Folsom's 93

The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men


Pre-Order Folsom’s + A Writing Planner Giveaway

book cover1

You can pre-order a copy of Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble due for release July 1, 2013. Yes, I realize that’s still a ways away, but I wanted to show that this book really does exist; that I haven’t been making all this up. But feel free to pre-order a copy to make it truly official.

My friend and fellow writer, Patricia Stoltey, is giving away a copy of the NCW Writing Planner that myself and Kerrie Flanagan, director of the NCW, have created. In between writing, I do illustration and this is the second year in a row I’ve created images for this planner. (You can see more of my work HERE). Pat is an amazing author and has published two mystery novels with several more in the works. I encourage you to check out her great site that is filled with book reviews, author interviews, and writing tips.

2013 Planner Cover


Top of the Mountain Book Award

As contest coordinator, I’m thrilled to announce the Northern Colorado Writers are now accepting submissions for the 2nd annual Top of the Mountain Book Award. The contest is open unpublished works of fiction, creative/narrative nonfiction, and nonfiction. The contest is open until march 1, 2013. Winners receive a $100 and a framed certificate, as well as recognition at the NCW Conference April 26, 2013. Get the submission guidelines HERE and good luck!

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The writing planner is here!

The 2012 writing planner is finally here! Actually, it came together surprisingly fast. After doing 13 illustrations in a month, it’s great to see them all together in a finished product. You can order one for $13.95 and pick it up at the NCW Studio or $18 if you need it shipped. It feels great getting back into illustration, but the planner is hopefully going to help me write and stay on track so I can finish Folsom’s 93.

Alice in Wonderland

Peter Pan

Life of Pi

Kerrie Flanagan (creator of the planner) and I hope that it will help writers set and accomplish their goals. Kerrie even added a Submission Tracker page in the back. If you live in the Fort Collins area, stop by the NCW Studio on Friday, November 25th and Saturday, the 26th from 9-3 for the annual Holiday Mart. There will be lots of handcrafted items and food, as well as journals featuring a few of the planner’s illustrations.

Have a great Thanksgiving!


Get Organized with a Writer Planner!

Every writer could use a planner to help them stay on track. My friend, Kerrie Flanagan, director of the Northern Colorado Writers, publishes a writing planner every year. She asked me to do the illustrations for the 2012 version and I couldn’t be more thrilled with this project. In addition to writing, art is a passion of mine—even majored in it. (Word of advice for you youngins’: don’t major in fine arts. It sounds great now, but wait until you need to go to work in the real world . . .)

So I’m excited to be tapping into more of my right brain by returning to illustration. The planner is especially designed for writers to help keep them organized and on-task. Writing is a journey, thus, the theme of this planner. Each illustration portrays a different literary journey, such as The Road Not Taken, Alice in Wonderland, and the Odyssey, to name a few.

The planner will be available November 15th, but you can pre-order one for $13.95, $18, with shipping.

Around the World in 80 Days

If you’d like to pre-order your planner (and ones for your writing friends . . . ) visit Northern Colorado Writers and order online. Thanks in advance for your support!


Art-Inspired Writing

Earlier this week, I ran a workshop at the Northern Colorado Writers on how art can help inspire a writer, whether it’s a story idea, character sketch, poem, or flash fiction. I grew up with a love for writing and art and found myself as an art major in college. I also owned and operated a greeting card company for ten years. You could say that I’m trying to make the most of the right side of my brain and I hope to someday get back to a children’s book that I’ve written and illustrated.

Monday’s workshop featured the artwork of Jim Fronapfel, local Fort Collins artist who works mainly in pastels. As the Visual Designer at the NCW, I get the amazing job of finding local artists to display their work in our studio. The moment I saw Jim’s work, I knew it’d be perfect for this workshop. He has this uncanny ability to capture something about his subjects, something that just tells a story. Myself and each of the participants picked one of Jim’s pieces of artwork, and we wrote for 20 minutes. Brave attendees then read what they wrote, followed by Jim describing his own inspiration behind the canvas.

So how do you spot the story in a piece of art?

The Mood. Artists often convey the mood through texture, technique, and color.

  • Texture is the actual surface of the work, or the way the work is represented.Can you see actual texture or is it simulated?
  • Technique shows how a piece of art is created. Does it look quickly drawn?Rough? Or smooth and soft?
  • Color can depict the mood of piece of art. This is often subjective where the same color canmean something different to different viewers. What do the colors say to you?

The Time Period/Setting It may not be obvious what time period the work is depicting. If you can put the subject of the work into a certain setting, such as the Depression, would that evoke a story? Does it help while doing a character sketch?

Find the Genre. Historical fiction? Young adult? Thriller? Poetry? Romance? Horror? Can you see several potential genres in the same picture?

 Online Art Resources for Writers

Art Project by Google:  Explore museums without even leaving your home. Google brings several galleries, including the National Gallery in London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to your computer. Like giving you a street view of your neighborhood, Google does the same of the inside of galleries. View the art as if you’re actually sitting in front of it.

 Art Resource: This site allows you to browse through thousands of pieces of art. Type in a subject matter and the results could yield hundreds, if not thousands of story-inspiring art.

Jim Fronapfel’s site, of course! Click on the image under “Other Works” on the right hand side and you’ll be able to view over a 100 different works of Jim’s that are sure to inspire an essay, poem, character, or story.

While we wrote, Jim spent the time creating a masterpiece on an Etch-A-Sketch:

All I’d be able to do is a really cool set of stairs . . .



6th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference

If you’ve ever attended a conference in your given field, you probably know how empowering they are. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people where you can learn and talk shop, can feel like inspiration revelry. I landed in my element. I’ve attended other writers conferences, but the NCW is clearly the most fun (and I don’t say that because I am part of the Creative Conference Team). It’s a bit on the smaller side, so attendees are able to interact more with the agents, editors and presenters, unlike larger conferences. I will warn you, however, that that can lead to cocktail-induced stories involving embarrassing poems written in the first grade (that I guarantee teachers had a good laugh about in the teachers’ lounge), but may later create an unflattering association between you and certain female anatomy. Already, I’ve said too much.

A writer must start somewhere. For those of you wonderful people I subjected to my bad poetry (and jokes), I apologize.

The evening began with me standing in front of 120 people reading a skit I co-wrote pertaining to the conference theme, Passport to Writing. I did not inherit my father’s ability to speak in front of a crowd, but I like to think I gleaned from him, his skill and love for writing. The most I had read aloud something I’d written, is in front of five others—my critique group. My hands shook as I held the one page, my voice quivered in places, and I’m quite sure my teeth hit the mic more than once. Let’s not leave out the audience member who yelled, “Louder!” Next year, I’ll avoid the stage and the mic. (Although, I hear I’m on my way to becoming a You Tube sensation.)

The workshops are of course, much better than silly dinnertime skits. I attended several amazing classes including, How to Build an Effective Platform by agents Michael Ebeling and Kristina Holmes of Ebeling & Associates. Platform. It’s probably my least favorite word when talking about writing, but happens to be one of the most important. I learned so much from Michael and Kristina’s class, especially the importance of branding yourself—oftentimes, way before the book is even a glint in your eye. I also had the wonderful opportunity to talk with these fabulous agents throughout the two-day conference. (It was worth the restraining order).

Kristina got an earful from me about Folsom’s 93 when I had the great chance to pitch the book to her. She gave valuable feedback and suggestions and I feel as though I have a better direction now. She kindly requested the proposal (or maybe I forced it on her) and I will be emailing that shortly. I haven’t meant nicer agents than these two, and I’ll never give up hope that we will all be BFFs (regardless of what the restraining order says).

I also attended The Basics of Narrative Non-Fiction, presented by Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds and Flawless. If you find yourself with the opportunity to take one of his classes, don’t hesitate to do so. I learned a great deal from Greg about storytelling, dialogue, and the arc-driven narrative. I’m anxious to get started on my copy of Flawless, and later, his upcoming book, Pot of Gold. I also sat in on a query critique class with Greg where I found out I have some work to do on my own query. (Big surprise).

Other great classes I attended: Fun with Fairy Tale Characters, Unforgettable Characters and Book Promotion. The conference ended with a relaxing and entertainment-filled (provided by Mr. Ebeling) dinner at a local restaurant where an album containing the mug shots of my 93 guys was passed around and perused through. We pointed out which ones looked like certain celebrities including Sean Penn and Wesley Snipes . . .

This was my favorite conference thus far, due to the talented people I got a chance to meet and talk with. Among them, was Dom Testa, Denver broadcaster and author of the Galahad book series. Dom gave a keynote address that was smart, inspiring, and downright funny.  I also got to talk with Justin Matott, author of several children’s book, including one of my favorites, When I was a Boy . . . I Dreamed. Ask him about his urinal story—one you probably won’t find in one of his children’s book.

I don’t want to leave out the most important person of the conference: Kerrie Flanagan, director the NCW. She created this wonderful annual event and each year, makes it better than the one before. Cheers to my roof buddy—well done.

Right after the conference, I fled to the mountains for a much-needed respite. I got to lay by a fire, sip wine, and write. What else should a writer in the mountains do? Well, that’s what this writer did. I ventured out once or twice for some fresh air though.

The relaxation was short-lived as I came home to a large stack of manuscripts that I’m judging for the Pacific Northwest Writers Literary Contest. I knew I’d be receiving quite a few manuscripts, but I won’t lie . . . I gasped when I opened the box.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the task. Having submitted to a literary contest like this in the past, I know how important this is to a writer and I hope to motivate and inspire them with my comments and suggestions. I’ll be kind, I promise. It took me two tries with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers to become a finalist in 2008 and I owe it to a less-than-stellar critique in 2007.

I’m confident next year’s conference will be even better than this year’s and I’m looking forward to it already and to the restraining orders (a sign of a damn good conference).

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The Punctilious Proposal

Ask most writers and they’ll tell you that writing a book proposal ranks up there with having a root canal. They run in the same circles with synopses and query letters, also likened to painful dental procedures.  There are endless how-to books on writing book proposals, all varying in some way or another, all insisting their format is the best one to follow. The anxiety of picking the correct format could easily be compared to picking the right door on Let’s Make a Deal.

I’ve been told by some in my critique group that a book proposal is unnecessary for Folsom’s 93, as it is creative nonfiction. I have also been informed of the converse; all nonfiction requires a proposal—before the book is even finished. What is a writer to do?!

Well, I wrote one. And I have rewritten the damn thing more times than I care to share, over the course of a year. I’ve added to it, deleted stuff, changed it, altered it, and contemplated burning it. But I know like a phoenix, it would continue to rise from the ashes . . . and haunt me until I got it right.

On March 11th and 12th, the completed and newly revised proposal will make an appearance at the annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference where I will be pitching it to an agent. As a member of the NCW and part of the conference’s creative team, I will have lots of other things to keep my mind off of the proposal. Informative and creative workshops await me, including How to Build an Effective Platform by the very agent I will be pitching to.

In the meantime, wish me luck and for my fellow proposal writers, I feel your pain.