the gold rush.

At the same time, I was doing some research for one of my clients whose business had been established in Meeker, Colorado in1904. I had the opportunity to read through the actual 1904 archives of the Rio Blanco Herald Times. I was hooked. I was fascinated with that time period of Colorado history. I also have a lineage of really strong, amazing women that I wanted to honor. I’ve incorporated a few actual family stories in Season of Forgiveness.

Since I work (in real-life) for the Rio Blanco Herald Times, that makes me chuckle. I used to read those old archives and pull out tidbits for a weekly column. They are fascinating! 

Pass the tea, and some of those strawberry shortcakes, please...

How long have you been working on this series?
I started writing the first book in this series in December 2009. I had just lost my job as an account executive at a local media outlet. The economy was tough, and I wasn’t the only casualty. Nevertheless, I was devastated. During that time of emotional upheaval, God spoke to my heart and asked, “What have you always wanted to do?” The answer was immediate. I’d always wanted to write a novel – but there had never been enough time or energy left over at the end of the day. So I set aside all of the reasons that I wasn’t qualified to be a writer, and I wrote.
 Four months later, I had the first draft of Season of Forgiveness. I attended my first writer’s conference and quickly discovered that I had made virtually every newbie writer mistake possible. So, I went back to the drawing board and rewrote the entire thing. It’s been rewritten so many times I’ve lost track.
 I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’m hoping the next books will require less editing! I’m about halfway through the second book, and can’t wait to share it.

We can't wait, either! It's wonderful to know that there are more books coming. There are so many strong characters in Season whose stories need to be told! Speaking of, which character is your favorite?

I know this sounds crazy, but that’s like asking me which of my sons is my favorite! I love each of my four main characters. They each bring something unique to the party.

Emma is all of my grandmothers and my husband’s grandmothers best characteristics rolled into one tiny woman. She’s tough. She’s virtually unflappable, and yet she’s gracious, kind and full of love. Emma is the woman I hope to be some day.

I love Daisy’s transformation in the story. She starts out incredibly wounded, and ends up as this strong young woman bursting with life and hope. I hope she will bring life and hope to my readers.

Sally started out as a secondary character, and ended up as one of the main characters. I shed more tears at my computer while writing her story than all the others combined. The love quadrangle around her at the end of the book was fun to write. She’s Irish, so I apologize up front if I’ve butchered the brogue. I can hear her talking in my head – but I don’t know if it translated onto paper as well as I had hoped.

Dee as a young woman
And Miss Dee. She was the most challenging for me to create, but she’s also the most fun. I never know what she’s going to say or do next. Seriously. I’m just as surprised as you are. I don’t want her to come off as the cliché madam-with-a-heart-of-gold… even though in some ways, she fits that cliché to a tee. 

Writing a historical novel demands a lot of research, some of which ends up in the story and a lot of which ends up in a file somewhere. What is the most intriguing thing you learned while researching this book?
The labor wars surrounding the mining areas fascinated me. I got lost for weeks in the books and newspaper articles that were written about these events. I had no idea that Colorado was actually under martial law for awhile in 1904. I doubt it did it justice in the book, but I did include a few details.
 On a side note, I beg for mercy on any historical errors.  I’m sure I made them. Why did I decide to write historical fiction? What was I thinking?

History, and historical characters, are so inspiring, how can we not write about them? And the food, did I mention the food? (Templa has graciously shared a few of her character's favorite recipes on her website, too!)
Sally's colcannon - Irish peasant fare.

What do you hope your readers will "get" from this story? What did you get from writing it?
My greatest desire is that my readers will take away a deeper understanding of what it means to BE forgiven, and the miracle of freedom that comes to us through forgiving others. I also hope that through Emma, Daisy, Sally and Dee my readers will see that the same Jesus of the Bible is alive and well today in 2014, just as He was in 1904. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever.
What did I get from writing this story? One person really can make a difference. Women like Daisy and Sally, and Dee are all around us. And if we, like Emma, dare to love the un-loveable, touch the un-touchable, we can change our little corner of the world. And all of our little corners connect. That’s powerful!

That is powerful, and a valuable message we all need to remember, every day. We're all ministers of the Gospel of Christ, no matter where we are or what we do. 

So what's next? (We really want to know about book #2!)
Oh, I’m so glad you asked! The working title for book two is Season of Redemption. This book picks up where Season of Forgiveness left off, in the same fictional town of Riverbend, Colorado and with the same characters, plus a few new ones. Dee, Sally and Daisy have left their pasts behind them – but people from their past keep showing up and causing problems. Dee struggles with wanting to manipulate and control everyone and everything around her… that’s how she’s always done things, so it’s hard for her to let go and trust God’s plan.  Daisy and Sally are learning how to trust God in their relationships and finding out what it means to truly be loved by the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Season of Redemption has a little mystery going on with horse thieves, gunfights, and a slippery southern gambler, plus a little romance to keep it interesting. And, since I haven’t finished writing the story, I am not sure of all the details yet!

We'll be looking forward to the next installment!

I hope you enjoyed our first release party! We're looking forward to more of them in the future. 
In the meantime, Season of Forgiveness is available on Amazon, on Cladach Publishing, and through Templa's website.  

You can "friend" Templa on Facebook at And don't forget to check our her blog: Templa's Trivia. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Whipping Your Synopsis Into Shape

Last month we started working on writing the synopsis for our current manuscripts. After our meeting, we agreed to KEEP working on them for next month, applying the suggestions we received from each other and working on proper formatting. (We had four authors and four synopses with totally different formatting... no wonder editors and agents get frustrated sometimes!)

the best part of whipped cream from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Gail, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

In the interest of preparing for our July 26 meeting, here are some guidelines to help us manipulate those messy synopses (OK, mine was messy...) into shape!

1. Consider your audience/purpose. 

According to The Editor's Blog, there are two points of view regarding the purpose of a synopsis. One side considers a synopsis to be a sort of "teaser," designed to entice a contest judge, an agent, or an editor to read the rest of the story. Synopses written from this point of view are written to entertain, more than to inform. (Think: back cover copy, Amazon description, or "one-sheet" promo material.) This style of synopsis is probably best applied to contests, writer's conferences where you'll have a brief session to pitch your story, or when you're submitting to a new agent or publisher who isn't familiar with your writing style/ability.

The other side looks at a synopsis as a "just the facts, ma'am" report on what happens, and to whom, in your story. For writers who are submitting stories that are part of a series, if you've had a synopsis requested by an editor or agent in response to a query, or if you are a frequently pubbed author submitting a new idea to your current agent or publisher, this style is probably your best bet. 

2. How long?

There is no finite answer to this question. The one-page, two-page, and three-page synopses appear to be the most commonly requested/suggested, so having one of each isn't a bad idea. And always, always, check the website of the publisher or agent for their recommendations. If they want a five page synopsis, you'd better come up with a five-page synopsis!

3. Format, format, format.

Formatting, I've decided, is like Spanx for our writing, whether we're writing a synopsis or a saga. Again, when it comes to formatting, check with your publisher or agent for their particular guidelines. BUT, in general, there are some standards you can apply, at least to start with.

  • Margins: One-inch margins are most commonly recommended.
  • Font: Times New Roman, 12-point font.
  • Spacing: For a one-page synopsis, single-spaced with breaks between paragraphs. For two or more pages, double-spaced. 
  • First page: (this varies) Contact information, genre, word count. 
  • Header: Last name and book title in upper left-hand corner, page numbers in upper right-hand corner.
  • Tone: Third-person, present tense. Even if your story is written in first person, past tense.

4. "You should only name three characters in a short synopsis – usually, the protagonist, antagonist, and possible love interest/side-kick/contagonist. All other characters should be referred to by their roles (e.g. the waitress, the mother, the basketball player)." (From Publishing Crawl...this post also gives a terrific example for breaking down your story into pieces and putting them back together for a one-page synopsis.)

5. "You must tell the ending! The purpose of a synopsis is to show an editor/agent you can tell a story from beginning to end. You will not entice them into reading your whole MS if you don’t share the ending – you’ll just tick them off!" (Also from Publishing Crawl.)

6. "Do not include subplots unless you have extra space at the end!!!!!  Stick to the MAIN PLOT EVENTS." (Also from Publishing Crawl.)

7. "Feel free to be dry, but don’t step out of the narrative. When you write your prose (and even the pitch in your query letter), there is importance in using style and voice in the writing. A synopsis, thankfully, not only can be dry, but probably should be dry. The synopsis has to explain everything that happens in a very small amount of space. So if you find yourself using short, dry sentences like 'John shoots Bill and then sits down to contemplate suicide,' don’t worry. This is normal. Lean, clean language is great. And lastly, do not step out of the narrative. Agents do not want to read things such as 'And at the climax of the story,' 'In a rousing scene,' or 'In a flashback.'" (From Writer Unboxed.)

7. "Capitalize character names when characters are introduced. Whenever a new character is introduced, make sure to CAPITALIZE them in the first mention and then use normal text throughout. This helps a literary agent immediately recognize each important name. On this subject, avoid naming too many characters (confusing) and try to set a limit of five, with no more than six total. I know this may sound tough, but it’s doable. It forces you to excise smaller characters and subplots from your summary — actually strengthening your novel synopsis along the way."  (From Writer Unboxed.)

I hope you find the above information helpful! All of the synopses shared at our June meeting were already amazing and enticing. I'm looking forward to seeing them all cleaned up, sharp, and ready to roll!

And in other news... Templa Melnick's debut novel, Season of Forgiveness, releases July 13, 2014. Be sure to watch for our special virtual release party here at Western Slope ACFW Prologue Chapter! 

We'll have tasty old-fashioned treats, a peek at Templa's character inspirations, and a wonderful opportunity to congratulate one of our own on her new book!