Wednesday, May 27, 2015

5 Tips for Social Media Privacy

By Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Last month we talked about the purpose of posting on social media. This month, I’m addressing social media privacy.

I hear it a lot. "I don’t want to post online, I’m worried about privacy." "I don’t trust that stuff.” “People don’t need to know what I had for dinner."

You’re right, people don’t need to know what you had for dinner. But people will only know what you put out there. Let me repeat. People will only know what you put out there. But it is imperative that you understand how what you put online can put you in danger of cyber piracy or identity theft.

1- Security question answers.
· You know all those questions you have to answer for the really secure sites: Mother’s maiden name and street you grew up on. Don’t post anything that could disclose the answers to those questions.

· First dog’s name. First car. First anything.

· Maiden names, middle names, any names.

· Social security number, home address, phone numbers, full birthdays.

· Any of this information can be aggregated from what you post, and the good cyber criminals know how to find it. If it’s not your bank site, don’t post it.

2- Always assume that anything you put online will be there forever.
· Texts, posts, videos, photos. All of it will be there forever.

· Even if you delete your account.

· Being aware of this will help you decide whether or not you actually need to post that video tour of your home.

3- Location, location, location.
· Never disclose a vacation before you go.

· Never post pictures while you’re on vacation.

· There have been cases where homes are broken into because someone posted online that they were out of town.

4- Friends.
· Do you know all your friends? Don’t friend anyone you don’t know, and set your privacy settings to friends only.

· If you’re using your social media for your author profile, friending is part of it. Just make sure you post only benign posts that don’t give away too much personal information. Better to post hobby pics and memes.

5- Search yourself.
· Type in your name into Google with /ncr at the end of your name. (i.e. jenniferlovett/ncr)

· NCR erases the geo-locator Google has so you can see what is out on the Internet without the system using your historical search data to skew the results.

I love social media. I think it’s fun and entertaining, and I really like connecting with friends who don’t live where I live. It’s a great tool for building an author’s platform. I’m here to tell you to embrace it, use it, make it work for you. It’s a crucial tool for a writer. But when you use social media, just be aware of the possibility of cyber crime. Privacy, security and branding can coexist. You can build a brand online and post interesting, thoughtful and funny posts without giving away the farm. Be cognizant of what you are posting and think about whether it could ever be used against you. If you get the little, funny feeling in your belly, then don’t post it. If you don’t get that feeling, then go for it. Enjoy your online experience; just enjoy it responsibly.

If you ever have any questions, please feel free to ping me on any of my social media outlets. Happy & safe posting!

About the Author: Jennifer Lovett Herbranson has marketed books, shows, concerts and more for more than 15 years. She is a huge fan of Twitter, and passionate about helping authors understand marketing. Find more about Jenny at

Monday, May 25, 2015

PPWC15 - The Prequel

By Anastasia Storer 

I recently had the privilege of attending the Thursday Prequel at this year's PPWC under a scholarship. I cannot thank the organization enough, as otherwise I'd not have been able to attend. It's been a long time since I've been able to go to a convention. As I handle the final preparations before I leave the country for two years to volunteer with the Peace Corps in the small country of Moldova, I find myself looking back over the notes I took and once again being so thrilled I was given the opportunity to be a part of the conference.

I've been struggling over the last few months with my writing as other things took precedence. This led to my finding it impossible to keep my word count where I thought it "should" be. Getting the chance to spend a day surrounded by readers and writers, all with the same sorts of struggles, all with the same passion for the written word, really helped me get myself back on track and helped me to realize I needed to set more realistic goals for myself during what is a very hectic time of life for me.

It also cemented in my mind the desire to attempt to form a writing circle during my time in Moldova, to encourage Moldovan writers the same way the people at the conference encouraged me.

The sessions I attended on editing and on query letters might as well have been tailor-made for me in terms of where I am in my process of working on a writing career. Another few months, and I'll be able to take the amazing insights and advice Bree Ervin offered in her Read Like An Editor workshop (goodness, I've not taken so many notes so fast since my college days!) and put them to use. And if I'm lucky, before the year is out, I'll be ready to take what I learned in Andrea Somberg's Queries With Claws to start trying to find a home for my book.

Thank you again to the Pikes Peak Writers organization for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2015 prequel!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"You know how some people write every day at a certain point? I'm not like that. I carry something around for a long time. I weigh the words and the sentences. I weigh the paragraphs. The process is much more meditative for me."
Jamaica Kincaid (May 25, 1949 - )
See Now Then
Mr. Potter
The Autobiography of my Mother 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* PPWC15 attendee and scholarship recipient Anastasia Storer talks about her Prequel experience.

* Jennifer Lovett Herbranson gives us 5 Tips for Social Media Privacy.

* Kathie Scrimgeour has a Sweet Success story. (Rescheduled from May 22.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Get On With It

(Editor's Note: The Sweet Success post originally scheduled for today will appear next Friday, May 29.)

By Karen Albright Lin

We writers often linger too long in the beginning of our books, bogged down in what turns out to be a warm up. We are fascinated by what we are learning about our characters and the world they live in. We swim through tons of history – it’s all relevant, right? After all, we need to understand our characters’ backgrounds.

Yes. We do need to have an understanding of what has happened to the characters before page one. But the reader only needs to have a general sense of what came before the main action, what made the character the man he is. For example, we don’t need to know that Geoffrey Erskine III studied at an Ivy League school with the help of his daddy’s donation to the business school. We can instead suggest it through Erskine’s attitude, his name, his vocabulary, his dress, how he physically carries himself.

Long introductions may bore your readers, make them scan to find the spot where you get on with it. Cut your intro to a point where your characters do something interesting. Consider minimizing exploration of the normal world by starting at a point of change or even soon after the inciting incident. We can start with a man wandering the streets confused at having been booted from his house by his wife of thirty years.

Character traits can initially be implied rather than presented on-the-nose. Certainly our understanding of the characters’ backgrounds make it possible for readers to have a sense they are real rather than simply dropped into a conflict-filled world for the sake of plot. But it’s best not to offer readers more than necessary. Because we have a tendency to do this, our beginnings often end up being substantially cut in the second and third drafts. To avoid overwriting introductions we can put our ACT I paragraphs through three tests.

1 – Do we need this information to get the story’s plot started?

2 – Is the specific information needed right off the bat to understand your characters?

3 – If the backstory will be necessary to your story, can we get the information later when it is vital and triggered by the action?

We often live with our characters and in their worlds before we even put our fingers on the keyboard. As a result, we have a tendency to do a first-draft-splat. Backstory that isn’t absolutely essential to get the adventure started is best removed or saved for later. Find the real beginning of your story.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thank You, PPW!

By Renee Christine Martine 

Thank you, Pikes Peak Writers, for the very informative annual writers conference this April 2015. As a scholarship attendee, volunteer, first-timer and new author, I would say to those interested in gaining critical information, advisories, and the opportunity to co-exist with other fellow writers that PPW is the place you should be; not only for their annual conference, but their support allegiance as well. 

As a new writer, I have to admit I listened and laughed at this conference. I laughed, because I learned that my protagonist has to really go through the ringer to gain an audience and mine had not even scratched the surface. One of the best lectures I attended at this conference was "Reading like an Editor—Edit Your Novel Like a Pro" by Bree Ervin. This session gave me an inside scoop on what editors want to see to help an author avoid the bucket drop, and gain an audience. After the conference, I came to the conclusion that the build up momentum surrounding my main character had some very important pieces missing from the story—she was not hanging on the edge by her fingernails, like we want our readers to do. This session was SO informative. Bree was very easy to understand, authoritative, fun, and she delivered!

As a new resident to Colorado Springs, I haven’t had much opportunity to met many people I can call friends. The Pikes Peak Writers group is very inviting, helpful, assertive, and I really enjoyed meeting new people at the conference who were there to do the same things I was —learn, grow, write, succeed. I gained a new friend while there, and this is so important; a new friend with something in common—bonus!

In addition to the three-day conference, PPW provides a Prequel day which I attended. While the Prequel didn’t have the claws the following three days did, it still packed a punch in my dilemma writers card, and I left a very satisfied and eager pupil. Armed with a super fun swag bag, notebook, classes to attend, lunch, note treasures to take home, oh and Starbucks in the lobby, I could not have asked for a better day. Next year I will certainly take PPW up on their very affordable payment plan so that I can experience the full enchilada!

Thank you so very much, PPW, for your gracious scholarship gift, and for being there for all the writers who have benefited from the expertise you brought to the table. I very much look forward to not only 2016’s conference, but the monthly “Write Brain” and “Open Critique" events you provide. These free classes are the cherry on top of your dedication in aiding writers to be their best, and succeed!

In much appreciation,

Renee Christine Martine

Monday, May 18, 2015

The QABN Formula for Plotting Fiction

By Linda Rohrbough

I tried Kindle Unlimited and found there was only one book on there I wanted to read. While I didn’t keep my trial subscription, I did buy the book: Storyteller Tools: Outline from Vision to Finished Novel without Losing the Magic by M. Harold Page. What piqued my interest in this one was the author’s claim that he’s been writing three fiction books a year, doing pretty well at it, and this book is how he does it. He plots using the QABN formula.

Like many Kindle books which probably didn’t benefit from an editor, it’s full of rants and can be hard to follow. There’s a certain amount of poor language choices (okay, cursing that’s not even clever, just cursing) and sexual innuendo. If you take that stuff out, it’ll be even shorter, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

There are two benefits I took away. One was the QABN formula, which I’ll share with you here. The other was Page’s plotting notes. M. Harold shares his plotting notes with us pretty much verbatim and they’re as hard to follow as I expected. I found this rather encouraging, because mine are, too. (That’s because they’re just for me, and M. Harold says the same thing.)

Ah, but the QABN - now that is a gem. QABN stands for this formula: Question, Answer, But . . ,Now. A bit of a new twist on an old plotting technique, which is to thwart the hero by throwing obstacles up to the story goal. Question is the story question – that’s obvious enough. Answer is the end result or the goal. But is the obstacle to the end result. Now is the new resulting situation.

Dwight Swain, who passed on some time ago, explained the QAB portion like this in Secrets of the Selling Writer: What does the hero want and what’s in the way of him/her getting it? I still have an audio recording of his workshop that has stuck with me.

The less obvious part is that Page uses this formula for every scene. He starts by doing a QABN that is an overview for the entire book - the elevator pitch, if you will, and then drills down on the events in the plot using the QABN until he has a QABN for each scene.

And Page likes twists. I’ll make one up here for the sake of example: Will the prince ask the princess to marry him? Yes, but the princess chooses to remain single, because she wants to save the family fortune for her nephew to carry on her father’s name rather than let the prince control it. Page has lots of other examples in the book. But I’ll spare you because you get the idea. The But opens a whole new Now for the character, and the reader. And that spells conflict, which is what makes the story world go ‘round.

Of course, you’ve got to make these twists, these choices that go against the grain, plausible. But they make for much more interesting reading.

This isn’t hard and I think you probably have the gist of it by now. If not, may I suggest you can get Page’s Kindle book for under $10 and study it to your heart’s content? Tell him in your Amazon review that I sent you. <wink> (He doesn’t have any idea who I am, but that ought to send him scurrying over here to the PPW blog find out.)

About the Author: Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"Louis Pasteur said, 'Chance favors the prepared mind.' If you're really engaged in the writing, you'll work yourself out of whatever jam you find yourself in."
Michael Chabon (May 24, 1963 - )
The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier and Clay (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Telegraph Avenue

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Linda Rohrbough will share the QABN System for Plotting.

* Scholarship Recipient Renee Christine Martine will discuss her PPWC15 experience.

* Kathie Scrimgeour has a new Sweet Success