Monday, June 30, 2014

Just Show Up

By Holly De Herrera


Sometimes all you have to do is show up. Put on your big girl panties (or your big boy underoos). Kind of like me and how I got to conference with only my good looks (not really, but let me dream, okay?). Going to the conference this year was, in my mind, a beginning. Or at least, a beginning again. The theme was just what I needed to hear:  Write Here. Write Now. Make it Happen!

See, this past year we lost our home in the Black Forest Fire and ever since that happened my personal writing goals have been ignored, shoved back beneath the huge list of to-dos, survival tasks and “this is more importants". Do you have something like that? Something that makes writing feel like it’s near impossible? Maybe you’ve had health issues this past year, tragedies you’ve had to face, losses. Or maybe you just had other things that felt more pressing, eminent. Whatever your situation, I believe strongly that if you want to write, you have to fight for it. You have to allow your mind to forget for a minute all that is bothering you, stressing you or overwhelming you and just write. This is a battle. You have to fight!

At the conference I met so many interesting people and was inspired by the fact that no two stories were the same, despite the idea some people put across that there is no original story. And after talking with so many I realized, also, that every one of us has a challenge we have to overcome in order to write. It’s never just easy and natural. But doesn’t any good thing, any lasting thing, require effort, vision, determination and hard work? I was reminded that I need to quit making excuses and start working toward my goals again. 

But sometimes there’s something that has to happen first; you have to get there. I’m finding that when I show up, things happen. And when I show up regularly, magical things occur. Going to the conference was my symbolic kick in my own rear. It was my way of putting a stake in the earth and yelling, “I’m back and I have things to say and life isn’t going to keep me from doing what I love!” Have you taken a stand? Have you yelled at your demons and told them who’s in charge? Well, if not, and even if you missed the conference, you still can. What’s stopping you? Is your dream to write something that will move, change, inspire or challenge people? Well, you have to show up. 

Find a day, pick a time and set a regular date with yourself to write. Even if it’s just one day, one hour a week, you’re taking that step and you’ll start building momentum. Take it from me, a homeschooling mother of five who works from home for an online school and is a freelance writer for two different publishing companies. If I can do it, so can you. And I wrote my first 400-page novel by doing just that, writing one day a week for one hour. Just put it on your calendar. Don’t plan other things during that time. Consider it an ongoing appointment and then just write. At first it might seem like you don’t have a creative thought in your brain. Don’t worry. You do, you just are out of  shape (not your butt, your brain) and you need to get into the groove. The following week will be easier and the one after that even more natural and before you know it, you’ll be meeting goals, marking milestones and then you’ll find yourself being consistent and productive. Imagine it! 

So do what you have to do, fight for those few writing minutes and start putting pencil to paper now. No one else is going to tell your story and no one else will tell it quite like you will. So make it happen. Write here. Write now.

About the Author:  Holly De Herrera is a homeschooling mother of five, married to her best friend and known by her family as one who laughs a lot.  Holly loves writing about settings around the world, her very favorite being Turkey where she lived for five years as a child.  Currently she writes for Cook Communications and Good Catch Publishing and in her personal time is putting the final touches on a middle grade mystery entitled The Root Cellar Mystery.    


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (June 29, 1900 - July 31, 1944)
The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince)

This week on Writing from the Peak:

  • Just Show Up                                                   Holly De Herrera
  • Breaking the Rules:  Game of Thrones      Deb McLeod
  • PPW July News and Events                         Debi Archibald

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sweet Success! Carol Berg

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Carol Berg has sold the Brazilian-Portugese language rights for her novel The Daemon Prism, a novel of the Collegia Magica, to Bertrand Brasil publishing of Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. This mythic fantasy was originally published in January of 2012 and published by NAL/Roc Books for print and ebook, for the audio book (ISBN 978-0451464712(print), trade paperback, e-book, audio, 592 pages). Berg’s book can be found where books are sold, online bookstores, and

Dante the necromancer is the most reviled man in Sabria, blamed for crimes against the living and the dead. He seeks refuge in a magical puzzle, a desperate soldier’s dream of an imprisoned enchantress and a faceted glass that can fulfill one’s uttermost desires. But the dream is a seductive trap that threatens to unleash the very cataclysm Dante fears. Aided by the unlikeliest of allies, the blind mage embarks on a journey into madness, ancient magic, and sacred mystery, only to confront the terrifying truth of his own destiny…

About the Author:  Former software engineer Carol Berg’s fourteen epic fantasy novels have won multiple Colorado Book Awards, the Prism Award, the Geffen Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews called her work things like compelling, intelligent, and superbly realized. Her newest fantasy/mystery duology begins with Dust and Light in August 2014. Carol writes, camps, hikes, and bikes in Colorado.

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, June 25, 2014

The War of Rooms: The 2014 RT Booklovers Convention and Me

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

So this year at the Romantic Times Booklovers conference in New Orleans, during the big Saturday signing, the traditionally published people were put in one room, and the Independently published were shuffled off to another, smaller, lesser room. Independently published ranged from self-pubbed all the way up to fairly large small presses.

 As you can imagine there was the screaming and the crying and the gnashing of the teeth. 

 For me it was a tad disappointing. The year before, I sat between Beth Revis, bestselling author of the YA Sci-Fi adventure, Across the Universe and Carrie Ryan, bestselling author of the YA zombie gotcha, The Forests of Hands and Teeth. I cherry-picked their fans like them readers were bings and I was lookin’ to make a pie. I sold a lot of books.

This year, I didn’t get the traffic, but I did sell some books, and all in all, I had a good time. YA Alley was in the big room and I called our little table in the small room, the YA Back Alley. Where the bad kids hang out.

As y’all know, I like to handsell. I spent a lot of years travelling, and in the third world marketplace, it’s all about touting your goods, making a connection, moving product.

In those dusty marketplaces, you’ll hear, “My friend, where are you from?” When I'm handselling your book, I ask, “My friend, what kind of books do you like to read?” And then if you are well read, you talk about books, and then when it comes around to it, you pitch your novel. They either say yes or no. Boom. And that is handselling. I teach a class. It’s fun.

Do you know why I wasn’t as upset as I should be? Yes, if you Google around, the Indie-pubbed room was referred to as “aspiring writers” even though Liliana Hart has made gazillions of dollars and Kendall Grey has hundreds upon hundreds of Amazon reviews. So yeah, it was insulting, but this year, I did my angst early, so by Saturday, I was feeling good.

I enjoyed the RT sales fiasco because I like readers, I like writers, and it always feels good having people buy my book. Because I can see them buy it. Online, when I promote, when I market, when people buy my ebooks, I can’t see it. And it doesn’t seem real. But in person, right there, it’s reality, baby. It’s ink on paper in my hands and then into their hands.

I like the physicality of the event. I’M PHYSICALLY DOING SOMETHING TO SELL MY BOOKS. Not blogging, not Facebooking, not spending thousands of dollars on swag and advertising and blah, blah, blah, but I’m doing something. Moving product.

At RT, I started selling so many books, the woman sitting next to me got kind of mad. So I switched to selling her books. I walked up and down our little table, got all the genres, so if someone said, “I like reading really sweet romances” I could steer them over to my friend Ciara Knight. She also writes fantasy, yo. So we all win.

Was it fair for RT to divide us, the pristine traditionally published and the ritually unclean Indie pubbed? I don’t know. But it will give me pause signing up for the convention next year, and I’m sad about that. I loved my first few RT Booklover Conventions even though I often go there, see all the big name authors with movie deals and millions of fans and agents and editors and big publishing contract deals, and I pine, I worry, I fret.

What about me? When will it be my turn?

The truth? I might never play pro ball. But more and more, that means less and less.

I’m a warrior. My job is to fight to get words down, get my books out there, and sell those books. What the generals do back in their cushy tents on the beach is none of my concern. 

My words are weapons. If my weapons are strong, and if I aim well, and if I’m lucky, I will pierce the heart of the dragon and then we’ll see about riches, fame, all of that.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure it really is all that wonderful. E.L. James showed up an hour late to the signing. Does she appreciate her success, riches, and fame?

It’s not for me to say.

It’s my job to keep my swords sharp, my arrows straight, my bows taunt. And to keep on fighting.

And that’s why I liked that Saturday. I was fighting.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey’s first novel, The Never Prayer, was published in March of 2012 to a fanfare of sparkling reviews including an almost win in the RMFW Gold contest. Since then he’s been paid to write steampunk, cyberpunk, and sci-fi western short stories, and his story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” has been nominated for a Hugo award. His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, is currently giving hope to the masses. Kirkus Reveiws calls it a “a compelling tale of teenage depression handled with humor and sensitivity.” As a former story addict and television connoisseur, he lives in Colorado with two rockstar daughters and a moviestar wife.

For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey. .

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stand Up for Yourself

By Linda Rohrbough

I spend a lot of time sitting, literally. And I’m tired of it. Here are the gyrations I’ve gone through to find a more active way to work.
I heard about the treadmill desk. What a concept. Walking slowly and brainlessly as I work. Burning calories while I’m distracted. Love that idea.
But I’m cheap. I don’t mind spending a grand or two on something I know will work. But I can’t bring myself to blow that kind of dough on an experiment. Especially one that means getting rid of my current desk, which I love and would miss.
So I bought a used treadmill from some people who were moving to the beach (lucky them). It folded up and had wheels so it could be moved. With help, I schlepped it up to my office in my townhome and put it behind my desk. It was a big, dark behemoth of a contraption. I bought a glass cube from a store that sells used retail store supplies and put my monitor up on it to get it high enough to see above the treadmill display. I got a board and used tape to put it across the arms of the treadmill for the keyboard and mouse. I tried this arrangement for exactly one week.
I learned a lot of things. Even at a slow pace, I bounce up and down when I walk. I didn’t know that. Makes it tough to see what I’m doing as text can get blurry. Also, I concentrate pretty intensely when I’m writing something new, so I either trip myself or I can’t get the level of concentration I need to do the work at all. Plus, I forgot I like to work without shoes on, until I tried the treadmill barefoot. I ended up turning the thing off and standing.
I found, however, I could work well on things like email and web-surfing by standing still. These are things that don’t require as much concentration as writing fresh material.
So I put the treadmill into the garage and sold it for a little more than I paid for it not too long before Christmas. That made someone else happy and paid for all the peripheral stuff I bought for the experiment.
Learning that I can stand and be productive for some tasks gave me hope. Sure, I’d burn more calories walking, but just standing burns more calories than sitting. Plus, someone said there are hormones that are secreted when you use your legs that help with metabolism. Of course, standing all the time is not good, either. I realized that I need to be able to stand part of the time and sit part of the time.
In a perfect world, I’d get one of those 60-inch flat screen TVs that can also act as a monitor and put it up on the wall. Then I’d find a way to get my keyboard at standing height and get an electronic device to switch between my monitor and the TV on the wall when I wanted to stand.
This isn’t a perfect world.
Did I mention my penchant for not spending a lot of money on things I’m not sure will work?
A family member reminded me I have a data projector that lives in a bag in my closet except for when I’m speaking at a conference. Why not try that as the monitor to see if this sit-stand thing will work? I love that projector and so do most of the groups where I speak (because they don’t have to rent a projector). It’s bright enough to show a very respectable image even on wallpaper in a poorly lit hotel room, which is often where I end up.
The rub is finding an arrangement where I can get my keyboard up at standing height when I want it there. At 5’7” I need a keyboard stand that’s about 42” off the floor. What I found is a rolling, adjustable hospital bed tray on eBay. That tray, set at its tallest setting, now stands beside my chair and the projector is set up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This arrangement works pretty well. I can quickly turn on the projector, then switch so the computer image goes to the projector rather than the monitor. I got a second USB keyboard for the rolling tray table so I don’t have to move the keyboard and mouse. I found, however, that I want to put my foot up on something, so I got a couple yoga blocks, since I work a lot barefoot or in socks. The visual clutter, while increased, is minimal, especially compared to the treadmill.
I’ve been using this setup for over a month now and I like it. I acquired a stand for the projector so I can put papers under it and I don’t lose as much desk space. I am starting to see contraptions for sit-stand arrangements aimed at “knowledge workers.” So I’m holding off on the big screen TV for a while in case something better makes itself known.
So that’s my journey. How about you? Have any of you tried sit-stand arrangements? How’s it working for you? Inquiring minds want to know.

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

 “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

George Orwell
(June 25, 1903 - January 21, 1950)
Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four

This week on Writing from the Peak:

  • Stand up for Your Writing                                                                               Linda Rohrbough
  • The War of Rooms:  The 2014 RT Booklovers Convention and Me             Aaron Michael Ritchey
  • Sweet Success! Carol Berg                                                                    Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sweet Success! Becky Clark

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Becky Clark’s novel, Banana Bamboozle (-ISBN — 978-1-4944-9471-1, paperback, kindle 286 pages), was released on National Goof-Off Day (March 22, 2014), by Becky Clark (self published) and is available on Amazon.

Drunk on Banana Bamboozles, Cassidy Dunne sees a girl she’s convinced is her niece. Problem is her niece has been dead for fourteen years.

Becky has been a member of PPW for more than a dozen years. She has published fiction for kids and nonfiction for adults, but BANANA BAMBOOZLE is her first foray into adult fiction. She is wiggly with delight at the early response. You can find her at her website, or via email:

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, June 18, 2014

Do You Learn From Authors? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

This is the sixth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

This is a fun one.
Who doesn’t love learning?
This is a great way to work on your writing and support your favorite authors.
You can learn when you:
  • enroll in a workshop
  • read a craft book
  • listen at the library
In the last year, I’ve been able to do all three and have improved my writing with these opportunities. Many authors share their writing techniques in workshops at conferences or via online classes. If you admire an author consider taking a class from him or her. Last year, I took the Making Picture Book Magic Class with author Susanna Leonard Hill. To date, this was the best class I’ve taken online. I refer to the material often.
Several years ago, I attended a retreat taught by author Linda Ashman. She released a craft book last year: The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. I scooped up this book, because I love Linda’s books and loved her workshop. I wasn’t disappointed when I read the book. It helped me during my work on ReviMo in January.
Well, it wasn’t a library, but I attended a reading and signing with author and illustrator Peter Brown. It was fun to see him draw the tiger from Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and to see an author present to a room filled with children and adults (and my wandering toddler). 
These are easy ways to learn from your favorite authors. What’s your favorite way to learn from authors (including reading their books)?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on February 10, 2014)

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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Giant Thank You to the Creativity of Becki Davis

By MK Meredith

The past couple of years we've had some wonderful logos and designs created just for Pikes Peak Writers and Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

We are so fortunate to have such talent right here in our very own membership.

Becki Davis has generously donated her time, her creativity, and her skill. We are so thankful for the wonderful gifts Becki has bestowed upon us.

Thank you, Becki!

A Bookmark Created by Becki for PPWC

A Logo Created by Becki for Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014

A Logo Created by Becki for Write Your Heart Out 2014

Becki Davis is not a native of Colorado, but she’s the next best thing, as her roots here go back to the 1880s. She is co-owner of Davis Creative, a graphic design and advertising studio, specializing in brand identity design, print collateral, and marketing.
While doing a stint in Chicago, she worked with the Wrigley Gum Company and a small design studio whose clients included Samsonite Luggage and Meadow Gold Dairies.
Locally her work includes logo and monument signs for First and Main Town Center, Cedar Heights, Mountain Shadows, Southface, Springs Ranch, Interquest, and the biggest challenge ever, graphics for a jet airliner.
Throughout the years, she and her husband, John, have won numerous awards from Pikes Peak Advertising Federation, the Home Builders Association MAME awards as well as “Print Magazine” and the International Association of Public Relations.
Becki lives in a 115-year old Victorian in Colorado Springs with her husband, two sons, four dogs, a pond full of koi, several gangs of squirrels and one ghost in the basement. (Hey, they don’t have an attic).
She has several published magazine articles, including a little blurb in “All You” magazine. Beck’s love for copywriting has led her back to her dreams of being a writer. She has completed a Middle Grade book, “Magic Before Mayhem,” which placed second in a rather prestigious writing contest you may have heard of (and yes, it was a while ago) and is ¼ way through a YA.

About the Author: MK Meredith writes single title contemporary romance with manuscripts under consideration at several publishing houses. MK  is Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014 director and has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers since 2011. A member of RWA since 2005, and a member of several more writing groups, she believes the best route to success is to never think you’re finished learning.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"I always rewrite the very beginning of a novel. I rewrite the beginning as I write the ending, so I may spend part of morning writing the ending, the last 100 pages approximately, and then part of the morning revising the beginning. So the style of the novel has a consistency."

Joyce Carol Oates  (June 16, 1938 -)
A Garden of Earthly Delights, You Must Remember This, Carthage
Recipient of the O. Henry Award, The Pulitzer Prize for Literature, The National Book Award for Fiction

This Week on Writing from the Peak:

*A Giant Thank You to the Creativity of Becki Davis               MK Meredith

*Do You Learn From Authors? - A Reader University Post    Stacy S. Jensen

*Sweet Success! Becky Clark                                                          Kathie Scrimgeour

A Happy Father's Day to all the Pikes Peak writing dads. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sweet Success! Julie Kazimer

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Julie Kazimer’s romantic suspense novel, The Assassin's Heart (ISBN-10: 1603819754, ISBN-13: 978-1603819756, 211 pages, ebook and trade paperback), was released March 1, 2014 by Camel Press (imprint of Coffeetown Press). This novel is available at Amazon.

When CIA assassin Hannah Winslow mistakenly kills the wrong man, she vows never to take another life. Unfortunately Hannah’s superiors believe the killing was intentional. Now Hannah is the target. She disappears completely into a new, screamingly dull life, assuming a fake identity, shacking up with an overweight cat, and starting a new career as an ad executive. Hannah’s past finally catches up with her at a company retreat in Hawaii, where her former partner Benjamin Miller has tracked her down. Is it a coincidence that assassination attempts on her life are now as common as rum, suntan lotion, and tiny umbrella drinks? What is the real reason for Ben’s presence? Will he be her savior or her assassin?

J.A. Kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. Books include The Junkie Tales, The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story, SHANK, and Froggy Style: A F***ed Up Fairy Tale, and The Assassin's Heart. Forthcoming books include a new mystery fairy tale series from Kensington Books. She spent a few years spilling drinks on people as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator in the Denver area. Learn more at or at her blog More Than a Little F***ed 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, June 11, 2014

Scene Writing Series, Part X - Dialogue

By Jax Hunter

Greetings, Campers, this month, we’re going to take a brief look at writing dialogue. There are entire books on this one subject and I can’t possibly do it justice. But as we’re zeroing in on writing scenes, we really can’t leave dialogue out entirely.

Syd Field, in The Screen-Writer’s Workbook, lists these purposes for dialogue:

1.  To move the story forward
2.  To communicates facts and information
3.  To reveal character
4.  To establish relationships between characters
5.  To comment on the action
6.  To tie scenes together

Does dialogue do all these things at once? Only if you’re a master at it, I suppose. However, let’s face it, every word we put on the page should do many of these things at once. Our dialogue must, as well. So, here are a few of my rules of great dialogue.

REAL OR MEMOREX? Great dialogue is only the illusion of the real thing. If you transcribe real conversation, you’ll lose your audience to boredom. Good dialogue is real dialogue amped up. It only leaves in the awkward silences and fumbling sentences on purpose, to crank up the emotion. Remember, it’s all about emotion. 

CHARACTER. Good dialogue reveals character. It does this with what the characters themselves say and with what others say about them. It does it with silence and pauses and sentences that aren’t finished. It does it with body language, tone, and facial expression. Often, we learn far more about a character by what is left out of a conversation. And sometimes, characters can chat about the mundane while, beneath the surface, conflict churns.

JUDICIOUS EXPOSITION. Exposition within dialogue can be tricky. If we throw too much information and explanation into conversation, our dialogue comes out sounding hokey and completely unreal. Be very careful not to force your dialogue to give your reader information. Author Greg Garrett gives us this “tremendously bad example of exposition masquerading as a dramatic exchange.”

    "I've been so lonely since my husband Ted died in 1991 of cancer. We had been happily married since 1965, when we met while I was working in the Kresge department store on Canal Street in New Orleans."

    "Of course, you poor dear. Thank goodness your son Frank immediately left his job in Pittsburgh as a computer programmer to move back into your house in the Garden District of New Orleans so that he could help you with your clinical depression. Of course, now you are caring for Frank because his wife deserted him and took the kids back to Pennsylvania after the doctor discovered in a routine test that he was HIV positive."

On the other hand, watch how the screenwriter of the movie Witness weaves exposition into his scene in a very natural way. Not only does he teach the “reader” here, the exposition does double duty later when Rachel watches to see if Book will act the same way.

RACHEL: I should tell you these do not have buttons. (shows him) See? Hooks and eyes.
BOOK: Something wrong with buttons?
RACHEL:  Buttons are hochmut.
BOOK:  Hochmut?
RACHEL:  Vain. Proud. Such a person is hochmutsnarr. He is not plain.
BOOK:  (nodding) Anything against zippers?
RACHEL:  (almost blushing) You make fun of me. Like the tourists. Driving by all the time. Some even come into the yard. Very rude. They seem to think we are quaint.
BOOK:  Quaint? Can't imagine why. (She smiles.) Where's the nearest telephone?
RACHEL:  Telephone? The Gunthers across the valley. They're Mennonite. They have cars and refrigerators and telephones in the houses even.

Sigh. I love that movie.

WHO’S TALKING. Make sure your dialogue sounds like the character. A history professor doesn’t speak the same as a football coach. If he does, it reveals a lot about the history professor, doesn’t it? Occasionally, it’s good to mix things up and have a CLICHED character speak in a NON-CLICHED way. 

Speaking of cliches, dialogue is really the only place we can truly get away with using cliches. Because people speak in cliches all the time, our characters can, too. But I would encourage you to use this tool on purpose, not just because you can.

A word about accents. Be very careful with writing accents. Remember, a little goes a long way. It may be better all around to not actually write the accent but to simply mention it from another character’s point of view. In my first novel, Black Ice, my hero was a goalie from Montreal. Here, he meets the heroine. 

“Nice to meet you Miss MacMaster,” he said with a soft French Canadian accent. “Are you not also on the training staff for the team?”

I listened to Patrick Roy (remember him?) at length to discover that he rarely used contractions, so neither did A.J. The real concession I made to his accent throughout the book was occasional non-English syntax.  

“I have done much things to hurt her.” 
“She writes books for childrens.”

If you let them, your characters will write their own dialogue. This can only happen, though, when you know your characters well and if you don’t force them to say what you want them to say. Characters REACT in dialogue - to their own words and to the words, tones, and body language of others. Let the action/reaction model into your dialogue and your dialogue will come to life. 

I have a couple of characters that have a real problem being in the same room with each other. If I put them together, they invariably end up taking pot shots at each other. They totally REACT to each other. Sometimes, they react well, (one brief moment in this scene, which takes place on the dance floor of the local bar, right after a wake) but mostly they just fuel each other, in more ways than one.

            “How’s business?”
            He knew the answer but it might be entertaining to hear her version.
            “I haven’t hit the bottom yet.”
            “You need a business partner, an infusion of capital.”
            Now she looked up at him, eyebrows drawn together a wry smile on her face.
            “Oh, yeah, that’s just what I need.”
            “I’m serious, Red.”
            “Don’t get your checkbook out, Cruz.  I’m not interested in having another partner, especially one like you.  I may be a slow learner but I do get it eventually.”
            “Ooh, the Golden Boy feels pain?”
            Now he just looked at her.
            “Sorry, guess tonight’s not the time to say that, is it?  Besides, you don’t fly helicopters.  And I don’t own a fixed wing.”
            “You could teach me to fly rotary and I do own a fixed wing.”
            “Tell you what, Cruz.  You can pay me to teach you to fly rotary - I am a certified instructor, you know - and you can keep your fixed wing.”
            The music ended, leaving them standing in the middle of the dance floor.
            “I’ll see if I can fit it into my schedule,” Cruz said and turned away.
            “Yeah, you do that hotshot.”

From: A Good Place to Land - yes blatant self-promotion. What can I say?

This leads me to mention the topic of SUBTEXT. Subtext is speech that is pregnant with meaning. It’s innuendo. It’s the communication that’s going on all the time, just under the surface. Subtext is used to imply the emotion and conflict that isn’t stated outright, and it elevates even the most mundane dialogue with conflict and drama. Next time you’re reading, pay special attention to the conversation underneath the conversation. 

See? I told you I didn’t have room to fully explore dialogue. So, consider this a reminder of things you likely already know. Again, I encourage you to study the fiction that you read. Look for great dialogue and figure out what makes it sparkle. Then, go forth and do likewise.

Until next month, when we take a look at set dressing, BIC-HOK (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.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014 - Gone But Not Forgotten

By Tena Stetler 

Yep, I survived Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014, but barely. I was so tired when I got home that I almost fell asleep in the shower and really don’t remember crawling into bed. 

Now, I have so many things on my to-do-list that I don’t know where to start. I need to spend one hour on marketing, according to Becky Clark. So I re-coded the slideshow on the first page of my website so it faded correctly. Got to make a good impression. Then I wrote out a marketing plan. 

In Linda Rohrbough’s workshop, Turn Your Passion into Profit, we were encouraged to step out of our comfort zone with people and possible contacts for work. She reminded us that if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. So what do you have to lose? This morning I made a list of contacts for freelancing opportunities and will make my way through the list this week. Still more work to do. But it’s a start. 

Then according to Jennifer Lovett, I should have at least 30 posts on my blog. That’s only 26 posts short. I guess I’m a bit behind. But, this one makes it only 25. Headed in the right direction.

During the Read & Critique, Kris Neri gave wonderful suggestions I put to use today to make the beginning of my work in progress pop. Another participant in that Read and Critique session came up after it was over and told me she really liked my story. I can’t tell you how pleased I felt. Yet, another participant stopped me as I was leaving on Sunday afternoon with a creative idea for my Cozy Mystery, which I will be incorporating. Thank you! 

Thursday’s Prequel was murder! Literally. A crime scene was set up complete with an almost dead body. Professionals were present from the  EMTs, FBI, CSI and a profiler to walk us through their responsibilities at a crime scene. It was very interesting and a bit disconcerting.   
Kim Killion and Jennifer Jakes of the Killion Group turned up the heat with their sexy book cover designs. (Whew!)  They have 21 years experience in marketing, communications and design. For those self-publishing, they can format your book and create a stunning website.

In the workshop, This May be a Dumb Question, But.. Darby Karchut answered all our questions, fearlessly. She’s a seventh grade teacher, you know. She described the road to publication and all of its potholes, how to make your manuscript the best you can, the secret to crafting that tricky query letter and, finally, promoting the heck out of your book.

Bonnie Hagan’s heartfelt tribute to the writers that we’ve lost and to those whose homes were destroyed in the recent wildfires brought tears of sadness. Tears of laughter were on tap when  MC Aaron Ritchey took the stage with his effervescent personality and never ending wit, sometimes egged on by other members of the Pikes Peak Writers staff. You know who you are.

Lunch with Hank Phillippi Ryan on Saturday was a blast. We enjoyed a rousing discussion with other writers at that table about marketing, writing tools, and personal experiences, which became a learning experience in itself. Did you know they still burn books in the south? Hank’s Keynote speech on Saturday night was insightful and inspiring, as well as entertaining. 

Each of the other keynote speakers brought something different to the stage. Gail Carriger brought Steampunk awareness and inspired a Steampunk costume contest. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what Steampunk was, but now there is no doubt in my mind. Jim C. Hines inspired gender bender cover poses among other things and, well, Chuck Wendig left us with a sense of accomplishment as he closed out the conference.

Overall, it was my best conference yet. I caught up with old friends, made a slew of new ones and soaked in the atmosphere. Yes, the air is rare up here and so is such an extraordinary conference. See ya’ll next year!

About the Author:  Tena Stetler is a freelance writer. When the sun disappears behind the Majestic Rocky Mountains, she can be found at her computer surrounded by vampires, demons, witches, and other paranormal creatures vying for her attention, as she writes Paranormal Romance and Cozy Mysteries. The everyday world is mundane, but sprinkle a little magic and you have fantastic.  She’s also written articles for a variety of magazines on subjects from traveling with pets and raising and training parrots to installing sprinkler systems. She shares her life with her husband, a parrot, a dog, and a 40-year-old box turtle. When not sitting behind a computer, she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. Her website is