Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"I start a book and I want to make it perfect, want it to turn every color, want it to be the world. Ten pages in, I've already blown it, limited it, made it less, marred it. That's very discouraging. I hate the book at that point."
Joan Didion (December 5, 1943 - )
Slouching Toward Bethlehem
Play It As It Lays
The Year of Magical Thinking (National Book Award for Nonfiction)

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Letter from the Editor                                                  Debi Archibald

* The Writer's Secret: Inspired by Victoria                     Deb McLeod

* PPW December News & Events                                 Debi Archibald

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Season of Thanks

By Jason Henry

The holiday season is in full swing. As you read this, you may be recovering from a turkey coma hangover, warming a plate full of leftovers, sending friends and relatives on their way as you reclaim your house, or getting ready for a nap after a frenzied day of Black Friday shopping.
For many of us, this is a time of reflection. With thirty-three days left in 2014, a new year is fast approaching. Me, well, I am one of those thinking back over the past eleven months and wondering if I spent them correctly. I look at where I was and where I am and, I will admit, there are some things in question. However, I know that I personally have a habit of setting lofty goals and forgetting the smaller achievements along the way.

As a writer, this holds even truer.

At this moment in time, I have not secured an agent, not signed a publishing contract, and, in the past year, I have not made one single cent as a writer. For these things, I am incredibly thankful.

I am thankful because I have a chance to acknowledge and appreciate some things I did accomplish this year. Things I may have overlooked under different circumstances.

In April, I attended another amazing Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Now, I have the pleasure and honor of being Programming Director for the next. At that conference in April, I met so many wonderful new people and got to say hello to some familiar faces. I also pitched my work for the first time and received two ‘send its’.

Wait a minute…

That means I also finished writing my first novel.

As I look back, published or not, there are so many things that give me cause for thanks.

So, allow me to ask this of you:

On this Black Friday and for the rest of the holiday season, set aside thoughts of things you didn’t do. Take some time to ponder and appreciate the successes, no matter how small they may seem.

You survived NaNoWriMo! Whether you wrote 100 words or 100,000, you put words onto paper. Any word count at all should feel like a success. WIN!

Registration for the 23rd Annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference has opened. Perhaps you were one of the first five registrants. That means you received a front-of-the-line meal pass. Have you seen those lines? That’s a WIN, baby!

The Zebulon has closed and judging is underway. Maybe you ignored all the self-doubt and entered. If so, that is a major accomplishment. No matter the end results, that’s a WIN.

As we navigate through the holiday season, we all should remember one win in particular. We write. No matter where we are on our writing journey, no matter what writing adventure we’ve chosen, we write. We face the world, standing tall and steadfast in the pursuit of our dreams. For that, I ask that you be thankful. I can say that I, for one, am incredibly thankful for you.

Happy Holidays!

Jason P. Henry
Programming Director
2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference

When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem: “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What is Your Sweet Success Story?

By K.J. Scrim (aka: Kathie Scrimgeour)

After months of blood, sweat, tears, and a few tiny bald spots, your masterpiece is complete. You are ready to make a mark on the literary world. Your best friend bought the first copy. Uncle Bill heard about it, and had to give it as a gift to his boss’s daughter for her birthday. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are buzzing with the news and a couple of people have even written reviews on their blog and given you a five-star rating on Goodreads.

Pikes Peak Writers (PPW) wants to help you make some noise. Sweet Success is a free online marketing tool exclusively for PPW members (another perk for PPW members). What do you get? A free blog post dedicated to you and your success story. Remember that in online marketing every ping, blip, click, and mention of your name boosts your presence. Create enough of these and your name can grow into quite a rumble. Add more rumbles and you will have a veritable earthquake on your hands. This is the sound of your sweet success making itself known to the world.

Tell us about your poem, book signing, flash fiction, or your epic novel. Did you get a mention in the New York Times? Are you being honored at your local VFW or did you recently win a writing contest? Tell us about it! Let PPW add a ping or three toward the making of your success story. Don’t forget to join PPW then drop an email to:

Please include the following information:

  • Your name
  • The name of the work
  • Release date
  • Your byline or pseudonym (and how you want me to handle it)
  • Type of work (short story, novel, article, etc.)
  • Genre
  • Age level
  • Publisher
  • ISBN
  • Format (hardcover, softcover)
  • Page count (or word count)
  • Brief description of the book (100 words max)
  • Brief bio (100 words max)
  • E-mail
  • Website (author promo, blog, etc.)
  • Where to buy/read website
  • Cover image, if available.
See you there!

About the Author: Kathie writes under the name K.J. Scrim (it is so much shorter and easier to say than her full name). She started writing in the previous century, and continued through college.  She received her BFA in Fine Art from the University of Colorado, Boulder. While living in Conifer, CO she had her own column in the Mountain Connection and produced a weekly segment for local television programming. Today she keeps up on a blog, is working on a YA multi-dimensional novel, is the Coordinator for Sweet Success, and an active member of PPW, RMFW, and AWP. She lives in SE Metro Denver with her husband, two grown kids, along with a couple of dogs and a cat.    

Monday, November 24, 2014

Writers and Trust

By Karen Albright Lin

In most endeavors we put ourselves out there. We risk trusting someone with our money when we order online, or when we hand our credit card to the Shirt Barn Cashier. We trust that our important personal information will be protected when we do our banking, buy on e-Bay, and make a payment for a writer’s conference through PayPal.

Trust is a part of everyday life. But writers have additional vulnerabilities. A screenwriter typically waives his rights to sue if a film is made similar to the script he submits for consideration; after all, someone else may have submitted something else substantially the same.

We trust that contest judges won’t run with our entry’s idea, that critique group members have our commercial best interest in mind, and that a conference brings in quality acquiring agents and editors. We assume those editors and agents aren’t attending those conferences only to schmooze with their local clients and each other—while being wined and dined and housed at the base of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been at a conference when an agent admitted to doing just that after he didn’t turn up to take pitches as his contract required.

Writers are vulnerable in many ways, yet we have to trust. We trust beta readers to give us honest feedback. We throw our work out there in the wind for it to get exposure and be bought. We spend precious time on social networking hoping it will pay off in sales.

We place it in the hands of fate or faith that our long, arduous apprenticeship will net us a career.

But there are times when we shouldn’t simply trust and cross our fingers. Examples would include choosing or not choosing the self-publishing route, determining how to get educated in our search for the Holy Grail (conferences? MFAs? Contests? A stack of books on writing?), as well as determining how and whether to spend money on freelance editors.

Having experience on both ends, I’ll address this last one. Trust is risky business here. Be careful when looking for an editor.

  • Trust but know who you can rely on: Get referrals from reliable sources.
  • Trust but do background checks: It’s one thing to hear about an editor's happy clients, it’s another to contact one or two to confirm.
  • Trust but get a sample: Be willing to pay for a short edit to get an idea of quality and how time is used.
  • Trust but hire an attorney: Before handing over a large sum of money, get the contract evaluated.

Trusting can be risky at the other end of those relationships. Editors, pitch consultants, writing coaches, ghostwriters, writers-for-hire, or any service providers also have warnings to heed.

  • Trust but put it in writing: It’s a good idea to have a publishing attorney check your contract to be sure you are offering fair provisions in which your self-interest matches and complements the writer's.
  • Trust but get a sample: Suggest contracting for a few hours initially to gauge quality and needs of the work. Then take that into consideration when you determine how you’d like to be paid.
  • Trust but don’t be a jerk magnet: Look for the signs that someone is a user who will suck your time then not pay you.
  • Trust but cut your losses: There are nuts out there who will ask for advice then go about doing the opposite over and over and over. Consider your sanity precious.
  • Use your gut instincts: Try to spot the big-name author who wants you to ghostwrite for him, contracts to pay you a percentage of a potentially huge book, then yanks it out from under you without a kill fee. (Sound suspiciously specific? Yes, this happened to me.) Again have an attorney check your contract before you sign. Insist on a kill-fee for ghostwriting if there is big money at stake.

In our challenging field, we have no choice but to trust. But there are ways to mitigate our exposure. Live by the cliché, trust but verify.

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, November 23, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“You can make anything by writing.”
C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis 
November 28, 1898 - November 22, 1963
The Screwtape Letters
The Chronicles of Narnia 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Writers and Trust                                      Karen Albright Lin

* What is Your Sweet Success Story?     Kathie Scrimgeour

* A Season of Thanks                                    Jason Henry

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sweet Success! Rachel Weaver

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Rachel Weaver’s literary fiction, Point of Direction, (ISBN : 978-1-935439-91-2, 233 pages)  was released May of 2014 by Ig Publishing to rave reviews. Oprah Magazine described it as a “strikingly vivid debut novel.” In his review on NPR’s All Things Considered, Alan Cheuse described the novel as one that “pulls you in.” Point of Direction was chosen by the American Booksellers Association as a top ten debut for Spring 2014, by IndieBound as an Indie Next List Pick, and by Yoga Journal as one of their top five suggested summer reads.

Hitchhiking her way through Alaska, a young woman named Anna is picked up by Kyle, a fisherman. Anna and Kyle quickly fall for each other, as they are both adventurous, fiercely independent, and in love with the raw beauty and solitude of Alaska. To cement their relationship, they agree to become caretakers of a remote lighthouse perched on a small rock in the middle of a deep channel—a place that has been uninhabited since the last caretaker mysteriously disappeared two decades ago. What seems the perfect adventure for these two quickly unravels, as closely-held secrets pull them apart, and the surrounding waters threaten uncertain danger. Set against the uniquely rugged landscape of coastal Alaska, Point of Direction is an exquisite literary debut.

About the Author:  Prior to earning her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University, Rachel Weaver worked as a biologist for the Forest Service in Alaska studying bears, raptors and songbirds. She teaches fiction at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. Her website is: 
Link to the book trailer

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, November 19, 2014

Do You Buy Books? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

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

And here is where we spend money. 
Consider buying: 
  • a print book
  • a digital version
  • as many as you can

Buying books is essential to your writing career. If you don’t buy books (when you can), who will? If you don’t buy books, how can you expect others to buy your books?

I utilize many of the free ways to read books — the library, a loan, a review copy, and free promotions. But, I also strategically use my extra cash for the books I really enjoy and want to own. If I see an author at a conference, I will buy books and get them signed.
If you can’t get the physical book, consider digital versions of your favorite books. If I can’t find a picture book at the library, I will buy the discounted ebook. {I recommend you review picture books immediately after purchase, because the format quality is not always ideal. I’ve asked Amazon for a refund for some picture book ebooks due to the poor quality. So, always check your picture books. If you aren’t happy, return it.}
The digital market has reduced the cost of many books, especially series. You can often buy the first book at a reduced rate (or even free), because the publisher knows you’ll get hooked and buy the other books in the series. Divergent by Veronica Roth is less expensive than Insurgent or Allegiant.
The fact you can begin reading ebooks immediately is priceless.
If you don’t have money for books, don’t buy them! But, remember, if you don’t make buying books a priority, don’t be offended when a publisher says the market isn’t ready for your book, because {insert your type of book} doesn’t sell well.
For writers, buying books is important to keep the publishing industry open for business, to authors who want to make a living, and to bookstores and online retailers.
What’s your favorite method for buying books?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on March 17, 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, November 17, 2014

Do You Love Me? Do You Really Love Me?

By Aaron Michael Ritchey


I really want you to think about the question I wanna ask you. So. Just. Stop.

Focus on the screen and turn off that radio, click off that second monitor, ignore the damn dog for a minute, let your children go screaming off into the streets because I need your full attention.

Are you ready?

This is the question that was asked at my critique group tonight and no one answered it except for me. Do you know why? Because this question is brutal.

Okay. Here is the question.

What kind of validation are you looking for through your writing?

I know. See why I wanted you to cut loose those distractions? I’ll repeat the question for those with a blown mind.

What kind of validation are you looking for through your writing?

My answer? None. You can’t validate me through my writing because it can never, ever be enough. 

Only if I had the fame and fortunes of a J.K. Rowling or a Stephanie Meyer could I even begin to come close to the validation I want. I am bottomless when it comes to other people’s attention and their validation. I can never be satisfied. It’s a game I can’t win.

You say you like something I wrote, and I don’t believe you, or the praise isn’t right, or it doesn’t focus on exactly what I want to hear. My ranking in Amazon goes up, but it never goes up far enough. I’m never #1 across all of Amazon for weeks on end. It is never enough.

I’m not rich and famous.

I’m not an award-winning writer.

I’m not validated much, and when I am, it’s iffy. It doesn’t mean much.

Now, I say all that, but I have to be honest, when I got my glorious Kirkus Review for Long Live the Suicide King, I memorized it. When I had someone legitimately fangirl out over me, yeah, I savored it. When I had my daughters love one of the books I wrote for them and cry at the end, yeah, that was true validation. Yes, those things were nice.

But I’m learning not to look for validation because for me, I can’t live off it. When validation comes, however, I DO MY BEST TO CELEBRATE IT (all caps for you and for me), but my appetite for validation is waning.


I write because I’ll be dead soon. Soonish. Fifty years or ten minutes, we don’t know. I’ll be dead soon and this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life right now. Not to get all Dr. Sigmund Freud on you, but this is my causa sui, my life’s purpose, to write books and to get them published by any means necessary.

That is a grand game, a tough game, a vicious game, but it’s a game I’m going to play as best I can, as creatively as I can, and yeah, my chances of winning are slim.

But that is what makes it grand. That is what makes it heartbreaking and wonderful and staggering because in this writing game, there are no rules.

Let me repeat that. There are no rules.

Wonderful, humanizing books right now are not selling while hastily written erotica about dinosaurs are making millions.

No one knows anything. If they say they know, they are trying to sell you something. Buy it. Why not? Where else do you want your money to go? Buy magic beans. You can always mix them later with some rice for a complete protein.

For me, right now, validation isn’t the point of this. It’s to play the game, to write the books I need to write, and to enjoy as much of it as I can.

And in reality, there is a lot to enjoy.

About the Author:  Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of Long Live the Suicide King, a finalist in the Reader’s Favorite contest. Kirkus Reviews calls the story “a compelling tale of teenage depression handled with humor and sensitivity.” His debut novel, The Never Prayer, was also a finalist in the Colorado Gold contest. His forthcoming works include a new young adult novel from Staccato Publishing and a six book sci-fi/western series from Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was nominated for a Hugo. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two goddesses posing as his daughters.

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. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"Genres aren't closed boxes. Stuff flows back and forth across the borders all the time."

Margaret Atwood (November 18, 1939 -)
The Handmaid's Tale (Finalist, Booker Prize)
Alias Grace
Oryx and Crake Trilogy 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Do You Love Me? Do You Really Love Me?    Aaron Michael Ritchey

* Do You Buy Books? Reader U Part 11         Stacy S. Jensen

* Sweet Success! Rachel Weaver                       Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sweet Success! J.T. Evans

By Kathie Scrimgeour

J.T. Evans’, Children of the Carnival, is an adult horror short story included in Carnival of the Damned (ISBN: 978-0692247815, 236 pages), that was released in paperback and e-book on 8-25-2014 by Evil Jester Press. The book is available on Amazon.

Fifteen tales of dark attractions just waiting for the next wary soul to offer the price of admission. SHOOT the Freak - win a prize! HAVE your caricature drawn? The price is right! GAZE upon the wonders our Oddities tent conceals! TRY the Ferris Wheel - it's the ride of a lifetime! WATCH the big top's center ring fill with beasts beyond imagination SEE a reflection of your darkest desires! LIVE in a world where maniacal clowns rule the night! These are just some of the nightmares this carnival has to offer.

About the Author:  J.T. Evans is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. He has been actively been writing since he discovered a local writers group in 2006. He joined the Pikes Peak Writers in late 2008 and attended his first conference in 2010. In that time he has worked his way up the ranks in Pikes Peak Writers from "chair mover" and "auction guard" to webmaster and president of the organization. Until he strikes publishing gold, he pays the bills with software engineering duties.

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, November 12, 2014

Time Stealers

By Jax Hunter
(Writers:  There are a lot of good tips in this post for NaNoWriMo.)

“Gosh, I wish I had time to write a novel.”

How many times have you heard that, fellow fiction writers? I often want to answer this way:  
“Well, yes, I manage to write when I’m not watching soap operas and eating bon-bons.”

And then there’s this one: “You can make the brownies for the bake sale since you don’t work.

Again, I bring out the soap operas and bon-bons.

The truth is, if you want time, you have to make it. If writing is a priority, then you will make the time you need to do it. This month, I want to share a few tricks first and mention a few time stealers last.

My favorite way of mapping out my writing time starts with knowing the end page count I am aiming for. This is usually genre specific. Of course, you can just write and write until the story seems to be told, but if you need to be more structured (if you have a time limit or time goal for your book, or . . . gasp, a deadline. . .) here’s one way to work it out.

I know that the book I am aiming for is 300 pages long. I know I have 6 months to write it. I know that I only want to write on weekdays. So, using calculus and algebra and all those higher maths, I calculate. . . . 6 months times 4 weeks each. . . .carry one. . . is 24 weeks times five days per week. . . carry four. . . . EQUALS 120 writing days. Now, I generally mark out a few for emergencies that come up - let’s subtract 5. That leaves 115 writing days.

300 pages written in 115 days - that’s 300 divided by 115. . . carry two. . . . that’s 2.6 pages per day. Now that doesn’t sound quite as daunting, does it?

Now, getting those pages written can be a challenge. I have found that when I start a project, that 2.6 pages (or whatever my goal is for that project) can take me three hours to write. But, I also find that as I train my brain to write, it goes faster and faster. By a few weeks in, I find that that same 2.6 pages are getting pounded out in record time. For this reason, you may want to start with a page a day and work up to two or three or four. For this, of course, it might be nice to have your calendar and a calculator handy :)

Many writers will ask, at this point, if they can just do it by time. For example, can I just write from 7:00 to 9:00? I guess you can. Hello, you can do whatever you want. However, for me, I can SIT and stare at the blank page for two hours and be no nearer completion of my book. That’s why I had to train myself to produce.

Remember BiC-HoK? Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard. Folks, that is the ONLY way that I’ve found to get a book written. To sit in the chair and write and not get up until the pages for the day are done.

Another hint here. When the pages for the day are done - STOP. Even if it’s in mid-sentence. Don’t finish the scene. Just stop. Tomorrow, when you sit down, your brain with click in right where you left off. (That is, of course, if you’re training it consistently.)

The name of this game is consistency. If you take days and days off from the project, your brain stalls. If you’re in the work every day (you can take weekends off, I find), your brain continues to brew the story and, when you sit down, it’s ready to write.

Another trick is to offer your brain an “on switch”. By this I mean a trigger that tells it that it is time to work. I have found that just lighting a candle beside my desk does this for me. It might be music, or simply shutting the door. But if you do something consistently, your brain will learn (like Pavlov’s mutts) to click on when it’s time to write. Last summer, I spent a lot of time at the beach writing (I know, I’m really evil for rubbing it in). What I found, though, is that even when I wasn’t there to “write”, my brain didn’t know it. I kept having to scramble for paper and pen to jot down ideas and phrases.

Of course, we all work differently. But give this thing a good honest try before discarding it. The plan may need tweaking for your individual preferences, but that’s perfectly fine.

If you plan your work, calculate your pages, get your butt in the chair. . . then proceed to spend three hours playing solitaire or reading email, the work will not get done. Email is my personal bug-a-boo. I belong to a number of writer-related Yahoo groups - great resources every one of them. And it is terribly easy to rationalize that, since they’re WRITING groups, it’s okay to check them while I’m writing. RIGHT? NO! NO! NO!

One thing I’ve done to combat my urge to check email is to write on a computer that doesn’t have email. One advantage of that is that, if your writing computer isn’t hooked to cyberspace, there’s no danger of virus-wipes.

I often promise myself a game of solitaire at the half way mark. But, if you do this, you MUST be strong and stop at one. You know yourself better than anyone. Don’t cut yourself any slack. You’ll be glad when you stack up that three hundred pages and write THE END.

A few other time stealers:

The telephone. Don’t pick it up. Get caller ID or a special ring for your kids or spouse. Then, let all the others go to voice mail. Schedule a time (after the pages are done) to return phone calls. I find that the more I do this, the more my friends come to respect what I do. They realize that I’m really working and not just sitting in front of the TV.

The TV. If this is a weakness, then just don’t turn it on until AFTER the pages are done.

Reading. I am a firm believer in reading. Not only to learn craft, but also to fill up the idea well. When I’m regularly wringing out my creative brain onto paper, I need to fill it back up again. Reading helps me. (Actually movies do too). But, again, you must put it in its place and not let it take over your writing time.

Those are just a few of the most common time-stealers. I’m sure you have hundreds more. The key is to make your pages a priority. Get them done BEFORE letting the stealers in :)

Well, that’s about it. BiC-HoK. Get the pages done. Just do it :)


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, November 10, 2014

Exotic Dancers and Free Beer!

By MB Partlow

The 2015 PPWC will not offer either of those things, but I like an attention-grabbing headline. What can I say? The spotlight is fickle and you have to grab it while you can.

Registration for the 2015 PPWC, Choose Your Writing Adventure, is all set to open on November 15th, and I can feel the weight of all those fingers, poised over keyboards, ready to connect to the link and start making plans for the most fabulous writers conference in existence.

You did know I’m the Director, right?

What is your reward for signing up for conference as early as possible? (Not counting the thrifty, intelligent and handsome souls who signed up at the 2014 conference and got a substantial discount, of course.)
  • First five people to sign up after registration opens on the 15th will get a free “front of the line” pass for one meal at conference. Yes, you get to bypass the crowd and enter first, to possibly secure a table with the faculty member of your dreams!
  • You will make the hearts of all the planning committee members go pitter-pat as we gratefully watch our attendance numbers grow.
  • The earlier you sign up, the better the chance of getting your first choice for a Query 1-on-1 or Read & Critique session.
Query what? Read and what?

Query 1-on-1 is an eight-minute session with an agent or editor of your choice, for the purpose of reviewing your one-page, standard format query letter. Same great taste as Pitch, but less filling. For those of you who aren’t old enough to get that advertising reference—same opportunity for the agent or editor to say, “Hey, send me more,” but with the additional benefit of professional feedback on your query letter.

Read & Critique is an opportunity to read your first page to an industry professional and get immediate feedback. There are three flavors:

  • R&C X: You read your first page to an agent or editor.
  • R&C 123: Your first page is read anonymously to a panel consisting of an agent, author, and editor.
  • R&C Author: Smaller, closed session where you read your first two pages to a published author. 
Our incredible lineup of keynotes this year includes Mary Kay Andrews, Andrew Gross, Seanan McGuire (Mira Grant) and the one and only R. L. Stine.

Our faculty includes esteemed agents and editors, as well as some new and exciting authors we’re welcoming for the first time. As we work on faculty and workshops, I get more excited every day by the variety of programming we’re able to offer for 2015. This is going to be a dynamic, entertaining, and motivating conference, and I hope you’ll be able to join us!

About the Author: MB Partlow’s first paid writing gig was for the A&E department of The Independent. She wrote a parenting column for Pikes Peak Parent for several years, and freelanced for The Gazette. She’s a longtime volunteer for PPW, working her way up from chair stacker at Write Brains to Moderator Coordinator, Contest Coordinator, Director of Programming, and now Conference Director for 2015. A voracious reader across genres, she primarily writes urban fantasy, although she dabbles in space opera, mystery and magical realism. MB is physically unable to restrain her sense of humor, and her mouth occasionally moves faster than her brain. She blogs at, and can be reached at

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind -- mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the preempting of any free or original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer's task is to invent the reality."

J. G. (James Graham) Ballard (November 15, 1930 - April 19, 2009)

The Empire of the Sun
The Drowned World
The Burning World
The Crystal World
This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Exotic Dancers and Free Beer!      MB Partlow

* Time Stealers                                     Jax Hunter

* Sweet Success! J.T. Evans               Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, November 7, 2014

PPW November News and Events

Compiled by Debi Archibald

You don't need me to tell you that we are coming into the busiest time of the year both on personal and writerly levels. Here is a snapshot of what is happening in the world of Pikes Peak Writers this month:

The Zebulon is closed.

The contest closed on November 2nd and judges will now be reading submissions and choosing winners in all the various categories to be announced at the 2015 PPW Conference.

And Speaking of Conference....

Registration opens this month. Watch the Writing from the Peak blog and the website "Conference" page to stay fully informed on dates, pricing, faculty, etc. Please note that the window for submitting workshop proposals closed on October 31, 2014.


If you are attempting NaNo this year, you should have written 11,669 words by the end of the day today to be on track. There are still quite a few write-ins left to help you meet your word count; or at least to write in an environment where others share your pain.

Saturday, November 8, 9 AM-12 PM, Library 21c, Room B6
Monday, November 10, 6-9 PM, Pikes Perk, 5965 N. Academy Blvd.
Wednesday, November 12, 11 AM-2 PM, Cucuru Gallery Cafe
Monday, November 17, 6-9 PM, Hump Day Celebration & Goal Check-in, Pikes Perk
Wednesday, November 19, 11 AM-2 PM, Cucuru Gallery Cafe
Saturday, November 22, 9 AM-12 PM, Library 21c, Room B6
Wednesday, November 26, 11 AM-2 PM, Cucuru Gallery Cafe
Friday, November 28, 12-4 PM, Black Friday Write-In, Library 21c, Room B6
Sunday, November 30, 9 PM-1 AM, Closing out NaNo, Goal Progress & Celebration! IHOP

Event Addresses:

IHOP (International House of Pancakes), 8065 N. Academy Blvd.
Pikes Perk, 5965 N. Academy Blvd.
Cucuru Gallery Cafe, 2332 W. Colorado Ave.
PPLD Library 21c, Room B6, 1175 Chapel Hills Dr.

PPW Events

Tuesday, November 18, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. is November Write Brain at the Penrose Library (Carnegie Room) at 20 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs.
This month's topic is Marketing Panel: What You Need to Know About Marketing, Book Launches, and Platform Building. This workshop with be primarily Q&A.
The panelists are Sue Mitchell, Deb Courtney, Jessica McDonald, Jennie Marts, and Ashley Bazer.

Monday, November 24, 6:30-8:30 PM is Writer's Night at the Principal's Office in Ivywild School, 1604 South Cascade, Colorado Springs. Join fellow writers on the 4th Monday of each month for writerly discussion, laughter, and socializing. The direction of the discussion is decided by the participants.

As always, more detail is available on the Events tab of the blog or the main Pikes Peak Writers website.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Formula for Backstory

By Deb McLeod

I know some there are published authors and professors out there who when asked how much backstory is OK to use, will answer with an emphatic: NONE. I get where they’re coming from. It’s important not to break the flow of the story by taking us off to a different time and place, not to mention a different character, really. Who the character is now is not who the character was then. And if you haven’t yet “seated” your reader firmly into the present story, you risk losing them by taking them back. If you have hooked them firmly enough into the story, then why take them back? 

In my practice, I have seen stories that have so much backstory it makes you wonder why the writer didn’t just write the story in the past. In that case, I have found it often signals an author who is keeping a safety layer in place between himself and the emotion of the story. Oftentimes then, too, the backstory is narrated and not in scene. The backstory explains rather than creates a fictional world the reader can experience. Head stuff over gut stuff, if you know what I mean.

It’s easier to narrate a painful scene and explain it than it is to put yourself into the scene in order to write it. But as authors, that’s our job. To face the emotions unflinchingly every single time we sit down to write. That’s why readers read. They want to be in the story. We owe it to them to give them that.

It’s a matter of why
I firmly believe that there are at least two drafts of a manuscript that need to be completed before the writer seeks out opinions on the work – except for mine, of course! There are many reasons I believe that but I won’t get into groupthink books, or protecting your voice or bashing anyone’s writing group. For the purposes of this blog, I want to point out that the first draft of the work is for the writer. We’re writing along and figuring out the story and putting everything into the draft to see what the story might want to be. That is a great way to write a first draft. The author needs to know the why of all of it.

But does the reader? You don’t have to answer all their questions. And you especially don’t have to answer them before they’ve begun to ask. If you’ve succeeded in getting the reader to suspend disbelief long enough to get to the place where you might feed in some backstory, maybe you don’t need the backstory at all. Remember, you’ve got them hooked. Don’t break the spell.

Let me explain. When readers are hooked in the first scene, they’ll keep reading. If you break it to say: Hey, I know what he just did was really strange, and you’re probably wondering why a guy would do that, let me explain. One day when he was five…. See how it breaks the flow?

Do you remember the structure of the “workshop short story?” Open in action, backstory for explanation, conclusion. Ad nauseam.

When you need backstory

Sometimes you may need backstory. In my revision class, one of my clients is writing a story of a woman’s journey to find herself and break away from an abusive husband. By the time the story starts, the husband is thoroughly despicable. In the timeline of their marriage he has slowly descended into madness. When the story starts she has just fled for her sanity and for her life.

If my client doesn’t put any backstory in to reveal what life was like before and to document at least part of his descent, the reader may wonder what on earth the main character saw in this guy in the first place. Why would she marry a guy like that? His being a fully fleshed out villain reflects on her. This situation might make the reader question whether they really want to follow such a clueless heroine. Or even worse, it might make the reader wonder if she has some sort of victim wish. And who wants to read about that?

So it’s necessary for my client to include some backstory. Once they were in love. Once he was the golden boy she fell for. His possessiveness and his actions with their children and his job and his family weren’t there when she first met him. So now that she knows she has to give us some of the why of it or the how of it, how should she do that?

Narration is the way of the first draft. Oftentimes a writer might be tempted to narrate the whole timeline of events and explain the why of it. But narration keeps both the writer and the reader in observer role and outside the soup of it. When you choose to narrate a scene, especially a backstory scene, remember that if the writer is one layer removed, how far out from experiencing the story is the reader?

Motivation and timing

A better way might be to have something motivate her to remember in the current story. Something triggers the memory and then both she, and the reader, are in a flashback to the past. A mini-scene might be called for. Just like a memory, a mini-scene is not the whole of it. When you remember a person or an event, you remember a glimpse of something from the past.

When I think of my best friend from childhood, the first thing I think of is the night we were out way past bedtime. (Did we sneak out? I have no recollection, Senator.) What I remember is walking down to the end of our street, which ended in the woods. There was a full moon. It was a cool summer night. As we crossed from the quiet street onto a path into the woods, I said, “It’s a perfect night for a murder.” And we proceeded to tell each other stories that scared the pants off us. I even remember in my senior yearbook she wrote that she would always remember ‘the perfect night for a murder.’

It’s a flash of a memory, not all the sleepovers, not all the games and phone calls or how we grew apart in the end. If I were including that night with my best friend in a story, I’d take the reader back to that night in a mini-scene at least. I’d work on creating the titillating fear of being out when we shouldn’t have been. I’d tell one of the stories we told and bring the reader along to stifle a scream when we heard a rustle in the bushes. But that’s all. Then I would move back into the current story that presumably had some reason for me to flash back.

So, in order to keep the reader in the emotion of the story, my client might choose a mini-scene that illustrates the golden boy years. In this case it might be the first time she met him. But it’s in scene, in real time and not in narration.

So now she has a great, gaping gap between the mini-scene of backstory to the golden boy and the character he is now. Again, she can choose to narrate some of the time that he spiraled downward. But maybe a more effective strategy would be to write more mini-scenes and disperse them throughout the story. A handful. Less than a handful. Timed when there’s a reason for her to remember.

What would you add to this about backstory? Have you successfully created a strategy for backstory in your work? I’d love to hear about it!

About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fourteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. For more, see