Sunday, June 30, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"Grow your tree of falsehood from a small grain of truth. Do not follow those who lie in contempt of reality. Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself, so the weary travelers may find repose." -Czeslaw Milosz (born June 30)

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Letter from the editor

...Deb McLeod asks "What are the Words Telling You?"

...A story of Sweet Success

...and July News, Events & Links

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Success Post is Good News for Everyone

By Stacy S. Jensen 

Responses to good news post in the form of a cloud.

I’ve seen many writers heralding good news lately on Facebook, social media, and here in the form of Sweet Success posts.
Good news is everywhere.

By sharing good news, other writers remind me of the reality of the traditional publishing process. It involves many layers of requests (and rejections) with agents, editors, and publishers.

I’ve found writers to be genuine cheerleaders. The congratulatory messages aren’t part of a Facebook Happy world. They are sincere “Awesome!” and “Can’t wait to buy your book” messages.

We should be happy, because every writer, who gets a deal or a break before us, leaves a trail of information breadcrumbs for our own publishing quest. If we are lucky, he or she blogs about “how I got my agent” blog or shares the details in a private Facebook group conversation. These stories are filled with tales of hard work, revisions, and seized opportunities like conferences, membership groups, and social media pitch contests.

One day, I hope to have a “good news” post to share about a manuscript. Until then, I’ll continue to applaud the good news I hear from others and remember to acknowledge my own personal victories. After attending the Big Sur in the Rockies, I have a manuscript where I think it needs to be. Yay me!

Do you have good news to share today?

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. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One Size Fits All?

By Cindi Madsen

Ever walk into the store and see that magical One Size Fits All tag? I mean, it fits ALL? Then you put that muumuu up to yourself and you think, well, technically I can wear it, but it doesn’t exactly fit. 
I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, noticing all the opinions on publishing. There’s a lot of information out there, which is awesome. I nodded at some of the good tips. But…well, I started thinking, “I’m not sure about that”, “Maybe I’m doing it wrong,” and “That’s sorta' insulting when I think about my process.” Some of the tips were from well-known agents, some from authors with agents, some from people who are writing their first books. I think they’re all valuable for different reasons, but there were a lot of opinions that were stated as fact.

Again, I’m not saying that all the tips are like that. They don’t all fit in one neat category. But I saw one about how long it should take you to write a book. And how you should/self-publish/not self-publish/market/etc. I also noticed a lot of discussion about this at PPWC. What’s so great about right now is that there are so many ways to publish: self, traditional, boutique, indie, Facebook (one line at a time - don’t actually recommend that, but hey, if it works for you…) If you want to write in more than one genre, you can. If you want to get a book on the New York Times Bestseller list, you don’t have to be published by a New York house. There’s also a group of authors they’re referring to as “hybrid authors,” both traditionally and self-published.

Before you make any decision, you want to know what you’re getting into. Big houses have different promotion plans than indie publishers. Sometimes you get more attention at the big houses; sometimes you get more in the smaller houses - the smaller fish in a big pond idea. If you publish yourself, you’ll need to do your own marketing. All of it. Unless you hire someone, which is also an option. A lot of the self-published authors that are doing so well already had a large fan-base and money to do their own promotion, just like a lot of them grow an audience and get promo help after hitting "publish" for the first time. I won’t dive into all the nitty-gritty details of all the methods. I’m just saying, don’t ever let someone tell you there’s only one way to do it, or make you feel badly if you choose another path. (How’s that for a One Size Fits All statement?) Study your options, as well as what’s working for authors in your genre. Build a support system. Keep working on your craft. As writers, we have more options than we ever have, and why wouldn’t you want that? I mean, yeah, you can throw on that floral muumuu and marvel that it fits you, your kids, and your pet dog, but is that really what you want for your book?

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:

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Shift in Wonder

By DeAnna Knippling

There are some spoilers here, but in general nothing you couldn’t get by watching some trailer.*

Some things fall apart when you look at them too closely.

For example, Cabin in the Woods. If you’re a True Fan, skip down a bit, because reading this will just make you mad. I got to the end and felt like I’d been sucker-punched. Not with the last scene - nope, I was perfectly happy with that. But with the climactic battle right before it.

Who was the main character of this movie? Who changed the most, who learned the most, who had a real arc from beginning to end? Okay, now, who was the main actor in the climactic scene?

Not the main character. For a couple of  writer/directors who are supposedly all about strong women, she fell flat. Pure-d-flat. Did not resolve her problem on her own. No, she had a man do it for her. Fun movie?  Sure. I enjoyed the rest of it - blood, gore, guts, low humor, and final twist in the denoument - all of it. But that climax. What a stinker. And don’t try to deus ex mansplain me into thinking that she wasn’t the main character, or that really, she had some valid choices to make at the ending. Nope. None of the other characters changed (if a character solves a problem by doing what they normally do, then that’s not change - subversive guy was subversive, who saw that coming?!?), and the only choice she made at the end was to passively accept what the guy said was The Right Thing To Do. Big whoop.

Another example.

When I watched the first Star Trek reboot, I liked it. Then I read some of the critics, not the professional ones who have some interest in encouraging the movie-going public to keep buying movie tickets, but the amateurs. They gleefully pulled Star Trek to bits, turning it into illogical nonsense. As I’m writing this, I just got out of a showing of Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’m going to stay away from the reviews for a while. Because I just loved the movie, and I don’t care how unrealistic it was. The story was good, nothing is perfect, and screw the naysayers for a while. 

And yet. Cabin in the Woods. I am that naysayer.

Flaws in books are even harder for me to accept. I recently discovered, due to a recent increase in my reading superpowers, that a book that I have read so much I had to repair the spine isn’t the book I thought it was, and that the person who’d done a lot of the heavy lifting of making it grrrrreat! was me. For example, there were dozens of scenes that didn’t move the plot forward. I won’t say which book it is, because in a later series he’s fixed this issue, and honestly I...I can’t take the risk that he’ll somehow find this blog during a vanity search. No book is perfect, and I loved this book once, and he has my loyalty. But I don’t know that I’ll ever read my beloved, patched copy of it again. 

Again I’m a naysayer, or at least a nay-thinker.

I mentioned that I have recently increased my reading superpowers. What I really mean is that I’ve been studying better, typing in parts of stories, writing outlines for them, finding out how authors use conflict and structure and all that on a different level than I used to. If writing is the exhale part of being a creative writerly type, then reading is the inhale part, and I’ve learned how to inhale more deeply lately.

Part of me is saddened by my new reading superpowers. 

Because I feel like I’m losing a certain level of innocent “wow!” in reading, in watching movies, in participating in stories. My daughter comes up to me and tells me about books that she’s read, and I often have inappropriate reactions (eye rolling, mocking laughter, general killjoy naysayerisms). I can’t love stories the way an eleven-year-old does anymore, and part of me wants that back.

But part of me is enriched, too.

I pull down Dorothy Sayers and am freshly amazed. I read a James Patterson and I laugh, because his books are so perfectly orchestrated. Donald Westlake isn’t just funny anymore, he’s a god. I read a Loretta Savage and curse with pure envy on her POV structures.

More recently, I just finished studying Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns, breaking it out chapter by chapter, until I could see at least a little bit of how the conflict in each scene built upon previous scenes, layer upon layer upon layer. It makes me want to reread A Clockwork Orange, oh my brothers.

I feel like I lost one kind of wonder in order to gain another. 

Is it worth it? Someday I hope it pays off and helps me sell more stories. I hope it is paying off already, as I write.

But as it is, it’s sometimes hard to talk to people about what I learn from stories. One of my favorite bits in Star Trek: Beyond Darkness was the part where people are trying to get across the falling ship. Those scenes weren’t amazing...and yet, from a storytelling perspective (and as far as I can tell at this point) they were perfect. Please don’t talk to me about the technicalities of how it could never have happened that way at the moment. I don’t want to know.

Hypocritical. And yet there it is.

I think in the end, foolishly, I want the things that are brilliant to be laid open, so I can see their brilliance - no analysis of mine can lessen true shininess - and the things that are  less than brilliant to stay hidden, so at least I can enjoy the powers of my own imagination in filling in the gaps, the artlessness, the learning curves of other creative types in the process of gaining their own superpowers, too.

Except the ending of Cabin in the Woods. I want a secret director’s cut in which Our Heroine lays that bad b---- down.

*And why are they called trailers, anyway?  Good grief.

About the Author: 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.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"For a creative writer possession of the truth is less important than emotional sincerity." -George Orwell (born June 23)

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...DeAnna Knippling brings us "A Shift in Wonder."

...Cindi Madsen addresses whether "One Size Fits All?"

...and Stacy S. Jense tells us why "A Success Post is Good for Everyone."

And if you haven't RSVP'd for the Cabin in the Woods movie night this coming Friday and/or the Fear & Loathing in Any Genre workshop this coming Saturday, check them out HERE.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Effective Use of Flashbacks: Backstory - Part II

By Karen Albright Lin

In my last post I addressed that trickiest of challenges, the flashback. Tricky because using one can bring to a screeching halt your dramatic action, enlightening narrative, or compelling dialogue. But if done well the benefit of using a flashback outweighs the sacrifice of immediacy.

  • Getting across backstory through dialogue would be cumbersome or unrealistic.
  • “Show versus tell” makes narrative less appealing.
  • It is unobtrusive and allows front story to press ahead.
  • You enter the flashback at the last possible moment and leave as quickly as you can.
  • You’ve made the reader want to know the past, especially if it relates to a desperate goal.
  • The reader absolutely needs certain information from the past.
  • Your current plot is to some degree the product of events that came earlier.
  • You keep it short.
  • You only put it in where you integrate it into the current story and where it informs reader about current actions. (Ex: If we see a man performing an exotic ceremony before killing his daughter, we’ll want to know what that was all about.)
  • It is fascinating to the reader apart from the information being conveyed.
  • The flashback is in first person or deep third person and from the perspective of the character who has the most to lose.
  • A story element is gracefully worked in. (Ex: starting with a murder then jumping ahead two years to Jim’s probation hearing would be clumsy.) And usually it is a cheat to use a prologue to sneak in backstory.

Used with skill, flashbacks can be rather long (even whole chapters), but you are less likely to compromise the momentum of the story if you keep them SHORT AND SWEET. One way to get across a lot without stopping the current story in its tracks is to break it up into smaller chunks. For example: in my novel, Mu Shu Mac-N-Cheese, we learn that the protagonist‘s grandfather‘s ashes are in her coat closet and that she doesn’t want her visiting mother-in-law to know that. As the story unravels the reader learns about the Chinese reverence for the ancestors through brief flashbacks. The first glimpse of her fear of exposure creates the mystery.

Regardless of why you use a flashback, it is important to KEEP THE TIME SENSE CLEAR, the different gradations of the past:

If the story is told in past tense à when going into the flashback use past perfect (“she had…”) to clue readers into the time frame in the past (one or a few sentences as a transition into and out of past tense again in the case of a long flashback) then return to à past tense again clues the reader in.

If the story is told in present tense à when going into flashback use past tense to clue readers into the new time frame à then return to present tense when the flashback ends.

Regardless of the tense you use, TRANSITIONS will make entry into flashbacks more clear. Using an object to trigger one is helpful. Example: She squeezed the rough sleeve of her shirt and closed her eyes.  Suddenly she was ten years old again.  Her Dad threw her favorite shirt into the fireplace….

Flashbacks are a complicated topic; there’s plenty more to consider. Next time I’ll discuss how to successfully add flashbacks, when they don’t work, and what to do if you are told to get rid of them.

Come back next month for Part III of Karen's Backstory series.

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, June 20, 2013

Updates to June Events!

There have been some changes to our movie night and workshop at the end of June (28th and 29th).

Don't worry, they're still occurring! We've just made a couple small tweaks.

The movie night will now have popcorn and candy available for the donation amount of your choice. Money from this will go to Tri-Lakes Cares, benefiting victims of the Black Forest Fire.  RSVP is appreciate, and will gain you early admission to grab a seat. RSVP to

For the workshop, the price has now been lowered from $75 to $25, with 100% of proceeds going to Tri-Lakes Cares. Both Tri-Lakes Cares and Pikes Peak Writers are waiving administrative costs for this and the popcorn/candy sales Friday night, so that 100% of the money will go to Black Forest Fire victims to help as they face the ramifications of the fire.

Lunch at the workshop is now optional, for an additional $10. Otherwise, there will be a lunch break so you can find lunch elsewhere, or bring your own. Total cost with lunch is $35.

You still register at, but there is now a pull-down menu to choose the price option you'd prefer. If you can't attend, but would like to donate, you can choose that option, as well.

We do need to know in advance if you'd like the optional lunch (soup, salad, bread, beverages, and a snack later in the day), so we can insure enough food is on hand.

You can find more information on Tri-Lakes Cares at their website:

If you have any questions, please contact Shannon Lawrence at

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Realistically Ever After

By Mandy Brown Houk

I’ve taught story structure to my high school students year after year, and even though each class is comprised of very different students with different skill levels and perspectives, they all tend to get stuck on the same point: the resolution.

My favorite story to use as illustration is The Wizard of Oz. There are few stories that are as universally familiar, but also few stories that have such clear demarcations at each point (ordinary world, inciting incident, rising action, climax/do-or-die moment, and all the layers that need resolution as the action falls).

As we finish up with our handy diagram, and Dorothy goes back to Kansas and realizes all that home really means, the students are smiling, satisified, and all is right with their world.

Then I throw the wrench in the works: “resolution” doesn’t mean things are resolved in the protagonist’s favor. That’s when we settle in for a reading of Guy de Maupassant’s “A Bit of String” or “The Necklace” (without blowing the endings, let’s just say that M. de Maupassant was allergic to happily-ever-afters). 

This very semester, upon reaching the end of “A Bit of String,” one of my students said (whined), “That’s not really a resolution, though. That’s horrible!”

Here’s the thing, though: when pressed, none of the students could arrive at any other plausible, believable ending that wouldn’t make the entire story pointless. And that right there is the key to a believable, resonant, meaningful “ever-after.” If it doesn’t make sense, then the story loses all power. The characters, though they may have seemed throughout the story to rise up off the page and walk around in the reader’s head, will collapse and dissolve into two-dimensional (or even one-dimensional) characters, crafted not of blood and bone but of paper and 12-point font.

That’s not to say that only a “downer” ending will ring true. Dorothy’s victory over the witch really does work, as evidenced by the timelessness of the story. If she’d lost her face-off with the witch, then all we’d learned about her (courage, desperation, the desire to do right by those she loves) would be rendered false, or at least devoid of meaning.

We can never forget as writers that our characters must lead the story. Even if you’re the writer that outlines each scene and sequel before you type the first line, the character’s…well…his character… has to determine the choices he makes, which then determine outcomes, one after another, after another. Anything other than that—if we become puppet masters who enforce outcomes based on our own preferences or prejudices or even laziness—will lead to a jarring, sudden stop to the story. An ending. Not a resolution. Not an ever-after.

As storytellers, we want our readers to reach the last page, close the book, and pause a moment, wondering what became of the characters in the next moment, the next day, the next year. In the play Flowers for Algernon (adapted from the short story and the novel), the main character finishes reading Robinson Crusoe and eagerly asks his teacher, “What happens to him after?” As a reader, that moment to me is delicious. As a writer, that moment is priceless. It’s victory. And if our “resolution” rings true, if what happens is not only logical, but is truly what had to happen, then that victory is ours, ever after.

About the Writer:  Mandy Brown Houk is a freelance writer and editor, and she teaches at a small private high school in Old Colorado City. She's written for several magazines and anthologies, and has completed two novels--only one of which is worthy of the light of day. Mandy's work is represented by Sally LaVenture at Warner Literary Group. Her web site is

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Free PPW Events This Month

This month we have four free events! Be sure to read to the end to find out more about our Cabin in the Woods movie night with Stephen Graham Jones.

Don't forget about tonight's Write Brain, presented by Jennifer Lovett:

Twitter and Facebook for Writers
Speaker: Jennifer Lovett
When: Tuesday, June 18, 6:30-8:30 PM
Location: Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave., Carnegie Room
Social media. You know you need to do it, but do you know how to do it effectively? When are the best times to post to Facebook and Twitter? What are the best posts that snag the most interaction? We'll chat about all this and more. How to set up Facebook and Twitter Profiles to gain the most followership, and the most effective posts for more likes, comments and retweets. Don't know a retweet from a tweet-tweet? No worries. We've got you covered.
About the Presenter: With a combined 12 years of active and Reserve time as a US Air Force Public Affairs Officer, Jennifer Lovett has marketed books, shows, concerts and more. She is currently an Air Force Reserve PAO at Patrick AFB in Florida and in her full-time life, pursuing a career as a fiction writer.
Open Critique - FREE 

Third Wednesday of every month (Wednesday, June 19)

6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Cottonwood Center for the Arts
427 East Colorado Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO

This FREE program provides a critique experience for a small number of writers who seek feedback on manuscript pages and who want to learn how to have positive critique group experiences. 

PPW's Open Critique program is facilitated by Mary Karen Meredith, with regular critique guest Deb Courtney, host of PPW's "Writers' Night" monthly gatherings. During Open Critique, Deb and Mary Karen, or another experienced criticizer will provide comments, criticism and suggestions on participants' manuscript pages, as well as model positive behaviors, techniques and procedures for critiquing.

It is our hope that participants will not only receive valuable feedback on their writing, but will also learn how to create great critique groups of their own, or learn how to improve existing critique groups.

Each month Open Critique will accommodate up to eight participants with a maximum of eight manuscript pages (double spaced, one side) per person. Bring at least 8 copies. To request a slot to participate, email your request to Slots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, and are only considered for the month in which they are received. Participants will receive confirmation and instructions via email.

PPW reserves the right to give priority to new participants over those who have attended multiple times.

Thank you!

Hope to see you there!
Mary Karen Meredith & Deb Courtney

Writer's Night at Lofty's - FREE 

And next Monday, June 24, we have Writer's Night at Lofty's:

6:30-8:30 PM
287 E Fountain Blvd, Suite 100
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Free Wireless Internet!

Join fellow writers for PPW Night at Lofty's in the Historic Lowell School District of downtown Colorado Springs on the fourth Monday of every month.
PPW Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.
The direction of the meeting is decided by the participants and can include discussions about query letters, obtaining and working with an agent, writing conferences, or other specific points of the craft.  If nothing else, we talk about books!

Feel free to bring a sample of your work-in-progress to share or discuss with others, if time permits.  NOTE: This is not a formal critique group or editing session.  Bringing your work with you does not guarantee it will be discussed.
If you have any questions, or if there is a specific topic you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail to the host, Deb Courtney, or call her on her cell phone at 719-337-9049.
Meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 and run until about 8:30.  These are drop-in meetings, so feel free to attend all or just part of them.
Lofty's offers a small selection of coffees, wine, beer and mixed libations, as well as a variety of juices and organic sodas. There is a small menu of mostly sandwich based items. Wi-fi is available.
See you soon!
Free Movie Night With Stephen Graham Jones!
What: A movie night fundraiser
Host & Speaker: Stephen Graham Jones, speculative fiction author and professor at CU Boulder
Location: Business of Arts Center, Spencer Hall, 515 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
When: Friday, June 28th. The film will begin at 7:00 PM. Seating begins at 6:00 PM for those with RSVP's, 6:30 PM for those without.
Price: Free! Drinks will be available for purchase from Mabel's. Popcorn and candy will be available for donations to a fund for victims of the Black Forest fire.
More Information: Friday night we'll have a movie night and silent auction fundraiser, with Stephen Graham Jones providing commentary and discussion on the film Cabin in the Woods, and the horror tropes therein. Whether you've seen it before or this is your first time, he'll illuminate the horror conventions so lovingly examined, deconstructed and pieced back together by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Cabin in the Woods is rated R.
Seating is limited! Please RSVP Include your name, telephone number, and the number of people accompanying you.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Jumping in With Both Feet - My Experience at PPWC 2013

By Ashley Bazer

I’ve been writing seriously for going on eight years. In that time, though, I’ve lived in small towns with little to no writing opportunities. I’m married to a pastor, so drumming up an extra $1000 for travel/registration for a writers’ conference simply wasn’t an option. What’s a writer to do?

When we moved to Burlington, Colorado five years ago, I was determined to make the 2 ½ hour trek to Colorado Springs once a week to join a critique group. Yeah, that didn’t last very long. But I did have occasions when I’d be in town visiting my mom and I could join the Thursday night writers’ group at the Briargate Barnes & Noble. This is where I first met Bonnie Hagan, although I only got her first name at the time. Once my kids started school, our visits were limited to weekends, so my time at B&N disappeared.

I still wrote. I learned what I could from online resources. And finally, my family decided to move to Colorado Springs. I got a job in February of this year, but we wanted the kids to be able to finish up the school year…so I found myself in the city with some time on my hands. I got in contact with Bonnie via email, still not connecting that Pikes Peak Writers Bonnie was B&N Bonnie. (I can be clueless sometimes!) I knew the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference was coming up, and I was finally ready to participate in some way. A return trip to the B&N writers’ group confirmed Bonnie’s identity as PPW Bonnie!

I volunteered to do whatever was needed at the conference. I also applied for a scholarship, not expecting to be granted one. Within a short amount of time, I received two emails. I had been given a position on the pitch staff. (Had no idea what that meant, but I was willing to try it out!) I was also awarded a scholarship. (Many thanks to those who made that decision! You made a dream become reality!)

Two weeks before the conference, Bonnie called a meeting. I didn’t have to attend, but boy, am I glad I did! I learned more about what I would be doing as part of the pitch staff. I also found out that the conference folks were in serious need of moderators. Again, having just a smidgen of an idea of what that meant, I signed on. I’d had stage experience, and I don’t mind being in front of a crowd. If that was another way I could help, I’d give it a shot.

By the time the conference rolled around, I was moderating five sessions and working pitch staff. Keep in mind, this was my first conference. I didn’t know what to expect, I wasn’t all that familiar with the layout of the hotel, and I barely knew anyone. Crazy? Perhaps. But those three days at the Marriott are now logged among my favorite memories.

I made sure I downloaded all the information beforehand. This was the former stage manager in me kicking in. I created a binder, highlighted and organized. Schedules, maps, session breakdowns. Best thing I could have done. I had instant access to anything that might have come up. I was even able to help an agent find her way the very first day.

I moderated the first two sessions. Whoo, what a ride! I hoped and prayed the whole time that I did just what was expected. Thankfully, I was paired with folks who were easy to work with…and that gave me a lasting connection with them throughout the conference. I highly recommend moderating. It’s a blast, and it allows you to meet people.

At lunch, I didn’t fuss with the lines. I waited until everyone had shuffled in and still managed to land a seat right next to an agent I’d been wanting to meet. I broke out of my introverted writer persona and forced myself to converse. Totally worth it. This helped to humanize the agent and prepared me for the pitch sessions.

I mentioned above I’d been a stage manager. Handling the pitch sessions was much like running auditions. Nervous writers waiting for their work to be hand-selected by exalted agents. (Admit it, we all feel that way!) By interacting with the agents, I came to realize that they are just like you and me. What an awesome thing! I also imparted to the waiting writers some wisdom given by MB Partlow at the PPW Write Brain that took place just prior to the conference: “They (agents) are just people who might be lucky enough to work with you one day.” (I wrote that down word for word because it meant so much to me!) When it came time for my pitch appointment, I was ready. And it was awesome.

I absolutely loved being part of the staff for PPWC 2013. The sessions I had to myself, I almost didn’t know what to do. So while this was my first conference ever, it certainly won’t be my last. And if PPW will allow me to help again, I will jump at the chance! I invite you to do the same. You won’t regret it.

About the Author: Ashley Hodges Bazer lives in Colorado with her husband and their three children. She earned her BA in theatre (stage management) from Arizona State University, and went on to work for Disney in that capacity. She is a producer for Focus on the Family’s daily radio program. Her debut sci-fi novel, ASYLUM, was published by WestBow Press in August 2012. Learn more about Ashley and her upcoming books at or check out her blog at

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework, you can still be writing, because you have that space." -Joyce Carol Oates (born June 19).

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Ashley Bazer discusses her first conference experience.

...Mandy Brown Houk gives us a tale of Realistically Ever After.

...and Karen Albright Lin gives us the second installment of her Back Story series.

And a Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Barrys - Independent Publishing and Strawberry Ice Cream

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

We had a pocket-full of controversy at the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. What an astounding time we live in to be a writer. Oh the drama! The chances! The changes!

Barry Eisler, whom I adore, gave a rousing speech on the choices we have in this day and age. Can’t find a way into the traditional publishing machine? Independent publishing is now a very real, very viable way to get your stories out into the world. He likened the choices we have to ice cream. In the past, it was chocolate or vanilla, baby. Big press or small press. Today? Strawberry-cheesecake shuffle. Indie pub your way to success! Or diabetes.

Barry Goldblatt, whom I adore, talked about the shadow side of Barry Eisler’s talk, something that I’ve not heard before. His argument came down to this: How much should we pay for a story? Are stories just product, or are they something more?
Goldblatt pointed out that for most of history, authors didn’t make a living off their fiction. They had the day job and wrote around it. Does Amazon and the ebook revolution help with this? At first, it might appear that it does.  However, we now have free books and 99 cent books. Is that how much stories are worth? I’ll work three years of my life, sweating and bleeding, and then end up selling the product for 99 cents because the price point has been pushed down so far.
What are books worth? I’ve read some books where I wished the author had paid me, dammit. I could name some YA angel books I’ve read, but I won’t go there. And I’ve read some books that are priceless.  Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells is one of those books. I’m sipping from her Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood like it’s a fine wine. I never want that book to end.  It’s priceless, but I paid nine bucks for the ebook.
Goldblatt echoed the Donald Maas argument, that traditional publishing pushes authors and the industry to a level of quality that Indie pubbing sometimes lacks. However, that is not necessarily the case. I write for small presses, which is just Indie pubbing with a tad more support, and every book I put out into the world has to be quality because I’m building my name. And since I’m not with a big house, and since some people LOVE to find fault, I have to make damn sure I’m putting out quality books. This takes time, sweat, and blood.  Unmedicated OCD can help with that, as well.
Will I hit it big, quit my job, and buy my own jet? Who can say? Indie pubbing, traditional pubbing, both are still in many ways a lottery. I could argue Stephen King, E.L. James, and Christopher Paolini all got lucky in way or another.
But again, what are books worth? Not much, really. I now have used copies of my books on Amazon and in used book stores. I peruse the racks of the Goodwill, books, good books, worth less than a dollar. It all fades. Writing novels is just another form of Navajo sand painting. Most likely, the winds of time will wipe away my words, no matter who publishes me.
The reality is this: I will write books. My books will find a way into the world. I wrote for twenty years alone in my basement, and I can’t do that anymore. For my brief moment in this world, I will publish my books. If the industry chooses not to help me, I’ll do it myself.
I have to say this, and I’ll yell it. I AM SO GLAD I DIDN’T PUBLISH MY EARLY WORK! I wrote a half-dozen novels that, while I love, aren’t ready for prime time. However, the books I’m writing now are.
My job as a writer is not to chase after the traditional publishing industry in hopes someone, somewhere, will throw me a bone. No, my job is to write fantastic books and get them into the hands of readers by any means necessary. 
We can’t go back to the way things were before Amazon. Does this mean the death of books? Hardly. Does this mean that voices that have been silenced in the past can be heard, however meager the audience might be? Definitely.
Suzanne Wells had her first novel, Little Altars Everywhere, published by a small press. Many people in the traditional publishing industry passed on it because it didn’t play by the rules. But her work found an audience and Wells’ career exploded with the help of a book group in Texas, or so I’ve heard. Readers decided. Let the readers decide my career, if I’m to have one.
What are my books worth? What is my life worth? It’s the same question. I’ll live, I’ll write, I’ll die. To most, my life will be worth 99 cents or nothing. To me and those around me, my children, my friends, my fans, I’m so very Mastercard. Priceless, baby. How lucky I am to live in a time where I can give my priceless gift to the world.

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. Most recently, his work appears in the steampunk anthology The Penny Dread Tales Volume III and in an upcoming issue of Electric Spec.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sweet Success! Beth Groundwater

Prepared by DeAnna Knippling

Beth Groundwater's mystery novel, Fatal Descent (ISBN 978-0738734828, all formats, 300 pages), was released in trade paperback and ebook formats on June 8, 2013, by Midnight Ink. The book is available anywhere books are sold. The author's website is at

Mandy Tanner and her fiancé Rob are leading an offseason rafting-climbing trip in Utah’s remote Canyonlands. Experienced guides, Mandy and Rob know they have to keep their cool after one of their group, Alex Anderson, appears to have become bear bait. Walled off from the outside world   with eleven shell-shocked clients and miles of Colorado River whitewater ahead, Mandy’s nerves threaten to unravel when she learns that Alex’s death was not the work of a homicidal grizzly. Whether it was a crime of passion or the random act of a psychopath, Mandy fears that if they don’t root out the river rat among them, another camper will be running the rapids in a body bag.

Bestselling author Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series (A REAL BASKET CASE, a Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner (DEADLY CURRENTS, an Amazon #3 overall bestseller, and WICKED EDDIES, finalist for The Rocky Award). The third books in both series will appear in 2013. Beth enjoys Colorado's many outdoor activities, including skiing and whitewater rafting, and loves talking to book clubs.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tips When Hiring an Editor

By Donnell Ann Bell

With the publishing doors bursting wide open these days, I, like everyone else, am curious about self-publishing. To that end, I’ve been researching DIY topics, including hiring of an editor. Still, just as anyone can self-publish, anyone can hang up a shingle these days and say, “I’m an editor and I’m open for business.” Never has caveat emptor been so important to an author.   

If you’re considering self-publishing, following are some interview questions you might consider when choosing an editor: 

1)      How long have you been an editor and what is your educational and professional background?

Here I must remind you that while length of time in the business and education are important, this is a foundation question and merely the grout to your first layer before you add bricks to your decision-making. 

Ten years, and a Masters in English Literature may sound impressive, but where have they put their editing skills to work? Have they worked in the publishing industry or have they worked in the field of journalism? Have they edited fiction or have they edited newspapers and magazines? There is a difference, you know. (Note:  I came from a journalism background—thought it would be a breeze when I turned to fiction. Wrong. In journalism, we’re taught to not editorialize. Fiction is all about emotion and how your characters feel.)

2)      After you’ve become impressed with an editor’s initial background, your second question might be: What genres do you specialize in and what genres do you enjoy reading?

Editing is editing, right? Au, contraire! If you’re writing fantasy and your editor specializes in historical fiction, she might be an excellent editor, just not the right editor for you. The second part of this question is important, also. If the genre you’re writing isn’t in your potential editor’s stable of nightstand material, my suggestion is to run, do not walk away from this person, and continue your search. 

3)      My goal is to submit to Publisher XX.  If I hire you, are you familiar with that publisher’s style sheet and guidelines? If not, are you willing to familiarize yourself with its guidelines before I hire you?

The fact that an editor might not be familiar with a publishing house’s guidelines should not be your foremost concern. Whether or not they are willing to do their homework and give your manuscript the best chance of succeeding should entirely be of interest to you.

4)      When editing, what do you focus on?

     a)      Grammar and punctuation
     b)      Author follow-through, e.g. threads to the story to ensure continuity
     c)       Logic and fact checking. (Is what I’m writing logical in the world I’ve created and will you note passages and text that leave you in doubt?)
     d)      Pacing, redundancy and repetition
     e)      Awkward phrasing 

5)       How busy are you? When I give you my work, how soon may I expect to see edits?

Careful here. Just as you want to give your editor polished material to work with, (and you never want to give your editor anything less than what you consider your best ) you want your editor to return an even more polished edit. Just as writers miss deadlines, editors do, also. They have emergencies and life can get in the way. This is a great question to ask their references (No. 7 below).   

6)      Will we sign a contract?

This may seem overcautious, but writers and editors need to protect themselves in the event that one or both fail to meet any or all of the specified agreement(s). However, just as some agents refuse to sign contracts, some editors do as well. What should you do in that event? (No. 7 below. Check their references.)

7)      Do you provide references?  How many of your references are return clients?

I think the first part of this question speaks for itself, and my advice—don’t do it.   

As for Part two, if an author uses an editor once, but has numerous other work out since that particular release date, I’d want to know why, wouldn’t you? Could be something as innocent as the editor had too many clients at the time of author’s release or maybe he was taking a sabbatical. Still, repeat clients speak volumes.

8)       Do you offer examples of the editing you will provide?

Some editors provide a sample of their services, e.g. the first 30 to 60 pages, (paid of course—you don’t want to give away your writing for free; an editor doesn’t either). A sample edit gives clues to both the author and the editor that they’re likely entering into a compatible working relationship. 

9)      What are your fees?

Shocked that I asked this question last? It’s up to you, of course. You may ask it whenever you wish.  But if money is the end-all as to whether you hire this person, you’re in the wrong business. Of course you have a budget and the editor might be out of your reach. You’re free to walk away and look elsewhere at that point. But you truly get what you pay for—particularly in this highly competitive business.

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is a two-time Golden Heart® finalist who previously worked for a weekly business newspaper and a parenting magazine. Her debut novel The Past Came Hunting became an Amazon bestseller, reaching as high as #6 on the paid overall list. Her second book, Deadly Recall, brought to you by Bell Bridge Books, reached #1 on Amazon. Learn more about Donnell at

Monday, June 10, 2013

Story Tips #9 - Hero's Journey, Act II

By Jax Hunter

Welcome to the next installment of Story Tips From the Big Screen.  This monthly column (to be posted the second Monday of each month) explores screen writing techniques that will help fiction writers tell a better story. 

***     ***     ***     ***

Last month, we covered the first five steps of the Hero’s Journey; those that take place in Act I. That left us crossing the threshold into Act II, with the steps that make up the middle half of the book.

Step Six -  Tests, Allies and Enemies (oh, my.) 
This is the special world of the adventure/quest, where our intrepid hero finds new challenges, makes new friends and learns the rules of the world and the battle he entered.   

This Special World stands in sharp contrast to the world of Ordinary left behind. After the long, lonely time crossing the first threshold, our hero gets to rest and recuperate for a little while, often in a seedy bar or saloon. Remember the cantina in Star Wars, where the alliance is made with Han Solo (who is the true hero of the movie - at least for me. . . I could go on and on comparing the dashing Han with the wimpy Luke, but I won’t.) In these scenes, Luke and Obi Wan begin to gather a team together to go after the prize.

In Oz, this phase begins with the question to Dorothy “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Dorothy, too, gathers her allies in this section and earns their loyalty. She has opportunities, as well, to learn about the enemy. 

This is a good time to begin exerting pressure on your characters to see what they’re made of.

Step Seven  - Approaching the inmost cave
In the approach phase, our hero and his stalwart companions draw near to the edge of danger where the prize awaits. Here, they’ll strategize and gather their weapons for the coming battle. This phase covers all the preparations for entering the Inmost Cave. It is a great place for romance and humor as the hero looks ahead to a time of conflict.

In Star Wars, Luke and his friends are sucked into the Death Star where they meet Darth Vader. 

Dorothy and her friends leave the woods and catch sight of the Emerald City. They happily skip on toward that goal, unaware of further obstacles and challenges in their way. They are seduced by illusion in the field of poppies and find Threshold Guardians blocking their way (the rude sentry at the doors of the Emerald City.) 

Often the tools gathered so far on the journey will be keys to getting past these guardians, as we see when Dorothy shows that she has the ruby slippers. Within the Emerald City, Dorothy and her team are prepared for their meeting with the Wiz. But when trouble rears her pointy head, any friends they thought they had back away, leaving them alone and vulnerable. 

The approach phase can be laden with setbacks like flying monkeys which disarm and discourage the hero as he gets close. This is a time of raising the stakes. At last, the final obstacles to reaching the prize are overcome so that the Supreme Ordeal may begin.

Step Eight - The Ordeal
This is the phase of the big crisis - death and rebirth - when fortunes are down and fears are up. Goals are in jeopardy. The most common pattern for the timing of this phase is the middle of Act II, though it can also be found frequently toward the end of the act. 

We see R2D2 and C3PO listening as Luke and his team are nearly crushed to death by the trash compactor. Then Luke is pulled under the mucky water and the bubbles stop. All evidence points to his death, but he manages to emerge alive. 

Other patterns found in the Ordeal involve the hero witnessing death (Luke sees Obi Wan die), the hero causing death, a battle with the Shadow and a battle inside the hero himself. Sometimes the villain is killed in this phase (Dorothy killing the witch.)

After all this, our hero has faced death and lived. He’s ready to seize the prize.

Step Nine - Reward
We can now quit throwing rocks at our hero and let him get down from the tree. We’re at the second turning point, headed into Act III. Now we celebrate as the hero takes possession of that which he sought. Luke rescues Leia and captures the plans for the death star. He also settles up with Darth Vader.

Dorothy seizes the broomstick and the foursome return to the wizard to claim their rewards. Of course, the Wiz balks. Toto then fulfills his purpose by revealing the man behind the curtain and the wizard bestows the prizes: a diploma to Scarecrow, a medal of valor to Lion and a wind up heart to Tinman. Sadly, there is nothing there to help Dorothy get home. 

At the end of this segment, things can look pretty bleak. The hero can think that all is lost. The fates (and the author) are not through with him yet. We’re headed back to Kansas, but there will be one final obstacle.

Next month, we’ll take our hero home at last. The way won’t be smooth, but we’ll get him there. 

Until next month, BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard)

(This series first ran in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers newsletter in 2004.)

About the Author: Jax Hunter is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"In dreams begins responsibility." -William Butler Yeats (whose birthday is June 13).

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Jax Hunter brings us her 9th in the Story Tips series, hitting the second act of the Hero's Journey.

...Donnell Ann Bell gives us Tips When Hiring an Editor. Thinking of self-publishing? This post will give you helpful tips to consider when it comes time to hire an editor.

...Aaron Michael Ritchey tells us a little "Tale of Two Barrys." Have you heard the discussions spawned from Barry Eisler's keynote speech at PPWC 2014? Aaron gives us his view.

Have a great week!

Friday, June 7, 2013

June News, Events, & Links

PPW News

The June Write Brain will be presented by Jennifer Lovett, a marketing expert. Twitter and Facebook for Writers will be Tuesday, June 18, 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Penrose Library, in downtown Colorado Springs. Jennifer will teach you the basics of Twitter and Facebook, including how to set them up for maximum exposure, as well as the preferable times to put yourself out there to garner the best kind of attention for yourself and your writing. You can find more information at the "PPW Events" tab above.

Writer's Night will be held at Lofty's on Monday, June 24, 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Come enjoy wine, coffee, sandwiches, and various other goodies, and chat about writing. Open to topics of discussion and question. More on the Events tab.

PPW Open Critique will occur on Wednesday, May 19, 6:00 to 8:30 PM, at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts. The first 8 to RSVP may bring 8 pages of their manuscript to critique. More information on the Events tab.

We are offering two special events in June! The first is a movie night at the BAC in Manitou. We'll be showing Cabin in the Woods, with Stephen Graham Jones offering commentary on the horror tropes therein. This will be Friday, June 28, with doors opening at 6 PM to those who have RSVP'd. The show starts at 7 PM. This event is free, but we will have drinks for sale via Mabel's, and treats available by donation. There will also be a silent auction, with plenty of goodies for writers, readers, and horror fans. You can find more information on the Events tab. RSVP to rsvp [at] pikespeakwriters [dot] com.

The second event will occur the next day, Saturday, June 29. This will also be held at the BAC. Doors will open at 9 AM, with coffee available at Mabel's. This will be a workshop with Stephen Graham Jones entitled Fear and Loathing in Any Genre: Pump up the Intensity and Impact of Your Fiction by Scaring Your Reader. This is a full-day workshop, from 10AM to 4PM. Cost is $75 and includes lunch catered by Mabel's. You must RSVP at our website by going to this page

Don't forget the 2014 PPW Fiction Writing Contest Naming Contest. Deadline is June 15. You could win free entry into the new, as yet unnamed, 2014 PPW Fiction Writing Contest!

Other "Local" Events

Pikes Peak Library District started their kid and teen summer reading programs as of June 1. Go to any PPLD branch to sign up.

Friends of PPLD is offering Library Lawn Concerts at the Manitou Library each Tuesday this month, starting at 6 PM. They will also have a Friends Book Sale on June 22, and other events throughout the month. 

The town of Green Mountain Falls has the Greenbox Arts Festival coming up, starting June 23 and going through July 3. This festival celebrates the arts and offers classes and workshops. There's a fascinating piece of art that will be on display.

Lighthouse Writers Workshop will hold a variety of programming in June, including workshops on memoir writing, getting your story started and building your web presence. They will have LitFest on June 7.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers will present "Write More in Less Time: The Procrastinator's Guide to Writing Success," with speaker Liesa Malik, on Saturday, June 8, 1:00 to 3:00 PM. It will be held at Belmar Public Library. Also, don't forget that registration is open for their Colorado Gold Conference, held in September.

Colorado Springs Fiction Writers has various meetings throughout at the month at different locations. Visitors are welcome.

Black Cat Books and the BAC, located in Manitou Springs, have lots of programs for readers and writers alike.  Even knitters!  Check out the events page for more information.

The Pikes Peak Romance Writers of America will host Deb Courtney, who will speak on pacing from 3:00 to 4:00 PM at the BAC. $5 for non-members.

The Pikes Peak Branch of the National League of American Pen Women and Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America are both on hiatus for the summer. Programming for each will continue in September.

Publications Open for Submissions and Contests:
Please note: Inclusion of links in this post does not equal sponsorship by Pikes Peak Writers or a relationship between the two entities.  Please always be sure to pursue due diligence before submitting anything to a publication or contest.

Daily Science Fiction is looking for speculative fiction stories of 100 to 10,000 words. Pays 8 cents per word. Always open, so there is no specific deadline.

U.S. Kids is looking for stories for Turtle, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill Magazines for kids. Payment is $70 for two of the magazines, with Jack and Jill paying per word.

All KHP Publishers' imprints are accepting novel submissions right now. They have a wide variety of imprints, so be sure to look through the list.

Kerlak Publishing has out several calls for stories for anthologies, each with a deadline of June 15. Payment is $20, plus a copy of the trade paperback.

World Weaver Press is seeking submissions for their anthology, Specter Spectacular II: 13 Deathly Tales. Deadline is June 15. Payment is $10, plus a copy of the trade paperback.

Baird Speculative Fiction is seeking submissions The Urban Eddur, an anthology based on modern versions of Norse legends/myths. Deadline June 15. Pays on a tier system.

Old Timey Hedgehog is holding a free fiction contest (flash and short stories). They're looking for internationalist science fiction. Deadline June 15. Cash prizes and publication, including a possible future anthology for additional pay.

Prada is holding a short story contest. Deadline June 18. Prize is 5000 Euros.

Dark Continents is seeking submissions of short fiction in horror, fantasy and sci-fi for their anthology based on the sea. Deadline June 21. Pays $20 per story.

Allegory E-Zine is open for submissions through June 30. They are open to short stories of any genre. Please see their guidelines. Pays $15 flat rate for fiction and non-fiction.

Midnight Echo is seeking supernatural horror for their next issue. Short stories, non-fiction, poetry, art. Pays 3 cents per word for short fiction. Other pay varies.

Crossed Genres is looking for submissions for their next issue. The theme is "Stranger." Pays 5 cents per word, plus contributor copy. Deadline June 30.

The Capilano Review is seeking "venturesome experimental writing and art" for their next edition. Deadline June 30. Pays $50 per published page.

About the Author:  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, Shannon Lawrence 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, and her short horror story "The Blue Mist" will be in the March 2014 issue of Nightfall Magazine. 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