Friday, July 31, 2015

Sweet Success! TR Fischer

By Kathie Scrimgeour

TR Fischer’s romantic suspense novel, Changing Sky (ISBNs: 9780996493604 Changing Sky – paper version (soft cover), 9780996493611 Changing Sky – Ebook, 322 pages, ages 13 and up), was released on July 2, 2015 by Renaissance Press. It is available on the author’s website, where you can also get a sneak peek of the first two chapters.


No longer a teacher, Skylar Biondi drives a truck and delivers packages. She closely guards the painful truth of how her romance with a Colorado Rockies pitcher ended. Skylar comes across nine-year-old Mia and knows she’s in peril.

Former army medic Enrique Avalos is wary of Skylar, who resembles his ex-wife. When he sees her at night, he thinks she’s casing the neighborhood. Can Enrique and Skylar set their differences aside in time to help Mia?
In this warm, sometimes heartbreaking tale, three people from different worlds embark on a journey none of them could have foreseen.

About the Author: TR FISCHER grew up in and around Boulder, Colorado. After moving to California and sampling life in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, she and her husband returned to the Denver area. That didn’t satisfy, so the suburbanites pulled up stakes and began raising buffalo, along with their four rowdy children. Every day is an adventure, on and off the page.

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, July 29, 2015

BOOK KILLS MAN! – The Occupational Hazards of Being a Writer

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

 Every profession has dangers. Like coal mining. If you coal mine, there is a good chance you’ll die in the darkness, buried under the earth, gasping for your last breath. Or there’s black lung later on. That death would also involve gasping, I suppose.

Even office jobs have their risks. Carpal Tunnel has crippled some of my good friends—back trouble, ink lung, you know, that kind of thing.

Being a writer also has its occupational hazards. What are they? Well, the list is long, since publishing is a bloody business, but here are nine of them.

1) Crushed by your “To Be Read” Pile: So, writers have to read in their genre.They have to read what’s selling well in other genres; they have to read books written by their friends; they have to read books they’ve promised to review, blurb or pimp. Finally, there are the books writers WANT to read, which may be completely kooky. The amount of reading can become a tower, leaning over your bed, which, if it fell, it would crush you. My Kindle is so full, I’m pretty sure it might explode at any minute. 

2) The Inability To Finish Books: I get about fifty pages in, I study the hook, I look for the conflict, I note how the author made the characters relatable, and then I pick up the next book I should be reading and get about fifty pages in. Thank God for short stories!

3) The Inability To Read Like a Normal Reader: I study the hook, I look for the conflict, blah, blah, blah. I don’t really read for enjoyment. Just studying craft, yo, all the time.4) No Time For Video Games: Dude, I played BioShock before I was published. I got as far as the big plot twist, and then, well, I published my first book. I haven’t been back since.*Sad face*. However, I did pick up the game Limbo on my phone, and Limbo rules! I’m not a total barbarian.

5) No Time For Movies: A movie is a two-hour chunk of time. and when I’m watching, I study the hook, I look for the conflict, et cetera. I do watch movies, but in fifteen minute snippets. See? Not a barbarian.

6) Sleep Deprivation: Too. Many. Books. Not. Enough.Time.

7) Caffeine Poisoning: Careful, my friends, careful.

 8) Death By Resentment/Jealousy: She got published, and I didn’t. He has an agent, and I don’t. He gets to watch movies and play BioShock but I don’t.

9) Dream Gangrene: So, you begin that first book with visions of wonderment and eternity—I will write a book, it will be adored by millions, and people will bring me fruit and kisses. Rose petals will be spread before my feet wherever I go. Like James Earl Jones in Coming to America. It’s a beautiful vision. And then, slowly, slowly, the dream begins to rot either by inaction or by the reality of the endeavor. I have three books published. The dream is dead. I pursued my vision and it didn’t live up to the wonder and I’m a long way from eternity. But…insert motivational statement here…I will continue.

So yes, there are dangers to being a writer and pursuing your dreams. However, in my next PPWC I’ll make a list of all the blessings and joys of writing books because there is eternity in books, whether they hit it huge or not.

Jane Austen wrote lovely novels while she was alive, and it wasn’t until she passed that they hit it big. The world is better because of every book written.Yes, even that one, the one you hate. And the world is better because of writers, even that guy. I know, I don’t like him either.

 Keep on writing, my friends. Write on.Write on. 

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, was called “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart” by Kirkus Reviews. 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.

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, July 27, 2015

The Adventure Begins

By Kim Dillon

What if…you had no affirmative genre, no manuscript in process, and ­no clue about how to maneuver Read & Critique X in front of Jane Stine, Parachute Press co-chair and legendary editor of the Goosebumps series?

You stay up late writing, and go for it!

The 23rd Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April catapulted me from merely thinking about writing into a phase of creative incubation. The conference provided unprecedented access to PPW faculty and opportunities to build a network of writing community colleagues.

Fearlessly entering Tales of Horror: How to Survive Plotting Nightmares, I was met by a lighthearted declaration from Stine that I must be a glutton for punishment. Translation: she recognized me from the R&C-X! “Plotting is all the same despite the genre,” she said, explaining the perfect way to develop any story idea begins with ‘What if….’

At lunch on Friday, I was a coincidental guest at the table of F.T. Bradley, an author with whom I was unfamiliar, although I had selected to attend her Write the MG and YA Mystery/Thriller session that afternoon. Our paths intersected daily, and Fleur and I engaged in multifarious laughs about Kraft Singles, shift changes in the kitchen between lunch and dinner, tongue-scorching shepherd’s pie, and a failed lemon bar heist. I’m now reading her middle grade Double Vision series – and fully intend to make good on the lemon bars.

All culinary capers aside, I sorted my collection of Flash Fiction Contest writing prompts Friday afternoon at the bar and wrote the rough draft over a serious red wine, obtained in anticipation of Mary Kay Andrews’ uncensored and highly entertaining keynote address. Her description of working for abusive jerks and learning to say ‘No!’ to work place intimidation empowered her as a human being and helped propel her to success as a mainstream fiction author. Identifying personally with her story, Andrews incited me to get mad, reclaim my assertiveness, and ‘stick it to the man!’

The next day, I caught the end of Scenes: Using Every Crayon in the Box and briefly addressed Andrews as she exited Eagles Nest within inches of where I sat. I explained that although I have not read her work, her keynote message made me a fan and inspired me in dealing with my own ongoing situation involving a man and a stick. Our conversation was short but meaningful, and before departing, Andrews drew a copy of Summer Rental out of her shoulder bag, saying, “I always bring extra copies with me because I like to give my books to people who say nice things about my work.” At Sunday’s book signing event I thanked her again and managed to turn that gift into a signed copy.

Wandering into a largely uninhabited banquet room on Sunday, I just can’t forget the warm  hospitality I received when a gentleman named Link Miller invited me to join the group for breakfast. Conversation ensued about all sorts of writing projects. I left the table with a preliminary structure for a story idea that began emerging as soon as the Choose Your Own Writing Adventure began. Connecting with Miller, president of the Parker Writers Group, was a fortuitous event as I attended their May meeting and agreed to help form a thriving critique group.

Gaining tremendous insight from Pam McCutcheon’s Saturday session, Brainstorming Using the Plotting Board, I visited with her at the book signing event. I took advantage of the personal invitation I received to attend her Writing the Fiction Synopsis presentation at PPW’s Write Brain event in May and left with a better understanding of loglines.

In closing, I must mention Trai Cartwright’s high-energy Top 10 Story-Telling Devices Movies can Teach Fiction Writers because when I went home exhausted to kids still young enough to have missed me and told them I wanted to watch Wreck it Ralph with them, I earned the high score! We watched that DVD three times that week, taking notes and pausing for discussion. My ten-year-old son Gage, who loves to write, really connected with the process of analyzing the three-
act structure of one of his favorite movies. I’m excited to have him along for the adventure! 

This post by Kim is part of the ongoing series of blogs by PPWC15 scholarship recipients.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sweet Success! Karen Albright Lin

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Karen Albright Lin’s short story, "The Snow Day," (featured initially in BTS Book Reviews Jan/Feb 2015 issue, pg. 143) has been honored by the 2014 Red Carpet Book Awards and as a result has been invited to be included in an upcoming short story anthology, Shooting Stars. Release date is set for October 1, 2015 by Ravenswood Publishing A list of available book stores will be found here:

A man thinks losing his job is the worst event of the year until                                                    his wife goes missing and he finds out why. 

Karen Albright Lin is a freelance editor for best-selling, traditionally and self-published authors. Her clients have hit #1-9 in their Amazon categories and stayed there for months. She’s a multi-award winning writer, ghostwriter, produced screenwriter, and multi-published author of essays, poetry and short stories. She’s a regular columnist for newsletters and well-visited blogs. She’s a paid columnist for BTS Book and Book Trailer Reviews. She presents workshops at conferences, retreats and on cruise lines.

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, July 22, 2015

Your Critique Group: Is it Contributing to Your Growth as a Writer?

By Donnell Ann Bell

Think back to your very first manuscript. Now fast forward to the manuscripts that you've completed since then. Are you the same writer you were when you reached THE END of book number one?

My guess is probably not. If you are, there might be a problem. If you're still working on number one, ask yourself why. And if you're submitting, getting no response or little feedback on your rejection letters, maybe it's time to take a look at that also.

Above all, if you haven't had any luck and can't understand why you’re not advancing in your career--and you haven't done so already--you might want to join a critique group.

If you're a new writer, my number one advice is to join one with more experienced writers than you are at the present time. While that might sound intimidating, that is the only way (unless you're that rare storytelling natural) that you are going to grow as a writer. You can read every book on the shelf, but until you apply craft and writing technique to your own work, e.g. develop your voice, you won't improve as a writer.

I can't tell you how much I've learned from my first book to my now eighth completed project -- not to mention all the partials stuffed deep in my drawers -- thanks to my critique partners. Comments I received in book number one were -- you've gone into omniscient POV and just blew up your POV character; you have too many POVs; you're in the incorrect POV; you're head-hopping; too many words; weak action verbs; and your research is showing.

And those are just the comments I can remember. If you listen to experienced critique partners, something will happen from one project to the next. Those new writer comments will go away. You're going to find in the next book, they'll move on to more complex writing issues. GMC (goal, motivation and conflict). Why would your hero do that? This action seems out of character? Your protagonist doesn't seem three-dimensional to me. What's his back story? Up your pacing here, this chapter is dragging. Need a transition here.

These comments may seem tough to hear, and often they're downright painful. But they are invaluable to a professional writer. It may feel fantastic to get a critique that says, "Oh, my gosh, I love your writing, I wouldn't change a thing!" Nice ego boost, but that comment isn't going to get you published. Some good advice I received--don't fall in love with your words.

Another helpful tip I've learned when you're in a critique group is to listen -- don't argue. It does you no good to try to explain what you meant. Take it all in, sit back and let a partner's words sink in from one meeting to the next. It's your story, and it's up to you whether or not to change it.

Another thing to consider when you're a member of a critique group is: Are they helping? A critique group isn't a marriage. You've joined to help you improve. It's okay to say this isn't working and move on to one that will help you. If a critique group is destructive or seems intensely negative, run do not walk away from this energy. This will only make you doubt yourself further -- and let's face it, there's no one more full of self- doubt than a writer.

Not sure how to find a critique group? Join your local writers' organization or ask about them on line. If your organization has Open Critique, go and go often. This may be the best way to establish a new group or to get an objective viewpoint.

These are my opinions regarding critique groups. Like anything in this biz, it's subjective. How about you? What do you value in a critique? What's the best -- or worst -- advice you've ever received? Are you still with your original critique group, or have you moved on? Or have you quit altogether and prefer to write alone?

I'd love to hear your stories and what you've taken away from them. I'm a member of an in-town and an on-line critique group and find their comments invaluable. I feel critique groups make me a better writer.

Donnell Ann Bell is the new editor for Writing from the Peak and the coordinator for the monthly Open Critique held on the first Wednesday of every month. You can find her at

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Unexpected Side Benefits of PPWC 2015

By Lin Kobee

Going to Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2015 as a scholarship recipient was an exciting experience for me. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could apply for a scholarship, and certainly (wannabe-best-seller that I am) that someone would give me a scholarship if I asked.

I received my scholarship in February, and my life took a serious turn to the left between February and May. I’m now living in New York as a live-in caregiver for a gentleman with Alzheimer’s. What’s truly amazing to me is how the conference not only inspired my writing, but took my left turn with me.

I met some amazing writers there and I want to mention them all, but two made a deep impression on me, both because of my new job and their kindness and willingness to share aspects of their lives with me.

I was introduced to Angel Smits' work through the Romance Writers Open Panel. I had not read her work before, but I am very excited to find a new author writing contemporary romances set in the West. I also had a chance to speak to her and she is a caring professional who has worked with dementia patients for many years. The advice she offered on my career choice was another invaluable and unexpected gift of the PPWC.

I already knew of Seanan McGuire both through her Newsflesh series and through Carniepunk, an anthology of Carniepunk stories. The first time I saw her, I nearly dropped what I was holding and said, “Oh, my God, you’re one of my favorite authors”. Seanan later included me in a conversation about OCD which changed how I viewed it. I felt that having a different insight into how the mind works will also aid me in my new job, as her writing inspires me to grow in different directions with my own writing. (Although I have no plans to spend much time in swamps or with tape worms.)

I came to the PPWC knowing I would learn about writing, and I did. It was an amazing conference with a variety of teachers of many styles and varieties. The unexpected bonus, for me, was the direct applications to my work life. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to learn on so many levels. Thank you PPWC for the scholarship and the wonderful conference.

This post by Lin is part of the ongoing series of blogs by PPWC15 scholarship recipients. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Since I had started to break down all my writing and get rid of all facility and try to make instead of describe, writing had been wonderful to do. But it was very difficult, and I did not know how I would ever write anything as long as a novel. It often took me a full morning of work to write a paragraph."

Ernest Hemingway (7/21/1899 - 7/2/1961)
The Sun Also Rises
For Whom the Bell Tolls
A Farewell to Arms
The Old Man and the Sea
Winner: Nobel Prize for Literature

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* On Monday PPWC15 Scholarship recipient Lin Kobe shares some unexpected side benefits of conference.

* On Wednesday, Donnell Bell asks if your critique group is really working for you.

* Kathie Scrimgeour shares a Friday Sweet Success story with Karen Albright Lin.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sweet Success! Ataska Brothers

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Ataska Brothers’ fantasy novel, The Soul of a Stillborn (95,000 words, new adult, myth/folklore), will be released by Fantasy Works Publisher in Fall 2015. The manuscript is also a finalist in the paranormal category for the Linda Howard Award of Excellence of Southern Magic Romance Writers.

Russian paranormal investigator Valya Svetlova takes a group of American college students to the rustic village of Vishenky for a few nights of supernatural manifestations. But her visitors foster some dangerous agendas. When the occurrences whirl out of control, Valya realizes she has overestimated her competence in handling her human companions and controlling the energy seeping from the portals. Struggling to keep her guests safe, Valya faces an excruciating dilemma. If she allows them to leave the village, Valya will lose her only chance to prove she’s not a soulless monster destined to perish in another dimension.

About the Author: An engineer-physicist-chemist, Ataska Brothers marched into adulthood and realized that metallurgy enticed her as much as a burnt cookie. One moonless summer night she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if?  A writer’s unrelenting muse took hold of her. Ataska’s passions define her being. She grows orchids and writes paranormal fantasy.

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.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Day of Many Firsts

By Kathy Hobbs

After submitting my registration for the Pikes Peak 2015 Writers' Conference, I anxiously awaited confirmation of my Read and Critique session. Weeks had passed when I finally received the anticipated email, confirming my appointment for my Read and Critique with Author Laura DiSilverio.

Now it was time to get the first two pages of my in-progress novel ready for critique. At first I thought my first chapter was ready, without any revisions. So I practiced reading the pages out loud, just as I will have to for the critique. It didn't take long before I realized my first pages needed some refinement before they were ready for another author's ears. When I started evaluating my written pages from the perspective of a critic, it was surprising how quickly it became apparent where revisions were necessary.

I spent a few hours revising those two pages, to make them critique ready. This effort resulted in a much more interesting beginning to my novel and going through this process was invigorating. My pages were now ready for the Read and Critique session.

Finally, the opening day of the Writers Conference had arrived. This was a day of many firsts for me. Attending my first writers conference, writing my first novel, and having my writing critiqued for the first time. I was very relieved that my Read and Critique was scheduled for the very first hour of the conference. Although I was looking forward to the critique, my nerves were anxious to get it behind me and enjoy the remainder of the conference.

Every seat at the conference room table in the closed critique session was occupied by nervous writers, quietly awaiting Laura DiSilverio's arrival. She entered the room, introduced herself, and quickly explained the process. I would be the last one to read my writing.

I never expected to learn so much from listening to Laura's critique of each writer's reading. There were varying levels of expertise among the writers and everyone's writing was so unique. Listening to each piece being read by its creator allowed all of us attending the critique to get exposure to different styles of writing. Laura was impressive in the way she was able to rapidly make notes on the writer's printed copy while she listened to them read their pieces. She was able to provide each writer precise feedback on their writing.

Having the opportunity to hear Laura's critique of each writer's piece was the most beneficial aspect of the entire conference. As I listened to each writer read the opening pages of his novel, I kept thinking how great everyone's work sounded. Laura was still able to offer suggestions for each writer to make what he wrote even better. Most of us nodded our heads in agreement as she explained her reasoning for the suggested change. It would truly make the written piece even more powerful.

My critique session proved to be very enlightening. Even after spending hours revising my two pages in preparation of the session , Laura provided helpful suggestions for improving the opening pages of my novel. It was such a worthwhile experience to receive feedback from the perspective of a successfully published author.

The Read and Critique was such a valuable session for me that I highly encourage other writers to consider participating in one at next year's conference. Not only will you benefit by getting feedback on your own writing, you will expand your writer's knowledge by listening to the critique given to the other writers attending the same session.

I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend the 2015 PPWC. This scholarship allowed me the opportunity to attend the conference and have the insightful experience of participating in a Read and Critique session. Thank you, Pikes Peak Writer, for granting me this scholarship to attend three days of valuable learning and networking with other writers.

  About the Writer: Kathy Hobbs is the author and independent publisher of the Get Wise book series, which focuses on personal safety prevention. It is Kathy's aspiration to inspire people to become better informed and take responsibility for their own personal safety. Kathy has created the "Hoots of Wisdom" blog at, to diversify her writing and provide useful and interesting postings on a variety of lifestyle topics. Kathy is in the process of fulfilling a lifetime dream of writing her first mystery novel. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"Despite having written five books, I worry that I have not written the right kinds of books, or that perhaps I have dedicated too much of my life to writing, and have therefore neglected other aspects of my being."
Elizabeth Gilbert (July 18, 1969)
Eat, Pray, Love
The Signature of All Things

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* PPWC15 Attendee Kathe Hobbs shares A Day of Many Firsts.

* Debbie Allen interviews a Conference first-timer.

* Kathie Scrimgeour shares Sweet Success with Ataska Brothers. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sweet Success! Gabriele Ewerts

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Gabriele Ewerts’ self-published middle-grade fantasy, Sophie and the Magic Flower (ISBN: 9781511842310 and 1511842318, paperback and Kindle, 372 pages) was released on April 22, 2015. The book is available at and Visit Gabriele’s website for more information or contact her at

A twelve-year-old orphan girl searching for a new family finds trouble instead on a magical island. When she becomes stuck there and her life is in danger, she realizes that life with her foster mom was pretty good after all.

About the Author: Gabriele has been writing songs, poems, and short-stories for over thirty years, and is a huge fan of children and YA fantasy fiction. She has been working on the idea for Sophie and the Magic Flower for the last fifteen years. This is her first published novel.

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, July 8, 2015

Ten Tips for Conflict

By Jax Hunter

This month’s tips - conflict, baby. Without conflict you got nuttin, I’m tellin’ ya, nuttin. Ya hear me?

Whoops, I must have been channeling again. Sorry. But what my gangster buddy said was true. Without conflict in a story, you are left with random movements of people with no real meaning. Joe needs money so he buys a lottery ticket and wins. End of story. Bo-oh-oh-ring. Here are a few things to consider.

1. First of all what conflict is not - conflict is not bickering. It’s not “I did not,” “Yes, you did,” “No, I didn’t.” It’s also not crashing cars or blowing things up. So what is conflict? The dictionary conveys the idea that conflict is a struggle between opposing forces or ideas for supremacy or an outright win.

2. For our purposes as fiction writers, there are three kinds of conflict: internal, personal and universal/societal. Inner conflict is that battle we face within ourselves when two or more of the things we value get in each other’s way. For example, when honesty and loyalty clash and we are forced to lie to protect a friend. That’s internal conflict.

Personal conflict is the conflict that happens between two people. It happens when people want to stop us from getting what we want. Imagine for a moment that you are a twenty-something boy who is in a dead-end job and you want to do something that counts for something. Let’s say you think that joining the Army is that something. Maybe your girlfriend doesn’t want you to go so she purposely gets pregnant. Conflict? You bet. And mean, too. But what if your boss wants to keep you in that dead-end job and gives you a substantial raise. That’s not mean, but is it conflict? Yes, it is. It creates an obstacle between what you have now and what you really want.

Universal/societal conflict is the bigger, more impersonal sort; an asteroid is headed toward earth, or maybe a very big snow storm. Or a terrorist is headed your way.

3. Conflict is created when expectation doesn’t meet reality. This can be on any level. You expect your body to react in a certain way and it doesn’t, leaving you unable to complete a vital mission. Your best friend doesn’t act in the way you expected and now you have to clean up after him. The hurricane you expected was a Category 2; it came in at a 4.

4. Antagonists must have goals, too. Those goals must be specific to that antagonist, just like your protagonist’s goals must be specific to his character. The antagonist must be motivated by logic, too.

5. If either the protagonist or antagonist can just leave the fight and go home, you don’t have a story. Ask yourself: what if my hero doesn’t get what he wants? Can life just go back to the way it was? Then you don’t have a story. In a great conflict, if the antagonist gets what he’s after, then the protagonist CAN’T get what he’s after and vice versa. This is called a conflict lock.

6. There must be risk involved and the risks need to get higher as the story progresses. The value of anything is in what we’ll give up to get it. We will always risk more for the things that matter the most - freedom, our lives, our loved ones' lives.

7. A great way to crank up the tension is to set the clock in motion. This is called a time-lock. If your hero needs to find his identical twin, in order to get a kidney transplant or else he dies in six months, there’s conflict. If he has to find him in six days, better yet. Six hours. . . you see the point.

8. It is said that there are five major sources of conflict: money, sex, family, religion, and politics. Where does love fit in here? Hmmmm. Very Interesting.

9. One way to create conflict is by whittling away at the needs of your hero. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy? Maslow said that unless you have the first needs met, the latter needs don’t even matter. Here they are: 
  • Physiological: food, sleep, air, water, shelter
  • Safety: security and stability in chaos
  • Social: belonging and an escape from loneliness
  • Ego: self-esteem, attention and recognition
  • Self-actualization: fulfillment as a person
10. Lastly, you can have the best crafted conflict in the world, but if you have unsympathetic characters, your reader won’t care to read on. There’s a theater story that tells of an actress playing Anne Frank who was so unsympathetic that when the Nazis showed up looking for Anne, the audience yelled, “She’s in the attic.” Yikes. I felt the same way about the heroine in the Blair Witch Project. I wanted her to just die, already.

I hope these tips are helpful as you torture your characters. Give them the thing that they fear most and you’re on your way. Remember BiC-HoK.


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, July 6, 2015

July Letter From the Editor

By Debi Archibald

I am writing this on Saturday morning, the 239th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Before I start cutting up the watermelon and slicing the tomatoes and onions. Before the yard is filled with the summer sound of five kids shrieking as they dash through the sprinklers. Before I drag the cooler outside and fill it with ice.

I have always been grateful that I was born in this country, particularly as a female. Politics aside, we have been blessed with freedoms and liberties that few other nations enjoy. Yet somehow I never really connected that freedom with the writing life. With the exception of out-and-out libel, writers are free to tell their stories or publish their opinions. There are still countries on this planet where those acts cost you your freedom, if not your life. I suspect we don't value this privilege as often as we should when we sit down to write.

Add technology to the mix and opportunity and liberty explode. Can you imagine the Founding Fathers reactions if they slipped through a time warp and sat in front of an internet-connected screen? (Knowing what we do about Mr. Franklin, I suspect he would have been all over it!) What took days of painstaking hand-printing, nib repeatedly dipped in inkwell, could now be accomplished in minutes. Is something lost, some thoughtfulness or caution, when our hands can move faster than our minds? Maybe, but this is the world we live in.

So with these musings, I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Fourth of July and are looking forward to the remainder of summer. Donnell Bell will be writing her first Letter From the Editor in August so once again, I say goodbye and thank you.

About the Author: Debi Archibald is the outgoing Editor of the Writing From the Peak blog. Having put a long career in healthcare administration behind her, she is the author of two novels: Crushed and Form and Function. When she is not at her desk, she is passionate about the Colorado mountains, hiking, gardening and most especially her five grandchildren.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me."


Anna Quindlen (July 8, 1953 - )
Pulitzer Prize for Commentary
One True Thing
Black and Blue
Every Last One
Still Life with Breadcrumbs

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Letter from the Editor                      Debi Archibald

* Tips for Creating Conflict                Jax Hunter

* Sweet Success! Gabriele Everts       Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, July 3, 2015

July 2015 Pikes Peak Writers News and Events

Compiled by Debi Archibald 

2015 is officially half over and I'll bet some of you have overly exuberant friends who are starting to count the days until Christmas. If your List of Goals is stuck somewhere back in March, don't just scan through these events and then move on. Put them on your calendar (in ink!) and take advantage of all the talent PPW has to offer. (You can always find the most current and detailed information on the "Events" tab on the PPW website.)

As always, when the first Wednesday lands on the first couple of days in the month, Open Critique has come and gone before this post appears. But there is still time to RSVP to to have 8 pages of your manuscript read and critiqued with August guest critiquer Jax Hunter:

Open Critique 
Wednesday, August 5, 2015 6:00 to 8:30 PM
Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 East Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs, CO

July Write Brain
Tuesday, July 21, 2015   6:30-8:30 p.m. 
Carnegie room of Penrose Library, 20 N Cascade Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903

July's topic is The Top 10 Storytelling Devices Movies Can Teach Novelists with presenter Trai Cartwright. It’s no secret that Hollywood has cracked the story structure code, or that they’ve refined some of the most elegant and efficient character-building tools in the storytelling business. What you may not know is that all of these tricks can be (and often are) utilized to conquer fiction writing, too. This workshop presents the Top Ten Master Movie Storytelling Devices via clips from a number of great modern films and shows you how to capitalize on them for your own writing! Taught by a Hollywood pro who routinely poaches from great films to better her fiction writing. (This is the class Trai didn’t quite finish at the conference this year–those of you who were in the room, here’s a special invitation to join us for the rest of the story!)

Facebook Event: Want to see who else is coming? Check here.

PPW Writer's Night at the Ritz
Monday, July 27, 2015 6:30-8:30 p.m.
 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.

And as an advance heads up, don't miss a half-day workshop coming up in August. This information will repeat next month but you can register now.

August 15, 2015     1-5 pm
ENT Conference Room of the 21c Library, 1175 Chapel Hills Dr, Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Scrivener is Not Word
So, why would you treat it like it is?

Scrivener is a robust writing project software, but a lot of people still treat it like a simple word processor. In this workshop, you’ll learn how Scrivener is different and the tools and tips to revolutionize your writing process.
Cost is $25 – to sign up go to

The Pikes Peak Library District has some excellent events coming up including a new 21st Century Writers Group and a workshop on using Word:

Word for Writers - 2013 Edition
When: Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 6:15 PM - 7:45 PM
Where: Library21c -1175 Chapel Hills Drive at Petritz Learning Lab

Head over to the website for more information on these and other writerly events:

Update on the change in editorship: Donnell Bell will be taking over as your new Managing Editor for Writing from the Peak in August.

Wishing you all a safe and festive 4th of July weekend!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Kill Your Scene: Writer as Director, Part 3

Writing Coach Deb McLeod - Writer as Director
By Deb McLeod

Way back in the early days of my writing – yesterday, literally at my critique group yesterday – I suffered from the syndrome called 'Writer as Reporter.' I still have bouts of it, especially when juggling a complex scene where I am focused on imparting information the reader has to have. I often get bogged down in the best way to feed that information and forget to keep the emotional roller coaster moving.

Have you faced that problem? How can you insert an info dump that sets up the next plot point or how can you feed in backstory without losing the reader?

Here are a few things you can do:
  1. Write the scene (novel) for you. Next step: now write it for the reader. 
  2. Be absolutely sure the reader really needs that information.
  3. Trust the reader to get it. 
  4. Plan out where you drop bits of information rather than dumping it on the reader all at once. 
  5. Remember, you’re writing a scene. Use sleight of hand to impart information. 
1. This might be bad news, but it’s a hard truth I see over and over again in critique groups and with my clients. You have to write the scene, or maybe even the whole novel, at least twice. Once to tell yourself the story; to know when you need to have planted information and when you need to figure out the backstory that leads to the moment that’s really important. Allow yourself permission to write the first time through just for you so that you know the whole story, then you can go back and write for the reader. Orchestrating the emotional journey usually comes after the first draft is done.

2. Be absolutely sure that the reader really has to have that information and that they really need it now. Is there some way you might weave it in further back? Just a drop here or there, so when the reader gets to the place where they need to know something it resonates with what went before? Can you cut it altogether and still have the story make sense? How lean on information and backstory can you go?

3. Learn to trust your reader more. Don’t write to the lowest common denominator. Chances are, if you’ve hooked them into the story thus far, they will go with you a little ways, even if they’re confused. Get some beta readers. Some “reader” readers rather than “writer” readers. Ask them to tell you where they got confused or closed the book. They likely won’t be able to tell you why. But that's okay. Writer readers are the ones that will tell you why. Writer readers are wonderful to have when you’re putting it all together. But there comes a time when the story outgrows writer readers. It’s very revealing when you give pages to a reader reader and realize how much you can actually get away with.

4. I use Scrivener and am writing a multi-viewpoint and layered story. I have assigned keywords for subplots and character interaction. I can sort by subplot and look at all the scenes that deal with that subplot. If I realize I should have set the reader up better I can go back through all the scenes in that subplot and plant clues. Even if you don’t use Scrivener, there might be a way for you to do this on your own. It's been an invaluable way to plant the seeds of information that need to be planted and to avoid the info dump.

5. While you may have every intention of feeding information into a scene, remember the first priority is the scene. Conflict. Movement. Twist. Info is secondary and should be delivered subtly.

In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder outlines the principle behind burying exposition in the story. I’ll summarize it here.
The technique is called “Pope in the Pool.” For the script of The Plot to Kill the Pope by George Englund, some vital backstory needed to be imparted. The story is a thriller and they couldn’t risk slowing it down for an info dump. So they slipped in the information while the Pope was swimming laps in the Vatican pool. There’s the Pope, bathing suit and all, swimming his laps while representatives who came to see him give us the information we need. We’re interested in the Pope and the pool in the Vatican and are focused on that, but getting everything we need to know without plodding through a boring info scene. Sleight of hand by the writers. 
Remember, readers don’t want information! Readers want a story. They want to be transported to the world you’ve created. Sure, you have to make them understand, but how you make them understand is key. Learn to spot when you’re in the midst of an info dump. Cut what you can, weave it in behind this scene and disguise the rest.You'll end up with a better story.

  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