Monday, May 30, 2016

Can Meditation Help My Writing?

Editor's Note: I often read self-help books. If it pertains to writing, and I get something out of it, I'll post a review.

By: Donnell Ann Bell 

Hello, my name is Donnell, and I’m an information junkie. Doesn’t matter, newspapers, televisions, Yahoo, Google, if a headline captures my attention, I read it.

Originally, I told myself that this was good for me, because as a writer I want to be well-informed.

But what happens when all this information overloads the senses and kidnaps your muse? That’s basically what has happened to me during this crazy political cycle and okay, long before. I told myself I could quit at any time. Didn’t happen.

I’ve always been a daydreamer, but recently I just stopped. Suddenly I realized that all I had was an abundance of chatter filling my head.

All I knew was that for a fiction writer chatter is the most useless, nay, dangerous thing ever, and I no longer wanted all this sometimes valid, oftentimes insipid information coming at me at the speed of sound. I wanted my muse back, and to get it, I was desperate enough to pay the ransom.

One evening while I was reading my Kindle, Amazon popped up with an ad. It was a headline (or title), and my ADHD-deficit addled brain latched onto it like a man-eating tree before I could save myself and step away. But this time… this time… before I filed it in the mindless chatter part of my brain, I was fully engaged. Want to know why?

How’s this for a title? 10% Happier How I tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. That was me to a tee and I had to know more. So I bit back and clicked on. And there was the bio of the author. Dan Harris of ABC News. I figured that if Harris, who by far had to surpass me as an information junkie in ways I could never comprehend, found a way to tame the voices, this was a book I should read.

I often wondered where he was going with this thoughts. In truth it reads like a memoir. But it’s a darned good memoir, and one of those books that keep you turning pages. (Also, I felt I had a good vocabulary. Harris has an amazing vocabulary — so if you read it for any other reason, read it for that.) But back to his book: Given that Harris is a public figure/celebrity, I learned fame can be an addiction in itself. Add drugs to it, can you imagine what a mess this guy was?

His journey of transformation is epic, and as a romantic suspense writer, I crave a happily ever after. The long title wasn’t the only thing that whetted my appetite. He talks about the value of meditation to silence not only the chatter, but the negative, often paranoid thinking, that enters our brains. And while I read this part skeptically, he seems to have succeeded.

Harris suggests that readers start meditating five minutes a day, and provides some interesting tools to do it. That’s why I’m going to give it a shot. But sorry Mr. Harris, while I’ve become a fan, I have to turn off the TV—that news junkie thing again.

Am I alone? In this day of 24/7 news and the barrage of social media popping up to swallow us whole, do you need to tame the voices in your head? I recommend this book as a tool if you do.

About the author: Donnell Ann Bell is the managing editor for Writing from the Peak, the coordinator for the monthly Open Critique held on the first Wednesday of every month, and one of Pikes Peak Writer's board members at largeShe is a best selling romantic suspense and mystery author. To learn more about her books, find her at

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

What about the hero of The House on the Strand? What did it mean when he dropped the telephone at the end of the book? “I don't really know, but I rather think he was going to be paralysed for life. Don't you?” ~  Daphne du Maurier

Source: Bing and Google 

Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning DBE (May 13, 1907-April19, 1989) was an English author and playwright. Her stories seldom feature a conventional happy ending, and have been described as ‘moody and resonant’ with overtones of the paranormal. An obituarist wrote: "Du Maurier was mistress of calculated irresolution. She did not want to put her readers' minds at rest. She wanted her riddles to persist. She wanted the novels to continue to haunt us beyond their endings." These bestselling works were not at first taken seriously by the critics, but have since earned an enduring reputation for storytelling craft. Many have been successfully adapted into films, including the novels Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, and the short stories The Birds and Don't Look Now.

This Week on Writing from the Peak:

May 30         Can Meditation Help My Writing    by Donnell Ann Bell

June 1          The Writing Coach, Deb McLeod

June 3          Pikes Peak Writers June Events

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sweet Success Celebrates Debut Author Aimie K. Runyan

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

In her illuminating debut novel, Promised to the Crown (ISBN 1496701127, trade paperback, 352 pages, young adults and up), Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony. This historical fiction was released April 6, 2016 by Kensington Publishing Corporation and is available on

They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

No matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

Aimie K. Runyan, has been an avid student of French and Francophone Studies for more than fifteen years. While working on her Master's thesis on the brave women who helped found French Canada, she was fortunate enough to win a generous grant from the Quebec government to study onsite for three months which enabled the detailed research necessary for her work. Aimie lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

PPWC 2016 - Collecting Nos and Fighting Bitterness

By: Aaron Michael Ritchey

This year at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference I had a wonderful time. The keynotes were awesome, as always, and I became best friends with Rachel Caine and Jeff Lindsay. Both bought copies of my books, however, thanks to a few of my biggest advocates. I am very grateful for such advocates.

I also loved teaching classes and bonding with so many good, strong, courageous writers.

However, when it came to pitching agents and editors, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Normally, I’m a Go-For-The-No type of guy. Which means I collect nos. One isn’t good enough. I used to go to conferences, pitch one person, get a yes, and then walk away feeling victorious.

Then I read a book called Go for No by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz. Getting a yes is fine, but really, this game is about collecting nos. Kevin J. Anderson knows all about this. Remember, he won the award for most rejections.

I go to conferences not looking for yeses, but looking for nos. I would pitch every single agent and editor to collect the most nos. I’m also trying to do this when I submit short stories or when I query agents. I’m looking to collect nos.

So what happened this year?

I wasn’t feeling it. Partly, it’s because I have the six books of The Juniper Wars to write for WordFire Press. That’s a whole lotta fiction right there. Four of the six are written and are in various stages of edits, including finished (the first one, DANDELION IRON, is already out in the world and burning brightly).

I’m also working on a trilogy of romance novels with Andrea K. Stein which we are going to publishing independently. So I have eight books to write and polish. Dang, when you put it that way…just…dang.

I have a full plate, yet I do have some projects I want to shop since it takes traditional publishing YEARS to do anything. Once I complete The Juniper Wars and my romance trilogy, I’ll need the next thing. If I start now, in two to three years, I might have the next thing ready.

But I have to admit, all of that is true, but I’m also getting bitter. It's been ten years of querying and going agentless.

However, there’s another reason I was reticent to pitch. I’m questioning the role agents have in my career. The biggest thing an agent can do for me is to get me into the big traditional publishing game. Ideally, I’d sell a book and Scholastic would pick it up and put me in their catalog, which goes out to MILLIONS of readers. Dude, I’d pay an agent fifteen percent to get that kind of action. You betcha. Still, those are some long odds and so many things can go wrong. And I only want an agent that adores me. Finding one of those has been challenging. 

Hence the bitterness, which I will not embrace.

If all an agent will do for me is to sell my stuff to a small or medium-size press? No, thank you, I can do that myself. *Tips hat and walks away*

Pitching to editors can be iffy since they are so busy. They might love my idea, but then it gets buried under their stack and they forget about me.

In the end, I’m surrendering to the will of the universe. Remember, Rachel Caine showed up at a writers’ conference, talked to an editor, wasn’t very gung-ho about it all, and wound up with her first publishing contract. More and more, I’m seeing this whole publishing game as one that is going to happen to me if I keep writing and putting myself out there.

For example, at Pikes Peak this year, I kept bumping into this one agent. I did my homework, read about the agents who represent middle grade, and made a list. I met this person in an elevator, got ready to pitch, but then the irony of doing an elevator pitch in an elevator completely silenced me. This person hurried away. I kept seeing her/him, kept trying to pitch to her/him, but it wasn’t happening. I let go. I surrendered. Wasn’t meant to be.

Then the two people I really wanted to pitch were standing by the elevator again, and this time, I walked up and pitched them both – an agent and an editor.

They were both tired and they both looked upon me with a certain amount of amusement. Or scorn. I couldn’t tell. The agent was interested and I’ll send her/him pages. The editor wasn’t.

Then the agent said that the way the industry works is that writers send queries to agents who send them to editors.

You all would’ve been proud of me. I nodded politely. I didn’t say that if I could pitch the editor directly, the agent wouldn’t get his/her fifteen percent. I also answered politely that, no, this wasn’t my first novel. And, yes, I’ve seen some action, won some awards, and did the Amazon bestseller thing.

Am I getting jaded? Yeah, definitely.

I still believe in collecting nos, but more and more, I want my nos to come from readers themselves, not the publishing industry.

Funny thing about that…most readers say yes to me. Go figure. And those readers become my advocates.

And I love advocates. They help me sell books. Which brings us back to paragraph one.

Ahh, the circle of life.

Will I be at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in 2017? You bet your butt I'll be there. To collect nos and to fight the bitterness.

About the Author:  Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of four young adult novels and his short fiction has appeared in various anthologies and online magazines. He is also a dynamic speaker, having taught classes on all aspects of writing fiction around the country. In 2012, his first novel, The Never Prayer, was a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold Conference. In 2015, his second novel, Long Live the Suicide King, won the Building the Dream award for best YA novel, and he spent the summer as the Artist in Residence at the Anythink Library. Dandelion Iron, the first book in his epic YA sci-fi western series, The Juniper Wars, is available through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. Aaron lives in Colorado with his cactus flower of a wife and two stormy daughters.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Scholarship Recipient Shares Thoughts on Prequel Day

By: MaryAnn Sundby

I heard there were scholarships for the 2016 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Application details were explained on the website Here, so I applied and within two months I heard a scholarship was awarded for me to attend Thursday, called Prequel Day, of the PPWC. I was thrilled to be with other authors for the day and hear professionals offer time-tested ways to improve our craft. 

Two bits of advice I took home from the workshops were: Let your voice come out and polish your writing.  Though I’ve heard these before, both are important to hear again as I refine my writing skills.

The voice in my writing comes from my experiences, childhood, and attitudes that flavor each story.  As I develop setting, conversation and conflict, that uniqueness flows into my words. I need to encourage this creative side to blossom and capture my reader.

As my stories develop, I edit and edit so the reader does get bogged down with too many words, description or a boring story. I weed through every sentence and paragraph to provide clarity so the story shines. As I polish, the technical side of my writing takes over. It’s as important as the creative side.

Without reservation, I would recommend writers consider attending the PPWC conference next year.  You will learn techniques and ideas to improve your writing and will know your time was well spent.

About the author:  I write for the children’s market and have been published in Christian periodicals and newsletters. This year Ripple Grove press is publishing my first book, Monday is Wash Day. Look for it in September.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

“I have always preferred conflict of individuals over the battle of extreme ideologies.” ~ Robert Ludlum

Source Wikiepedia and Google

Robert Ludlum (May 25, 1927 to March 12, 2001) was an American author of 27 thriller novels. The number of copies of his books in print is estimated between 290 million and 500 million. They have been published in 33 languages and 40 countries.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

May 23        Scholarship Recipient MaryAnn Sundby

May 25        Collecting Nos & Fighting Bitterness by Aaron Michael 

May 27        Sweet Success Celebrates Aimie K. Runyon

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sweet Success Celebrates Lisa Hawker ITW finalist Best First Novel

CORRECTION: Editor regrets that the cover and blurb for Body and Bone were inadvertently listed as L.S. Hawker's debut and ITW finaling novel. The Drowning Game is Ms. Hawker's International Thriller Writer finaling novel and the corrected blurb follows:   

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Congratulations go out to Lisa Hawker and her debut novel, The Drowning Game. Her thriller is a finalist in the 2016 International Thriller Writers, Thriller Awards, for Best First Novel. She will be traveling to New York in July, 2016 to attend Thrillerfest and the awards banquet. The Ebook was released September 22, 2015 by by Harper Collins Witness Impulse (ISBN: 9780062435217, available at:

They said she was armed.
They said she was dangerous.
They were right.

Petty Moshen spent eighteen years of her life as a prisoner in her own home, training with military precision for everything, ready for anything. She can disarm, dismember, and kill—and now, for the first time ever, she is free.

Her paranoid father is dead, his extreme dominance and rules a thing of the past, but his influence remains as strong as ever. When his final will reveals a future more terrible than her captive past, Petty knows she must escape—by whatever means necessary.

But when Petty learns the truth behind her father's madness—and her own family—the reality is worse than anything she could have imagined. On the road and in over her head, Petty's fight for her life has just begun.

LS Hawker grew up in suburban Denver, indulging her worrisome obsession with true-crime books, and writing stories about anthropomorphic fruit and juvenile delinquents. She wrote her first novel at 14. Armed with a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas, she had a radio show called "People Are So Stupid," edited a trade magazine, and worked as a traveling Kmart portrait photographer, but never lost her passion for fiction writing. She's got a hilarious, supportive husband, two brilliant daughters, and a massive music collection. She lives in Colorado but considers Kansas her spiritual homeland.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

About Those Surveys: We're Listening

By J. T. Evans

That's right. We're snooping on what you have to say. But not in a creepy way.

For those of you who have attended any Pikes Peak Writers Conference, you've seen the quarter-page, white survey sheets we hand out for every session. That's right. Every session. Every attendee.

There are 14 time slots for sessions and roughly 370 attendees. Assuming some attendees take a break from the learning to let their brains cool off, I'll go with 20 or so of them not sitting in a chair in a class. That's 350 people we want feedback from times the 14 sessions for a grand total of 4,900 session evaluations.

Now, not everyone does the survey for every session. We have roughly a 50% participation rate (and wish it were higher). At the end of the conference, we have around 2,500 of those little sheets to decipher. They're hastily written and sometimes the folks have handwriting similar to mine (e.g.: illegible).

This means we're spending gobs of time (that's a technical term) reading through them all. You read that right. All. Of. Them.

We love what our attendees have to say about the sessions they attend. Not all reviews are favorable or glowing, but that's okay. Honestly, that's more than okay. We truly do want honest feedback on everything we do. It's how we improve over time.

Without you writing the survey sheets, and with our expenditure of gobs of time reading and reviewing them, we wouldn't know what was on target. Where you let us know about the great speakers and good topics, we know who to bring back and what we need to teach each year.

If you didn't like something, we want to know that as well. We need to know where a presenter fell flat, or if a topic wasn't useful. It helps us realize where we can coach our presenters to improve their teaching skills. It also lets us know that a particular topic might not be of use to our attendees.

I know this is coming out post-conference, but if you come back to see us again (or come to see us for the first time) at the 2017 Pikes Peak Writers Conference, please consider filling out those surveys. I wanted to write this up to let you know how valuable you as an attendee are to our continued improvements and thriving as the best and friendliest conference in the region.

For those of you who spent your valuable time and energy giving us feedback, thank you so very much for doing so. We're listening. We're doing our best to improve based on what you need and want.

If you missed your chance to give feedback, or couldn't fit your comments on those tiny sheets of paper, my email inbox is always available. I welcome any and all constructive criticism (and praise!) to be sent to me at

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.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sweet Success Challenge -- Leap into Writing

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

As writers we spend many hours alone, toiling at keyboards, storyboards, or scratching outlines on the back of napkins. The solitude is, at times, blissful. At others it can be downright boring. Even depressing. The cold days, along with the many winter celebrations, pulled me away from writing and I felt a need to do something about it. I needed some inspiration, a writing companion, and a good boot in the pants to get back to writing.

From this desire to write with friends the first Sweet Success Challenge; Leap into Writing was formed. Pikes Peak Writers and writers across the nation gathered virtually and committed to write (or do something "writerly") every day for the twenty-nine days of February. The idea was to get back into the writing routine or start a new habit of writing, and then keep it up through the rest of the year.

It turns out, I wasn’t the only one who needed a helping hand. Jody emailed PPW’s blog editor, Donnell Bell, with the subject of, “Lost Writer! Help!” Jody made a New Year’s resolution to get back into writing and sought out PPW for direction. She went on to fulfill her commitment and joined the challenge.

PPW President, J.T. Evans, said, “I really liked the constant encouragement and feedback from you on this front. Getting the cheers and support from everyone else participating really helped as well. I had a rough month in February with many things pulling me in different directions, but I still managed to get a couple of short stories written. These are two stories that wouldn't have otherwise existed.”

Jennifer Rose loved Wednesday Word Wars. “While I’m normally a highly productive writer, Wednesday Word Wars were a great motivating tool for me. I definitely felt pushed to choose to put my fingers to the keys over doing anything else that day.”

Although the Sweet Success Challenge is over, you should consider hosting your own challenge, or joining one. It can be a day, a week, a month, or more. Just bring a few friends (or a lot) together and write! 

You don’t have to live in the same town, or even the same state. Today’s technology has shrunk the world to a size that your writing challenge can take place anytime, anywhere, and with anyone. Keep it simple (as simple as you and a friend who can be your accountability partner); keep it fun (Wednesday Word Wars was a highlight); or make it outlandish (set tough to reach goals like 5,000-15,000 words a day).

Whenever you fall into a bit of a funk, or if your writing has taken a back seat for too long, that’s the time to get up and do something about it. You are not a lone writer who has to wither in a writing bubble. You are a writer and you have friends, many of whom you just haven’t met yet. Start now and make today your day to Leap into Writing.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

The easy answer is that writing novels is a lot more fun than practicing law.” ~ Jeffery Deaver

Source: Google and Wikipedia

Jeffery Deaver (born May 6, 1950) is an American mystery/crime writer. He has a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Fordham University. He originally worked in journalism and later practiced law before turning to novels. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

May 16         Results of the Sweet Success Challenge by Kathie Scrimgeour

May 18         About those Surveys – We’re Listening by J.T. Evans

May 20         Sweet Success Celebrates L. S. Hawker

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sweet Success Celebrates Aaron Michael Ritchey and Dandelion Iron

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Aaron Michael Ritchey’s young adult sci-fi western novel, Dandelion Iron (The Juniper Books 1) (ISBN: 9781614753490, 257 pages, softcover and ebook, book one of a six book series) was released April 11, 2016 by WordFire Press and is available at all online book outlets.

It is the year 2058. The Sino-American War has decimated several generations of men, and electricity does not function in five western states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana are now territories once again. On a desperate post-apocalyptic cattle drive to save their family ranch, Cavatica Weller and her two older sisters stumble across a viable boy. Sharlotte, the oldest sister wants to send him away, Wren, the middle gun-slinging sister, wants to sell him, and Cavatica falls in love with him. Little do they know that an inhuman army is searching for the boy and will stop at nothing to find him.

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer, Long Live the Suicide King, and Elizabeth’s Midnight. He was born on a cold and snowy September day in Denver, Colorado, and while he’s lived and traveled all over the world, he’s a child of the American West. Sagebrush makes him homesick. While he pines for Paris, he still lives in Colorado with his cactus flower of a wife and two stormy daughters. 
 -E-mail:  -Website:

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Context is More than a Setting

By: Karen Albright Lin

Your plot is solid. Your characters are fleshed out and fascinating. Your narrative sizzles. You feel your novel is a winner and yet something pinches at you. If your characters feel as if they are floating through your story, your novel may be short on context. There is more to consider than the all-important “character” we call setting. 

Context may start with describing a room or the route from home to church. But there are both macro and micro locales. Macro: Is yours a surreal planet, Earth or a prison?  Is your time period clear? Context includes many aspects of culture. How about the justice system and religions of those who populate your novel? Do your readers need to know about its counter culture? On the micro level, it is important for us to know the season and how it affects your story. Are there important props that tell us about your world and characters? 

Below are a few ways of altering or elaborating upon your context to add texture, ground your characters, and create new potential for fun plot twists.

Addressing the big picture, you can change the setting, time period, even genre to alter the context. Move the mutilated body. Add fantastical elements. By fashioning a world in which magic exists, Pan’s Labyrinth explored the Spanish Civil war with some distance while reflecting the truly surreal nature of war. Joseph Conrad created the surreal world of a rogue colonel in Heart of Darkness set along the Amazon. It was re-imagined in Cambodia by director Francis Coppola in Apocalypse Now.

Speaking of Heart of Darkness, Conrad used another important part of your characters’ surroundings, smell.  It’s hard to forget the line, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” We have more sympathy watching Three Men and a Baby in the diaper changing scene because we can smell their predicament.

Make the world you’ve created not only psychologically surreal but visually so (The Cell, Trainspotting, 100 Years of Solitude, What Dreams May Come). You can even change elements that, if made into a movie, would alter the budget. Imagine The Blair Witch Project using CGI and elaborate sets.

Beef up the description and emotional power of your locale. The Poisonwood Bible makes full use of the land and politics of the Congo. We guess that Moby Dick wouldn’t be the classic it is if it hadn’t been written with the description of the water, the weather, and a prop that was a character, the albino sperm whale. But in fact, the tale of Ahab’s journey could have been told elsewhere using a different animal as his symbol of evil incarnate. 

A change of season might change the story a great deal, especially an adventure novel or holiday story, maybe even a murder mystery. Weather can act as a symbol or reflect theme as was the case in House of Sand and Fog, The Ice Storm, and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Changes in weather set some stories in motion like Wizard of Oz, Alive, Twister, Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Grapes of Wrath, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Props are fun and important elements in novels. Throw in a device with evidence on it (cell phone, camera, a computer). Consider changing technological capabilities of your world, and not only in steam punk and sci-fi. Throw in a monkey wrench when technology breaks down. Mr. Chekov was essential to the constant repairs needed on the Enterprise. Perhaps your technology is more pedestrian, like a vehicle thrown in for its comedic value (Robin William’s RV). Tech glitches can raise tension; cell phones usually lose their signals in horror stories.

While you are thinking about transportation, maybe change your protagonist’s mode of conveyance. Planes, Trains and Automobiles would have been different if a horse and buggy had been thrown in.

Explore everything in the world that’s in your reach. What if your props are your characters? Turn inanimate objects into your “people,” as in Toy Story and SpongeBob SquarePants. Think about how that changes the context; a toy box or the ocean become settings.

Make use of art (The Da Vince Code), a poem (The Redwall Series), a book (The Ninth Gate), letters (The Lake House) or research material (The Historian). The entire context of the novel changes with props like these.

Add an animal as a prop, one that comes with all kinds of responsibilities and scene potential as Janet Evanovich did in her Stephanie Plum series with her hamster, Rex.

The physical world, its culture and the objects that exist in it form the milieu and ambiance of your novel. You can drastically change your characters’ experiences by adding nuance and believability with context. By changing the environment in which the story is built, you might discover that it is best told in the Rocky Mountains rather than Coney Island. You may find that the props and animals in your story play a greater role than you originally thought. Maybe a change in the world will alter a personality or even call for a different point of view. 

Think of Sandra Bullock’s experience in Gravity. If you feel your characters are floating like that but they aren’t in outer space, try giving them enough ground to stand on and distinct-smelling air to breathe. Beef up the context. 

This article originally ran in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Newsletter.

About the Author: 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

Monday, May 9, 2016

The 10th Annual PPLD Mountain of Authors – Mountain of Magic

By: Darby Karchut

On Saturday, April 23, Library 21C opened its door to aspiring writers, authors, and patrons for the 10th Annual Mountain of Authors. The event featured more than 30 showcase authors, two panels, and one amazing keynote speaker. It ran all day, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the conference room was packed the entire time.

Library 21C
Library 21C is the star of the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD). This massive building, located in the northeast part of Colorado Springs, is a state-of-the-art facility and is the first of its kind in the country. Just recently, it welcomed John Spears as its new executive director of PPLD. He welcomed everyone to the event with an enthusiast speech, and then the fun began.

The Panels
Panel 1 – Mystery Author Panel. The panel included Nancy Atherton, author of the Aunt Dimity cozy mysteries, Robert Greer, author of The Devil’s Hatband and many other noir mysteries featuring characters of color, and Manual Ramos, author of The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz among his other books.

Nancy, Robert and Manual talked about the inspirations for their plots, how they motivated themselves, the use of setting in their stories, and encouraged aspiring writers to write, write, write.

Panel 2 – 10th Anniversary Retrospective. This panel welcomed three previous panelists from earlier Mountain of Authors: Mario Acevedo, author of the bestselling Felix Gomes detective-vampire series, Kristen Heitzmann, author of The Breath of Dawn and other novels, and Sandra Bond, owner of Bond Literary Agency.

Mario, Kristen, and Sandra offered some insiders’ hints and truths about landing agents and/or editors, and discussed the rise of small and mid-size publishing. They all agreed this was an exciting time in the book world, for there are more options for authors than ever before, and many different roads to success.

Keynote Speaker
Anne Hillerman, author of Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock with Wings, gave the keynote speech. She expounded upon the recent scientific studies showing the emotional and physical benefits of reading. Anne also talked about the power of place in stories, and shared heartfelt yarns about her dad, the late Tony Hillerman.

Showcase Authors
In between the panel presentation, there were plenty of opportunities for the audience to visit with the showcase authors, and talk one-on-one about writing and the publishing world. Even better, it was a great gift to catch up with old friends and fellow writers. Book folks are the best folks!
Darby showcasing her work
Included in the day’s schedule was the ceremony honoring the finalists and winner of the All Pikes Peak Writers. This was PPLD’s first annual adult fiction writing contest.
Truly a Mountain of Authors Photo by Bruce Stetler

The Staff and Volunteers
I have to give a Rocky Mountain-size shout out to Bryan Matthews, Shannon Miller, and Karin Huxman. Bryan Matthews kept us authors organized and informed during the months leading up to the event, and his enthusiasm for books and writers was contagious. Shannon Miller and Karin Huxman were the moderators. They not only had a slew of thoughtful, intelligent questions ready to go, they fielded questions from the audience as well.

The rest of the staff and volunteers, many who I didn’t get a chance to thank, were the heroes of the day. They kept everything running smoothly and made us authors feel like rock stars. And, man, oh, man, those gourmet cupcakes at the end!

So, here’s to next year’s Mountain of Authors! I can’t wait to see what the Pikes Peak Library District has planned for number eleven!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

“Beliefs are the roads we take to our dreams. Believe you can do something—or believe you can’t—and you’ll be right every time." ~ Jodi Picoult”

Source: Bing and Wikipedia

Jodi Picoult, born May 19, 1966, is an American author. She was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for fiction in 2003. Picoult currently has approximately 14 million copies of her books in print worldwide. 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

May 9           Mountain of Authors by Darby Karchut

May 11         Context is More than Setting by Karen Albright Lin

May 13         Sweet Success Celebrates Aaron Michael Ritchey

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pikes Peak Writers May Events

May Write Brain

What: Mystery Storytelling: Tips and Techniques
Who:  Mark Stevens
Fourth Tuesday When: May 24, 6:30-8:30 pm
Where: Venue@21c (upper floor, to the right if coming in the upper entrance) of Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80920

More Information: Join Mark Stevens for a lively discussion on the technique of mystery storytelling. Stevens will discuss ways to keep readers on their toes with multi-faceted storylines and how to include just enough clues to leave any bibliophile guessing until the very last page.

About the Presenter: The son of two librarians, Mark Stevens was raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in the suburbs of Boston and from Principia College in Illinois. He worked as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor in Boston and Los Angeles; as a City Hall reporter for The Rocky Mountain News in Denver;  as a national field producer for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (PBS) and as an education reporter for The Denver Post.  After journalism, he worked in school public relations before starting his own public relations and strategic communications business.  He lives in Denver with his wife and has two grown daughters.

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

May Writer’s Night
FREE Writer’s Night
Location: Kawa Coffee
Address: 2427 N Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909
Fourth Monday of every month (View Calendar of Events)
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Join fellow writers for PPW Night on the fourth Monday of every month.
PPW Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.
The direction of the meeting is decided by the participants and can include discussions about query letters, obtaining and working with an agent, writing conferences, or other specific points of the craft.  If nothing else, we talk about books!
If you have any questions, or if there is a specific topic you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail to the host, Deb Courtney, or call her on her cell phone at 719-337-9049.
Meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 and run until about 8:30. These are drop-in meetings, so feel free to attend all or just part of them.
See you soon!