Las Vegas Writers Conference 2021: April 8-10

Register now!

VIA LAS VEGAS!

Las Vegas Writers Conference (virtual)
April 8 – 10
Register now!

Four years ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Las Vegas to present two workshops at the Las Vegas Writers Conference hosted by the Henderson Writers Group. Hundreds of people attended to learn from dozens of agents, writing coaches and authors.

The conference will be virtual this year and the organization has again invited me to speak.

Here’s what I’ll be presenting. I’ll also be participating in The Blue Pencil sessions, 15-min. meetings where authors can ask about anything related to writing.

I hope you join us!

Flaming Good Dialogue: How to Create Unforgettable Characters Through Exchanges That Singe

11 a.m. PST Sat., April 10

You think you’ve got fantastic, unique, bestselling characters? You’ll have to prove that to readers, not only through your characters’ actions, but also by what they say, how and when they speak almost as important as what words they use. In this workshop, you’ll not only learn how to sidestep the most common dialogue pitfalls, including why characters all too often wind up sounding alike, but also how to employ the five techniques that will make your characters unique and eminently believable.

The Little Red Riding Hood Dilemma: What Kind of Publisher to Aim for, Big, Medium/Small, Self

9 a.m. PST Fri., April 9

10 a.m. Sat., April 10

Over 2 million books a year are published annually in the United States alone. That intense competition pushes authors toward three avenues: publication through a big publisher, a medium or small publisher, or self publishing. This workshop will offer the advantages and disadvantages to each, while helping participants form a concrete path for their current project that includes resources for pursuing that route.

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

Dialogue Workshop March 20, 2021

“YOU GOT SOMETHING TO SAY?!”

For me, dialogue makes or breaks a book. Cliche dialogue typically indicates cliche characters. What do you think?

If you’re a writer, help is on the way via the 2-hour online workshop I’m teaching this Saturday in which I’ll combine lessons in character development with dialogue. If you know a writer, pass on the news! I’ll post the description at the bottom.

The Road to Flaming Great Dialogue Starts With Growing Great Characters!
9 a.m. PST (11 CST, 12 EST)
Sat., March 20
only $15 for non-members
hosted by the North Texas RWA

I hope to see you there!

CLASS DESCRIPTION

There’s no way your character can authentically voice a fabulous comeback, desperate plea or brilliant courtroom argument until you know exactly how s/he operates! Through discussion and writing exercises in which you’ll actively work on your own characters and scenes, Martha Engber, author of GROWING GREAT CHARACTERS FROM THE GROUND UP will first explain how to grow your characters, whether for a memoir, novel, screenplay or other project. Then she’ll teach you the secret to fantastic dialogue that leads to exciting, unforgettable scenes where your characters truly speak for themselves!

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via all online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

Passionate, Accessible Poetry: Vogue Robinson

Poet Vogue Robinson, author of Vogue 3:16

On Sunday I had the pleasure of doing a 30-min. reading of Winter Light and a Q&A session with the Henderson Writers Group in Las Vegas. Then I got to hear two other writers do the same. One of them was poet Vogue Robinson. (I’ll post about Brett Riley and his newest book at another date.)

What a treat! Vogue’s poetry reflects her demeanor: emotionally accessible. The way she read her ode to British singer Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, was unbelievable. She cried during the recitation, the emotion such a natural outpouring of her powerful words. She’s a truly talented spoken word performer! If I get a chance to share the Zoom recording, I will.

I bought her book, Vogue 3:16 (the number references her birthday), via her website.

She’s also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

She was the Poet Laureate of Clark County, Nevada, during with she read her poetry during events now posted on YouTube.

Do you feel unqualified to read poetry? If so, try reading Vogue’s work, or listening to her speak her work, because she’s clear and passionate in talking about universal topics: love, loss, self-doubt.

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via all online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

March Giveaway for Writers: I Hope You Win!

I’ll be teaching three writing workshops in March and April. In anticipation of so many of your stories pouring fourth as a result, and to encourage them, I’m offering the above giveaway. Entry is easy! Subscribe to my newsletter via my website and email me about what you’re currently working on. If you’ve always wanted to write, enter! If you have loved ones who aspire to pen stories, pass on the news!

Here’s what you stand to win:

I’ll choose a winner at 5 p.m. PST (7 CST/8 EST) on Thurs., March 25, via Facebook Live. If you join the event, you’ll get a reminder.

Upcoming Workshops

North Texas RWA

The Road to Flaming Great Dialogue Starts With Growing Great Characters!

2-hour Zoom workshop

12 p.m. EST (9 a.m. PST/11 a.m. CST)

free for members, $20 for non-members

Las Vegas Writers Conference April 8 – 10

The Little Red Riding Hood Dilemma: What Kind of Publisher to Aim for, Big, Medium/Small, Self

9 a.m. Fri., April 9

Flaming Good Dialogue: How to Create Unforgettable Characters Through Exchanges That Singe

11 a.m. Sat., April 10

Hosted by the Henderson Writers Group

$99 for members, $149 for non-members

Author readings

I’ll be reading an excerpt from Winter Light  during the following SMOL Fair Reading

Commercial Meets Experimental

8-author Vine Leaves Press author reading

6 p.m. EST (3 p.m. PST/5 p.m. CST)

Thurs., March 4

1-hour Zoom event

Dime Grinds

3 authors, 30-min. each, reading, Q&A and book giveaway

2 – 4 p.m. PST (4 p.m. CST/5 p.m. EST)

Sun., March 7

Zoom event

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via all online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

Man’s Search for Meaning

by Victor Frankl

I’ve always thought that as a writer, my first duty is to be curious about people. Not a little curious, but doggedly quizzical until I get as close as possible to understanding how people think and why they act as they do, including myself. But the observation and research skills I’ve built over the years are nothing compared to those of Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Even 23 years after his death, through his work, the Holocaust survivor continues to be one of the best examples of a human wholly devoted to studying the inner workings of humankind. Not because he wanted to write a bestseller, but instead because he believed helping people find their meaning in life allowed them to find happiness, which in turn leads to a better world.

This book is fantastic — and still relevant — on so many levels, determining which to list first is a challenge. And while the book could be simply described as a man telling how he survived three years in not one, but four WW II Nazi Germany concentration camps, including Auschwitz, that would be to excise the many surprising twists and turns.

Twist 1

The first is that Frankl was liberated in 1945 when the war ended. After several months spent recuperating, he sat down and wrote the book in nine day in his native German. The English translation of the title was From Death-Camp to Existentialism. New editions, along with the revised title, came out in 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, and 2006. I read the last version, which was published nine years after Frankl died in Vienna.

Twist 2

Frankl didn’t leave Germany as so many Holocaust survivors did. Instead, he resettled in his hometown of Vienna where he spent the rest of his life until his death in 1997, by which time his book had sold 10 million copies and been translated into 24 languages.

Consider reading the 2006 edition, which contains extra material, and in particular, these three key sections: Frankl’s preface to the 1992 edition, Experiences in a Concentration Camp, and Logotherapy in a Nutshell.

Twist 3

When Frankl was arrested, he was already a doctor of medicine who’d chosen to specialize in psychiatry and was working on his doctorate in philosophy. The first day he entered a concentration camp, he did so with a fully-researched academic paper in his pocket.

Though immediately stripped of the document, along with every piece of clothing, he found scraps of paper on which to jot notes and so set about rewriting the paper in his head. The credited the task with giving him a sense of purpose so deep as to give him the strength to endure his hardship.

He even determined to build on his paper by including his observations of camp life. The result is that even as he gives very intimate details of his first-hand experience, he also includes a distant, clinical viewpoint, a combination that proves riveting.

“When one examines the vast amount of material which has been amassed as the result of many prisoners’ observations and experiences, three phases of the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life become apparent: the period following his admission; the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine; and the period following his release and liberation.”

As a writer, I appreciated his unsentimental observations of prisoners who fell into two groups: those who found a meaning that helped them survive, and those who lacked meaning and perished.

Again as a writer, I found myself making parallels to creating characters, whether fictional or not. Specifically, it’s a writer’s job to find a meaning worthy enough to propel a character forward with enough strength to surmount one obstacle after another.

Twist 4

I had assumed Frankl’s account of his time in the camp would be the main takeaway. When I began the section Logotherapy in a Nutshell, I did so half-heartedly. In dry, clinical writing, Frankl explains the following is an attempt to answer readers’ questions about logotherapy, a technique that helps people find their meaning in life.

Within two pages I found myself highlighting section after section as either aligning with what I’ve discovered in life, or providing new insights I’d never made before.

Again reading through the dual prism of a human being and a writer, I’ve gleaned ideas for being a better person and a better writer:

  1. What a person finds meaningful in life can change over time according to her/his circumstances.
  2. The struggles people endure should not be a source of embarrassment, but instead a badge of courage and source of pride at persevering even in dire circumstances.
  3. It’s during those rugged periods that people are afforded the opportunity to realize their potential by making a conscious decision about how to act. Will they be terrible to others, or helpful and kind?
  4. Lastly, the goal in life should not be to attain notoriety through awards, but instead, those are simply the outcome of passionately pursuing what one feels is important.

I’ll be chewing on his lessons of positivity and purposeful living for a long time to come. If you read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Advice for Mystery Writers from Dennis Palumbo

Fellow author as well as podcaster, screenwriter and psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo has recently had a wonderful how-to article titled Taking the Mystery Out of How to Write a Mystery published in Suspense Magazine.

Amidst his long list of writing credits that include the film My Favorite Year, Dennis is the author of the recently-published Head Wounds (Poison Pen Press), the fifth in the series of Dennis Rinaldi crime novels. His first novel, City Wars (Bantam Books) is in development as a feature film.

If you’re an aspiring mystery writer, yet feel you’re missing the crucial element necessary to create a gripping story for your readers, Dennis’ article will give you a new perspective.

Here’s a snippet to pique your interest:

Let’s start with the basics: what is a mystery? In simplest terms, it’s a story about the disruption of the social order. A crime against society is committed: a man is murdered, a bank is robbed, whatever. We, the viewer, want to know two things: who did it, and why. At least that’s what we think we want. What do we really want?

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!