Sunday, August 30, 2015

This week and the week to come

"You know how writers are. They create themselves as they create their work or perhaps they create their work in order to create themselves." ~ Orson Scott Card

Source Bing Images

Orson Scott Card is an American novelist, critic, public speaker, essayist and columnist. He writes in several genres but is known best for science fiction. His novel Ender's Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead both won Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the only author to win both science fiction's top U.S. prizes in consecutive years. A feature film adaptation of Ender's Game, which Card co-produced, was released in late October 2013 in Europe and on November 1, 2013, in North America.

August 31: Ataska Brothers  Be sure to catch Ataska's article on what she learned about #PitMad, An Unspoken Journey. (Note to all writers seeking publication in this competitive world -- you'll want to check out this article.) 

September 2:  Deb McLeod Micro Editing Cheat Sheet 

September 4:  Pikes Peak Writers and relevant upcoming September events

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sweet Success! M.J. Brett

By Kathie Scrimgeour

M.J. Brett’s family fiction novel, The Voices Know My Name (ISBN: 978-0-9748869-9-2, softcover, 260 pages, ages 12 and up), was released July 16, 2015 by Blue Harmony Press. This is her tenth novel.

A young soldier with PTSD tries to kill himself, but is stopped by a total stranger, a civilian. After the event, he remembers nothing about it. The rescuer has no intention of getting involved, but she soon learns that he is not the only one who hears voices or can't cope with bad memories. Together, they search through crisis after crisis for a way to find "normal," or at least a "new normal."

After 21 years teaching on military bases in Europe, Margaret Brettschneider (a.k.a. M.J. Brett) has begun writing stories she feels need to be told, stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. It's not what happens to you, she feels, it's how you respond to the trauma and challenge of living.

Available soon at: or on

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Amateur Sleuths – A Nod and a Wink from the Garden of Miss Marple

What does a yoga instructor, a witch, a burglar, a birdwatcher, a math teacher, a 12th century friar, a bookseller, a museum curator, and a very clever cat have in common? If your first guess wasn't that they solve murders then I'd like to officially welcome you to the wonderful world of the amateur sleuth. You need to know I could have used wacky, wild, weird, occasionally waggish, and warped (I was in an alliterative mood) and been equally accurate.

Let's begin with the obvious. Amateur Sleuth Mysteries are from the get-go mysteries. They lead off with a crime, present victims, catalogue suspects and clues, have a few twists and red herrings, and eventually arrive at a solution. Bad guys get their comeuppance.
For this article, because of its limited space we're only going to consider a few of the unique aspects of the amateur sleuth mystery.
First, how to get, say, a stamp collector gets involved in a murder investigation.
As a rule, professionals—FBI, cops, private eyes, and medical examiners, just to name a few—frown on amateurs mucking around at homicides.
Quit sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong.
This ain't no game, Missy. This is murder.
If I see you or any of your knitting/mailman/cheesemaking buddies at another crime scene, I'm going to haul the lot of you to the gray bar hotel.
Declarations like these are common in the Amateur Sleuth. After all, your average cheesemaker doesn't ordinarily involve him or herself in a death, stinky cheese maybe but not so much death. So, how do you insinuate a cat fancier or antique dealer into deadly mayhem?
Glad you asked.
As a writer of two separate amateur series, I've employed (or at least considered) the following devises for embroiling Bonnie Pinkwater (my mathematician sleuth) into the thick of things: 
1.      She's a suspect.
2.      She barely escapes being a victim. And now she's pissed.
3.      The victim's death has been ruled a suicide and she doesn't believe it for a minute.
4.      She believes the person apprehended for the crime is innocent but the police do not.
5.      A relative of the victim asks her to poke around.
6.      The crime is personal for her. Actually, the crime should always be personal.
Certainly not an exhaustive list but the excuse to get our frankfurter salesman involved in the mix is important. It will always be necessary to find a plausible one.
Once inclusion—if not an enthusiastic invitation—in the investigation is established the case proceeds according to the amateur sleuth's strengths. After all, these are experts in their particular field, even if that field is dog grooming. And one of the reasons to read an Amateur Sleuth mystery is to immerse oneself in an unfamiliar setting which is also for a segment of the populous familiar.
Unless one's day-to-day career involves police procedure, say that of the private eye or a forensic anthropologist, for the majority of us the world is somewhat mundane. Imagine your career is high-rise construction. Wouldn't a mystery series where an architect is forced to regularly solve murders be cool to read?  
This is where the amateur sleuth sub-genre shines. I call it Value Added. First of all we walk in the shoes of someone who has either a vocation or avocation in some area in which we have an interest.

A Bartender—we learn a bit about mixology. How the heck does one make the perfect chocolate martini, harvey wallbanger, or rude bastard?
A Wrangler at a Dude Ranch—we learn about the shoeing of horses, perhaps the pre-dawn birthing of a foal.
 A Rare Book Dealer—we learn about the ins and outs of the book auction, maybe the history of an actual rare manuscript of Dante or Oscar Wilde.
An Historical Mathematicianwe delve into the eccentric world of medieval or ancient mathematicians, maybe look over their shoulder as they make an important discovery.
A BurglarWhat locks are the hardest to pick? How does one go about fencing precious stones? What equipment is necessary to be a second-story man (or woman)?
But that's just the tantalizing first taste of the Value Added Amateur Sleuth. Now that we've worn their clothes, lived in their world, and experienced their unique anxieties how can we use their talents to solve murders? Here are two examples:
-          Our architect's skills at designing buildings relates to how a serial killer is planning his murders.
-          A game designer realizes the killer is using the rules of a newly designed video game to carry out his nefarious intrigues.
 There is so much more to the arena of the Amateur Sleuth (did I hear you say historical or geographical mysteries?) but space demands I rein in my enthusiasm. So, mystery lovers, check out the fastest growing segment of the Suspense world.

About the Author:  Besides being a master of space and time, Robert Spiller is the author of the Bonnie Pinkwater mystery series: The Witch of Agnesi, A Calculated Demise, Irrational Numbers, Radical Equations.  The fifth in the series, Napier's Bones, is due for release late 2015. His math teacher/sleuth uses mathematics and her knowledge of historic mathematicians to solve murders in the small Colorado town of East Plains. For thirty-five years Robert taught Mathematics at every level from Elementary through university, the last ten at Lewis Palmer Middle School. Now retired, Robert lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with his wife Barbara.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Amazing Blessings of Being a Writer

So last month on the ol’ PPW blog, I talked about the occupational hazards of being a writer. You can go check ‘em out with a linky poo. I promised at the end of that post I would talk about the blessings of being a writer. 
Too bad I can’t think of any.

Shortest. Blog post. Ever.


Blessing #1. I can’t talk about fame, or money, or private jets, because so far, that hasn’t been my story. Okay, I’ve had a little fame—I’m a local celebrity in some small circles, and that is nice.
For those of you who have books out, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve heard, “Oh, so you’ve written a book?”

[Insert awkward pause and little smile here] “Yes, yes, I have.”

Now some might follow that up with, “Are you self-published?” Big smirk. But most, 99 percent of the time, will say, “That’s really cool!” or, “That’s sick, man.” Do the kids still think sick is good? What about groovy?

Bam! You get to be famous in the micro sense if not the macro.

Blessing #2. So a little fame here and there, and for a lot of writers, there's also a little dough. Not a lot, but a little extra green coming in. You need me to pick up some Starbucks for you? I got you covered. Got my royalty statements. 

Bam! Coffee money.

Blessing #3 What we practice we improve upon, and being able to communicate through the written word is a precious skill to have. I answered an email and got a marriage proposal because I spelled things correctly, used sentences and paragraphs, and included some clever word play. Now, I’m not saying your writing will get you married, but I’m not saying it won’t either.

Bam! Marriage proposals.

Yes, writing is work, it takes sacrifice, and discipline, and some farfetched optimism, and that, my friends, is a blessing. Queue up the bam machine.

Blessing #4 We get to practice sacrificing our minutes for a higher cause, disciplining ourselves, and building character. I’m reading a book now called The Road to Character by David Brooks, and every time he describes a vocation, it’s like he’s talking about my writing life. I say it all the time—if you have the desire to write a book, you have a sacred duty to write that book because not everyone has the desire, the time, or the resources.

Sacred duties can be a pain in the ass, but overall? They give life meaning. They shape destiny. They improve not only the person on the quest, but the world in general. I’m a big fan of sacred duties as long as they don’t involve genocide.

But you know the real blessing of being a writer? It’s that in the final product, you hold the minutes of your life. I know, that’s a cool line. Let me repeat it so it’s more quotable.

 Bam! That is the biggest blessing of all.

When you hold your book, you’ll remember the crazy things you did to finish it. You’ll remember the songs you listened to, the movies you watched, the books you’ve read, the hundred little conversations you had. In a sense, the time you worked on a book is encapsulated in the pages. Your life gets filtered into the paragraphs. And in the end, you have a legacy to leave behind, and you never know what will happen.

Jane Austen never saw success in her lifetime. We’ll never meet her. But we get a sense of her, I think, through her writing. I might be wrong, but I totally want to think she was like Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Probably not, but a boy can dream.

I can’t remember which book it was in, but in a foreword (or afterword) Stephen King wrote that he wanted his readers to get to know him through his books, not stalking him, or getting all creepy. You dirty, dirty birds. And through his books, we get a sense of who he is and what he was interested in during the time he worked on his books.

So as writers  who write and publish books (by any means necessary), we leave behind a legacy, our minutes, our ideas, our stories.

Bam! Now, that my friends, is a blessing worth a little adversity.

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King, both finalists in various contests. His latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, was called “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart” by Kirkus Reviews. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. His upcoming young adult sci-fi/western epic series will also be published through WordFire Press. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos 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. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Quote of the week and week to come

"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure." ~ William A. Feather

Source: Bing
William A. Feather was an American publisher and author, based in Cleveland, Ohio. Born in Jamestown, New York, Feather relocated with his family to Cleveland in 1903. After earning a degree from Western Reserve University in 1910, he began working as a reporter for the Cleveland Press. In 1916, he established the William Feather Magazine. In addition to writing for and publishing that magazine, and writing for other magazines as H.L. Mencken's The American Mercury, he ran a successful printing business, and wrote several books.

This week on Writing from the Peak: 

August 24:  Aaron Michael Ritchey, The Amazing Blessings of Being a Writer

August 26:  Robert Spiller, Value Added Amateur Sleuths

August 28:  Sweet Success: M.J. Brett

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sweet Success! Anna Blake

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Anna Blake’s memoir, Stable Relation (ISBN 978-0-9964912-0-4, 240 pages), was released July 2, 2015 by Prairie Moon Press in paperback and ebook. It is available at Amazon and everywhere books are sold.

When most women go through a mid-life crisis, they start a diet, get plastic surgery, or have an affair. My life went to the dogs…and horses…and llamas… and did I mention happy hour with the goats?

My urban world came apart, so I took a leap of faith and crash-landed on a dilapidated would-be horse farm on the flat, windy, treeless prairie of Colorado. It’s the story of my bittersweet transition from a mid-life orphan to a modern pioneer woman, building an entirely different kind of family farm--Jeanette Walls meets James Herriot.

Anna Blake was born in Cavalier County, North Dakota, in 1954. She is a writer/blogger, dressage trainer, and horse advocate, residing on Infinity Farm on the flat, windy, treeless prairie of Colorado. The herd also includes horses, llamas, goats, dogs, cats, and Edgar Rice Burro. 

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers Sweet Success, including story acceptance,winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please e-mail Kathie Scrimgeour at if you have a sweet success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stereotype, Paranoia, or Fact?

By Karen Albright Lin

Certain age-old assumptions about publishing persist and some are being born as publishing evolves at a breakneck speed. Three come to mind right off.

Agents look for reasons to turn down my book. This isn’t entirely paranoia; time forces them to analyze quickly. The mean, judgmental, nose-in-the-air agent stereotype is unfair, though.  Sure, an agent will set aside anything that doesn’t capture her right off, grunt over a book that starts out with craft issues, or determine within five pages that he’s seen too much of your topic and knows the market doesn’t want anymore. But agents are in the business of finding the cream that rises to the top. They only judge quickly whether to read beyond the first few pages because they have little time and lots of skill in picking up on weaknesses. If your book is what the market wants, an agent will have no reason to turn your sample pages away. 

If I tell someone about my book, someone will steal my idea. In theory your step-by-step plot could be “stolen” and used. But ideas are a dime a dozen. Stories only rehash those told since caveman days. You probably have a new slant (Underworld and West Side Story are Romeo and Juliet), but it is the execution, the fresh angle and, most importantly, your voice that makes it your book. There are very rare cases, mostly in Hollywood, in which wholesale theft has been proven in court. Luckily you can prepare for the longshot possibility by protecting yourself:  copyright your work; WGA register your script. Also, be sure you have a finished product to offer up before you pitch. It’s easier for a producer/director to buy your script and have it rewritten by someone more seasoned than to face a lawsuit later after swiping your plot. If you don’t show someone your work, you can be sure it will not be traditionally bought.

There’s no reason to go with a traditional publisher now that self-publishing is so easy. It’s easier than ever to put your work out there, for sure. You skip the frustrating filter process; you have more control over things like your cover; you get significantly higher percentages of the sale price. But there are benefits, still, of publishing traditionally. First, the difficult-to-entice agents are gatekeepers who let you through the door if there is a likelihood your product will have an eager audience. They often help develop and improve your book before taking it out there. They advocate and negotiate terms favoring you, audit publishing houses to be sure you are getting what you have coming, and act as middle men between you and your editor when there is a disagreement. Your acquiring editor is a champion for your book and another layer of editing, and possibly the one who gets you a decent advance. Publicity finds ways to get your book exposure. Legal is careful about what you might say that could get you in trouble.  Distributors get your book into the brick and mortar bookstores that are still out there. The most prestigious reviewers don’t typically review self-published books. Whether it is fair or not, there is still an assumption that a traditionally published book is less likely to be thrown up there prematurely.  
Now, as always, it’s a good idea to check our expectations, those stubborn self-imposed rulebooks. Trust in our work, trust in ourselves, and trust that the industry isn’t out to get us. Agents really do look for great authors to represent. Rarely does anybody ask about our stories with the intention of running away with our ideas. And great self-published books have gotten picked up by traditional publishers, and traditionally published authors with a fan base have successfully turned to self-publishing or hybrid publishing. In the end, it’s all about the writing. It’s all about the writing.  

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