Friday, January 31, 2014

Sweet Success! Donnell Ann Bell

Compiled By Kathie Scrimgeour

Donnell Ann Bell’s suspense novel, Betrayed (ISBN: 978-1-61194-372-6, 257 pages, adult)was released in trade paperback on November 18, 2013 by Bellebooks/Bell Bridge Books. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Kobo, and wherever books are sold.

When a woman learns the incomprehensible, that the stillborn she delivered 28-years earlier is alive, she takes the evidence to where her daughter now lives—Denver, Colorado. 

Detective Nate Paxton can’t believe what Irene Turner shows him. Kinsey Masters, a world-class athlete, raised by a prominent Denver family, an unattainable woman he’s loved for years, was stolen at birth. 

Irene Turner, Nate Paxton, and Kinsey Masters are united in a sordid conspiracy. Irene’s foundation of trust will be ripped from its core, as kidnapping, murder, and a thirst for revenge lead her to learn she’s been betrayed.

Donnell Ann Bell has put her first two novels on ebook bestseller lists, including her sophomore release, which hit #1 on Amazon Kindle’s best sellers’ list. Betrayed is her third novel. She lives with her family in Colorado. You can find Donnell at her website 

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Ability to Write: Nature or Nurture? Part I

By Pete Klismet

This is Part I of a three-part series by Pete Klismet, a PPWC 2014 speaker.

At my core, I suppose I am and always will be a criminologist. So, you might ask, what on earth does that have to do with the topic of writing? In truth, it has everything to do with writing. Compiling a set of facts through investigation does no one any good unless those facts can be transmitted to others in some meaningful way. In law enforcement, that means constructing a report which explains not only what happened, but more importantly how it happened. These two concepts are far more different than one would think, and the ability to think outside the box and write a report which tells the story is much more difficult for some than others. It turns out to be a process of connecting the dots, telling the story, and as the complexity of a crime becomes more involved, so does the ability to explain a set of facts in a report that makes sense to other people.

Over 45 years of involvement with law enforcement can make you think a little differently, particularly if you have an inquisitive mind. I always seemed to have one of those. I can remember back in the 1970’s, when I was a young and impressionable police officer in Ventura, California, I would often wonder why people who committed crimes did what they did. Was it an irresistible impulse, lack of control, a reaction, anger, greed, or what? While other officers would be busily examining and collecting evidence at a crime scene, I remember just looking and wondering why the woman plunged a huge knife into her boyfriend’s sternum. Or why a man chose to shoot and kill his ex-wife, her new boyfriend, and then himself. Or why a 19-year-old man would sneak across an alley, enter a woman’s house, and rape her, but worse yet, cut her throat to the point where her head was nearly severed from her body. Why, why, why? It’s just not ‘normal’ behavior. But what defines normal, and how do we go about explaining it?

Theories of criminality generally break down into three relatively simple explanations:

1.  There is a psychological cause, meaning a person had or has deep-seated issues from life experiences that cause them to act out later in their lives. These experiences are deeply embedded and will never go away, although they may be repressed for many years. For example: There appears to be a relationship between having been molested as a child, and later going on to become a molester. At least, this is true with boys. Abuse as a child causes anger, even rage, to build. About 75% of murderers claim to have been abused as children. Thus, this theory would hold that past events may predict future behavior, particularly violence. Having a diagnosed mental illness also plays into this equation.

2.  Sociologists would contend the cause is more about where one grew up, or perhaps with whom the person grew up. This can include family, friends, and the area that influenced a person’s later life. Theories abound on this as a causal factor, and many people ascribe to this approach as more meaningful, as we did years ago. We’d generally call this the Sociological Theory. But then, how do we explain a Jeffrey Dahmer, who grew up in an upper-middle class home, with a dad who was a Ph.D. chemist, and a family that was probably a whole lot better than most of ours? Or how do we explain a Dr. Ben Carson, who grew up in an ultra-tough, Chicago ghetto, yet went on to become the most eminent pediatric brain surgeon in the world?

3.  And then comes the most controversial of them all, what we’ll call Biological Theory; namely the belief that we were born with a genetic predisposition to commit crime and violent acts. In other words, were some born to be criminals? As an undergraduate over forty years ago, I remember this theory being posed in a criminology class, and thinking, “That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Since then, with discoveries in genetics, DNA and other research, I’ve made a significant turnaround. Consider this: Virtually everything about us is determined at the time of conception. For example, will we have asthma? Will we become schizophrenic, or have Down’s Syndrome? And thus I wondered, since some criminal acts are quite impulsive, is impulsiveness an inherited trait? Seems possible to me.

Congratulations! You’ve just completed Criminology 401. While you may understand these concepts, can you relate one or more of them to a particular crime, then explain it? Or do you need to do anything more than collect the facts, establish probable cause of who committed the crime, and thoroughly explain it? That’s exactly where the importance of being able to write becomes critical to both identifying and prosecuting the offender. But, before I confer a degree upon you, let’s go back to the comment I made in the first paragraph: “Think outside the box.” As a full-time college professor, I used to tell my students that if I accomplished nothing more in my classes, I wanted them to be able to both think and think critically. To take some information, put it together with something else, and see how it matches up. Or maybe to find a way to make it match up. Thus, thinking outside the box. Let’s try these on for size:

What do we see here?  A ravaged tree?  A man and a woman?  Or a lot more than that?

How about this?  A deer looking at us?  Or more than that?

To conclude, what I would like you to understand is that some people can see a set of facts, gather information, and form a theory of what happened. But then comes the true litmus test: Can you explain them so others can understand and make use of what you’ve written? In my years of law enforcement experience, I’ve discovered many times that some can, and some can’t. We’ll explore that concept in Part II of this article.

About the Author: About thirty years ago, a small cadre of FBI agents were hand-picked by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) to receive training in what was then a highly-controversial and ground breaking concept: Psychological Profiling. Pete Klismet was fortunate enough to have been chosen to become one of the original FBI “profilers.” He received additional training, was temporarily assigned to work with the BSU in Quantico, Virginia, and put that training and experience to work in assisting state, federal and local law enforcement agencies in investigating violent crimes. 

He was named National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 1999, the same year he retired from the FBI. For the next 13 years he taught in colleges, and is now retired as a professor emeritus. He and his wife Nancy live in Colorado Springs.

Pete’s award-winning book FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil is available at and He plans to release ‘a couple more books’ in 2014. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Make it Hurt so Good!

By Karen Albright Lin

We writers are sadists. Whether we tell our stories through novels, screenplays or shorts, they are more powerful if we appeal to the masochist in all of us. We beat our readers down, humiliate them, insult them, make them face their worst fears. To thank us, they return for more.   

There are many great tools for making it hurt.

By Tibor K√°dek (Kandy Talbot) (Own work) [GFDL
or CC-BY-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
One thing you can do is yank them around until they suffer WHIPLASH. It makes the heart race and it hurts so good. Think of the sudden reversal in The Terminator when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s antagonist character is blown up in his car. We sigh in relief, expecting the happily-ever-after denouement. Suddenly a metallic skeleton—sans artificial flesh—emerges from the car, and the murderous chase is on again.

EXCRUCIATING UNCERTAINTY can be as maddening as a strap of leather dangling from a spike-clad sadist’s hand. In a Western we might wonder if the good guy will win a gunslinger fast draw or if the bad guy will cheat and turn early, gun drawn. In Science Fiction we may wonder whether the worm hole will tear apart the ship or pull it into a parallel universe.

By Bjoertvedt (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
PROBING TOOTHACHES, we watch Natural Born Killers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Final Destination, eating popcorn as we cringe. Most excruciating, one I can’t get out of my head, is the sans-anesthesia “dentistry” performed on poor Dustin Hoffman by Lawrence Olivier in Marathon Man. My worst case of movie painful probing was watching the indie version of White Dahlia directed by Ulli Lommel. I had to turn it off ten minutes into it. I’m not that much of a masochist. 

Then there is the more lighthearted THRILL OF THE CLUMSY FALL. It’s why we watch Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed and Chevy Chase in National Lampoons’ Vacation, and why we enjoy endearing Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. How can you not be tickled as you flash back to scenes with master klutz, Jim Carey, today’s younger version of Dick Van Dyke.

We movie goers and readers are so very masochistic that we SUBJECT OURSELVES TO ILLNESS:  cancer in Beaches and Grand Torino, ALD in Lorenzo’s Oil, AIDS in both Philadelphia and one of the greatest character flicks, In America.

We’ll TAKE ON OTHERS’ DISABILITIES as we do in sensitively handled Sessions, My Left Foot, and Intouchables. We’re willing to experience weaknesses that are even harder to imagine in fantasies like The Time Traveler’s Wife and gripping true stories like that of Helen Keller.

S&M is, in part, about humiliation. What’s more humiliating than EXPOSING OUR WARTS TO THE WORLD?  Picking at one’s character flaws can be as painful as a table saw accident. Think Jim Carrey in Liar Liar and Woody Allen in just about every one of his neurosis movies.

We willingly FACE THE WORST OF HUMANITY in Schindler’s List, Blood Diamond and, on a micro-masochistic scale, reality shows where mismatched people are forced to live together, leading to backstabbing, bullying, and shunning. Then there are the Jackass movies that speak for themselves.

By Tor Erik Gorud (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons
We so willingly self-flagellate that we volunteer to SUFFER HEARTACHE AND REJECTION as Adam Sandler did in my favorite movie of his--Spanglish, PAY A HEAVY PRICE FOR GUILT as Michael Douglas did in Fatal Attraction, and WE LET LOVE HURT SO GOOD as he and Kathleen Turner did in War of the Roses, and Brad and Angelina did in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We like to see love interests fail before they unite as Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan did in When Harry Met Sally.

We’ll TAKE ON RESPONSIBILITIES WE CAN’T HANDLE as in The Santa Clause, Bruce Almighty, Night at the Museum and the painfully tender best foreign film, Amour.

We DIVE INTO UNCOMFORTABLE POLITICS (Air Force One and Wag the Dog) and VENTURE ONTO UNCOMFORTABLE GROUND as they do in Snuff, Boogie Nights, and 50 Shades of Gray.

We’ll allow ourselves to be TRAPPED (127 Hours and Panic Room), DEPRIVED (Castaway), HOMELESS (ET and Will Smith’s I am Legend and The Pursuit of Happyness).

We’ll readily BECOME FOOLS (Dumb and Dumber, Zoolander and Blades of Glory).

We’ll be SHUNNED (Memoirs of a Geisha and Fiddler on the Roof), IMPRISONED (Gladiator and Shawshank Redemption), and MISUNDERSTOOD (12 Monkeys, Elephant Man and Sixth Sense).

We willingly FACE OUR GREATEST WEAKNESSES as Denzel Washington’s character does in Flight.

We VENTURE INTO MADNESS as we do in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and A Beautiful Mind. We allow ourselves to be FISH OUT OF WATER as we see in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Training Day.

We’ll TEETER ON THE EDGE OF ANNIHILATION (Armageddon, An Inconvenient Truth, and Star Wars)

We’ll even join friends at the theater on a Friday to CONFRONT EVIL ITSELF (Constantine, The Exorcist, Dark Water, and Stigmata). We’ll SUFFER EMOTIONAL ISOLATION as in the disturbing movies Eraserhead and Welcome to the Dollhouse. We’ll even GO THROUGH HELL AND BACK as Robin Williams did in What Dreams May Come.

Sadism isn’t only about choosing subject matter. In all genres we writers delay payoff, and the waiting can be very painful indeed. Readers love that sort of pain. They are masochists. We writers are readers so we are in the business of S&M. We play both roles. In fact, we are such extreme masochists that we pay good money to share characters’ agonizing journeys when we buy books and attend movies.  Sure it’s self abuse to entertain ourselves by living through others’ suffering. But we do it to live out fantasies we can’t act on, to see others triumph over adversity which gives us hope, and to remind ourselves that our lives are not so bad. We want to feel the pain; we also want the pain to end. As sadists, we writers force our characters to wander through dark caves as stalactites are chipping off and falling, as water floods in. But we also want them to find the exit, want the human spirit to triumph as it does in the devastatingly powerful movie, Life is Beautiful. Readers and moviegoers return for more and more of that abuse. Why? Because it hurts so good! 

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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop." -Lewis Carroll, born January 27

Lewis Carroll self-portrait, circa 1856,
Lewis Carroll [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Karen Albright Lin encourages us to "Appeal to the Masochist."

...Pete Klismet asks "Is Writing Ability Innate," and approaches it from a profiling angle.

...We share another Sweet Success!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Countdown to Conference - Thursday Prequel

By Jason P. Henry

Why Thursday? Because everyone loves a great Prequel!

And, quite frankly, because three days of Pikes Peak Writers Conference Just. Isn't. Enough.

By popular demand we have returned with our Thursday Add-On day. However, we have chosen to give it a fancy new name... introducing the PPWC Prequel. (Please, feel free to stop reading for a few seconds and give a round of applause.) All kidding aside, allow me to give you several incredible reasons for attending on Thursday:

A Dead Body. A Literary Agent. An Editor. A Manuscript Midwife. Several Successful Authors. An FBI Special Agent. A Forensics Expert. An FBI Profiler. A Coroner. A Sheriff. Paramedics. A Psychologist. A Sociologist. Publicity and Marketing Experts. Did I mention the corpse?!

It is no secret that Pikes Peak Writers hosts one of the best Writing Conferences in the country. Our volunteers put their hearts into making PPWC the most memorable and educational event possible. We do our best to make conference accessible and remove roadblocks for as many potential attendees as we can. Sometimes, the amount of information we want to provide is just too much for our main Friday, Saturday and Sunday conference days. Unfortunately, it is sometimes unfeasible to take three days out of our busy lives to attend conference. For some, the workshops they wish to attend during conference leave them wanting a little extra push or preparation. The Prequel is our solution to all of these problems and more.

If you want to polish your query letters, your pitch or fine tune your manuscript, we have a Prequel track just for you.

Are you drowning in the world of Social Media but have no idea what to say or how to use these tools effectively? We are throwing you a lifeline.

Are you pondering that big question: “Should I go the route of Indie Pub?” We have the experts to help you decide.

Do you feel that fiction is the main focus of writer cons, but you are more interested in non-fiction? No worries. We've covered that, too.

Are you tired of Hollywood how-to's and want to learn what happens at a crime scene in the real world? We are dying to help.

Do you want to know how the experts analyze the criminal mind to identify suspects? Let us give you a clue.

Do you want the conference experience but aren't sure if you can afford it? Can't swing three days off from work or away from the family? Maybe you are attending conference but want a little more. Our volunteers are striving for publication just as you are, so we understand the importance of honing your craft and networking. Most of us have 'real' jobs, families, responsibilities, obligations... so we also understand the financial set-backs and time commitments that are faced when considering a conference. We have done everything in our power to make PPWC a realistic option for you.

The PPWC Prequel is available as a stand alone day or as an add-on to the full conference. If you are registering for the 2014 Conference, you can attend the Prequel on Thursday at the discounted price of $85.00. If, for any reason, you find yourself unable to attend 2014 PPWC, for $135.00 you can attend the Prequel only. Both prices include your choice of workshops, a box lunch and the opportunity to meet and network with some amazing people in the world of writing.

Now, if you are thinking that I am just a PPWC volunteer who is trying to sell a conference, let me tell you a little about my conference experience. PPWC 2013 was my first. Before that, I was a lonely, struggling writer who had a head full of creative ideas and no clue what to do with them. Who am I kidding, I wasn't sure if some of my ideas could be safely or legally talked about out loud. I was prepared for a life of solitude, hiding in a dark basement with cheap wine, day-old coffee and only the voices in my head for company. Since attending PPWC last year, my writing has improved exponentially. The people I met have become friends, supporters, colleagues. Not one day has passed since last April without receiving words of encouragement. The lessons I learned at conference were incredibly valuable. However, the connections I made have been long-lasting and their reward immeasurable.

No matter how many days of conference you attend, it is one of the best things you can do in support of your dreams. The PPWC Prequel on Thursday, April 24th, 2014 isn't just a date on a calendar. It is a chance, a tool. It's an opportunity to improve your writing, to meet the people who can make your dreams come true, to make new friends who will be there for you when you need support and encouragement... to join a family of writers who understand the struggles and triumphs of such a pursuit.

Humanity needs dreamers. The world needs writers. Let us help you on your journey. 

About the Author: Jason P. Henry, the 2014 PPWC Faculty Coordinator, has been busy helping an amazing team of volunteers plan the best conference ever. When not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, he is lost in the world of suspense/thriller and making best friends with serial killers, psychopaths and the insane. If you have questions you can reach him at, get more info on the 2014 PPWC Prequel at 2014 PPWC Prequel and more info on the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference at 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2nd Annual Write Your Heart Out Event Teaser

By Shannon Lawrence

As the Pikes Peak Writers Conference Committee is hard at work getting interesting, educational programming together, paired with phenomenal, knowledgeable faculty, PPW wants to give you a tiny window into what's to come in April. Last year we put on the first ever Write Your Heart Out, a free half-day series of workshops featuring local upcoming conference speakers. Last year was a success, so we've decided to make this an annual event. The best news? We're keeping it free!

The 2nd Annual Write Your Heart Out, free half-day conference preview event will take place next month on Saturday, February 8, from 1 to 5 PM. It will once again feature six local speakers who are faculty for PPWC 2014. We will have a small bookstore at the event, just like last year, with books available from our WYHO speakers, as well as craft and PPWC 2014 keynote books, and our WYHO speakers will be signing at the event! And, once again, we will offer some great giveaways and specials for those attending WYHO.

Do you need help injecting humor into your writing, no matter the genre? Does it feel forced when you attempt to write comedy? Do you have a snarky character you want to flesh out? Becky Clark can help with that with "Dying is Easy. Comedy is Difficult." - Writing Humor for Every Genre. (Quote by Edmond Gwenn)

Are you seeking a fresh way of looking at your characters? Would being able to put yourself in their shoes do the job? Are you a fan of Whose Line is it, Anyway, and wonder how you could translate that to your writing? Playwright Todd Wallinger can help with that in Whose Story is it, Anyway? Using Improv to Make Your Characters Pop.

Do you find yourself distracted, finding excuses not to write? Do you itch to write, but then allow yourself to get caught up in other things instead, unable to get words down on paper? Aaron Michael Ritchey can help with that in Winning the War to Write.

Is emotion sometimes lacking in your work? Do you feel like it needs a little something more to bring your readers into the characters' stories? Do you want them to cry with your characters, laugh with them, throw the book across the room with shared rage? Cindi Madsen can help with that with Breathing Heart and Emotion Into Your Stories.

Are you holding something back in your writing? Do your characters seem more shallow than you'd like them to be? Are you writing until you fingers bleed, but finding that something, somewhere, is still missing? DeAnna Kippling can help with that with Adding Richness and Spontaneity to Your Writing by Owning Your Flaws.

Do you write crime fiction or have scenes that involve a crime having occurred? Are you seeking a way to convey a realistic crime scene in your work? Would it be helpful to hear from someone who has worked in forensics and is a writer, the best of both worlds? Tom Adair can help with that with Through the Eyes of a CSI.

This event is held at the Colorado Springs Marriott, 5580 Tech Center Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80919, the home of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. We'll open the doors to Aspen Leaf at 12:30 for seating. However, there's a bar, coffee shop, restaurant, and gift snack with snacks off the lobby, and lots of comfy chairs to wait in until that time.

Unfortunately, seating is limited. Only those who have RSVP'd will be able to attend. Send your name, email address, and phone number (reachable on a Saturday) to You'll get a confirmation within a few days. We will let you know if you've gotten a definite seat or if you will be on the wait-list.

If you have any questions on this event, please send them to

We look forward to seeing you there!

~Shannon Lawrence
PPW Non-Conference Events Director

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Little Extra Reading in 2014

By Stacy S. Jensen

Reading is one of the best craft exercises for writers. In addition to being entertained, I learn something every time I pick up a book.

Thanks to the size of most picture books, I can enjoy and study dozens of these each week. My only limitation is how many I put on hold at the library and how I coordinate those pickups with a curious toddler in tow.

I often forget about other genres and adult novels. To avoid missing these great works, I plan to improve my reading routines in 2014.

I also want to give back to authors, who offer an adventure or some reflection — quiet or riotous — when I open a book or turn on my Kindle. I want to add more #amreading hashtags to my Twitter feed. I want to relax more with books.

I have a series of 12 posts on ways readers can help authors and their own writing through reading. Most don’t involve money. Thanks to our wonderful public library system, I do most of my reading for the minimal taxes our family pays each year.

Here’s my first post:

You thought I was going to say read.


My first way to help authors and your own writing is to TRY: 
  • a new author.
  • a new genre.
  • a new format.

Reading time is precious, so it's normal to stick with an author you know. However, there are lots of wonderful debut authors each year just waiting for you to give their book a whirl.

There are even new genres to explore like New Adult (or just maybe one that you haven't touched in a while, like science fiction or memoir).

One way to try out a new book is to change up your reading format. Maybe you like the crack of opening a new hardcover book, but try reading in a digital format on a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, or even a computer desktop. This delivery method helps many self-published authors share their work with the world.

Getting out of your comfort zone may help with your current work-in-progress. I know it makes me think about my characters in different ways and gives me new ideas.

By trying books by new writers, you have little to lose. Well, sometimes you will find a rotten one, but its golden when you find a book that sings to you.

Are you willing to try new genres or new authors when reading?

(This post originally appeared on January 6 at

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, January 19, 2014

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"The things that make me different are the things that make me." -A.A. Milne, born January 18

From Wikimedia Commons

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Stacy S. Jensen assigns us A Little Extra Reading in 2014

...We bring you a little teaser about Write Your Heart Out

...Jason P. Henry provides us with information and a teaser for the PPWC 2014 Thursday Prequel in our Countdown to Conference

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sweet Success! Karen Albright Lin

Compiled By Kathie Scrimgeour

Karen Albright Lin’s personal essay, The Importance of a Penis, (adult, 1,200 words), is a top ten finalist in the Boulder Writers’ Workshop Make Me Laugh Writing Contest. It is currently with top TV comedy writer Gene Perret for final judging. The essay can be read at: Red Line Magazine
Marrying into a Chinese family puts new importance on giving birth to a boy.

Karen Albright Lin is a freelance editor for traditionally and self published writers. She writes for newspapers, trade and literary magazines, BTSreviews and other blog columns. She’s a produced screenwriter and recently signed contract with Skyhorse for her literary cookbook, Nature’s Wrap. She speaks regularly at writer’s conferences, retreats and on cruise lines. She has three novels and a dozen screenplays waiting to be snatched up.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Only You Can Stop The Violence of Self-Doubt!

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

So in my non-existent free time, I read a little on the internet. I wish didn’t have to read a thing on the internet other than IMDB. I adore IMDB; it’s God’s covenant with humankind fulfilled.
Anyway, while I was perusing websites, squandering my precious moments, I came across an interview with Dani Shapiro on entitled “Self-doubt is a Writer’s Best Friend”. Now, Ms. Shapiro is a real professional, an accomplished writer, and in the big leagues. I have no business arguing with her.
Except that I can. And this, my friends, is the joy of being human—the freedom to do things we have no business doing. Like when Eve baked her apple crisp in the Garden of Eden.  Like Joaquin Phoenix’s rap career.  Like me writing books.
Who do I think I am that I believe I can actually write an entire novel, tens of thousands of words, that other people will want to read? The short answer is that I suck, I should give up and do something else. Like watch more movies. Did I mention how much I like IMDB?
That, right there, is the demon of self-doubt. And it kills books, kills authors, kills people. What if I’m no good? What if other people are lying about liking my books? What if I’m just fooling myself?
Let’s look at that word, self-doubt. Doubt is good. Doubt makes us question and makes us pause for a minute. Should I eat the last six donuts? Probably not. Should I trust the guy in the alleyway offering me a deal on a Rolex? No, don’t. When the literary agent I’ve never heard of offers me a great deal if I give her a thousand dollars as “seed” money, should I take it? No. Trust the creep with the Rolex more.
I think that’s what Ms. Shapiro was aiming at, the doubt part. We should look at our work with an analytical eye and revise, revise, revise.
The problem is the self part. Self, as in self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed, me, me, me. Enough about me, what’s your opinion of me? I’m an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.
When it’s all about me, that’s when I go into fingernails-in-palm terror. What if I’m no good? 
And you know what? It’s all lies. In the end, with my writing, I don’t matter. Really, I shouldn’t have much of an opinion at all, because I’m not objective, and I will lie to myself. My work is terrible. My work is sublime. I should quit writing forever. I should stop sleeping and write five books at a time because THE WORLD NEEDS MY GENIUS!
Even when I’m revising and I need that keen, doubting mind, it’s not about me. It’s about what works. But how do we know? Most of the time, I don’t know with my conscious mind. I listen with my artist ears, the deep part inside me, because I trust that voice and that voice is not me. It’s something different, deeper. Call it God, soul, heart, my subconscious mind, or the grand collective consciousness—call it what you will, but that’s what I listen to. Sometimes it screams! Sometimes it whispers. Sometimes other people can’t hear it like I can, but it’s there.
Creating art is a heroic act because the only real credentials one needs is the desire. You don’t need a degree, you don’t need years of research, you don’t need anything except the will and desire and the ability to overcome the voices of self-doubt. And the ability to ignore the self-doubt of others. Some people spread it about like a literary Typhoid Mary. Don’t listen to them.   
So since I have the desire to create, I will create. I will trust my intuition and I will enjoy the process. No, I will revel in the process. It’s mad fun. Hard, impossible, but still, how lucky I am to be a writer who writes despite all the many voices telling me to stop.

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, is available now from Crescent Moon Press. Most recently, his work appears in the steampunk anthology The Penny Dread Tales Volume III and in the May 31, 2013 issue of Electric Spec.  His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, is due to drop, April of 2014 from Courtney Literary.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stock Art For Indie Writers

By DeAnna Knippling

A moment of your time, please.

Imagine, if you will, that you woke up one morning and found out that your book was on a pirate website, being used as part of a marketing campaign to sell...laundry soap. Or porn. Or the all-singing, all-dancing version of your book. 

OMG! You’ve been ripped off!

You painstakingly track the offender down. 

The offender is shocked at your outrage. Shocked! Because they bought a copy of your book off Amazon. Bought it! Fair and square!

And therefore could do with your book whatever they wanted.

You reissue your demands that this thief take down their pirated books, cease and desist using your book in their marketing campaign, put some clothes on, and stop with the moonlit serenades.

Just because someone bought a copy of your book doesn’t mean they get...copyright. Sheesh!


This horrific scenario could happen to you.

Chilling, no?  We must ever be on constant vigilance against the ignoramuses of the world, those Philistines, who have no idea what the difference between buying a copy of a story and copyright are...

But wait!

It’s time to publish your new indie book. 

You’re working on the cheap, because it’s not like you’re making a ton of money off your work, so you don’t get custom art made. Too much money! Either the artist is good and knows what book covers look like (and are too expensive to afford), or they have no clue what to do when it comes to covers.

So you go to a stock art site, and buy some art.

And use it on your book cover. It looks great! (If you do say so yourself.)

Then, suddenly, out of the blue...someone contacts you. Screaming at you for violating their copyright. For your book cover.

“But wait,” you say, “I bought that art!”


The thing was, though, you didn’t. You licensed the art for a limited and specific purpose, and the license likely came with strings attached.

I blame the Internet, really. That thing where everything you do has these massive EULA agreements that you can’t do anything about where they hold your software hostage have. It's trained us to skip reading our agreements. And mostly that’s okay. You’d have to be a thousand years old in order to actually read all the way through every EULA you signed, and there’s a good chance that a lot of them won’t hold up in court after they’re tested.

But licensing copyrighted work for reuse is different. That has been tested, many times.

Now, I’m no lawyer and please don’t take what I say as legal advice.

But it might just be in your best interests to read the license agreements you use on your indie books.

The licenses may say things like: “You can only distribute X many copies of the book before you need to start paying royalties.” “You cannot use this image on t-shirts.” “You have no guarantee that someone else won't use this image on their book Stephen King. Too bad, sucker!”

And they probably also say, “YOU MUST GIVE CREDIT FOR THIS IMAGE.”

You will never, ever get copyright for a work of art unless it is specifically assigned to you. You will only get a license to use the image...and then only in a limited, strictly defined way. 

Don’t be the jerk who stole someone’s copyright. Or else I’ll point and laugh when it happens to you, because karma.


  • Read your license agreement at each site you use. Check that when you buy an image, you understand the agreement for that image.
  •  Always give copyright credit for the image. This includes your author photo. Even if your spouse took it: give copyright credit.
  • Never use a font that you don’t have a license to use. Fonts are copyrighted. If you download a font that is supposedly free, check the info file attached to the font to make sure.
  • A lot of fonts are free for personal use. Ebooks are not personal use. They are commercial use.  Make sure you have permission.
  • Save your licenses in the folders where you have the images/fonts/etc., in case the website you got it from goes down or goes away...and someone tries to sue you.


Remember: You do not get a “get out of jail free” card just because you’re a cute little indie writer/publisher/DIYer. You’re a businessperson, and you can get sued for ripping other people off, whether it was intentional or not.  

Cover your bum - and be scrupulous about copyright.

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, January 12, 2014

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." -Jack London, born January 12

Jack London
Wikimedia Commons

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...DeAnna Knippling addresses "Stock Art for Indie Writers"

...Aaron Michael Ritchey lets you know that "Only You Can Stop the Violence of Self-Doubt"

...We celebrate a Sweet Success!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sweet Success! Beth Groundwater

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Beth Groundwater’s mystery novel, A Basket of Trouble (ISBN: 978-0738727035, e-book & paperback, 312 pages, adult), was released November 8, 2013, by Midnight Ink. The book is available through the author’s website:

When Claire Hanover saddles up for the opening event of her brother Charley's new riding stable, the last thing she expects is a murder investigation. Kyle Mendoza, one of the stable hands, is found dead in Gunpowder's stall. Everyone thinks the horse trampled him, until it's discovered someone killed Kyle before dragging him into the stall. Charley's troubles worsen with Kyle's family suing him and a rival stable owner wrangling up his clients, so Claire decides to find the real murderer before her brother's business is put out to pasture.

Bestselling mystery author Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series (A Real Basket Case, a Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist; To Hell in a Handbasket; and in November, 2013, A Basket of Trouble) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner (Deadly Currents, an Amazon #3 overall bestseller; Wicked Eddies, finalist for the Rocky Award; and just released, Fatal Descent). Beth enjoys Colorado's many outdoor activities, including skiing and whitewater rafting, and loves talking to book clubs.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Scene Writing Series, Part V - Setting, Part III - Detail

By Jax Hunter

Greetings Campers,

This month we’re going to take a look at how we can infuse our writing with details. The devil, and the scene, is in the details. First, we’ll take a look at the topic from a movie perspective, then we’ll broaden it for our purposes.

Obviously, movies are, for the most part, visual. Therefore, the screenwriter must use visuals more exclusively than novelists. But if we can “visualize” our scenes, we’ll be better able to put in the telling details that make our story come alive.

For a moment, let’s do a quick overview of cinematography.

There are four elements of visual content, according to Paul Lucey: Lighting, movement, color and space. These are all tools we can use in each scene. 

We can turn on only one single lamp in a room and let our character struggle to see. We can take him down either a darkened or fully lit hallway, each carrying with it its own mood.

We keep our camera stationary and view a scene with a wider lens or we can move our camera along with our character, watching his footsteps as he moves through a room. 

We can use pastels to convey soft, feminine moods or rich mahogany to imply wealth. 

To show space, the film industry most often uses a stationary camera and a medium angle lens. This shot gives the most realistic view of life. When we write scenes, we can use this same view or we can change it up, panning from left to right, or watching from a distance with a telephoto shot.

Within films, there are three prime camera angles: the close-up, the medium shot, and the long shot. Each has it’s own purpose in storytelling. The close-up is the shot of the character’s face, showing the emotion in his eyes, in his features. The medium and long shots are less able to show the fine emotion, but can still show bigger emotion, like kicking the dog. Usually as we start a scene, we’ll want to start with the long shot and move in as we go until we see the close-in emotion. However, for contrast, it might be powerful to start close-in and move out. 

One challenge that is common with both film makers and novelists is how to enrich the talking scenes with interesting sensual (five senses, not erotic) material to keep from talking-head scenes.

A way to do this is to cut the dialogue altogether and show what was going to be told earlier. Let the characters demonstrate what was going to be chatted about. 

Here’s a great example from the movie Witness. Late in the film, Book is intending to leave the farm and return to the city. There could have been a scene in the kitchen between Rachel and Book in which he tells Rachel he’s leaving. Instead, there was a montage of shots in which Rachel watches Book getting ready to leave and lets her figure it out for herself. Instead of having the husband telling the wife that he’s leaving her, why not have her find his wedding ring on the dresser. 

Another way to enrich your dialogue scenes is with interesting settings. How much better is the talking scene in the midst of a busy airport than in the taxi to the airport. In an interesting setting, your POV character can notice things, noises can interrupt - you get the picture. It’s much more poignant when emotions are high and the waitress comes to take the order and the agony or ecstasy is delayed. 

Movie makers have specific techniques that they use to pump up visual content. There are a few that will translate fairly seamlessly to novels.

Grand Images - these are the big scenes, the panoramas. These shots set the mood and put the story in context. They can also be moments that affect the characters in a bigger way. They are the sweeping images of Amish country in Witness all the way to the burning of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind. 

Visual Metaphors - these details that tell much more than they tell, so to speak. They lend themselves to the subtext of the story. These are the details that show us that the woman is sexy in subtle ways by having her drag her hand through the water in the swimming pool, or with the music that’s playing in the background. These are details that are less about the way she dresses and the way her hair falls and more about little things she does or what she drives or where she lives. Begin noticing the subtleties in movies and you might be able to take that technique to your novel scenes.

Symbols - these are props that mean something to the character, or even goals that say more than what lies on the surface. A class ring, a music box, even a place can give us great insight into a character without “telling.” Having your character hunting for buried treasure might not be about the literal worth of the treasure, but more what the finding means in terms of freedom or status or even self-esteem. 

As you’re watching movies and television, watch for great segues - the ones that make you say “YES!”  Those are often examples of Continuity Visuals. The close up of the wagon wheel as the wagon train leaves town, closing the scene, to be followed by the wagon wheel again as it passes the new grave of the Smith baby. Though these might not be as easily dramatic in prose as they are on the screen, they are tools we can find ways to use.

Business - this term refers to the activities that the characters engage in during conversation. Rarely in real life do we actually stop what we’re doing to have a conversation. We communicate while we’re cooking dinner, or folding laundry or splitting wood. Even better is when the activity is actually connected to the story - either at the time or later. 

As Lucey was writing about setting, saying that there is far more to interest viewers outdoors than inside, that, through your scenes, you can sprinkle kids skating or people playing tennis, I was reminded of a scene from Proof of Life. In this scene, Meg Ryan has to give her husband’s boss some information that she’s hoping he will act on. This information could have been conveyed in the boss’s lush office, but it was delivered on the tennis courts where Meg finds the boss playing doubles. How much more that said about the boss than if the scene was done in an office or a car or even a restaurant. We authors need to look for settings that will do more than just host a scene, settings and props and clothing that will, even without the reader noticing, give our characters more depth.

There is so much to say on this topic that I could do another entire column on the use of specific, telling detail. I’d love to show you some of the scenes I’ve found that are so very well written. I’d love to rehash some of what Jonathan King had to say at the last conference. I may do some of those next month or I may move on. Regardless, please remember this: sensual awareness isn’t something that we do only when we write. We should be training ourselves to notice things - in real life, in books, in movies - things that we can later use when we sit down to craft a scene.

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

Jax (

(This series first ran in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers newsletter in 2005.)

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.