Realm Makers Highlights

11204938_10207290185318025_6172293894525377565_nIt’s hard to believe that only a week ago, I stood at the registration desk to welcome all the Realm Makers attendees with a big smile (and a folder). Who knew what we were in store for over the next couple of days? Many of us had already enjoyed Jeff Gerke’s early bird session and the Splickety party, and if those were any indication as to the awesomeness of the rest of the weekend.

From Robert Liparulo’s inspiring keynote to the array of informative and motivational workshops taught by some amazing teachers to the costume banquet and Zombie Apocalypse Nerf War, the weekend was jam-packed full of a little something for just about everyone who has a love of speculative fiction.

We’ve seen a lot of Realm Makers recaps over the last few days–and many of them have been so encouraging to read. And the pictures! (Anyone else been addicted to Facebook this week?) Today, I thought I’d get Becky and the other staff to share their highlights from Realm Makers 2015.



Avily and Ben

Ben (MC and Planning Committee):

The Zombie Nerf War, of course!


Avily (MC and Volunteer Coordinator):

ALL THE THINGS. The content of the classes was great. The keynote was fantastic. The costume awards dinner was fabulous. Also, MCing with Ben is one of my favorite things ever. I seriously look forward to it every year.


Lisa (Escape Anthology and Appointment Coordinator):

My favorite was the banquet night. I don’t know about you guys, but when I try to throw a Halloween party at home, hardly anyone dresses up for it, so when THE WHOLE ROOM was in attire–and all decked out–it was awesome. I loved walking around and getting pictures of people in their costumes.

I also loved all the theology that was going on at the conference. From Mike Duran’s Theology of Horror, to Steve Laube’s Theology and Philosophy in his Fabric of the Cosmos (my favorite class), it was refreshing to hear how others in our group breathe Truth into work.

I was so happy to be able to help this year. I’ve already got ideas of how to make things even better for next year. Realm Makers is the best writing conference EVER!!!


Ralene and Lisa

Ralene (Social Media Director and Planning Committee):

The people are always my favorite part of Realm Makers. There are few places you can go where you can talk about 101 ways to kill someone and not have someone around you with their phone ready to dial 911. There are even fewer places where you can talk about magic systems and alien planets and have people understand and brainstorm with you. This year, I also got to meet some friends in person and to see my critique partner for the first time in 2 years. Yes, the people really complete the experience. I can’t wait until next year!


Scott (Director’s Right Hand and Planning Committee):

For me, this entire last week was a close second only to the week Becky and I got married in terms of excitement and taking so much joy from serving Becky’s needs as well as those of all the faculty, sponsors, and authors in attendance. How cool is it that we get to do this every year! My absolute favorite moment was dressing up on Friday night as Steve Rogers to Becky’s Agent Carter. I left this weekend completely amazed.


Scott, Becky, and family . . .

Becky (Realm Makers Director):

It may sound trite, but the highlight of the conference for me is seeing all the hard work of our planning committee and volunteers come together to truly equip and also bless those who are in attendance. people have likened planning the conference to planning a wedding every year, and it is kind of like that. It’s a lot of exciting work, a lot of beautiful things coming together, many amazing people truly celebrating together, as well as learning and networking.

I’m sure there are folks out there who would accuse our conference of not having a professional air, because we don’t get hung up on what people wear during the day, or whether they say the right scripted, spiritual things. But I think that is a big part of what makes Realm Makers unique. We have a sense of banding together as authors, then I just don’t think exists at other conferences. We offer a safe place where people who must think outside the box to write what they write can do so, with the support of many comrades.

We live in an age where publishing needs to be rethought. I absolutely believe the thinkers at this conference have the flexibility and the nimbleness to come up with solutions that will get books more effectively into the hands of readers in the days to come.


While we’re not sure of the details for the 2016 conference, we do know it’ll be in the Philadelphia area sometime during the summer. So start saving your pennies and racking up that vacation time at work. Every year, Realm Makers gets bigger and better–you don’t want to miss 2016!

What is YOUR favorite thing about Realm Makers? 

Realm Makers 2015 Survey

PrintDid you attend the Realm Makers 2015 conference this year? If so, we’re looking for feedback!

We’ve created a 12-question survey so you can tell us what made this year fabulous and what areas we can improve on. Because we’re so awesome, if you do fill out the survey, you will be entered in a drawing to win an Authors Assemble OR Realm Makers t-shirt. Survey must be filled out before August 21, 2015 to be eligible.

Let your voice be heard! Your feedback is important to us and will help us to create an even more fantastic conference next year. We want Realm Makers to be like walking into a home away from home where you can learn, socialize, and grow as a writer. Help us make this experience the best it can be!

So . . .

  1. Follow the link.
  2. Fill out the 12-question survey.
  3. Leave a comment here so we know you filled out the survey.
  4. You’re now entered to win a t-shirt!


Who’s ready for the 2016 Realm Makers conference?


Last Minute Conference Reminders!

PrintCan you believe the Realm Makers conference is only a couple of days away? It’s almost time! Get ready for a weekend of learning, growing, and hobnobbing with the craziest and best people. But before you head out, here’s just a few reminders . . .

First of all, don’t forget to get the Guidebook app for your phone and download the Realm Makers guidebook for the weekend. This is basically an interactive conference program right at your fingertips. The link is: Once you’ve got it, play around with it and familiarize yourself with it so it’ll be useful over the weekend.

There will be a videographer and a photographer available. If you’d like headshots done, you can contact Emilie Hendryx at If you’re interested in author promo videos, you can contact Dan Phillips at

The Early Bird workshop with Jeff Gerke begins at 4 p.m. The Splickety Pre-Party begins at 7:30. These are both over in the conference center. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Friday night is the Quill Pen Editorial Awards Banquet. Be ready for fun, costumes, food, and more! If you are NOT wearing a costume, please come dressed in business attire or how you would for a nice night out. The banquet begins at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday night is game night, which includes the Zombie Apocalypse Nerf Gun War. There will also be a fight panel and tabletop games for those less inclined to kill zombies.

As far as checking into your rooms . . . if you arrive at UMSL:

Before 4 p.m.: Go to office N105 in Provincial House (next to Oak) and the university staff will assist you on checking in.

Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.: Go to office C102 and the student staff will check you in.

After 5 p.m.: you must call or text 314-250-9505 when you arrive and the student staff will direct you as to where you can check in with them.

*Note this is NOT your conference check in.

If you have not paid for housing yet, that will be due upon check-in! Bring exact change if paying in cash, or else a check. CREDIT CARDS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED to pay for housing in person. At the end of the conference, you DO NEED to check out with the university staff, details will be explained at the conference.

A shuttle will be available to take attendees from the dorm to the conference center (it’s about 1.5 miles between the 2). For shuttle times, please see the Guidebook app.

BOOKSTORE! Don’t forget about the bookstore! The bookstore will be open throughout the conference, and we highly encourage attendees to support each other by looking around and seeing what’s available. Be sure to leave room in your suitcase for some goodies!

For the meals not provided at the conference center, if you elected to use the university meals, these are held at the Provincial House next door to the dorm.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. If you have a question, likely others are wondering the same thing.

Realm Makers will have a Videographer Available!

file0001247962926There are many marketing tools available to authors these days. A newer option that is rising in popularity is the author promo video. This year, Realm Makers is excited to welcome videographer Dan Phillips, who will be available throughout the conference to record videos and answer questions. Here’s a little about Dan . . .
1) Tell us about who you are and what you do.
My name is Dan Phillips.  I am currently the Sports Reporter/Videographer/Anchor at WZTV, the Fox affiliate in Nashville, Tennessee, which is basically a fancy title for “jack of all trades, master of none”  in the sports world. I’ve been at WZTV for nearly 10 years, in TV for nearly 20. I shoot, edit, write and report on a wide variety of different sports. I’m also active on social media as well, tweeting about what I see and what I’m doing on a daily basis.
One of the main things I try to emphasize in everything I do is getting you as close to the action as possible. Or at least so you feel like you’re in the game. You can feel the hit on the football field, or the jump shot go in on the basketball court. It’s also really important to me that viewers get the sense of what’s going through an athlete’s mind before, during and after the game. What are the emotions like? Why did they do what they did? It makes them seem more real to me than just giving statistics.
I think that translates to authors. Getting them to talk about why they wrote the book or novel. What their motivation is. Why the characters are important. What the characters and plot mean to them. Readers or potential readers want to know the “inside scoop.” I think it makes them feel more part of the story.
2) What are the perks of an author promo video?
To me, there are several perks to using video to promote your book or novel. First of all, it gives readers or potential readers the insight that I was talking about before. I really believe that the more they know about you and your book, the more interest they have in both the author and the author’s work. I’ve certainly found that to be true in the sports and athletes I cover.
I also think they’re important because it allows you, the author, to have control over the message. You can say what you want, how you want, about your book. I know that for authors, their stories are extremely important and personal to them. Many are even afraid to let the public in on their vision. I think video is an easy way to get the word or vision out to the masses in a concise, compelling way.
I also believe that in this day and age, with technology and all the different outlets available, video is the quickest way and most effective way to relay your message. With such a variety of ways for people to see you and your work, it’s also a cheap way to get a whole lot of promotion. Think about it. There’s social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram), free sites (Youtube, Vimeo), as well as author websites, publisher websites, Amazon, book seller sites, as well as others I’m sure I’m forgetting. That’s a TON of places that literally millions and millions of potential readers check out EVERYDAY.
3) How does an author go about preparing for a promo video and what should they expect during filming?
What I tell people going into a video, first of all, is RELAX. Most people, authors included, get nervous when they think about speaking to an audience, let alone a camera. Here are a few things to think about beforehand.
First, you’re talking about something you know and are passionate about. No one is asking about ISIS, or Obamacare, or the upcoming Presidential election. No one is trying to stump you. Or confuse you. This isn’t 60-Minutes–I want you to do well. So does anyone else who’s interviewing you. It’s your book. Your story. YOU ARE THE EXPERT.
Second, if you do mess up, it OK. It’s not live. WE CAN DO IT AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN. Until you get it right. That’s the beauty of tape.
Finally, SMILE. HAVE FUN. This isn’t brain surgery. Or rocket science. It’s an interview. Your family still loves you. The sun will still rise, no matter what happens. I promise.
As far as appearance goes, I tell people to wear color. A lot of people gravitate towards black and white. Black in particular, because they think it’s slimming. That may be partially true, but it’s also cold and harsh against most people’s skin. It makes you seem less friendly and approachable. So wear color!
Be well groomed. I think too many authors neglect their appearance because they think their words should speak for them. That is simply not the case. Did you know that people make a judgement about you within the first 7 seconds of when they see you? 7-seconds! That’s not a long time to make a good impression. A haircut and color for women (and even men) can make a HUGE difference.
Don’t go crazy with the makeup and facial hair. Natural is better. I know that many men are very attached to their facial hair, and I get that. But the reality is, most of the time it ages you. And so does wearing too much makeup. Or too much jewelry. You want the focus on you. Your face. Not your hair or makeup or necklace or ear rings.
I have a saying: “If you look good, you feel good.  And if you feel good, people will respond to you and your message.” I really believe that.
4) How can authors use the promo videos to promote themselves and their work?
As far as promoting themselves through video, I feel that this is perhaps the most important thing. The beauty of video is that YOU CONTROL THE MESSAGE. These days, it’s all about branding. Whatever, whomever you decide you want to be, you can be. But be careful. You’d be surprised at what does and doesn’t come through on camera. Passion, intensity, emotion all show through. Readers are interested and attracted to that. By the same token, if the emotion or passion is fake, that will also be obvious. It can also potentially derail your message, no matter how well it is delivered or how important it is.
5) Since you are going to be at Realm Makers, how can authors get in touch with you if they are interested or have questions about cost/preparation/etc.?
If you are interested in doing a video with me or my company LDP Multi-Media, feel free to contact me at or by phone at (615) 517-8837. I’d be glad to talk you through the process or answer any other questions you have about videos, your image or brand, or any other services LDP provides. I will be available at Realm Makers to shoot videos for a special conference rate of $500 for a video without b-roll (a TV term for video to cover an interview shot on site) or $750 with b-roll. The shoot should take less than an hour. And we’ll do our best to turn it around and get the finished product to you ASAP.
I’ll also be speaking, along with my friend Julie Gwinn, specifically about Image and Branding at the conference. I think you’ll learn a lot about what will and won’t work for you both personally and professionally as far is your image goes. I want to warn you though, I don’t hold back. Be ready for some seriously straight talk!
I’m really looking forward to hopefully my first of many Realm Makers conferences.  It should be a lot of fun!

Into the Mind of Evangeline Denmark

Denmark-48_with_credits_smWhile she may be the daughter of fantasy novelist Donita K. Paul, she’s an experienced and talented writer in her own right. Today, we’re happy to welcome another one of our speakers for Realm Makers 2015, Evenageline Denmark!


1. You have a book coming out in 2016 from Blink/Harper Collins. Tell us a little about it!


Curio is a Young Adult Steampunk Fantasy set in the West at the turn of the century.

When Grey’s father is arrested for a crime she committed, Grey escapes into an enchanted world within a curio cabinet. Among the living curios—beautiful, cruel porcelains and clever tick-tocks—Grey searches for the one person who can help her get home and save her father.

She finds the only other human in Curio, a boy named Blaise. But he’s in disguise, embroiled in a revolution, and reluctant to remember his past in Grey’s world. To get home, Grey must band with freedom fighters, escape the grasp of the obsessed porcie ruler, and uncover the incredible secret of her own identity. A secret as connected to Blaise as the mark on his skin—a mark Grey also possesses.

The prequel to Curio, Mark of Blood and Alchemy will be available as an ebook in October of this year.
2. Do you have a writing process or schedule?


I try to write while my boys are at school, but the summer months are tricky. That’s when noise-cancelling headphones come in handy.


3. Where do you typically write? Do you have an office or are you usually on the couch/bed/kitchen table?


I have a very messy desk in the corner of a very messy office. I usually write there but sometimes, if I need a change of scenery, I sit in our front room where I can get a glimpse of the mountains.


4. What was it like working with your mom on the 2 children’s books you two published?


We had so much fun thinking up the Dragon and Turtle stories and bouncing them back and forth between our brains and our laptops. We are both picture book lovers, so seeing our own children’s stories come to life in book form was truly wonderful.


5. Evangeline’s Faves:


Food: cheese
Color: red
Book: Jane Eyre
Movie: Penelope


6. What do you hope writers will learn from your continuing education class on world building?


I hope attendees will come away from our class even more in love with their characters and story and enchanted by their story world. I love the brainstorming process and the moments when one idea trips into another and another and your mind lights up with possibilities. Hopefully, the writers who join us will find their creativity kindled as we delve into world building.


7. Do you have any advice for new attendees?


Beware of diseased wombats.


What? We haven’t had any diseased wombats at our conference since the first year. I mean–thank you, Evangeline, for your fun answers!

Rules of the Realm: Have a Great Headshot

_DSC6890As a writer it’s important to realize that your headshot tells a story just as much as your writing does. Hard to believe, right? But it’s true. Below I’ve outlined five reasons why I personally think having a fantastic, professional headshot is important for any writer no matter their stage (pre-published or published). I may rant a little here and there, but I promise to make some valid points.


5 Reasons Why You Need a Fantastic Headshot


1. You are You

That is, unless you aren’t you then you need to re-think you … But I digress. It may seem silly to state this as a fact, but it is one. Your readers are dying to know more about you. I believe this craving for inside knowledge comes from the fact that readers want a personal connection with the author. They’ve just traveled through a (hopefully) thrilling, exciting, emotional, [fill in the blank] ride with you at the helm, and they just have to know the brilliant mind behind that adventure. And, let’s be honest, humans are curious!

2. You are your book

Like I said above, readers want a personal connection. No, your readers are likely not going to the back cover to pick a book because you had that perfect, gleaming smile, BUT they are going to look eventually and what they see will say a lot about you. Having a great headshot that captures your personality, style, and your genuine smile will show them you care about professionalism.

3. A picture is worth a 1000 words … or a 1000 followers?

I personally believe that having a great quality author headshot is the beginning to success for platform building. Okay, I’m cringing because I’m afraid the marketing gods may strike me with lightening. I won’t claim that you’ll get 1k followers by updating your headshots, but I will say that a great quality photo makes a world of difference. People tend to trust those who have completed profiles on social media. They tend to gravitate toward a personalized Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed. They also tend to appreciate well-done images, seeing that the writer has taken their craft seriously—from their books to their marketing materials.

4. Picture Perfect Professional

In line with #3 above, I would say that having a great headshot helps to establish your professionalism and credibility. Readers can come to your site or social media outlet and see that you’ve taken the time to pay for professional photos. Whoa, they’ll think, this author must be legit. And they would be right.

5. It’s going to be everywhere!

Let’s be honest, your picture is going to be plastered all over the place. The back of your book, your website, your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…the Internet. You wouldn’t want that image to be anything less than professional. I’m sorry, but if you’re making an argument for that really great >insert sarcasm here< selfie you took while doing the pouty face with your cute puppy and a copy of your novel, I just won’t hear it. Take it from me–those are great images to spread around Facebook and Instagram, but please don’t be putting that up on your website, trying to convince yourself that it’s “personable.” No, it’s unprofessional [end rant]. If you don’t believe me, go to almost any well-known, best-selling author’s site and take a gander at their beautiful, professional images. (Confession: I have done this.) ;-)


As you can tell, I am passionate about writers having great headshots! I’ve outlined my thoughts a little bit more on my personal blog in a three part series I titled, “What are you saying with your headshot?” (You can find these posts here, here, and here.)


Above all else, hear me say: get a great headshot!


If you’re attending the Realm Makers Conference you can take advantage of my headshot session special as well. I only charge $40 for a 15 min. session. You get 5 high and low resolution images released for commercial use. It’s the perfect session for writers to update their images and I promise not to rant about headshots during our time together. Plus, I tell stupid jokes and have been known to stand on things from time to time just to make things interesting.


Check out my online spreadsheet to find a slot:


Have you had professional photos done before? What did you think?



10914751_567911163346395_5801284642434281744_oEmilie is a freelance writer and photographer living in the heart of Washington, D.C. She’s a member of ACFW and currently working on a romantic suspense series while dreaming up YA dystopian worlds on the side. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time you can find her playing guitar or reading a book all while drinking too much coffee.


Connect with her on her blog,, or on her Facebook author page,



Into the Mind of Jill Williamson

3 CloseThis year will be Jill Williamson’s first visit to Realm Makers, and we are excited to have her. If you haven’t heard of her before, check out her website. She’s been one busy lady these last few years. But, don’t take it from me, read on to find out more!


1. Your first book, By Darkness Hid, was published about 4 years after you started writing, right? What did you do during those first four years to learn about the craft of writing?


For the first three years, I rewrote my first book again and again and again. This was The New Recruit. I loved my book. It was my firstborn, and I was OBSESSED about seeing it published. About the time I was getting requests for the full and the book was sitting in agent and editor’s To-Do piles, I finally started writing new stories. That, I believe, is when I really started to grow as a writer. I had shackled myself to The New Recruit out of my love (obsession) for it. But when I set myself to writing something new, it was really freeing. Also, during my endless rewrites of The New Recruit, I continued to attend writers conferences and learn, I read lots of books on the craft of writing and editing, and I joined a great critique group. All those things helped me learn to tell better stories and to be confident in those stories. It can be very discouraging to receive endless rejections and not know why. At some point, writers have to stop second-guessing themselves and simply trust that the story is finished. Then write something new!

When I sold By Darkness Hid to Jeff Gerke and Marcher Lord Press, it was the sixth novel I had completed. In the years following that sale, I rewrote The New Recruit and sold it. I remember reading it then and being shocked and thankful that it had never sold. It was awful. It had never been ready to be published. It made sense to me all these years later why it had been rejected. The only answer I would have given myself back then would have been “The writing isn’t quite there yet.” In my experience, writing something new was the only thing that freed me from that first book. With each story, my craft improved and still does.

2. You have a real heart for teens and fiction and fiction-writing teens. Where do you think that passion comes from? And what inspiration do you draw from it?


It’s partly my husband’s calling as a youth pastor. We have been surrounded by teens for sixteen years now. It’s partly that, inside my head, I still feel like my teenage self. It’s partly that teen books/coming-of-age stories are my favorites to read. And it’s partly that I am a person who loves to encourage others. That’s me. It’s who I am. So it comes out in what I write and in what I teach. I’m fascinated by each person’s journey of finding God and what he wants for their lives. It’s a beautiful thing. And I want that for my characters.

3. What has been your favorite part of starting Go Teen Writers with Stephanie Morrill? (And for those of us who may not know, what is Go Teen Writers?) was founded in 2010 by YA novelist Stephanie Morrill as a place to encourage teenage writers. I had a similar heart for teen writers and joined forces with Stephanie in 2012. We blog weekly on all topics related to writing fiction and answer comments and emails from teenage writers. The blog has over 1200 followers. In 2013, we collaborated to write the book Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book.

My favorite part of working with Stephanie is the friendship we’ve developed. Sometimes I feel like no one understands the ups and downs of writing, marketing, blogging, and sales (or lack thereof) like Stephanie. I’d be lost without her. Besides that, it’s always humbling to hear that the blog or an email or comment helped a teen and encouraged them. The teenage years can be a frustrating and confusing time, and I love knowing that something we wrote on the blog gave clarity to someone. It’s a wonderful experience to be a part of.

4. Here comes the stumper. Which genre of book did you prefer writing just a little bit more? :)


I always prefer fantasy. I’m a world-builder at heart, and I find immense joy in that. However, I have never laughed as much as I laugh when writing Spencer’s voice. As I mentioned above, I rewrote The New Recruit one last time after I had been published. I looked at the book back then and knew I needed to write it in first person. (It had always been third person before.) Like magic, there was Spencer’s voice, all cocky and sarcastic. He was just waiting for me to find him. It’s a delight to write his voice, to pull in pop culture references and jokes that would never fly in an off-world fantasy novel. So when I’m sick of my latest fantasy world, nothing gives me a breather like writing Spencer for a while. He is my hiatus.

Brandon5. Jill’s Faves:


Food: Fettuccini Alfredo
Color: Don’t have one.
Book: I can’t pick just one! My current favorite is The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Movie: Again, cannot pick only one. I recently loved Jurassic World. Except for the high heels …

6. You’re teaching some interesting classes this year. What do you hope the writers take away from your workshops?


That details matter. We all have to learn the craft of writing. But at some point, we have to drop the rules and trust ourselves as writers. We have to say, “Yeah, I know that’s the rule, but …” and be confident in that. Otherwise, we all end up with the same voice. So learn the rules, then learn to trust yourself. And take extra time to choose specific words, to say things in your own unique way, to craft a perfect pitch, and to add details to your storyworld that will set your book apart from all the others. I often hear editors and agents say they are looking for the “wow factor,” and that’s something that takes extra time to develop. Take the time to do that. Then put that book down and write a new one!

7. Any advice for conference newbies?


Try not to put all your hopes and dreams into one specific meeting with an editor, agent, or author. Relax. Enjoy this time of learning. Set aside that obsession to be published and instead adopt an attitude of investment. You are here to invest in yourself as a writer, to better yourself. Anything you learn is great. You are the product you are investing in. Your skills. Not one specific book. You and your own life. So come to this conference looking to add skill to your ability, to make friends, and to enjoy being with other people who love stories and writing as much as you do. You will be far less stressed if you come to learn rather than to have all your hopes and dreams answered in a five minute meeting.


Thank you, Jill, for visiting with us today. Your answers were filled with lots of great advice.