Friday, November 28, 2014

A Season of Thanks

By Jason Henry

The holiday season is in full swing. As you read this, you may be recovering from a turkey coma hangover, warming a plate full of leftovers, sending friends and relatives on their way as you reclaim your house, or getting ready for a nap after a frenzied day of Black Friday shopping.
For many of us, this is a time of reflection. With thirty-three days left in 2014, a new year is fast approaching. Me, well, I am one of those thinking back over the past eleven months and wondering if I spent them correctly. I look at where I was and where I am and, I will admit, there are some things in question. However, I know that I personally have a habit of setting lofty goals and forgetting the smaller achievements along the way.

As a writer, this holds even truer.

At this moment in time, I have not secured an agent, not signed a publishing contract, and, in the past year, I have not made one single cent as a writer. For these things, I am incredibly thankful.

I am thankful because I have a chance to acknowledge and appreciate some things I did accomplish this year. Things I may have overlooked under different circumstances.

In April, I attended another amazing Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Now, I have the pleasure and honor of being Programming Director for the next. At that conference in April, I met so many wonderful new people and got to say hello to some familiar faces. I also pitched my work for the first time and received two ‘send its’.

Wait a minute…

That means I also finished writing my first novel.

As I look back, published or not, there are so many things that give me cause for thanks.

So, allow me to ask this of you:

On this Black Friday and for the rest of the holiday season, set aside thoughts of things you didn’t do. Take some time to ponder and appreciate the successes, no matter how small they may seem.

You survived NaNoWriMo! Whether you wrote 100 words or 100,000, you put words onto paper. Any word count at all should feel like a success. WIN!

Registration for the 23rd Annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference has opened. Perhaps you were one of the first five registrants. That means you received a front-of-the-line meal pass. Have you seen those lines? That’s a WIN, baby!

The Zebulon has closed and judging is underway. Maybe you ignored all the self-doubt and entered. If so, that is a major accomplishment. No matter the end results, that’s a WIN.

As we navigate through the holiday season, we all should remember one win in particular. We write. No matter where we are on our writing journey, no matter what writing adventure we’ve chosen, we write. We face the world, standing tall and steadfast in the pursuit of our dreams. For that, I ask that you be thankful. I can say that I, for one, am incredibly thankful for you.

Happy Holidays!

Jason P. Henry
Programming Director
2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference

When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem: “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What is Your Sweet Success Story?

By K.J. Scrim (aka: Kathie Scrimgeour)

After months of blood, sweat, tears, and a few tiny bald spots, your masterpiece is complete. You are ready to make a mark on the literary world. Your best friend bought the first copy. Uncle Bill heard about it, and had to give it as a gift to his boss’s daughter for her birthday. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are buzzing with the news and a couple of people have even written reviews on their blog and given you a five-star rating on Goodreads.

Pikes Peak Writers (PPW) wants to help you make some noise. Sweet Success is a free online marketing tool exclusively for PPW members (another perk for PPW members). What do you get? A free blog post dedicated to you and your success story. Remember that in online marketing every ping, blip, click, and mention of your name boosts your presence. Create enough of these and your name can grow into quite a rumble. Add more rumbles and you will have a veritable earthquake on your hands. This is the sound of your sweet success making itself known to the world.

Tell us about your poem, book signing, flash fiction, or your epic novel. Did you get a mention in the New York Times? Are you being honored at your local VFW or did you recently win a writing contest? Tell us about it! Let PPW add a ping or three toward the making of your success story. Don’t forget to join PPW then drop an email to:

Please include the following information:

  • Your name
  • The name of the work
  • Release date
  • Your byline or pseudonym (and how you want me to handle it)
  • Type of work (short story, novel, article, etc.)
  • Genre
  • Age level
  • Publisher
  • ISBN
  • Format (hardcover, softcover)
  • Page count (or word count)
  • Brief description of the book (100 words max)
  • Brief bio (100 words max)
  • E-mail
  • Website (author promo, blog, etc.)
  • Where to buy/read website
  • Cover image, if available.
See you there!

About the Author: Kathie writes under the name K.J. Scrim (it is so much shorter and easier to say than her full name). She started writing in the previous century, and continued through college.  She received her BFA in Fine Art from the University of Colorado, Boulder. While living in Conifer, CO she had her own column in the Mountain Connection and produced a weekly segment for local television programming. Today she keeps up on a blog, is working on a YA multi-dimensional novel, is the Coordinator for Sweet Success, and an active member of PPW, RMFW, and AWP. She lives in SE Metro Denver with her husband, two grown kids, along with a couple of dogs and a cat.    

Monday, November 24, 2014

Writers and Trust

By Karen Albright Lin

In most endeavors we put ourselves out there. We risk trusting someone with our money when we order online, or when we hand our credit card to the Shirt Barn Cashier. We trust that our important personal information will be protected when we do our banking, buy on e-Bay, and make a payment for a writer’s conference through PayPal.

Trust is a part of everyday life. But writers have additional vulnerabilities. A screenwriter typically waives his rights to sue if a film is made similar to the script he submits for consideration; after all, someone else may have submitted something else substantially the same.

We trust that contest judges won’t run with our entry’s idea, that critique group members have our commercial best interest in mind, and that a conference brings in quality acquiring agents and editors. We assume those editors and agents aren’t attending those conferences only to schmooze with their local clients and each other—while being wined and dined and housed at the base of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been at a conference when an agent admitted to doing just that after he didn’t turn up to take pitches as his contract required.

Writers are vulnerable in many ways, yet we have to trust. We trust beta readers to give us honest feedback. We throw our work out there in the wind for it to get exposure and be bought. We spend precious time on social networking hoping it will pay off in sales.

We place it in the hands of fate or faith that our long, arduous apprenticeship will net us a career.

But there are times when we shouldn’t simply trust and cross our fingers. Examples would include choosing or not choosing the self-publishing route, determining how to get educated in our search for the Holy Grail (conferences? MFAs? Contests? A stack of books on writing?), as well as determining how and whether to spend money on freelance editors.

Having experience on both ends, I’ll address this last one. Trust is risky business here. Be careful when looking for an editor.

  • Trust but know who you can rely on: Get referrals from reliable sources.
  • Trust but do background checks: It’s one thing to hear about an editor's happy clients, it’s another to contact one or two to confirm.
  • Trust but get a sample: Be willing to pay for a short edit to get an idea of quality and how time is used.
  • Trust but hire an attorney: Before handing over a large sum of money, get the contract evaluated.

Trusting can be risky at the other end of those relationships. Editors, pitch consultants, writing coaches, ghostwriters, writers-for-hire, or any service providers also have warnings to heed.

  • Trust but put it in writing: It’s a good idea to have a publishing attorney check your contract to be sure you are offering fair provisions in which your self-interest matches and complements the writer's.
  • Trust but get a sample: Suggest contracting for a few hours initially to gauge quality and needs of the work. Then take that into consideration when you determine how you’d like to be paid.
  • Trust but don’t be a jerk magnet: Look for the signs that someone is a user who will suck your time then not pay you.
  • Trust but cut your losses: There are nuts out there who will ask for advice then go about doing the opposite over and over and over. Consider your sanity precious.
  • Use your gut instincts: Try to spot the big-name author who wants you to ghostwrite for him, contracts to pay you a percentage of a potentially huge book, then yanks it out from under you without a kill fee. (Sound suspiciously specific? Yes, this happened to me.) Again have an attorney check your contract before you sign. Insist on a kill-fee for ghostwriting if there is big money at stake.

In our challenging field, we have no choice but to trust. But there are ways to mitigate our exposure. Live by the cliché, trust but verify.

About the Writer:  Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“You can make anything by writing.”
C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis 
November 28, 1898 - November 22, 1963
The Screwtape Letters
The Chronicles of Narnia 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Writers and Trust                                      Karen Albright Lin

* What is Your Sweet Success Story?     Kathie Scrimgeour

* A Season of Thanks                                    Jason Henry

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sweet Success! Rachel Weaver

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Rachel Weaver’s literary fiction, Point of Direction, (ISBN : 978-1-935439-91-2, 233 pages)  was released May of 2014 by Ig Publishing to rave reviews. Oprah Magazine described it as a “strikingly vivid debut novel.” In his review on NPR’s All Things Considered, Alan Cheuse described the novel as one that “pulls you in.” Point of Direction was chosen by the American Booksellers Association as a top ten debut for Spring 2014, by IndieBound as an Indie Next List Pick, and by Yoga Journal as one of their top five suggested summer reads.

Hitchhiking her way through Alaska, a young woman named Anna is picked up by Kyle, a fisherman. Anna and Kyle quickly fall for each other, as they are both adventurous, fiercely independent, and in love with the raw beauty and solitude of Alaska. To cement their relationship, they agree to become caretakers of a remote lighthouse perched on a small rock in the middle of a deep channel—a place that has been uninhabited since the last caretaker mysteriously disappeared two decades ago. What seems the perfect adventure for these two quickly unravels, as closely-held secrets pull them apart, and the surrounding waters threaten uncertain danger. Set against the uniquely rugged landscape of coastal Alaska, Point of Direction is an exquisite literary debut.

About the Author:  Prior to earning her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University, Rachel Weaver worked as a biologist for the Forest Service in Alaska studying bears, raptors and songbirds. She teaches fiction at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. Her website is: 
Link to the book trailer

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do You Buy Books? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

This is the eleventh post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

And here is where we spend money. 
Consider buying: 
  • a print book
  • a digital version
  • as many as you can

Buying books is essential to your writing career. If you don’t buy books (when you can), who will? If you don’t buy books, how can you expect others to buy your books?

I utilize many of the free ways to read books — the library, a loan, a review copy, and free promotions. But, I also strategically use my extra cash for the books I really enjoy and want to own. If I see an author at a conference, I will buy books and get them signed.
If you can’t get the physical book, consider digital versions of your favorite books. If I can’t find a picture book at the library, I will buy the discounted ebook. {I recommend you review picture books immediately after purchase, because the format quality is not always ideal. I’ve asked Amazon for a refund for some picture book ebooks due to the poor quality. So, always check your picture books. If you aren’t happy, return it.}
The digital market has reduced the cost of many books, especially series. You can often buy the first book at a reduced rate (or even free), because the publisher knows you’ll get hooked and buy the other books in the series. Divergent by Veronica Roth is less expensive than Insurgent or Allegiant.
The fact you can begin reading ebooks immediately is priceless.
If you don’t have money for books, don’t buy them! But, remember, if you don’t make buying books a priority, don’t be offended when a publisher says the market isn’t ready for your book, because {insert your type of book} doesn’t sell well.
For writers, buying books is important to keep the publishing industry open for business, to authors who want to make a living, and to bookstores and online retailers.
What’s your favorite method for buying books?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on March 17, 2014)

About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Do You Love Me? Do You Really Love Me?

By Aaron Michael Ritchey


I really want you to think about the question I wanna ask you. So. Just. Stop.

Focus on the screen and turn off that radio, click off that second monitor, ignore the damn dog for a minute, let your children go screaming off into the streets because I need your full attention.

Are you ready?

This is the question that was asked at my critique group tonight and no one answered it except for me. Do you know why? Because this question is brutal.

Okay. Here is the question.

What kind of validation are you looking for through your writing?

I know. See why I wanted you to cut loose those distractions? I’ll repeat the question for those with a blown mind.

What kind of validation are you looking for through your writing?

My answer? None. You can’t validate me through my writing because it can never, ever be enough. 

Only if I had the fame and fortunes of a J.K. Rowling or a Stephanie Meyer could I even begin to come close to the validation I want. I am bottomless when it comes to other people’s attention and their validation. I can never be satisfied. It’s a game I can’t win.

You say you like something I wrote, and I don’t believe you, or the praise isn’t right, or it doesn’t focus on exactly what I want to hear. My ranking in Amazon goes up, but it never goes up far enough. I’m never #1 across all of Amazon for weeks on end. It is never enough.

I’m not rich and famous.

I’m not an award-winning writer.

I’m not validated much, and when I am, it’s iffy. It doesn’t mean much.

Now, I say all that, but I have to be honest, when I got my glorious Kirkus Review for Long Live the Suicide King, I memorized it. When I had someone legitimately fangirl out over me, yeah, I savored it. When I had my daughters love one of the books I wrote for them and cry at the end, yeah, that was true validation. Yes, those things were nice.

But I’m learning not to look for validation because for me, I can’t live off it. When validation comes, however, I DO MY BEST TO CELEBRATE IT (all caps for you and for me), but my appetite for validation is waning.


I write because I’ll be dead soon. Soonish. Fifty years or ten minutes, we don’t know. I’ll be dead soon and this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life right now. Not to get all Dr. Sigmund Freud on you, but this is my causa sui, my life’s purpose, to write books and to get them published by any means necessary.

That is a grand game, a tough game, a vicious game, but it’s a game I’m going to play as best I can, as creatively as I can, and yeah, my chances of winning are slim.

But that is what makes it grand. That is what makes it heartbreaking and wonderful and staggering because in this writing game, there are no rules.

Let me repeat that. There are no rules.

Wonderful, humanizing books right now are not selling while hastily written erotica about dinosaurs are making millions.

No one knows anything. If they say they know, they are trying to sell you something. Buy it. Why not? Where else do you want your money to go? Buy magic beans. You can always mix them later with some rice for a complete protein.

For me, right now, validation isn’t the point of this. It’s to play the game, to write the books I need to write, and to enjoy as much of it as I can.

And in reality, there is a lot to enjoy.

About the Author:  Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of Long Live the Suicide King, a finalist in the Reader’s Favorite contest. Kirkus Reviews calls the story “a compelling tale of teenage depression handled with humor and sensitivity.” His debut novel, The Never Prayer, was also a finalist in the Colorado Gold contest. His forthcoming works include a new young adult novel from Staccato Publishing and a six book sci-fi/western series from Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was nominated for a Hugo. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two goddesses posing as his daughters.

For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey.