Author Archives: Mark Stevens

About Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens is the author of the Allison Coil Mystery Series--Antler Dust (2007), Buried by the Roan (2011) and Trapline (2014). Trapline won the 2015 award in genre fiction from the Colorado Authors League and the 2015 Colorado Book Award in mysteries. The fourth book in the series, Lake of Fire, will be published in September by Midnight Ink.

Rocky Mountain Podcast–Episode #10

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #10

Susan Spann - Writer of the Year

In this episode, we talk with Susan Spann, recently announced as the 2015 Writer of the Year for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Susan talks about her switch from writing unpublished historical fiction to published mysteries, about the moment of  inspiration for the Shinobi Mystery series, her writing process and the Twitter hit #publaw.

Show Notes:

Susan Spann: www.susanspann.com

Donna Andrews: www.donnaandrews.com

Kerry Schafer: www.kerryschafer.com

Janet Lane: www.janetlane.net

James Rollins: www.jamesrollins.com

Lisa McCann: www.theunwantedsseries.com

 

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Podcast–Episode #9

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #9

Kirk DouPonce--Designing Book Covers

In this episode, we talk with book cover designer Kirk DouPonce, who has produced over 1,000 covers for publishers and writers in his career. He's also one of the workshop presenters at the 2015 Colorado Gold Conference, to be held in September in Denver, Colorado. Kirk's workshop is titled, "Book Cover Design--Your Most Important Marketing Tool." We also chat with Suzie Brooks, chair of Colorado Gold, and get an update on registrations for the conference.

Show Notes:

Kirk DouPonce: www.dogeareddesign.com

Ronie Kendig: roniekendig.com

Bonnie Calhoun: bonniescalhoun.com

Stephen Lawhead: www.stephenlawhead.com

Mike Duran: mikeduran.com

Julie Dillon: juliedillonart.com

Enclave Publishing: enclavepublishing.com

Kathryn Lloyd--The Desk: www.thedeskonline.com/who.html

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast–Episode #8

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #8

Chris Mandeville - Author of Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure

In this episode, we talk with speculative fiction writer Chris Mandeville. In addition to recently publishing her first novel, Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure, Chris will teach a four-hour master class at the Colorado Gold conference in September. The class is "Everything You Need to Know to Write a Novel." Chris talks about her writing process, her inspirations and what she'll cover in the class.

Show Notes:

Chris Mandeville: www.chrismandeville.com

Neil Gaiman: www.neilgaiman.com

John Hart: www.johnhartfiction.com/?page id=18

Lucia St. Clair Robson: www.luciastclairrobson.com

Jeffery Deaver: www.jefferydeaver.com

Debra Dixon--Goal, Motivation, Conflict: www.debradixon.com

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Nobody Writes Like You

By Mark Stevens

Can you write like your favorite writer?

I know I can’t.

You might have Ursula Le Guin or Patricia Highsmith or Ernest Hemingway in mind when you write something, but somehow it comes out on the page as, well, you.

Somewhere in all those choices of words, sentences, characters, images, plots, moods, dialogue, action sequences, big finishes, prologues and epilogues—no matter how much you might try to emulate another writer—you show up.

I was thinking about this recently when The New Yorker featured a podcast reading of “The Trouble With Mrs. Blynn, The Trouble With the World.” That’s a story by Patricia Highsmith (who happens to be one of my all-time favorite writers) and it was read by Yiyun Li.

The story is so simple—in a way. It’s about “Mrs. Palmer,” who is dying of leukemia in a seaside cottage in England. She is being tended to by a few people including a “Mrs. Blynn,” a nurse, who has a grating presence and inflicts various petty cruelties on her patient.

Not much happens. It’s true.

But yet—so much happens. Listen to the discussion between Yiyun Li and The New Yorker's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, and you realize how much subtext was going on around this cottage, where all the so-called “action” takes place. Instructive? To say the least.

It’s typical Highsmith. This was stuff she cared about, the needling insults and jagged edges between somewhat ordinary people. Her protagonists (Thomas Ripley, hello) are extremely flawed human beings. She crafted 20-plus novels and many dozens of short stories out of her fascination with warped humanity.

Plotting and Writing - HighsmithEarlier last week, I read a terrific story in The Guardian by Sam Jordison—“Creative Writing Lessons from Patricia Highsmith”—in which he looked at her guide, Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. One of Jordison’s many keen insights is this: that the guide itself proves it’s “impossible to walk in Highsmith’s shoes.”

Yes, I dig Patricia Highsmith—but I couldn’t write like her even if the Valyrian greatsword Ice was making its way toward my tender little neck.

I ask: what’s up with that?

Put a hundred writers in a room, give them 40 specific plot points for a novel, the setting, eight major characters and ask them all to write in the style of a noir thriller.

What will you get?

You will get precisely 100 different novels in return.

The best writers, in my mind, have their own fingerprints on the page, a dab of their own soul—sometimes a whole lot more. But unless you are outright stealing a style or lifting ideas wholesale, you will leave your mark on the page. It's part of the process. It's why we write.

What’s my point?

As a writer, I like to remind myself—nobody can tell the story the way I’m going to tell the story.

Nobody can.

Nobody will.

It’s not even possible.

And to do a decent job telling it, I better have a good idea of what’s driving me to tell it.

Patricia Highsmith (from Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction): “There is no secret of success in writing except individuality, or call it personality. And since every person is different, it is only for the individual to express his difference from the next fellow. This is what I call the opening of the spirit. But it isn’t mystic. It is merely a kind of freedom—freedom organized. Plotting and Writing will not make anybody work harder. But it will, I hope, make people who want to write realize what is already within them.”

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast–Episode #7

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #7

Jack Marshall Maness - 2015 Colorado Book Award Winner

In this episode, we talk with Jack Marshall Maness, whose first novel, Song of the Jayhawk, the first in a trilogy, just won the 2015 Colorado Book Award in historical fiction. Jack talks about his writing and research process and about the writer's collective that supports his writing and publication efforts. He also reads the opening passage from his novel.

2015 Colorado Book Award Winners:  www.coloradohumanities.org/content/colorado-book-awards-winners-announced

More about Jack Marshall Maness:  jackmarshallmaness.com

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast–Episode #6

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #6

Janet Lane - Holt Medallion Award Winner

On this episode, we talk with Janet Lane, whose romance Traitor's Moon was just named as the winner in the historical category for the 2015 Holt Medallion Award. Janet talks about her long journey to publication and about the transition from being a traditionally published author to doing everything herself, right down to using her daughter for the covers of her books.

2015 Holt Award Winners:  http://www.virginiaromancewriters.com/Contests/holtwinners.html

More about Janet Lane:  www.janetlane.net

More about Story Magic: http://www.discoveringstorymagic.com

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #5

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #5

Heather Webb - Finding Your Voice

Historical Novelist Heather Webb talks about Becoming Josephine, Rodin's Lover and the master class she will be giving as part of the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver. Her workshop is called, "I Hear Voices - The Art and Craft of the Distinctive Voice." She also chats about her work in progress and an anthology she developed that will be out next year (2016) from Harper Collins.

More about Heather Webb: http://www.heatherwebbauthor.com

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

“Murph” On Writing

By Mark Stevens

I’m turning this month’s blog over to Murph, The Asphalt Warrior.

Denver cab-driver and wanna-be-a-famous-writer Brendan Murphy, a.k.a. "Murph," has collected some of his favorite commentary on being an unpublished novelist. (What is below is just the tip of the iceberg of insights.)

I thought you could—relate. And maybe grab a laugh.

These quotes are from the first six novels by the late Gary Reilly that have been published to date – The Asphalt Warrior, Ticket to Hollywood, The Heart of Darkness Club, Home for the Holidays, Doctor Lovebeads and Dark Night of the Soul.

Pick Up at Union Station - Final JPGMurph #7, Pick Up At Union Station, launches Friday, June 19 at The Tattered Cover (2526 E. Colfax Ave.) at 7 PM.

(You are all invited.)

--

“I’m an unpublished novelist, but it’s been a long time since I haven’t published anything. I keep promising myself that I’ll sit down and start another unpublished novel one of these days, but if you know anything about unpublished writers then you probably know that the worst thing that can happen to one is to run headlong into a wall of free time. That’s when his bluff is called. That’s when he knows he has to get creative—and he does. You’ve never seen a writer get more creative than when he starts thinking up alibis for not writing. I’m as prolific as James Michener when it comes to excuses.”

“My brain is like the print-spooler on my word processor, which holds a failed novel long enough to print it out before it is deleted from the RAM and replaced by a rejection slip.”

"A writer can become obsessed with the peripheral rituals of writing—such as sharpening pencils or visiting the Grand Canyon—when he should be focused on the most important part of writing, which is leafing through Writers Market and making lists of agents who don’t charge reading fees.”

“I started thinking about writing a book called Face the Music, Chump. It would be a gut-wrenching tale of rejection slips. I wondered if there was a place where a guy like me could get rid of the craving to scribble. Some kind of Writers Anonymous, although most writers are anonymous. A place where human wreckage with Smith-Coronas could gather to cure themselves of hanging around office supply stores while their kids starved. I needed a 12-step program and I needed it bad. Step #1: admit you have a plotting problem.”

With a novel, you have to do an outline first and then write the book, but with a screenplay you just knock out the outline and sell it. I don’t know why the publishers in New York don’t take a tip from Hollywood and just publish the outlines of novels rather than the completed books. Let the audience use their imaginations, as my Maw always says about radio. I would much prefer to read an outline of War and Peace than slog through eight hundred thousand words. Why do I need Tolstoy to describe snow? I can imagine snow, whether Russian snow or just regular snow. But book publishers seem to think that the authors should do all the work, and the readers should be waited on hand-and-foot like a buncha goddamn prima donnas.”

“I have some bookshelves in my apartment that are built out of old novel manuscripts. The rest are brick and plank, the way hippies and broke people do it. I’ve written a lot of novels since I was in college, but I use only manuscripts that have absolutely no hope of ever being published to build the bookshelves. I use them in place of the bricks. Admittedly bookshelves made out of paper are not the most structurally sound things on earth, but neither are my novels.”

“The desire to write is one of the few desires I possess that doesn’t overwhelm me in the way that the desire to drink beer or smoke cigars does. Or watch TV. Or date. Or sleep till noon. I’m not that good at resisting desires, but for some reason I’m able to fend off my desire to write. Sounds inconsistent if not completely illogical I know, but there you have it.”

“A lot of artists start out as failed poets, then move on to being failed short-story writers before they finally break through to the big time and become failed novelists. If they’re like me, they branch out to become failed screenwriters. A few take the high road and become failed playwrights, but most just stick with being failed novelists because the potential to not make lots of money is greater.”

“I was afraid that if I went ahead and wrote a Western, I would be dipping into the realm of what my creative writing teachers called ‘formula fiction.’ I hated the idea of becoming a formula fiction writer. What if I got the formula wrong? Think of how embarrassing it would be if I tried to become a formula fiction writer and found out I didn’t have the talent to sink that low?”

More: www.theasphaltwarrior.com

All Six Covers NPR Huge Fun

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #4

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #4

Holt Finalist Tina Ann Forkner Talks Romance & James Norris Previews RMFW Workshop on Boosting Character Conflict

Chapter 1
~with Tina Ann Forkner, starts at 1:36

On the fourth episode of the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast, 2015 Holt Award Finalist Tina Ann Forkner (Waking Up Joy) talks about her process for writing romance, describes how she makes time for her art, and shares her thoughts about how fiction is categorized.

More about Tina Ann Forkner: https://tinaannforkner.wordpress.com/
More about the Holt Medallion Awards: http://www.virginiaromancewriters.com/Contests/holtwinners.html

Chapter 2
~with James Norris, starts at 47:00

Also, science fiction writer James Norris previews a free RMFW workshop he's giving on June 13 (1 p.m. in Castle Rock) about boosting character conflict using a free software, Lucid Chart.

More about James Norris: http://home.wamego.net/jnorris/
More about Lucid Charts:  https://www.lucidchart.com/personahomepage

Intro and Outro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Bumper Music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #3

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #3
Gwen Florio on Mysteries & "Missoula;" Podcasting with Jim Heskett

Chapter 1
~with Gwen Florio, starts at 1:30

On the third episode of the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast, mystery writer Gwen Florio calls in from Missoula, Montana where she played a key role in the reporting that led up to Jon Krakauer’s new non-fiction book, “Missoula,” about rape and sexual assault at the University of Montana. Florio also talks about what’s new with her mystery series featuring reporter Lola Wicks.

More about the Gwen Florio: http://www.gwenflorio.net

More about Jon Krakauer: http://www.jonkrakauer.com/

Chapter 2
~with Jim Heskett, starts at 27:30

Also, Jim Heskett, the voice of Indie Author Answers, talks about how his podcast helps find readers. He also talks about his new book, Wounded Animals, the beginning of The Whistleblower Trilogy.

More about Jim Heskett: http://www.jimheskett.com

For suggestions about podcast content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.