Please join me in congratulating Pikes Peak Writers member Darby Karchut and cover artist Risa Rodil as we take part in the cover reveal for Darby’s Del Toro Moon, due out this fall. [ed]
Bad enough Matt Del Toro is the greenest greenhorn in the family’s centuries-old business: riding down and destroying wolf-like creatures, known as skinners. He must also learn how to match his father’s skills at monster hunting. Odds of doing that? Yeah, about a million to one. Because Matt’s father is the legendary Javier Del Toro—hunter, scholar, and a true caballero: a gentleman of the horse.
Now, with the skinners multiplying, both in numbers and ferocity, Matt is desperate to keep his father and hot-tempered older brother from killing each other, prevent his new friend, Perry—a horse-crazy girl who recently moved to their small town of Huerfano, Colorado—from discovering the true nature of his odder-than-oddball family, and save a group of paleontologists from getting skinner-ed.
Luckily, Matt has twelve hundred pounds of backup in his best friend—El Cid, an Andalusian war stallion with the ability of human speech, more fighting savvy than a medieval knight, and a heart as big and steadfast as the Rocky Mountains.
The cover was designed by Risa Rodil ( www.risarodil.com ) a popular MG/YA book cover artist. Her other clients include Disney, Nickelodeon TV, Penguin Random House, and Harper Collins.
Darby Karchut is a multi-award winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy at her writing desk. Her books include the best selling middle grade series: THE ADVENTURES OF FINN MacCULLEN. Best thing ever: her YA debut novel, GRIFFIN RISING, has been optioned for film.
Today, Kathie Scrimgeour (aka KJ Scrim), Meet the Member and Sweet Success editor, shares her recent interview with member Matt Bille. We’re pleased to share successes and highlight our diverse membership. Kathie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KJ Scrim: You newest book, Raven’s Quest was just released in December 2017. How does it feel to see a project come to fruition?
Matt Bille: This always feels great to a writer because it means you can start the next project or turn full attention to one you’ve left in limbo. I and my wife/coauthor Deb tried to bring back C.S. Lewis-style fantasy adventure with an underlying Christian/family theme, and I think we nailed it. Readers will let us know.
KJ Scrim: You write both fiction as well as non-fiction. In your creative process, how are they different? Similar?
Matt Bille: That’s an interesting question because I write science and history, both of which require that you research from the origins of idea on through the latest developments or, in the case of space history, the most recent declassifications of documents that may have lain in government vaults for decades. With nonfiction, I’ll craft each chapter as a go along, with all documented information included or reference. With fiction, I do some research at the start to know what’s possible, but then what matters is getting a whole, coherent story down. If I need to know what brand of snowmobile is most popular around Lake Iliamna, I don’t need that right now, I can use a generic name and fill it in later.
Characters are different because you have to invent them instead of borrowing them from history, but there’s still an overlap. The antagonist in Apex borrows a lot from wealthy adventurer Steve Fossett, only with no ethics.
KJ Scrim: You have been a former Air Force Titan II ICBM commander, an extra in the film 1941, along with many other endeavors. How have these influenced your writing? (feel free to use any other examples).
Matt Bille: Everything in life helps you write. My most acclaimed nonfiction, The First Space Race, wouldn’t have been possible without the time in the Air Force. I’ve always been a space geek, but Titan training included learning, in painstaking detail, all the components of a rocket and its support infrastructure. When it was time to write the history of the first satellites, I could look at a diagram of an old rocket and explain its features to non-engineers like myself. A film or TV extra doesn’t learn much about the production process, but it does teach you to think of the whole scene, the way the director must, and not just the actors in the foreground.
KJ Scrim: Do you have any “self-help for writers” books that you use regularly? How do they help? Please share your list of your top 2 or 3.
Matt Bille: For novelists, find an old one called How to Write Best-Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz. The industry has changed, but the principles haven’t. Maas’ The Fire in Fiction is the best of his many books, or so it seems to me. If you are not by nature a strict grammarian, you need Elements of Style. You can break grammatical rules in fiction, but you must know what they are. King’s On Writing is valuable for King’s discussions of how to focus on the basics of your story and minimize the “fluff.”
Matt Bille has been writing since he was 16 when he sold a little humor piece to his local newspaper, then went on to publish his first book, Rumors of Exsitence, in 1996. Matt has been with PPW since the 90’s and has only missed two conferences since he became a member. He had his great moment in nonfiction, when he offered Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson a copy of The First Space Race at a symposium and Tyson replied, “I have that.”
Michelle Crystal’s wonderful debut novel, Lavender Blue (adult mainstream fiction, 342 pages) was released, November 30, 2017, by Author House. It is available Author House.com, Amazon, Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble.
Rachel Tate enjoys an idyllic life—a handsome husband, three healthy sons, a comfortable lifestyle—but when disaster strikes, she stands to lose it all. Shocking repercussions follow their insurmountable tragedy, leaving Rachel drowning in grief, self-pity, and doubt.
As a favor to her mother, Rachel assists in cleaning out her ailing grandmother’s home. There, she stumbles upon journals authored by her great-great-grandmother, Anna Murdock Pierce. The two women exist centuries apart, but live nearly parallel lives. Will learning about the past bring insight to Rachel’s present—or will the daunting trials she faces get the best of her?
Past, present, and future collide, on Rachel’s journey to understanding.
Michelle Crystal bridges the gap between commercial and literary fiction. She began writing poetry in elementary school, receiving publication at an early age. Her poetry lends fluidity and symmetry to her fiction. Addicted to metaphor, she can find one in just about anything. Luckily, her family endures her regular, boundless allegories, she discovers in everyday events. While Michelle loves metaphor, clichés curdle her stomach and are not allowed utterance in her home. If she’s not writing, Michelle is probably out scouring thrift shops for some rare find.
Today’s post is from Darby Karchut, one of the six authors who participated in Write Your Heart Out 2018.
Each of these talented individuals gave us a taste of the in-depth session they’ll be presenting at Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2018: Cindi Madsen, LS Hawker, M.B. Partlow, Kristy Ferrin, Debbie Maxwell Allen, and Darby Karchut.
For those who missed Your Heart Out, today Darby Karchut shares her expertise on Writing for Boys.Darby has a passion and an uncanny ability to get into the heads of middle-school aged boys. Read up here and consider attending her session at Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2018. You won’t regret it. -Gabrielle V Brown, Managing Editor
For folks who weren’t able to attend the 6th AnnualWrite Your Heart Out (the Pikes Peak Writers Conference’s sneak preview) on Saturday, March 3rd, I’m pleased to share an overview from my presentation entitled “This One’s for the Boys: Crafting Authentic Books for Boys.”
Based on the stages of their brain development, boys are more likely to:
act on impulse
misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
engage in dangerous or risky behavior
unable to see potential consequences of their actions
struggle to modify their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors
tend to lag socially behind girls, and not catch up both physically and mentally until the teen years
they are capable of great insight and worldly reflections, mature emotions and mature decision-making, but they cannot sustain it for long periods
hence the rollercoaster we often see in older children and teens
Children mature differently at this age; okay to write unsophisticated teens
But, they all have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood, especially in MG and younger teen books
Dialogue should reflect this back-and-forth
Starting your story with a bang (physical or emotional)
Throughout the story, ask boy questions:
How do I position myself with others?
How do I become a man?
Whom do I model myself after?
What do I aspire to do and to be?
Writing up, not down (honor your reader’s intelligence)
Making every character the hero of his own story (even the villain)
Using smart humor: body fluids/sounds can only go so far
Appealing to your reader’s sense of mischief; make them laugh, especially after an intense scene
Something I noticed:
Boys act and talk side-by-side
Girls act and talk face-to-face
Boys touch each other more than they used to (hands on shoulders, etc.)
What my male students told me:
Don’t minimize emotions (boys have them, just express them differently)
They are more clued into things than adults give them credit for, but sometimes, they don’t care
The boys wondered why book after book have horrible parents, so don’t be afraid to incorporate decent adult figures
Writing for boys—especially our middle school guys—is my passion. Why? I don’t know. It just seems that my world view’s default setting is from the perspective of a twelve year old boy. Does it matter? Nope. Not one bit. I write me. You write you. It’s all good. But I can tell you that boys who read grow up to become men who think and feel. Reason enough.
Darby Karchut is a multi-award winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy at her writing desk. Her books include the best selling middle grade series: THE ADVENTURES OF FINN MacCULLEN. Best thing ever: her YA debut novel, GRIFFIN RISING, has been optioned for film. Her latest book, DEL TORO MOON, releases Fall 2018 from Owl Hollow Press. She is represented by Amanda Rutterat Red Sofa Literary.Visit the author at www.darbykarchut.com
Today, Kathie Scrimgeour (aka KJ Scrim), Meet the Member and Sweet Success editor, shares her recent interview with member Mike Torreano. We’re pleased to share successes and highlight our diverse membership. Kathie can be reached at email@example.com.
KJ Scrim: How long have you been writing and what is the genre you prefer to write?
Mike Torreano: I started writing when I retired about six years ago. I seem to be inescapably drawn to mid-to-late 19th century America. I have two traditional western mysteries out (The Reckoning and in a couple months The Renewal), both set in South Park 1868 and 1872. Also, my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, just brought out The Renewal as an audio book as well.
KJ Scrim: Do you have anything in particular you are working on right now? Tell us a little about it.
M.T.: I’m writing another western, but it’s not the third in the trilogy, it’s set in 1871 New Mexico territory, and my hero travels north during a cattle drive. He has a mysterious background that is slowly revealed as he rides. For a long time he doesn’t even realize someone is hunting him. I’m a pantser, so the rest will come together as I go.
KJ Scrim: On your website, you say that you consumed Zane Grey’s work. Of the vast array of his writing, are there any that stood out for you? Why?
M.T.: Riders of the Purple Sage is probably his most enduring work and contains several story line threads which add complexity and heighten interest as the reader waits to see them all come together. I’ve more or less structured my storylines with the same multiple threads.
KJ Scrim: What other authors influenced your writing?
M.T.: Certainly Louis L’Amour and Larry McMurtry, but also the poet Robert Service and novelist Jack London. My stories seem to be set in the Old West or in the northlands. I tend to gravitate to descriptive, but sparse writers.
KJ Scrim: Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of the new writer’s experiences (and more experienced writers too!). How have they helped you?
M.T.: I always come away with a stack of conference notes, but honestly, if I can come away from a conference with one or two good ideas it’s been a success. The trick then is to force myself to apply those ideas in my writing, so those gems don’t just gather dust.
KJ Scrim: Do you attend the events outside PPW’s conference and, if so, which ones are your favorite?
M.T.: I’ve always enjoyed the Write Brain sessions and OpenCritiques.
KJ Scrim: Do you have any “self-help for writers” books that you use regularly? How do they help? Please share your list of your top 2 or 3.
M.T.: I would recommend everyone writing historicals use a period reference book or two. They’re available online and will give you a clearer picture of what life was like during a particular time.
I’ve found The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, to be very helpful, along with Donald Maas’ Fire In Fiction.
KJ Scrim: If you met someone who was thinking about starting to write, what advice would you give them?
M.T.: Whether you’re a pantser like me, or a plotter, take time to think in detail about your main characters. Once you know them well, their scenes will likely spill off the page.
The second thing I would recommend is to find a compatible critique group of similar genre if possible. Mine is very valuable in helping polish my manuscripts.
KJ Scrim: Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t discussed?
M.T.: Craft your storylines with care. Pick something you just have to tell so you’ll be able to finish what you start.
Mike Torreano is a western mystery writer. He joined PPW about six years ago. Mike devoured Zane Grey which sparked a lifelong love of American West of the 19th century. He has one book published, The Reckoning, with two more in the works, The Renewal, Fireflies at Dusk. Website: miketorreano.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The only nonprofit Colorado organization dedicated to providing opportunities to explore what it means to be human through our history, literature and culture, Colorado Humanities was founded in 1974. Affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Library of Congress Center for the Book (as the host of the Colorado Center for the Book), Motheread, Inc. and the Smithsonian, Colorado Humanities partners with communities throughout the state to deliver high-quality, educational programs and resources. You can find out more about this exceptional organization here.
Gabrielle V. Brown has put words to paper since she could hold a crayon. She is extensively published in technical and academic nonfiction and currently writes humor, short stories and literary fiction. Gabrielle has lived all over the United States and now resides in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Margaret Mizushima’s mystery novel, HUNTING HOUR: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery, was named by RT Reviews a 2017 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee in the Mystery/Thriller/Suspense category. Wonderful news Margaret!!
Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find a missing junior high student dead, but before they can catch the killer, another child disappears—and this time it’s one of Cole Walker’s daughters. Mattie and Robo must lead the hunt to capture a kidnapper before they’re too late. HUNTING HOUR can be found at bookstores and online booksellers.
This novel was published 8-8-2017 by Crooked Lane Books (ISBN 978-1-68331-277-2, hardcover, 279 pages) and is available on Amazon.
Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (2015), an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee; Stalking Ground (2016), a Colorado Book Award and International Book Award finalist, and a Reader’s Favorite gold medal winner; and Hunting Hour (2017), an RT Book Reviews Top Pick. She lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.
Peg Brantley’s thriller/suspense novel, TRAFFICKED (ISBN Ebook: 978-0-9853638-6-4; Paperback: 978-0-9853638-7-1, 368 pages), was released May 23, 2017 by Bark Publishing. It is available in softcover, ebook, and audiobook on Amazon, Audible, Tattered Cover, and Indiebound.
Rich or poor, black or white, girls disappear across this country every day, pulled into the nightmarish world of prostitution and drugs.
Caught up in a cruel system fueled by lust and money, three young women must find the courage within themselves to survive.
Mex Anderson is back, still fighting his own demons, but committed to finding these girls before it’s too late.
With intent to bring credibility to her stories, Peg graduated from the Aurora Citizens’ Police Academy, participated in the Writers’ Police Academy, interviewed crime scene investigators, FBI agents, human trafficking experts, obtained her Concealed Carry, studied arson dogs to Santeria, and hunted down locations that show up in her books. Peg can be contacted at: email@example.com and visit her website at: www.pegbrantley.com
Thank you to contributing editor, Kathie Scrimgeour (aka KJ Scrim), for ensuring that you, our members, are informed of the accomplishments of fellow PPW members. Kathie can be found of facebook or you can email her. If you have a success of your own to share, let us know here.
Congratulations to Matt and Deb Bille on the release of their ebook, Raven’s Quest, by Clean Reads. The release of this YA fantasy ebook will be followed in early 2018 with a hard copy and soft copy (291 pages) and is available on Amazon.
In a world where the raven-riding warriors are the sole advantage protecting the city of Haven from barbarians, raven-keeper Lark Ravenlord must break the strictest laws of city and church to survive. Alone in the vast Winterland with a stolen raven, she learns of a new threat that forces her to make the hardest choice of all: whether to risk her life to save her enemies.
Matt Bille is a writer living in Colorado Springs. He is an Air Force veteran whose experiences include flying NASA’s SpaceShuttle simulator and appearing in the Spielberg film 1941. He covers science at Matt’s Sci/Tech blog. He wrote two books on the world’s least-known animals plus The First Space Race, a groundbreaking account of the early Space Age. His first novel, The Dolmen (2014), received great reviews and the next, Apex Predator, is awaiting the right publisher. Deb Bille is also former Air Force and is a nurse/attorney for an insurance firm. Raven’s Quest is her first book.
Readers, today we are fortunate to have the second of three installments in Liz Jeffries’ mini-series on creativity and unleashing your inner child. Liz reminds us of the joy we find in writing, and how getting back in creative saddle can help overcome personal challenges. Liz shares her tried and true techniques for unleashing the imagination of our childhood and getting the results from mind to keyboard (or paper). Today, in her final installment, Liz addresses those questions she brought up last week and shares her tried and true creative tactics.
We need to feed that creative spark that lies within us. Oh yes, it’s always there, no matter how much adulthood and responsibility have tried to snuff it out. And we can feed it and help it grow. How you ask? Well here are some things I do for myself. Some of these have been taught to me by other people, some I got from books, some I just came up with on my own.
One of my new favorite techniques that I’ve been introduced to since joining Pikes Peak Writers is improv writing. Basically, take a prompt, give yourself a space of time (like 10 minutes) and just WRITE. It can be anything. There is no right or wrong. No one ever has to see it. It’s not anything that has to be made into a story, or has to go somewhere, or even has to make sense. It’s just a time to get your brain to think, to flow, to push yourself beyond the normal comfort zone of your writing. To exercise your brain. To maybe explore things you wouldn’t consider exploring in a ‘normal’ setting.
It’s easy. There’s tons of apps and websites that will create random prompts for you. And you don’t have to write on the exact prompt. For example, a lot of them are in first person, but maybe you feel more creative writing in third. So write in third! Just take the basic idea of the prompt and let it ignite the fires in your skull. And remember…NO RULES. Handwrite it if you have to, to break your mind out of the mold. I do. I find when I write on my laptop I get too consumed with making the story ‘pretty’ and I’ve barely gotten more than a few sentences in when the timer goes off. But put a pen and a piece of paper in my hand? I’m off to the races and I don’t really care what it reads like. I’m just writing.
A second tactic I use is to find new inspirations. It’s hard to be inspired sitting in front of a screen or searching Youtube. Whenever I find myself running a little low on the creativity meter, I try to find something to energize me. Like going to an art museum, listening to music, or going to the zoo. I especially love music. Listening to music and feeling the story that it speaks to you. Not the story the artist intends, although that’s usually really great too. I mean the story that the song speaks to you. Do you ever get images when you listen to a song? What are the emotions that you feel listening to it? Does it remind you of any memories? To just listen to the song, to let yourself drift into it. For nothing to exist in that moment but you and the song. To being open to whatever pops into your head as you listen to it.
I also journal a lot. Every morning I get up and write. It can be complete total gibberish, but I write. I write about how I feel. What I did the day before. Things I dreamed. Things I was looking forward to during the day. Old scars that cropped up that make me feel bad. Things I’m questioning. Whatever pops into my head, it goes down into the journal.
Another tactic is to use your creativity, but in a different way. I like to go do pottery. I also am teaching myself how to make things out of leather. Making things and writing are both an act of creation. But sometimes you can ‘run the well dry’ just doing one thing. Sometimes you have to try and explore something new to ‘jumpstart’ the creativity wheel for your writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bent over the potter’s wheel working on a lump of clay when a random thought about my current story pops into my head, or an idea for my blog.
The last tip I have is to just go out into the world and open your mind up to observing and exploring. You can only write what you know and even the most far flung fantasies have to have some basis in reality, whether it’s emotions or how things act/react. We have to have some basis in reality so that our readers can relate. And the only way to understand the world is to observe it, to live it. I couldn’t write a book about climbing a mountain unless I had really done it. Oh, I could. I could pretend. I could read other’s accounts and try to use them. But it’s not the same as actually being there. Actually taking the steps to walk up the mountain. The breeze on your skin. The sun beating down. The smell of the pine trees. The call of the birds. I could not evoke the same emotion, could not describe the environment, the same way I could if I actually got out there, climbed a mountain and experienced it for myself. Saw it with my own eyes. Sensed it with my own senses.
I like people watching. Looking at how people dress, how they stand, what they might say or the gestures they make. I like taking those observations and creating little stories around them. Who they are. Where they come from. What their day might have been like. Where they are going later on. Of course, the stories aren’t true. But it’s an exercise in taking what I see and looking past the reality to the possibility of what might be. I like watching their mannerisms, their style and incorporating that into my characters. To give my characters a depth of reality.
And don’t stop yourself. What do I mean by that? If you get inspired by something, don’t immediately shoot yourself down by saying “oh that won’t make a good story” or “that won’t make it anywhere”. Don’t analyze! Will every inspiration be a story? NO! But by cutting off your inspiration before it has a chance to grow, by shooting it down before it even gets off the ground, trains your brain that it’s wrong. That it has to ‘think right’. Think like an adult. Be rational. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Don’t be daydreaming. Don’t be stuck in the clouds.
Yet that is precisely what we need to do! We need to be children. We need to daydream. We need to see past reality. We need to feed our ability to create. To forget, if even for only an hour, about bills and responsibilities. To let go of all the ‘rules’. To be silly. To be wacky. To push ourselves out of our comfort zones. To look at the world like a child. Where stuffed animals are real and dragons lie in wait around every corner. Where taking a sled down a hill is skiing down the Alps. Where a stick is a mighty sword, worthy of slaying a gigantic beast.
To be inspired by the world around us.
We need to play, without worrying about the ‘adult’ things waiting for us. To not worry about the hours we spend writing. We need to let ourselves get lost in this passion that we love.
The ways I talked about above are just some of the ways I use to inspire my creativity. Use them or find your own. After all, no one is inspired in the same way by the same things. But we do all share one thing. We all have a flame of creativity within us, just waiting to be used. It may be small, buried under all sorts of layers we put down as adults so we don’t act like kids. But it never dies. It’s there, waiting for you to find it and feed it.
It’s time. Release the child inside. Release your creativity. And just watch all the amazing places your mind takes you!
I have always thought of myself as a writer, writing books while I was still in elementary school. However, as I grew up I started suffering from undiagnosed severe chronic anxiety and depression, and emotional abuse from when I was a child that eventually destroyed my love of writing and art, as well as life. Skip ahead to 2011 when I was challenged by a friend to start living again, and dealing with my issues. I started a blog detailing my adventures learning how to ride a motorcycle and a mountain bike, and my slow understanding of my mental issues, and was amazed at the positive response. Slowly, my love for writing started growing again. Fast forward to 2016 when I hit a dead end with my life in Illinois and needed a new adventure. Within a week of deciding, I packed up all my gear and moved out to Colorado. Since coming to Colorado, my excitement and creativity has blossomed, as well as getting my anxiety and depression under control.