Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Writing Warriors

Deb McLeod Creative Writing Coach - Be a Writing Warrior
By: Deb McLeod

Are you like most writers: someone in school complimented your writing? Said you might have what it takes? Or you won an English award in school? Published a short story, poem, or article when you were young? Did you have one of those wonderful teachers who stirred the pride and created the possibility that you could be someone with your words?

That’s what happened to me and every one of my clients. At some point, at a young age, someone saw our potential and encouraged us. After high school, or college, most of the writers I know stopped writing. Life started and who had time for the long hours? Or for figuring out how to craft a good story? Or time to put in as an apprentice before the writing improved.

But the seed had been planted.

Then, sometime later, it’s a different time and a different reason for everyone I know, something stirred the memory of that pride. Something woke up the possibility once again that maybe you have something to share. Perhaps, like most of us, you picked up a pen again, or took a class. And you started writing.

So what happened after that? No one really prepares you for the journey. Not how long it will take. Not the challenge and all the aspects that need to be mastered. Not for how many words you really have to write before you find your voice.

But somehow, if the original words were strong enough, if they give you something to hold onto as you learn the craft, develop the discipline, and deal with the business side of writing, you’ll make it.

What you need when it’s finally time to get serious

Daily boundaries

The first step to a career as an author is the ability to set daily boundaries around your writing time. Writing is a solitary venture. Even if you have a weekly writing group, or a daily one like I do, you must still learn how to set fairly impenetrable walls around your writing time, every single day.

Boundaries that are:
  • Consistent 
  • Designed to train yourself
  • And designed to train the rest of the world
It’s not easy to close the door on everything that’s happening and withdraw into your own little world. But it’s necessary if you want to produce books. If you are consistent in putting boundaries around your writing time, you will get used to writing daily and you’ll miss it when you don’t. You may become downright cranky when you don’t get your writing time in. Best of all you’ll be working from the energy of accomplishment. Not from the ‘should’ place.

I get up before my alarm most days, around 4:30 a.m. to write, because I’m excited to spend time in my fictional world. Excited to get done first what’s the most important to me, before the day starts. I’m not the only one I know who gets up before the alarm either. Many of my clients feel just like I do.

You don’t have to get up early or before your alarm. But you do have to carve out a daily time that is dedicated to your writing. Thirty minutes a day is better than a few hours on the weekend. Writing is a muscle. Exercise it religiously.

You Need Support but you might not always have it.
  • Family
  • Other writers
  • The World
I, myself, have a lot of support within my family, now. But I know lots of writers who never had it. Some whose writing is considered a hobby that takes them away from the real things in life. When your family doesn’t support your ‘creative hobby’ it can be devastating. But it cannot define you.

My first husband was not supportive of my writing. Rather, let’s say he didn’t have much confidence that I could be someone who would become a writer. And I bought into that for a while, myself. Thinking I didn’t have what it takes. Or that I had to get a degree in creative writing in order to be a writer. My family of origin sort of collectively shrugged and said: whatever makes you happy. While that was great – it wasn’t like someone cheerleading. I have a cheerleader in my second husband, John. And that is everything. When someone believes in you.

But, not everyone will have that. In the beginning. Some writers will have to find other ways to get support and put their boundaries in place anyway. It sucks not to have a cheerleader in your family or to have family that dismisses your dreams. It truly does. But the work has to be done anyway.

Other writers will support you, they are generally going through similar issues themselves. So finding a tribe is very important to succeeding. Look wide and find the right tribe. They can keep you going, especially if your family doesn’t.

Getting the world’s support might take a while. The world is skeptical. So support from the world is a little harder to manufacture. The trick here is twofold. Write the best damn book you can, so take a class, find a mentor, hire a coach and learn how to write work you can be proud of. Then, finish. Finish your book, publish it with a traditional publisher or publish it yourself, and call yourself an author. Cross that line with a well-written book, baby, and the chances of the world supporting you are much, much, greater.

Relationship with your inner critic

This is one of the biggies. And one that you will likely work on for your entire writing career. This is one of the major focuses of my coaching practice. How to turn your inner critic into a partner. And there are ways.
  • Habit 
  • Recognizing when your inner critic is present
  • Creating mutual respect 
  • Training your inner ear to hear the potential in your writing

I’ve covered the importance of the writing habit. But it’s not just in page production. Staking a claim to your time, getting serious about your art, tells you something about what you will tolerate and what you will not. Negative self-talk has no place in the production of pages.

An internal editor is necessary, but all too often the internal critic has taken over. At best the internal critic makes that first draft hell to get down or makes it almost impossible to carve out time for your writing. At worst the internal critic and self-doubt stop you cold.

Becoming conscious to your internal editor’s presence is vital to your well-being as a writer. One of the first exercises my clients do when they sign on to write their books with my guidance is to name their internal editor. Begin to separate that negative self-talking, know-it-all, from the creative and fragile part of themselves that needs to create. There’s a time for the editor to take over, but it’s not in the creation stage.

Recognizing that your internal editor has a place in your writing life and where that place exists is the first step toward mutual respect between the creator and the critic in you. Do whatever you have to do to define and tell your internal editor that if she/he/it doesn’t let you play and create without regard to the rules of grammar, the rules of writing craft, or any of the arbitrary writing rules she can throw at you, without her insults and her derision, then you won’t have anything for her to fix when it’s her turn to actually be an editor. This one is a deal breaker.

Ear training

In my classes we work on ear training. Both inner and outer ear training to hear the potential in your raw work. In small, supportive groups, we share raw work and help one another see the brilliance. This may not sound like much if you haven’t done it. But every single one of the writers that comes to me, every single one, is surprised about what we see in their work that they couldn’t see. The images, metaphors, themes, word choice, structure, craft we can see. So many of those pages would have been dismissed if we hadn’t been there to show them what was working.

We write together. We read raw work. We find the brilliance. Through that my writers find their voices.

It’s a completely different approach to writing and will allow you to find your voice within the story when you can switch from focusing on what isn’t working to learning to hear what is working. You know more than you think you do. Or should I say you know more than your inner critic thinks you do.

Change it up

This one is more of a tool than a necessity. But it works. There’s a wonderful energy that bursts through you and your writing when you change up your process. As soon as you’re super comfortable with the length of time you write, maybe the place you write, your rituals, and sometimes even the time you write, it’s time for a change.

Be bold and set a word count goal or a time count goal, or both. Track them. Get consistent. Then push the envelope. You’ll be amazed at what comes out your fingers when you change up the rut.

If you’re ready to get serious and you’re interested in finding out more about what you can do, drop me a line I build writing warriors with community, craft, and positive feedback.

About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fifteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. For more, see

Monday, May 2, 2016

May Letter From the Editor

I’m writing my May letter from the editor on April 28th, and as I do, I’m looking out the window at SNOW! Snow is welcome in Colorado especially during the windy days that take over our city and state and contribute to Fire Season. I never knew there was such a season until a few years ago when Waldo Fire and Black Forest fires slapped their unwelcome presence at our doors. The snow is also a needed reminder that this too will pass. We just have to get through it.

Sort of like writing. Whether it’s the book from hell, or getting our tenth rejection on a manuscript we feel is our best work ever, we have no choice but to persist. Else like a fire, negativity consumes us.

I had a blast at the 2016 Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April, and came away with a pragmatic look at things. I listened to inspirational speakers, witnessed great storytelling in the Read and Critiques, and saw the excitement--and nervousness--on people’s faces. Still, through it all, there was no escaping that publishing is a business; it’s hard and it’s always in flux. But through it all I came away with the knowledge that staying in this business is worth it.

I loved listening to Jeff Lindsay, creator of Dexter, talk about his moments of despair as he felt his career sinking. Laughed out loud after hearing where the idea for a serial killer taking out other serial killers came from; thinking this guy has it all, then hearing him admit that after all his success, he still struggles. Does he quit? Not hardly.

As I sat in on the panels and workshops of people like Kevin J. Anderson, Wendy Corsi Staub, Joe R. Lansdale, and Rachel Caine, among others, I came away with the knowledge that tenacity means everything. I also came away with the knowledge that I am not any of these people, nor should I try to be. One powerful statement that stood out was from Joe R. Lansdale who said, “Harry Potter is written. Get over it.”

Honestly, I’m not too worried about PPW members. Remember, I sat in on the pitch sessions and Read and Critiques. Here, I witnessed exceptional variety and none of the work remotely resembled J.K. Rowling. I also observed something else—camaraderie. That’s something we can’t get from attending a yearly conference. That’s something developed by attending the monthly functions offered by Pikes Peak Writers.     

Okay, I get it. Failure and rejection are part of this business. Kind of like Fire Season. But look out the window a short time later past the burnt embers and what do we see? SNOW! What did I take away from the conference? The business of writing is cyclical. Tenacity is important, but so is persistence and belief in ourselves. Further, the volunteer staff of Pikes Peak Writers did an outstanding job! Raising my electronic mouse to all of you.

Conference is over, and it's time to move on. Check out our excellent articles in May!   

About the author: Donnell Ann Bell is the managing editor for Writing from the Peak, the coordinator for the monthly Open Critique held on the first Wednesday of every month, and one of Pikes Peak Writer's board members at largeShe is a best selling romantic suspense and mystery author. To learn more about her books, find her at


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

 “When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.” ~ J.M. Barrie
Source: Google and Wikipedia
Sir James Matthew Barrie, (May 9, 1860 – June 19, 1937) was a Scottish novelist and acts inspired him to write Kensington Gardens and The Little White Bird, which led to Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Barrie was made a baronet by King George V in 1913. Before his death he gave the rights to Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street playwright, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. Although he wrote a number of successful novels, after meeting and adopting the Llewelyn Davies boys, these Hospital for Children in London, which still benefits from them today.

This  week on Writing from the Peak

May 2           May’s Letter from the Editor         Donnell Ann Bell

May 4           The Writing Coach                       Deb McLeod

May 6           Pikes Peak Writers May Events 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sweet Success Celebrates Natalia Brothers, The Bride's Vestige

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Natalia Brothers’ dark fantasy short story, “The Bride’s Vestige” (ASIN B01CUVBF5A, 17 pages, Amazon Digital Services) was released March 10, 2016 on Kindle.

Peter Moss ignores little mishaps that start happening to him after he pockets an antique locket he discovered at a disturbed gravesite. Dark local folklore surrounds the grave, but Peter, a rational college student, doesn’t believe in curses.

His nonchalant mindset crumbles when he learns that the locket could be the same as the one featured in a portrait of a beheaded woman. Fascinated and mortified, Peter rushes to see the painting. But whether or not mystic forces are behind the incidents, his intent to uncover the jewelry’s history might be the worst decision of his life.

Born in Moscow, Natalia grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Natalia realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a moonless summer night, she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if, a writer’s unrelenting muse, took hold of her. Two of her passions define her being. Natalia is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy. -Email: -Website

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Finding my Voice on Social Media

By: Natalia Brothers 

Nearly three decades have passed, but I remember that week as if it happened yesterday…

I’m talking about crystallography.

Crystallography was the hardest discipline I had ever had to study in college. Physics, math, chemistry-oriented German—no problem, but complicated three-dimensional crystal-structure models were absurdly difficult to recreate on paper as two-dimensional sketches (the purpose of that exercise still eludes me). Unfortunately, those sketches were the condition for being allowed to take the final test and finish the course. Have you ever faced a situation when no matter how hard you study/exercise/try, there’s no guarantee you will accomplish the task?

My past year went like that. I signed a publishing contract, and jumping into the world of social media became an unavoidable necessity. The avalanche of things I had to learn hit me with crushing force. It was crystallography all over again. I had no idea how I was going to figure it all out.

First, the technical aspect of any social media platform. Whether I was creating a blog, Facebook Author’s Page, or a website, it started with a big “Okay, how do I do this?” Learning how to set up an account, upload photos, add links didn’t require extensive technical knowledge but took time. Lots of it, because the amount of information was staggering. For example, have you ever participated in a Virtual Book Party? I was asked to enter such an event before I knew how things worked on Facebook, so I joined a “party” in progress to see what was involved. It lasts for hours. If someone comments on a post from two hours ago, that post jumps on top of the feed. You need to refresh the page to see new posts. Complicated? No. Takes time to understand what’s going on? You bet.

Design. I never know what works best until I try it. One of many things that makes me comfortable as a Twitter user is that I can change my banner/cover photo all day long and it doesn’t inform my followers every time I do so. A header that took me hours to create looked beautiful—a wall of framed landscapes—but the number of my new followers dropped while I kept it posted. The header that works? The one with the title of my unpublished novel and the tagline.

Content. A year ago, attending Pikes Peak Writers Night, I announced that I tripled my Twitter followers that afternoon: from a single follower my numbers jumped up to three. During the meeting, someone gave me a few tips on how that platform worked. I’ve been tweeting away ever since. I just celebrated my first anniversary with over 2,000 followers. Of course it took time to learn, but I discovered several hashtags that allow me to connect with other writers on a weekly basis and showcase my writing style. I participate in #2bittues on Tuesdays and #1linewed on Wednesdays. The host announces the week’s theme, and authors post lines from their WIPs. A new hashtag was recently created for Thursdays, a similar idea but tailored for published works. Have you tried #Thurds?

I recently realized that while on Facebook my friends saw plenty of my posts, on Twitter my hobbies—orchids, photography—were disconnected from writing. I wanted to find a theme that would show who I was with a “click of a button,” something that would link my dark fantasy genre with my other interests. Just like with crystallography years ago, when I persevered and passed the course, my year-long social media quest led me to an answer. I chose a theme that always fascinated me as a storyteller and photographer: Atmospheric Settings. I created a new hashtag and use it daily to post pictures of places that inspire my writing.

It has been an eventful year. I parted ways with the publisher; by the time this article is posted, I will either sign a new contract—or make a daring decision to go Indie. I’ve learned so much in the past twelve months. I have a lot more to learn. Would you say that social media is your second nature? Or is it more like what crystallography was for me? I doubt it will ever become my addiction, but I admit that I’m having fun. I hope to see you on Twitter.

About the Writer: Born in Moscow, Natalia grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Natalia realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a moonless summer night she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if, a writer’s unrelenting muse, took hold of her. Two of her passions define her being. Natalia is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reading Fees in the Short Story and Poetry Market?

By: Karen Albright Lin

You’ve seen them, literary magazines with editors who ask for reading fees to consider your short stories. Are they vultures waiting on fences ready to prey on people's dreams? Are they victimizing those who aren’t seasoned writers ready to publish? I can’t help but wonder if it is human instinct to want to be immortal in some way, leave something of ourselves behind (even if it’s in the cloud ether). After being turned down by the lit mags that have no reading fees, isn’t it tempting to pay our way into publication? Is that what the charge is all about?

It feels a lot like vanity-publishing a novel. We have the product, those words we’ve massaged into obedience. We should be paid, not the other way around. Right? Many of these lit mags make money off the stories they sell. It sounds as if they are taking advantage of writers, charging for a read without any guarantee of publication. Surely they know full well that most of those who send work in won’t ever see it in print or available online. Sounds like exploitation, right? 

Often it is. But then, I've been on the lit mag editor side of this equation. Four different university magazines. It was overwhelming how much was sent in. We didn’t charge reading fees. Maybe we should have. Sifting through piles and piles of submissions was a painful labor of love. But because of those experiences, I understand that the lit mag business can result in having no compensation and much agony. 

Requesting a little bit of money—often $10 to $15—to consider a short story or a group of poems naturally whittles down the number of submissions and pays for the time it takes to read and decide about the works’ worthiness or appropriateness for the magazine. I’ve paid to enter contests. Is this much different? I can appreciate and support a small reading fee or contest entry fee if the magazine is a quality one with a track record (Glimmer Train comes to mind). But I’d hope a magazine or e-zine that charges to consider your work will give it a serious read and comment on it. Feedback is worth something too. 

Others will surely disagree and I can understand where they’re coming from.  This is just one writer’s opinion.

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, April 24, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

"Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." ~ Harper Lee

Source: Bing and Wikipedia

Famed author Nelle Harper Lee was born April 28, 1926- Feb. 19, 2016, in Monroeville, Alabama. Lee is best known for writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), and more recently Go Set a Watchman, a novel set two decades before To Kill a Mockingbird.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Mon. April 25           Reading Fees for Short Stories or Poetry? by Karen Albright Lin

Wed. April 27          Finding my Voice on Social Media by Natalia Brothers

Wed. April 29          Sweet Success Celebrates Natalia Brothers