Friday, May 30, 2014

Sweet Success! J.T. Evans

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

J.T. Evans’ short story, One-Thousand Eighty Degrees, was published in Phobias: A Collection of True Stories (ISBN: 978-0615949857, Paperback, ebook, 102 pages) on January 11, 2014 by Hidden Thoughts Press. It is available on Amazon.

Over 60 million people in the United States and Great Britain are estimated to have phobias. On these pages, you will find eighteen stories and one poem by individuals who courageously face each day, and each night, knowing life will throw many things, both good and difficult, in their path. And yet, they go on. Read, applaud, and be grateful for your own life.

J.T. is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. He has actively been writing since he discovered a local writers group in 2006. He joined the Pikes Peak Writers in late 2008 and attended his first conference in 2010. In that time, he has worked his way up the ranks in Pikes Peak Writers from "chair mover" and "auction guard" to webmaster and president of the organization. You can find him at

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Characterization Through Setting

By Karen Albright Lin

You’re typing away on your amazing action scene. Your heart races. You love your protagonist and want to knock your antagonist down. But down to what? Unless your story takes place in zero gravity like the hit movie, readers don’t want to float ungrounded through a plot, even one with well-drawn characters. We crave a sense of place, we want it to matter, and we want its description to be reflective of the POV character’s personality.

A sense of when and where your story takes place offers context and tone, and helps us better imagine your tale. It helps us believe these people you’ve created are truly living it.

Readers need more than a character wandering through a nondescript park. Are there children giggling on a jungle gym? Is there a sheepdog wrapping its leash around its owner? What is the vegetation? How does it smell? Are there bird droppings dotting the sidewalk or dirt path?

It’s not as simple as creating a list of facts about the locale. We bump up our prose several notches closer to marketable by conveying POV characteristics and mood through HOW those details are described. To one character, splotches of bird poop might paint an abstract masterpiece leading straight to the cocoon of a turret-crowned church. Another may grumble as he navigates through the maze of filthy bird shit.

Make the experience of setting unique to your character. He is an eyewitness and, as is true of all witnesses, his perceptions will be affected by his mood and his nature.

Dialogue and action are only two layers of characterization. The narrative, your internals, should also include every one of your POV’s senses plus her interpretation of what is in her environment. For example, let us know which country we’re in through sounds and smells. Maybe it’s the turmeric-raison pungency of Morocco. Through setting we also get a feel for its culture.

Don’t bore us. Sprinkle details into your narrative a little at a time. Steinbeck’s pages-long descriptions would not be as tolerated by today’s impatient readers. A few vivid descriptors go a long way.

If your setting creates a believable backdrop for your tension, epiphany, or action, you’ve painted a tangible moment that your audience will experience vicariously through your POV’s senses.

Texture, weather, and atmosphere are all important parts of your setup. They add power to your narrative. Close your eyes, imagine you are your character. What’s around you? How do you feel about it? Then share it with us.

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Let us Speak of Rejection...

By DeAnna Knippling

Skip this if you've heard me go off about it before, because I've said it before, and I'll say it again. But I keep hearing good writers get down in the dumps about their rejections, so here it comes 'round again:

Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference is over. That amazing Rocky Mountain high is done. Now is the cold dark aftermath (inasmuch as May is going to be cold and dark) of sending stuff out.



Getting rejected.

I’ve been writing and submitting short stories for years. One year, I made a goal to get a hundred short story rejections, because I read this article about how you should only set goals you can control, and I thought, I can’t force editors to buy my crap...but I can force them to reject it.

It was a strange year. I wrote stories and sent them because I wasn’t getting enough rejections back. I started prioritizing which markets I sent stories to based on not their pay rates but their turnaround time (no, thank you, Clarkesworld). 

I didn’t end up with 100 rejections; I ended up with something around 150 or so.

My one stipulation was that it had to be a paying market. As in, um, if you’d pay me a dollar for a story, I’d send it to you. (Admittedly, I started at the pro-rate markets and worked my way down by pay rates most of the time.)

And I made less than a 5% acceptance rate. (I track these things on Duotrope). Less than one in twenty.

For a while I was convinced that I was an idiot, and that what I was doing was pointless. Fortunately, I’m stubborn, and once I set that goal (and once people started yelling at me for publicly announcing how many rejections I had [the theory was that it made me look unprofessional]), I refused to stop.

This time.

A long time ago (in the mid-1990s), I sent out a couple stories (as in, two). One of them I sent three times; the other one I sent twelve. After that twelfth rejection (including one from Weird Tales that said, essentially, that my writing was too weird for them), I gave up writing for a while. Like...until 2003. I dawdled with a few stories here and there, but they sucked and I felt like writing was pointless, just something that I did to screw around when I got bored with the Internet. 

Eventually, I gave up on giving up, but that’s another story. The point is that after fifteen rejections on two stories, I threw in the towel.

During my year of collecting rejections, I was getting over twenty rejections on each story.

I was a mental wreck from all those rejections. Then something changed. It wasn’t anything I did.

Here’s what it was:

One of my favorite writers that I personally knew, submitting to the same markets that I was, started crowing about hitting an 8% acceptance rate. Less than one in ten, and she was still doing a victory dance.

“Oh,” I said. “When writers say you’re going to get a lot of rejections, that means even the really good ones are still getting a lot of rejections.”

So now, even though I still get depressed about rejections, I don’t actually stress over it. It’s a pain to keep all this crap in the mail. And, honestly, sometimes I “retire” stories that I’m too sad about not being published to keep sending out. And I am not the most rejected writer I know, not by a long shot. For every story you hear about professional-level writers getting accepted their first time out, there are a thousand who fought their way up the ladder tooth and nail, one rejection at a time: thousands and thousands of rejections.

Now, I’m not saying that submitting stories is for everyone. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t self-publish (of course I’m not saying that!). But if you’re submitting and worried that the rejections you’re getting mean that you’re a terrible writer--they don’t (okay, you might be a terrible writer, but you’re getting better faster than the next wannabe who revises and perfects, revises and perfects). Just take the knocks and get back up again. It doesn’t matter if you have thick skin or not. It doesn’t matter if you cry. (I’ve cried over rejections, especially the ones that are like, “Oh, we liked this and would like to hold onto it to consider it,” and then you get a form rejection back months later, or the ones that come all at once, or the ones for stories where I felt this is the one while I was writing it, or the ones that come back when life in general has me down, or...)

It only matters that you keep going.

Me? I have sent 226 short story submissions over the last twelve months, and my acceptance rate this morning is 6.2%. I've upped my standards to "at least semi-pro", so it's kind of apples to oranges for a comparison from where I started out. But you can bet your sweet monkey @$$ that I'll be doing a victory dance if I hit 8%.  

So send that manuscript.

And send it again.

And again.

Here's a secret: surviving rejection builds a muscle that lets you take bigger and bigger risks, that lets you dare to use your own voice and stop trying to be "perfect."

And that muscle? You’re going to need it.

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.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”

Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself) 1819-1892
Photo by Mathew Brady (Public Domain)

This week on Writing From the Peak...

Let Us Speak of Rejection  from DeAnna Knippling

Characterization Through Setting  from Karen Albright Lin

 Sweet Success - J.T. Evans  from Kathie Scrimgeour

Please note that there will be no Writer's Night tomorrow, due to Memorial Day. Writer's Night will return to Ivywild June 23. See you then!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sweet Success! K. Michelle Lindstrom

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

K. Michelle Lindstrom’s self-published memoir, Finding Rodolfo, (ISBN: 1495222985, Kindle, 337 pages), was released on December 29, 2013 and is available on Amazon.

Kristi was an ambitious lawyer for a top American firm. Until, after a medical complication and near her deathbed she decided there had to be more to life than a loveless existence practicing law. Enrolling in the prestigious Cordon Bleu school in Paris, she soon would find just how much more to life there could be. Her journey of self discovery leads to a world filled with the pleasures of food, wine, and love, the types of which could only be found in the city of lights.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Embrace Analog

By Linda Rohrbough

Those of us who write professionally are constantly looking for ways to stir our juices and embrace new things. That’s because it’s easy to get into what feels like a hole. The trick is finding a way out.
For example, my friends find it fascinating that I’m a writer, but my kids are not at all impressed. They think what I do is the most boring job in the world. My oldest daughter used to make fun of me by sitting at the table pretending to type, and then imitating her or her sister asking me questions.
“Mom, can I go jump off a cliff?”
“Mom, can I eat all the ice cream in the freezer?”
And then she’d mimic me with the same answer every time as she looked straight ahead or held up one hand while she pretended to be typing.
“Just a minute,” she’d say, imitating my voice. Then she’d laugh. It was a funny routine.
Only it wasn’t just a minute. They knew it and I knew it.
That’s the compelling attraction of digital. It sucks us in. I can look up after working on a project and find four or five hours have gone by and I haven’t moved. My life has been like that for more than two decades. Only now it’s not only those of us who love writing, but it’s everyone who has a computer or a smart phone who is experiencing the digital draw problem.
The wrinkle is there’s not much in that digital world that inspires the kind of creative juices needed to get moving on creative work. One of the best books I’ve read in a while about the creative life is Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. I found it this summer and it’s one of the books I keep around for inspiration. In it, Kleon says we need more analog.
What’s analog? A pencil is analog. A pair of scissors is analog. Paste, tape, glue, and markers are analog. So are magazines and paper books. Kleon says he has an analog space opposite his digital space and he doesn’t let one world cross into the other. In his case, he has two desks across from each other. One has his computer, keyboard and all the electronic stuff he needs for his work. The other has pencils, paper, markers, and a bunch of creative tools that require no electricity. And he says the analog space helps his digital work.
I heard that before, and I used to think it was nonsense. Until I tried it. My first time was when my fiction agent asked for a detailed proposal for a suspense novel he’d agreed to shop and I needed to finish the ten page synopsis he wanted. The novel was set at Denver International Airport (DIA) and I was in Littleton staying in a hotel. I was making trips to the airport to meet the airport public relations people, but I was stalled on the proposal.
I looked for ideas and I remembered I’d been in a workshop where the writer leading it suggested cutting images out of magazines that remind me of things in the novel or about the setting. It sounded stupid and childish, like one of the projects I did in grade school, and I just couldn’t see how it would help. But I was desperate.
I had decided to go to a bookstore to buy magazines when I walked past a rack of touristy magazines and travel brochures in the hotel lobby. I stopped short, gathered up an armload, borrowed a pair of scissors from the desk clerk, and went up to my room to begin cutting.
To my surprise, this analog activity did help. The images I found not only sharpened my senses and reminded me of things I loved about Colorado, but I remembered details about mountain lions (which are in the novel). And there was something about cutting out and arranging the photos that helped, as well. The activity details got me going again and I got the proposal done and sent off when I’d promised.
Kleon also says other analog activities help with the creative work, even though they look like a waste of time. I knew that already. I find myself loading the dishwasher or putting in a load of laundry when I’m stuck on a plot point. Walking is one of my favorite activities. So are yoga and hip-hop line dance class, which I make a point of being at no matter how busy I am. If I need to, I tell people I’m in a meeting. Because the times when I’ve sacrificed my yoga or line dance class for something to do with my business, I’ve always regretted it.
Now, it’s my belief that Colorado folks know how to do analog. But I suspect people from places other than Colorado are reading this. So, I’ve got to ask, what’s your favorite analog activity to help stir your creative juices?

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:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Do You Follow? — A Reader University post

By Stacy S. Jensen

This is the fifth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

With so much focus on author platform, you’ll find most of your favorite writers on social media. Here are three ways to follow an author:
  • blogs
  • social media
  • in person
It’s fun to study how published authors use their blog or social media presence.
Are they reaching out to readers, other writers, or book buyers? Do they use a specific social media site like Twitter or Facebook, or do they have a Pinterest board that draws you in for hours?
Some authors share unique details about their books and their characters on their blogs. Some will tweet lines from their books. A Pinterest board may be created to share the inspiration for a book’s setting or a character’s backstory.
Kid lit authors often will share educational materials — how to use their book in a classroom or home setting.
Other writers will share writing tips — how to break through writer’s block, how to deal with bad reviews, or how the rejection never ends.
Some authors are absent from social media, but that’s rare. This is where the in person idea comes into play. Why not attend a book signing or a conference where your favorite author is presenting? This is a good way to learn about the writer’s process and work. Most of these events have a question and answer session, why not support them and ask a question in person.
Years ago when readers wanted to contact an author, they mailed letters to the author’s publisher. With social media, contact can be instant. It’s a good way to show your support and learn a little more about the books and writing you enjoy. 
How do you follow authors?

(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on February 3, 2014)

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 18, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"I write about all the horrible things that can happen to kids as a way of keeping those things from happening to mine. Write the books, spit three times over your shoulder and you're safe."

Jodi Picoult (May 19, 1966-)
Photo Courtesy of 

This week on Writing From the Peak:

  • Do You Follow? Reader U, Part 5                     Stacy S. Jensen
  • Embrace Analog                                                Linda Rohrbough
  • Sweet Success - K. Michelle Lindstrom            Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sweet Success! Gail Mencini

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Gail Mencini’s novel, To Tuscany with Love (ISBN: 978-1-938592-00-3, Paperback, 400 pages) was released January 7, 2014 by Capriole Group. It is available to purchase on Gail’s website.

Eight college students meet during their semester abroad in Tuscany. In one whirlwind summer, while uncovering the charms of Italy, they discover both friendship and love. Returning to Tuscany 30 years later, their dreams, anger, secrets, and disappointments send them on a startling collision course that none of them could have predicted.

Gail Mencini is the best-selling and award-winning author of the debut novel To Tuscany with Love. A frequent visitor to Tuscany and a homegrown gourmet cook, she has toured Italy by car, train, bus, Vespa, and foot. She lives in Colorado with her family and dogs, where she cooks up dazzling dishes and spectacular stories. You can visit her at

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Scene Writing Series, Part IX - Action

By Jax Hunter

Greetings, Campers, this month, we look at writing ACTION.  Hold up there, Hoss! I know some of you are thinking, “I don’t write big action scenes.” The truth is that you probably do, but by ACTION here, I am not talking about the blockbuster action scenes; I’m talking about writing action. 

In The Tools of Screenwriting, authors David Howard and Edward Mabley contrast ACTION and ACTIVITY.

“Action and activity are not interchangeable. . . An activity is anything that a character might be doing in a scene, from knitting to filleting a fish to typing to memorizing song lyrics out loud; this is often called ‘business.’ On the other hand, an action is an activity with a purpose behind it, an activity that furthers a character’s pursuit of an objective."

They go on to say that purposeful activity that expresses emotion (action) must be laid out before a scene is written. 

Novelists too, can make use of this technique in several ways. We can simply jot down the actions on cards for each scene. However, here, I want to point to another technique you may want to try.

When you sit down to write your next scene, write it as a screenplay, but do not write any dialogue. Just list the movement of the actors and brief thoughts and reactions. This will give you a framework upon which you will later add the dialogue and details. If you try it this way, you’ll be focused throughout the process on the action.

By the way, in movies, action is filled with visual elements, things the audience can see. How much more powerful is it for your reader to SEE your hero grip the back of a chair with iron fists, grating his teeth, maybe even throwing the chair through a window, than if we simply hear him speak of his rage. Of course, we need to engage all the senses, but remember that what we see has a greater influence on us than what we hear or smell or feel. 

So, here’s how it can be done (remember, I’m with you on this journey and am NOT the expert here.)

In this scene (from A Good Place to Land), our Heroine, Lily, is working the radios at Search and Rescue Headquarters when she learns that the Hero’s helicopter has gone down.

The screenplay/outline of this scene would look like this:

Lily senses that something is wrong. The team chatter isn’t normal.
She sorts through the recent happenings to pinpoint what’s wrong.
Finally, she radios Daniel to find out.
He stalls her, then asks her to try to reach the helicopter.
That’s when she knows.
She does her job, keeping her reaction to the facts muted.

It’s nearly impossible to list actions devoid of the emotions that both caused the action and then came as a result of the action. So those are listed as well, with no real detail and certainly no backstory. That will all come as you take this outline and write the scene. That is when you’ll put in all the details we’ve talked about. And, of course, you’ll add the actual dialogue. Having this tool ahead of time, though, will help you stay on target for the scene. 

Here’s what the actual scene looked like:

            Tucked back in the radio room at the SAR building, Lily Atherton could tell something was wrong.  She’d been running the SAR communications for long enough that she knew most of the voices by heart.  With Daniel, she could pick up on the subtleties of his moods.
            Everything was okay just a few minutes ago.  The Colonel had dropped off two PJ’s - Nic D’Onofrio and, she thought, Matt Wiley - along with a Stokes litter.  One of her guys had reported the chopper away after the drop.
            Then there was chatter, they were talking to each other, not to her.
            Something was wrong but they weren’t saying what.
            “901, Search Base, status,” her way of finding out.
             “Yeah, Search Base, stand by one,” Daniel responded, his voice tight with tension.
            Seconds, maybe even minutes ticked by. 
            “Search Base, 901.”
            “Go, 901,” Lily tried to keep her voice smooth, calm.  It was an exercised skill and, over the last year and a half, she’d had more than a few opportunities to practice.
            “Base, please see if you can reach Zero Eight on our frequencies.”
            Her stomach clenched.  Reach the bird?  That didn’t sound good.
             “Air Force Rescue Zero Eight, this is Search Base on MRA channel one.”
            She repeated the plea twice on each of three Mountain Rescue Association frequencies.  She even tried on National Law frequency.
            “901, Search Base, negative contact with Zero Eight.  Do I need to contact the RCC?”
            The Rescue Coordination Center was the military equivalent of her office there.  A sharp dread settled in her heart as she waited for Daniel’s answer.
            Rick McIntyre was flying that chopper.

Remember that actions devoid of emotion are simply activity. We want to limit activity, if possible. Of course, we also want to avoid talking heads. There will be times when you must use activity within a scene to do so. However, if you can load that activity with emotion, your writing will be much better. 

Next month we’ll go into greater depth on dialogue. 

In the meantime, try this technique and feel free to let me know how it worked. 

Until next month, when we take a look at set dressing, BIC-HOK (Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard).

Jax (
(This series first ran in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers newsletter in 2005.)

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.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Go For The No!

 By Aaron Michael Ritchey

I have a friend and struggling novelist, Giles Hash, who is a rising star in the Colorado writing community. He has started up a Podcast, Beyond the Trope; he has an active blog (, and he is busy querying agents and editors with the latest book he’s been slaving over with the help of his critique group full of brilliant young guns packing wicked heat and looking for a fight.

We texted back and forth one night. He was feeling down because he was getting hammered with rejections, like an underdog boxer against the HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD! A left, a right, body blow, body blow, he’s up against the ropes, right cross, uppercut, body blow.

Rocky III drama ensues.

Slow-mo yelling. Spittle. An impossibly huge fist hits him and his facial features blur with the force of the publishing industry’s fist.

“Get out of there!” 

I’m texting Rocky III dialogue to him. I’ve been there. I know.

Courtesy of Chris,
But here’s the secret. It’s not the victories that are important in life. It’s not the yeses. It’s the nos.
Our job as authors is to collect as many nos as we can at every stage.


I wrote that in all caps. I yelled that to everyone in the ring, to everyone in the audience, to everyone.  Published, unpublished, afraid to write, everyone.

The secret to success is not in the yeses, it’s in the nos.

There is a fabulous book called GO FOR NO! by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz. It’s about sales.  Like it or not, as writers, we have to be sales people. A little hint, and many of you will wince, or laugh, or ignore me, but if you want to improve your sales skills, find someone who has a network marketing business, and ask them to attend a sales training. Most likely it will be free, or at least cheap, and you’ll make your friend very happy. And you will learn some sales techniques. If you don’t know anyone who has a direct sales business, contact me and I can hook you up.

But back to NO. GO FOR NO! Instead of telling you what the book is about, I’ll show you how I used its ideas.

Courtesy of Yasser,

I practiced going for nos at a Pikes Peak Writers conference not too long ago. Normally, I went to a conference, pitched to one or two agents, and then if I got a yes, I stopped. I queried the agent. A yes is good, right?

Yes. Yeses are good. Nos are better.

So at the 2011 Pikes Peak Writers conference, my goal was to collect nos. I wasn’t interested in yeses. I wanted to tally up the nos. I pitched to every agent and editor there, and I got some nos, but I mostly got yeses. Which increased my odds 500%. 

But I didn’t focus on getting yeses. I focused on getting nos.

Another example: I reached out to a famous author, and I asked for a blurb. I knew she didn’t give blurbs, but I wasn’t going to her for a yes, I was going to her for a no. And I explained I was looking for a no.

This famous author said no, but then she said yes. I’m going to appear on her blog, where she helps struggling authors trying to break out into the mainstream. I went for the no, I got the yes.

Courtesy of Ahaney,
With my books out in the world, a good way to get exposure is to get reviewed by book reviewers and book bloggers. But it’s a tough market out there, saturated, and it’s as hard to get a good book reviewer’s attention as it is an agent’s. So yeah, I’m querying book reviewers, and most don’t respond, but some do, and some say yes, but others say no. 

If I stop when I get a yes, I’m cheating myself, because the victory isn’t in the yeses, it’s in the nos.

Go for the no!

Count every no as a victory. Give yourself an ice cream for every no. Run ten miles for every yes.

This is a business of nos. At every stage. 

If you train yourself to go for the no, you will be able to celebrate daily.

Don’t go for the yeses, go for the nos.

Courtesy of Agnes,
And if you get a yes?

Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.

Then get back to writing and collecting nos.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey grew up as a garbage can for stories including way too much Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Stephen King. His debut novel, The Never Prayer, was published by Crescent Moon Press in 2012. More recently, he has two new stories in the second and third issue of a new magazine, Fictionvale. Aaron’s next novel is a happy, little suicide book for young adults and anyone just this side of hopeless. Long Live the Suicide King is available now! Aaron lives in Colorado with his moviestar wife and two rockstar daughters.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness." - Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)

This week on Writing From the Peak...

* Go for the No!  from Aaron Michael Ritchey

* Action  from Jax Hunter

*  Sweet Success - Gail Mencini  from Kathie Scrimgeour

Congratulations to our PPWC Keynote speaker, Hank Phillippi Ryan, on winning the Agatha Award. When I asked her for her reaction she told me, "It brings tears to my eye to describe it--I'm thrilled, delighted, surprised and endlessly honored. To have THE WRONG GIRL singled out as the best of the year is beyond imagination--I am so grateful!--and it inspires me to work even harder. And P.S.--I had such a wonderful time at PPWC! Thank you so much for inviting me..and for having such a terrific event."

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sweet Success! N.K. Traver

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

N.K. Traver’s cyber-thriller novel, Duplicity (working title) has been accepted by Macmillan Entertainment and is scheduled to be released in 2015.

When teen hacker Brandon's mirror reflection grows a mind of its own, the crimes he's committed come back to haunt him and he risks being sucked into a dangerous alternate world that puts both his sanity and his life at stake.

As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later Traver realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped. You can find her at her website and GoodReads.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Serialized Novel - Part 3 - Vertical Story Arc

Deb McLeod's Writing the Serialized Novel Part Three
By Deb McLeod

(To read the second part of this series, click here.)

One of the greatest things I learned in my time as a corporate internet marketer is that with the advent of the internet, the audience now drives the boat. Marketing has shifted from message driven to audience driven. Who your audience is and what they want to hear or how they want to hear it should dictate the form of the content you create for them.

This is true in marketing. Could it have a place in entertainment, too?

Let me be clear, I’m not saying you write your book to the widest audience and lowest common denominator. I am saying you might look at the changing times and realize that it is the audience that’s driving the change. The rise in eReading, the rise in book bundles, the rise in more content out faster. It’s all happening because that’s what readers want. The novel series or serial has a growing place in the industry.

TV drama series are changing the way people want their stories. Television series offer a lot to novel writers these days. If you’re looking at creating a hybrid novel series that borrows from television, as I am, here are some things to consider.

I first heard the term Vertical Plotting when I read Pamela Douglas’ book Writing the TV Drama Series, a book I highly recommend.

In her book, Douglas talks about the vertical arc (you can substitute novel writing and series novel writing for her analogy of film and TV):
In feature writing [think novels] you were probably told to create an arc for your protagonist that takes him from one state to its opposite; the character struggles toward a goal, and once that is attained, your story ends.

So, how do you progress a narrative without an arc? Well, you create a different kind of arc… You’re interested in the process, not just the outcome.

But watch out -- this does not mean characters are flat. Your continuity cast should never be mere witnesses to the challenge of the week. On the contrary, characters who are not transformed by the plot need something instead: dimension. Think of it like this: instead of developing horizontally toward a goal, the character develops vertically, exploring internal conflicts that create tension. The character may be revealed incrementally within each episode and throughout the series.
So, depth revealed vertically, but horizontally as well, over the course of the series in a long narrative arc.

Let’s look at the TV show Breaking Bad (BB). BB chronicles Walter White’s transformation from protagonist to antagonist throughout the life of the series. He changes over time on the horizontal as the plot plays out in each episode. His vertical is the depth of revelation within each episode and season.

Most TV series are written open-ended. If they can, they will air forever. The characters don’t change much and if they do, it’s over the course of a long narrative. BB is more like a series novel in TV form. That’s the format I’m going for in my novel series: The Julia Set.

My method

Deb McLeod's Writing the Serialized Novel Part ThreeTo try to incorporate both the horizontal and vertical narrative, as a starting point, I used Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets to map the emotional change and journey of each of my main characters. Each major character gets their own beat sheet for each book and for the series. I have a giant spreadsheet where I track their change and assemble the plot.

I use the beat sheets for each character because each one is the star of their own story. Every character wants something and grows and changes, much like we all do in real life. We’re all chasing our own goals and facing our own particular growth periods as we are forever in one act or another of becoming. Unless we’re zombies moving through life, and I guess every good story needs some of those. Minor characters who don’t change but serve the plot and die squishy deaths.

Some of my characters’ stories play out their fifteen beats within the time span of one book in the series. Some play out their transformation over the course of the whole series, like Walter White does in BB. But each book reveals another piece in the depth of their story.

The vertical depth creates the relationship between the reader and the characters that will bring them back to the next book to see how the character changes and the plot unfolds.

That’s the hope anyway.

So how do you sustain this over a number of books? Create multiple characters and subplots. Aside from that you need Excel, beat sheets, index cards, white boards and an understanding spouse who you can wake up, interrupt, or drag to Starbucks to talk about the plot.

But beware the complex threshold. You have to be able to not overwhelm your reader with story lines, subplots and points of view.

That’s my major question with my beta readers these days. Where were you confused? So far, I think I’m doing okay, despite the editor at Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference who said readers won’t manage more than about three storylines or points of view. I disagree. And cross my fingers.

But just in case, I already know the two characters I will combine into other characters to simplify the story. But is that really what readers want? What do you say, Game of Thrones fans? Would you prefer a simpler storyline?

Now the question becomes: Can I pull this off? Time will tell. But I’ll tell you this—I am having a blast.

To read Part 4, click here.

About the Author: Deb McLeod, is a writer, creative writing coach and founder of The Writing Ranch. She has both an MFA and a BA in creative writing. She has been teaching and coaching for over ten years. Deb has published short fiction in anthologies and journals. She has written articles and creative nonfiction. Deb has been a professional blogger, tech writer, graphic artist and Internet marketing specialist.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

May Letter From the Editor

Well, folks, we've made it through the Pikes Peak Writers Conference yet again, and it was a smashing success. Fabulous keynotes, knowledgeable faculty, and hardworking staff, plus all the great people who attend and really make the conference.

This was my last conference as the Managing Editor of Writing From the Peak. While I've enjoyed my time here, thanks to the talented folks who write for the blog, it's time I stepped down and passed the bloggie torch to the incoming editor. My work with the Non-Conference Events committee has strained the time I have to volunteer in my other capacities, so I've decided to focus on NCE and give it my full attention. It was a hard decision, and I value the time I've spent here on the blog. I appreciate the phenomenal columnists and guest posters who strive to bring quality posts for our readers. They don't get paid. As with all other positions within Pikes Peak Writers, a non-profit, they donate their time, talents, and writing to the blog for the love of writing. I'm thankful that they stuck around with me during my tenure.

However, I leave you in good hands. Debi Archibald will be taking over in the next month, and I know she'll do an awesome job. Here's a quick peek at her bio:

Debi Archibald is a Colorado Springs native but spent most of her life wandering both the Arizona desert and healthcare administration. She is now blissfully reestablished at the foot of Pikes Peak. She has one very bad novel under her belt (and in a drawer) and a second, hopefully not so bad, underway. In addition to fiction, she ventures into humor and short memoir. A recovering foreign language geek, she is also passionate about hiking, cooking, reading and being a grandmother, the role she is sure she was born for. She shares her home with the world’s most human Siberian Husky, Sasha. You can find out more about Debi at her website:

Welcome to Writing From the Peak, Debi!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." -James M. Barrie, born May 9, 1860 (Author of Peter Pan)

By National Media Museum from UK (J. M. Barrie, 1892.  Uploaded by mrjohncummings) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

This week on Writing From the Peak:

*Letter From the Outgoing Editor

*Vertical Story Arc by Deb McLeod

*Sweet Success - N.K. Travers

Friday, May 2, 2014

May News & Events

Compiled by Shannon Lawrence

PPW Events
Note: More information can be found on each of the below events on our Events tab, above.

The May Write Brain will be Discovering the Power of Your Unique Voice, presented by Barbara Samuel. Voice is one of the most misunderstood aspects in all of writing--and possibly the most powerful. By working with hands-on, interactive exercises, Barbara Samuel will help you explore the many aspects that create a writer's unique fingerprint--and ways to fit that voice into the marketplace.
 Tuesday, May 20, 6:30-8:30 PM. Penrose Library, Carnegie Room.  

Sign-up is now open for the June 7th half-day workshop, Writing a Fiction Synopsis That Sells, presented by Pam McCutcheon. 1-5 PM, Space Foundation. Cost is $25. Every writer must know how to write a strong synopsis–a good one can get your piece in front of the right set of eyes; a bad one can get it rejected without a read-through. Pam McCutcheon, author of Writing the Fiction Synopsis, will  teach you how to break your synopsis down into manageable pieces by looking at the vital elements of a synopsis one-by-one. Classroom instruction, plus one-on-one feedback and hands on activities will make this an interactive workshop. You’ll leave with a rough structure for your synopsis that you can refine from there. Space is limited to allow for personal feedback. GO HERE TO REGISTER.

Open Critique is Wednesday, May 21, 6-8:30 PM, at Cottonwood Center for the Arts. Get the first 8 pages of your manuscript critiqued. RSVP required for those wanting a critique. 

Writer's Night is Monday, May 26, 6:30-8:30 PM, at Ivywild. Open forum. Come discuss whatever writerly topics you'd like. Food and drinks available for purchase at the venue. 

Other "Local" Events

Delve Writing is holding an online workshop entitled I Got a Send It! Now what? Chris Mandeville will be teaching this course. Price is $49, discounted to $35 for PPW members. 9:30 AM to noon, MT. It is online only and live. 

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers monthly free programming will be Social Media & Marketing Domination: A Writer's Guide to Social Media, Branding & Guerrilla Marketing in the Digital Age, presented by Julie Kazimer. May 10, 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM. Check their page for three other classes being held this month. Their Colorado Gold Writing Contest is now open, with a deadline of June 1 and registration for their conference is now open.

Colorado Springs Fiction Writers has various meetings throughout at the month at different locations. Visitors are welcome. 

The Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America will host Q&A With David Keil, a Veteran Detective. Thursday, May 8. Doors open at 6:30 PM. $25 for non-members, dinner and program included in price.

Pikes Peak Pen Women will present Create Students Who Soar Higher Through Poetry, presented by Nancy Jurka, Virginia Franklin Campbell, and Diana Alishouse, May 17, 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Location will be given upon RSVP. $23 for non-members, lunch and program included in the cost. RSVP required.

Springs Writers will be presenting How to Power Edit Your Manuscript Mini-Bootcamp, with speaker Scoti Springfield Domeij, Saturday, May 10, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM PM, at Woodmen Valley Chapel. Cost is $15. They will also hold a free workshop Tuesday, May 27, entitled Memoir, Essay, and Personal Experience: How Real Life Stories Can Power Your Writing, by Liz Duckworth. Check website for more details.

Arapahoe Community College holds various writing events. Check their website for upcoming events.

If there is a local writer's group you'd like to see included in this listing, please feel free to let me know in the comments!

About the Author: Shannon Lawrence enjoys writing mainly urban fantasy and horror, examining the darker side of life. Her flash fiction piece, “The Family Ruins,” is included in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, andBeyond the Binding, an anthology including her piece, "Spes et Libertas," was just released in e-book only. While her main focus is fantasy and horror, she is working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and also enjoys photographing Colorado scenery, wildlife, and her children. She is also the NCE Director for Pikes Peak Writers, and the managing editor of Writing From the Peak. You can find her and on Twitter as @thewarriormuse.