Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the University stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." -Flannery O'Connor

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...You'll find the monthly Letter From the Editor

...Deb McLeod tells us about "Living the Writing Dream"

...The editor passes along this months local events and helpful links

...And the PPWC 2013 bios continue with David Liss, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, and Sorche Fairbank

Saturday, March 30, 2013

PPWC 2013 - Deb Werksman, Editor


Deb Werksman

Deb Werksman has been an editor at the Illinois-based Sourcebooks for fourteen years. She is acquiring single title romance in all sub-genres (paranormal, historical, suspense, contemporary, and erotic), historical, and women's fiction. From her bio on the Sourcebooks website, she is looking for the following traits in romance submitted to her: a heroine readers can relate to, a hero she can fall in love with, a credible and imaginative world, the ability to escape into the world, a hook, and a career arc for the author. For commercial women's fiction, she's looking for a strong hook and an unusual angle. She is also fond of happy endings over dark and depressing tales.

From Sourcebooks: "We like to say that we publish authors, not books, because we think strategically about authors’ careers, and we constantly promote our backlist, which encourages readership to grow." The editors and staff at Sourcebooks invest themselves in their authors' careers, and they publish more than 300 titles each year.

Before working with Sourcebooks, Deb had a small publishing press, where she put out a political satire magazine with her husband. She sold this press to Sourcebooks when she joined the editorial staff.

You can find Deb at the following places:
Casablanca Authors Blog (once per month)

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good News for all Writers Everywhere! Rejoice!

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

I have a friend, Betsy Dornbusch, who posted on her blog that people think she self-published her book. They just assume it. Now, she’s spent the last eight years working on her craft to get to the point that she is a professional writer, and yeah, she hasn’t self-published, and gets miffed that people just assume she did.

It’s a fascinating blog post. And you can link to it from HERE

I commented, which I don’t do often. This is my comment in funky fresh italics:

I have to say, when asked if I self-pubbed, I can honestly say I didn't. I have a publisher. My press is small. Does that make a difference? I don't know. Mark Coker of Smashwords would say the market and the readers will decide.

However, the days of working years on a book only to shove it under the bed because you couldn't find a publisher are over. Good.

Write books. Publish them. Repeat. If you suck, you suck. If you're divine, the readers will come. Perhaps only a few, but better than no readers at all.

I keep thinking, though, that I didn’t capture exactly what I wanted to say. The issue is so deep, wide, and pervasive—it plunges into the murky bottom of my vanity and my fears.

I don’t have a literary agent. I published my first book through a small press. I’ve had to do everything myself as far as marketing and promotion. People are sooooooooo impressed that I got published. Most normal people don’t know the difference between my contract with Crescent Moon Press and Stephen King’s latest contract with Simon and Schuster. I know. And it pains me.

This is hard stuff. Should I stop writing and give up because the outside world has not given me the six figure advance? Or should I rejoice in the fact I have an ISBN?  Shouldn’t I be grateful I have a book in the world, and that readers in Germany and the Philippines get to write negative reviews about my work on Amazon?

Yes, but I have a problem. I have dramatic sensibilities. If I don’t have Twilight fame, I suck. If my work doesn’t win awards, I suck. If I’m not making millions of dollars off my books, I suck. If German teens don’t love my books, I suck.

And yet, there are writers who got the six-figure advance and then got screwed. Who got dropped by their publisher. Who lived a life of woe. There are no easy answers. Good books do well. Crappy books do well. No one knows anything except if you hit it big, people will call you a genius. Take the same book, give it a bad cover and add some misspelled words, the same EXACT book, and the same people who lauded your genius will laugh at you.

I say we should rejoice in whatever path we are on. If you are self-pubbed, rejoice that you live in a time when you can get your voice out into the world. Give Mark Coker a big kiss next time you see him. And pray for sales.

If you have a big-time literary agent with big-time contracts with big-time publishers, rejoice because you’ve done something very few people ever do. And pray for sales.

Above all, write books. Write good books when you can. Write really stupid books when you can’t. And then take the plunge and put your book in the hands of readers, real readers, with hearts, minds, and souls. If some knucklehead shrugs you off because your book is only available online, talk to the next person, who might really need to read your work.

My first book I had printed by a tech manual printer. I had about twenty copies made. The book was unreadable. I dedicated it to my wife and she couldn’t get past the first chapter. It was a disaster. But my friend Peter read it. And he cried because he understood what I was trying to say in that 150,000 word monstrosity. My story touched him down to the roots of his soul. So the disaster was worth every single piece of shrapnel.

Rejoice and be glad! 

About the Writer:  YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer. When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs. His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

PPWC 2013 - Barry Goldblatt, Agent

Barry Goldblatt Literary

Barry Goldblatt

Barry Goldblatt, one of the agents who will be appearing at PPWC 2013, headed to New York with a dream of finding an editor position in science fiction and fantasy, ultimately discovering that this dream wasn't going to be easy. A helpful interviewer pointed him in another direction, and he ended up working with children's books for a branch of Penguin. 

Through eleven years, he also worked for Putnam and Orchard, having fallen in love with children's literature. When Orchard was bought out, he decided to open his own literary agency, encouraged by a friend and award-winning author. That was in 2000, and he's still going strong. In fact, he represents his wife, Libba Bray.

Other authors he's worked with include Angela Johnson, Shannon Hale, Cassandra Clare, Tim Wynne-Jones, and many more recognizable names. He represents the gamut of literature for youths, from children's to Young Adult, but he is especially looking for Middle Grade right now. He is hands-on with his clients, and helps them get their work ready for publication, in addition to finding them contracts.

You can find Barry at:

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Number One Reason Writers Get Rejected

By Linda Rohrbough

I’m going to tell you a secret. The number one reason writers get rejected by agents and editors is genre. I’ve heard this from a number of literary agents, including Noah Lukeman, author of The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. Writers tend to mislabel their genre, or they misunderstand what genre an agent or editor is looking for. And these days, due to electronic submissions, you usually don’t even get the favor of a form letter returned in your self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). So many authors may never know they’ve made this mistake.

Most writers I know without much experience in publishing think what I just said is nonsense. It simply can’t be genre. Doesn’t everyone know you just go down to the bookstore, find the books similar to yours, copy down the genre written on the edge of the shelf and voila – you’ve got it? How hard can this be?

Evidently, it’s harder than it looks. What continues to surprise me is that “experienced” writers, who crank out how-to articles aimed at educating those who want to be authors, tell people that bookstore nonsense. If that strategy worked, everyone would know and understand their genre. But they don’t and they may never figure it out. Once in a while, some editor or agent takes the time to simply tell them, but that doesn’t happen very often.

So let me tell you why the bookstore idea doesn’t work. Bookstores use a labeling system aimed at readers. It’s not the same system that agents and editors use, even though it uses many of the same words – kind of like American English and the Queen’s English. (A British editor of mine said he and I were “two people separated by a common language.” You should have seen his face when I recommended he order a quesadilla at a Mexican restaurant. Or when I called the small zipper bag around my waist a “fanny pack.” He’s no prude, but his face turned all kinds of red as he whispered that I’d said a very bad word - and it wasn’t ‘pack.’)

Authors start as readers, speaking that language learned mostly in high school English class or bookstores. And what do bookstores do? They attempt to sell books to readers, not buy books from authors. Bookstores develop categories based on marketing, even though the terms sound familiar and literary. When a bookstore says “mainstream,” they mean books that sell a lot of copies, not books that are really in the mainstream genre, which has an entirely different meaning to an editor or agent.

What makes this more confusing is the best-selling books that mix genres. Remember, authors started as readers, so they think they can get away with doing that, too, because it’s interesting. They say things like, “I’ll just write a Romeo and Juliet story where a Zombie falls for the daughter of the most important leader of the humans and set it in a post-apocalyptic world where the Zombies have the edge on the humans.” And some new authors do get away with it, like Isaac Marion, who wrote Warm Bodies, which was recently released as a feature film and which further reinforces the idea of genre blending.

Marion calls the book a “Zombie romance,” which appeals to readers. (Notice he figured out a way to talk about his book in a way that interests readers. Warm Bodies is his first published book, after three failed self-published novels.) There are no hard and fast lines here, but I’d say Warm Bodies is a speculative fiction sci-fi romance. So if Marion came to me for advice on looking for representation or a publisher, I’d say first approach agents and editors who represent speculative fiction since that’s the strongest element of this work. Stay away from agents and editors who represent romance, because they’re not going to buy this book, even though romance has a large readership. (Most new authors know a large readership means the odds are better for new writers to break in to the genre.)

As an aside, I think genre blending is a lot like the lottery. When people buy that ticket, they believe they can beat the odds. Heck, if they knew they’d be better off financially using that bill to clean their teeth instead of buying dental floss, the lotto folks would go broke.

So what’s a new author to do? As a new author, not only do you want to write in a genre that’s selling, which means there’s demand, but you want to write something that stays inside the boundaries of the genre. Debbie Macomber can introduce speculative fiction elements (angels) into her romance novels and get away with it because she has a track record. But she didn’t do that when she started. She started writing category romance, which has very stringent guidelines. But you can’t just do what everyone else has done either. You’ve got to find a way to stay in the lines, only with a twist of your own.

Having said that, writing in a genre that no one wants to buy is a different problem. And one that’s fairly simple to solve (despite the fact that some authors like to get into a lot of creative angst over it). You either commit to writing what you write, and hope tastes change or you get a break. Or you write what you think you can sell - which is no guarantee either, but it definitely increases the odds of being published.

So is there a way to learn about genre so you can speak the language of agents and editors? Sure. Chris Mandeville is doing a workshop on genre for the March Write Brain. I know, because she’s using materials I developed some time back, along with input from other experienced authors. That’s one of the cool things about PPW. You can either work up your courage to ask for help, or just go listen to learn what you don’t know.

If you want a leg up sooner, you can go to my website ( and in the articles section near the bottom there’s an article I wrote about genre for PPW called “The Genre Hurdle.” Then go to Chris’ workshop to get the latest on genre, which is always a moving target.

Also, keep this in mind: increasing your knowledge about genre is the best way to increase your odds of acceptance.

About the Author: Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PPWC 2013 - Libba Bray

Libba Bray

The first thing you need to know about Libba Bray is that she has a great sense of humor. If you don't believe me, you should check out her website (link below) or view the video I've included on this post. On her website, she has condensed her life story into a quick, witty story you're bound to get a kick out of.

Libba (or Martha Elizabeth Bray) is one of our keynote speakers at PPWC 2013. She published the Gemma Doyle Trilogy before going on to write The Diviners, about a girl sent off to live with her uncle in a freaky museum of the occult; Beauty Queens, which resembles Survivor with beauty queens; and Going Bovine, about a boy with mad cow disease and the hallucinations to prove it. She's also had stories in quite a few anthologies, many with dark overtones.

A New York Times bestselling author, she has received the Michael L. Printz Award (Going Bovine), and Beauty Queens received the honor of being named one of the Best Teen Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews.

The daughter of a minister and a teacher, Libba went through a time where she wrote copy for Richard Simmons. Ultimately, she became a published author and joined a band with three other YA authors. Her fellow Tiger Beat musicians are Daniel Ehrenhaft, Natalie Standiford, and Barnabas Miller.

After the list of places to find Libba Bray, I've placed a video of her book trailer for Going Bovine. It's a video you don't want to miss, especially if you plan on making a book trailer some day. Or if you like to laugh and be entertained. 

You can find Libba Bray at:
Her website (check out her bio and FAQ's)

And now, I leave you with her book trailer for Going Bovine:

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Importance of Being Earnest...Hemingway

By Cindi Madsen

I like Ernest Hemingway, but I’ve never devoured one of his books. The Old Man and the Sea isn’t a very big book, but it took me a couple weeks to read. Probably because I read it about the same time the last Harry Potter book came out—I finished that 700 page bad boy in a day-and-a-half. I tend to like books with a lot of romance, humor, and big action, but sometimes genre writing is looked down on, as if writing a book that makes people fall in love or laugh doesn’t require skills or brains. Writing is hard work, regardless of genre.

So, I’m going to go ahead and make a confession. I’m a…a… Okay, deep breath. I’m a romance writer. I used to cover it up, claiming suspense or comedy, but the truth is, all my books have a strong romantic element. Finally, I’m able to admit it. Of course now that I’m admitting to it, I’ve had people look at me, faces all scrunched up, and ask, like they’re sure they heard me wrong, “Romance? Like fluff or bodice-ripping?”

Well, neither. My characters have real problems, and along the way they fall in love. I certainly wouldn’t call it fluff, but I’m all about a happy ending. That’s just me. And if that’s who you are, too, or if you write the bodice-ripping, deep thought provoking, literary, historical, or Christian fiction, I say be true to yourself and go for it. If you want to be the next Hemingway, Austen, Steinbeck, more power to you. Because at the end of the day, it’s about writing what you want to write—what you love. Even if family, friends, and your mom give you “that look” when they find out what you’re writing. Or even more terror-inducing, if they actually read it. 

If you don’t love what you’re writing, it’ll show. Plus, it ends up feeling like homework. I’m learning to write for me, and hope that other people will love it, too. So whatever you write, hold your head high, be true to who you are, and find the joy of being earnest.

(Originally published on Writing From the Peak April 2011.)

About the Author:  Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes this makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. Look for her YA novels, All the Broken Pieces with Entangled Publishing, and Demons of the Sun with Crescent Moon Press. More information can be found on her website:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake." -E.L. Doctorow

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Cindi Madsen tells us "The Importance of Being Earnest...Hemingway."

...Linda Rohrbough details "The Number One Reason Writers Get Rejected."

...Aaron Michael Ritchey has "Good News for Writers Everywhere! Rejoice!"

...We present the bios of keynote speaker Libba Bray and agent Barry Goldblatt.

Also, don't forget tomorrow is Writer's Night at Lofty's. 6:30-8:30 PM at Lofty's, down town. For more information, see our "Events" tab above or go to the website.

Have a great week!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

PPWC 2013 - Hannah Bowman, Agent

Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

Hannah Bowman

Hannah Bowman is one of the agents who will be at PPWC 2013. She interned with Weronika Janczuk before her current position at Liza Dawson Associates. But before that she moonlighted in physics, working Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Particle physics may seem odd for a literary agent, but she has dual degrees from Cornell, one in English, one in Mathematics. 

Hannah writes fiction, in addition to agenting, and actually wrote and queried a couple novels, which were rejected. This led to her interest in the other side of things. She writes science fiction and fantasy. She also plays the organ. 

If you intend to pitch to Hannah, or query her, she specializes in commercial fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, women's fiction, cozy mysteries, romance and young adult. She's also interested in nonfiction, particularly mathematics, science, and religion.

Hannah has a Tumblr account (link below) where she answers industry questions and gives advice on querying, genre, etc. From her Tumblr: "I love big concepts, powerful voices, and twisty, complex plots, and I'm a sucker for sweet love stories." You can find her at the following places:

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Friday, March 22, 2013

Notes on Ghostwriting

By Karen Albright Lin

Ghost. A wispy creature some people converse with but others don’t see or even know about. That’s basically what an “author” has when hiring a ghostwriter. Many people don’t have the skills, discipline or research experience necessary to write a book. A doctor, celebrity or famous author might hire a ghostwriter because he/she doesn’t have the time. Popular authors are often expected to pop out three or four books a year. Some series are sold under one name, yet written by numerous writers, like the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. Is this cheating? That’s debatable. But the practice is more popular today than ever before. I’ve seen estimates that suggest almost 40% of books are ghostwritten. 

Along with being a professional editor and writing consultant, I’m a ghostwriter: memoir, YA fiction, “screenplays for hire” and children’s. I’ve been lucky. All of them have been produced, published, or will soon be published. One question to ask yourself before taking on a project is whether or not there is some assurance your work will see the light of day. That means it’s already agented, contracted, or, in the case of screenplays, funded or attached to an experienced producer/director. 

How many times has someone come up to you and said, “I’ve had cool things happen in my life. It would make a great book. Want to write it?” Some believe they're doing you a favor by slipping you their amazing stories. I love a great tale as much as the next writer, but telling that story in 300 pages is no small undertaking. Though it has its upsides, ghostwriting, in many ways, is harder than writing your own nonfiction, novel or memoir (elements of each).

Collaboration is not something to take on without great consideration. It’s like a marriage; imagine being joined at the hips for six months or more. Are you ready for the commitment? Do you feel driven to hop inside this person’s head?  As in marriage, it matters why he chose you. Hopefully there are many reasons.

  • Why this ghostwriter?
Understands the subject matter
Past experience
A convincing trial sample
Known to be trustworthy (especially if there is a nondisclosure clause in the contract)
Has an intuitive sense of what to put in and what to leave out
Available when you need him
What he brings to the table: proposal, an agent, and investigative skills
Integrity and speed
Ready to write objectively, without judging

How do you find a ghostwriting job? You can look on writing job sites or in magazines. In my case, it’s been word of mouth through editing clients and networking in the writing community. If someone decides you're the one to write the story, there are quite a few things to consider before taking on a ghostwriting gig.

  • What’s expected of each of the collaborators?
Will the client (author) dictate and the ghostwriter (writer) transcribe and brush up?
Will one do the interviews, research and writing while the other adds his name in order to gain credentials for his career or capitalize on his established name to get a book out quickly?
Will one take a rough version of the written story, shape and edit until it is a finished product?
Who will do the marketing research, the investigative work?
How much freedom will the ghostwriter or collaborator (writer) have?

Interview skills are important. It takes time to arrange for recording if allowed, agree on costs, and prepare questions (that’s another blog post). I needed to travel to interview my celebrity “author” recently, arrange for housing and food expenses. All absorbed by me, knowing it would come back to me in spades on the other end. It’s a big book, with a big percentage contract, represented by a big agent. 

Regardless of the strength of the story or the marketability of the named author, the writer should consider career enhancement and monetary potential. Few opportunities are big books. But you never know; depending on the uniqueness and power of the story it could hit big. Unknown authors must be prepared to pay before the book sells. If a ghostwriting gig comes your way, charge what you’re worth. If the story is likely to have a huge readership, consider putting in unpaid time up front in anticipation of a percentage of the advance and royalties. Some take a fixed fee. Hillary Clinton’s memoir supposedly got an 8 million dollar advance, the ghostwriter a $500,000 flat fee.   

  • How and when will the ghostwriter be paid?
Flat fee?
Hourly rate?
Per page or per word?
A percentage of the proceeds (only advance or advance plus royalties and derivative works)?

If contracting for a percentage, you can get anywhere from 10% to 50% depending on what you bring to the table, the sale potential, and the scope of the book. The pay iterations are only limited by the collaborator’s imaginations and the attorneys’ sharp sensibilities. An indirect form of pay would include having your name attached, being less ghostly, adding to your public bio, and often your prestige.

  • Will the ghostwriter receive credit for the book?
Name on front of book (with X , as told to X, or X, contributor)
Name on back cover, spine, or inside flap
Name in acknowledgements or forward
Not named at all (some want the glory or need the credit, some don’t)

There are other considerations. Besides pay and credit, it is wise to address: 

  • Who takes on other obligations and retains certain privileges?
Who will retain copyright?
Who is signatory to the publishing agreement?
Who will cover out-of-pocket costs like travel?
Is there a confidentiality clause?

Nothing is without downsides and risk. My own experiences have been rewarding, but painful at times. 

Problems I’ve experienced:
  • Broken promise of acknowledgement (blamed on publisher, “one extra page in the book”)
  • Contract with terms unfavorable to me (check with an attorney!)
  • Never ending requests to edit (contract for limited edit passes)
  • Encouraging and counseling a dreamer who was not a doer
  • Eking out payments
  • Broken contracts, time lost
  • A client backing off the guts of a story, leaving only a shell of a tale to tell
  • Difficult personalities to work with
  • An agent interfering with the collaborative agreement
  • A client backing out without an agreed-upon kill fee in place (attorney!)

Make your experience a great one by getting a good feel for the potential partner and scope of the project. Sign a clear contract with fair terms. Why would I do something so complicated? Ghostwriting adds to the number of stories I get to tell and helps me connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise. It makes me accountable, keeping me on task; I don’t have time to experience writer’s block. I’m about to embark on another ghostwriting gig with a woman who is not yet a household name. She has a great story with much to offer her readers. I’ll let you know how that goes. There are many wonderful things about ghostwriting. If the opportunity comes your way, try it; you may end up loving it. 

(First posted on the Chiseled in Rock Blog, Oct 10, 2012)

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

PPWC 2013 - David Liss

Before we get to David Liss, there's good news for those who haven't yet registered. The Early Bird pricing for PPWC 2013 has been extended to March 31, 2013! You can still get in at the lesser price of $395 through that date.

Also, our discount pricing for hotel rooms is only good through March 26, so if you intend to book a room, you've still got a few days to get the cheaper price of $105.

Without further ado...

David Liss

San Antonio author David Liss was once an encyclopedia salesman, but pursued degrees at Syracuse, Georgia State and Columbia. It was while writing his dissertation at Columbia that he came up with the story line for his debut novel A Conspiracy of Paper. He never finished the dissertation, but his novel came out in 2000, winning him three different awards for Best First Novel (the Barry, MacAvity and Edgar Awards), as well as being named a New York Times Notable Book. This would not be his last novel to be named a New York Times Notable Book

So far, all but one of his award-winning novels have been historical fiction, but The Ethical Assassin, released in 2006, is a contemporary mystery. Funnily enough, the main character in this novel is a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. 

In addition to David's seven novels, he writes Black Panther comics, and did an edition of The Spider and Mystery Men. He has also had short works published in a few anthologies. His book The Devil's Company has been optioned for film by Warner Brothers.

David is a husband, father and vegetarian. He's also Jewish, which his Q&A states is the question he's most frequently asked (now you know, and have no reason to ask). Though he resides in Texas at this time, he is originally from New Jersey. 

He will be presenting Writing and Marketing Historical Fiction on Thursday for our add-on programming, and he's one of our keynote speakers.

You can find him in the following places:

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hi, My Name is DeAnna, and I'm a Reader

By DeAnna Knippling

I've been thinking a lot about readers lately, about what they want and need. As a "them" rather than solely as an "us." This is not the bullet-point article that tells you the seven things that readers want and need.  I'm still too close to being utterly and solely a reader to do it now; I get sucked into the stories I'm writing so hard that I don't give two cents about my readers. So today it's just about the memories that came back while I was thinking about it.

I suspect that we become avid readers out of damage.

Here’s my story; I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether yours is similar. There are two incidents.

The second one was twelve years ago. It was my first office job, which meant I could afford to go out for lunch. I’d drive off alone, buy something cheap but tasty, and hide in my car to read and eat. I’d glare at anyone who drove by, as though I were afraid they’d steal my food.

That wasn’t it, though. I was afraid of being punished.  For betraying a lifetime of home cooking and plain living and honest hard work that involved at least a modicum of sweat from my brow. I was above myself, too big for my britches. I was making a living off the signature on my BA and my typing speed, and it was a kick in the gut every day. I grew up poor, and I see my parents as trying to prepare me for the worst, instead of the best, in life. In gentler words, to survive rather than to dream. They were happy I got the job but it felt hollow. The wrong kind of success.

In the midst of that, I was getting a coffee refill from the break room, where one of my co-workers was brazenly, openly eating lunch and reading. Alone. I don’t remember what she was eating. She had red hair so streaked with white it looked neon pink. She never spoke to me, or really to anyone. I considered her a crazy cat lady despite knowing nothing about her. The Fates had punished her by making sure she’d never have a family or friends or anyone to talk to. Just like they were going to punish me.

She was reading a prehistorical something or other. She turned to the last page, finished it, got heavily and awkwardly off a tall stool with short legs, and...threw away the book.

It clanged in the empty trash can.

After a few seconds, I said, “What did you do that for?”

She grinned at me. I felt like she was looking into my soul, finding my deepest fears small, fuzzy, and kind of cute. “Because I was done with it.”

“But what if you want to reread it?”

“I won’t,” she said. “I never did like to read the same book twice. But if I did...I’d just buy another one.”

It was a strange turning point in my life. I’ve carried it around for years, not even realizing that it meant something to me, but unable to forget about it, either.

That's the second story. Here's the first.

When I was a kid it was my mom’s job to teach me how a person. Be female. Fit in with society. All that. Again, preparing me for the worst. Keep your legs crossed, stand up straight, and brush your hair kind of stuff. Be just like everyone else. Don't attract attention and you won't get hurt.

Didn't work.

When my daughter was about six or so, she came to me and said she wanted bangs. I couldn't make myself spend the money to get her bangs done, because cutting bangs at home was the kind of thing frugal mothers did. But I couldn't force myself to cut them myself either, because I couldn't get away from the memories of being screamed at because my cowlick wouldn't lie straight. So I dithered.

And then one day, she cut her own hair. She cut the holy hell out of her own hair.

I laughed and laughed and laughed. To this day, whenever she tells me she needs her bangs cut, there’s an implicit threat to it. The stylists always look to me to tell them what to do with her hair, and I say, “It’s her hair. Ask her.” It makes me feel giddy and dangerous.

Here’s the thing about my mom, though. I found a copy of The Valley of the Horses and read it when I was maybe eleven or twelve. Mom either left it around or didn’t keep it hidden or didn’t take it away when she found out I had it. Thank God it wasn’t Clan of the Cave Bear. Anyway, it had a sex scene in it, and I read it, and she didn’t make me suffer for reading it.

Books became the one good thing I never had to suffer for, even when it was pretty obvious that Mom disagreed, start to finish, with what I was reading.

It was enough.

Now I see people trying to get books pulled out of libraries, huge arguments about how ebooks are never going to be the same as real books, articles shrieking about how bookstores are dying and how awful it is, even how some books are fundamentally better than others, and I remember those two books that changed my life, one by being allowed to read it, and the other by being destroyed.

And I go, “I must not be the only one messed up about books.”

But the preciousness and power of books were never about the books themselves. That readers think so seems to me...a kind of crack in the facade, a sign of damage. The best, strongest parts of books were in people the whole time--the writers who gave us the gifts of understanding and freedom, the people who let us read without making us feel ashamed, and even the people who taught us that, all in all... was just a book.

About the Writer: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Genre Cliches to Avoid

By Debbie Maxwell Allen

The other day I happened across a list of science fiction cliches. The extensive list (which brought to mind several novels I've read) made me wonder about cliches in other genres. Thanks to the wonders of search engines, I came up with sites for several popular genres. Check them out to make sure your plots are fresh, and not identical to every other manuscript out there.

Science Fiction Cliches
The list that started this post, is from Dragon Writing Prompts. The sci-fi list is comprehensive. You  might want to click on the label 'lists' for more like this.

Fantasy Cliches
Also from Dragon Writing Prompts is a list of fantasy cliches in four different categories. Obsidian Bookshelf has another list of most-hated fantasy cliches.

Mystery Cliches
Confessions of a Starving Mystery Writer lists detective cliches to avoid, along with links to two other lists. And the Answer Bank solicited readers' opinions on murder mystery cliches.

Romance Cliches
Writing World has a fully-explained list of romance cliches to stay away from--or retool into something unique. The Queen of Swords posted the 'semi-grand list of overused romance cliches'. And, though it focuses on movies, the Mutant Reviewers site lists some hilarious romantic movie cliches, like the 'l'-shaped blanket.

Horror Cliches
Read about Horror Stories We've Seen Too Often on Strange Horizons. Writing Hood offers 10 Cliches Horror Writers Should Try to Avoid.

Thriller/Crime Fiction Cliches
William Miekle shares ten cliches to avoid in crime fiction. And over at Petrona, you'll find another list with links to some more sites.

Literary Cliches
Are there cliches in literary fiction? Apparently so. Sean Lovelace describes what he thinks they are, and Mumsnet has an interesting thread where readers interact about their least favorite literary cliches.

Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Cliches
Writing Hood explains some of the most common urban fantasy cliches, while Geek Speak Magazine lists the top 13 paranormal cliches (with examples from current books).

Young Adult Cliches
Skerricks has a Top Twenty-Five Countdown. I guarantee you'll find something you've seen before.

Have you found any cliches that resemble your plot? Maybe these lists have made you aware of different ones. If you're interested in other kinds of cliches, check out the post here.

Don't forget the March Write Brain tonight! We've got a fantastic panel on genre, with a workshop on formulating your logline. Our knowledgeable speakers are Kathryn Eastburn, Linda Reeve, Kirk Farber, Cindi Madsen, Mark Stevens, and Chris Mandeville. 6:30 to 8:30 PM, Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave., Carnegie Reading Room. More information can be found on our "Events" tab or on our website.

Debbie Maxwell Allen writes young adult historical fantasy in the Rocky Mountains. She blogs about free resources for writers at

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shower Talk: Ways to Save Your Ideas From the Drain

By Stacy S. Jensen

Story ideas often arrive in the shower. How do you save them?

I never realized how important the shower is for writing until I became a mother.  As a mom, it's the one place I'm guaranteed to be alone. 

Sure, I had ideas in the shower before my kiddo arrived in my life. Then and now, I hear many writers struggle with how to capture those ideas.

For a more traditional note taking experience in the shower, there are a number of waterproof notebooks and notepads on the market for $10 or less to save your ideas.

Writers can take a tip from scuba divers and use a "scuba slate" to write notes in the shower. I've found some for under $6.

When I became a parent, I discovered bath time markers and crayons. It may not be a sophisticated way to save ideas, but it would "hold that thought" until you can type it up.

While it's a neat idea to jot down a note on the shower door, I'm not excited about cleanup. So, I do a hybrid method of a non-waterproof notepad outside the shower or an iPhone. I’ll admit I do a lot of “repeating” to myself before I can write it down.  

Ideas aren't exclusive to showers. I've heard many writers share how they hash out story details on morning runs, over a cup of coffee, or on a walk. As writers, it's fun to be alone with ideas and flesh them out.

How do you take notes from those “shower moments” or when you're out and about?

About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"Be obscure clearly." -E.B. White

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Stacy S. Jensen discusses "Shower Talk: Ways to Save Your Ideas From Going Down the Drain."

...Debbie Maxwell Allen tells us "Genre Cliches to Avoid," just in time for the Genre Panel Write Brain Tuesday night.

...DeAnna Knippling presents a personal essay on reading, entitled "Hi, My Name is DeAnna, and I'm a Reader."

...Karen Albright Lin educates us on the virtues and how-to's of "Ghostwriting."

...we present the bios of keynote speaker David Liss and agent Hannah Bowman.

Have a great week, and don't forget to check out the "Events" tab for more information on our Tuesday Write Brain, a panel on genre, and our Wednesday Critique Night.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sweet Success! Karen Albright Lin

Compiled By DeAnna Knippling

Karen Albright Lin's mainstream adult flash fiction story, "Snow Day," was released March 1, 2013, by Running Out of Ink. The story is available for free online here. The author's website is at

Waking up to no job and a wife acting oddly, Donavon must unravel the mystery of why it’s all happened.

Karen Albright Lin is a professional editor/consultant for multi-published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. She’s a ghostwriter of novels and writes for newspapers and magazines, as well as literary magazines. She has won or placed in 25 writing contests. She’s written and collaborated on five short scripts and ten feature-length screenplays that have garnered international, national, and regional awards--one produced. Her co-written scripts have been considered by James Cameron, Barry Sonnenfeld, HBO, Showtime, and the Sci Fi Channel. She speaks at writer’s conferences, retreats, and on cruises.   

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email DeAnna Knippling at dknippling [at] gmail [dot] com if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Countdown to Conference - 1 Month to Go!

Let's take a moment to do a gleeful dance.

Artwork by OCAL, courtesy of

One more month to conference! PPWC 2013 is nigh!

Before we lose ourselves to the celebrating, though, there are a few important details to go over:

Today is the last day to sign up for conference at the early bird pricing. As of tomorrow, March 16, pricing goes up to $450, and is based upon space available. Hurry and get in at the $395 early bird price!

The brochure is now available at our website, Go to the PPWC tab and scan down to the bottom right. You will see a link that says "2013 PPW Conference Brochure" just above the following image:

On that brochure, you'll not only find information on the authors, editors, agents and workshops, but also more information on the conference, including the code for a discounted hotel room cost during the conference. That's right! If you are attending PPWC 2013 and would like to stay at the Marriott during the conference, an option many locals even choose, the PPW rate is $105 per night.

Why do locals stay at the Marriott for conference? Tons of reasons! Some of these include convenience, safety, ease, time, and to take a vacation from every day life. You see, just because programming ends at a certain time doesn't mean everything stops. Many people hang out in the evenings, getting to know other attendees, as well as editors and agents who may stick around in the bar area. Buy a lingering agent a drink and they're sure to listen to your elevator pitch, maybe that night, maybe the next day.

Even if you don't want to stay after hours, there are benefits to staying at the hotel. An early start and late close to meals can mean limited time at home between transit times, so staying at the hotel can make the weekend easier. In addition, having a room right upstairs where you can take a rest during the day, grab a snack or shower, and change your clothes for dinner is a wonderful convenience. Also, it's just nice to get away sometimes, and the Marriott is a lovely and comfortable hotel. Why not take advantage of the discounted price they offer and have a mini-vacation during the conference?

If you've already registered for PPWC 2013, be sure to keep an eye on your email inbox, including your spam folder (just in case). You'll get an email at some point with instructions to go in and make your meal selections. In addition, you'll get the schedule and handouts via email, so don't forget to check!

Finally, now is the time to buckle down and prep for your pitch. Even if you haven't signed up for a pitch appointment (which it's not too late for!), you may get an opportunity at your table, in an elevator, in the hallway, or at the bar. You never know. Try to whittle down your logline just in case you get the opportunity. Know what your story is about, get it polished, and be prepared for whatever may come your way!

Good luck! And see you in April.

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Thursday, March 14, 2013

PPWC 2013 - Michael Braff, Editor

Del Rey

Michael Braff

Mike Braff is an editor at Del Rey, and is interested in sci-fi, fantasy, and other genre fiction. One thing you'll find if you read through his Twitter feed is that he is partial to high fantasy, but he isn't getting many submissions in that genre. Is, in fact, mostly getting sci-fi submissions. Hint, hint. 

Braff started out in New York, moving up to Canada to attend college for his BA in World History and Comparative Religion before taking a job as a printing intern. It was this job that landed him his first editing position with Random House Children's Books, which then led him to his current position with Del Rey. He semi-secretly hopes to be a published author, himself, and is working on a fantasy series.

Mike is a guitar-playing, comic-reading, NY Rangers-supporting, Tolkien-reading, gaming, tattooed, Star Wars fan. If you hope to pitch to him, I highly recommend you read this 2011 Five Scribes blog interview with him, where he goes into detail about things he specifically seeks and things that will turn him off immediately.

You can also find him on Twitter: @MikeBraff.

Note: Always be sure to research the editor or agent you'll be pitching to, and check shortly before the conference to make sure they haven't changed what they're currently looking for. These posts are meant to give you a general idea of the editors and agents, as well as what they're looking for, but not to be advice on who you should pitch to. 

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at