Friday, September 30, 2016

Sweet Success Celebrates Pam McCutcheon

Colorado author, and Pikes Peak Writers member, Parker Blue was recently invited by Pikes Peak Library District to talk about her Demon Underground Series, an urban fantasy for young adults featuring eighteen-year-old Val Shapiro and her telepathic hellhound, Fang. She is featured as part of the Teen Booktalk series. SWEET!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Launching a book tour? Welcome to the Jungle

By: KL Cooper, Social Media Director for PPW

Well, Amazon DOES have fun and games, and it can surely bring you to your knees… with frustration. AM-A-ZON… (Insert dramatic music here) Practically every published author knows that word and all the negative connotations that go along with it. Often treated with disdain, most authors neither understand this mysterious digital jungle nor do they care to. Did they remove a perfectly good review simply because their spies suspected you KNOW the reviewer? Did your book fail to launch like a rocket after all those pre-orders? I’ve heard many more grumblings about this daunting book seller in the not-so-hallowed halls of social media. It’s easy to become mired in mud and lost under the canopy. Do not despair, dear author, for I bring good news! And machetes. Let’s unpack these suckers and start clearing a path to success.


Yes. Yes, it is. If Amazon doesn’t crack down on abusive sellers who bend the rules by getting their friends or paid services to put up favorable reviews for their book of questionable quality, then Amazon, in turn, will stop making money, and so will you. As the world’s largest retailer of e-books and e-book readers, that’s not a good thing for Amazon or for you. So yes, you may have had a review or two removed, but you have to understand how many books they are trying to quality control on a daily basis to keep their credibility. The reason for keeping reviews honest is so that potential buyers can have confidence in that five-star rating. The solution? It’s got two parts. 1) Get more reviews. (That’s a whole other topic—so, let me know in the comments if you’d like me to talk about that in the future or expound on any other points here, because I’m just skipping stones off the surface of a very expansive lake—yes, this jungle has a lake.) 2) Do not simply copy and paste the URL for your book’s Amazon page to solicit reviews from your friends and family. Amazon uses that to track where the review came from.


Amazon is a search engine. Just like Google, your Amazon success has more to do with how you position your book with relevant keywords than it does with how many times you tweeted about it or asked all your Facebook friends to buy it. If you want your webpage to show up at the top of a Google search, you have to know a thing or two about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or hire someone who does. The same goes for Amazon. Make sure your book is in the right category and sub-category listing. Then, use targeted keywords in your book blurb to attract Amazon’s search party. This is not the ONLY way to get your book on that coveted first page of search results, but it’s a good start. A super easy way to get those keywords is to search books in your genre and see what appears in the first twenty listings. Check out their copy and see what words they have in common. Also, when you start to fill out the search box, Amazon makes suggestions, much like Google does. Pay attention. Those suggestions are NOT random.


Amazon uses a fairly simple algorithm to determine sales rank. This could change at any moment, but for now, this is how it works. Did you know that Amazon ranking favors long-term sales over short-term spikes? Each sale or download counts for 1 point toward that day’s “score.” The tally of today’s points are added to half of yesterday’s score, and so on. This means that dips in your ranking that may seem arbitrary could actually be due to the long term performance of competing books. So, what about that awesome promotion you just ran that sold 500 copies in a few days? The ranking effect of a sales spike will quickly fade as the promotion ends and your book sales drop back down to “normal” numbers. That other book that only sold 150 copies will outrank you again after a week or two, because their “normal” numbers, which are usually above yours, remained steady (Again, please let me know if you’d like to hear more about that in a future post.) But the take-away here is this: don’t fret if your book launch doesn’t spike your initial ranking (Amazon counted your pre-orders on the days they were made). Or, if your promotion didn’t result in a longer run at the top. That’s actually a good thing. Slow and steady progress will get you through the jungle more effectively than setting fire to the underbrush.


I’d like to tip my pith helmet to Chris Fox (a YouTuber and writer) for this next section. Be careful who you push your book to when you launch it. Amazon needs to “learn” who your book appeals to so it can recommend it in the “readers also bought” section of their product pages. Asking all your friends and family to rally and buy your book may seem like a great strategy, but you could be killing your book’s long term success as cook books and romances show your military sci-fi book as an “also bought” recommendation. It’s better to target your book sales to the kinds of readers who would buy your book organically. Meaning, they didn’t buy it simply out of pity or to show support. If targeted readers buy your book, then Amazon knows who to market it to and will largely do the work for you! You can watch Chris Fox’s video on this here à


Not perfect? Surprised? Probably not. Despite its flaws, Amazon was, and continues to be, a game changer. There are few places independent authors can sell their books to such a large audience. Amazon is challenging to be sure, but it’s worth taking a whack at. Just be sure to bring the “write” tools for the job.

About the Author: KL Cooper spends most of her free hours writing PNR, but when she’s not doing that, she’s rocking social media for Pikes Peak Writers or creating new graphics and book covers for other writers through UnderCover Press. You can connect with her anywhere on social media using these handles: @KLCequalsME @UnderCoverKLC @FleshandFeather

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Reader's Advisory - Through the Eyes of a Librarian

By: Summer Greenwood

First, what is Reader’s Advisory?

Reader’s advisory can be as simple as directing a patron to the inspirational fiction section or offering a list of newly released cozy mysteries, science fiction, or romantic suspense novels. However, reading preferences don’t always follow genre lines.

  • People want to read a book that makes them feel passion, confused, free, happy terrified, surprised;
  • one that  reminds them of home, that book I read last summer, a close friend;  
  • one that is not too long, short, fast, slow, scary, boring;
  •  or one that helps them escape from the world.

Take a minute to consider your own reading preferences. Do you enjoy one genre, multiple genres, or mixed genres? Can you identify with any of the statements above?

No one can write to please everyone. However, as a librarian, I can assure you that every book pleases someone. That is my job – to match people with the books, movies, classes, music, and technology they need and want. When I review a book, I always keep in mind the intended or unintended audience. The same is true when I recommend a title. I don’t reach for my favorite book; instead, I ask questions to learn more about the patron’s reading style. Does she enjoy short chapters she can finish on a 15-minute break or has she always loved family sagas filled with conflict?

Looking beyond the variety in reader preferences, there are countless ways to find that next good book. Someone might click on a suggested book while using his tablet or pull a new release from a book display. A reader’s next book may be a group read for a book club or one recommended by a friend.

Librarians are excellent sources for book suggestions. Not only do they recommend titles familiar to them, they also enlist the aid of colleagues who enjoy the same subjects or genres the patron does. Colorado libraries also offer access to the NoveList database, which provides recommendations based on books a reader enjoyed in the past. The database is free to patrons and can be searched by plot, genre, and all those tricky preferences such as fast-paced, suspenseful, plot-driven, or romantic.

Consider again your list of reading preferences and those of your friends and colleagues. Do you agree that the audience for your own written work is broader than genre? How can you leverage audience preferences to put your book in the reader’s hands?

To start, a search in NoveList for your novel or books written in a similar style may answer questions you have about your audience. The database provides subjects, genres, tones, and pace for many titles. (To access NoveList, go to your local library website and look for a research, databases, or read link. The website will prompt you for your library card number. Don’t have one? You can access the database from a library without a card.)

Some of these same details are available on Goodreads What lists have similar books been added to? Should your book be on these lists as well? Browsing the Goodreads Listopia, I found lists as varied as Top Fast-Paced Mysteries, Best Second Chance Romance, and Books Set in Iceland and Greenland.

Don’t stop there! Search for similar lists using a search engine and ask the author of each online list you find to add your book. Check libraries to find out if they purchase books by local authors or if they have a booklist for patrons interested in local authors.

In addition to lists and online sources, librarians, booksellers, reviewers, bloggers, and friends can all introduce your book to the public through reader’s advisory. Your networking opportunities are endless if you are willing to think like a reader.

About the Author: Summer Greenwood is a Library Specialist with the Arapahoe Library District, residing with her husband in the Denver Metro area. She loves writing fantasy fiction, participating in reading challenges, and spending time with her two dogs, Shadow and Savannah, and her Ragdoll cat, Pepper. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

“The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best and therefore never scrutinize or question.” Stephen Jay Gould

Source: Wikipedia, Brainy Quotes
Stephen Jay Gould Sep 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002, author of Dinosaur in a Haystack, was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science.
Gould's most significant contribution to evolutionary biology was the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972.
Gould was known by the general public mainly from his 300 popular essays in the magazine Natural History written both for the specialist and non-specialist. In April 2000, the US Library of Congress named him a “Living Legend.”

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Sep 26   Readers Advisory: Through the Eyes of Librarian  Summer Greenwood

Sep 28   Launching a Book? Welcome to the Jungle   K.L. Cooper

Sep 30   Sweet Success Celebrates Pam McCutcheon

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sweet Success Celebrates Donnell Ann Bell

Donnell Ann Bell’s romantic suspense novel, Deadly Recall, was released by BelleBooks on June 29, 2016 as an audio book on (ISBN ASIN: B01HP1B69K, listening length 9 hours, 5 minutes). It has already ranked well at Amazon:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
o   #932 in Books > Audible Audiobooks > Romance > Suspense
o   #9327 in Books > Romance > Romantic Suspense

A terrifying memory is locked deep inside her. A killer wants to keep it that way.

Nine-year-old Eden Moran thought she was saying good-bye to her mentor that fateful day in St. Patrick’s. She had no idea she’d witness the nun’s demise, or that her child’s mind would compensate. Now seventeen years later, Albuquerque cops have unearthed human remains, and the evidence points to Eden as being the key to solving Sister Beatrice’s murder. When a hell-bent cop applies pressure, Eden stands firm. She doesn’t remember the woman.  Unfortunately for Eden, Sister Beatrice’s killer will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

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 E-mail:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ergonomics Pt 2 Eye Fatigue & Keyboard/Mouse Use

By: Catherine Dilts

Ergonomics for Writers Part Two: Preventing Tired Eyes and Aching Wrists
Mary Plehal, professional ergonomist, generously shared valuable information specific to writers. Last month, we covered correctposture and chair adjustment. Today we’ll learn how to prevent eye and wrist fatigue, proper desk organization, and monitor adjustment. Your particular needs should be verified by your health care practitioner.

What I take away from today’s tips is that we must adjust our work stations to suit our bodies, and not the other way around. As much as is possible in your situation, make your work environment ergonomically correct. Don’t let preventable aches and pains end your writing sessions early. The better you feel physically, the longer you’ll be able to write!

Prevent Eye Fatigue

Colorado is a dry climate. Dry eyes and eye fatigue are common. Mary’s tips will help you keep your eyes happy.

  • The 20-20-20 Rule:
  • Evert 20 minutes take 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away
  • Closed Eye Rolls: Close eyes, roll eyes in different directions- up, down, side to side, circles
  • Make sure your font is big enough for your viewing comfort
  • Dry air? Consider moisturizing drops
  • Avoid reading or doing crossword puzzles on breaks

Safe Keyboard Use

I have a tendency to stick my elbows out while typing, not unlike a chicken attempting to take flight. When I follow Mary’s next tips, I have less fatigue in my shoulders and upper back.
  • Keep elbows close to sides
  • Avoid repetitively or constantly bending wrist to the little finger side of the hand. People with broad shoulders or torsos may benefit from an ergonomic keyboard
  • Use the lightest keystroke possible
  • When not actively typing, rest your hands

Safe Mouse Use

That little critter next to your keyboard can be problematic. It’s not so much about your hand, as the position the mouse puts your wrist into, and where you place the mouse on your desk.

  • Avoid repetitively bending your wrist toward the little finger side of your hand
  • Position your mouse directly next to the side of your keyboard
  • Consider a mouse that allows your hand to drape rather than hover (no gap should be between the mouse and your palm)
  • A mouse that turns your thumb slightly upward prevents wrist contact pressure with the desk and rotates your arm in a more neutral position

Desk Surfaces

The next section some of you won’t like. I often claim I need the clutter, and that I know where everything is if people will just leave my stacks of junk alone. I have to admit, being organized has its advantages. Not only does a clean and tidy desk prevent fruitless searching for misplaced items, but it also has ergonomic benefits.

  • Keep things organized and uncluttered. Clutter decreases mental focus and energy
  • Make enough space for adequate keyboard/mouse space, wrist rests and forearm support
  • Avoid contact pressure from resting wrists on desk edges- move your keyboard back or get a wrist rest (note: your body tolerates contact pressure better on the forearms than at your wrists)

Desktop Organization

  • Keep frequently used items within reach
  • Avoid frequently reading hard copy that is laying flat on the desktop to prevent neck bending and twisting
If a copy stand is used, place it in a location that is close to the monitor(s)
If a keyboard tray is used, don't place the mouse on the desktop if it requires reaching forward or to the side

Monitor Positioning      

No matter what type of monitor or desk you use, you should be able to make the following adjustments to encourage proper posture.

  • The monitor(s) should be centered in front
  • Monitors should be approximately fingertip distance away when reaching forward
  • The top of the monitor screen should be approximately even with eye level
  • For those people who wear multi focal or progressive lenses, the monitor should be lowered to prevent tipping the head back (consider task specific computer glasses)

Position Change

Now that you’ve gotten everything adjusted correctly, you need to cement all the settings, right? Wrong! Changing position relieves fatigue and prevents aches and pains.

  • The best position is a new position– change positions frequently
  • Tweak your positions slightly throughout the day:
    • Move keyboard closer or farther away
    • Move wrist rest closer or farther from keyboard or mouse
    • Slightly change the tilt on the chair back
    • Move the copy stand to the other side of the monitor
  • Take micro breaks: Find reasons to stand up and move regularly

Non Traditional Work Settings

So you get your home work station adjusted correctly. That’s great, but what about when you work elsewhere? While traveling, at a coffee shop, or on a cushy chair in a sunny window?

  • Regular long durations of laptop use are not recommended. Minimize sofa and coffee shop time
  • When working on the sofa, place a pillow behind your lower back for support
  • Pause frequently to stretch in the opposite direction of the position you’ve been maintaining (neck, back, hips, shoulders, hands)
  • Try to create some forearm support on the tabletop or with pillows
  • When at home, use a separate monitor and keyboard or a stand for the laptop and a separate keyboard (these are very portable and can be brought to a coffee shop)

 Thanks to Mary Plehal, professional ergonomist, we’ve learned about avoiding eye strain, and how to set up a work station correctly to minimize wrist fatigue. Join me next month for a continuation of the series. What happens when you do feel aches and pains? Stretching, the topic of next month’s ergonomic article, can help. Additional thanks goes to Mary Plehal for her professional advice and illustrations for Ergonomics for Writers!

About the Author:  Catherine’s fifth published short story appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s May 2016 issue. The second novel in her amateur sleuth murder mystery series, Stone Cold Case – A Rock Shop Mystery, is available on-line via Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and in e-book for Kindle. She anticipates a fall release for book three. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, her stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running.

You can learn more about Catherine and her writing at:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dear Annie - Annie's advice for September

Dear Annie:

While at my critique group meetings, I tend to get upset and defensive despite being a ten-year critique group veteran. This is a new turn for me as I used to take the feedback in stride. A day or two after the meeting, I re-think my responses and ponder the feedback only to realize my wonderful critique partners are right. How do I correct my attitude during the meetings?

Bad Attitude in Monument, CO

Dear Bad Attitude:

You’re experiencing a common human response. Inherent in your question lies a hint of the solution. When tempted to respond by defending or explaining your author intent, remember the confession that you just shared: later you realize that the criticisms were just. Take a deep breath and bite your tongue, remembering this point.

If you’re a member of a group that consistently gives appropriate and constructive criticism, remind yourself of your good fortune. Not all groups have the experience to give such excellent guidance. Many writers are desperate to find a competent group like yours.

Lastly, your years of experience may be part of the problem. Are you expecting fewer criticisms at this point in your writing career?

When your work becomes cleaner, the evaluation is likely to become finer tuned. I’m sure you notice that each revision brings your WIP to a higher level of competence. Each edit builds on the last making the writing more tight, more exact, more refined. Perhaps you’re receiving just as many comments as you did when you first began to write, but your critique partners are now judging your writing with higher expectations in mind.

~ Annie

Dear Annie:
I’m totally lost when confronted with the project of creating an author platform. It’s such an important requirement today. Where can I find help?

Techno Challenged

Dear Techno Challenged:

Sounds as though you unfortunately missed the August Write Brain. That’s a shame because Cindi Madsen presented an in-depth look at this daunting project. She provided a wealth of interesting and helpful web sites, explained the necessity of creating advertisements geared to your audience, and suggested pre-order campaigns and give-aways. She also pointed to the advantage of creating a newsletter. Ask your friends who might have attended to lend you their notes.

In addition, see the Pikes Peak blog, Writing From the Peak. The August 15th article by K.L. Cooper, “How Pinteresting,” will also be of significant help. Just use the search bar on the right of the blog to look up this article in the archives.

Several comprehensive courses on the subject of building your internet presence can also be found online.

~ Annie 

Dear Annie:
Please explain what is meant by the three-act structure. I’ve heard just enough to confuse me. I understand the concept of a climax and denouement. But what I hear today uses new terms and seems more complicated.

Wanting Clarity

Dear Wanting Clarity:
Many theories exist on the use of the three-act structure. A simple explanation is the following: act one is a set up for an eventual inciting incident which propels us into act two. Act two is the longest act and presents the main confrontation central to the theme. Generally, there is a plot twist mid act, then a crisis near the end of act two. This critical event ushers the reader into act three and the resolution or denouement.

I recommend Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat! for a thorough, clear, and concise explanation. An older book on the subject that is still a pertinent classic is Sid Field’s Screenplay. In both cases, you’ll need to adjust the pages outlined for each act or plot point to be proportional for a novel; but the outline and process are the same.

~ Annie

Dear Annie:
How can I create enough conflict to satisfy contemporary readers without contributing to the excessive violence that characterizes our society today?

God-fearing Pacifist

Dear Pacifist:
Conflict goes way beyond physical violence. There can be emotional, philosophical, or competitive conflicts within an individual or between two or more persons or groups of people. Identify the goal your character has chosen. What does he want? Conflict is anything that stands in his way.

If your character wants to become president of the United States, his conflicts are likely to involve negative advertising, inaccurate media coverage, ridicule from the opposing party or even his own self-doubts. A potential assassin in the crowd would rank right up there, too.

Consider the difference between violence for its own sake and violence executed by that assassin in the crowd. If the murderous use of arms fits the circumstances in your story, it will be more readily accepted even by a peace-loving reader.

~ Annie 

Have a question for me? Write to me at with your suggestions. I will answer serious questions, and maybe some funny ones, to the best of my ability. Your writing is of utmost importance to mee because it is important to you.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

~ Ms. Annie

About the Author:  Dear Annie is the pseudonym for Ann S. Hill. After hearing the call to write in her thirties, Ann set the ambition aside while life happened. Now that she has retired from her career as a dentist and her children are adults, she is seriously attacking that parked ambition. She spends significant time on her true passion and has recently completed her second novel. Her first novel, Wait for Me, was a finalist in the Zebulon, Pikes Peak Writers Contest. She has written several short stories. In the meantime, she remains a voracious reader and film aficionado.