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Today, Kathie Scrimgeour (aka KJ Scrim), Meet the Member and Sweet Success editor, shares her recent interview with member Matt Ana Crespo.  We’re pleased to share successes and highlight our diverse membership.  Kathie can be reached at  ppwsweetsuccess@gmail.com.

KJ Scrim: What inspired you to write children’s books?
Ana Crespo: When I had my first child, I couldn’t find any books featuring Brazilian characters or culture.  At the time, that was okay, because English is not my first language, so I was learning new words everyday by reading to my daughter. We did have Brazilian books sent to us from relatives. However, by the time my second child was born, about seven years later, it started to bother me. I wanted my kids to be able to share some of their cultural background with their friends. I wanted them to see themselves in books, to feel they were represented. I was always very creative and decided to give writing for children a try. My first book in English, THE SOCK THIEF: A SOCCER STORY, was inspired by my father’s childhood memories.
KJ: What is the general process for getting a children’s book from your desk to publication?
Ana: First and foremost, you have to write it.  It is amazing the number of people who tell me they have an idea for a book, it is a great idea, and etcetera, but they never sit down to write it. And, as with any other project, you must revise it, share it with critique partners, revise it more, and repeat the process as many times as necessary. Then, ideally, you find an agent who will submit your book to the many publishers that, currently, do not accept unagented submissions. In my case, however, with THE SOCK THIEF: A SOCCER STORY, and the MY EMOTIONS AND ME series, I didn’t have an agent. I met my editor during a conference, very much like the one offered by PPW. I had a paid critique with her. She enjoyed THE SOCK THIEF, although she had a variety of concerns and comments about it. I made most of the changes she suggested, cut a lot of words, and a month after submission, I had an offer.
KJ: What are a few of the challenges you face when writing children’s books?
Ana: When you only write picture books and don’t illustrate them, you face a variety of challenges. First, you have to write with illustrations in mind, even though you are not going to be the person illustrating the book. That means that you must leave out detailed descriptions, as they will usually be depicted by the pictures that do not exist yet. On that same page, there may be key information for the plot that will be relayed to the reader only via the illustrations.  Illustration notes can be a tricky subject in picture book writing, because not all editors like seeing them. You must save them for those times in which they are extremely necessary. As an example, JP AND THE GIANT OCTOPUS is told in first person. The boy, JP, imagines the octopus, but the octopus is really a car wash. Of course, in order to explain to the editor what the story was about, illustration notes were necessary. In sum, the way I see it, picture books are the product of a team. As the writer, I am just the first step in that collaboration. And that in itself, might be a challenge for some writers.
KJ: You were born in Brazil. How does this influence J.P. and Felipe, the two main characters of your books?
Ana: I don’t think my Brazilian roots influenced the JP character. However, Felipe’s story is based on my father’s childhood memories. My father and uncle used to take my grandmother’s stockings to make soccer balls. They weren’t poor, but it was the early 60s, cheap soccer balls weren’t common, and they were a family of seven. They stuffed my grandmother’s stockings with newspaper and spent a long time playing soccer in the backyard or on the streets of Rio. This was a widespread practice. Even Pelé, Brazil’s most famous player, played with newspaper-stuffed soccer balls when he was a child in the 40s. So, Felipe’s resourcefulness is something I find to be very characteristic of Brazilians.
KJ: One of your book series is about J.P. who says, “I am fast. I am strong. I am brave. But sometimes I feel afraid.” What inspired this as his mantra?
Ana: The JP books were inspired by a trip to the car wash with my son. He was terrified of it, partially because his mom (guilty!) pretended they were going into a monster’s cave. The beginning of the story is basically the same in every book of the series. JP is learning how to deal with his feelings. In JP AND THE GIANT OCTOPUS, he learns how to deal with fear. In the next book, JP AND THE POLKA-DOTTED ALIENS, he learns how to deal with anger, so the character says, “Sometimes I feel angry,” a line that will lead into what causes him to be angry and how he will deal with it.
KJ: What advice would you give a writer who was just getting started in writing children’s books?
Ana: If you plan to write picture books, I’d say the most important thing to do is to find an organization that focuses on them. That will help you understand the industry, lead you to like-minded people and, hopefully, connect you to critique partners. We often hear people say, “Oh, I could have written this,” but writing picture books is a bit more complicated than it looks like, and you will need all the help you can get.
Ana Crespo is the winner of the 2016 International Latino Book Award for The Sock Thief in the category, Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Books. She is also a member of Pikes Peak Writers for about five years and last year she attended the conference for the first time. She enjoyed volunteering and loved meeting some of the agents and editors.
Website: https://www.anacrespobooks.com/
Social media: www.facebook.com/AnaCrespoBooks, www.twitter.com/AnaCrespoBooks, www.pinterest.com/AnaCrespoBooks
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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  ppwsweetsuccess@gmail.com.

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.”
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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.
Email: michelle@readmichellecrystal.com
Website: readmichellecrystal.com
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Congratulations to Pikes Peak Writers member Frank Dorchak.  His short story Do the Dead Dream? received a 2017 Best Book Award. Frank shares his thoughts on decades of writing as his work is honored.  Gabrielle V Brown, Managing Editor

I’d never won any writing award ever...in my 50 years of writing. I came close in a contest in 1993 (second place), but that was it. And I don’t usually enter contests. But I did for this book. I thought sure the cover would win first place (I mean, it is suitable for framing!). But further than all this...which might seem easy to say now...but I actually had a pretty strong feeling that I would (most likely) win this category. I’ve often read that if you expect certain things to happen—even against all odds—they will materialize. And as much as I’ve tried to live that weltanschauung, most of the other times felt forced and never panned out, in terms of contests. But not this time! This contest. It just seemed like a foregone conclusion in the feel of it all. It’s not to say I was cocky or arrogant...it’s not. It was just a deep feeling I had. And I tried my best to keep all the Doubting Franks at bay, in the background. Swept them away with my internal mental brooms. Did not get cocky about it. Did not feel entitled about it. No...I just felt the feeling and allowed it to be. Allowed myself to believe it.
What a wonderful surprise after two crazy years of work in putting all this together! Heck forty years of writing. Also in finding my high school teacher from that 5th period 11thgrade English class...who I convinced in writing a few words for the book itself! I am just...amazed. Some plans do come together. And I can’t thank everyone enough for their parts in the creation of this anthology and it’s award. All of you own a part of this award. Those named and unnamed...forgotten and remembered. Forty years. Forty years in the making! You all helped...gave me of your time...a chunk of your lives...and that is important to me. I know I’ve said “Thank You!” plenty of times, so I will stop that now. But you know how I feel!
F. P. (Frank) Dorchak writes gritty, realistic supernatural, metaphysical, and paranormal fiction. Frank is published in the U.S., Canada, and the Czech Republic with short stories, non-fiction articles, and five novels, Voice, Psychic, ERO (semi-autobiographical), The Uninvited, and Sleepwalkers. His short stories have appeared in the off-the-grid The Black Sheep; You Belong 2016, Words and Images from Longmont Area Residentsregional anthology for 2016; The You Belong Collection, Writings and Illustrations by Longmont Area Residents regional anthology for 2012; Apollo’s Lyre. Frank can occasionally be reached in séances, and his website is www.fpdorchak.com.
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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  ppwsweetsuccess@gmail.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 Open Critiques.
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: mtorr4650@comcast.net
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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.
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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: peg@pegbrantley.com and visit her website at: www.pegbrantley.com
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