Monday, November 30, 2015

We need diverse books because . . .

Last year, We Need Diverse Books (, a grassroots campaign to promote diversity in children and teen literature, caught fire and spread throughout the book world. This campaign is not only encouraging authors to write books with diverse characters, the movement also questioned the publishing industry’s protest that books with diverse characters (including people of color, LGBT and LGBTQIA, and people dealing with mental or physical disabilities) will not sell. We Need Diverse Books (aka WNDB) also pointed out the low representation of people of color who are authors, or who work in publishing houses or literary agencies.

Here is a brief overview from the We Need Diverse Books/FAQ ( explaining how this all started:

“In a Twitter exchange on April 17th, 2014, Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo expressed their frustration with the lack of diversity in kidlit. This wasn’t a new conversation for Ellen or Malinda, just the latest, this time in response to the all-white, all-male panel of children’s authors assembled for BookCon’s May 31st reader event. In a series of tweets, Ellen started talking about taking action. Several other authors, bloggers, and industry folks piped up saying they would like to be involved as well.

We planned a three-day event for May 1-3 to raise awareness, brainstorm solutions, and take action (Diversify Your Shelves). Aisha Saeed primed the pump on April 24th with the first tweet including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag. After Aisha’s post, the hashtag started taking off, officially trending for the first time on April 29th, around 9:30 pm EST.

And, oh, how the movement has grown.

The benefits of reading diverse books (and not just beneficial for children, but for adults, too) are many-fold: respect of various cultures, seeing one’s self reflected in literature (and thus valued), and celebrating the commonality of the human experience. As Rudine Sims Bishop stated in his 1990 article, diverse literature gives readers, especially children, “mirrors and windows” to the real world. This is summed up very well in the 2014 American Library Association’s White Paper on the Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. In that article, the ALA said: “Diverse, culturally authentic materials in library collections allow all children to meet people like themselves and develop an appreciation for the beauty of their culture and the cultures of others.”

So, I decided six months ago to push myself out of my comfort zone and work up the nerve to write a middle grade book with a Hispanic hero. The story is based on the legend of El Cuco. When I was a kid, my stepdad, (who was Hispanic) tried to scare me with this monster, telling me that El Cuco would catch me and gobble me up if I didn’t behave. Yeah, lots of pre-adolescent eye rolling ensued, but the tale stuck.

As I wrote, I worried that I would fail, and fail epically. Because, c’mon on! I’m a white, middle class/age heterosexual woman. What do I know about the joys and sorrows and hopes and fears of a thirteen year old Hispanic boy? Man, that was a hard barrier to push past. But, as the work progressed, I realized something. In my head, I had “labeled” my character as a boy and Hispanic more than I had labeled him as a fellow human being. A person with the same joys, sorrows, hopes, and fears that I have. Oh sure, there are differences. Loads of differences. But that’s what we writers do. We explore those differences, make them familiar, celebrate the universal human themes, then roll them out onto the paper.

I would be curious to hear about other writers’ successes and struggles regarding diversity in literature. I will admit: I am leery of backlash. I’ve already had some friends question the integrity of my story because of who I am. And that’s okay. They have the right to question. Change can only come about with open, honest dialogue. And we’re all going to make mistakes. Do and say awkward things as we all inch/step/leap into new territory. That’s okay, too. Because wouldn’t it be a straight up wonder if we could get to the point where this world—the world of books that you and I live in—wouldn’t need the #WNDB hashtag anymore?

You know the old expression: a picture is worth a thousand words? On the We Need Diverse Books website, there is a collection of photos that sums up everything I tried to say here. The ones in this article are from that website. Go check out the others. Powerful stuff, folks. One of my favorites is below:

We need diverse books…

All photos courtesy of the We Need Diverse Books website.

About the Author: Darby Karchut is a best-selling author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. She's been known to run in blizzards and bike in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy writing urban fantasy for tweens, teens, and adults, and she is now dipping the toe of her running shoe into contemporary fiction. Her debut YA novel, GRIFFIN RISING, was recently optioned for film. Darby’s other books include THE HOUND AT THE GATE, THE STAG LORD, and coming in December, UNHOLY BLUE. Visit her at

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Quote of the week and the week to come

Happy birthday to the incomparable Mark Twain

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Nov. 30, 1835 - April 21, 1910) better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the latter often called "The Great American Novel".

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Monday, November 30:  We Need Diverse Books Because . . .  by Darby Karchut 

Wednesday, December 2:  Deb McLeod, The Writing Coach

Friday, December 4:  Pikes Peak Writers Monthly Events

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sweet Success celebrates Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts announces the release of book two in her Rock Shop Mystery series, Stone Cold Case (ISBN # 9781432830991, 385 pages, hardcover and Kindle). Her amateur sleuth novel was published on September 16, 2015 by Five Star-Cengage, and is available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, as well as Tattered Cover.

Rock shop owner Morgan Iverson's discovery of human remains reopens a cold case and unhealed wounds in a small Colorado mountain town, while her find of a rare gemstone sparks a dangerous treasure hunt.

To PPW member Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes - both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Catherine works as an environmental technician, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening and fishing. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine has published several of her short stories. You may learn more about Catherine’s writing at

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Internet? Helpful Tool or Distraction

By Stacy S. Jensen 

Since I'm trying to stay focused this month, I'm going to be on #TeamHelpfulTool.

Full disclosure: I could be the poster child for a distracted Internet user. I fall down my fair share of rabbit holes.

But, overall, I am more productive as a writer, because I have access to the Internet.

While working on a non-fiction, picture book biography, I was able to use the Internet to:

  • Track down specialized books on my subject. Thank you
  • Search large and specialty online bookstores for title availability.
  • Purchase title from an historical society. They had a small online. Instead of calling them or having to put a check in the mail for the book, I was able to find the title and order it in a few moments and outside of their business hours, but during mine.
  • Conduct several Internet searches for my research subject.
  • Collect digital copies of files. I'm sort of old school creating PDFs and saving links via email. If I were really tech savvy, I might use Evernote or my Trello boards to collect this data. Babysteps. I am working towards this.
  • Use EasyBib  to create a bibliography to track my sources.

Of course, after all my online tasks, I went offline to read books and take notes. Soon, I'll make an in-person trip to my subject's last home. While some of this could be accomplished via online research, I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit in person. Plus, I will see how a writer many decades ago lived and worked before the Internet and running water.

I try to use the Internet for good whether it's asking for the perfect owl name for a fiction story or speaking with writers on a daily basis about their stories and the process.

The Internet is a good thing for me.

How do you use the Internet to write? What's your most helpful tool?

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.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Introducing Buzz Words & character filtering

Editor’s Note: In addition to managing editor of Writing from the Peak, I volunteer for open critique liaison as Pikes Peak Writers the first Wednesday of every month. As such I’m always interested in guest “critiquers.” One such guest was J.T. Evans. I’ve been a member of a critique groups for many years, but his critique was so novel and beneficial and his buzz words foreign to me that I asked him to do a series of articles explaining them. Character filtering is the first. Next month he’ll address word territory. I hope you'll find them as useful as I do.

By J.T. Evans

Lots of phrases, buzz words, slang, jargon, and perfectly cromulent words are thrown about critique groups on a regular basis. Newcomers to critique groups can mentally stumble when they hear something along the lines of, "The POV in your WIP head hops through white room syndrome, and all of the narrative is written in passive voice with lots of tense shifts."

POV? WIP? White rooms? Is there padding on the walls of these white rooms? I feel like I'm going insane! I know I'm tense, but how is that shifting around? Well, have no fear. I'm here to help expand your vocabulary into the writerly world of the critique group.  

This month, I'm going to cover character filtering.
Character filtering is a style of writing where some, most, or all actions in a scene are forced through a character's perception instead of letting the actions stand on their own. In most writing, we know who the point of view character is, so telling us that character saw an action is superfluous. It puts a layer between the activities going on in the scene and the reader.

Here are some examples:

    George watched as Melissa ran in front of the car.
    Harry saw the ball bounce down the road.
    Laurin watched Gerra see the arrows fly through the sky toward the two women.
All of these contain a character (presumably the point of view character) observing something going on. In the third example, we're double filtering (yes, I've seen this before), which is even worse than normal. In this case, two wrongs don't make a right.

Here's how I would fix the above examples:
    Melissa ran in front of the car.
    The ball bounced down the road.
    Arrows flew through the sky toward the two women.
See how succinct and to the point the sentences become? If you need to cut words, character filtering is a great place to start. If you've received feedback about complex sentences or sentences that are too long, cutting out filtering is a good thing. 

What if a character is helpless and only able to watch what is going on around them? This might be a legitimate use of character filtering, but I suggest there are better ways of exploring being tied up, paralyzed, concussed so badly that coherent thought can't happen, and so on. I can see character filtering being used to drive home the point that a character is unable to act. However, repeating the pattern in close proximity might annoy your readers (and agents and editors).

I’ve had people suggest there are better ways to explore nonvisual senses, e.g. hearing, touch, and smell by way of character filtering. In these cases, make sense the primary actor in the sentence. Example: Instead of “Andrea heard the crunch of boots on the gravel behind her," delete heard and try writing it as: “Boots crunched on the gravel behind Andrea.” Yes, this puts your protagonist at the end of the sentence, but also puts the emphasis on the boots (and someone) behind her. This is a good chance to avoid filtering and increase tension at the same time.

Lastly, I’ve heard the argument that character filtering allows us to write our characters as reactive to something in the moment. Something like, “Zach winced as he watched the baseball bat thud into Charlie’s knee,” works well enough. I recommend a slight edit: “The baseball bat arced toward Charlie’s knee. Zach couldn’t handle the violence and closed his eyes hard against the thud of the bat into flesh.” Okay. Maybe the “fixed” part is a little overwritten, but here’s your chance to show something about Zach’s character as well. We still get the same effect. Poor Charlie’s knee will never be the same.

If you've heard a phrase or word in a critique group and you think others should know about it (or you're not sure what to think of it), drop me a comment below, and I'll add it to my list of Buzz Words to talk about.

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 secures computers at the Day Job, homebrews great beers, spends time with his family, and plays way too many card/board/role-playing games.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quote of the week and the week to come

"Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us, and those around us, more effectively. Look for the learning." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Though Louisa May Alcott, (11-29-1832-03-06-1888) is often associated with the sweetness of her characters in Little Women, she was a tough woman, shaped largely by her experience growing up in poverty. The beloved writer wrote what she called "moral pap" for the young" because it paid well.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

To learn more about the fascinating Louisa May Alcott read

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Monday:  Character filtering – Critique buzz words by J.T. Evans

Wednesday:  Internet: Helpful tool or distraction? by Stacy S. Jensen

Friday:  Sweet Success celebrates Debbie Maxwell Allen 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sweet Success celebrates Carol Berg

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Carol Berg’s epic fantasy novel, Ash and Silver (ISBN 978-0451417268, Trade paperback, ebook, & audio, 496 pages), was released on December 1, 2015 by Penguin Random House/Roc Books. It is available wherever books are sold and at

Lucian de Remeni's life has been irredeemably transformed since his portraits began to show things he couldn't possibly know.  His family is dead.  His own people accuse him of madness. Beings of legend insist his magic breaks the world that is already reeling from a bloody civil war. Lucian's pursuit of answers leads him to a secretive, violent military Order, a soulless mentor who steals his memory, and along a trail of corruption through the depths of history and beyond the boundaries of the world.

Carol Berg’s fifteen epic fantasy novels have won the Prism Award, the Geffen Award, and multiple Colorado Book Awards.  Her duology, Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone, won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, and she is a regular panelist/presenter at writers’ conferences and science fiction conventions.  All amazing for one who majored in math and computer science to avoid writing papers.  Her latest novel, Ash and Silver, is out from Penguin Random House in December 2015.   She calls writing “the hobby that ate my life.”

-Website (author promo, blog, etc.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Have I Ruined My Writing Career?

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Oh, book stores.

All the titles and authors and hardbound editions, taunting me.

I’ve been going to a lot of book stores lately, on tour with the Nightmares Unhinged anthology, published by Colorado’s own Hex Publishing. It’s been fun, but I have to say, I sit looking at the book covers wondering if I’ve ruined my writing career.

I’ll never be a debut author again. Now, my Amazon ranking is available for everyone to see. Agents, editors can see how many books I’m selling. And the numbers aren’t, um, staggering.

Should I have waited for the big game? Should I have written, submitted, chewed on the rejections, written, submitted and dined yet again on rejection steak with extra hate sauce?

That’s what writers have done for millennia. Or at least the last couple hundred years. Ray Bradbury got nearly a thousand rejections before he sold anything, and that’s Ray flippin’ Bradbury. Stephen King filled up a railroad spike on his wall with rejection letters.

I wrote a whole bunch of books, but only got a few rejection letters. I was just too afraid to send out queries, and then when I did get enough courage, the whole publishing industry shifted under my feet. Suddenly, people were publishing books on their own. Small presses, micro-presses, garage presses were publishing books. Books whirled into the world on a hurricane of hope and coffee. Mine included.

But should I have waited for the big game?

It’s too late now. I have three books out in the world with another six in the queue. I’m no longer a virgin. I’m now an experienced lover, maybe (probably) prostitute, and the bloom of my youth has faded from my weary face.

Should I have waited?

If I was looking for status? Yes, I should’ve waited. Getting the big agent and the big publisher would’ve given me more status. It would’ve also given me the satisfaction of a dream fulfilled as close to my fantasies as I could get.

Would I be more famous if I would’ve waited? Roll the dice, I don’t know.

Would I richer if I would’ve waited? Probably not.

Most likely if I would’ve waited another ten years, I’d be about where I’m at. Maybe not, but the reality is, I didn’t wait.

How could I have waited? I’d already spent twenty years working on thirteen books. People all around me were storming the gates of heaven either on their own or with their own small press. I was speaking at writer conferences, and I felt dumb because I didn’t have a book in the bookstore. It just made sense for me to take the plunge.

The reality is, lots of people get the big agent and the big publisher and their books languish, unread, unedited, dead.

My books are out in the world and people are reading them. I’ve walked across many a desert of fear and self-doubt. I’ve made some money, Starbucks money, but cash dollars nonetheless. I’ve lived parts of the dreams.

And I did it while I was still alive. Who knows? In ten years, I might be dead, and if I would’ve waited, I might’ve waited for all eternity.

But I still get sad sometimes. I still have doubts. And regrets? I’ve had a few.

I sometimes think about Jane Austen, who found a publisher for one of her books, but quickly pulled it from the market, too fearful to put herself out in the world. And yet, two hundred years later, if anyone bad mouths Pride and Prejudice, I’ll kick their ass.

Yes, I’m unagented and I don’t have a big publisher. Yet, my books are published. Three of them. Each such a victory.

I might have ruined my career by not waiting, but then again, I’m not dead. I have lots of books to write, and yeah, I’ll continue to query the beast and collect my rejections, and yes, the odds are even worse for me because the publishing industry can look at my sales. However, and this is the biggest, most earth-shattering however possible, if I do hit the big time, the more rejections I have, the better my story becomes. The harder and less likely? The better the story.

And isn’t the point of life to live a really good story?

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 Arist 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, November 16, 2015

Could it be your Point of View?

By: Donnell Ann Bell

People love to give advice.They love to share their point of view. Oftentimes, I listen. Oftentimes, I think this person doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. However, I recently received some advice that I think is invaluable—particularly when it comes to writing.

If you’re writing in first person, you can probably stop reading right now. This stellar advice doesn’t apply to you because let’s face it—you only have one point of view. But if you have multiple points of view in your novel, and it’s not working for some reason, consider rewriting (no screaming allowed) in another character’s POV.

Ask yourself this: Am I writing the scene in the POV character who has the most to lose?


If the antagonist has thrown the protagonist off a cliff, and left the hero for dead, and no one’s around, you’re going to have a pretty compelling scene because clearly you’re in your hero’s head, and you’re going to show his desperation as he tries to save himself.

But . . . let’s say your antagonist throws the protagonist off the cliff, then sticks around to taunt him. 

Whose POV would be most effective? 

Some might say the anger seething through the hero. He’s trying to hang on for dear life, and the villain shows him a rope. “Gee, I’d like to save you,” your bad guy says, “but the rope it appears to be . . . slipping.” Then he throws it as far as he can.

Imagine your protagonist believing the antagonist plans to save him, and all hope is lost . . . . (until, if you’re any kind of writer and not a sadist, the hero finds a root, and with super human strength heroes tend to have in our stories, pulls himself upward and saves himself.)

Or let’s see the same scene through the antagonist’s eyes. The hero has thwarted his every move, stolen his girl, and repossessed his car! Villain’s hatred runs deep. Watching hero fall onto the rocks would cause a gleeful moment for bad guy. It would also show what a menacing creature he is. Imagine his shock when the hero pulls himself up, despite the villain’s best efforts, and the two engage in an amazing fight scene.

Ideally, you get the idea. Point of View is important to your story. Ask yourself who has the most to risk. And if you’re not sure, a great exercise is to write in various POVs. The only problem is then you’ll have a decision to make.

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is the editor of Pikes Peak Writers Writing from the Peak blog and a mystery and romantic suspense author. Check out her books at


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quote of the week and the week to come


Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman, born November 10, 1960, is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. 

This week on Writing from the Peak

Nov. 16:  Could it be your point of view? by Donnell Ann Bell

Nov. 18:  Have I ruined my writing career? By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Nov. 20:  Sweet Success honors Carol Berg