Writing from the Peak, PPW Blog

Stephen Fry Celebrates 61

Today, August 24, 2018, Stephen Fry celebrates his 61st birthday.

“An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them” - Stephen Fry

“An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them”
– Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry is an English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist. His first novel, The Liar was published in 1991. His most recent release, Mythos is a retelling of Greek Myths.


Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers Blog Lit-Quote is presented by, Gabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak, has put words to paper since she could hold a crayon and currently writes literary and speculative fiction, nonfiction and the occasional poem. She has extensive experience in website design & management, SEO and creating online content. Gabrielle’s published works include technical and academic nonfiction, poetry, memoir (as a ghostwriter) and a cookbook. See what she’s writing about at her Facebook Page and website, or drop her an email: gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.

Your Historical Villain

So, you’ve got a great idea for a story of historical fiction. You know who the protagonist is. You know who their sidekick is and their love interest. You’ve imagined them full of contemplation at the midpoint and you’ve thought about what would drive your hero to despair during the whiff of death moment. But you don’t have a villain?

Your first thought was to use that really cool historical figure. You know, the guy who everyone hates in the history book. That sadistic general, or sleazy politician. The out of touch monarch or the self-righteous moral crusader. But the time line doesn’t match, or maybe you want to save that dastardly villain for another book. What’s a writer of historical fiction going to do? Fear not, gentle reader! I have come to your rescue!

Here are the Top Four ways to craft a historical villain!

1. Make your villain fictional.
I know. I know. You’ve read a lot about the time period and you’ve stumbled across the perfect this really jerk who can be the antagonist of your plot. But the problem is that real historical people tend to be in certain places antithetical to your plot. Let’s say your villain is none other than Joseph Stalin. Great! Read bad guy! But the problem is Stalin tended to have his locations recorded most of the time. If you want to write a scene that takes place in the Ukraine in 1944, chances are Stalin was in Moscow or Eastern Poland. Your story will be criticized for the inaccuracy.

“But I have a secondary villain who is Stalin’s henchmen,” you say.

OK. So why not make the henchmen the true villain? This gives you a lot more flexibility then having an historical character. That antagonist can be places historical figures can’t, and can do things historical figures can’t. Stick with fictional villains.

2. Make your villain symbolic.
What’s really cool about fiction is that you can infuse themes into your story. Do that with your villain. Aimie Runyan did that very well with her fictional priest in Promised to the Crown. A running theme of the book is how men lay multiple and over lapping claims on women’s bodies. Fr. Cloutier, the head priest in Ms. Runyan’s book, is a stand in for the power of the Roman Catholic Church in 17th century Quebec.

Or, what about Nurse Ratchet in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest? She is clearly a stand in for institutional medicine and the power of bureaucracy. A villain who represents what’s wrong with your society helps you develop your theme. Such a villain can also allow you to explore the values of antiquated societies and show them to your reader in a modern light. Either way, it’s a great way to add some spice into your story.

3. Make your villain a reflection of your hero.
There is nothing better than a fun-house mirror version of the protagonist. Maybe they’re the exact opposite. Maybe their very similar to the hero, but just a little off. Great villains should make your hero question themselves, their motives, and their actions. Great villains should humble the hero when she realizes there, but for the Grace of God, go I.

4. Make your villain have cause.
There is a great saying going around about villains. Every villain is the hero of their own story. This is so true! Every villain was once a potential hero, now corrupted. Make your reader understand your villains tragic arc. Of course, the story is about your protagonist, but leave enough room so that your readers can sympathize with your villain, even if they don’t agree with them. Think of the Monster in Frankenstein.

Remember that villains are just as important as heroes are. Sometimes, they’re even more important.

Jason Henry Evans: Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

You can catch up with jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Margaret Mizushima’s Sweet Success

Congratulations go out to Margaret Mizushima on the publication of her new mystery novel, Burning Ridge: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery (Crooked Lane Books, ISBN 978-1-68331-778-4, 280 pages). Burning Ridge is available at most online booksellers and many bookstores including Amazon and Goodreads.

Cover of Burning ridge by Margaret Mizushima

Colorado’s Redstone Ridge is a place of extraordinary beauty, but this rugged mountain wilderness harbors a horrifying secret. When a charred body is discovered in a shallow grave, Officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are called in to spearhead the investigation. But this is no ordinary crime—and they soon become the targets of a ruthless killer.

Margaret MizushimaMargaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal, a TopShelf Indie Book Award nomination, and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and on her website. Email Margaret at: margmizu@q.com

Sweet Success is coordinated by Managing Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim. If you have a Sweet Success to share please follow this link to submit or email to: SweetSuccess@pikespeakwriters.com

Facebook Algorithms and Author Pages

How does Facebook’s algorithm change affect my author page?

Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement on his Facebook page in January about changes in the Facebook algorithm.

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” he wrote. “I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down.”

What it really amounts to is that Today’s Facebook wants to be the Original Facebook.

If you don't want to pay for ads, you must be deliberate in how you create posts.I’ve been looking at this for the past couple of months, and it appears that this will affect every author who runs a Facebook Page. The organic reach from those Pages will not go as far as it used to, and it has already been trending down for the past two years. If you depend on Facebook to advertise your books and your brand, you absolutely, 100% must have an ad budget. While you may have gotten away with one prior to now, the new algorithm all but guarantees your content will not be seen without some kind of boosting.

The new algorithm will change your feed to include way more friends and family. You can now actually go in and pick your top 30 friends. It will also limit content from Pages you’ve liked unless they have a high organic rate of engagement – comments and shares.

If you don’t want to pay for ads, you must be deliberate in how you create posts. They must garner comments and shares, and to a lesser degree likes. Live Facebook Video is still money for organic reach – six times more reach than simply posting a video. “Engagement Bait,” which used to be all the rage, Zuck says is now a big fat no-go. So posts with “tag a friend” or “comment below” will automatically go lower on the feed. You can also post a notice on your Page asking folks to click the ‘See First’ button on the page, so they are still getting your content.

Is it worth it to continue to advertise with Facebook? The answer is yes – IF you enjoy being on Facebook. It is still a social media site with well over a billion users, most in the United States and Canada. But I would encourage you to look at new ways to use it. Try establishing a Group – Facebook assumes you want to be part of the group discussion and isn’t limiting those posts as of now. And definitely tinker with live video.

If you don’t enjoy Facebook, it will show in your posts and your engagement. If you are doing it because you think you have to as an author, I would tell you to remember this: you do not sell books on Facebook. You sell your brand. You build a following. How much time do you want to spend building a community of Facebook? If it’s at the expense of writing your next book, I would tell you not to bother.

Online advertising in always in flux. Five years ago I would have told you to have a presence on every site. Two years ago I would have told you to pick two and become very good at it. Now? I advise you to pick one you like and run with it, Facebook or not.
If you ever have any questions about marketing books, please feel free to visit my website and join me on my Facebook Group, Writer Nation.

Jennifer LovetteJennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work.
With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity.
She currently lives in South Korea and travels around Asia for fun.

You can find her on her WebsiteFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett

Happy Birthday Suzanne Collins

Today, August 10th, Suzanne Collins celebrates her 56th birthday.

Suzanne Collins QuoteSuzanne Collins, a television writer and novelist, is Amazon’s best selling author of all time. She’s best known for The Hunger Games Trilogy, but back in the day she wrote for children’s programs on Nickelodeon, including Clarissa Explains it All and Little Bear.


Writing From the Peak is pleased to introduce a new bi-weekly post, Lit-Quote brought to you by Contributing Editor, Gabrielle Brown. Enjoy these little literary interludes.

Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers Blog Gabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak, has put words to paper since she could hold a crayon and currently writes literary and speculative fiction, nonfiction and the occasional poem. She has extensive experience in website design & management, SEO and creating online content. Gabrielle’s published works include technical and academic nonfiction, poetry, memoir (as a ghostwriter) and a cookbook. See what she’s writing about at her Facebook Page and website, or drop her an email: gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.

The Devil in the Details

by: Barbara Nickless

“If you want to get shot,” the SWAT leader said, “go ahead and reach for that gun.”

I froze, my hand inches from the pistol lying on the counter. Minutes earlier, I’d been full of bravado. Talking smack with my fellow drug dealers and preparing to relax on the sofa and count the day’s take. Now, looking into a pair of the coldest eyes I’d ever seen, I was suddenly unsure. Should I throw up my hands in surrender? Or go down in a blaze of glory?

My fingers twitched as my hand hovered over the gun.

“Go on,” the cop said. “I dare you.”

What I’m talking about here is not my life of crime, but the research I did in order to play the part. I had my run-in with that team of heavily armed and armored-up men while I was working on my first mystery/thriller.

Arranging the meet was pretty simple. I wanted to know more about the dangerous aspects of police work. They needed a guinea pig.

Research has moved beyond the dusty stacks of the library shelves of my youth (although I miss those shelves!). These days, we can run Google searches, join chat groups, watch YouTube videos, and gain access to information on a huge number of organizations—all from the comfort of our desks.

But first-hand experience can garner us telling details that makes our stories ring true.

When I set out to write my first thriller, a novel about a former Marine turned railroad cop, I had to convincingly depict guns, murder investigations, trains, railroad cops, the CIA, the Iraq War and Mortuary Affairs, the Marines, military working dogs, K9s, hobos, railroad gangs, and white supremacists.

Clearly, I couldn’t gain first-hand knowledge in all those areas. But I did what I could, and dove headfirst into every hands-on experience I could find.

Call me crazy.

While I’ve stopped short of trying to hop on a moving train, I have gone on a ride-along with a coroner (not for the queasy), watched K9s take down criminals while I scrambled to get out of the way, crouched in a corner when the husband of a domestic violence victim came home with a gun, and been inadvertently locked in the back of a cruiser during a murder investigation.

One of the most emotionally difficult experiences has been taking out possible bad guys during interactive video simulations. Each time, I’ve revisited the scenario in my mind. When I fired my gun and “took” a human life, did I do the right thing? Was the suspect guilty? And was there any way I could have de-escalated the situation without firing a shot?

Gaining first-hand experience takes time. And all of us are busy. We have kids and jobs and books to write. But a lot of research activities can be done on weeknights or weekends. Sheriff and police citizens’ academies, for example, are typically one weeknight for six weeks, plus an optional ride-along.

And it only takes a small taste to give you a larger perspective.

Back to that drug den and the gun lying on the counter. When the door burst open and twelve SWAT officers poured in—swathed head to toe in black body armor, assault rifles at the ready and aimed at me—I lost my courage. All I could see of them were their eyes, and the look in those eyes meant business. My hands went up in surrender, the gun stayed on the counter, and I missed my chance to get shot.

With a paintball gun.


Barbara NicklessBarbara has always been interested in things that might get her killed, or at least maimed. She’s rehabilitated wild birds of prey, explored little-known caves, handled rattlesnakes, and raised two children through their teenage years. Her bestselling mystery/thriller series featuring Special Agent Sydney Parnell is how she imagines life would be for Harry Bosch—if he were a railroad cop with a death wish. The third book in the series, Ambush, will come out March 2019.

Get the latest news on her website. Also check out the first two award winning books in her Sydney Parnell series, Blood on the Tracks and Dead Stop.

Catherine Dilts Celebrates Sweet Success

Blood and GasolinePikes Peak Writers is pleased to announce Catherine Dilts’ short story, “Do-Over”, is included in Blood and Gasoline. The anthology of 17 stories by different authors has been described as Mad Max meets Sons of Anarchy. Catherine typically writes cozy mysteries, but took a walk on the dark side with her story “Do-Over”. This is a tale of vengeance, and a survivor’s hope that enacting justice can erase a painful past.

Catherine DiltsCatherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. She takes a turn in the multi-author sweet cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with Ink or Swim. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction on her website.

Sweet Success by: KJ Scrim, Managing Editor.
To share your Sweet Success please fill out this form.

Pen Drop Picks Contest Opens Tomorrow

Readers, today we share with you a new writing contest, courtesy of The Pen Drop Coffee Break Meetup and local author and Pikes Peak Writers member Ronnie Lee Graham Please note this contest is not sponsored by nor directly associated with Pikes Peak Writers.  We support our members by sharing their success, news, and announcements. Pikes Peak Writers are encouraged to submit entries, please see entry instructions below.

Pen Drops Picks Contest ~ August 1, 2018.

The inaugural “Pen Drop Picks” Writers Contest opens tomorrow, August 1, 2018.
The words on the back cover are a key factor in whether readers decide to put your book in their shopping cart, or continue looking. In less than 250 words, the author must sum up the plot, without giving too much away, while still capturing the imagination of the reader. It is a sales pitch cleverly disguised as an introduction to a story.
Writers are invited to submit their back cover blurbs, those 250 words (max) most often used by readers to decide to buy, or put back a book.


Sponsored by the Pen Drop Coffee Break on Meetup and Pikes Peak Writers member Ronnie Lee Graham, the Pen Drop Picks contest will award $75 for the first place winner, $25 for second, and honorable mention to other entries (at the judges discretion).

How to Enter

No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win this contest, but entries are limited to the first fifty submissions.
To enter, email the back cover blurb, 250 words or less, for your current work-in-progress, or completed, unpublished manuscript to: PenDropWriters@aol.com. Entries are accepted from August 1st through Sept. 15th. Include your entry in the body of your email, attachments will not be opened.

Judging and Awards

A panel of judges, all avid readers, will score each entry on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the lowest, based solely on how much the blurb would drive their purchase decision. Judges will provide feedback in select instances, however not all entries will receive comments.
Winners will be notified by reply email no later than October 15th (if you don’t hear from us, you didn’t win). Prizes will be provided in the form of gift cards and certificates.
Scoring results can be requested by email.

Ronnie Lee Graham HeadshotAuthor Ronnie Lee Graham’s first book was And Then, The Train Wrecked, a nonfiction narrative on grief and life. He now writes Christian fiction, and his novels Inventor and Nfin8Echo are available on Amazon. A retired military officer, he lives in Colorado. where he runs, writes, and does volunteer work.

Learn more about Ronnie Lee Graham on his website, on Amazon and on Facebook and twitter.  You may email him at RonnieLeeGraham@aol.com.

We Want Your Workshops!

by: M.B. Partlow

Pikes Peak Writers just unveiled their brand new workshop proposal portal, and we are open for business, looking for your proposals!

What are we looking for? One-hour workshops for our annual Conference, two-hour proposals for our monthly Write Brains, and half-day workshop proposals for the occasional longer events we do.

PPWC Portal

On what topics?

Anything that will help writers improve their craft, from writing better dialogue to thickening the plot. The business of writing, including (shiver) marketing, the bane of our existance, and info from proven successes in the world of independent publishing. We also welcome genre-specific proposals, and love workshops that take the tenets of one genre to make another genre really pop. We like Reality Track/How To topics, which are real life experiences of interest to writers. (In the past, we’ve had a SWAT team, a food writer, a firefighter, a coroner, numerous law enforcement from local to national, and more.) Then there’s the Writer’s Life, which could include time management, motivation, and inspiration to keep on writing when life throws the inevitable roadblock in your way.

Here’s a tip:

It’s better to propose a few workshops for us to choose from than just one lonely proposal. It gives us a better idea of the range of your mad skills, and makes you a more attractive candidate. Want more insider tips? We’ve got a great FAQ on our website. And if you don’t want to present a workshop, but would like to request that a particular topic be covered? We’ve got you covered! Just click here.

Our new portal is based in Submittable, so you will have to make a Submittable account when you begin, It’s quick, painless and free!

We accept Write Brain proposals all year long. But if you want to be considered for the 2019 Pikes Peak Writers Conference, you must submit your workshop proposals by September 30, 2018.

Propose early and propose often!


MB Partlow is a long-time volunteer with Pikes Peak Writers, who has worked extensively on the annual conference and on the board. She writes in the spec fic world, reads voraciously across genres, and is only fully happy when she’s made someone laugh or is laughing herself.

Letter from the Editor

Kathie KJ ScrimHello Pikes Peak Writers! My name is Kathie Scrimgeour (writing under the name K.J. Scrim) and I have taken the reins of Managing Editor From the Editorfor PPW’s blog. I have been the Sweet Success coordinator since 2013 and last year started the column, Meet the Members. When Gabrielle asked if I would be interested in taking over for her, it only seemed to be a natural transition.

PPW is an organization that is here to help all of us learn the craft of writing, editing, and publishing whether it is an epic five book high fantasy or a twenty-word flash fiction. Our blog is a wonderful resource to learn not only tips and tricks to be a better writer, but also a place for moral support and sometimes a few laughs.

As Managing Editor, I will strive for professional, fun, and informative content, and, in the same breath, ask for your help to reach these goals. We are accepting submissions from all members on all aspects of writing. Did you have an “ah-ha” moment at a Write Brain? We would love to hear about it. Have you struggled through writer’s block? How did you get through it? Have you ever had a book optioned for film? Been through a publishing nightmare? Experienced the difference between traditional and self-publishing? Do you know Scrivener, WordPress, or Blogger? What about PPW’s conference? What experiences have you had? These are just a few questions that you could share your experiences through. I am also open to all suggestions. Please contact me at editor@pikespeakwriters.com.

We are going to have a great time together here on Writing from the Peak. This month look for Barb Nickless’ post Devil in the Details, along with Jennifer Lovette’s piece on Facebook algorithms and Jasons Evans’ next installment about villains in historical fiction, plus more!
Bookmark this page so you can visit often.