Friday, October 24, 2014

Sweet Success! Karen Albright Lin

By Kathie Scrimgeour
Karen Albright-Lin’s memoir, Mu Shu Mac-N-Cheese, was one of the finalists for the HuffPost 50/AARP memoir contest. Ten finalists were chosen from a pool of more than 2,400 contestants. Next step, Karen has to cut 77,000 words down to 50,000 by Dec 15th. 

About the Author:  For Karen, a food writer, twenty-years of passionate marriage to her Chinese husband has given her a new identity, offsetting a white-bread Midwest past. But can her marriage survive cross-cultural mayhem when her dominating mother-in-law arrives for a poorly-timed visit?

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, October 22, 2014

A Little Zebulon Fiction

By Robert Wyckoff

Winter is coming, and the deadline for entering The Zebulon Contest is fast approaching. November 2nd, noon MST. Is your entry ready?

If you’re still undecided about entering, consider M.B. Partlow’s list of reasons to enter a writing contest:

If you’re still undecided, consider Rezi Edwards and her story of entering The Zebulon.


Like any highly evolved, adolescent, pimple-bedazzled Homo sapien, I was born in the watery confluence of two stories. That’s me floundering in the river right there: Resina Edwards. Nineteen year old non-prodigy.

My father’s story—or his river if you’re interested in extended metaphor—flows straight and true, through mountains and not around them. Arthur Edwards is my provider of physical necessities, the renowned astrophysicist, and the stalwart defender of the logical and the mundane. He wears his emotions on his lab coat sleeve—and his sleeve is always starch white.

I admire my mother’s story for her lovingly sculpted prose and meandering plot. Annabella Dahl had been my muse, the elementary school teacher, the author, the wandering warrior of words and worlds. I remember she laughed only with her jade eyes because she believed laughing with her throat was cliche and revealing.

Nineteen years ago, when tectonics and erosion allowed my parents’ rivers to meld, to spring forth the Resina River, they fought like rapids for my name. My father the amateur DNA researcher championed ‘Amber’ because—and I couldn’t make this up if I tried—he liked the Jurassic Park movies.

“Scientifically absurd and unrealistic,” he reportedly said. “But I’m quite in love with that chap’s mosquito-amber cane. I want one.”

My mother couldn’t stand naming her child anything remotely common, so she convinced him to name me Resina. As in, you know, amber resin.

Massive, exasperated sigh.

So here’s me. My friends call me Rezi. Or they would if my friends existed.

More sigh.

I’m sick. Not like oh-surprise-this-is-a-tragic-cancer-story sick, but dizzy sick. From spinning in my computer chair.

I stick my feet—fuzzified in adorable green alien slippers—down to slow my spin.

“EEEYYEERRRH,” I say, trying very maturely to mimic squealing brakes.

I stop. I wait for the world to quit swimming.

When it does, I’m looking dazedly at the alarm clock on my desk. 11:30 A.M., November 2nd, 2014.

I have half an hour to enter this…

I squint at the computer monitor.

Zebulon Contest…thing.

If my life was a story, this would be a ticking time bomb plot. Thirty minutes before the human ambassadors fail in negotiations, and the aliens abduct all of our cows. Thirty minutes left for Rezi, Badass Space Pirate Princess, to steal aboard the mother ship and sabotage the cow-beamers, thereby ensuring the survival of American fast food culture.

Thirty minutes until the real Rezi, nineteen year old girl from Nowheresville, Suburbia, must make the ultimate choice.

I sigh, looking at the two windows open on my monitor.

Submit my sci-fi novel to this writing contest? Or submit this college application to MIT? Novelist? Or astrophysicist?


Whoops. Another ten minutes lost to The Navel Gaze. Twenty minutes left.

I whirl to face the windowed wall of my bedroom/office/Lair of Eternal Navel Gazing. Beneath my old One Direction poster—which is now scribbled on to read ‘No Direction’, with the boys colored green and wearing jetpacks—is a half-sized filing cabinet. Heaps of never-submitted, half-complete novels and short stories litter the top and base of the gray metal. I’ve never considered organizing them into the cabinet because that space is reserved. Special.

My mother’s old photo album lies within.

I deliberately keep it hidden, yet easily accessible. In my darkest moments, when my ship’s out of oxygen and I’m lost in the void, I take the album out to remember her smiling jade eyes. She injects air into my lungs and direction in my bones.

But when I’m only slightly adrift, systems not critical, seeing her in only two dimensions fogs me up and turns me about. Scrambles my nav systems. Makes me really damn sad.

I consider taking her out of the cabinet, but only briefly. Star Rezi One isn’t quite that lost on this mission.

I sigh, turning back to my computer. Ten minutes left.

Jiminy, propped up in a sitting position behind my alarm clock, seems eager to say something.

“Hey, Conscience. What advice do you have?” I say, picking him up in one hand.

Jiminy Space-Cricket is a doll my mother gave child-me, presumably because she was tired of watching Disney’s Pinocchio approximately eight billion times a week. But I’ve since made some wicked cool alterations to this little green man. In place of his top hat, suit, and opera gloves, I donned him in an astronaut suit I Frankensteined from a futuristic Ken and Barbie set.

This is how I make friends.

“Let your Conscience be your guide,” I say in a squeaky voice, tilting Jiminy’s space-helmeted head in a sagely fashion.

“No duh, dude,” I say. “So guide me.”

Jiminy says nothing.

I stare at him, and finally begin the same argument I’ve cycled through a hundred times. “My father would tell me to think of my mother,” I say. “Her writing never amounted to much more than financial strain on the three of us. She was depressed. In the end, she was too depressed.”

Jiminy says nothing, and I feel like shaking him.

“In the end,” I repeat, feeling the familiar itching heat in my jade eyes. “She was too depressed.”

Jiminy says nothing.

“My mother would say….” I feel the cool wet slide down my cheek. I remember how she rocked me to sleep, singing. “When you wish upon a star….”

I swallow hard. The alarm clock is blurry now. Five minutes left.

My voice is broken as I sing. “Makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you.”

The glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling seem to whisper to me. The final frontier. Astrophysics. Science Fiction.

“If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme, when you wish upon a star, as dreamers do.”

I grab the computer mouse. It’s stupid, I know—but it’s shaking in my hand. Depression is stupid. It doesn’t always make sense.

But writing helps. It’s my reserve oxygen supply. A heat shield for my plummeting ship. A wishing star to steer by.

And now it’s time to find out if I’m any good at it.

The mouse cursor twitches over the submit button. I’ve checked the formatting a hundred times. I’ve put in the sweat and tears and blood.

One minute until the cow-thieving aliens win. One minute until my river changes course forever.

I take a breath.

I close the window, and hit the submit button on my MIT application. Then, mouse hand darting, I open the Zebulon Contest window. And I hit submit.

I hold Jiminy tightly. He doesn’t seem to mind.

In the end, there was no decision at all. Rivers on Earth flow one way: downhill. But I’d like to think that on some worlds, perhaps, rivers flow up.

Toward the stars.

* * *

The moral of the story? A cow is abducted every minute you procrastinate.

Find out details about The Zebulon Contest here:

About the Author: Writer. Game designer. Cubicle monkey. Robert Vincent's hardly started on his writing career, but has already won honorable mention in The Writers of the Future Contest and has won the PPW Zebulon Contest. He attributes his lack of publication credits to poor bio-writing skills. Robert's currently working on his epic fantasy novel, living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his beloved Companion Cube. Find him at

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Importance of Catchy Titles

By Karen Albright Lin

A catchy title has always been an important part of marketing a book. It’s no less true now that e-books are taking over the world. It ranks up there with cover art and your blurb. As your potential buyer scrolls across relevant titles, yours needs to grab their attention NOW!
 Your title should reflect the genre and flavor of your book. If it’s snarky, let the title reflect cynicism and irreverence. If you write ironic, make that clear with your title. If your book is dry, rewrite the book.

Short, simple titles are easier to remember and tend to rank higher in sales. But a good long title is still far better than a crappy short title. That being said, I find lengthy, abstract titles irritating because I can’t remember them. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet starred in the surreal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I tend to remember the “Spotless Mind” part of the title, but I have to look the movie up on IMDB whenever I want to refer to it properly. I’ll channel Eeyore here; if they’d asked me, and nobody did, I would have suggested they stick with “Spotless Mind". As is true with all elements of writing, from plot down to the structure of a sentence, the first thing that comes to mind is often not the best. Brainstorm and shoot a few ideas past your friends.  

Some titles mean something different by the end of the movie. Some have double meanings, one figurative, one literal. Challenge yourself to find a title that works on several levels. An example is Sophie’s Choice. The title refers to the gut-wrenching choice forced upon her—which of her children to save—but also her choice to survive the Holocaust through an unsavory relationship with a Nazi. And it works for her present-day story, her choice to stay with an emotionally abusive man.

You can even make up a new word for your title. Butterology. We can guess what that book would be about. Since I love butter, I could get behind such a book. Lulu has a fun title scorer. Statisticians analyzed the titles of NY Times #1 bestsellers. Lulu’s algorithm judges your title based on how many words, what parts of speech, literal or figurative, whether it includes a name, etc. It will suggest to you what percentage chance your book has of being a bestseller. Of course, this is just for fun, but it will make you think about the importance of titles. Go to

Nonfiction is often easier. These titles tend to be straightforward. Two considerations are most important. Along with the promise of entertainment, a nonfiction title needs to suggest how the book will benefit the reader. Its subtitle usually qualifies the title’s promise. If I knew how to design hats, I might write Top it Off: The Lost Art of Designing Hats. Think catchy and clear. 

It’s obvious for nonfiction. But with fiction, too, you’ll want to make it easily found with search engines, not only for online sales sites like or, but for general search engines like Google or Bing.  Be sure the title contains the most obvious words your reader would use in a search. If you write bibliomysteries, consider having a subtitle that reads "A Bibliomystery by XXX".  A fitting title is only one piece of Search Engine Optimization, but I’d argue that it’s the most important. If you decide to dig in deeper about how to get your book seen online, you can read one of the many tomes on SEO. On a quick search, the ones that caught my attention are those with “Secret” in their names. Apply their wisdom to your own title.

If you are going traditional, your publisher may insist on using a different title. Gripe into your pillow. Their publicity people have years of experience behind their suggestion and you would be wise to follow their lead. They could be appealing to an audience with more disposable income or making it more edgy to capture younger readers. They might have had a bad experience with a title that was a little too close to yours. They may need something that will complement the cover art they have in mind. That too may not be to your liking, but typically you don’t have much input on that. Allow the experts to help; they have every reason to do what is right for your book sales.   

Browse through a brick and mortar or online bookstore and see which titles draw your attention and why. Remember the title you have in your head as you write may be an inspiration for your opus and the greatest marketing tool. It may also act as a placeholder, changing later. Find the best title you can and be open to discussion if asked to change it by those who have more experience than you. Most importantly, have fun with it! 

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, October 19, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“I write because I want more than one life; I insist on a wider selection. It’s greed, plain and simple. When my characters join the circus, I’m joining the circus. Although I’m happily married, I spent a great deal of time mentally living with incompatible husbands.”

Anne Tyler (October 25, 1941)

Breathing Lessons (Pulitzer Prize)
The Accidental Tourist
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* The Importance of Catchy Titles               Karen Albright Lin

* A Little Zebulon Fiction                               Robert Wyckoff

* Sweet Success! Karen Albright Lin           Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sweet Success! Dr. Yvonne DeMoss

Compiled By Kathie Scrimgeour

Dr. Yvonne DeMoss’ self help book, Flying Beyond Fear (paperback, 230 pages, ages 8+), will be released on November 7, 2014 by Dorrance Publishing, Inc. This practical workbook for anxious/phobic flyers will be available through Dorrance Publishing and Amazon.

Dr. DeMoss has taught classes on anxious flying with both Frontier and United Airlines, teaches at various colleges in Denver and has had an active pschotherapy practice specializing in mood disorders and trauma for over 20 years. You can find her at her website,

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, October 15, 2014

Do You Travel With Books? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

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

When we travel, books are always on our packing list. 
Travel frees up reading time. My family travels:

  • with print books.
  • with an ereader — Kindle or iPad.
  • ready to chat about books.

We always find time in the car for an audio book or a paperback in the airport. I have the Kindle app on my phone and tablets. I have a collection of picture books and novels on the Kindle. Yes, kiddo uses tablets. Let’s ignore studies on the impact of my parenting decision for a moment, as I tell you that at 10,000 feet on a plane I’ve never received a complaint about my son’s behavior. I have heard comments like “I wish I had one of those when my kid was little.”
I love to talk to people at airports or on a plane about their reading choices. Word of mouth book recommendations equal priceless marketing for an author you enjoy. I love getting random parenting advice from fellow travelers too.
 Of course, we can travel and explore new worlds without an airplane ticket or filling up the gas tank just by picking up a book. I miss the pre-9/11 days of people watching at the airport, as you waited at the gate for family members to arrive.
What’s your book format of choice when you travel?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on March 10, 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, October 13, 2014

Questions and Answers with a Cynical Devil and an Understanding Angel

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

So the PPW blog editor suggested we answer some newbie questions on publishing and I realized, almost immediately, that I have two very distinct voices in my head. I figured I’d answer some questions using both voices because the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Where do I begin my book?
CYNICAL DEVIL:  You are new. You don’t know a thing, so just write.  Once you pull your head out of your butt, you’ll figure out where you should start your story. Most likely, you’ll be like everyone else and spend five chapters getting ready. That’s fine. Just write your book, the whole thing, and don’t look back.  f you stop and try to edit along the way, you’ll be like every other person who wants to write a book and never does.
UNDERSTANDING ANGEL:  There are numerous books on plotting, and I’d recommend Robert McKee’s Story. Really, the first chapter should be as close to the inciting incident as possible, if not the inciting incident itself. Really, the seeds of the main conflict should be in the first chapter, but don’t worry too much. Most likely, you’ll have to re-write the opening quite a few times. Look at other books that are similar to yours and see what they’ve done.

Should I include a prologue?
CYNICAL DEVIL:  If you do, no agent or editor will look at it twice. Prologues are despised by everyone in the industry. And why not just start with the story? What? Are you trying to be all fancy? You think you’re better than me?
UNDERSTANDING ANGEL:  The best use of prologue I’ve seen was in the pilot episode of Firefly, the TV series. It set up the whole series. In the end, if the prologue works, include it, and if it doesn’t, start with Chapter One. The nice thing about this industry is that there are no rules. Do what you think makes sense and again, take a look at your favorite books, with and without prologues, and decide what makes the most sense for your story.
How do I know when a book is done?
CYNICAL DEVIL:  Your book is never done. If it’s your first book, finish it, and then burn it. Write your second book. It will be far better.  Edit until your eyes bleed ink and your fingers fall off. Then write the next one.
UNDERSTANDING ANGEL:  This is a hard question because you can chase critiques for years and with a novel in process, everyone is going to offer up their opinions on how to make it better and how to change it. Generally, a novel will take two or three drafts to take shape. Scenes will have to be juggled or cut. Additional material might be needed. Characters might be scrapped or added. But I’m talking two or three major drafts. Again, there are no hard or fast rules. Some books have needed to be rewritten from the beginning, while others were hardly touched. If you read the whole thing, and you can’t think of anything to add or change, then it’s finished. For now. Once you start working with an editor on that final, final draft, well, that’s when you’ll know. Until you start thinking of what you want to add to the second edition.

I’ve finished my book.  Now what?
CYNICAL DEVIL: You’re not finished. Go back and fix it. If you think it’s finished, query agents and editors. Once they all reject you, and they will, write the next one. If you think you have the guts to self-publish, do that. But keep writing, editing, and shopping your work around. If you aren’t doing that, you’re not a writer, and you are wasting everyone’s time. Life is short. If you don’t have to write, don’t. If you need to write, you have my sincerest condolences.
UNDERSTANDING ANGEL:  Talk to other writers and authors and get a feel for their careers and what they have done. Some writers are driven to get traditionally published, and so they will craft query letters, write synopses of various lengths, and they will reach out to literary agents. If you find a literary agent that thinks they can sell your manuscript, they will shop it around to editors at publishing houses. Some writers have found success by approaching editors at smaller presses, at writer’s conferences and other venues. And some writers have self-published their work and have loved the process. You’ll need to hire a cover artist and an editor because self-publishing still requires the cleanest, best manuscript you can deliver. It’s so nice that we have so much freedom and so many options. But it all goes back to writing the best book you can.

Final thoughts?
CYNICAL DEVIL:  Get out while you still have a soul, newbie.
UNDERSTANDING ANGEL:  At every part of the game, there are aspects of the writing process to enjoy and to celebrate. From writing that rough draft, to editing, to querying, and to publishing and the sales and marketing you’ll have to do once the book is out in the world. Holding your finished book in your hands is immensely satisfying. You have done what few others in the history of the world have ever done. You have written and crafted a book. It’s not easy, there is heartbreak and consternation around every corner, but in the end, what we do is a noble endeavor and I wish you all the courage and the luck there is. One last piece of advice; try to avoid the CYNICAL DEVILS inside and outside of your own head.  n the end, they aren’t that helpful and they mostly only offer fear and hate anyway.  They also tend to smell bad.

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 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.