Sunday, May 31, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“There are chapters in every life which are seldom read, and certainly not aloud.”
Carol Shields (June 2, 1935 - July 16, 2003)
The Stone Diaries (Pulitzer Prize Winner)

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* June Letter from the Editor with some news about the blog

* Deb McLeod's First Wednesday post

* Pikes Peak Writers June News and Events 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

5 Tips for Social Media Privacy

By Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Last month we talked about the purpose of posting on social media. This month, I’m addressing social media privacy.

I hear it a lot. "I don’t want to post online, I’m worried about privacy." "I don’t trust that stuff.” “People don’t need to know what I had for dinner."

You’re right, people don’t need to know what you had for dinner. But people will only know what you put out there. Let me repeat. People will only know what you put out there. But it is imperative that you understand how what you put online can put you in danger of cyber piracy or identity theft.

1- Security question answers.
· You know all those questions you have to answer for the really secure sites: Mother’s maiden name and street you grew up on. Don’t post anything that could disclose the answers to those questions.

· First dog’s name. First car. First anything.

· Maiden names, middle names, any names.

· Social security number, home address, phone numbers, full birthdays.

· Any of this information can be aggregated from what you post, and the good cyber criminals know how to find it. If it’s not your bank site, don’t post it.

2- Always assume that anything you put online will be there forever.
· Texts, posts, videos, photos. All of it will be there forever.

· Even if you delete your account.

· Being aware of this will help you decide whether or not you actually need to post that video tour of your home.

3- Location, location, location.
· Never disclose a vacation before you go.

· Never post pictures while you’re on vacation.

· There have been cases where homes are broken into because someone posted online that they were out of town.

4- Friends.
· Do you know all your friends? Don’t friend anyone you don’t know, and set your privacy settings to friends only.

· If you’re using your social media for your author profile, friending is part of it. Just make sure you post only benign posts that don’t give away too much personal information. Better to post hobby pics and memes.

5- Search yourself.
· Type in your name into Google with /ncr at the end of your name. (i.e. jenniferlovett/ncr)

· NCR erases the geo-locator Google has so you can see what is out on the Internet without the system using your historical search data to skew the results.

I love social media. I think it’s fun and entertaining, and I really like connecting with friends who don’t live where I live. It’s a great tool for building an author’s platform. I’m here to tell you to embrace it, use it, make it work for you. It’s a crucial tool for a writer. But when you use social media, just be aware of the possibility of cyber crime. Privacy, security and branding can coexist. You can build a brand online and post interesting, thoughtful and funny posts without giving away the farm. Be cognizant of what you are posting and think about whether it could ever be used against you. If you get the little, funny feeling in your belly, then don’t post it. If you don’t get that feeling, then go for it. Enjoy your online experience; just enjoy it responsibly.

If you ever have any questions, please feel free to ping me on any of my social media outlets. Happy & safe posting!

About the Author: Jennifer Lovett Herbranson has marketed books, shows, concerts and more for more than 15 years. She is a huge fan of Twitter, and passionate about helping authors understand marketing. Find more about Jenny at

Monday, May 25, 2015

PPWC15 - The Prequel

By Anastasia Storer 

I recently had the privilege of attending the Thursday Prequel at this year's PPWC under a scholarship. I cannot thank the organization enough, as otherwise I'd not have been able to attend. It's been a long time since I've been able to go to a convention. As I handle the final preparations before I leave the country for two years to volunteer with the Peace Corps in the small country of Moldova, I find myself looking back over the notes I took and once again being so thrilled I was given the opportunity to be a part of the conference.

I've been struggling over the last few months with my writing as other things took precedence. This led to my finding it impossible to keep my word count where I thought it "should" be. Getting the chance to spend a day surrounded by readers and writers, all with the same sorts of struggles, all with the same passion for the written word, really helped me get myself back on track and helped me to realize I needed to set more realistic goals for myself during what is a very hectic time of life for me.

It also cemented in my mind the desire to attempt to form a writing circle during my time in Moldova, to encourage Moldovan writers the same way the people at the conference encouraged me.

The sessions I attended on editing and on query letters might as well have been tailor-made for me in terms of where I am in my process of working on a writing career. Another few months, and I'll be able to take the amazing insights and advice Bree Ervin offered in her Read Like An Editor workshop (goodness, I've not taken so many notes so fast since my college days!) and put them to use. And if I'm lucky, before the year is out, I'll be ready to take what I learned in Andrea Somberg's Queries With Claws to start trying to find a home for my book.

Thank you again to the Pikes Peak Writers organization for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2015 prequel!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"You know how some people write every day at a certain point? I'm not like that. I carry something around for a long time. I weigh the words and the sentences. I weigh the paragraphs. The process is much more meditative for me."
Jamaica Kincaid (May 25, 1949 - )
See Now Then
Mr. Potter
The Autobiography of my Mother 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* PPWC15 attendee and scholarship recipient Anastasia Storer talks about her Prequel experience.

* Jennifer Lovett Herbranson gives us 5 Tips for Social Media Privacy.

* Kathie Scrimgeour has a Sweet Success story. (Rescheduled from May 22.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Get On With It

(Editor's Note: The Sweet Success post originally scheduled for today will appear next Friday, May 29.)

By Karen Albright Lin

We writers often linger too long in the beginning of our books, bogged down in what turns out to be a warm up. We are fascinated by what we are learning about our characters and the world they live in. We swim through tons of history – it’s all relevant, right? After all, we need to understand our characters’ backgrounds.

Yes. We do need to have an understanding of what has happened to the characters before page one. But the reader only needs to have a general sense of what came before the main action, what made the character the man he is. For example, we don’t need to know that Geoffrey Erskine III studied at an Ivy League school with the help of his daddy’s donation to the business school. We can instead suggest it through Erskine’s attitude, his name, his vocabulary, his dress, how he physically carries himself.

Long introductions may bore your readers, make them scan to find the spot where you get on with it. Cut your intro to a point where your characters do something interesting. Consider minimizing exploration of the normal world by starting at a point of change or even soon after the inciting incident. We can start with a man wandering the streets confused at having been booted from his house by his wife of thirty years.

Character traits can initially be implied rather than presented on-the-nose. Certainly our understanding of the characters’ backgrounds make it possible for readers to have a sense they are real rather than simply dropped into a conflict-filled world for the sake of plot. But it’s best not to offer readers more than necessary. Because we have a tendency to do this, our beginnings often end up being substantially cut in the second and third drafts. To avoid overwriting introductions we can put our ACT I paragraphs through three tests.

1 – Do we need this information to get the story’s plot started?

2 – Is the specific information needed right off the bat to understand your characters?

3 – If the backstory will be necessary to your story, can we get the information later when it is vital and triggered by the action?

We often live with our characters and in their worlds before we even put our fingers on the keyboard. As a result, we have a tendency to do a first-draft-splat. Backstory that isn’t absolutely essential to get the adventure started is best removed or saved for later. Find the real beginning of your story.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thank You, PPW!

By Renee Christine Martine 

Thank you, Pikes Peak Writers, for the very informative annual writers conference this April 2015. As a scholarship attendee, volunteer, first-timer and new author, I would say to those interested in gaining critical information, advisories, and the opportunity to co-exist with other fellow writers that PPW is the place you should be; not only for their annual conference, but their support allegiance as well. 

As a new writer, I have to admit I listened and laughed at this conference. I laughed, because I learned that my protagonist has to really go through the ringer to gain an audience and mine had not even scratched the surface. One of the best lectures I attended at this conference was "Reading like an Editor—Edit Your Novel Like a Pro" by Bree Ervin. This session gave me an inside scoop on what editors want to see to help an author avoid the bucket drop, and gain an audience. After the conference, I came to the conclusion that the build up momentum surrounding my main character had some very important pieces missing from the story—she was not hanging on the edge by her fingernails, like we want our readers to do. This session was SO informative. Bree was very easy to understand, authoritative, fun, and she delivered!

As a new resident to Colorado Springs, I haven’t had much opportunity to met many people I can call friends. The Pikes Peak Writers group is very inviting, helpful, assertive, and I really enjoyed meeting new people at the conference who were there to do the same things I was —learn, grow, write, succeed. I gained a new friend while there, and this is so important; a new friend with something in common—bonus!

In addition to the three-day conference, PPW provides a Prequel day which I attended. While the Prequel didn’t have the claws the following three days did, it still packed a punch in my dilemma writers card, and I left a very satisfied and eager pupil. Armed with a super fun swag bag, notebook, classes to attend, lunch, note treasures to take home, oh and Starbucks in the lobby, I could not have asked for a better day. Next year I will certainly take PPW up on their very affordable payment plan so that I can experience the full enchilada!

Thank you so very much, PPW, for your gracious scholarship gift, and for being there for all the writers who have benefited from the expertise you brought to the table. I very much look forward to not only 2016’s conference, but the monthly “Write Brain” and “Open Critique" events you provide. These free classes are the cherry on top of your dedication in aiding writers to be their best, and succeed!

In much appreciation,

Renee Christine Martine

Monday, May 18, 2015

The QABN Formula for Plotting Fiction

By Linda Rohrbough

I tried Kindle Unlimited and found there was only one book on there I wanted to read. While I didn’t keep my trial subscription, I did buy the book: Storyteller Tools: Outline from Vision to Finished Novel without Losing the Magic by M. Harold Page. What piqued my interest in this one was the author’s claim that he’s been writing three fiction books a year, doing pretty well at it, and this book is how he does it. He plots using the QABN formula.

Like many Kindle books which probably didn’t benefit from an editor, it’s full of rants and can be hard to follow. There’s a certain amount of poor language choices (okay, cursing that’s not even clever, just cursing) and sexual innuendo. If you take that stuff out, it’ll be even shorter, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

There are two benefits I took away. One was the QABN formula, which I’ll share with you here. The other was Page’s plotting notes. M. Harold shares his plotting notes with us pretty much verbatim and they’re as hard to follow as I expected. I found this rather encouraging, because mine are, too. (That’s because they’re just for me, and M. Harold says the same thing.)

Ah, but the QABN - now that is a gem. QABN stands for this formula: Question, Answer, But . . ,Now. A bit of a new twist on an old plotting technique, which is to thwart the hero by throwing obstacles up to the story goal. Question is the story question – that’s obvious enough. Answer is the end result or the goal. But is the obstacle to the end result. Now is the new resulting situation.

Dwight Swain, who passed on some time ago, explained the QAB portion like this in Secrets of the Selling Writer: What does the hero want and what’s in the way of him/her getting it? I still have an audio recording of his workshop that has stuck with me.

The less obvious part is that Page uses this formula for every scene. He starts by doing a QABN that is an overview for the entire book - the elevator pitch, if you will, and then drills down on the events in the plot using the QABN until he has a QABN for each scene.

And Page likes twists. I’ll make one up here for the sake of example: Will the prince ask the princess to marry him? Yes, but the princess chooses to remain single, because she wants to save the family fortune for her nephew to carry on her father’s name rather than let the prince control it. Page has lots of other examples in the book. But I’ll spare you because you get the idea. The But opens a whole new Now for the character, and the reader. And that spells conflict, which is what makes the story world go ‘round.

Of course, you’ve got to make these twists, these choices that go against the grain, plausible. But they make for much more interesting reading.

This isn’t hard and I think you probably have the gist of it by now. If not, may I suggest you can get Page’s Kindle book for under $10 and study it to your heart’s content? Tell him in your Amazon review that I sent you. <wink> (He doesn’t have any idea who I am, but that ought to send him scurrying over here to the PPW blog find out.)

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, May 17, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"Louis Pasteur said, 'Chance favors the prepared mind.' If you're really engaged in the writing, you'll work yourself out of whatever jam you find yourself in."
Michael Chabon (May 24, 1963 - )
The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier and Clay (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Telegraph Avenue

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Linda Rohrbough will share the QABN System for Plotting.

* Scholarship Recipient Renee Christine Martine will discuss her PPWC15 experience.

* Kathie Scrimgeour has a new Sweet Success

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sweet Success! Shannon Lawrence

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Shannon Lawrence’s horror short story, “Know Thy Neighbor” was published April 4, 2015 in the e-magazine, Under the Bed Magazine (adult (mature, disturbing content, ISBN: B00VNFR4S2, 72 pages) by Fiction Magazines. It is available at:

Barnes and Noble


A simple jog ends in a night of terror for suburban mom, Rebecca. Her tormenter is the last person she'd expect, or so she thinks. Another surprise awaits her, this one more horrifying than the first. Do you know thy neighbor?

About the Author: A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her flash fiction can be found in several anthologies, most recently Of Mist and Magic, and her horror short story "Sound Advice" will be in an upcoming issue of Bloodbond Magazine. When she's not writing, she's hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings. You can find her at

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, May 13, 2015

Ten Tips to Writing Dialogue

By Jax Hunter

Hi, Campers.
This month, we’ll take a look at some ways to make your dialogue fantabulous. The first few of these are taken directly from a book that I just devoured. I highly recommend it. A director friend of mine turned me on to it. The title is Backwards & Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays by David Ball. It’s short, but brilliant.

Okay, on to dialogue.

1. Characters only speak because they want something. Figure out what they want at that moment and put the appropriate words in their mouths. We think a lot of things. What actually makes it out of our mouths is important. I have an acquaintance who will say pretty harsh things - even nasty at times. Then, she’ll giggle and say, “Just joking.”

2. Dialogue is about what the character wants, not about what the author wants. Be very careful that your dialogue isn’t about the things that you need to convey to the reader. If you aren’t careful, you’ll end up with characters who speak “out of character” and incessant chatter. More about this in number 4.

3. I speak to further my goals - to get around an obstacle. I tailor my words according to the obstacle. If the obstacle is my spouse, then I will craft my words one way. My spouse knows me and I can’t get away with as much with him. On the other hand, I know him as well, and know what pushes his buttons. If the obstacle is a complete stranger, I will be “winging it” so to speak, using the words and tone of voice that I hope will get me what I want. Maybe I need my supervisor to give me what I want. I will have to be a bit more sly, crafting my words to make it something she wants as well.

4. Rarely use your dialogue as exposition. Example:

“You know, Marie, I’ve been terribly upset since losing my job as a computer programmer, especially since I had that job for eighteen years and I was relying on my pension to take care of my mother who has cancer and has been living with me for three years.”

Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. But you get my drift. If you need to convey information to your character, a messenger can be used.

“My Lord, Wallace has sacked York.” (Braveheart)

Even better if you can have as a messenger a character who, with his speech, is trying to
get what he wants as well.

5. Use character tags sparingly. If you can identify the speaker without a tag, do so. For example, in this exchange, we have two women, Claire and Julie, and three men, Nic D’Onofrio, Will, and Cruz. Claire begins.

“So, tell me about this Angel of yours?” she reminded them.

Cruz sat forward. “Sure, he’s great. Trustworthy, honest, honorable. . .”

“He’s a champion,” Julie interrupted quietly, “a true champion.”

All eyes went to Julie. D’Onofrio squeezed her hand, Cruz smiled, Will nodded.

“He’s a knight in shining armor,” she continued. “He’s loyal and. . .” Now she stopped and gazed at D’Onofrio, her voice husky with emotion. She looked back to Claire and smiled finally. “You can trust him.”

The room was pin-drop silent when she finished. Apparently there was little that needed to be said.

Claire let it hang there a moment, then turned to Pitkin.

“So, Will, had you heard about Gabriel finding his friend dead?”

“Yes. Well, no. Well, yes, I talked to Yoda this morning.”


“Lieutenant Quillen,” Cruz filled in, giving Will a look that Claire took as warning.

“Oh.” And, again to Will, “But you haven’t talked to Gabriel?”

“No, ma’am.”

If you must use tags, use 'said' as much as possible and be sparing with your adverbs.

Make their words do the declaring and, if you need sad, craft sad words.

6. Be very careful with dialect. A little goes a long way. The best way to create a character who speaks with an accent is to use an occasional word here and there to show it. Your reader will automatically add the accent from there on. The hero of my first book was French Canadian (think Patrick Roy). The main thing I did to convey his accent was to have him never use a contraction. On occasion I had him mix up his word order. And, he had one word he used several times that I spelled the way he said it. Here it is:

“You were outstanding back d’ere, Jamie!” A.J. said. “You were so focused. It was amazing.”

Another thing you can do to portray dialect is to find idioms from the region. When I write my big Scottish historical/paranormal/romance, I will spend time listening to Scots speak. I’ll use phrases such as “He fancies you,” and “riding a two wheeler without stabilizers on.” I have a file folder into which I stick Scottishisms when I hear them. They won’t all make it into the dialogue, but a few here and there will give my readers a taste of the language.

7. Subtext, subtext, subtext. What lies beneath our words? Flirtation? Threat? Deception? Make your dialogue do double (or triple) duty by using subtext. Dialogue is what your characters say. Subtext is what they mean. If you’ve ever answered “fine” to the question “How are you?” when you have a raging fever, you know about subtext. If you’ve ever had a perfectly innocent conversation with a member of the opposite sex that in no way was perfectly innocent, you know about subtext. Your characters know about it, too.

8. Keep it real. Real speech is messy and full of starts and stops. Real people leave sentences hanging as their listener reacts. Words get stuck because of emotion (anger, fear, sadness.) Real speech is full of mistakes, sometimes repeated habitually. Real speech is compressed. Use those things. Pay attention to how screenwriters do it. Take notes.

9. Remember that speech is action. And as such, it elicits reaction. It’s a give and take, with reactions, interruptions, and new thoughts coming as fast as words do. Also, to keep your story flowing forward, and to keep your characters from becoming talking heads, break your dialogue up with action.

Cruz jumped to his feet and dashed past, snagging Will’s uniform and dragging him to the lieutenant’s office.

“Tell him,” Cruz ordered.


“Tell Yoda what you just said to me.”

Okay, Cruz was seriously losing it. Perhaps it was coup-contra-coup from Red’s slap.

“I just said. . .”

But Cruz didn’t let him finish.

“I was just so pissed, Sir, that I didn’t even consider that he might not have had a choice. Jesus Christ, Sir. Permission to go find him, Sir.”

Then spinning around, Cruz flew from the room, leaving Will and Yoda staring at his wake.

The lieutenant snapped his fingers quickly, his usual signal for “Keep up, boys.”

“Already had him working on that, Sir?”

DQ shook his head dumbly. “You got it.”

10. Make sure your characters speak with a distinctive voice. Your Army enlisted man, who grew up in Mississippi and joined the military to keep from going to jail, will speak differently, use different words, even different grammar than the Colonel who grew up in Maine and graduated from West Point.

Go forth and study dialogue from your favorite authors. Mark up your books. Highlight great dialogue. Learn from those who are making it work.

Until next month, BiC-HoK, butts in chairs, hands on keyboards. Write, write, write. Practice, practice, practice.

Jax and

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, May 11, 2015

The Scientific Classifications of a Critiquer: Third and Final Part

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Thanks you, Pikes Peak Writers, for letting me dominate my little corner of the PPW blog to go into exquisite detail about the nine classifications of critiquer, who is the idiot reading your work and offering a bunch of bad advice. Okay, that came out bitter.

Yes, I classified the various types of critiquers, who are the helpful eyes striving to make your book better. While I’m being critiqued, I have to keep a few things in mind:

· My perception might be skewed when someone is skewering my work. I might think someone is a Harry Hater, when in truth, they are just being honest and I’m taking it the wrong way.

· Even in the vilest critique full of hate and abusive language, look for the gems. Getting a critique is like someone coming to you and telling you they spread diamonds in a field of horse manure. You have to go through the crap to get to the jewels.

· If I get a critique and it’s mostly about word choice and sentence structure, I should walk away walking tall. Generally, people attack the writing when the big stuff works. And I used to get so devastated when people corrected my comma use. True story. Now I listen for those blissful words, “I only have little stuff.” Thank goodness. I’ll take a Grammar Nazi over a Harry Hater any day of the week.

· Listen for the issues everyone agrees on. If everyone thinks your sentences are bloated, thin it out, brother. If everyone gets bored with a chapter, cut it, my sister. I generally go with the common opinion. If opinions are split, I go with my gut.

· Beware of too many people in a critique group. If I get more than five or six critiques, I go cross-eyed trying to figure them all out. Actually, depending on the species of critiquers, three or four is plenty for me.

· In the end, I edit using the committee in my head, and I have to trust that committee. Don’t let anyone destroy the deep voice of genius inside you. A lot of times, I try to make a change suggested by the Genius Wunderkind in my group, and I end up changing it back. Because the committee rejected the change. Don’t blame me, blame the voices in my head.

Now, I know you’re all dying to know what kind of critiquer I am. The truth?

Well, I can tell you the ones I’m definitely not. I’m not a Harry Hater and I’m not a Genius Wunderkind. Not at all.

I might be a bit of a Fashionista, but I only know enough to be dangerous. So ignore me when I start talking bad about prologues.

In my heart of hearts, I’m a Plain Jane Reader. I love books and stories, and a lot of times, I don’t have much to say. But then again, I’m also an Idea Genie, and I’m not just any kind of Idea Genie. I’m the very worst kind. I offer suggestions on major plot points, major character attributes, and the big stuff. I can overlook all the little Nazi grammar stuff, and then say, “You know, you really need an explosion in chapter eight because more stuff has to happen.”

But I don’t stop there. I then write volumes!

“Or maybe not an explosion. Maybe aliens. Yeah, aliens, with shark guns attack in chapter eight, and Cynthia has this fear of sharks, so you’ll have to work that in, but then she’ll have to overcome her fear of sharks in Act III to save the day, but then a shark eats her and kills her and it’s all so tragic.”

And the poor guy I’m critiquing sits there, blinking. Shark guns? What?

I can get a little excitable. Sometimes I’m on the nose with my suggestions, and other times I am way out in left field.

In the end, after all the critiquers have gone back to their lairs to sharpen their claws (still bitter), I have to listen to the suggestions that strike home, that I can’t ignore, that plague me. If I can ignore a critique or a critiquer, I will. But if I can’t, that’s the good stuff.

Best of all are the critiques that make me excited to edit. Thank God, for the most part, I’m in a critique groups that lights the fire of my imagination and sends me home to spin my awkward words into gold.

Getting feedback is hard, but I believe it’s necessary, whether it comes from a critique group, a writing partner, beta readers, or your editor.

Listen for the magic, and then go back in there and cast your spell!

After all, we’re all sorcerers, and sorcerers need training, so we can turn our frogs into princes.


   About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King, both finalists in various contests. His latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, will hit the streets May 7, 2015. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. His upcoming young adult sci-fi/western epic series will also be published through WordFire Press. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"For me, being a writer was never a choice. I was born one. All through my childhood I wrote short stories and stuffed them in drawers. I wrote on everything. I didn't do my homework so I could write."

laurahillenbrandbooks.comLaura Hillenbrand (May 15, 1967 - )
This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Aaron Michael Ritchey finishes up the third part of his series on all the possible types of critiquers..   and where he falls on the spectrum.

* Jax Hunter offers up ten tips for writing effective dialogue.

* Kathie Scrimgeour shares a second Sweet Success for Shannon Lawrence.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sweet Success: Shannon Lawrence

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Shannon Lawrence’s flash fiction (published as Shannon Kenoyer-Lawrence), "Awakening", was released on February 15, 2015 in the young adult anthology, Of Mist and Magic: Really Slow Motion (ISBN: (ASIN): B00TA6BND8, e-book, 337 pages) by Samantha Redstreake Geary, publisher. This fantasy-reimagined fairy tale collection is available from


Enter the world Of Mist And Magic, where fairy tales are reimagined under the influence of Really Slow Motion‘s inspiring music in this enchanting anthology of short stories. Proceeds of the Amazon exclusive ebook will be donated to Elevate Life and Art studios, an amazing youth organization in Asheville, NC. Cover image and illustrations by Daniel Pennystone

About the Author: A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her flash fiction can be found in several anthologies, most recently Of Mist and Magic, and her horror short story "Sound Advice" will be in an upcoming issue of Bloodbond Magazine. When she's not writing, she's hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings. You can find her at

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, May 6, 2015

Emotional Dance: Writer as Director, Part 1

By Deb McLeod
Deb McLeod Writing Coach Tips and Trick

Do you remember getting lost in stories? I remember reading in middle school with that feeling of being completely transported by a book. Nowadays when I read, writer-me is busy analyzing the writing so it’s harder to get lost in the story. But every now and then a book transports me like the old days. There is nothing that compares to that feeling, is there? Except when you’re transported by writing it.

The best fiction pulls the reader into the novel’s world and creates an emotional experience. For us writers, that’s the beginning goal. That’s the end goal. That’s the be-all and end-all goal. It’s the writer’s job to both direct the story and step out of the way so the reader can have an experience.

In this series I want to explore ways in which the writer directs and thwarts the emotional journey of the novel. When you see symptoms like the following, you can bet the writer has yet to get out of the way and let the reader experience the novel.

  • Continual narration of the character’s feelings 
  • Scenes that have no conflict 
  • Scenes that have no forward movement 
Part One of this series will cover the habit of narrating emotion and how that distances the reader from feeling the story.

Narrating Feelings

In my coaching work I run into lots and lots of writers who narrate feelings the whole book through. Some of that is first draft-itus and they just need to rework the words so they’re doing the job of conveying the feeling rather than telling the feeling throughout.

It’s a matter of narrative distance. When you tell the reader how the character feels, it creates distance between the story and the reader. By putting your interpretation there, you are subtly pulling the reader out of their own feeling.

At its heart this issue is connected to Show Don’t Tell. Even when a writer has mastered the show part of the equation and is using actions and sensory detail to help the reader feel the story, they often fall into the habit of telling how the reader is feeling through:
  • Dialogue tags
  • Inner narration (vs. inner dialogue)
  • Projection 
Dialogue Tags

The tag is the 'said' part of a dialogue sentence. 'Said' and 'asked' have been used so much in dialogue that they virtually disappear and the reader skims right over them. The problem comes when the writer doesn’t write the dialogue or dialogue + action to convey the feeling of the words just spoken, but rather takes the shortcut of telling the reader how the dialogue should be interpreted.
  • “Leave me alone,” she fired.
  • “Leave me alone,” she pleaded.
  • “Leave me alone,” she whispered.
With my clients, as an exercise, I allow only the tags ‘said’ or ‘asked’ to be used. In the entire novel!

It forces them to challenge their writing and write better dialogue and better dialogue + action. If you have to tell the reader how to interpret the words just spoken, your words and the actions of the characters didn’t do their job. If your character says something vehemently, it should be evident from the words themselves or their words combined with actions.
  • “Leave me alone.” She slammed the book closed and shoved his arm off the desk.
  • “Leave me alone.” She swallowed hard and her eyes cut left to measure the distance to the door. 
  • “Leave me alone,” she said, but her fingers reached for his. 
The nanosecond of interpretation the reader makes as she takes in the words is what creates a feeling in the reader. When you read the sentence: “Leave me alone,” she fired, can you feel it? But when you add the action of her slamming the book, doesn’t that leave room for the reader to feel what’s going on?

Inner Narration and Projecting

Inner narration is not the same as inner dialogue. Sometimes a character mulls over his state of being or tries to decide what to do. That’s inner dialogue. Inner narration is when a character narrates his state of being with unnatural self-awareness.

The next example contains both inner narration and projection of feelings. This sentence came in a chapter from a client this week. It’s near the climax of the book, so it’s in an intense scene and an intense moment. One girl has just confessed a deep, dark secret she’s kept from her best friend for more than four years.
“After a few minutes of watching her quiet tears, I surprise myself when I lean over and wrap my arms around her.”
First, there may be other issues in this sentence but we’re going to focus on projecting and narrating. Note the projection of surprise in that sentence. The author projects the surprise before the action has a chance to surprise us. It’s a spoiler.

The inner narration of “I surprise myself when I lean over and wrap my arms around her” is akin to the character watching the character. Have you ever met someone who talked about themselves in third person? Isn’t that kind of what’s going on in that example sentence?

What the writer should be aiming for is to take us by surprise, to let us feel that surprise when the best friend is weeping. To let the character lean over to hug her in a surprise movement. Given the conflict in the story, at that moment, it would be a surprise. The reader would feel it and it would reverberate over all the other things we know about the main character and understand something about her we didn’t before. But the writer has taken a shortcut, so we don’t feel the surprise, we don’t get the depth of that moment or the opportunity to let the story unfold inside of us. Instead, we see the character seeing herself be surprised that she leans over and gives her friend a hug. That’s not at all the same thing.

In My Genre

When I point out these small but vital changes that need to be made, many writers defend the continual narration of feelings in exposition and dialogue by saying that in their genre, that’s how the books are written. So I say: Want to rocket to the top of the bestseller lists in your genre? Imagine if you were the one writer who didn’t write that way, but made your readers feel what your characters feel instead of telling them what your characters feel. Wouldn’t that make a difference?

If you narrate the feelings of the characters, you can’t let your readers get lost in the story. There’s a point of view interruption. An author intrusion alert that shows a distrust that your words will make some sort of feeling connection to the reader’s emotion. And if that distrust is there, it’s a sign that you need to rewrite.

The anecdote is to keep your interpretation off the page and write your sentences well enough that they project the feelings of the character. Then, step out of the way and trust that the words will make the reader feel something akin to what you want them to feel. You must learn to trust the story and to trust the reader.

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

May Letter from the Editor

By Debi Archibald 

I am writing this on Sunday, one week post-conference, still processing the workshops, the random meetings, the keynotes, the volunteer experiences. Working to find the process that will take three intense days worth of information and infuse it into my writing life for the next 51 weeks. My "to-read" shelf is stacked with several books that are way outside my genre comfort zone. I finally entrusted the first several chapters of a rough draft to a beta reader. And I learned more from sitting in on several R&C sessions than I ever have in a formal writing class.

Over the next several weeks you will see some guest posts from the writers who received scholarships to attend PPWC15. They'll provide a wide range of fresh insight and perspective into the conference experience, as well as their own personal take-aways.

What did you take away from Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2015? And where will it take you this year?

Debi Archibald is a Colorado Springs native but spent most of her life wandering both the Arizona desert and healthcare administration. She is now blissfully reestablished at the foot of Pikes Peak. Two novels, Form and Function and Crushed, are in various stages of editing. In addition to fiction, she ventures into humor and short memoir. A recovering foreign language geek, she is also passionate about hiking, cooking, reading and being a grandmother, the role she is sure she was born for. She shares her home with the world’s most human Siberian Husky, Sasha. You can find her at

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"For several days after my first book was published, I carried it about in my pocket and took surreptitious peeps at it to make sure the ink had not faded."
J. M. (Sir James Michael) Barrie (May 9,1860 - June 19,1937)
Peter Pan 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* The May Letter from the Editor (Debi Archibald)

* Deb McLeod will talk about the Writer as Director

* Kathie Scrimgeour shares Shannon Lawrence's Sweet Success 

Friday, May 1, 2015

May News and Events from Pikes Peak Writers

Compiled by Debi Archibald 

Don't lose the momentum you gathered at Conference; stay plugged in with the ongoing PPW monthly events. Keep your writing and your writerly relationships engaged with the following options:


Wednesday, May 6, 2015 6:00 to 8:30 PM
Open Critique at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 East Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs, CO. This month's guest critiquer is Robert Spiller. If you want the first 8 pages of your manuscript critiqued,  RSVP to

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 6:30 to 8:30 PM

May Write Brain at the Penrose Library, Carnegie Room, 20 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs (parking on street and in parking lot at meters is free after 6:00 PM). 

Pam McCutcheon will present Writing the Fiction SynopsisAfter you've agonized over several hundred pages to make your prose absolutely perfect, how could you possibly distill that down to a measly ten or twenty pages? Or, worse yet, one or two? By the time you've written the book, everything seems important, and it's difficult to know what to put in and what to leave out. To help with that problem, Pam came up with a method that she details in her book, Writing the Fiction Synopsis, A Step by Step Approach. She’ll share her process to help you put together a selling synopsis and write a back cover blurb.

Monday, May 25, 2015 6:30-8:30 PM

Writer's Night at the Elbo Room at the Ritz, 15 South Tejon, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
 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.


(NOTE: This is not a PPW endorsed contest but is presented for informational purposes only.)

The Colorado Independent Publishers Association announces its 21st annual CIPA EVVY book competition is open for submissions. The CIPA EVVYs are one of the longest-running book awards on the Indie publishing scene, and it’s become an international competition with entrants from as far away as Russia and Dubai.  

CIPA EVVYs are open to books published from 2012 onwards. The deadline for submissions is May 30, 2015. The awards banquet is August 22, 2015.

Visit There are 42 regular categories and 8 technical categories to choose from. Join in one of the best book competition in the Rocky Mountains!


Thursday, May 7th, 7:00 pm
Gates Common Room, Palmer Hall

Visiting assistant professor Bryan Hurt at Colorado College and prose magician whose work has appeared in Tin House, TriQuarterly, and the Kenyon Review, editor of the acclaimed collection, “The Loudest Voice” reading from his fiction and discussing his approach to his craft.