Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pikes Peak Writers September Events

Pikes Peak Writers September Events

Write Drunk, Edit Sober - September 13

Second Wednesday of every month 
6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Bar K 
124 E Costilla St. 
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Join Deb Courtney for Write Drunk*, Edit Sober on the second Wednesday of every month. We start at 6:30 PM will run until approximately 9 PM in the lower level of Bar K in downtown Colorado Springs.

The basic format is improv writing followed by discussion of critical techniques useful in unpacking improv responses in order to further develop them.

Bar K is located on Costilla, between Tejon and Nevada.
This event is no host, which means Pikes Peak Writers will not be providing the drinks. Alcohol/soft drinks are available for purchase. There is no food service; owners have graciously agreed to allow outside food/snacks. Please be courteous and leave no messes.

This event is only open to writers who are at least 21 years old.

Hope to see you there.

* Pikes Peak Writers does not endorse or approve of drinking to excess. Please, if you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drink responsibly.

September Write Brain – Never Plead “No Contest” Again!

6:15 PM to 8:15 PM
Library 21C
1175 Chapel Hills Dr. 
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

What: Never Plead “No Contest” Again!

Who: M.B. Partlow

When: September 19th, 6:15 – 8:15pm – Note: earlier start time

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: Entering the Zebulon (or any) writing contest can be a rewarding endeavor or an exercise in frustration. This workshop is all about how to improve your chances in a writing contest, with specific attention paid to our very own Zebulon. First, we’ll cover the basics–opening dates, deadlines, rules, entering, scoring. Then we’ll move on to the meat of the matter: what separates successful entries from unsuccessful efforts. After analyzing details from past  contests, we’re going to share the most common errors that knock down scores, and share tips on how to prevent them. We’ll talk about paying attention to details, what genre means (or should mean) to you, and how to make the query letter a strength instead of a weakness. If time allows, we’ll split into small groups and discuss individual query letters. If you have one needing feedback, bring a couple of copies.

If you’d like another reason to attend, we will give away TWO free contest entries that night! 

About the Presenter: MB Partlow tries to inject her off-center sense of humor into everything she does. She writes mostly in the speculative fiction world, with forays into mystery and women’s fiction. Her first paid writing gig was for the A&E department of The Independent. She’s also written a parenting column for Pikes Peak Parent and spent years writing restaurant reviews for the Indpendent and The Gazette. She’s a longtime volunteer for PPW, having done everything from stacking chairs to Conference Director to serving on the board. She reads voraciously across genres, and thinks making up stories for a living is the greatest job in the world.

Want to Connect?: Click here for the Facebook Event Page.

FREE Writer’s Night - Sep 25

6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Kawa Coffee 
2427 N Union Blvd.
Colorado Springs, CO 80909

Writers’ 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, Damon Smithwick, or call him on his cell phone at 719-464-5336.

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!

Host: Damon Smithwick

Damon Smithwick is a long time Pikes Peak Writers attendee at various events. He took over for the PPW Writers’ Night in January of 2017.  

Inpactful Quotes and Adieu

Over the last two years I've been showered with wonderful articles and learned much as your editor for Writing from the Peak. There's truly a stable of information in this blog, I hope readers (particularly writers) will refer to it often and learn much from its pages. Still, as editor, I think one of the most inspiring times was when I went hunting for a weekly quote for Quote of the Week and the Week to Come. I rummaged through my archives and found a few of my favorites. They inspired me, and I hope they will inspire you as well.  Enjoy!  ~ Donnell Ann Bell  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Inside Directing a Writers Conference

Editor's Note: So impressed by this article. This should be added to the Writing Conference Director's Bible. 

By: MB Partlow

Although many might think so, conference directing is not all tasting menus, telling people what to do, and sipping mimosas with the agents and editors.

I’ve worked on the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in various capacities for the past ten
years, with one turn in the hot seat in 2015 as its Conference Director.

What’s the secret to a successful turn directing a big, four-day conference without losing your nerve, your hair or your health? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you the real inside secrets.

Surround yourself with good people. That doesn’t necessarily mean people who will agree with every idea you have, but rather people who will share your vision, make good decisions, rein you in when you get punchy, and are willing to admit when they need some help with a particular task. People who don’t freak out under pressure are a bonus. Treasure them.

That is not to say you need a conference committee made of your best friends, or full of people who are just like you. First, that would be boring. Second, and most important, if you’re all that much alike, you’re probably going to share all the same weak spots. You need people who can provide support in areas where you’re weak.   

A perfect example is social media. I know it’s important, but I also know very little about how to create it or manage it. So I found a couple of folks who knew what they were doing, and I listened to them. While I had veto power over, say, Facebook announcements, I didn’t exercise that by nit-picking. I made big picture suggestions and let them get their design on, because that was their strength.

Learn what the budget is, and what parts are flexible and which are not. Think long and hard about what’s important to you, and what’s going to be important to your attendees. All that swag in the conference bags? You have to pay for that. And for the bags themselves. Cute and kitschy doodads may look fun, and you may say $2.49 per item isn’t a lot, but multiply that by 350 people. Is it worth $871.50 of your swag budget?

Do. Not. Gossip. Not ever. Not about your conference committee, and certainly not about any of your faculty. You probably have a friend or a spouse who already listens to you vent, so they can probably handle a little more. While everyone should feel free to come to you, as director, to vent, it should all roll uphill. Disseminate vital information, but keep it professional.

That word, professional. You can’t go wrong with approaching everyone from the guy bussing the tables in the banquet room to the keynote speaker (and everyone in between) in a professional manner. Be friendly, and be yourself, but remember that you are setting the standard for attendees and committee members. Oy, it’s like parenting that way. You may need to lower your snark and/or sarcasm volume, which is really difficult for some of us.

The director bears the ultimate responsibility for the conference, and that includes the inevitable mistakes. No, you can’t throw a committee member under the bus. A conference director has to be able to apologize sincerely, and then move on. This is one thing I learned as director that has served me well in regular life. When you’ve wronged someone, apologize and mean it. Do what will make it right, then keep moving forward. No need for prolonged hand-wringing or self-flagellation. We’re all human.  

Keep all the lines of communication open. Be honest with your people, and provide as many details as you can, whenever you can. And for crying out loud, if you don’t know the answer, admit it and then find the answer. Your people want the conference to be as successful as you do, and they don’t need a load of baloney. Treat them like responsible, professional adults, or (gasp) the way you would like to be treated.

Enjoy the ride. A lot of people are putting a lot of time and energy into this project right along with you, and hopefully you’ll be buoyed and inspired by the energy around you. No mistake, this job is hard work and requires a lot of time and attention to detail, but putting it together and pulling it off is a rush.

Last but certainly not least, thank and praise all those people helping you. When someone congratulates you on a great conference (something we all hope for), your first response had better be, “I couldn’t have done it without my conference volunteers. They worked their butts off for this and did a fabulous job.” Because everyone I’ve worked with at conference? Does work hard. Does deserve more praise. And made being Conference Director one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

About the Author: MB Partlow tries to inject her off-center sense of humor into everything she does. She writes mostly in the speculative fiction world, with forays into mystery and women’s fiction. Her first paid writing gig was for the A&E department of The Independent. She’s also written a parenting column for Pikes Peak Parent and spent years writing restaurant reviews for the Indpendent and The Gazette. She’s a longtime volunteer for PPW, having done everything from stacking chairs to Conference Director to serving on the board. She reads voraciously across genres, and thinks making up stories for a living is the greatest job in the world.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

Source: Wikipedia & Google

Sidney Sheldon (February 11, 1917 – January 30, 2007) was an American writer and producer. He came to prominence in the 1930s, first working on Broadway plays and then in motion pictures, notably writing the successful comedy The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947) which earned him an Academy Award. He went on to work in television, where his works spanned a 20-year period during which he created The Patty Duke Show(1963–66), I Dream of Jeannie (1965–70) and Hart to Hart (1979–84). He became most famous after he turned 50 and began writing best-selling romantic suspense novels, such as Master of the Game (1982), The Other Side of Midnight (1973) and Rage of Angels (1980). He is the seventh best-selling fiction writer of all time.

This week on Writing from the Peak

Aug 28          Inside Directing a Writer’s Conference by MB Partlow

Aug 30          Exiting Editor’s Favorite Quotes

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sweet Success Celebrates Michelle Major's RITA Award

In July Michelle Major attended Romance Writers of America's annual conference where she was nominated for the prestigious RITA award, RWA's highest achievement among published authors. No surprise to many, she won her category for Christmas on Crimson Mountain. Well done, Michelle! May your stories continue to entertain readers for years to come. 

Michelle holding her RITA 

Peace and quiet—that's all Connor Pierce wanted from the rented cabin on Crimson Mountain. Yet the caretaker turned out to be lovely April Sanders—a total distraction. As were the two little girls she was caring for. Connor's plan to forget his painful past soon detoured into giving the ladies a Christmas to remember. 
Being named guardian of two motherless girls has upended April's world. Add to the mix a mysterious, brooding writer claiming he wanted to be left alone while going out of his way to bring a little joy to the girls, and she has quite the quandary. April had counted herself out of a happy ending. But maybe Santa still had a few surprises up his merry old sleeve… 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pikes Peak Writers President's Report -- The Prez Says

By: Bowen Gillings

When I became your president in March, one of my key interests was keeping PPW membersPrez Says blog is intended to do just that. Once per quarter, following our Board meeting, you will receive a summary of what occurred, what decisions were made, and how we are moving forward.
informed about the workings of their organization. The
Please understand that, as a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, this organization is governed by bylaws. Those bylaws are intended to protect individual members as well as our organization. Therefore, some of what occurs at Board meetings cannot be shared. Still, it is my hope that keeping our members informed will help draw in new volunteers and new ideas to help the organization grow.
This last meeting covered a broad range of topics from financial reports to getting new signs for our various monthly events.
The success of April’s Pikes Peak Writers Conference has given us a path for our next one in 2018. However, several key positions on the Conference Steering Committee need to be filled. Please, if you love attending Conference and are planning on going in 2018, why not help out as a volunteer? Check out for opportunities. Some positions come with big discounts on the cost of Conference!
Angie Hodapp
June’s half-day event with Angie Hodapp also proved a great success and the Board is looking into the possibility of conducting events like these more often, perhaps quarterly. To do this, we once again need volunteers to help out. If you’d like to see more big events more often and have the wherewithal to help see them done, contact me via email at If you have an idea for an event you’d like to see, be sure to visit our workshop request page and fill out the brief form at
A big issue discussed this past meeting concerned our vacancies in key positions within PPW. Aside from Conference, PPW needs volunteers to keep itself functioning. One shortfall we have right now is the need for a qualified webmaster. Our current one is stepping down after having given us great service for the past few years. My goal as president is to create a web team around any webmaster serving PPW. Right now, we have two talented individuals who are helping out with the website, but neither can take on the full duties of webmaster. If you are a talented web guru, work well as part of a team, and can take vague direction from a non-tech savvy president, then we need you!
Other vacancies include a volunteer coordinator to help keep PPW up to date with its members and a new facilitator for our monthly Open Critique sessions. Pay attention to our website and social media as a fun, informational social event is coming up in late August. There will be door prizes! For more information on all of our needs, check out
 Next month we hold our annual Board Elections. Several positions will be up for election this time. Those include President, Vice President, and a few Member-at-Large vacancies. Normally, President and VP elections are offset by a year. However, due to the circumstances of my becoming President, it’s only fair to allow other qualified candidates to submit their names for the position this year, knowing that the position of president will be up for election once again in 2018. If you are interested in running for a position on the PPW Board, send a formal, one-page letter stating your interest and a short resume of your qualifications for the position to A selection committee then forwards candidates to the Board for the vote in September.
Two other items of note at this meeting was the approval of Laura Hayden as a Board Liaison. This is a non-voting position and one that allows us access to Laura's experience and insight as one of PPW’s founding members. We also discussed the power of our social media presence, particularly PPW Connect ( PPW Connect is a great place to seek out other writers should you be looking for a critique partner, have questions about the craft, the business, or just want to get opinions on some of your literary ideas. Check it out if you have not already.
That is it for this installment of Prez Says. If you have questions about PPW and how it works, please reach out to me. The address, again is
Thank you.

About the Author: Bowen Gillings lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, daughter, and dog.  He became a member of Pikes Peak Writers in 2015 and is President of Pikes Peak Writers. You can catch him climbing the Manitou Incline or at Garden of the Gods Park, where he heads the school programs for area elementary and high school students.  Or come listen to his overbearing voice as the emcee of Write Brain the third Tuesday of each month at Library 21C. He is screaming along the rollercoaster ride of his first novel about a disgraced soldier and pregnant sorceress fighting their demons in a fantastical version of the French and Indian War.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Non-Conference Events: Who Are We & What Can We Do For You?

By: Linda Tschappat

So, as a Pikes Peak Writers member, or future member, you probably already know about the fantastic writing conference we hold each April, right? Affectionately known as PPWC, it's an amazing experience, jam-packed with all things you need to learn for your writing career, with friends both known and new, and all kinds of fun. It's four or five days of networking, kibitzing with other authors, keynote speakers, editors, and agents, forging friendships, and soaking up as much knowledge as you can. Definitely not to be missed.

But what about the other 360 days of the year? One cannot learn all you need to know in five days. Did you know there are events, and learning, and fun, all year long? Dubbed Non-Conference Events (NCE), these mini events are held at various times to help you along every step of your career. Here's a snapshot of what we offer:

Write Your Heart Out - Held each February, this is a FREE half-day event designed as a Conference sneak peek. Six speakers from the upcoming PPWC faculty present a mini version of their material, covering a wide range of topics to help further your writing career.

Writers' Night - A fun, informal night of conversation, support, and sharing. Typically held on the fourth Monday, this is an open and free-form discussion on all facets of writing specifically or books in general.

Open Critique - This is an excellent way to get positive, non-judgmental feedback on your writing. A small group of writers along with the host and a guest critique offer suggestions on how to tighten and polish your masterpiece. Held on the first Wednesday, email to reserve your spot for the next meeting.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober - Our newest event held the second Wednesday of each month, join our host and other writers for improv writing prompts aimed at jump starting your writing creativity and honing your skills. Alcoholic drinks, while available for purchase, are not required for attendance and participation.

Write Brains - A free conference format workshop held each month on a variety of topics from the craft of writing to the business and marketing side of your career. Typically held the third Tuesday of each month, speakers from all skills and publishing levels share their knowledge and expertise.

          Do you have an idea for a Write Brain Workshop that you'd like to share? As NCE Director, I use the same Proposal Portal as the Conference to choose the speaker and topics each month. Please consider adding your idea and presentation information to share your knowledge with our members. Feel free to email me at
Half-Day Paid Event - This is a Deep Dive format, usually on a single topic, designed to give in-depth information to improve your writing skills, increase your knowledge, and further your career. Typically, an annual or bi-annual event, this is an excellent opportunity to attend an extra workshop modeled like the Conference Prequel.

PPW also participates in other events throughout the year, such as Mountain of Authors, Mini-Maker Faire, and Mile-Hi Con.

Ask not what PPW can do for you; ask what you can do for PPW

Okay, so that's kind of silly, but no less true. Did you know that one of the best ways to grow
in your writing career is to help others get where you are or where you want to be? One of my favorite quotes by Earl Nightingale, "A candle is not diminished by giving another candle light." PPW offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities for all skill levels. You don't need to be an expert to get involved; all you need is a positive attitude and a willingness to help.

PPW and NCE are currently in deep need of help in a variety of positions of which most do not require a huge time commitment. True, there are positions available that do take more time, such as the openings on the Board, but none require prior experience, rather simply the desire to get involved. Training for any volunteer is provided, so don't think you have to know it all or do it all on your own. We're here to help and support you as you help and support us. Here's a short, and probably incomplete list of current openings that are PPW in general, not specifically tied to the annual conference, which also has a list of openings available:
·       President - Board position
·       Vice President - Board position
·       Webmaster
·       Member at Large - Board position
·       NCE Director - Board position, (Assistant also a possibility)
·       Open Critique Host - (NCE)
·       Assistant hosts for each of the monthly events - (NCE)

About the Author: Linda Tschappat joined PPW last September, training to be NCE Director, officially taking over the title in April. As a mom and crazy workaholic, she is currently looking to train someone as NCE Director, or an assistant to help plan the monthly and special events. Though still non-published, she's a perfectionist who stubbornly refuses to give up writing. She enjoys a variety of genres and age groups, currently working on a YA Urban Fantasy / Greek Mythology series and others including a Time Travel Regency Romance and MG Fantasy. Connect with her online at or email at

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

"The funny thing about writing is that whether you are doing it well or you do it poorly, it looks the exact same. That is actually one of the many ways that writing is different from ballet dancing." ~ John Green

John Green Source: Wikipedia

John Michael Green (born August 24, 1977) is an American author, vlogger, writer, producer, actor and editor. He won the 2006 Printz Award for his debut novelLooking for Alaska, and his sixth novel, The Fault in Our Stars, debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list in January 2012.The 2014 film adaptation opened at number one at the box office. In 2014, Green was included in Time magazine's list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. Another film based on a Green novel, Paper Towns, was released on July 24, 2015.

This week on Writing from the Peak:

August 21     Non-conference Events: Who Are We?  Linda Tschappat

August 23      Prez Says by Bowen Gillings

August 25      Sweet Success Celebrates Michelle Major 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sweet Success Celebrates Mike Befeler

Congratulations to our long-distance member, Mike Befeler on his newest release. 

In Death of a Scam Artist, a financial hatchet man who dislikes old people, accepts the job of turning around a failing retirement home and undergoes a life-transforming experience in the world of geezers and geezerettes. He must deal with a suspicious death, a scam, a hit man, an unexpected romance and retired magician Jerry Rhine and his five whacky sidekicks known as the Jerry-atrics. He faces the most important decision of his life when he uncovers the secret behind an unusual murder.

Mike Befeler will be signing and presenting his mystery novel,Death of a Scam Artist (ISBN 978-1-893035-38-6), at Gatsby Books, 5535 E. Spring Street, Long Beach, CA, on Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 3 PM. The novel can also be ordered from our local bookseller, Amazon  Kindle  and Nook

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Dog Days of Summer: Writing While on Vacation

By:  MB Partlow

First you have to acknowledge the difference between a vacation, which involves family and friends, and a writer’s retreat, which involves other writers. At the latter, nobody cares if you sit on the couch in your sweats all day, grunting  over your keyboard while mainlining coffee and Twizzlers.

The whole point of a vacation is to relax and enjoy yourself, reconnect with people, see something new, take time to sit and visit, savor a glass of wine in front of a firepit or while dangling your feet off a dock. But if you want to keep your writing momentum, here are some ideas for sneaking writing time into your next vacation.

Set realistic expectations, and communicate them to the people you’re with. Before the trip even starts. Because if you have visions of writing away in a hammock under the whispering
pines while the spouse chops wood, dispenses sunscreen and furnishes all the meal, you may end up with your hammock on fire.

It’s all about balance. You want time to interact with your friends and family. So maybe don’t expect these vacations to yield the highest-producing writing days you’ve ever had. Be realistic. Maybe this isn’t the time for hardcore, high-volume writing. Maybe you edit. Or outline. Jot notes for a short story instead of writing a chapter.

Can you write in the morning?  I’m an early riser, so I can have at least 30 minutes before anyone else stirs. That’s time enough to brew a cup of tea and get some words on the page. Maybe everyone else wants to go to the Pig Out Palace for the breakfast buffet. If you can bear to miss out on that, you could easily meet up with the gang later. Or (gasp!) set your alarm so you’re up before everyone else.

What about the doldrums in the middle of the day? Skip the lunch out, or have someone bring back take-out, and you’ve bought yourself an hour. Maybe the youngsters, hipsters, or the thoroughly hung-over want a nap in the middle of the day. Steal that time for yourself.

If you’re a night owl, catch some time at the end of the day when everyone heads off to bed. You could watch that rerun of the Golden Girls and have that second (third?) glass of wine, or turn on your imagination and let it fly free. If you need to sneak, crack a big, theatrical yawn, say you’re tired, and head off to bed early. Nobody is going to check and make sure you’re actually sleeping.

If this is a big family reunion type of vacation, you don’t have to visit every Sock Museum
and historic marker, run every sack race, or work on the family photo montage every day.  It’s not unreasonable to say you’re going to work for an hour after breakfast.

But what if you’re at one of those magical places where you spend all day having a magical time, and you and the family are shoe-horned into a single hotel room every night? And all you want to do is take your shoes off, have a drink and go to sleep? It’s harder, but it can still be done. Middle of the day is probably out, but you can snatch a half hour in the morning or evening. Not in the hotel room. Go outside and sit on a bench, or sit in the hotel lobby. Many hotels have breakfast rooms, and on the off-hours, they don’t mind if you sit in there as long as you aren’t making a mess.

Don’t underestimate the value of locking yourself in the bathroom. Whether you claim to be taking a bath or throwing a tantrum, you’ve just scored alone time! If you want to take it a step further, you can always claim diarrhea. Nobody ever questions that, and they won’t pound on the door to hurry you along.

Speaking of flexibility, there are simply some places you don’t want to lug your laptop. Re-learn to write in a notebook. Not the electronic kind. You remember paper, and the scratch of lead or smears of ink on your hand? A small notebook and pen fits in a pocket, purse, backpack full of snacks and water or a diaper bag. You could also record your brilliant thoughts on your phone, either with a note or a voice recording.

Bonus: If the people you’re with are accustomed to seeing you with a notebook and a pen, you can write down all the hilarious things that inevitably get said late at night, early in the morning, or when Aunt Rini dives into that third margarita.

About the Author: MB Partlow tries to inject her off-center sense of humor into everything she does. She writes mostly in the speculative fiction world, with forays into mystery and women’s fiction. Her first paid writing gig was for the A&E department of The Independent. She’s also written a parenting column for Pikes Peak Parent and spent years writing restaurant reviews for the Indpendent and The Gazette. She’s a longtime volunteer for PPW, having done everything from stacking chairs to Conference Director to serving on the board. She reads voraciously across genres, and thinks making up stories for a living is the greatest job in the world.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Meet Pikes Peak Writers Member Wes Redfield

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Wes Redfield fell in love with New Mexico when he taught at the University of New
Mexico. He was drawn to [the state’s] old, deep, and sometimes tragic history, which resulted in his series of historical fiction novels. In researching for these, he found books published in the 1840s provided more information on the time period than in modern books and articles. 

KJ Scrim:  Your debut novel, Sangre de Cristo: The Blood of Christ will soon be followed by Santa Fe:  Holy Faith, and the final installment, Santa Cruz:  Holy Cross.  Tell us a little bit about these.

Wes Redfield: My first novel, Sangre De Cristo: The Blood of Christ, is a coming-of-age story about a young American in Spanish New Mexico who must come face-to-face with the slave trade in Indians. It is raw, because I believe that is the only way to treat slavery.  My second is Santa Fe:  Holy Faith.  It has the same characters and deals with abuse of debt peonage, persecution of Crypto-Jews (Jews who faked being Catholic to escape the Mexican Inquisition), and the origins of Penitentes, a secretive religious sect. The third in the series, Santa Cruz:  Holy Cross, is about a short, brutal civil war between Hispanics in New Mexico. Few scholars or fiction authors write about it.

KJ:  What part of this series did you enjoy writing the most?

Wes:  So far, Santa Fe: Holy Faith because of the intrigue and risks taken by Crypto-Jews against the Mexican Inquisition. I also enjoyed debunking myths about Penitentes.  I am one of the few writers to treat them sympathetically.

PPW:  What is the biggest challenge you faced when writing and researching for these, and how did you resolve it?

Wes:  Finding information on the civil war between Hispanics was the most challenging.  Little has been written in modern times about it, perhaps, a big perhaps, because certain groups don’t want the public to know about it. But several books published in the 1840s contain valuable information. One, Josiah Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies published in 1844, is still in print. Also until the last twenty years little was written about the slave trade in Indians or the plight of Crypto-Jews.

KJ: Do you set daily, weekly, or monthly writing goals? 

Wes:  Yes, absolutely.  Writing is hard work.  At least for me I need a disciplined schedule. I start writing about 8:30 in the morning and go until noon when my brain gives out. Then in the late afternoon I begin revisions of the first draft. I try to not write on weekends. Writing is my new job. I wrote Santa Fe in a year. I think I can maintain that pace.

KJ:  I noticed you used Createspace to publish your first novel. Is this a platform that could be easily used by anyone?  What were the advantages for you to self-publish?

Wes:  I have found CreateSpace to be easy to work with. Self-publishing is worthwhile in my opinion to establish a platform. But the big problem for some people is marketing.  Fortunately, I worked in marketing and sales (they are different) in telecom, computing, and medicine. Initially, I did not market Sangre de Cristo because I knew my writing would improve. Now that I have a series, I will kick off an aggressive marketing campaign. We shall see how it works.

KJ:  Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of all writer’s growth. What have been a few of your favorite experiences?

Wes:  All three have been beneficial, particularly critique groups.  When I first attempted writing, I attended the Capitol Hill critique group in Denver headed by Terry Wright. I had a long way to go, and still do, but several published authors were members. I have attended numerous workshops in Denver and Boulder, and I won first place in a nationwide contest for historical fiction sponsored by the Southwest Writers Group in Albuquerque by submitting an early draft of Sangre de Cristo. Attending the awards banquet was a thrill.

KJ:  Do you have any “self-help for writers” books that you use regularly? Please share your list of your top two or three.

Wes:  I bought many of the usual books until I realized that most of the authors had never written successful fiction. The best book I’ve found is John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. Several people have excellent series of videos on the Internet. They include John Truby, Robert McKee (of “Write the truth.”), and Stephen King and John Grisham have a series of two videos together. What a powerful team! I also subscribe to Robert McKee’s and Steven Pressfield’s newsletters/blogs. An excellent blog is edittorrent,  The producers of it, Alicia and Theresa, are working editors, and lately their workload has been heavy, and they have made fewer posts.  However their index contains many valuable posts. Alicia has recently begun a newsletter for writing fiction. One can subscribe to it from the edittorrent blog.

PPW:  Does your reading influence your writing? How?

Wes:  Absolutely!  The most influential writing for me is a series set in the West by A.B. Guthrie, Jr. He won a Pulitzer for his second novel The Way West, but his debut novel The Big Sky is his best in my opinion. I have tried to write in his style, which is in deep point of view, in the vernacular, and sudden--danger and risks appear suddenly. I also studied, I mean really studied, John Grisham’s novels to try to understand why they are so popular. My conclusion is that they have conflict and tension on nearly every page. I read a lot of historical fiction such as works by Margaret George, Robert Graves, Michener, Leon Uris, and Anita Dianant’s great little novel The Red Tent. Also works by Steinbeck and Hemingway. Hopefully, I learned something about economy of words from Hemingway. Willa Cather and Cormac McCarthy wrote the two best novels about New Mexico in my opinion. Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop is sweet and McCarty’s Blood Meridian is brutal. I’ve tried to split the difference. 

KJ:  If you met someone who was thinking about starting to write, what advice would you give them?

Wes:  Write, write, write. Learn by doing. And read critically. Try to analyze what authors are doing to gain their objectives. Understand that conflict and tension are the essence of fiction. I am amazed at how many people don’t understand that. And definitely join a critique group.

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Are you a member of Pikes Peak Writers and interested in being interviewed? Contact Kathie Scrimgeour at K.J. Scrim