Friday, May 31, 2013

PPWC 2013 Recollections

By F.P. Dorchak

PPWC 2013. Yeah, I was a little tired, but not too bad, really, better off than I usually am at this point. Truth be told, my neck needed a good crack (it's better now). This year (as last year) I didn't pitch any work to anyone---short of showing around the cover I had created for my upcoming supernatural murder mystery e-book.

But, first, a HEARTY standing ovational thanks to all who worked their butts off getting this conference up and running! It's hard work, and it went off exceedingly well! You all done good!

So...what did I do to justify my $395 event fee?


I took in as many sessions as I could over those three days, focusing on e-book methods and madness (aside: I received many compliments on my cover, created by Karen Duvall, and it really did come out great as a hard copy!). I filled up the rest of the time with other things, like:
  • How horror bleeds into other genres. Get it? "Bleeds"?
  • How to talk up your book to potential readers ("Hey, do you like to read?")
  • How to create e-book covers (Mr. Schwartz really liked my soon-to-be-ebook's cover)
  • How to make the Indie and NY thing work together, and not be an "either/or" proposition
  • A little about how to write psycho characters ('cause, like, I really need to understand myself, there...)
  • Adapting novels to screenplays, and what that process is (I adapted this mystery of mine into a script years ago---Amber Benson taught this!)
  • How to deal with the sophomoric slump, or "that next book."
  • How to deal with writer's block---which was quite enlightening (on several levels) about how different the reasons between guys and girls are, when it comes to this---or, maybe, not so much?!
  • What to do once you're published. Yeah, you're just getting started....
  • How to write funny, 'cause Lord knows I need that, too (in my personal life)....
As I'd previously mentioned, I'd also moderated a couple sessions, one read-and-critique session with Kate Testerman and how to write a short story (and send it) in 4 hours, with Zombie-lover DeAnna Knippling (yes, pronounce the "n" in her name). I felt just a little like a fish out of water, moderating, since it's been about 2 years since I'd done any of that. But it was fun getting back into things.

I also met and talked with all kinds of writers. This time out I was trying to get a little more outside my comfort zone by sitting at tables for food consumption (during our lunches and dinners) with authors and others not associated with my brand of paranormal fiction bent. I also met and talked with the more "famous-y folk," listing them in no particular order other than...well...the order I've presented below:
  • Terry Banker (always "up," always friendly, always quick with a handshake and a "How've you been, Frank?" He always remembers me...)
  • Becky Clark (now, um, Becky. Yeah. I'm still trying to define and categorize her. Might have to make up a word. I'll have to get back to you on this one...)
  • Todd Fahnestock (I was so interesting to him, that his eyes glazed over and he had to prop himself up against a wall; that I had him held captive and pinned there only helped in that endeavor...)
  • Becky Clark (nope...still got nuthin'...)
  • Lynda Hilburn (we've interacted before by email, but you know you're in trouble when her first words to you are, "So, what are your hopes and dreams"? Did I mention she's a licensed and practicing psychotherapist?)
  • Lisa Renee Jones (maaan, I wanna' be rich like her!)
  • Becky Clark (okay, okay, got one: she tells cool jokes, like "All work and no play make Lincoln a full-term president" Get it? Get it?)
  • Aaron Ritchey (this man...he needs his own show; my face and sides still hurt from his EMCEE antics---his 200K "NanoPeakoPikeo" (pardon the spelling, Mr. Ritchey) effort over this weekend; he made me buy his book by being So. Damned. Funny.)
  • Becky Clark (Becky, Becky, Becky...she...she...defies...Becknification...)
  • Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer star; yeah, PPWC had her; that's the kinda' clout PPWC wields, my friends; she is so danged sweet!)
  • Barry Eisler (he worked his "Agency Mind Tricks" on me to buy one of his books. Damn him...I-I mean...yes, yes, Mr. Eisler, your books....)
  • Becky Clark (okay, she uses lots of K-words, and exaggerates---a lot---but...she did let me take a picture with her...)
Besides all the famous-y ones, I've also met up with those who I many times see only once a year. If that makes any sense. I (hopefully) made some new ones, and met several I've only dealt with electronically, so it was really cool to put pixels and faces and names together. Without having to virus check. One person, Lynda Hilburn was particularly funny in our first face-to-face, in that we'd been talking for a while at food time, Friday (you know about my hopes and dreams, which quickly morphed into my issues with cigars and lint---to this day I still don't know how she did this or where it came from---but in the middle of the ballroom banquet hall she had me up on a couch, recording our session...interlacing images and analyses from Dante's Inferno into my hot, steaming tears and mother issues), when she glanced down to my name tag and blurted: "Oh, you're that Frank Dorchak!" I wasn't quite sure how to take that, so we explored that for a while...

To be honest...I almost did not attend this year.

I'm not gonna' get into reasons why (Lynda's writing a paper on that for Psychology Today), but the point is, I did go. I learned so much about the e-books, the latest agent and editor Weltanschauung  (I love that word: Weltanschauung, say it aloud with me...), and I met so many wonderful, friendly, and, yes, even sweet people (and I don't use "sweet" much, besides "Please pass the sweet...ner"). I give Becky grief, 'cause, well, she gives it right back. Like a two-by-four to the back of  the head. Lynda---she tells people she's not good at small talk and gets right to the heart of any conversation in an instant. She's a wonderful, wonderful woman and an excellent conversationalist. You will never be bored talking with her. Ever. She has so much to say, each of her words so dense with meaning and intent, you're utterly fascinated by her and where her mind goes---and none of it is small talk. Everyone I met and talked with, they all have their stories, their own lives, and I would never have enjoyed any of it...had I not attended this conference.

So, what's my fricking point, already?

If you're a writer, a writer groupie, or simply "just" Becky Clark, and you're hesitant about attending a writer conference---maybe it'd be your first---afraid of putting yourself out there, meeting others, sitting at lunch and dinner tables with people you do not know---that's be apprehensive---that which does not kill us, makes us stronger (usually)---but do attend. Do not put it off. Do not skip it. Go and enjoy like-minded people you will not find anywhere else. You won't regret it. But you won't know you won't regret it until you come. To at least one. So, make those plans for 2014. Come out and see us. We don't bite.

Well, at least the non-vampire/zombie attendees don't bite....

About the Author: F. P. Dorchak writes about the supernatural, the metaphysical, the unexplained. His first novel, Sleepwalkers, was published in 2001. His newest, The Uninvited, is now available through Smashwords.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sweet Success! Shannon Lawrence

Prepared By DeAnna Knippling

Shannon Lawrence's flash fiction piece, "The Family Ruins," was released in April 2013 by Chuffed Buff Books as part of its Sunday Snaps: The Stories anthology (ISBN: 978-1908858016, paperback, 128 pages, ebook forthcoming).  The anthology is available at Amazon, Chuffed Buff Books, or The Book Depository.  The author's website is at

This quirky collection contains short stories, flash fiction, vignettes and poetry in various genres. It developed over the course of 52 weeks whereby a series of ‘Sunday Snaps’ served as inspirational writing prompts. The result: an eclectic assortment of light-hearted comedy, romance, dark tales, tragedy, slice-of-life stories and expressive verse. While the spires of Milan Cathedral provide the backdrop to romance, elsewhere a woman rushes to the side of a life-long friend. With a spiteful kitty, a mother’s pact with the devil, a birthday kiss and a dash of supernatural revenge, this unique collection offers a tale for all! 

Shannon Lawrence spends her time in the dungeon writing, often accompanied by her familiar, and occasionally her two small minions, who both inspire her and insure her writing time is limited. Her horror short story, "The Blue Mist," will appear in Nightfall Magazine in March 2014. She is active in her local writing community, and works as Flash Fiction Chair for the Pikes Peak Pen Women, Managing Editor of Writing From the Peak (official blog of Pikes Peak Writers), and Director of NCE for Pikes Peak Writers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writerly Cravings

By DeAnna Knippling

I’m not sure where to begin with this idea I have. It’s one of those ideas that doesn’t really seem to have a beginning; one of those ideas that seems to have been hanging around for ages and ages, waiting for me to notice it. But let me tell you what the idea is.

I don’t get writer’s block; I have unsatisfied writerly cravings.

When I don’t feed the cravings, when I don’t pay attention to them, I’m restless and frustrated and I hate writing and it’s hard. I fight perfectly good ideas, because they don’t fill that craving. I abandon perfectly good books I’m reading, because I don’t want to read. I type six words and delete them, write them in different orders, and delete them again.

I do housework. Lots of it.

It’s never the same thing twice. Sometimes I need a book on writing. Recently, I read Dave Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines. There was something there I needed, although I’m not entirely sure what. Picked up a copy of Donald Westlake’s Bank Job and read it, then studied it. He has perfect comedic timing, and an amazing sense of POV. The other day, I suddenly hated everything I had to read (it’s like walking into your closet and having nothing to wear); then, yesterday, I found a copy of Sherman Alexie’s short story collection, Blasphemy, and got to:

For a half-assed Indian, Junior talked full-on spiritual. Yeah, he was a born-again Indian. At the age of twenty-five, he war-danced for the first time. Around the same day he started dealing drugs.
I’m traditional, Junior said. 

I bought it, stupidly, because it’s probably at the library, but it was what I craved, so I got it. I mean, I tried to put the book down. But it kept ending up under my arm, as though it were haunting me.

Sometimes I crave a walk out by Starsmore. I think that place is special to me because the day the last Harry Potter came out, I bought it first thing in the morning, drove up to the Starsmore Discovery Center parking lot, and read the entire thing with only the benefit of a protein shake and a bag of dill pickle-flavored potato chips to sustain me.

Sometimes only art museums will do.

Or taking a shower.

Or cooking.

Or loving.

And so on. The thing is, I was never trained to look at the process of feeding my inner creativity. Religion was just supposed to take care of everything “inner” for me; I didn’t think I was supposed to have to do anything about it, even after I stopped showing up to church. I thought books that encouraged you to do a bunch of woo-woo soul-building things to help your creativity were...just plain woo-woo.

But there it is: I’m happier following my woo-woo, stuck less often, and more adaptable, less intimidated by the new. I write out journal entries, I follow strange research threads, I ask people for recommendations. I walk labyrinths, I feel out places to meditate and ways to ask questions that I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the answers to, or where they come from. I’m reading anthropology books and post-apocalyptic books and listening to Lady Gaga and Korn. I don’t have to know why, I guess.

I just need to trust that I’ll find my way to what I need, as long as I keep looking.

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

Monday, May 27, 2013

One – No, Two – Constants in a Changing Publishing World

By Linda Rohrbough

Publishing is changing. There’s no denying that. It’s changed before, only we forget that. When publishing went from scrolls to single sheets of paper bound together, printed in mass instead of hand copied, there was quite an upheaval. What about all the scribes losing their jobs? What about the waste? What about accuracy, since it was so much “easier” to get things into print? Does any of this sound familiar?

Despite all the changes, there’s one constant in publishing. Distribution. There’s another one, as well, and I’ll get to that.

But back to distribution. You’ve got to have it, as a writer. What good does it do to write when no one is reading your work? Frankly, electronic distribution is invisible. Traditional publishers knew they could get books noticed. Cover design, “dumps” (those cardboard stands that hold books), posters, book signings, newspapers and magazines – they were all visible ways to get books in front of readers. Back when I was writing for McGraw-Hill, it was almost guaranteed that if they put a book in their catalog, they would make money on it. Bookstore buyers read the catalogs. And readers and reviewers depended on bookstores for recommendations. You get the idea.

However, we all know physical distribution of paper books is becoming less and less popular. Barnes and Noble will shut down a third of their stores this year. Borders is gone. Even the hot, independent bookstores that get Publisher’s Weekly’s attention, like the Tattered Cover in Denver, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, or Book People in Austin, are owned by aging people. I’ve heard some of them want to sell and retire.

Will physical books and bookstores go away? No. I’ve had enough experience watching changing technology to know that won’t happen. When the Betamax (the early VCR) came out, the analysts all said we’d never go to another movie theatre. That didn’t happen. Paper books and bookstores won’t disappear either.

Today, distribution doesn’t mean what it used to. Now there’s “easy” electronic distribution. It’s quick, and authors can potentially bypass the traditional publishing channels and keep more of the revenue for themselves. But it is not going to solve the problem writers have now, and have always had, which is how to get readers to read their books. Oh sure, you can make your work instantly available, but how do people find out about it? And find out enough to want to spend their money on it and make room for it in their lives?

Controversy is one way. Offend a lot of people, preferably in a very public place, and then talk about it in other very public places. Create ripples and drama.

The problem with doing that is the world in any field is a small place. Offending people can be a shortsighted and short-lived way to operate.

Let’s look at a publishing pioneer, Benjamin Franklin, the quintessential self-publisher, who wrote, printed, and distributed his own work. I spent some time in Philadelphia on the 4th of July a couple of years back (which I’d recommend, by the way). On the free, hour-long Ben Franklin walking tour sponsored by the U.S. Park Service, I learned that Ben lived, died, and was buried all in a radius of a few blocks. Sure, he went to Paris and he commuted regularly to other cities on the East Coast. But his home, his work, and his friends were all nearby.

Did you know he spent about half the salary the government paid him each year on alcohol, mostly beer? That was an enormous sum of money in those days. But there was no refrigeration back then, so you either drank water, drank something freshly squeezed, or you drank alcohol. Ben didn’t drink all that beer himself. If Ben was around, he was buying. One of his most famous quotes is, “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!” He made friends quickly and kept them a long time. In other words, Ben was a master at relationships.

At the end of the tour we visited Ben’s grave. What struck me was that he’d asked to be buried simply, next to his last wife (he lost the others in childbirth) and near his home. That also found him favor with people, because he certainly had the resources and the support to have a monument raised to him like others, such as Thomas Jefferson.

The point is, I think character and relationships still count in any business, but especially in publishing.

What I’ve seen is that people who do well are consistent, generous, loyal, and they care about relationships. Andy Rathbone, named by Time magazine as the best-selling computer book author of all time (he wrote those Windows for Dummies books), tried to get me to sign on with his agent and attend a writing conference sponsored by his agency. I didn’t do it because at the time I thought, why pay an agent a percentage of what I’m doing? How small-minded of me. I didn’t understand then that you need to build a team and you need people to promote and support you. And you get that by promoting and supporting others. Andy is also very responsive. I’d email him, as busy as he was, and have an answer inside an hour. Contrary to what anyone tells you, there’s still room for that in the publishing world.

I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard Stephen King is another guy people like. I have seen him be quite generous with his comments about his publishers, his agent, and especially about other writers.

In fact, every best-selling author I know is like that. I’ve seen all of them support new writers by buying their books. They also buy books they think are important and hand them out to friends. I know because they’ve given me copies. They offer support, have built a team, and they’ve let go of the rejection of the past.

So let me encourage you to think about how you want to run your writing business, and how you want to get attention for your work. Because the second constant in publishing is building relationships.

About the Author: Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quote of the Week, Week to Come & I Write Because...

"It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them.  The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page." -Joan Baez

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Linda Rohrbough talks about the Constants in the Changing Publishing World.

...DeAnna Knippling reveals her Writerly Cravings.

...F.P. Dorchak tells us about his conference experience at PPWC 2013.

And now our final installment of I Write Because...

I Write Because...

...My characters need me to tell their stories...and because without writing I am not fully vibrantly alive. Write on!

...There is another world that I want to inhabit - a more interesting one with exciting people.

...It prevents me from screaming at my children. :)

...I can do it alone at home in my nightgown.

...I have something to say.

...It preserves the sanity I have left and organizes the insanity.

...My stories need to come out.

...I want to create new worlds and bring them to life as surely as if you could see them with your own eyes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ready to Test-Drive Your Query Letter? Check Out Evil Editor

By Debbie Maxwell Allen

After spending weeks (or months) tweaking your query letter to perfection, you may want to solicit some feedback before you send it out. Evil Editor is your guy. He'll post your query on his blog, often with tongue-in-cheek comments, where other writers can chime in with their own opinions.

But Evil Editor adds a twist. He posts the titles of the manuscripts the queries represent, and invites blog readers to guess the plot based upon the titles. The most interesting (and far-fetched) plot ideas get posted along with his query critique in his Face-Lift series.

Another feature on Evil Editor's blog is the New Beginning series. Writers submit the first 150 words of their manuscript, and blog readers show how they think the piece should continue. Evil Editor posts the most interesting continuation, and invites blog readers to give the original author feedback on how the opening captured their interest.

It's nice to find a site that gives good feedback with an element of fun. If humor is not something you want to mix with your fiction, you may want to stick to more "serious" sites.

Evil Editor conducts monthly book chats, where readers discuss recently published books. There's also a weekly contest for writers to contribute captions to a posted cartoon. The best captions get published on the blog. If you need a laugh to relieve your writer's block, check out Evil Editor's short films to give you some relief. And at regular intervals writing exercises are posted, with the best examples posted on the blog.

And during the month of May, Evil Editor has posted several items in Brenda Novak's Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research.

Does humor help to relieve tension in your journey to publication?

About the Author: Debbie Maxwell Allen writes young adult historical fantasy in the Rocky Mountains. She blogs about free resources for writers at Writing While the Rice Boils

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sweet Success! Carol Berg

Prepared By DeAnna Knippling

Carol Berg's teen/adult fantasy novels Transformation, Revelation, RestorationSon of Avonar, Guardians of the Keep, The Soul Weaver, Daughter of Ancients, Song of the Beast, Flesh and Spirit, and Breath and Bone were published as audiobooks by during Spring 2013. Her website is at and you can find her on Facebook here. You can find her audiobooks at

Carol Berg is a software engineer who discovered writing was her true calling when she first visited the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. She now has thirteen fantasy novels in print and ebook (all from NAL/Roc Books), and now audio, and is just finishing up novel number fourteen. Her books have won national and international awards, including the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the Prism Award, and multiple Colorado Book Awards.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Accepting Advice

By Donnell Ann Bell

~ No enemy is worse than bad advice. ~~ Sophocles

Every once in a while, people offer advice that really works. E.g., Look both ways before crossing the street, read warning labels on products and exercise three to five times a week to maintain a healthy weight. Those kinds of input I can use and appreciate. But some of the advice I’ve received of late leaves me shaking my head.

Two weekends ago, I attended my local library’s workshop in which a marketing guru offered authors and aspiring authors advice for today’s market. She said the days that authors sit alone in their offices and devote long hours to writing are gone. As a matter of fact, she added, authors should be focused ten percent on writing the book and ninety percent to its marketing. Twenty-four/eight, she insisted. Market your book twenty-four/eight.

This weekend I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference where the age-old subject of prologues came up again. An editor told the audience how much he hates prologues and that he skips right over them. Once again people who had paid good money to attend wrote furiously in their notebooks, most likely taking this man’s words to heart and perpetuating this controversy further. While I was thinking of Sandra Brown’s Envy or Robert Crais’s Two Minute Rule and two of the best prologues I’ve ever read in commercial fiction.

There’s a lot of lousy, subjective advice floating around out there—what’s more the experts are touting it.

If I have to devote ninety percent to marketing my books, I might as well hang it up right now. I didn’t get into this writing gig to market my wares like a gypsy in a caravan; I got into writing to tell my stories—to sit in my office alone a lot more than ten percent of the time.

Robert Crais once told me, “Sure you can write a prologue, just don’t write a bad one.”  If a book needs a prologue, it needs a prologue, and how a few paragraphs at the start of a book can cause such a vitriolic response is beyond me.

So because there’s so much misinformation and bad advice out there coming from people I should otherwise respect and rely on, I’ve decided to break down the ways I will accept advice in the future. One, if it doesn’t make sense, I will completely disregard it. Two, if it doesn’t save my life, refer back to rule number one.

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is the author of The Past Came Hunting and newly released Deadly Recall from Bell Bridge Books. Both books were nominated for the prestigious Golden heart from Romance Writers of America. As published novels, both books became Amazon Kindle Bestsellers, The Past Came Hunting reaching #6 on the overall paid list, Deadly Recall reaching #1. Her website is

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Free PPW Events This Month

Don't forget tonight's Write Brain, presented by Page Lambert:

Manifestation of Yearning: The Flesh & Blood Factor of Good Storytelling
Speaker: Page Lambert, Author, Editor, Creative Coach, Retreat Director
When: Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 6:30 to 8:30 P.M.
Location: Penrose Library, Carnegie Room, 20 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO
MANIFESTATION OF YEARNING: The Flesh & Blood Factor of Good Storytelling
Yearning: A longing. A desire. An unfulfilled wish. A questioning. A hunger to know more.
In Page Lambert's words: "First, enter the white-hot center of why you write. Second, enter the white-hot center of deep yearning...yours...your character's. Third, enter the place where you dream. Let your vision and words rise like smoke from the creative fire. But manifesting our stories takes more than illusive desires. Our characters interpret the world through their senses, but we create their world through physical detail. Yearning comes alive through detail." During the May Write Brain, Page will explore these ideas and more, helping us enter the white-hot center of detailed storytelling. "Whether you're writing fiction or memoir, the deep (and sometimes dark) motivations behind every action, beneath every word-what Robert Olen Butler calls the yearning factor-is how we manifest our stories."
About Page Lambert: Recipient of numerous writing awards, her books include the Rocky Mountain best-selling memoir In Search of Kinship and Mountains & Plains Best Novel finalistShifting Stars. Her essays, stories and poems appear in dozens of anthologies. Page has presented over 200 seminars and keynotes. She's been leading writing adventures for 17 years and Oprah's O magazine once featured her River Writing Journeys as "One of the top six great all-girl getaways of the year." She writes the popular blog, "All Things Literary. All Things Natural."
Note: Plenty of parking in both library lots and street-side. Parking is free at meters after 6:00 P.M.

This Wednesday, there's Open Critique:
Open Critique - FREE 

Third Wednesday of every month

6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Cottonwood Center for the Arts
427 East Colorado Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO

This FREE program provides a critique experience for a small number of writers who seek feedback on manuscript pages and who want to learn how to have positive critique group experiences. 

PPW's Open Critique program is facilitated by Mary Karen Meredith, with regular critique guest Deb Courtney, host of PPW's "Writers' Night" monthly gatherings. During Open Critique, Deb and Mary Karen, or another experienced criticizer will provide comments, criticism and suggestions on participants' manuscript pages, as well as model positive behaviors, techniques and procedures for critiquing.

It is our hope that participants will not only receive valuable feedback on their writing, but will also learn how to create great critique groups of their own, or learn how to improve existing critique groups.

Each month Open Critique will accommodate up to eight participants with a maximum of eight manuscript pages (double spaced, one side) per person. Bring at least 8 copies. To request a slot to participate, email your request to Slots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, and are only considered for the month in which they are received. Participants will receive confirmation and instructions via email.

PPW reserves the right to give priority to new participants over those who have attended multiple times.

Thank you!

Hope to see you there!
Mary Karen Meredith & Deb Courtney

And next Monday, we have Writer's Night at Lofty's:

6:30-8:30 PM
287 E Fountain Blvd, Suite 100
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Free Wireless Internet!

Join fellow writers for PPW Night at Lofty's in the Historic Lowell School District of downtown Colorado Springs on the fourth Monday of every month.
PPW Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.
The direction of the meeting is decided by the participants and can include discussions about query letters, obtaining and working with an agent, writing conferences, or other specific points of the craft.  If nothing else, we talk about books! 

Feel free to bring a sample of your work-in-progress to share or discuss with others, if time permits.  NOTE: This is not a formal critique group or editing session.  Bringing your work with you does not guarantee it will be discussed.
If you have any questions, or if there is a specific topic you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail to the host, Deb Courtney, or call her on her cell phone at 719-337-9049.
Meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 and run until about 8:30.  These are drop-in meetings, so feel free to attend all or just part of them.
Lofty's offers a small selection of coffees, wine, beer and mixed libations, as well as a variety of juices and organic sodas. There is a small menu of mostly sandwich based items. Wi-fi is available.
See you soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Help an Author Out — Leave a Review, Please!

Five stars or no stars?

By Stacy S. Jensen

One of my goals after Pikes Peak Writers Conference is to write more. Not my own work really, but short snippets that are published almost instantly.

My declaration: I will write more book reviews.

Why? I know they make a difference, especially for indie authors. Several faculty and conference attendees emphasized this during the conference. I heard them.

If I get a referral for a book — by blog or by an online friend — I read the reviews. I decide my purchases with review, so I should participate in this process more. So, why have I not written more reviews recently?

A mental evaluation of my reading list points to one book. Several months ago, I saw an online friend’s request to read her new release and share a review.  “Certainly,” I thought as I grabbed a copy for my Kindle and began reading. The story fell flat. I didn’t like the characters. I couldn’t finish the book.

For this book, I looked up the reviews and found fellow reviewers had already shared my “problems” with the book. While the author honestly reviews books on her own blog, I didn’t write a review for her book. The main reason: I didn’t finish it.

Fortunately, I’ve found that to not be the norm of the books friends have suggested. As I write this, I have two books on my Kindle that deserve reviews. They are engaging, have unique characters, and a story that makes me read (even when I don’t have time for it).

I’ve heard many cons to writing reviews. If it’s a bad review, you may tick off an author or an agent. That’s fair. It’s important to remember that online reviews leave a digital trail of who you are, so you need to be fair, honest, and willing to live with what you say.

A personal pet peeve is a reviewer who trashes a book because the story wasn’t what he or she thought it was going to be. If you like sci-fi thrillers, don’t buy a romance book and then be angry it wasn’t a sci-fi thriller. You know you’ve seen those reviews.

So read more books and write more reviews. It will help an author out for print books, digital books and storybook apps.

What’s your philosophy on reading or writing reviews? Have you written one lately?

About the Author: Stacy S. Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quote of the Week, Week to Come & I Write Because...

"Write down the thoughts of the moment.  Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable." -Francis Bacon

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Stacy S. Jensen lets you know how you can Help an Author Out by leaving a review.

...Our new columnist, Donnell Ann Bell, talks about Accepting Advice.

...And Debbie Maxwell Allen discusses query letters in Ready to Test-Drive Your Query Letter.

Also, don't forget the Write Brain this week! Page Lambert pays us a visit to discuss Manifestation of Yearning: The Flesh & Blood Factor of Storytelling. More information available on our website, the Event tab, and our Tuesday post.

Now we've got another installment of I Write Because..., provided by attendees of the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

I Write Because...

...The stories are in me. They find their way out one way or another!

...Working fast food eats my soul.

...I am alive and human.

...Okay, so here's the thing...I loved playing "pretend" as a kid. Hours and hours of adventure & derring do, cops & robbers, cowboys & indians, mysteries to solve, treasures to find...And then I grew up. And nobody wanted to play pretend. But I still had all those adventures in my head, firing my imagination. So I wrote. I write. I keep writing. And now I've found friends who want to share my adventures. My readers.

...I have to. It fuels me to live the rest of my life happily. Without it, I am a shell of myself.

...It makes me happy and at peace.

...I can't stop!

...Everyone has a story to tell--and stories are what give life meaning. Plus, it's fun. :)

...Robot dinosaurs from Mars need a voice.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I Remember When: Effective Use of Backstory, Part I

By Karen Albright Lin

One of the trickiest challenges for writers is conveying backstory. We’re in the midst of dramatic action, enlightening narrative or compelling dialogue and, OH MY, we realize that we need to let our reader know something that happened in the past. Instinctually, we want to talk to our readers as we would over wine and cheese. “If he hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in.” Conversations in real life are often backstory: gossip, commiseration, bragging, praising, bitching, and so on. When writing our books, however, it’s wise to think twice before jumping back, leaving the current story, or confusing matters by turning your attention 180 degrees away from the peak of that hill you are climbing, thus diminishing momentum and some of the power of your strategically placed foretelling.

Most of us are familiar with the dreaded backstory that is the data dump we’re convinced must be given right up front in order to understand our characters’ coming adventures. How many times have we heard we should lop off that first chapter and begin with the inciting incident or even start just after the action that is essential for the story to exist? What we chop off is likely backstory.

Despite using the terms chop and lop, I don’t mean to make backstory sound like some evil craft error that writers must avoid at all cost. On the contrary, when used well it conveys important information that adds layers and texture to your current story. It can even support your theme and add subplots. 

My editing clients struggle with it more than almost any other aspect of their writing.

How do we offer important background? 

One way is to impart vital information from the past using FLASHBACKS (in which readers are thrust back into an actual scene – living it vividly). We can use NARRATIVE, internal commentary or a layer that allows the writer to become a subtle (or not so subtle) part of the story. We can also offer up knowledge about the past through DIALOGUE. Each has its pros and cons, its potential for brilliance and its risks of stepping into painful traps.

Backstory through CONVERSATION is best if indirect. On-the-nose dialogue will come off as plastic and an obvious info dump: “As you know, Beth, I spent three years in Japan.” Indirectly conveying that same information will get the idea across in a more organic manner and enlighten on character: “She won’t think I’m still that Ozark hick when she sees what three years of bowing, chopsticking, and Sumo diaper folding has done to me.”     

Using DRAMATIC NARRATIVE to enlighten on the past is not simply offering a list of facts. It’s an exciting and colorful summary that brings yesterday into the present: Someday he’d tell her what it was like to wrap thirty feet of cloth around four hundred-pound men with albacore breath. 

Note: any backstory imparted about our character’s time in Japan shouldn’t be just an interesting fact. It is there because it’s essential to the story in some way, informs what is happening now.

The trickiest form of backstory to pull off is the FLASHBACK. It recounts previous events by taking readers back in time to an actual scene. A none-too-subtle example is Harry Potter’s Pensieve (the stone basin that reviews memories).       


To add depth to a character: 

  • To enlighten about relationships from the past and bring current ones into sharper focus
  • To better understand personality and current motivations, fears, barriers to love, and to create sympathy or empathy. A character’s desperate goal keeps readers hooked.
  • Seeing an important scene in real time offers us the opportunity to get two perspectives, that of your character and that of his younger self. Think of Forest Gump
  • It helps describe a character before and after a trauma. In Nora Roberts’s Angels Fall her protagonist was witness to, and injured in, a mass murder changing her forever.
For the story’s sake:

  • It fills in gaps with active scenes that engage.
  • Introduces facts from the past that readers need in order to understand current events.
  • If it is a framed story—like A Prayer for Owen Meany— one can begin the story after the action is over.
  • It offers clarity about how the world works.
  • Reveals obstacles
  • Raises stakes. In The Fugitive Harrison Ford’s character’s freedom is at stake because he was accused of murder and is being chased by the law.
  • It helps to make the stakes personal. Again in The Fugitive, Harrison Ford’s character saw his wife killed (through flashback).
  • If the story takes place all over the temporal map, flashbacks may be essential. One could argue that The Time Traveler’s Wife is written entirely in flashbacks.
  • They offer opportunities to create buttons that, if pushed, are obstacles to your character. Think of Marty McFly in Back to the Future and his aversion to being called a chicken.
For the writing sake:

  • To show instead of tell backstory, creating a fully realized story world.
  • To add dimension to the writing and create richer drama
  • To add suspense. For example, in one of my books I add suspense by gradually unfolding important backstory: first showing that my character avoids the media, later we learn of her fear that her true identity will be discovered by the public, later we learn her mother disappeared when she was a young girl and that she blamed herself, later we learn that she was a witness protection kid and she has long believed that her mother was killed because she told a friend her real name, and now she fears exposure can make her own daughter vulnerable. Unraveling the past sheds light on the present.
  • Flashbacks help contrast events, people or objects in fiction. In No One Asked the River, a screenplay I wrote with Janet Fogg, the archaeologist protagonist lost his son in an accident on a dig. He still blames himself. It affects him when another young boy dies on his watch. This contrasts this POV character before and after a traumatic experience. Contrast is a powerful tool.

Sometimes the benefits of using flashbacks outweigh the sacrifice of immediacy.

Next post, I’ll address when and how to most effectively use flashbacks.

Come back next month for Part II of Karen's Backstory series.

About the Writer:  Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sweet Success! Karen Albright Lin

Prepared by DeAnna Knippling

Karen Albright Lin's adult literary mainstream poem, "Holding Us" (online and softcover), was published in Paris/Atlantic, the American University of Paris literary magazine, in May 2013. The poem is available in the Paris/Atlantic 2013 issue here. The author's website is at

"Holding Us" is a poem about love lost and knowing one "could have had more than the sea to hold."

Karen also has a mainstream, all-ages short story, "Easy," which will be performed on stage by the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art's "Stories on Stage" program on May 16th from 7-9 p.m. 

My love story, EASY, has been accepted for the BMoCA and Stories on Stage event "Love Stories and Other Disasters." EASY will be performed by Stories on Stage during an evening of storytelling about done-me-wrongs and broken hearts. The event will take place at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday, May 16, at 7pm and will be $13/$10 for members. For info: 303-443-2122

Karen Albright Lin is a professional editor/consultant for multi-published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. She writes cookbooks, ghostwrites, and writes for newspapers and magazines, as well as literary magazines. She has won or placed in 25 writing contests. She’s written and collaborated on five short scripts and ten feature length screenplays that have garnered international, national and regional awards--one produced. Her co-written scripts have been considered by James Cameron, Barry Sonnenfeld, HBO, Showtime and the Sci Fi Channel. She speaks at writer’s conferences, retreats, and on cruises.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Monkeys Behaving Badly - Writer Versus Character Versus Audience

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Something came up at my critique that completely caught my fascination. I was writing a scene in a short story where it’s apparent to the reader that my hero’s boss was actually Jack the Ripper. The hero of the story would never even consider that a possibility. But I was told that if the hero doesn’t make the same leap as the reader, it won’t be believable.
Are you with me, so far?
So as the writer, do I write the scene for the audience? Or do I write the scene for the character?

For all of my writing career, I chose my characters over my audience. I follow the characters in my books, I let them dictate to me how they react to the story I’ve plotted. I’m a pantser, but only up to a point. I know what needs to happen, and I whip characters when I need to, but I also honor their reality.

Should I?

One of my terrible habits that I need to break is writing only for myself. I write what I think is cool, what I want to read about, what I want to experience. Audience? What audience? I am an audience of one. I got a steely-cold lesson about this when I wrote a book for my daughter, without really keeping the audience in mind. You know what? She couldn’t read it. Not a bit. And she wasn’t too shy about telling me. Ouch.
So yes, if I want to continue to publish books, I need to consider the audience. Audience definitely trumps writer, I think. But what about audience versus character?

Ideally, sure, you’d have both. Characters that react like the reader expects and that the reader likes. But aren’t people cool who don’t always do as they’re told? Being human is part Divine wisdom, part Pride and Prejudice politeness, and part monkey, throwing poop. 
Flat characters bore me. Characters who know as much as the reader bore me. What I like? Complex, conflicted characters, struggling to be good, but choosing to be bad, then living with the consequences. Who is more interesting, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo?
What did I do in my Jack the Ripper story? I had the character think his boss might be a murderer, then reject the idea. I threw a bone to the reader. ‘Cause I’m a good little soldier.
But deep down, I think character trumps reader. Character and story - if you are true to those twin gods, I think the readers will tag along and be grateful for the truth.

About the Writer: YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer. When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs. His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012.  Most recently, his work appears in the steampunk anthology The Penny Dread Tales Volume III.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Story Tips #8 - Hero's Journey, Act I

By Jax Hunter

Welcome to the next installment of Story Tips From the Big Screen.  This monthly column (to be posted the second Monday of each month) explores screen writing techniques that will help fiction writers tell a better story. 

***     ***     ***     ***

Last month, I gave you an overview of the Hero’s Journey. This month, we’ll look at the first section of that mythic structure. For the most part, the steps we’ll work with this month are those that make up Act I in our story.

Review: Do you remember the pattern - get your hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him out of the tree? Ready to get that hero or heroine up that three? Then let’s begin.

Step One - the Ordinary World. 
This part of the book is the opening, in which we get to know the protagonist, see his values, his character, and maybe even his flaws. It shows the reader the hero’s comfort zone. It is given so that the reader will have a baseline to measure the hero’s growth. Ideally, it will be as different as possible from the Special World into which the hero will soon be forced.

The ordinary world may be rather ho-hum, or it may be a world of excitement. For example, a military hero may be very comfortable dodging bullets, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes or hanging from the side of a mountain. (Can you tell I’m writing military romance at the moment?) Take a man like this and put him into a situation where he has none of his tools, none of that excitement, and you have a man up a tree.

In the Wizard of Oz, the Ordinary World is represented in black and white, the Special World in technicolor. It’s the boring world of a Kansas farm where a young girl dreams of no more problems. In Wizard, this world foreshadows the Special World Dorothy will soon be blown into. Your hero’s Ordinary World may do the same. For Luke Skywalker, it’s another farm in a galaxy far, far, away. His problems, though, are fairly similar to Dorothy’s. 

Step Two - The Call to Adventure - also known as the Inciting Incident.
This is the part of the book, ideally as soon as possible, in which the problem, challenge or adventure shows up. This Call throws off the balance of the Ordinary World. It establishes the game and the goal becomes clearer. It may be as simple as the hero running out of options. 

For Dorothy, she’s faced with an angry Miss Gulch who wants to take Toto away. Auntie Em, Dorothy’s sanctuary, is unsympathetic to her plight. The only answer is to run away.

For Luke Skywalker, the Call takes the form of a hologram of Princess Leia, begging for the help of Obi Wan. “Help me Obi Wan, you’re my only hope.” Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Heroes hardly ever respond to the call with a hearty heave-ho. Like us, they tend to cling to their comfort zone and to the status quo. Which brings us to the next step:

Step Three - Refusal of the Call.
During this part of Act I, the author has the opportunity to point out the clear and present dangers inherent in the hero taking on the challenge. This is a time of fear and waffling for our hero. 

Sometimes, in this part of the book, we see a Threshold Guardian that blocks the way for our hero. In Wizard of Oz, Dorothy runs into Professor Marvel who convinces her that she needs to go home. She’s an example of a hero that willingly leaves her comfort zone - because she doesn’t see the comfort there. 

In other stories, we meet the mentor briefly at this point. In Star Wars, Luke runs into Obi Wan, but ends up turning away from the Call and going home. Refusing the Call often leads to tragedy, as we see when Luke arrives home to find his family dead and the homestead in ruins. In this case, the refusal didn’t RESULT in the tragedy, but many times it does.

Step Four - Meet the mentor.
This step can be separate, or it may be hidden within the other steps. Sometimes, there really is no mentor. A Mentor, though, does not have to be a person.  It can be a map, a book, or even the hero’s strong code of honor. The Mentor stage is defined by a time of preparation for our hero, where he is given advice, training, guidance and, sometimes, magical equipment with which to enter the fray. 

Be careful, in this stage, to avoid the typical mentor who has become a bit cliched: the wise old woman or man, the fairy godmother or wizard. If you do use these characters, make sure you twist them a bit.

Dorothy has many mentors in her journey. The most obvious may be Glenda, but she only shows up three times, when Dorothy can go no further without intervention. Nowadays, readers may prefer heroes who don’t rely on intervention. However, Dorothy has mentors, of sorts, in the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Cowardly Lion. The Wizard, himself, becomes a mentor. And we can’t forget Toto, who is with her every step of the way and in whom resides Dorothy’s intuition.

Luke, of course, has Obi Wan, who trains him to trust the force and who gives him his father’s light sabre. 

In some stories, the mentor is simply a sounding board for the hero, someone who listens to and encourages him along the way.

Step Five - At the end of Act I, we come to Crossing the Threshold.  
This is the turning point at the end of Act I that propels us into Act II. The hero finally commits to the journey, sometimes after a swift kick in the pants from the mentor, sometimes because he has no choice. Often, we see a Threshold Guardian here, an obstacle that stands between the hero and actually getting into the Special World. The hero may need to engage this Guardian, kill him and absorb his power. Or, it may be a matter of just pushing through the obstacle, or simply acknowledging it. 

At this point, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Next month, we’ll look at Act II steps in the hero’s journey.

Until next month, BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard)

(This series first ran in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers newsletter in 2004.)

About the Author: Jax Hunter is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.