Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

The Writing From The Peak Blog will take a brief break for the holidays (and secretly, to get some writing done while the holiday dinner cooks...).

We hope to see you again in 2011, with more columns, writing advice, WriteBrain reports, author interviews--and to get ready for Pikes Peak Writers Conference! You are planning to come, right?

Until 2011, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Column: Books and the Future--Did Anyone Notice We Changed by Linda Rohrbough

The Business of Writing:

Books and the Future – Did Anyone Notice We Changed?

by Linda Rohrbough

The book publishing world is definitely changing. No one knows yet how things will shake out, but there are a couple of developments worth noting in the last year.

One is Andrew Wiley, principle of the Wiley Literary Agency, sold a series of twenty books by authors like Phillip Roth to for distribution as e-books. As a result the Wiley Agency got themselves blackballed by publisher Random House. Here’s The New York Times article on this interesting development.

On another front, Christian Retailing reported publisher Tyndale went into a joint venture with an African bookstore company and together they opened a big, new bookstore in Wheaton, Illinois. I see this as a move by a publisher to take some control over the distribution channel. And at a time when the big retailers, like Borders and Barnes & Noble, are bleeding red ink.

If you guys will remember, about a year ago I wrote that I had the privilege of being a technology news reporter when the VCR was introduced. Okay so I’m showing my age, but at that time the industry analysts all said there’d come a time when we’d never got to another movie theatre. And I dutifully reported it because that’s what I was paid to do. Well, we all know that didn’t happen.

And now I hear people saying paper books are going to go away. Since I have more experience now and I can say with certainty that’s horse hockey. What I think the real fear is among writers is people are going to stop wanting books. Nope. Not going to happen. Reading is up according to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Personally, I can attest to reading more than ever.

But the distribution channel is changing. It’s getting wider. In a way no one anticipated. That change is driven by something no one is talking about - we changed. I remember grieving the fact that I couldn’t read and I missed it. Not because I couldn’t find the time, but I couldn’t lug around a book along with the phone, organizer, computer and the other stuff I was schlepping. And travel has changed. I can no longer afford to lug six books around in my suitcase. Plus, I have no more space for bookshelves at home. The whole thing was getting too hard to manage.

Now I carry my phone and my iPad. So its much easier to read. However, if you haven’t figured this out yet, the publishing business is slow. While the bean counters are trying to figure out what happened, publishers are signing fewer book contracts and counting on the big name authors because they don’t know what else to do.

I wonder if this happened when the printing press was invented? Was there an outcry on the part of the people producing scrolls? Talk about a narrow distribution channel. What happened to their jobs as the world shifted to mass-produced, printed copy? I’ll bet no one producing scrolls lost their job. But a whole bunch of people without the skill to hand-copy text now had a whole world opened up to them. You see what I’m getting at here.

Writers, though, never went away. Not when scrolls were popular. Not when the printing press was introduced. And not now when e-books are flooding the market and change is happening again. Because the one lasting concept is someone who can tell a story is always in demand. Always. So don’t let go of that.

Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, with over 5,000 articles and seven books along with a number of national fiction and non-fiction awards to her credit. Her latest book, co-authored with her surgeon, is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band from Da Capo Press. She is also under contract for an iPhone App of her “Learn to Talk About Your Book” workshop, scheduled for release Spring 2011. Visit her website

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweet Success: Barbara O'Neal

Good news! PPW member Barbara O'Neal's new novel, How to Bake a Perfect Life, will be released December 21, 2010, in trade paperback/e-book by Bantam (ISBN 9780553386776, 416 pages). It's a women's fiction/family drama that you can find online or at most brick-and-mortar bookstores. Her website is at

Barbara O’Neal fell in love with food and restaurants at the age of fifteen, when she landed a job in a Greek cafĂ© and served baklava for the first time. She sold her first novel in her twenties, and has since won a plethora of awards, including two Colorado Book Awards and six prestigous RITAs. Her novels have been published widely in Europe and Australia, and she travels internationally, presenting workshops, hiking hundreds of miles, and of course, eating. She lives with her partner, a British endurance athlete, and their collection of cats and dogs, in Colorado Springs.

Congrats to Barbara! We love good news here at PPW.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Column: Screenwriting Formula: It's Less Intimidating Than You May Think

SCREENWRITING: The Formula: It's Less Intimidating Than You May Think
by Karen Albright Lin

Aristotle’s Poetics is required reading for students in programs such as the UCLA School of Film, Television and Digital Media. In it you’ll find the formula that has traveled through the centures and still makes for a satisfying story.


Though novels allow much more leaway and often get away with meandering plots, screenplays tend to succeed best when they stick to a three act formula.

ACT I is the story set up. It establishes the premise and introduces the main character.

ACT II can be the most challenging to write, as is the murky middle of a novel. It incorporates confrontation, adds complications, develops subplots, and rides a wave of conflict up toward a crisis.

ACT III is the conclusion and resolution of story questions and conflict. For simplicity, let’s assume you are writing a two hour movie. You have 120 minutes to work with. At one manuscript page per minute you have 120 pages (this would be a rather long script, especially for a romantic comedy that often falls closer to 80-90 pages).

Assuming 120 pages, ACT I is the first 30 pages. Near the end of ACT I (page 25-27) comes a plot point. That is an incident that spins the story in another direction. For example Luke’s family is killed by the empire in Star Wars. Another plot point comes between pages 85-90 spinning things toward the end, FADE OUT.

In The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger Cyborg emerges from the fire unexpectedly as the metal robot that he truly is. This spin is also called a reversal. Rick Reichman, author of Formatting Your Screenplay, suggests having an action or psychological reversal in every scene to make the plot really roll along and surprise the viewer.

That brings me to another element of a screenplay, the scene. A sequence is a series of scenes tied together as a unit by a single idea. It may involve changing locations – from a living room out to a car and down the street. A scene is the action at a singe location. A scene is signaled with a primary slug line.


It tells the director that this is an interior INT. or exterior EXT. shot. It also tells location and what time a day. Dawn and Dusk are hard to capture, so often recommended against.
The character who speaks, a parenthetical (a personal direction to the actor), dialogue and direction are formatted like this.

Speech goes here and needs to be snappy, pithy.
Rarely are long speeches appropriate.

Here the direction tells what’s necessary to know about the surroundings and action in the scene. For scene setting, often no more detail is necessary than simply “typical teen room.” Action would include who’s on scene (first appearance in CAPS) and what they do.

The character cue is all CAPS. The parenthetical involves attitude or instructions to the actor and is frowned upon unless absolutely necessary because it bosses around the actor. The dialogue follows directly and is set inside specific margins. Avoid large chunks of direction. If you need more than four lines of it, break it up into 4-line chunks so that it’s easier to read.

FADE IN: starts your script. FADE OUT. ends it. There are many special slugs. Common ones include: MONTAGE (scene broken to show passing of time), BACK TO SCENE (after coming out of flashback), SPFX (special effects), MOS (German for without sound), SFX (sound effects), MATCH CUT (use of physical object to bridge shots), V.O. (voice over), Fades and Cuts (limit use of these, they step on director), CLOSE UP (only use when it’s absolutely necessary).

I wrote most of my screenplays using Word. I simply tabbed over as needed. If you are willing to fork out about $80-$150, you can buy Final Draft or Movie Magic, easy to learn programs that format for you. Details change over time so try to get the newest version. has free screenwriting software. There are also formatting macros that work with Word programs (about $40). Learning the format is easy. Pick up The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier and you’ll find all you need to know to get started.

Next posting I’ll discuss the industry, marketing, and types of representation. Meanwhile, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief. Don’t step on the director. Avoid dusk and dawn.

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, 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, December 13, 2010

Column: What I Learned About Writing From The Sandman Comics by Debbie Meldrum

What I Learned About Writing From: The Sandman Comics
By Debbie Meldrum

I know. I know. There are those of you who are screaming, “Graphic Novels!” If the author of “The Sandman” series, Neil Gaiman, refers to them as comic books, who am I to quibble?

Neil Gaiman has been one of my favorite authors for a while now. I’ve read his novels, children’s books, YA books and short story collections. But I avoided the comic book collections. My experience with comics was limited to “Archie and Jughead,” “Little Lulu” and “Casper.” And those when my age was still in single digits.

Curiosity got the better of me, especially after reading reviews and hearing interviews with Mr. Gaiman about “The Sandman.” I tried to hide the first collection “Preludes and Nocturnes" under a stack of magazines and other books when I bought it at a local bookstore. After all, I was a woman of a certain age buying a comic book. I didn’t want anyone to see. The clerk, however, picked it up and announced, “This is a great series. You’re going to love it.” Red-faced, I snatched the bag from him and left in a hurry.

He was right. The next time I picked up a Sandman book, I didn’t hide it. Not only did I enjoy the series, but I learned a few things about story-telling.

1. How you draw things changes the tone of the story.

Mr. Gaiman collaborated with many different artists over the course of the series. Depending on the style of the drawing, the feel of the story changed. Some were very stylized and the story seemed more sophisticated. In the few that were more whimsically drawn, the stories were lighter in feel even with the same dark subject matter. Although the characters retained the same basic size, shape and coloring, the artistic style of the drawings gave the characters’ personalities a slightly different twist.

The settings changed as well. Again, Dream (our Sandman), lives in The Dreaming. But what we see of his land or other magical realms, or our own world for that matter, effects the story being told. Is the setting dark and shadowy? Or is bright and sunny?

I love a well-defined setting in fiction. I may or may not be successful at drawing my own worlds with words. But I’m working on playing with setting more. What does it do when a happy occasion takes place during a thunderstorm? Can a change in background give a scene more kick?

2. Your protagonist doesn’t have to be a nice guy.

Dream isn’t even technically a guy. He’s one of seven siblings, known collectively as The Endless. At the beginning of the series, Dream has been imprisoned by a wizard. After his escape, he sets about atoning for some of the wrongs he’s committed. However, he’s still often thoughtless, stubborn and cruel. When you’ve existed for billions of years, you get used to doing things a certain way.
It’s in the contrasts between Dream and the other characters—some human, many not—that brings out the brilliance of Gaiman’s universe. Dream is often kinder than those around him, even if it’s by accident. Sometimes helping out can be the worst thing you could do for another person.

Could exploring my characters’ dark sides, especially my “good guys”, make them more well-rounded? How could a well-intentioned action create havoc for another character?

3. Mythology is your friend.

Gaiman uses myth a lot in all of his writing but particularly in “The Sandman.” The Greco-Roman pantheon is present, but so are Egyptian, Norse and Asian gods. I suspect that he also makes up myths—or I’m just not as well-versed, which is a distinct possibility. He uses them head on in the comics. Sometimes with a lesser known name applied to a god and always with his own twist, but still addressing the actual myth as it’s come down the ages.

Writers are often told to go to myths for ideas for their stories. Too often, I think, we just take a myth and set it in the here and now with very little change. And we have a lot of books on the shelves, including “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, that take the gods and plunk them down in modern times.

Can I come up with a new way to use mythology in my writing? I don’t know. But I’m sure going to try.

4. Break Those Stereotypes

Death is one of Dream's siblings. What is the picture that just popped into your head? A hooded figure? Perhaps skeletal? Definitely male though. Not in Sandman. Death, in Neil Gaiman's universe, is a cute Goth teen. And it works.

Gaiman shakes things up in other ways as well, taking what we think of as fact and flipping it upside down and backwards. In The Sound of Her Wings, my favorite story from Preludes and Nocturnes, Dream is in our world. He is sitting on a park bench, feeding the pigeons, and he sees Death. They discuss humans. Death says, "Mostly they aren't too keen to see me. They fear the sunless lands but they enter your realm each night without fear." Dream replies, "And I am far more terrible than you, my sister."

I've been called out by my critique group on stereotypes and cliches in my work. Never intentional, but that doesn't really matter. one of the things I'm working on is really shaking up expectations with my characters.

I'm sure I'll come back to Neil Gaiman in the future. He's an amazing writer, who I've learned many lessons from.

Debbie is a daydreamer. A fact that caused her much grief during her school career but has served her well as a writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Apollo’s Lyre, The SCWP Marathon Anthology, and The S’Peaker. In addition to being a member of PPW, she belongs to Creek Writers Council—a tough but fun critique group.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

PPW Book Signings--This Weekend!

Need help finding the perfect gift? Look no further than PPW's book signings this weekend!

Our community partner BORDERS is hosting a huge fundraiser to benefit PPW December 11th and 12th! It includes donating a portion of all sales made with a PPW voucher (link to voucher is below for in-store, and a code to use online if that's how you'll shop) plus hosting eight different booksignings--four on Saturday, and four on Sunday.

If you've got any book shopping to do, it couldn't be easier to help PPW at the same time, and it won't cost you anything additional.

All you do is purchase a book, cd, calendar or such through Borders using the PPW Voucher, and a portion of your purchase price will be donated to PPW! It costs you nothing extra, but it helps PPW tremendously.

You can purchase online at using the online promo code "PPWR1211Y" or if you're in Colorado, please come to one of the author booksignings. (See for the schedule of authors and locations.) Note that almost all purchases are eligible--you don't have to buy the books being signed. And you can still use any regular coupons and Borders Rewards discounts!

We hope you'll help out by sending the fundraiser information along to your contacts. If you can attend a signing and/or make a purchase, that would be fantastic, too!

***IMPORTANT*** Don't forget to use the voucher when you purchase. It's easy to download it at

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Column: DEAR MRS. LINDBERGH by Becky Clark

I wrote recently about finding a note from my mother tucked into this novel by Kathleen Hughes.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Frequently I dog ear pages that resonate with me as I read, whether it’s factual stuff I want to dig into deeper, or passages I find particularly lovely or funny or that show me something about the art of writing.

Often, though, I’ll revisit these passages after a week or two and they won’t light me up like they did before.

But these from DEAR MRS. LINDBERGH still work for me.

Water traveled well over this land. From time to time, her father had to reinforce the drainage ditches so that the water didn’t take over and start running any course it liked. She felt her life was like this sometimes, and the sadness, the urgency, was endurable so long as she didn’t let it get too far out of bounds. Give it a course, keep it there.

I love how that passage gives a perfect snapshot of this woman’s emotions. It also struck me, I think, because I’m cogitating over a rewrite of my own where I could do something like this. It would be easy for the author to have the character say, “Golly, I must keep control of my emotions,” but how boring. Mine has to do with light rather than water, however, and I’m not quite there yet. My passage is still at the boring stage.

What used to be a sanctuary from loneliness, these letters, eventually became a sanctuary of privacy, too, and maybe that’s what children and a husband at home do to you, they climb into every nook and cranny of your life until you have to search, to boot them away with a swift kick in the bottom, to have something, anything, to yourself. Writing the letters was the place she got to be alone.

I know this pings every writer’s heart. Surely it must speak to everyone in any kind of relationship who fears leaving that piece of self behind — that essence of you-ness which, when stripped away, renders you flat and stale, like week-old root beer. As much as we might love our kids and spouse, we need a sanctuary to remain fizzy.

He thought of the ghost story about the woman who wore a perfect scarlet ribbon around her beautiful neck at all times and the husband who finally could not resist removing it to see all of his wife’s neck. As it came away, her head fell off. If Ruth wanted to keep her scarlet ribbon in place, so be it.

Passages like this make me happy. Whether this is a real ghost story that Kathleen Hughes heard once or one she just made up, I love how she did that.

How ‘bout you? Do you find these passages as lyrical and evocative as I do? And Kathleen Hughes … if you’re out there … I’d love to interview you!


Becky Clark is a popular blogger, entrepreneur, speaker, and author of wildly divergent books — for example, An UnCivil War – The Boys Who Were Left Behind (middle-grade historical fiction); Reading Maniac — Fun Ways To Encourage Reading Success (a guide for parents of reluctant readers); and The Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Cookbook. Her BeckyLand blog can be found at http:/ and her healthy living website/blog is She is a highly functioning chocoholic.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Column: The Day I Quit Writing by Mandy Houk

The Day I Quit Writing
By Mandy Houk

A few Monday mornings ago, I opened my eyes and blinked at the ceiling. I had a familiar feeling in my chest: that odd, fluttery mixture of tension and hope as I awakened and wondered if I would find the time to write that day.

Most days, this early-morning planning was not a problem. I could pinpoint a time in my day that I was sure I’d have open, and I’d set my thoughts on that not-too-distant hour. Then I’d set a word count goal, or just plan to revise through the end of a chapter. Or two.

Just as my mornings were consistent—hoping, planning, anticipating—my late nights were consistent, too. I fell into bed dejected, defeated, depressed—lots of “de” words. The precious hour(s) I had set my sights on had been swallowed up by other commitments—the “tyranny of the urgent,” as Charles Hummel would say. So I’d only written half of what I’d planned. Or worse, and more and more common lately, I’d written nothing at all.

As I lay there that recent Monday morning, staring at the ceiling, that hopeful fluttery feeling faded away. Too much of the previous night’s “de” words had stuck, and I felt I had to face it: I was straining toward something that I would never reach. I have published several articles, I told myself. I’ve placed in a couple of short story contests. Why not be satisfied with that? The time had come to let go of the novelist dreams and move on to a new phase in my life. The post-writing phase.

Over breakfast, I calmly informed my daughters that I would no longer pursue writing as a career. When they tried to respond, I told them I’d made up my mind, and there was nothing to discuss. Then I texted my husband at work and let him know. My original plan was to call him, but there was this huge sore spot in my throat that I couldn’t seem to talk around, so I resorted to communicating with my thumbs. They shook a bit, but I managed to get the message sent.

The girls cleared their dishes and we got ready to crack open their school books. I got out the bills and started paying them while the girls got settled. But my younger one seemed distracted.

“What are you doing?” I tried to swallow the irritation in my voice. It didn’t work. “We’ve got a full day. You need to get moving.”

She stepped closer to me and ducked her head. “I don’t want you to quit.” I would have answered, but I couldn’t. I was halfway out of the room, in search of a box of tissues.

I returned a few minutes later to find her at the desk, twirling a pencil and staring at her literature book. I leaned down and whispered, “I have to, honey. It’s not working.”

The rest of the day went pretty much the same. My older daughter said that maybe I could write in the summers. I could only shake my head, not able to articulate my feelings—that if I were to wait until next summer, the story in my head would be as tired and spent as a jack o’ lantern left out on the front steps a couple of weeks into November.

I did a lot of self-talking that day.

“You’re just sad right now because it’s a new idea – you’ll get used to it.”

“You’ll get more stuff done once writing is out of the way. Think how clean the house will be. And how much more time you’ll have to cook. You love to cook.”

“It’s a losing battle. Who wants to fight a losing battle?”

“Shake it off. It’ll get better. It has to.”

It didn’t get better. It got progressively worse until I noticed that my younger daughter was asking my older one for help with math, since apparently Mama wasn’t functional enough to be useful (not that I’m all that useful in math on a good day).

Then my husband called. He’d been in meetings all morning, so he’d only just gotten my text message. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” He’s the master of the understatement. And is almost always correct.

But I’m almost always stubborn. I told him we’d have to talk about it later. Or not. I really didn’t see the point, since I didn’t seem to have any other choice.

By the time I fell into bed that night, my head was tight and aching and my heart felt sore. All those “de” words I usually felt—those were nothing. This was absolute despair.

On Tuesday morning, I opened my weary, sleep-deprived eyes, looked up at the ceiling, and realized I felt even worse than I had the night before.

So I quit again. This time, I quit trying to quit writing. And you know what? I wrote 2,500 words that day.

No, I didn’t. It hasn’t gotten easier than it was before that day. I still fail on a regular basis to spend as much time writing as I plan to spend. Life still throws things at me and I don’t do a very good job of juggling them. I still go to bed feeling several “de” words all at once.

But I learned something on the day that I quit writing.

When I try to shut writing out of my life, I work against the very fabric of who I am. Who, I believe, I was created to be. I don’t expect to be the next Anne Tyler (oh, how I wish). I can’t even guarantee that I’ll sell another article, let alone a novel (or two, or three).

But I can guarantee this: if I’m not hoping, planning, and taking every chance I get to actually sit down and write, then I’m not whole.

Over the next several weeks and months, I am going to try to figure this thing out. Figure out a way to be who I am—a writer—while still living in this crazy-wonderful chaos that I call my daily life. I hope the things I learn will result in a finished, sale-able novel, and a contract, and a book tour, and everything else in between and beyond. I also hope the things I learn will help you.

Happy writing….


Mandy Houk is a freelance writer and editor, and woefully underpaid home schooling mom. She's sold several nonfiction articles and stories, and placed in a couple of short fiction contests, but she has yet to break into book-length fiction. Her first novel is safely and appropriately in a deep, dark drawer. Her second is in its final rewrite, and will be sent out to agents in 2011. No, really.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Author Interview With Will Adams--Part II--by Christopher Boswell

Will Adams is a successful novelist based in the UK. He has created a unique archeological thriller series based on a heroic character named Daniel Knox. His titles include: The Alexander Cipher, The Exodus Quest, The Lost Labyrinth, and just released -- The Eden Legacy.

Question: Your novels are tightly plotted and paced expertly. One can assume there’s planning on your part with this. How extensively do you outline or plan the novel prior to beginning the prose? Do you know the entire story before you start, or are you a “just in time” kind of author that has a general idea of your direction and uncover the bones of the story – not unlike Knox and an archeology dig?

I’ve tried plotting books from the outset, but it doesn’t work for me, so I’m much more of a jigsaw-puzzle author, in that I put together small scenes in my mind, then try to find ways to fit them into the larger book.

I think that’s partly because of the genre I work in. My books are essentially treasure hunts, so the first thing they need is a lost treasure, preferably with an interesting historical mystery thrown in. Once I’ve picked on a basic premise, therefore, I’ll read up on it and go scout out potential locations. With any luck, I’ll come up with a lot of ideas for possible scenes and revelations during my research, which I’ll then try to knit together into a coherent plot, all aimed towards an explosive final discovery.

Inevitably, however, I’ll find that my first draft or two are very uneven (with massive plot-holes and way too many exposition scenes next to each other, for example, or too many uninterrupted action sequences), so I edit my books over and over again until I’m satisfied the plot is tight enough and the jeopardy, history and romance are more evenly distributed.

Question: Now tell the truth, is The Alexander Cipher your first novel, or is there a box somewhere collecting dust with novels past that served you as training vehicles along the way? A famous author is quoted as relating to an informal survey he performed with publishers asking this very question, and the answer he correlated is that the first published novel is commonly the fifth for the author?

Yes, I completed at least five other novels before I finally got published (though the precise number depends on what constitutes a finished novel). I actually think that some of them are rather good – but sadly my agent disagrees, and I trust his judgment.
The Alexander Cipher is in fact one of my earlier efforts, but while I put aside most of my other books from that period, I was so convinced by the basic premise of the story that I kept coming back to it (the published version is completely unrecognisable from the first draft).

I think the blunt truth is that writing novel-length fiction is hard. There are so many elements you need to get right (pace, insight, characterisation, authenticity, research, flow etc) that it’s not surprising that it takes time and practice. There are some people around with an extraordinary natural flair, but most of us learn by doing it wrong first. I certainly did.

Question: Any advice or hard earned wisdom to share on the query and pitching process?

I have no advice on searching for an agent, other than to keep at it and don’t let yourself be dispirited. I had The Alexander Cipher rejected by every plausible agent in England, some of them twice or more. I even began submitting it under aliases, out of paranoia that agents would recognise my name and think ‘oh no, not him again!’ But I kept working at making it better, and every time I saw that a new agent was setting up business, I’d send it to them too. And finally one of them said yes.

Question: You now have three Daniel Knox novels in print: The Alexander Cipher, The Exodus Quest, and The Lost Labyrinth. Are there any new Knox adventures on the horizon, or possibly on your lap top? Are you planning a new series or any one-off novels soon?

I’m finishing up the fourth one now, set in Madagascar and called The Eden Legacy, but it will be the last Daniel Knox book for the time being. I’d like to try something very slightly different (though I don’t yet know what).

Question: On preparation: Do you perform extensive research and site visits to your locations when initiating a project, or are you more of a virtual traveler utilizing the internet and libraries to create your scenes and plot points.

The Internet’s great, but for me there’s no substitute for getting to a place myself and scouting it out. I typically spend two or three weeks on site at the beginning of a new book, and another two or three weeks at the end. To be fair, however, I get to set my books in beautiful places like Egypt and Greece and Madagascar, and I love travelling to exotic places, so doing the on-site research isn’t exactly a great hardship.

Question: How long from concept to finished first draft does it take to create your novels?

About eighteen months (which is why I find it so hard to produce the one a year that my publishers want!).

Question: You live in the UK . How much success do you see at home, and here in the US? Is there a foreign deal that you’re particularly pleased about? Have you been translated into Russian perhaps? How difficult is it to enter a market other than your home market?

I was very lucky with overseas sales. Because Harper Collins made a big bid for my first book, it generated a lot of publicity, including a big interview in the Times of London. Off the back of that, I had offers flooding in from all over the world. After so many years of struggle, it was wonderful but surreal. And, yes, my books have been published in Russian, as well as Romanian, Serbian, Japanese, Thai, Hebrew and a bunch of other languages (I think The Alexander Cipher has already come out in over twenty markets now – though a lot of that is to do with how popular a figure Alexander the Great is). As for places where I’ve been most successful, it’s hard to know exactly, because I don’t get as much feedback as people might think. But I suspect that would be the UK and Germany – The Alexander Cipher actually made it to number three in Germany, which was wonderful; and it also briefly made it onto the New York Times mass-market bestseller list.

Question: Is there any advice based on your perspective about the entire process of the novel you’d like to share to new authors?

Let me start by saying that every writer is different, and so I’m only speaking for myself here, but one of the reasons it took me longer than it might have to find a publisher was because that I was trying too hard to impress readers, and not hard enough to entertain them. It’s an easy mistake to make, not least because there’s a certain amount of vanity involved in being a writer. In genre fiction, however (and as opposed to literary fiction), you have to clamp down hard on that. An obvious analogy is a sport’s referee: typically, the less you notice them, the better the job they’re doing.

I used to think that it was possible to write literary fiction that was breathlessly exciting too. But when you think about it, one of the jobs of the literary author is to make their readers put down their book for a moment so they can admire their imagery or mull over their ideas; but if, as a writer of a page-turner, your reader puts your book down for any reason, that’s a kind of failure. That’s absolutely not to say that genre fiction can’t be well written (I think Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and Silence of The Lambs are superbly written, for example), just that different kinds of books have different aims, and that every writer should be aware of that.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Author Interview With Will Adams--by Christopher Boswell


By Christopher Boswell

Will Adams is a successful novelist based in the UK. He has created a unique archeological thriller series based on a heroic character named Daniel Knox. His titles include: The Alexander Cipher, The Exodus Quest, The Lost Labyrinth, and just released -- The Eden Legacy.

Knox is an underwater archeologist who has the knack, and bad fortune to cross very bad people who strive to hide or use the “true histories” of mankind for their own nefarious ends. Knox is a resourceful and likable hero who is accessible and recognizable to the reader. His travels and perils engage and entertain us, taking us on thrilling rides through some of history’s long unresolved mysteries. Adams’ exotic and sometimes gritty locations are described in a deft, tactile style that put us on site, smelling the dank of a half-sunken burial chamber in Egypt to the shock of a rare cold rain against your desert-dried upturned face.

Thanks to Mr. Adams for taking the time to answer a few questions for Pikes Peak Writers, and we wish him continued and great success with his future projects.

Question: Daniel Knox is the likable and resourceful character first introduced in your novel: The Alexander Cipher. Is Knox based on someone you know, or perhaps is he the vicarious shadow and alter ego of Will Adams? Or truly an invention created in whole by your imagination?

Knox is fictional, though of course he’s very much based on the person I daydream myself to be, if only I had the necessary courage, resourcefulness, knowledge, charm and looks. He was very much an organic creation, if only because I rewrote the story so many times before it finally found a publisher (I wrote the first draft in 1995; it was finally published in 2007). That said, there are certain things about him (such as his looking Bedouin, and losing his parents, and being a diving instructor) which were effectively solutions to plot difficulties. It’s one of the challenges of writing a multi-book series that you use up so much of your characters’ back-stories early on, which can slightly paint you into a corner for the later books.

Question: The Alexander Cipher is your first published novel. Can you elaborate on your experience publishing it? Did you have a chance encounter with an acquiring agent at a pub perhaps? Or maybe a family connection you took advantage of? Or more likely, are there more hours than you’d like to recall pouring over the successive drafts, fine tuning the prose, a stack of rejection letters filed in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet somewhere?

My sister actually worked for one of the big London publishing houses, so after I finished the first draft of The Alexander Cipher, she arranged for one of the readers there to look at it. I was really excited for a while, hoping he’d like it. But he didn’t. He was very nice about it, but he said no, and he was right to. It simply wasn’t good enough, not at the time.

I must have had well over a hundred rejection letters over the years, including a good fifty for The Alexander Cipher alone. It’s very easy to get angry at publishers and agents for that, but the truth is they don’t reject aspiring writers because they enjoy making other people’s lives miserable, they reject them because they don’t think they can sell their work to publishers.

I made a conscious decision a few years back, therefore, to take every rejection as a sign that I needed to do better. That meant taking a good long hard look at myself to try to see where I was falling short, then working to improve. And I did improve. It was slow and painful but noticeable. And finally I got a huge bid from Harper Collins, and within a week I’d had multiple interviews and sold foreign-language rights in a dozen countries. That would never have happened if that reader had made me an offer out of pity or because he liked my sister.

Question: Can you describe your typical writing day? Once you start a novel, do you set for yourself a daily goal perhaps? Do you write at a set time of day, in a specific place, need quiet or music in the background?

I have absolutely no self-discipline whatsoever, so while I set myself daily goals all the time, I never achieve them. The only two ways I can get myself writing are either through fear of missing a deadline or because I’m genuinely caught up in the story I’m working on – which is why picking the right subject when starting on a new project is so important for me.

When things are going well, I write best in the morning, from around seven to midday, and then maybe a little more in the afternoon. I also try to read some relevant book before I go to bed so that I can brood on the ideas overnight. As for my place of work, I have a very quiet study, because I need absolute silence and solitude to get into the story, and my concentration is very fragile. Even a phone conversation at the wrong moment can completely derail my working day.

Question: Was there a time when writing any of your novels that you considered giving up, wondered if it was worth it, wondered if this was the path for you? If so, how did you persevere and push forward?

Yes. I thought about giving up all the time. Relentless failure is very dispiriting. But the blunt truth was that, every time I tried to be adult about it and build myself a proper career, I kept thinking that I should be off writing instead. Not only did that mean I was always unsettled at whatever job I was doing, it also meant I was pretty hopeless at it. So I always worked with the intention of saving enough money that I could survive for a year or so, and write another book. And when I was on one of those writing breaks, I often used to feel that I wasn’t doing it very well, but I can’t remember ever once feeling that I should be doing something else with my life. So carrying on wasn’t a matter of perseverance so much as an acknowledgement of who I was.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo: The NaNo Warrior

The NaNoWriMo Warrior
By Cathy Dilts

Deanna Knippling is a NaNoWriMo warrior. I had asked our reporter pool if anyone planned to take Thanksgiving off. I know other NaNoers who are working ahead on their word count, so they can enjoy not writing for the day, and just indulge in food and relaxation.

Not Deanna.

She is going to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving “so I don't have a lot of cooking tasks to do.” I wish I’d thought up that plan! As for NaNoWriMo, Deanna said, “I'll get the writing done before we leave.”

So she must be struggling along like the rest of us, right? The word count is coming along, but still out of reach? Nope. Deanna has already passed the 50,000 word goal, with over 63,000 words. And she claims that she has slowed down, because her freelance work has picked up.

I asked Deanna whether she has attended a NaNoWriMo write-in. She was enthusiastic about the Pikes Peak Writers NaNoTryMo events.

Any last words of wisdom, Deanna, warrior NaNoer? “Writer equals Saturday night at the laptop.” Ah, yes. Writers write.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Column: What I Learned About Writing From... by Debbie Meldrum

What I Learned About Writing From . . .

by Debbie Meldrum


1. It’s a good thing to raise questions from the start.

The opening shot of the series is a close up of a man’s eye. He stares up through a bamboo forest. He’s flat on his back, obviously hurt, and he’s wearing a suit and tie. A yellow Labrador runs by. After the man struggles to his feet, he finds a tiny bottle of vodka in his pocket.

Okay, I’ve got a bunch of questions already. Who is this guy? Why is he in what looks like a jungle? Was that his dog? How’d he get hurt? Why does he have booze in his pocket? Is he an alcoholic? Was he on a plane? Because it looks like what you get on a plane. What’s up the suit and tie in a jungle?

Get the idea? If this had been a book, I’d be punchy from lack of sleep, because I’d be turning pages all night to find out answers to those questions.

2. BUT it’s a good thing to reward your readers with a few answers along the way.

The man hears a loud noise, people calling for help, and he runs toward the sound. When he stumbles onto an expanse of beach, he finds chaos. A crashed jetliner—that’s where the booze is from—and people in a panic, many injured. He takes charge of the situation, performs medical procedures, introduces himself as Jack to someone, and so on. We find out his last name is Shepherd.

Now I have some answers, but I have more questions. Is he a doctor? Is that last name significant? Which of these characters are going to be important? Etc.

The creative minds behind the show—J.J. Abrams, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof—took some heat for raising more and more questions as the series went on without giving any answers—at least as far as many fans were concerned.

This can be a fine line to walk when you have a long story to tell. There should be some surprises later in the story, but it can be dangerous to keep too much too close to the vest. Let the reader in on some of the secrets along the way.

Which leads me to:

3. Know the end before you start.

Abrams and Cuse created a series ‘bible’ at the beginning which outlined the major plot points for an ideal 5-6 season run.

This is a good rule for stand-alone books, although you can always change things as you go. It’s really important for a series so that a character’s eye color doesn’t change or her house doesn’t inexplicable move from one side of town to the other between books 3 and 4. The writer may forget, but the reader won’t.

4. Knowing the end doesn’t always help the middle.

When the show became a bona fide hit, there was the possibility that it could go on for years beyond what Abrams and Darlton (the moniker fans gave Cuse and Lindelof) had dreamed. The middle got bogged down with more possibilities for what was happening on the island and a growing cast of characters.

A problem that’s easier to deal with when writing a book, because we can go back and fix the middle before anyone else gets to see it. Woo hoo! One for us.

5. It’s okay to have a large cast of characters, but you have to handle it right.

For most of it’s run, “Lost” listed around fifteen main characters with another dozen or so supporting players. Focusing on a few key people each episode helped fans keep things straight. That didn’t mean the others weren’t around, but they would fade to a supporting role. It helped the viewer get to know them all.

Introduce characters slowly—something I’m learning—and let each one have their own spotlight. It can be tricky to give each one enough time to complete the scene but not so much that the reader forgets some of the others.

Tread carefully. And—something I’m still struggling with—give each one a distinct personality. If Fred can stand in for Frank, maybe I don’t need Frank.

6. The Nikki/Paolo Rule.

Two new characters were abruptly introduced at the beginning of the third season. That wouldn’t have been unusual—new people showed up every season—except the regulars acted like these two had been around all along. And the couple seemed to add nothing to show. Darlton admitted the pair were brought in to answer the fan question of what the other survivors were up to. Since they were “universally despised” by the fans, they were killed off.

In a book, unless it’s part of a series, you can’t do that in response to reader feedback. So make sure any new additions are there for a good reason. Since I tend to overpopulate my books—one reason I love the previous rule—I am ever vigilant about this one.

7. Trust that your audience/readers are as smart as you are.

“Lost” did this beautifully. The writers never talked down to viewers. They gave characters names, often of philosophers, to help fans figure out what role that character was going to play. Aspects of different religions and mythologies were introduced without explanation. Either you got it or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you could still follow what was happening, but there was an extra layer of fun and meaning if you did.

This is another fine line I have to walk in my own writing. I’m trying to just write whatever reference feels right. If I get a lot of questions from my critique group, then I’ll go back and explain.

8. Playing with timelines can heighten suspense.

Another thing “Lost” did with great success. They used flashbacks from the first to help give background on the characters. But in Season 3 the creators introduced the flash forward. A glimpse of Jack and Kate in the future. Intriguing. What did it mean? Others followed in subsequent episodes.

Then in the final season, there were what Darlton called flash sideways. Was it a parallel timeline or universe? Could it be the future? We didn’t find out until the final episode.

Think about how altering the way you tell your story could up the tension. Does it need to be told in a chronological order, or would mixing it up be better? I have one story that it works with, but another would just be frustrating to the reader. How about multiple POV characters. Play a little with it.

9. Ultimately, you can’t please everyone.

The resolution of the flash sideways was controversial among fans. I loved it. Others? Not so much. The same with the answers to the big questions. And there were those who were disappointed that not every single little question was answered at the end.

This can happen with books as well. Do you spend time tying up every single loose end? Or do you let a few dangle so the reader can come to her own conclusion? I tend to prefer the latter to over.

Debbie is a daydreamer. A fact that caused her much grief during her school career but has served her well as a writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Apollo’s Lyre, The SCWP Marathon Anthology, and The S’Peaker. In addition to being a member of PPW, she belongs to Creek Writers Council—a tough but fun critique group.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo Diaries: On Catching the Wind in Your Sails

The NaNoWriMo Diaries – 11/22/2010
By Cathy Dilts

According to the Yahoo online dictionary, the Sargasso Sea is "part of the northern Atlantic Ocean between the West Indies and the Azores. The relatively calm sea is noted for the abundance of gulfweed floating on its surface." That is where my NaNo ship stalled out a couple days ago. Becalmed, in a mass of rudder-clogging seaweed.

I crumpled onto the deck, helpless to move my ship forward. The wind had abandoned me, leaving the sails limp and useless. The smell of dead fish washed over me, and I just knew my NaNo ship was sunk.

“Rough draft,” I told myself repeatedly. “Don’t abandon ship. It will all work out.”

Finally, today I had my breakthrough. I’d been looking at it all wrong. Two sub-plots burst into the story like swashbuckling pirates. Well, actually, one does involve a pirate of sorts.

The wind filled my sails, and my ship broke free from the gulfweed. I see smooth sailing from here on!

We’re in the final week of NaNoWriMo. Keep pushing, fellow sailors! We’ll make it to port yet!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Column: Making Your Reader Cry by Deb Courtney

Like many Pikes Peak Writers members, I am participating in NaNoWriMo. I am not doing a particularly good job at making my word count, but I will admit to being fairly happy with what I am writing. I am also fairly happy with the level of discipline I have gained -- I am spending my lunch hour writing, a thing which I would have insisted a month ago was impossible, and I am writing every singe day.

Happiness with myself notwithstanding, I hit what I think is a common week 2 crisis which went something like 'how in the world did I ever think I had the talent much less the time to try and write anything and how dare I have the hubris to think I might have something to say which might mean something to anyone but self-indulgent self." Or something like that. And I reached out to a few trusted pals for some reassurance. And they reassured me...but I didn't feel all that reassured.

I have a dear friend who is going through a life crisis, and it occurred to me while chatting with her on the phone that my NaNo project is about her exact conflict, about being on the other side of the journey which she is undertaking. And I told her this and asked if I could share the draft of the last few pages (yes, I write out of order). Indulging me, she said yes, and I read maybe 400 words to her over the phone.

While I read, I understood maybe for the first time the intended emotional impact of what I wrote. I mean, I understood it before, but in a clinical way, a 'these words should accomplish this thing" way. In that moment, I really got the visceral impact of the scene, and I realized when I finished that my friend and I were both crying. We cried for our own reasons, overlapping a bit, me for her misfortune, and for having a breakthrough insight into my own work; her for the simple fact of the unchosen life journey she is undertaking, and for realizing there is an end to it, eventually. We cried together, and the instigator of that moment were my words.

When she said she would love to read the finished product, I realized I had just been paid the ultimate compliment for a writer -- the reader-writer contract was fulfilled in that moment and she and I occupied the same emotive space. Through my words.

We write for so many reasons: out of need, out of a desire to be published, for wanting validation, for fulfillment artistically, but at the basis of every book is a simple premise -- that the engagement of the reader with the words the writer has provided will make for an experience of sorts. Without the reader, we may as well toss our words to the wind, without the writer, readers would have no way to fill that space in them that wants the words.

So maybe I am filled with hubris, thinking I have something to say that might mean something to a reader someday. Hell, I still have to convince myself of it, then an agent and then a publisher. But I think I do have something to say, and when I say it, I hope I evoke what I managed to in that small moment, that emotive connection that made my reader cry. And I am reassured.

And now, back to writing.

The final snippet: It's not rocket science. It's beer. (overheard at Southside Johnny's).

Deb Courtney has a degree in fiction from the University of South Florida, has published several short stories, and has written freelance for such publications as The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Business Journal. She is a frequent speaker at Pikes Peak Writers events.

She lives in the foothills in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has a winter view of Pikes Peak (which is to say she can see it only when all the leaves are off the trees). She shares her home with a driving-age teen, two cross-eyed slightly brain-damaged felines, and likely has squirrels in her attic. And that's not a euphemism.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sweet Success: DeAnna Knippling

Stop the presses (okay, maybe that's not such a good idea...): here's another PPW member success story!

DeAnna Knippling will publish her first book, Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse on November 26, 2010 with Doom Press (ISBN: 978-0615389219, 224 pages).

The book is a young-adult and up pick-your-path adventure in which you're guaranteed 100% deaths while fighting zombies (or being one). It's set in Colorado Springs; no locals were hurt during the writing of this book, and it's perfect for reluctant readers and people with a snarky sense of humor.For a sample, see

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer and editor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who is not prepared to discuss her pets at this time. You can find her at

Go DeAnna!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WriteBrain Report by Cathy Dilts: Silencing Your Inner Critic-Part 2

Plot vs. Plod:
Todd Fahnestock Looks at Two Methods for Creating a Story

By Cathy Dilts

Are you a plotter or a plodder?

Asking for a show of hands in the second half of his Write Brain talk, Todd Fahnestock showed that the audience fell into three evenly divided camps. The plotters plan their story, creating an outline before they begin writing. Plodders prefer to fly by the seat of their pants. But a third of the audience claimed to combine the two. Some writers plot, and as they start writing, they tend to abandon the original roadmap. Others jump right in and set up an outline after they are well into the story.

Todd called himself a “dyed in the wool plodder.” By this, he meant that he prefers a more intuitive style of writing where you start at the beginning and go where the story takes you. As his brother is fond of saying, “Just walk.” The opposite of this is plotting.

Todd told the audience about his experience working with co-author Giles Carwyn on Heir of Autumn. Carwyn believed a writer should, as Todd quotes, “lay the bones out, assemble them, then put the flesh on.” Their first published novel was meticulously planned in a daunting eleven step process.

One advantage to this sort of intensive plotting is that you know where you’re going. You don’t have to think as much in the middle of your story. There is less chance of contradiction, and more opportunity for complexity. On the downside, it’s more difficult to keep the voice fresh and to retain a sense of surprise.

Plodding is an organic style of story creation. Todd listed more advantages, admitting his own bias in favor of this technique. The story can take on a life of its own, and it is easier to create a character driven story. The disadvantages are that you might write yourself into a corner, develop a fatal flaw in your story, or your inspiration may dry up, leaving you with writer’s block.

Whether you are a plotter, a plodder, or a combination of both, Todd’s advice from the first half of his talk applies: write every day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

WriteBrain Report by Cathy Dilts: Tickling the Muse: Tips and Tricks for Getting Unstuck

How do people make time to write 50,000 words in a month? That’s a daunting 1,667 words per day. Now add a full time job, or school, or a family. Maybe you list all of the above, and then some. Those of us attempting NaNoWriMo, or the PPW version, NaNoTRYMo, need all the help we can get to stay motivated.

Last Tuesday evening, we took over the Borders bookstore coffee shop and listened as Pikes Peak Writers president Chris Mandeville presented “TICKLING THE MUSE: Tips and Tricks for Getting Unstuck.” A crowd of 20 writers attended this Write Brain session. Curious shoppers paused to listen, and a few even stayed.

Setting the frenzied writing pace required for NaNo success presents a situation not of “writer’s block,” according to Chris, but of “a life road block.” She said that your number one priority is to “give yourself the freedom to write.”

That may sound silly, but I have known many wannabe writers over the years who could not pass this first hurdle. They let an endless list of “shoulds” keep them from writing. Chris suggested writing down your “shoulds”: Cleaning the house, doing the laundry, grocery shopping. There - you’ve committed it to paper. You won’t forget any of your “shoulds” later. Now write!

If you think you could get so absorbed in your work that you'll forget those absolutely have-to obligations, like picking the kids up from school or going to work, set an alarm to remind yourself.

Chris recommends having a dedicated time and space for your writing. This works best for people whose lives are more organized than mine. I have my “space,” but I will write anywhere and any chance I get. I have learned to keep a notepad and pencil with me at all times. If your writing is contingent on being in your special place and time, let’s face it, you may never finish that 50,000 words.

Chris also talked about getting permission to write from the people in your life. NaNoWriMo is excellent for this purpose. You tell your family and friends that you will be unavailable for the next month, while you write a novel. People can handle a time-limited loss of a loved one. Chris also recommended bribery, such as, “After I reach my word count, I’ll cook dinner.”

Next, Chris recommended establishing a ritual. Maybe your writing ritual is to get a cup of coffee and turn on your computer. Perhaps it is more time-consuming, such as doing yoga or going for a walk. I don’t use ritual. If it’s time to write, I just plunge in.

NaNoWriMo is the time for writing, not editing, Chris reminded us. Don’t re-read and don’t re-write. If you are stuck, Chris gave us lots of ideas for getting unstuck:

• Stuck character? Accessorize your character! Give them a quirk, or a hobby.
• Stuck plot? Create a plotting grid, like a calendar page, but using each “day” as a chapter. I’ve done this using sticky notes and poster board.
• Generally stuck? Take a shower. Go for a walk. Write something different, such as journaling. Try improv writing. Chris is right. Doing something else, while keeping your story at the edges of your thoughts, often allows those subconscious ideas to rise to the surface. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas at work, while mindlessly entering data in a spreadsheet. Keep that notebook and pencil close at hand, though, or those break-through ideas will evaporate like the morning mist.

One final bit of advice that Chris gave us really rang true for me. If you can plan your life around your writing for one month out of the year, why not try doing it year 'round?

This Write Brain session was what I needed. I’m energized, and ready to tackle the final days of NaNoWriMo. At the rate I’m going, I may even have time to take a break for Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Column: To Blog or Not To Blog by Linda Rohrbough

The Business of Writing: To Blog Or Not To Blog

by Linda Rohrbough

I get asked all the time, should I blog? My answer usually is, “How much time do you have?” But successful blogging is about more than time. Let me explain.

One of my friends, New York Times best-selling author Jodi Thomas, who spoke at PPWC last year, jumped on blogging. She’s the sort of person everyone loves. She tells interesting stories, writes great books, and is an up and comer I expect will become a bigger name as time goes on. If you missed hearing her at PPWC, here’s a YouTube video of Jodi talking about writing.

Jodi, myself, and Dusty Richards and about six other writers, including one of my interns, were sitting around last weekend on folding chairs in the community room at a resort property in Red River, New Mexico. Jodi organizes a very loose writer’s retreat, invitation only, where we talk about the business for a weekend. Most of the writers who came are published, and we were celebrating that Dusty Richards, a two-time spur award winner, had finished his 104th western.

And Red River was gorgeous. I grieve every time I have to leave. The aspens were doing the yellow dance as we munched happily in a warm meeting room on the various treats we’d all brought to share. (Including slopping chips into some killer queso my intern made.)

That’s when the subject of blogging came up. A couple of the New Mexico gals, prolific writers and very tech savvy, talked about the over one hundred people following their blogs. One author, Gabby Stevens, said she got to know a bookseller via her blog who keeps in touch via Facebook and promotes her books in Florida, even though they have never physically met. Another, Barb Simmons, who writes under the pen name Belle Sloan, said blogging was working for her.

But Jodi tried blogging. And faithfully almost every day posted something. But she quit. She said after a year, about ten people followed her blog. Now keep in mind her last book hit number sixteen on the New York Times list in the fall when the big boys released their new titles for the holidays. And she has a book currently featured in a special breast cancer promotion “read pink” from the Penguin Group with authors Nora Roberts and Christina Dodd. At past conferences, Jodi has asked me to run crowd control interference so she could get back to her room to rest after her talk. People simply adore her. But evidently not on a blog. I recalled reading it. It was flat. It didn’t sound like Jodi - it didn’t have her down home flavor or the inside track, like I’m giving you here.

And really, that’s what blogging is about – the inside track. It’s intensely personal in a way some people aren’t and never will be comfortable with. It seems best when it has humor, especially jokes on yourself, if you can manage it.

Do you have to blog as an author? No. Some authors pay others to blog for them. In fact, that happens in a lot of places and not just with blogging. The last time Paris Hilton got in trouble she posted on Facebook she was doing something homey like popping corn and snuggling up with the DVD player, when she was actually in jail in Vegas, I think it was. Clearly, she wasn’t writing those posts.

Now, having said that, I need to say I’ve avoided blogging. Until now. PPW pushed me over the edge. You have treated me so warmly and with such respect for so many years, that when Fleur Bradley contacted me to say please stay on as the NewsMag transitions to a blog, I said yes. And here I am. Let’s hope I do better than Jodi.

Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, with over 5,000 articles and seven books along with a number of national fiction and non-fiction awards to her credit. Her latest book, co-authored with her surgeon, is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band from Da Capo Press. She is also under contract for an iPhone App of her “Learn to Talk About Your Book” workshop, scheduled for release Spring 2011. Visit her website

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet Success: Janet and Richard Fogg

Janet Fogg and Richard Fogg will have Fogg in the Cockpit, The Wartime Diary of Captain Howard Fogg, released in 2011 by Casemate Publishing. The authors' website, including an excerpt, is at

Howard Fogg graduated from Dartmouth with honors in 1938 with a degree in English Literature. Initial plans to become an editorial cartoonist evolved into a post-war career that often saw him described as the world's foremost railroad artist.
Fogg in the Cockpit takes us back to a pivotal year of World War II. Flying P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs from East Wretham in Norfolk with the 359th Fighter Group, Howard completed seventy-six combat missions and was awarded the Air Medal with three clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross with one cluster.

Howard's love of railroading touches this diary as does his enthusiasm for painting. Included are photographs from 1943 and 1944, previously unpublished political cartoons of Howard's from 1939 and 1940, examples of his early train paintings, and examples of paintings that typify his five decades as an artist.

With his vivid descriptions of D-Day and his trips to war-torn London, Fogg in the Cockpit provides a unique glimpse into a fighter pilot's daily life and the war experiences of a young man who would ultimately become a renowned artist.

Congrats!!! And pass the cake, everyone...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WriteBrain Report by Robin Widmar: Silencing Your Inner Critic-Part 1

Silencing Your Inner Critic:
A Write Brain Workshop Presented by Todd Fahnestock

Reported by Robin Widmar

Todd Fahnestock knows a little something about writing. As the co-author of three published novels, and sole author of a number of self-described "crappy novels," Todd has been through the ups and downs that fiction writers face. For the October Write Brain workshop, he addressed the inner critic that resides in each of us.

When writing a rough draft, Todd says you must give yourself permission to "write a crappy book." Crank up the writing machine that is you and let the writing flow. When the inner critic makes an appearance, just put him/her in a box, set the box aside and keep going. He or she can come out of the box during later revisions.

Todd asked the audience about the things that stop them from writing. All of the responses contained a measure of self-doubt, from getting bored with our own stories and rampant cycles of editing and re-editing, to worrying about the authenticity of historical details and indecisiveness over the storyline. "Doubts do not serve you" in the initial draft of a book, Todd said.

So how does a writer quell self-doubt and quiet that nagging inner critic? Todd's primary piece of advice is to WRITE EVERY DAY, and to WRITE EVERY CHANCE YOU GET. It doesn't matter how good or bad the writing is; what does matter is that you are writing something. The more you write, the better your writing will become. Better writing leads to more confidence as a writer, and it will be easier to ignore the inner critic that's trying to derail your book. You won't become a better writer simply by waiting for perfection, though. You must write. If you're not writing every day, then what are you waiting for?

According to Todd, writers can be categorized as "writers" and "waiters." Waiters wait for optimal situations before they start writing, such as:

1. Waiting for enough time to write. Todd used this one until he ran out of time and had to finish a book...
2. Waiting for the Big Idea. Big ideas are important, but they're not all-important. Keep writing, keep honing your craft, and your ideas will get bigger and better as you go.
3. Waiting for inspiration.
4. Waiting for that Big Break. If you don't have a completed manuscript, that "big break" might well pass you by.

The keys to being a writer instead of a waiter include:
- Write every day, every chance you get.
- In the first draft, don't worry about whether your idea is good or not. Ignore that voice telling you that something won't work until you're certain it won't work.
- Keep at it. Persistence leads to success.
- Give yourself the gift of failure.

As Todd puts it, "I wrote two crappy novels this year. How many did you write?"

Write every day. Write every chance you get.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sweet Success: DeAnna Knippling

It's another PPW member success stories--don't you love those? Here it is:

DeAnna Knippling's horror/fantasy short story, "The Edge of the World" was published in Three Lobed Burning Eye #20 (October 2010). Read it online free at

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer and editor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who is not prepared to discuss her pets at this time. You can find her at

Congrats to DeAnna!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Column: Running Away By Becky Clark

My sister scolded me. But my mom understood.

I got mad at my three children one day when they were youngish and terrible. I needed more than a time-out. I ran away. Only as far as the local library in our little Colorado town, but it was far enough. Far enough for me; too far for them.

I don’t think she was particularly scared, but my daughter called my sister anyway. I think she just wanted me to get in trouble with someone. Anyone.

My daughter also called my mother who lived in California at the time. Talk about tattling!

When I returned home, my sister called, asked the obligatory questions and got the appropriate answers to determine I wasn’t in immediate need of medical or psychiatric care. But then she scolded me.

Later, my mother called too. When I told her the story of the behavioral chaos of my children, expecting more scolding, she laughed. “I’ve done the same thing,” she said. “Many times.”

I was immediately calmed and exonerated.

I was reminded of this story today because I sat on the deck reading DEAR MRS LINDBERGH by Kathleen Hughes. It was a book I had given my mother as a gift several months earlier. She’s becoming more and more housebound caring for her declining husband. She has very few needs, so books, I’ve decided, are an excellent gift.

She lives in an apartment without much shelf space, though, so she carefully writes the name of the gift giver on a sticky note and returns the books when she’s finished. Often, she’ll include a note about how she enjoyed it — or didn’t.

Sometimes I give books I’ve read that I know she’ll like. Other times I browse and find books I think she’ll like.

Such was the case with DEAR MRS LINDBERG. I hadn’t read it, didn’t know anything about it. But I know Mom likes historical fiction, which this wasn’t, really, but it had that feel to it.

When I got to the end, I found a note from my mom tucked into it. In her precise cursive she told me she liked this one. She added, “On a very small scale I can relate to Ruth’s desire to fly away for an adventure of her own.”

Reading her note literally took my breath away.

My mother had eight children. I’m number seven. I was an adult before I ever knew — or thought to ask — if she had dreams for her life that didn’t involve a swarm of kids. She was a young teenager during World War II and the nurses captured her imagination. But then she turned 18, got married and immediately started having children. She and my dad never had any money. Nursing school was out of the question.

“On a very small scale I can relate to Ruth’s desire to fly away for an adventure of her own.”

I know Mom would say she’s had a perfectly fine life. But my heart has several tiny Mom-shaped cracks in it today.

BIO: Becky Clark is a popular blogger, entrepreneur, speaker, and author of wildly divergent books — for example, An UnCivil War – The Boys Who Were Left Behind (middle-grade historical fiction); Reading Maniac — Fun Ways To Encourage Reading Success (a guide for parents of reluctant readers); and The Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Cookbook. Her BeckyLand blog can be found at http:/ and her healthy living website/blog is She is a highly functioning chocoholic.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNo Diary Entry: On Writers' Tools

I was surprised to see novelists at a Pikes Peak Writers NaNoTRYMo write-in scribbling on notebooks with pens and pencils. Especially when one writer had a functioning laptop with her.

There is no “right way” for novelists to get their stories out of their heads and onto paper. Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned even envisioning novels in hardcopy form. With dramatic changes in the publishing industry, how many novels will appear on bookshelves, in print format, in the future?

Electronic readers such as the Kindle and Sony versions are increasingly popular and affordable. I suppose one could write a novel on a computer, sell it to an e-publisher, and connect with an e-reader audience, without the novel ever finding its way onto paper.

What tools are other writers using to create their NaNoTRYMo novels? Most of us still seem to use some combination of computer and hardcopy. Deanna Knippling told me, “I'm using a computer with the aid of my handy-dandy notebook, in which I doodle my outline for the chapter as well as any notes.”

What tools and methods work for you?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Agent Advice on Querying

New over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, agent Mollie Glick talks about seven things she wants to see in a query, and nine things she doesn't. If you're gearing up to query, check it out!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNo Diary Entry: On Time Management

How are you managing your NaNoTRYMo time?
By Cathy Dilts

Chris Barili, trying to balance a full time job with his duties as husband and father, is writing thirty minutes in the morning, and thirty at night. Then he blasts out as many words as he can on the weekends. That is determination!

Others write during the day while the kids are in school. For some, the only time is after work, or in the evening hours.

Which brings up a question: Are you a day person or a night person?

I struggled for six hours Saturday night to squeeze out two thousand words. Even with the gift of an extra hour, thanks to Daylight Saving Time, the writing was grueling. I finally accomplished my word count.

Sunday morning, I woke before the rest of the household. I vowed to myself that I would not log onto the internet until noon. I would resist the urge to start my Thanksgiving house-cleaning. I would do nothing but write.

Two hours later, boom! I had two thousand words. Part of my success was due to avoiding e-mail and Facebook. Another factor was that I am a morning person.

But during the week, I can only write after work. I have to use this time, even though it is not as productive as writing in the morning. Knowing that I might have a hard time getting started, I rough out the next couple scenes before ending each writing session. That way, I’m not facing a blank page when I resume NaNoing.

To succeed at NaNoTRYMo, you have to discover your own coping techniques. Be as creative at carving out time to write as you are dreaming up your story, and you will achieve your goal!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNo Diary: Barb Dyess

The First Four Days Ever of NaNoWriMo
By Barb Dyess

This is my first time doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where one attempts to produce 50,000 words in thirty days time and survive the experience. After a harrowing first half of 2010, I stopped revising the romantic-suspense novel I’d been in love with and started creating my own peculiar brand of art. Good therapy—it’s been fun. But writing? Nope. And I’ve missed it.

To prepare for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I first decided on the project: a semi-autobiographical family-saga mainstream novel. I made a spanking new NaNo folder on the computer, opened a new document, and started writing. I also copied the Research/Notes folder to my NaNo folder for easy access to notes if I must have them. If I want to look, that is – which I am resisting, unless the lack of information truly is stalling my flow.

Some writers sign a “contract” committing to the goal of 50,000 words, but not me. No NaNo contract. I don't do contracts because going legal on myself makes me feel queasy – who wants to commit that much? I have, however, made some commitments:

• I write with a computer. Only. Pens & pencils are for drawing, for doodling or grocery lists.
• Printing things out? Highlighting? Ha! No point in wasting time or paper. It's all electronic.
• I’m shooting for 1700 words daily.
• Daily, I plug in my trusty external backup drive and back up all of my new/changed laptop files. This will hopefully (knock on wood!) avoid a nervous breakdown should my laptop go kaput after spewing 50,000 words of fiction.

Every day for the first four days, I started by opening up the manuscript document at the spot where I left off the day before. As a “warm-up,” I read a few paragraphs but resist the urge to correct anything I previously wrote (which ain't easy). Fingers on keyboard, I struggle a bit with what to say...then I start typing. In fits and starts, I am writing again after a hiatus. First day: 1564 words. This is amazing!

On the second day of NaNoWriMo, I waited until the evening Pikes Peak Writers Write-In session at Borders before writing anything...and was too tired to peck out more than a few hundred words. Mornings are my energy time, so lesson re-learned. Total word count: 2400. Next time, I'll come to the Write-In with only a couple hundred words to finish and make my goal.

Day three: I was fighting a draggy-cold feeling and crashed most of the day. Total word count: about 2800. Arrrgh.

On the fourth day, I gave myself an ultimatum: no shower and no decent food until the 2000 word mark is reached for the day. (Take that, lassitudinous self!) At 4:00 p.m. and after some (crucial) interruptions, I finished a scene and hit the Word Count button. After whooping it up and startling the dogs, I took a shower and skipped downstairs to declare a celebratory Portobello-Swiss Burger (hold the mayo) was in order for dinner.

NaNoWriMo thus far is doing a strange but wonderful thing: it has me writing again. Learning to want to write again. Getting ideas instead of being stagnant. A spark of belief in myself as a writer is glowing to life, the cold ashes of the soul cleaned from the hearth. Does it matter if what I’m producing is polished? Great? No. But it feels great to do this.

Oh yeah – day four's word count? 7,076.

Yeah, baby, yeah. It may be cliché, but write on.

BIO: Barbara Dyess writes with the mountains in view and dogs at her feet, a cuppa hot tea at hand. With a few dozen articles, essays and recipes published online or for non-profits, she’s studying how to craft an excellent novel with compelling characters and amazing plots. She writes fantasy, contemporary romance/suspense, historical, inspirational, mainstream, and some poetry when the mood hits.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Column: Screenwriting: Would You Hesitate? by Karen Albright Lin

I was a novelist and food writer. I never intended to write screenplays. The format and story formula seemed like foreign languages. The industry insiders were untouchable. The prospect of marketing (rent The Player) intimidated me. Why would I, a mere land-locked Coloradan, consider taking a peek into big screen craft and that clicky California world?


I may never have explored screenwriting if it hadn’t been for a pitch practice session at a writer’s conference and a Hollywood producer intrigued by my log line for a novel in progress.
Enter KEN BERK who offered to get my story into the right hands if I would write it as a feature-length script. There’s not enough room in this blog entry for the number of exclamation marks I felt at the offer. Did I hesitate?

Not for one BEAT. I saw dollar signs and my character MATCH CUT with JULIA ROBERTS. I drove home—floated home—and crash-learned the industry expectations. I cut the story down to two hours, one page per minute. I made it more visual with pithier dialogue, vivid action, and grand reversals.

About the time I was doing my fourth polish of ACT I my screenwriting career was punctuated by its first dramatic reversal. I received word that ACT III had ended too soon for the young producer. Not exactly the climax I’d hoped for and not the one expected by any of us who know him. Ken Berk, my “inciting incident,” my connection to the industry, and, at the time, my muse, had died.

I could have let the pursuit take a quiet FADE OUT. But I didn’t. Thanks to the inspiration of Ken, and another screenwriter I met through PPW, Jan Jones, I continued writing in this new and dynamic form. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of writing (and co-writing) eight completed feature-length screenplays in six genres (several more in progress) and five short scripts. I’ve been represented by a Hollywood agent, an entertainment attorney, and NY agents who sell books to Hollywood. I’ve worked on short scripts with an indie producer and an indie director—one script was produced. I’ve been honored with a dozen screenwriting awards and am now using many of the screenwriting skills to power-up my fourth novel.

Have you ever seen one of my stories in a movie theater? No, but I hope you will in the future.
The side-trip took quite a bit of time away from my novels and literary cookbooks. If I had the chance to go back in time, would I hesitate to make the same decision? Not for one BEAT.
There’s power and excitement in learning a new skill.

Would you hesitate?

If not, check in on my future blog entries in which I’ll discuss the basics of screenwriting format, the business, story expectations, representation, and adapting your novel, short story, or memoir into a screenplay. Most importantly, I will encourage you to take a valuable detour, write a screenplay and see how it will improve your storytelling and prose. Until next time, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief. Don’t step on the director. Avoid dusk and dawn.

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, 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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNo Diary--Day Four

NaNoWriMo Day 4 – November 4, 2010
By Catherine Dilts

I neglected to submit my report for Day 3 due to circumstances beyond my control. While I was attending the Citizen’s Academy at the DA’s office Wednesday evening, learning about crime, my husband was involved in an armed robbery. Ironic, huh? Colorado Springs folks may have heard about the incident at Pikes Perk. No one was hurt, thank goodness.

Now, on to the really important business of NaNo. I managed to squeeze in an hour of writing before class, then another hour when I got home, never considering that it was way past closing time at the coffee shop, and my husband was still at Bible study.

Needless to say, when he showed up, I had to stop writing for a while. “Hold on a sec, honey. I’ve almost finished my NaNo word count. Then you can tell me all about the armed robbery.”

Have I lost my mind, already? It’s only Day 3!

Maybe sitting in front of a computer screen all day and half the night has caused me to lose my already tenuous connection to reality. So I decided to check in with my fellow NaNoers in the PPW reporter’s pool, to find out what tools they are using to create their novels. Watch for my next NaNo blog post to learn how other NaNoers are holding up – er, maybe that wasn’t the appropriate phrase to use…..

Friday, November 5, 2010

About Ruh

So you've probably seen the picture of that most adorable dog in our lineup to the right. His name is Ruh, and like all extraordinary dogs, he has his own bio. Here it is:

Ruh (pronounced "Roo") is a service dog for PPW President Chris Mandeville, and the unofficial mascot of Pikes Peak Writers. He is an Anatolian Shepherd Dog, a livestock guardian breed that hails from Turkey.

Ruh is a six year veteran of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, and has proudly attended Write Brain sessions, workshops, book signings, and American Icon for his entire life. He is known to frequent bookstores, and during PPWC can often be seen taking a break in the conference bookstore with his "grandpa" Bill May.

Although Ruh enjoys writing on occasion, his favorite thing is hanging out with writers. He particularly enjoys soothing nervous conference attendees prior to their pitches, and celebrating writing successes with vigorous tail wagging.

For those of you who haven't met Ruh, I suggest you consider coming to one of the Pikes Peak Writers events...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

PPW NaNo Write-In Report

NaNoWriMo Day 2 – November 2, 2010
By Catherine Dilts

Monday night, Day 1 of National Novel Writing Month, the words finally started to flow. Characters stepped forward to claim their roles in my NaNo novel. The pirate refused to be killed off in chapter one. He has more work to do in the spinning of this yarn. Arrr, matey.

I exceeded my goal of 1,670 words. I was anxious to write while inspiration burned bright and clear. Then reality intruded in the form of my day job. Reluctantly, I set the alarm and turned in for the night. I slogged my way through work, my mind half in the office, and half in my fresh new NaNo world.

Tuesday night was the first Pikes Peak Writers NaNoTRYMo write-in at Borders bookstore. Familiar faces greeted me as I entered the coffee shop area. Keeping the chit-chat to a minimum, I snapped a few pics, said a few hellos, and unpacked my laptop.

I could live like this.

Joking aside, part of my motivation for seeking publication is that I really like the writer’s lifestyle. No, not that mythical world of leisure, fame, and wealth. I’m talking about the ceaseless pounding of the keyboard, living in a mushroom state in the dim lighting provided by my computer monitor, my butt glued to a chair, while I agonize over how best to describe a moonlit forest clearing.

That’s why I’m NaNoing.

Other people attending the write-in had their own reasons. For M. B. Partlow, NaNoWriMo provides the fastest way to blast out a first draft. Deanna said, “Dammit, I’m a writer, not an actor,” explaining that writing is how she “acts” from her subconscious. Newcomer to the NaNo world Ange Marie said that attending the write-in assured that “I’ll at least definitely write for an hour, instead of doing housework, or going to gym.”

Photo of M.B. Partlow by Catherine Dilts

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sweet Success: Darby Karchut

Here at Pikes Peak Writers, we like to toot our fellow members' horn. Join in on the happiness with this report of Sweet Success:

Darby Karchut signed a contract in June with Twilight Times Books for her YA urban fantasy: Griffin Rising.

She started the novel in July of 2009, completed it in November of that same year, began sending queries in February of 2010, and landed a contract in June 2010. Needless to say, Darby has no life. None, whatsoever. She also is a social studies teacher at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High.

Griffin Rising is her debut novel. She is currently working on the sequel entitled Griffin's Fire.

Congrats to Darby!!! I think this calls for some cake...