Friday, October 30, 2015

Sweet Success! DeAnna Knippling

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

DeAnna Knippling’s YA historical fantasy/horror novel, Alice's Adventures in Underland, was released on August 15, 2015 by Wonderland Press (ebook and paperback, 50,000 words, available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and other fine online bookstores, in print and ebook formats. ).

Before Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he was humble Charles Dodgson, mathematician at Christ Church college…and a zombie.

Kept sane by a serum, chained to an iron ball, considered one of the finest amateur photographers in Britain, and friend to the three charmingly edible daughters of his superior and owner, Dean Liddell, Mr. Dodgson has quite the story to tell.

And at least one of the girls, Alice, is entirely willing to listen.

Even if it means that her strange zombie friend should have to be killed. 

DeAnna Knippling lives in Colorado and writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror for adults and middle-grade kids (under the pseudonym De Kenyon).  She has been published in Black Static, Crossed Genres, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and more.  She has been given an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow's Year's Best Horror twice.  

-Website (author promo, blog, etc.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

World Building: Why my camera means more to me than chocolate or coffee

By Ataska Brothers

Only once did I leave my camera at home on a walk with the dogs — what could possibly happen on a quick stroll around the block? Well. We bumped into a tiger salamander crossing an empty parking lot. In February!

But what was so important about taking the critter’s photo? Besides posting it on Facebook (which would be fun)?

I needed that picture for three reasons.

The world building is my favorite part of writing. My genre is Dark Fantasy, but the stories are set in “our” world, “our” reality, because I’m fascinated with the idea of ordinary people being forced to deal with supernatural phenomena. I strive to create an atmospheric setting for every scene, which means adding “doom and gloom” to every sunny afternoon.

Here’s a picture of the river that plays a huge role in my setting.

As much as I love describing lush meadows and verdant willows, I must somehow make the scenic river menacing.

I open my picture file, and here’s the right spot. It’s the same river, and the background is still sunny and lush and verdant. But now the setting gives out a spooky vibe, just what I’m looking for. I have my inspiration for the scene, and I don’t have to rely on memory to describe the details.

Would it be easier to find a fitting picture on the Internet? No, not for me. I joke that I have enough photographs to illustrate every paragraph in my novel — twice. No need to spend time researching unfamiliar images when I have every slime-covered rock, every blue dragonfly, every downed tree I want to depict, in my files.

Another reason why I take so many pictures is because I never know when something strange and fun will be needed to add specificity to a scene. For example, this is George. He’s been in my family for generations. 

Recently, I discovered one more reason why having my own illustrations on file is a good idea. Blurbs. I don’t have to seek an artist’s permission when I’m using a picture I took myself. Here’s an example of how I worked “in reverse” to create an interesting image for my future promotions.

One of my characters held a shard of green glass over a burning candle until it burst from the heat. I imagined the piece as a fragment of antique stained glass. But was it interesting enough? I brainstormed with my critique partners, and they suggested a perfume bottle with a mysterious liquid inside. I liked the image, but I was already using flasks and bottles and vials …

However, the three-dimensional form of the container gave me an idea: a semi-transparent lump of glass that melted in a village fire. Specificity! And I had a sample in my collection, a keepsake from my childhood, to help me with the description. Then I grabbed my camera. 

An excerpt from the novel, and the names of the author, the story, and my publisher, all incorporated into the picture — and voila, an unusual promo will be ready to be posted on my author sites.

The photograph of a salamander crossing an empty parking lot, with the piles of February snow in the background, could have come handy one day. If the need arises, I can describe the bizarre scene from memory, but there will be no cool blurb. A few nights ago, a friend sent me a picture of a baby amphibian sitting on her doorstep. A cute critter, but the photo was too dark. Maybe one day I’ll find another salamander. Hopefully, my camera will be with me and ready.

I’d like to show you one more picture. A photograph. The words. World building.

About the author:  Born in Moscow, Ataska grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Ataska realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a 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. Two of her passions define her being. Ataska is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Theme is your friend

By: Ann S. Hill

People read fiction to be entertained, inspired, or thrilled. We choose novels that we hope will help us escape our humdrum existence for a more meaningful and flamboyant adventure where we might experience victory against our foes, be inspired by an ideal relationship, or be thrilled by an unusual experience, albeit vicariously. However, if there is no message in the story, the conflict and heroic acts are no more interesting than watching our kids fight a light saber war while we try to prepare dinner.

So how do writers deliver excitement with meaning? There are so many requirements, but today I draw attention to the necessity of theme. Should the writer neglect to present a theme, most readers will find that his work falls flat. The reader may not know why. It just does.

Theme is an undercurrent, not a tsunami, and should be unobtrusive to the reader. However, its absence will be felt though perhaps not acknowledged. What is theme and how does one incorporate it?

Theme is that implied conclusion about life or the human condition that unfolds as characters move through the plot. Our characters face circumstances which force them to make difficult decisions, act courageously, and grow internally. In the process, they uncover certain truths, ideas, or concepts about the world in which they live.

Possible themes might relate to injustice, faith, loss of innocence, greed, or forgiveness. Consider some of your favorite works. What were their themes? Maybe you recall a book that left you unsatisfied. Did it lack a significant theme?

Writers must be careful that our message whispers throughout our work. No direct statements, no lectures, no preaching. The presence of theme should be perceived almost subconsciously. And yet it is there, implicit in every step of the plot.

Suppose I construct a story line in which my main character is pitted against an antagonist who wins in the end. A difficult concept that I don’t advise. Ideally my theme is “The good don’t always win,” and I have taken care to develop this message throughout the book. If not, the reader will only be confused. “Why didn’t the hero succeed?” In this case, my reader has not been prepared by a consistency of theme to accept the conclusion to my plot. He is justifiably disappointed.

Working with theme isn’t easy. One false move, and the jig is up. The reader has seen the puppet strings, and there is no longer any chance for suspension of disbelief. Even Aesop, with his obvious themes, allowed the reader to draw his own conclusions. We have a much harder task. We are not writing fables. Subtlety is a must.

If this requirement makes you nervous, I have good news. Your theme will naturally reveal itself through the unrolling of your plot if plot points have been set up with your message in mind. From that point on, write your story and your theme will permeate every line of dialogue and each event. Action, conflict, and heroic acts will grab a reader. But unless there is a moment of insight because of them, he’ll close your book with a weary sigh. Or worse, throw it against the wall. Incorporate this important ingredient, and he will recommend your book to all his friends. Or, let’s dream. You might become a best-selling author. If this advice helps propel you there, be sure to thank me in your credits.

About the writer:  After hearing the call to write in her thirties, Ann set the ambition aside while life happened. Now that she has retired from her career as a dentist and her children are adults, she is seriously attacking that parked ambition. She spends significant time on her true passion and has recently completed her first novel, Wait for Me. She has written several short stories and is currently working on a concept for her second novel. In the meantime, she remains a voracious reader and film aficionado.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Quote of the week and the week to come

“Literature is news that stays news.” ~ Ezra Pound


Poet Ezra Pound authored more than 70 books and promoted many other now-famous writers, including James Joyce and T.S. Eliot.

Pound was born on October 30, 1885, in Hailey, Idaho. He studied literature and languages in college and in 1980 left for Europe, where he published several successful books of poetry. Pound advanced a “modern” movement in English and American literature. His pro-Fascist broadcast in Italy during World War II led to his arrest and confinement until 1958. Pound died in 1972. 

This week on Writing from the Peak 

October 26    Theme is your friend by Ann S. Hill

October 28    World Building: Why my camera means more than chocolate or coffee by Ataska Brothers

October 30    Sweet success celebrates DeAnna Knippling   

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sweet Success! Robert Spiller

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Robert Spiller’s amateur sleuth mystery novel, Napier's Bones (5th Bonnie Pinkwater mystery),was released April 11, 2015 by Jmars Ink (ISBN# - 9781511454964, softcover, 302 pages). It is available online, and on Amazon and CreateSpace.

When a skeleton is unearthed in a field next to East Plains High School, math teacher Bonnie Pinkwater is thrust into a three-decade-old murder. What she uncovers are Satanists, ruthless mercenaries, murderous homecoming queens, a crazed mother, a fateful blizzard, and the death of someone near and dear to her. As her once considerable gifts of memory and deduction are eroded by the trauma of loss, Bonnie must solve a thirty year old cold case before the killer decides the best way to remain free is to add one female mathematician to his list of victims.

Besides being a master of space and time, Robert Spiller is the author of the Bonnie Pinkwater mystery series: The Witch of Agnesi, A Calculated Demise, Irrational Numbers, and most recently Radical Equations. Napier's Bones, the fifth in the series was released April 2015. His math teacher/sleuth uses mathematics and her knowledge of historic mathematicians to solve murders in the small Colorado town of East Plains. A retired mathematician, Robert lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with his wife Barbara. E-mail Robert at:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The ULTIMATE Writing Weapons!

By: Aaron Michael Ritchey

Okay, I’m playing the long game. My writing career is gonna be a long, protracted siege.

It’s pretty clear I’ve lost the short term game. I’m forty-five years old. I’ve been writing for roughly forty-two years, and so yeah, I’m not going to be an overnight success.

I was talking on the phone to my friend, David M. Daniel, and I was pining, gasping, shaking my fist at heaven, and gnashing my teeth in the darkness. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in the writing game. Sure, I’d published three novels, with small presses, but I wanted more. More! More!

He told me, “Aaron, I hear stories about authors going through what you’re going through. And you know what? In the end, they hit it big. You’re just in the crappy part of the story.”
I laughed. I fell to my knees. I stopped gnashing my teeth (gotta take care of your teeth, baby), and so I realized, if I’m in the crappy part of the story, I have to keep going to get to the good part. Which means, I need every weapon I can find to win the war.

So, let’s talk weapons. This blog post isn’t going to be about writing well, or avoiding adverbs, and avoiding “to-be” verbs. I was going to write about that, but then, suddenly, I decided I wasn’t. Smarter people than me can talk craft. However, I’m going to give you serious weapons you can’t live without. Literally.

1)  Find a Good Dentist and Visit Him/Her Often – First of all, with all the teeth-gnashing, you might need crowns. More than that, when you’re rich and famous, you’ll need a winning smile. More than that even, I’ve met people who’ve spent a fortune on their teeth to fix them because they didn’t take dental hygiene seriously. You can use that money for your books. So brush your teeth, floss your teeth, and go to the dentist.

2)  Exercise -- I think it was Laura Resnick, at a Pikes Peak Writers Conference years back, who said that writers are the endurance athletes of the mind. And as athletes, we need to compete. How does one compete most effectively? They train, and the sweat, and they find ways to get as much energy as possible. Exercise gives you energy. Exercise can clear your mind. Exercise will keep you alive long enough to become rich and famous. You need to have mental endurance, but you also need physical endurance. For example, I carry my books around to events and then spend hours spent chatting with people and selling books. It can be grueling. The more fit I am physically, the more I can do. Seriously, this is one of the ultimate weapons writers can use!

3)  Eat Well – If I eat crappy, I feel crappy. I’m already in the crappy part of the story, so I might as well walk around feeling as non-crappy as possible. My good health is critical to my being able to write. If I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, I’m sick less, and I feel better, and my health improves. This is a mighty weapon! You’re laughing, but I’ve written stories when I was sick. It’s hard. I don’t like it. I want to write when I’m feeling good, and to feel good, I have to take care of my body.

4)  Sleep – This one is hard because so often, I have to sacrifice sleep to write. But I’m really trying to get my 7.5 hours of sleep a night. That is my minimum for sleep. How did I find that out? I stopped setting an alarm. I caught up on my sleep. It took about six months, you know, since I had major sleep debt. Then I let myself sleep as long as I needed and recorded the time. So I need 7.5 hours of sleep a night, but generally only get about seven. Darn. But I’ll keep trying.

So, dental hygiene, exercise, nutrition, and sleep. I’m forty-five. I figure I have another twenty years of books and working it, to get where I want to go. I can’t die early. I can’t. I won’t. I have too many books to write, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to die before I write them all.

And I can’t write if I’m dead.

So, these are weapons I’m going to use to win the writing game! And I should probably learn some other stuff like, craft stuff, along the way.

But again…

It’s all about endurance.

It’s all about having the energy to meet the daily demands of being a writer.

It’s about utilizing every advantage.

So write on, people, and eat your spinach.

If you don’t believe me, ask Becky Clark. She’ll back me up.

Oh, and by the way? Hemingway wrote standing. It helped his back, burned some calories, and damn, isn’t that just so manly?

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer, Long Live the Suicide King, and Elizabeth’s Midnight. 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. In 2015, his second novel won the Building the Dream award for best YA novel, and he spent the summer as the Artist in Residence for the Anythink Library. 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, October 19, 2015

Rethinking goals

By: Karen Albright Lin

We often think big-picture when we talk about goals: balancing time between writing and changing diapers, drinking tea instead of vodka, keeping that pesky desk clean, saving writing receipts for tax purposes and more. But evaluating our day-to-day priorities is just as important. 

I’ve always kept detailed calendars and to-do lists. I’m good at getting things crossed off, yet I have a limited ability to set low priority items aside, meaning out of my head. It’s not that I have a problem determining which projects are important and time sensitive. But I’m a natural multi-tasker. Calling back the doctor’s office, emailing my agent, going to the grocery store, cooking for sick friends, writing the chapter that is calling me, thank you notes, the blog and the workshop proposals… essentially everything, regardless of importance, hovers over me all the time and with equal weight.  One of my yearly goals is to be more realistic when I evaluate urgency, avoid overwhelming myself by tackling one thing at a time, ignoring the other items—especially those that can wait.

My number two goal is the see the world and people with fresh eyes. It’s natural (even a survival of the fitness strategy) to judge those around us and our surroundings based on past experience and what we’ve heard in the news and from our families. But being rigid in my biases hindered growth and stymied exploration. The need to try another way was highlighted for me in January when the world taught me, once again, that characters aren’t simple beings.   

As I walked back to my car in a dark Las Vegas garage, raucous and threatening bluster came from young men dressed in stereotypical gang banger garb. I rushed toward the car listening.  It turned out they were standing near a trash can debating recycling. I needed to adjust my assumptions, helping me create unexpected, more complicated characters. 

Goal three is about the business of writing. I’m going to obsess less about publishing and focus more on my passion for putting words on the page. For as long as I can remember, my number one goal (my entire bucket list) has been to traditionally publish book length work. Over the years I’ve moved a long way toward meeting that goal, have even had several top agents representing my work. In October, 2014, I signed contract for my literary cookbook. It was a project I’d tackled, on and off, since 1992. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time for confetti and balloons; hours after signing, my photographer backed out and my editor didn’t have the power to pay for a more expensive one. More crushing:  I signed to ghostwrite a big celebrity memoir—a life changing contract, a great deal, allowing me to dream my husband could retire.  I flew in to do the interviews, wrote a winning proposal, started the book. Cool, right?  I brought in a top agent who, it turns out from the beginning, conspired to use another of her ghostwriter clients to do the book. Litigation can be more frustrating than editing a first draft, but I digress. 

I learned an important lesson from those two contract SNAFUs. As I got wrapped up in the glamour of having signed book contracts, I forgot that the love of writing should be front and center. That passion cannot be taken away from me by anybody else.  They are big, attitude changing goals. I may struggle hard to meet them. Many things are hard for writers, yet we persevere.

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, October 18, 2015

Quote of the Week and the Week to come

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.”  ~ Sylvia Plath

Oct. 27-1932-Feb. 11, 1963
Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College at the University of Cambridge, before receiving acclaim as a poet and writer. Most notably recognized as the author of The Bell Jar, Plath was clinically depressed for most of her adult life. She committed suicide in 1963.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

October 19    Rethinking Goals by Karen Albright Lin

October 21    The Ultimate Writing Weapons! By Aaron Michael Ritchey

October 23    Pikes Peak Writers celebrates Robert Spiller’s Sweet Success

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sweet Success! Allegra Gray

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Allegra Gray’s YA historical novel, Entrusted (Book 1 of the Relic Guardians series), was released on September 8, 2015 by Silverthorne Entertainment (-ISBN: 978-0692486146, 311 pages, paperback and ebook, see list below for availability).

Audrey Thorndale longed for a peaceful life in a convent--until Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church and ordered them all destroyed. Now, she and the Abbot of Glastonbury have seized on a new plan which will protect not only Audrey's future, but the very future of England. The only problem? To do it, she'll not only have to commit to marriage...she'll have to commit treason.

Allegra Gray gets bored easily, which may explain why her career has spanned from serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force to teaching British literature classes. She travels extensively, and loves nothing better than that moment when some experience--a castle in ruins, a left-behind shoe, or a mountain shrouded in mist--captures her imagination and inspires a new story

-Where to buy/read website:



  OmniLit (All Romance eBooks):

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ask the Prez

The Ask The Prez questions are trickling in and I'd love to have more! This is your chance to ask the president of Pikes Peak Writers any question about our organization, our conference, The Zebulon writing contest, or anything else related to writing. I enjoy answering these questions, so let's have them. See the bottom of the post for more details on how to contact me.

Speaking of a questions related to writing, our next set comes from Ann:

Can you suggest a way to find a good editor for a reasonable price? Some of them charge up to $4 a page. How do I justify the expense?

J.T. Evans's Answer:

First off, a reputable editor is going to work off of word count, not pages. This is because formatting can drastically change the page count. Yes, "standard manuscript format" reduces the variance, but even a swap between Times New Roman (acceptable in standard manuscript format) and Courier (also acceptable) will boost your page count. By way of example, a 208-page manuscript in Times New Roman will turn into 272 pages in Courier. That difference could cost you (at $4 per page) a whopping $256 extra! Honestly, there are two groups of people who care about number of pages: Readers and layout experts.

Paying someone to focus on your manuscript, read through it, give you feedback and edits, and ideally improve the work is a perfectly acceptable approach before sending it out in the world. If you're going the self-published route, I would say a freelance editor is necessary. This will allow you to produce the best possible manuscript before the public sees it.

Finding a freelance editor can be tricky because you want someone who knows your genre, can work with you in a friendly, yet businesslike manner, and knows what they are doing when it comes to edits. Finding someone who fits these criteria can be rough, but it can be done.

In my case, I met Stuart Horwitz through a Pikes Peak Writers Write Brain. I interacted with him in social media, read his books on writing, checked out his web site, and felt comfortable handing over the money I did for the edits. Not everyone gets lucky like that, and they have to do a "cold search." Join social media groups/forums for writers and see who has hired editors. Yes, you could Google for "freelance editors for hire" and see what bubbles to the top. That’s probably going to be time-consuming, and if you’re not careful, a waste of time and money. I would start at and see who you can find. Always vet them on your own. Google their name. Use review sites. Ask for a past client list with contact information and reach out to them.

If you get recommendations from fellow writers, keep in mind that not all editors will make all clients happy. If I were to send my urban fantasy novel to a highly respected and recommended romance short story editor… it probably wouldn’t work out so well. You have to find an editor who ideally should be a partner with you. Someone that meshes well with what you write.

As far as justifying the expense goes, you want to make sure you measure the return on investment. Will spending the money (potentially thousands of dollars) result in a novel that will pay back that expense? Unfortunately, that's not really something I can answer for you. In my case, I wanted to put my best foot forward when approaching agents and publishing houses. I needed the cleanest copy, the best ideas, the smoothest storyline, and the most intriguing characters I could produce. I'd done a good job of it already, but I needed to elevate the novel to greatness.

Good luck, Ann!

Ask me questions!

I want to learn more about what's on your mind in the PPW universe. Quite a bit goes into what we do to keep the ship running smoothly, and I'm sure many of you out there want to know some things. How do we do what we do? How can I help you keep PPW a great organization? What's the history of PPW? Who does what within the organization?

These are just some sampler questions. I'm certain your immensely creative minds can come up with more (and probably better) questions.

If you have questions for me, please email me at with the subject line of: Ask The Prez

Within the email, let me know your question(s), and if it's okay if I use your first name in the blog post. Also let me know if you want an urgent answer in private email, or if you can wait for me to queue up the question and get it out here on the blog. I expect to answer 1-2 questions a month here in this column.

Please do me a favor, and restrict your questions to the email address given above. I'll lose track of them if you send them via Facebook, Twitter, text message, or some other media.

Now open up your inbox and hit me with some questions!

About the Author:  J.T. Evans writes fantasy novels. He also dabbles with science fiction and horror short stories. He is the president of Pikes Peak Writers. When not writing, he flings code at the Day Job, homebrews great beers, spends time with his family, and plays way too many card/board/role-playing games.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Contest Win Left Me Feeling a Little Deflated

Editor's Note: Stacy's timely contest article is a reminder that The Zebulon, Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest's deadline is November 1, 2016.

By: Stacy S. Jensen

I placed in a contest last year.

It left me feeling super rejected.

I know weird, right?

There's an easy explanation for the rejected feeling — the prize included a critique from an editor.

I was excited when I learned I placed. My name was misspelled on the winner's list. I didn't care. I would receive a hand dandy check and a critique—que angels singing. A critique from an industry professional is golden.

Time passed and the check and the critique arrived in the mail. Excitement ... then reality with comments like (and I'm paraphrasing here): Hey, I gave you low marks on market, because I could never take this to my acquisitions board. We have a similar title.

Ouch. Curse the "know the market."

While the editor's comments on market left me a bit deflated, it IS a great lesson. I know to study the market, but I hadn't thought about that being an issue in a contest.

Since the contest, I study publisher catalogs closer. If my writing style is close to an agent's client, then I submit to another agent on my list.

The editor provided many useful comments about my story. The critique prompted some changes and motivated me to submit to a few regional publishers. They were not on my radar prior to the contest award.

I also enjoyed depositing the prize money too. Any day you receive money for your work is a good day.

What's been your experience with contests —Do they send your work in a new direction?

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 son.