Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Transitioning Down the Writing Trail by Melissa Marts

The day is May first, May Day, 2011, and Sunday the closing day for the 19th Annual Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference.  This year’s theme of Blaze the Write Trail was especially relevant in that, today, May Day, is a time even in contemporary life when farmers and ranchers sow the seeds that feed us all.  The PPWC is also that time for planting seeds of hope, practice and experience as writers blaze the write trail.  Transitioning back to the real world after an inspiring conference is always a challenge, but it was this link to May Day as well as some unexpected blue heron animal medicine that gave me the energy to blaze on down the trail.

Back home after the conference, I take an afternoon walk with my dogs to assimilate all the great information from the past three and a half days.  Although I have loved the imagery of the Wild West and Blazing the Trail, I think of this walk like the yogic shavasana or a prayerful meditation - a quiet, restful practice that allows body, mind and soul to integrate all that has been tried. 

I see with new vision the hulking 14,000 foot image of Pikes Peak and take to heart the bigger message it represented during the conference.  On this May Day, snow starts to fall, drawing my attention back to my immediate path that is ablaze with spring tulips of yellow, red, orange and even a clashing pink.  As the snowflakes come to rest on the flowers and the ground I think how they represent the abundant moisture that was shared at the conference, helping to water and sprout inspirational and imaginative seeds. 

Some notable snowflake moments came when I shared lunch and conversation with Mark Cohen, blogger of From the Left to the Right (I am right to left).  I was hoping to find a blog resource and here was Mark to help coach me along.  Within the hour, I found myself conversing on the other side of the political spectrum with Dick Johnston, author of The Taylor Ranch War: Property Rights Die.  I was so pleased to have so much talent and diversity under one roof.  Deanna Knippling’s Saturday presentation on How to Fail and Keep on Writing was also just the right dousing to keep me going.  The PPWC lives up to its reputation as the friendliest writer’s conference with its great workshops, fellow authors from around the country, and truly friendly agents and editors.

Back on the trail, my Aussie girl dog cops a squat and looks up at me with her deep amber eyes.  Her unique eye color is the same as the blue heron and it was the unexpected witness of this bird’s flight out my 8th floor hotel room, during a moment of melancholy suitcase stuffing, that also helped me to move ahead as a writer.  I have witnessed the flight of the solitary heron from the ground many times, but having one fly into my vision at eye-level was a new and moving perspective, as if I was flying right there with it. 

According to Ted Andrews, author of Animal Speak, herons are great messengers in the spring and represent strengths like balance, self-determination and self-reliance.  Herons often are loners that stand out in their uniqueness and have the ability to take advantage of events the average person would overlook.  Ironically, they gather in the spring to breed, much like we all gathered at the PPWC, and then move on again following some innate wisdom.  Herons may be seen as dabblers but truly they are adept at being a “jack of all trades,” leading a very unstructured life in a stable way that befuddles others.

The conference was a great opportunity to glean resources for becoming a more productive writer.  The wisdom and camaraderie of the past days promise to keep me on the trail.  Ride on, write on, right on fellow herons--oops, writers!

BIO:  Melissa Marts finds her muse in nature and is fortunate to call Colorado home.  Her goal is to write 750 words per week which gets her to publish two to four personal essays yearly.  She is actively working to publish her first YA eco-thriller that features teenage rock climbers battling unscrupulous developers and acid-mine runoff.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sweet Success Update - Janet and Richard Fogg

Here's an update to Janet and Richard Fogg's Sweet Success story:

Richard and Janet Fogg's military history book, Fogg in the Cockpit (ISBN 978-1612000046, hardcover) will be released by Casemate on June 19, 2011.  

Casemate has just announced that the book will be featured by the Military Book Club.  The book has also been featured in an article in the Longmont Weekly.  The Foggs will be attending the 359th Fighter Group Association’s reunion in Dayton in July and manage the Facebook page for the 359th Fighter Group, 1943-1945.  The book will be released worldwide; see the author's website at www.janetfogg.com for more information.

Prior to a distinguished career that saw him referred to as the dean of American railroad artists, Captain Howard Fogg kept a diary during his World War II combat tour in England. He flew 76 missions with the 359th Fighter Group in bomber escort and ground attack roles.

From his backstage encounter in a London theater with Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, to the pre-dawn chaplain's benediction on June 6, 1944, to a B-17 escort mission in the snow capped French Alps to drop supplies to French freedom fighters, Fogg in the Cockpit offers a first hand look at his fascinating and often unexpected story.

The diary is augmented with a wealth of additional material, including a biography, period photographs, examples of Howard's art from before and during his career, excerpts from 1943-44 reports filed by both the Fighter Group’s Historian and Chaplain, and supplementary details which enhance many of the terms and events referenced in the diary.

Ultimately, Fogg in the Cockpit is more than just the story of one man's service. It presents the reader with a unique perspective during a pivotal moment in world history, as the Allies gained momentum for their final push to victory.

Janet’s focus on novel-length fiction and screenplays began when she was CFO for one of Colorado’s coolest architectural firms. Fifteen writing awards later, Janet resigned from OZ Architecture to write full-time, and in 2009 her award-winning time-travel romance, Soliloquy, was released. In June 2011, Casemate will release Fogg in the Cockpit, co-authored by Janet and her husband Richard Fogg.

Janet is hard at work on two new books, is a long-time member of RMFW, Pikes Peak Writers, and two fantastic critique groups. In her free time she has fun with cars with Richard.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thirteen Things Writers Need to Know About Twitter By Patsy Terrell

Twitter’s 140 character limit may seem confining for authors accustomed to writing books. But the social media site offers opportunities for writers to connect with each other, publishing professionals and potential readers.

Thirteen Things

To enjoy Twitter you must build a network. Twitter is as interesting as the people you’re following. If your Twitter Stream isn’t holding your attention, follow smarter people.

Add a profile and photo so people can start to get to know you.

On Twitter you can make connections not bound by geography or past experience.

With Twitter you can have conversations with people you could not call on the phone or ask to meet with.

Engage and interact with people on Twitter. Talk to people, retweet posts you find interesting, connect with conversation.

You can also use Twitter to consume information. Search out people and topics you’re interested in, and that information will be delivered to your Twitter page.

Do more on Twitter than promote yourself. If you wouldn’t want to read your own Twitter Stream, work harder at it.

Connect with other writers, editors and agents on Twitter. Learn what is happening in the market, read what agents and editors are looking for, and commiserate with other writers.

Experts on the details you want to work into your novel are as close as 140 characters. You can search out people who live in almost any corner of the world and who know about almost any topic.

Twitter is one way to position yourself as an expert, and start building the all-important platform. Share your knowledge as well as your message.

Twitter can help drive people to your content – be that a blog or a book. But add something of value to the Twitter conversation instead of only promoting your work.

Twitter is made up of other real people, just like you. You wouldn’t go to a dinner party and start pushing your business card into the hand of every person you meet. You’d have conversation. Do the same on Twitter.

If you decide to hire someone to manage Twitter for you, look for someone who understands marketing, not just the logistics of Twitter. Twitter is just one tool you can use in your marketing plan.

BIO:  Patsy Terrell is a writer, artist and public relations professional who currently makes her home in Kansas. She helps clients clarify their marketing goals and then identifies the tools to accomplish them, incorporating traditional and new media depending on their needs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Column: Screenwriting: Your Motivations For Turning Story Into Script by Karen Albright Lin

Converting your story into a screenplay is a complicated issue.  I’ll break it down into several blog postings.  First, I’ll address what goes into deciding whether or not to turn story to script.  Second, we’ll explore the upsides and downsides to methods commonly used in creating adaptations.  Next I’ll discuss three typical approaches to adaptation.  Finally, I’ll suggest a step-by-step approach you can use to write the adaptation. 
It is important to consider your motivations.  Besides learning skills you can bring into your other writing, why would you want to turn your story into a screenplay?  Fame and fortune? 
Many of us dream of fortune; most of us have learned the hard way that this one is elusive.  Fame?  How many people in the world know who Julia Roberts is?  Steven Spielberg?  How many remember Alan Ball, who wrote American Beauty?  Maybe as creator of Six Feet Under, but for his original screenplay?  When his script won the Academy Award in 2000, the announcer didn’t even pronounce his name correctly.  If fame and fortune are at the top of your list, you may want to step back and study the industry. I suggest The Writer Got Screwed (but didn’t have to) by Brooke A. Wharton, recommended to me by a young film director, and Hello, He Lied--and Other Truths from the Hollywood Trenches by Lynda Obst.  Despite the brutal realities explored in these tell-all books, film is quickly becoming the central conveyor of storytelling in our culture.  If your story lends itself to the big screen, if you master the script-writing craft, if you do a good job at adapting your work, you may reach millions worldwide.  Fame and fortune may follow.
The learning curve will vary.  For most, it will not be a light decision made over coffee one morning.  The most important thing to consider—and probably least understood—is that adaptation is NOT being true to the original.  A book is a book; a screenplay is a screenplay.  Even when a book is wildly popular, there’s no guarantee a movie based on its story will be.  Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was a script that tried to stay too true to the book and failed.  It was not a visual enough story.
Do an honest assessment.  Do you have a visual story to tell?  Can it be distilled into a 1-2 sentence statement (its soul)?  Is it one that has scenes that stick in your mind and a few dynamic characters?  Can it be made less complex than your original storyline?  Does it have an ending that adds to the unity of the script and sympathy for the protagonist?  Are you willing to reorder events in proper time line, create scenes as needed, cut 200-400 pages down to 80-120 pages with less on each page?  Are you able to turn the mental into the physical?
            If you answered yes to the above questions, you may want to consider adapting your story into a screenplay.  Next time, I’ll discuss a few more things to consider before you do. Meanwhile, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief.  Don’t step on the director.  Avoid dusk and dawn.

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, 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 www.karenalbrightlin.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

PPWC – No Joke! by Rob Killiam

So an aspiring author walks into a writer’s conference…

Thus would begin a joke that normally would end very badly. It would involve lecture-style classes, alcohol, martial arts, a stomachache, a spy, several good professors, cowboys and cowgirls, several success stories, and a horse that looks an awful lot like a very loveable dog. If you can pull a punch line out of that, be my guest. What I got out of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2011 (my first writers conference ever, which contained all of the aforementioned things and more) was more than a few laughs.

Late last year, my friend Grant suggested that I attend the PPWC. While many of my friends often got very excited about it, I gave it a passing glance until Grant said something to me. While he used different words, he essentially told me that I have the potential to be not just a writer, but an author as well. He may not have even intended to put it that way, but the basic point is that someone believed in me enough to want to see me excel in it.

If I had thought it through, I would have realized and expected the Conference to be the kind of place where that attitude repeats itself hundreds of times over. As it was, I came to classes on Thursday and was pleasantly surprised to find that very nearly unanimously, the instructors of each class throughout the weekend showed a passion not only for their career and/or craft, but for those who have chosen a similar pursuit. It was fantastic to see such a motley but personable and caring group of people come together for a common goal.

My first introduction to the creature known as Conference was through Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict. I intentionally abstained from most of the class descriptions, intent on sitting in on classes that weren’t necessarily “up my alley”. However, “GMC” (as Debra abbreviates it) was self-explanatory, and it addressed the exact problems I’ve been having lately in writing my book. Her intelligent but simplified method of instruction made what could have been a very confusing topic into something easy to understand, and I don’t think I could’ve had a better introduction to what the conference is all about.

I also attended several classes that were outside of my own immediate interests for writing. Even though I don’t know if I’ll ever write a memoir for my own life, the novel I’m working on is narrated from the perspective of the protagonist looking back on his life. Consequently, understanding how he might go about writing his memoir was a great help. I never got to thank Karen Albright Lin for the instruction she gave there.

Probably the winner for the “I Never Thought I’d See This at a Writers’ Conference” award was “Write the Fight” with Marti Verlander (and her assistant Greg Hartman), though D.S. Kane’s workshop on his experience/knowledge of true spy tradecraft wasn’t far behind. There were classes on how blood at a crime scene is used to reconstruct the events, and a series of others that were both fun and informative, but I truly never thought I'd be seeing realistic fighting techniques demonstrated from the angle of writing them accurately.

However, despite all of the lectures and “classroom time,” there is one attribute that stands out to me the most: the conference is friendly. I unfortunately didn’t get to pick all the authors’ brains that I wanted, but I did have many of the staff approach me at various times in casual conversation during mealtimes and the like. They asked about what I was interested in doing with writing, what I was working on, and many of them gave very helpful advice to me for this stage in my career.

I don’t have the experiences of other conferences to compare PPWC to anything, but I can tell you that if the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is the only one that I ever attend, I think it covers the bases pretty well. Admittedly, I suffered a bit of apprehension that with a theme (“Blaze the Write Trail”), the conference might be lacking in substance and instead go for the aesthetics and flair involved with that theme. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the theme references were understated; the organizers’ focus seemed to be on the craft and/or business of writing.

Then there’s Ruh (pronounced “Roo”), the aforementioned horse-dog. He’s a massive animal, I think, but he’s also a big teddy bear. He was on his best behavior as the Conference mascot, and I found him to be a very relaxing and inspirational presence. The fact he was so well-behaved gave me several ideas for my book on how animals might behave, and I certainly hope he’s at many more conferences in the future.

Lastly, special thanks go to all the volunteers, staff, and folks “behind the scenes” who made Conference what it was and what it is. Though it would be impossible for me to list them all here, I truly appreciate all the hard work put into four days of what turned out to be order from what could’ve been chaos. That can sound like a cliché, but PPWC wouldn’t exist without the hard work of so many people, and the fact they’re willing to provide the conference for us writers is something I really appreciate.

If you haven’t attended a writer’s conference before, I truly do encourage you to do yourself a favor and make the Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2012 your first one. It’ll be a great introduction to what a conference can be, though I’m afraid I might be spoiled now by all the things the conference has to offer. As the days since the conference ended come and go, I’m finding that I’m more and more inspired, encouraged, and educated by those experiences in those few short days.

Is it time for PPWC 2012 yet?

Rob Killam is a freelance writer and aspiring author who lives in Colorado Springs. His writing interests include apocalyptic fiction, alternate historical fiction, and stories based on conspiracy theories. For his living, he currently writes factual articles on a variety of "do it yourself" topics.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sweet Success - Carol Berg, Jen Turano

Carol Berg has sold the Hebrew translation rights for her adult and teen, mythic fantasy novel in two volumes, The Lighthouse Duet:  Flesh and Spirit and Blood and Bone, to Graff Publishing in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Carol's website is at www.carolberg.com.  

Valen believes he’s met his doom when a comrade abandons him in a rainy wilderness half dead, addicted to an enchantment that converts pain to pleasure, and possessing only a stolen book of maps.  But when he is granted sanctuary in a nearby monastery, his book — rumored to lead men into the realm of angels — admits him to a world of secret societies, doomsayers, monks, princes, and madmen, all seeking to unlock the mystery of a coming dark age.  As Navronne sinks deeper into perilous winter, Valen becomes a bargaining chip in a deadly standoff. Doomed to madness by his addiction, bound by oaths he refuses to abandon, the young sorcerer risks body and soul to rescue one child, seek justice for another, and bring the ailing land its righteous king. Only in near-forgotten myth does he discover the glorious, terrible price of the land’s redemption…and his own.

Carol Berg is a former software engineer who can't quite believe her own story.  Since her 2000 debut, she’s been flown to Israel, taught writing in the US, Canada, and Scotland, and answered mail from New Zealand, Kuwait, the slopes of Denali, and beneath the Mediterranean Sea.  Her twelve epic fantasy novels have won national and international awards, including multiple Colorado Book Awards and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.  In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls Carol’s latest novel, THE SOUL MIRROR, "compelling and altogether admirable."

* * * * *

Jen Turano has recently been offered a two book deal for Historical Romance with Bethany House.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

PPWC Session: Creating Unsympathetic Characters (Elizabeth Hand) by DeAnna Knippling

There’s a trick to writing unsympathetic characters—they have to be unsympathetic (by definition), and yet, readers have to want to read about them. Unsympathetic characters aren’t for everyone; some readers hate reading about them. However, the session was pretty full of people who were interested in the type.

Some unsympathetic greats:
  • Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.
  • Bron Helstrom from Samuel R. Delany’s Triton.
  • Light Yagami from Death Note.
  • Tom Ripley from Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.
  • Harry Lime from The Third Man.
  • (I have to add Alex from Clockwork Orange.)
All of these have been successful, famed unsympathetic characters, so clearly the market exists.

How do we know what makes up an unsuccessful unsympathetic character?  Are they just people with negative traits (which, really, includes all of us), or do they have something in common?

Liz noted that one of the reasons that we might be attracted to unsympathetic characters might be that they carry out actions that we, as responsible members of society, can’t do.  They kill; they take revenge out on other people.  Another of the reasons we find them attractive is that they are often seductive, at least superficially very charming.

These traits are often shared by psychopaths.

According to the Hare Psychopathy checklist, the diagnostic tool used by psychologists to assess psychopathy, there are two main factors associated with psychopathy: aggressive narcissism and a socially deviant lifestyle.

Some of the traits of aggressive narcissism (or the seductiveness mentioned previously):
  • Superficial charm
  • SuperficialPathological lying
  • Manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect (emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
  • Lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for action

Some of the traits of a socially deviant lifestyle (or lack of social inhibitions):

  • Boredom, need for stimulation
  • Parasitic
  • Poor behavior control
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irresponsible
Here are some traits not associated with psychopathy:
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility
So when we’re talking about unsympathetic characters, we’re not talking about people with different tastes in sex or cat-burglars, who are often genuinely charming.

Some of the main points to consider when building an unsympathetic character:
  • Troubled souls compel us.
  • Unsympathetic characters often have an accumulation or accretion or trauma that starts in childhood but continues throughout their lives.
  • Writers don’t need to excuse the characters’ behavior, just explain it.
  • People who are psychotic tend to commit suicide at lower rates, because they lack guilt or remorse.
  • Unsympathetic characters are often seductive (physically, mentally, or emotionally), which provides a good reader hook.
  • Unsympathetic characters don’t see themselves as villains.
  • It can be helpful to make an even more unsympathetic character, to make the main character seem more sympathetic (e.g., Hannibal Lecter is unsympathetic, but his jailer is even more so).
  • Suspense can build up an unsympathetic character without overexposing us (e.g., Harry Lime in The Third Man only appears in the last ten minutes of the film).
  • Other characters don’t have to sympathize with unsympathetic characters—only the readers.
  • Many contemporary stories tend to wrap stories up too tightly, giving happy or sad endings.  Unsympathetic characters flourish in complicated endings.
Other points that Liz brought up were that it might seem like an unsympathetic character might be incapable of having a normal life; however, they often compartmentalize their lives, so they might be a good father but a vicious serial killer.

She also expects (encourages) writers to write more about female unsympathetic characters beyond the current stereotypes of femme fatales, etc.  As women become less repressed, their opportunities to shine as unsympathetic characters should increase.

About the Writer: DeAnna Knippling blogs at www.deannaknippling.com, publishes ebooks at www.wonderlandpress.com, and babbles pretty much anywhere she can get away with.  She has recently published short stories at Silverthought Online, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and Crossed Genres, and she received an honorable mention in Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 3.  Her first book, Choose Your Doom:  Zombie Apocalypse, features many unsympathetic characters, and they're not always the zombies.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Column: Singeing Your Eye Whiskers by Deb Courtney

While playing poker at my house the other night, a friend said, "Uh, I think your cat may have burned itself…" We all turned to look where she indicated. In fact, the cat was standing very close to a grouping of candles, and as we all watched, she leaned over to examine a flame. Quickly she jumped back shaking her face. I went and picked her up and sure enough, she had damaged the whiskers over her right eye. Which means she will walk a little funny and bump into things for a few days.

My cat is a gorgeous long-haired mix of American Ragdoll and Bob-tail. She is like a tiny, delicate, befurred Siamese, with a loud chirrup of a voice and a tail that is always curled around her (due to the bobtail mutation). She is adorable. She is not, however, smart, and this whisker singeing was not her first. In some weird way she is determined to ‘get’ something about flames and keeps revisiting them even though they clearly cause her some damage and a little pain. I have to keep the wood burning fireplace insert doors closed as she gets super close and I’m afraid she’ll actually walk in.

Yes, that not smart.

But her persistence got me to thinking. Both in life and in writing fiction, I think we tend to stick with the familiar, the comfortable. We don’t like stepping outside our habits, climbing out of our ruts. In my current work in progress, I found myself placing limits on where I would take my character – oh, I can’t write THAT, I would tell myself. That is too vulgar, or too over the top, or would offend some people. And for a while I wrote my character very carefully so as to stay within some boundary that makes me feel safe. After all, offending people, writing things about a character that people might confuse with me, writing something too vulgar (and yes, there is a TOO vulgar for me, I do have some limits) – well, it SCARES me.

Yes, scares me.

What if something is so vulgar it puts off potential readers? What if someone surmises I am my character and therefore decides not to like ME any more? What if, what if, what if. Yet I kept coming up with scenes that seemed so right, then censoring myself. Not writing them. Just like my cat, back to the flame again and again.

But here’s what I have finally decided: We can’t be afraid to singe our eye whiskers. We just can’t. There’s a life lesson in here, certainly, but from a writing perspective, if we never go to the places where we singe our whiskers, if we only write what is safe and comfortable and what we think will not offend, well, we aren’t writing our true selves. And I think (and someone correct me if I am wrong) that writing that is unloosed, and not self-censored, and which goes exactly where it needs to go, is almost always going to be better and get more positive responses from readers than that which is restrained and safe.

By this I don’t mean that you need to work hard to offend, or use curse words, or gratuitously use sex. I mean, write the book that is there to be written, there inside your brain, and don’t let fear keep you from writing exactly that book. Even if it’s scary to step out of your comfort zones. Even if you think you might be judged. Even if you think you might singe your eye whiskers.

The worst that will happen is that you might walk a bit wobbly for a while, bump into things for a bit.

And I am pretty sure that’s okay.

Singe your eye whiskers, writer-people. Do it.

Deb Courtney has a degree in fiction from the University of South Florida, has published several short stories, and has written freelance for such publications as The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Business Journal. She is a frequent speaker at Pikes Peak Writers events.

She lives in the foothills in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has a winter view of Pikes Peak (which is to say she can see it only when all the leaves are off the trees). She shares her home with a driving-age teen, two cross-eyed slightly brain-damaged felines, and likely has squirrels in her attic. And that's not a euphemism.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Writer Compares Conferences by Tracy Neis

The molting deer made for a great first impression. They were quietly grazing by the driveway as I pulled into the Marriott hotel for the 2011 Pikes Peak Writers Conference, completely ignoring me, and I – a displaced suburbanite from Orange County, California – sat in my car and gawked at them.

This was my second writers’ conference (I’d been to the Southern California Writers Conference in Newport Beach last September), but as soon as I saw those bedraggled-looking deer, I knew my upcoming weekend was going to have a very different feel than my last writers’ retreat.

Both conferences were similar, to be sure. They each offered a wide range of writing workshops, read-and-critiques, agent meetings and publishing seminars. But the general mood in Colorado was much more low-key than it had been in California. Like those laid-back yet resilient deer staking their claim outside the hotel, this Rocky Mountain conference had an unpretentious and down-to-earth quality which was both inspiring and lovely to behold.

I’d treated myself to the SoCal conference as an indulgence, so I didn’t sign up for any critique sessions or agent pitches.  I was there to have fun, and didn’t want to face the harsh realities of rejection. Instead, I spent most of my time in Newport Beach attending fun writing workshops and seminars.

But I won a scholarship to this conference, so I figured I’d take a more serious approach to the weekend. I mostly attended agent and critique sessions this time around. Fortunately, I didn’t have to face that much rejection – the critiquing editor liked my work, and the agent to whom I pitched asked to see some more of my writing.

However, I also indulged in a few playful sessions at Colorado Springs as well. PPWC offered me the chance to chat with experts in Renaissance Scotland, Paranormal Fiction and Horror Screenplays, and I couldn’t pass by these unique opportunities! I also enjoyed marveling at the differences between the two conferences’ expenses. While each weekend meeting had an asking base-price of about $400, the PPWC included meals, parking, critiques and agent pitches in that lump fee, while the SCWC offered only the Saturday banquet in the cost (all meals and one-on-one sessions with agents and editors cost extra in California, and the SoCal parking vouchers? Well, let’s just not go there!).

The main similarity I found at both conferences was the camaraderie of the writers. It doesn’t seem to matter where you go anymore – this country is full of wannabe novelists! But we’re all very supportive of each other, and the Colorado writers I met at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference were a particularly friendly lot. Now that I’m back on my familiar stomping grounds in Orange County, I’m going to miss them.

And those molting deer? Well, I have to admit, I felt very sorry for them as I was leaving the hotel. There they were again, shedding their winter coats and trying to nibble on the new springtime shoots of grass – while a May Day snowstorm was blowing hard against them! But perhaps they were teaching me a lesson too. The publishing world can be a harsh place to live – almost as harsh as a Colorado mountainside. But we writers need to stick our nose to the grindstone and keep on doing what we need to do to survive!

Tracy Neis is an aspiring novelist who lives in Southern California. Her first non-fiction book, "A Collective Biography of African American Poets," has been accepted for publication by Enslow Publishing in New Jersey. When not working on her novels, she writes resumes for Orange County's oldest resume writing service, AAA McKinstry, and occasionally posts articles for The Examiner.com.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sweet Success: Terry Odell, Darby Karchut, and DeAnna Knippling

Terry Odell's romantic suspense novel, Where Danger Hides (second in the Blackthorne, Inc., series) (ISBN: 978-1-4328-2512-6, hardcover, 371 pages) will be published by Five Star Gale/Cengage on May 18, 2011.  The author's website is at www.terryodell.com.  You can buy the book from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.  

Hiding behind the public façade of a private investigation firm–Blackthorne, Incorporated–are a band of elite covert operatives.  Dalton (just Dalton—nobody dares call him Ambrose), is one of Blackthorne's best.  A charming Texan, he prides himself on blending in, and there's no one he can't scam. But his obsession with putting a Colombian drug lord out of the picture threatens to endanger his life and the lives of his team. When Dalton nearly blows a simple undercover assignment at a fundraising gala, it convinces his boss to tether him to a dog-and-pony-show case at a halfway house. Instead, Dalton finds death, drugs, and danger.

Street-smart Miri Chambers wants nothing more than to help everyone at the Galloway House shelter lead new and productive lives, but residents are disappearing without a trace. An unexpected meeting with Dalton at a gala turns into an assignment for him, but Miri doesn't think he’s taking the job seriously. Trust doesn't come easy to Miri. When the situation escalates into a combat zone, can she trust Dalton with her life … and her heart?

Terry Odell was born in Los Angeles, and now makes her home in Colorado. An avid reader (her parents tell everyone they had to move from their first home because she finished the local library), she always wanted to "fix" stories so the characters did what she wanted. Once she began writing, she found this wasn't always possible, as evidenced when the mystery she intended to write rapidly became a romance.  Her other writing credits include Finding Sarah, Hidden Fire, What's in a Name?, When Danger Calls, and Nowhere to Hide.

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Darby Karchut's debut YA urban fantasy novel, Griffin Rising (ISBN 978-1-60619-210-8, trade paperback, 175 pages) will be published June 28, 2011 by Twilight Times Books.  You can buy the book in bookstores and online at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon; you can also read the book as an ebook (out now) from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Even a hero-figure needs a father-figure. Once in awhile.

For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.

But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever.

Taking on the identity of father and son, Griffin and Basil forge a special bond where honesty and trust go hand in hand to secure Griffin’s destiny as a Terrae Angeli. Griffin’s belief in himself and the love of a mortal girl are the perfect combination in overcoming the
darkest days of his life. But will it be enough for him to face the monster still haunting him?

Set in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Griffin Rising has been called Ranger’s Apprentice meets Touched by An Angel and has already garnered rave reviews from YA book bloggers.

Darby Karchut is a writer, a teacher, and a compulsive dawn greeter. She lives in Colorado with her husband and owns more running shoes than high heels. Griffin Rising is her first novel. She is currently working on the second book in the series, Griffin’s Fire. Visit Darby Karchut at: www.darbykarchut.com.

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DeAnna Knippling's short SF story, "Paid," was published at Crossed Genres magazine (crossedgenres.com).  Beauregard is a time-travelling detective in a multiverse where he's his own worst enemy.  Literally.

DeAnna has also started a small press, Wonderland Press (www.wonderlandpress.com) to epublish her and her pseudonyms' work.  Please see the website for weekly weekend ebook coupons and links to her Kids' Pulp stories, unadulteratedly awesome (and un-adult) short stories for 9-12 year olds with titles like "Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster" and "Zombie Girl Invasion," writing as De Kenyon.  DeAnna's (and De's) stories can be found on Smashwords, Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobles, and other ebook retailers near you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Column: The One About QR Codes, Tattoos, Google Stories and YouTube by Becky Clark

I’m still recovering from my favorite writer’s conference. Ah, who am I kidding … they’re all my favorites! But the Pikes Peak Writers Conference holds a special place in my heart. It was my first. I learn so much about the craft and the business of writing, even after all these years, but most importantly, it’s where I found my Tribe. These writer peeps not only inspire and teach me; they understand me. Non-writers just don’t get ‘the writing thang.’

This year was a tad different from years past because I was honored with an invitation to be a member of the faculty. I was on two panels — one about building your nonfiction platform and the other about critique groups and critiquing. I also presented two workshops.

In ‘From Research to Revenue’ I showed the participants how to use article syndication and Kindle to make some money utilizing the research they’ve already done when writing their novels.

My other workshop was about marketing your books. I knew I wouldn’t get through everything I wanted to talk about so I gave everyone a huge handout with all kinds of great links and ideas for marketing.

But I also had this crazy awesome idea which combined four of these marketing concepts. Like the 4H of marketing. Or the four marketing seasons of the year. Or the four legs that hold up your marketing table. Or the nickel defense in football. Oh, wait. 

Suffice it to say, I was gonna blow their ever-lovin’ conference-goin’ marketing minds. I made a Google Story (this one you saw if you watched the SuperBowl) and posted it to my YouTube channel. Then I took that link and turned it into a QR Code, which is one of these thingamabobs you’re going to see everywhere now:

If you take a picture of a QR Code with your smartphone, you are taken any number of places. It’s a quick way to get someone to your website, a coupon, your Facebook page, a YouTube video, a restaurant review … anywhere that has a URL.

I suspect the next generation of smartphones will have the QR code reading software already loaded, but if you have a smartphone with the appropriate QR Code reading app, you could zap a photo of that image up there, and be taken straight to my video, Marketing Is A Many Splendored Thing.

But wait, you say. That’s only three things — Google Stories, YouTube and QR Codes. (That was you, wasn’t it? Am I hearing things?)

You’re right. The fourth part of this awesomesauce was getting my QR Code made into a temporary tattoo which I would wear at the conference for people to see, question, discuss and scan.

Alas, even though I ordered them in ample time, and the people making them assured me I’d get them WELL ahead of time, they showed up at my house the day after I left for the conference. I was all excited about being one of their affiliates, but now, not so much. I got an email from their Marketing Director saying he hoped the conference went well and that my scheme was a hit. But when I emailed back and said, “Nope. You didn’t get me my stuff in time so it was a bust,” I haven’t heard a peep from him.

I didn’t spend much money, so it’s not just that, but it’s really hard to get excited about recommending a company that let me down in such a big way.

So I won’t recommend them, unless they do something cool to make me feel better. And if they don’t, they will have lost a big mouth, er, voice who would have sung their innovative praises all over the place. Oh well. I bet there are other places to get tattoos.
At any rate, I talked about the “Big Tattoo Surprise” before the conference so I wanted to fill you in on the rest of the story.

Becky Clark is a popular blogger, entrepreneur, speaker, and author of wildly divergent books — for example, An UnCivil War – The Boys Who Were Left Behind (middle-grade historical fiction); Reading Maniac — Fun Ways To Encourage Reading Success (a guide for parents of reluctant readers); and The Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Cookbook. Her BeckyLand blog can be found at http:/beckyland.wordpress.com and her healthy living website/blog is www.LazyLowCalLifestyle.com. She is a highly functioning chocoholic.

Monday, May 9, 2011

In the Afterglow of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference by Tena Stetler

In my humble opinion, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference was an absolute blast!  I was happy to see familiar faces, rekindle old friendships, and make lots of new ones.  It was fun being with like-minded people, without the expectation of normal behavior.  Oops–well, you know what I mean.

Workshops covered everything from Cowboys to Paranormals, writing authentic fight scenes to learning what invisible evidence and bloodstain patterns mean. Yet we didn’t learn what those Renaissance Scots wore under their kilts.  Editors and Agents offered insight into the state of the publishing industry, a hot topic on everyone’s mind.

Keynote speakers John Hart, Linda Lael Miller, Beth Kendrick, and Debra Dixon were informative and entertaining.  Their stories of trials, errors and finally success encouraged us all.

There was a lot of sashaying on and off stage. I suspect Todd (better known as Hot Toddy) had been practicing all year.  Jody (aka Trixie) kept everyone abreast of the happenings around the conference.  Unfortunately, lost and found yielded nothing scandalous, darn it.  Maybe next year.  (Hear that, Trixie?)

Read and Critique 123 was especially helpful to me.  The first page of my manuscript was read expertly.  Then the panel nailed down a couple of weaknesses and strengths along with encouragement for an original idea.

Not being a morning person, you can imagine my horror at learning my pitch appointment was 8:40 a.m., Saturday.  I do work a day job that requires me to be at work near the crack of dawn, but my co-workers know that I am not coherent until at least 10:00 in the morning.  The good thing:  I couldn’t even work up a case of nerves that early in the morning, so the pitch appointment went well and I was asked to “send it.”  YEAH!

Conversations in the hallway and at dinner tables also elicited requests.  By the end of the conference, I don’t believe my feet were touching the ground and I know that was the case for a lot of us.  What brought me down to earth was the expectation of creating a web page, facebook and twitter.  I work as an IT Manager, but social networking–now that’s another large can of worms I haven’t had time to muck around in.  So if you see me crashing around the Internet, don’t judge too harshly.  I’ll get it right eventually.

One thing that made me very proud was to hear several of the agents and editors say the participants at this conference were talented and extremely well prepared.  Way to go fellow writers!!

Way too soon, it was over.  The poignant goodbyes were said late Sunday afternoon as the festivities of Pikes Peak Writers Conference drew to a close.   But wait, next year is the 20th Anniversary of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.  I am willing to bet the celebration will be nothing short of spectacular!  In fact, a little mouse told me (well, ok, it was a big dog named Ruh) the celebration preparations are well underway.  Ruh couldn’t be bribed into spilling any of the particulars, not even one!  So until next year, keep your nose to the grindstone and get those pages, partials, and full manuscripts out to the editors and agents.  Good Luck! 

By day, Tena Stetler is an Office and IT Manager for an electrical contractor.  When the sun disappears behind the Majestic Rocky Mountains, she can be found at her computer surrounded by vampires, demons, witches, and other paranormal creatures as she writes Paranormal Romance and Cozy Mysteries. She’s also written articles for a variety of magazines about traveling with pets, and raising and training parrots.  She shares her life with her husband, two parrots, a dog, and a 40-year-old box turtle.  When not sitting behind a computer, she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and whitewater rafting.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blogging in the Post-Conference World

Whew! Another fantastic Pikes Peak Writers Conference has come and gone. Now that we’re all rested up and re-energized about our writing, it’s time to catch up on a few bloggy things.

First, please give a round of virtual applause to Fleur Bradley, who is stepping down as the Managing Editor for this blog. She has been instrumental in transitioning PPW’s print NewsMag to the online blog format you see today. Fleur continues to share her talents and time as she hands over the managing editor duties for Writing from the Peak to me. Thank you, Fleur!

In the coming weeks, veteran conference attendees and newcomers alike will share their experiences in a series of personal essays and articles on this blog. If you would like to share your thoughts on the conference, a particular workshop, or anything else related to writing, e-mail me at editor@pikespeakwriters.com.

There are some Sweet Success stories to post, and we’ll continue regular columns by our cadre of wonderful columnists.

Stay tuned!

Robin Widmar
Incoming Managing Editor

Monday, May 2, 2011

Column: It's The Story by Debbie Meldrum

A few weeks ago, I visited Disneyland in California with my nephew, his wife and their six-year-old daughter. Everywhere there are stories. Each ride is a mini-story. The performances are stories. Even the fireworks tell a story.

This is very different from the last time I was at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The fireworks existed as something to distract people standing in line. Now there is music and narration. The theme of the year--another recent addition--is "Let the Memories Begin." The fireworks story is about that theme. About the first time you came to a Disney theme park, the first Disney movie you saw, the first Disney television show you watched.

Okay, you could say it's a fifteen minute advertisement for their movies, etc., but it was so much fun to watch. As was the photo show on the side of "It's A Small World." Still photos and home movies from family visits to the park, interspersed with images from television and movies. We just happened upon it the first night and stood, transfixed as it played out.

In California Adventure they have "The World of Color" show. Dancing waters with images projected on them. Again, very much like the fireworks story and the photo show at "It's A Small World." Just done differently, and with breath-taking results.

Why were they so much fun? The story of Walt Disney and all he created is inspiring--whatever you, personally, think of the result. The story of the families who have made a visit to one of the parks their vacation of a lifetime is moving. The story of the memories we all Disney movies--our first, our favorite, or the one we watched and realized we'd grown up too much to enjoy it (I haven't reached this stage yet, thank goodness) are something we all share.

I think we writers tend to get too caught up in all the rules and advice. We must have a knock-out opening so the agent/editor/reader doesn't put the book down halfway through the first page. Every word has to count. Each scene has at least six purposes for being included. Dialogue must sparkle like we Turtle Waxed it.

But what we often lose in all of that is the story. What we're really doing is telling a story. And if the story is good enough, the readers really won't notice the other stuff. Because they'll be entertained.

In one of my previous critique groups, I'd often find myself saying to a talented but sometimes too clever for his own good writer," Just tell the damn story."

I think I'll apply that advice to my own writing. How about you? How important it story to you? Can a good story overcome otherwise flawed writing?

Debbie is a daydreamer. A fact that caused her much grief during her school career but has served her well as a writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Apollo’s Lyre, The SCWP Marathon Anthology, and The S’Peaker. In addition to being a member of PPW, she belongs to Creek Writers Council—a tough but fun critique group.