Rocky Mountain Writer #70

Jamie Raintree & Your Most Productive Writing Year

The guest is Jamie Raintree, who is presenting this month’s free workshop (Saturday, Jan. 21) for RMFW in downtown Denver.

The presentation is called "Your Most Productive Writing Year" and on the podcast Jamie offers highlights from her approach to planning your writing and your writing career.

Jamie also talks about her debut novel Perfectly Undone, due to be published later this year from Graydon House.

Jamie Raintree is a writing and productivity teacher and also the creator of many writing productivity tools, including the Writing & Revision Tracker. She is also a mom, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi.

Jaimie Raintree

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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 #69


Suzie Brooks  & Literary Wanderlust

The first episode of 2017 begins with the second installment of Writer's Rehab. This quick session with Natasha Watts deals with sprucing up your vocabulary.

Following Natasha, the guest is Suzie Brooks, who launched the independent publishing house Literary Wanderlust three short years ago.

Suzie talks the submission and scouting process, how she works with writers on everything from editing to marketing, and what it’s like to head up a small team of talented staffers working to produce quality books.

Since 2009, Suzie has served on the board of directors for RMFW. She holds a master’s degree in publishing from George Washington University and has many years of editorial experience.

Suzie Brooks

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Outro music by 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

Details, Details

Go find a copy of Lucia Berlin’s short story collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women.

Find “Point of View” within.

(Actually, okay, read the whole book or maybe one short story a week for as long as it takes. The title story is a masterpiece of humor and narration.)

But “Point of View” is a short story about writing, empathy, perspective, and the use of detail.

It’s like Lucia Berlin saying, "hey, here’s how it’s done."

“Point of View” has many layers to it and is a bit of genius, I would suggest, because of how effortlessly Lucia Berlin makes her point. It’s a short story in which nothing happens. The point of view is a writer. I don’t think we believe the narrator is Lucia Berlin herself. Might be, might not. The writer is writing about a woman named Henrietta and nothing much happens to Henrietta, either.

Joyce Carol Oates (New York Journal of Books, March 2016) has called “Point of View” Berlin’s “most complexly imagined short story.”

But “Point of View” is also a short story that is a note to writers about the power of detail. In fact, the main character comes right out and says that her story about Henrietta would be quite boring on the page but with the use of “intricate detail” she will “make this woman so believable you can’t help but feel for her.”

From “Point of View:”

“Most writers use props and scenery from their own lives. For example, my Henrietta eats her meager little dinner every night on a blue place mat, using exquisite heavy Italian stainless cutlery. An odd detail, inconsistent, it may seem, with this woman who cuts out coupons for Brawny towels, but it engages the reader’s curiosity. At least, I hope it will.”

The first-person “writer” of the story goes on to give examples of the details she uses from “her” life (the narrator) to bring her character, Henrietta, to life.

There’s a tug to these details. We care because the writer cares about Henrietta, has given her three dimensions through details and then slips into her point of view with attitude about her surroundings, too (even when she’s doing almost nothing).

“She lies in bed, sipping Sleepytime tea. She wishes she had her old electric blanket with the switch Lo-Med-Hot. The new blanket was advertised as the Intelligent Electric Blanket. The blanket knows it isn’t cold so it doesn’t get hot. She wishes it would get hot, comforting. It’s too smart for its own good! She laughs out loud. The sound is startling in the little room.”

You can almost feel Lucia Berlin breathing life into the story.

Through detail.

No brilliant new point here. There’s nothing you don’t already know, that the little objects and colors and stuff of your story add up, that your characters are reacting to the objects and colors and stuff of their lives all the time, that bringing the world of your characters to life will, in turn, deliver your character to your readers.

Reading Lucia Berlin will give you a jolt of inspiration. Your own life has ample material from which to draw, as “Point of View” suggests. All of Berlin’s story are quasi-autobiographical. Some, apparently, not so quasi. The detail is right there around us every day. We just have to see it. And write it down.

A full review of A Manual for Cleaning Women is here.

++

Details? On a side note (and very much related), the late Gary Reilly’s The Detachment was #2 on a list by Westword's Alan Prendergast for holiday gift suggestions among local writers. The novel is 154,000 words long. It is, if you read it, 154,000 words of documentary-level detail turned into a brilliant narrative piece of fiction.

Here’s what Prendergast wrote. Note the last two words.

2. The Detachment, Gary Reilly
Veterans who enjoy fact-based military fiction should take to Gary Reilly’s The Detachment (Running Meter Press), the second installment of his Vietnam-era novels featuring Private Palmer. Published posthumously last winter, the book is reminiscent of James Jones’s work—a look at the tedium and gut-checking that plagues an MP who, while not part of the frontline troops, still feels keenly the absurdity and madness of an unwinnable war. We’ve written about Reilly’s semi-comic “Asphalt Warrior” series of novels about a Denver cabbie, but the Vietnam work is of a different order: sober, poignant and harrowingly detailed.

Rocky Mountain Writer #68

Frederick Bloetscher  & "The Old Coyote"

The guest is Frederick Bloetscher, who has an entry in the latest RMFW short story anthology, FOUND.

Fred’s story is “The Old Coyote” and it’s his first work of fiction.

On the podcast, talks about the inspiration for the story and, since Fred is someone who works in water issues on a national basis, the conversation veers for a while into the inevitable topic of climate change.

Fred Boetschler has 30 years of experience as a civil engineer focusing on water and infrastructure issues.

His hobbies include hiking and photography, both of which played a role in leading to the moment that prompted him to write “The Old Coyote.”

Quick note: the podcast will return in early 2017 after a brief holiday break.

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

 

Intro music by Moby Gratis
Outro music by 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 #67


Josh Viola & Cyber World

The Rocky Mountain Writer debuts a brand new feature – Writer’s Rehab with Natasha Watts.

In this occasional segment about the craft of writing fiction, Natasha offers brief tips and strategies for braking bad habits. First up are some ideas for writers who aren’t hitting the necessary word counts on their first drafts.

Following Natasha, an interview with Josh Viola, the force behind Hex Publishers.

Last month, Hex Publishers debuted its latest short story anthology, Cyber World.

Josh talks about the overall Hex Publishers approach to books—both the care and editing that goes into putting the stories together but also the planning and detail that goes into the artwork, packaging and extensive marketing campaigns.

He also reveals what’s ahead on the Hex calendar for 2017 and beyond, including some stand-alone novels, a comic book, another short story compilation and a new line of books for children.

Hex Publishers

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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

All Hail Conan! (And Buy The Book)

I’m here today with a handy tip for the season of the gift.

Order a copy of Conan the Grammarian, Practical Guidelines on Grammar and Craft for Fiction Writers.

A mere $10.

(Actually, $9.95.)

And then give it to a writer friend for Christmas or your holiday of choice. Birthdays would work, too.

Boom, done.

Does the mere mention of the word ‘grammar’ force you to make a face like you’re eating cold undercooked lima beans? Or pickled beets?

Think again.

This book about grammar is (dare I say it?) refreshing.

Inspiring.

And very (very) funny.

cover-conanWritten by former RMFW president Susan Mackay Smith, Conan the Grammarian is a handy, engaging book that will linger around your desk or writing nook for many years.

The book is a distillation of Conan’s columns in the monthly RMFW newsletter. But everything has been re-written and beautifully organized. And, in terms of production values, Susan Mackay Smith shows all independent publishers out there that a self-produced book can look as sharp and feel as professional as anything coming out of New York City.

Conan claims grammatical errors are “unforgiveable” and, of course, this book goes out and proves that very fact. I didn’t spot one typo. On top of all that, the interior layout makes digesting this volume a snap. (Bibliography, glossary, and index, too.)

Yes, there’s a lot here about grammar. But focus on the second half of the title – practical guidelines and grammar and craft for fiction writers. Every lesson in grammar and usage is written with an eye on the fiction writers’ needs. Smith is writing this for you, the fiction writer.

The “Pets and Peeves” section might be worth the $10 alone (especially if you are about to submit to an agent or send a manuscript to an editor).

Same with “Toward More Colorful Writing.” This section will give you a boost and also give you a few issues to ponder as you edit. It’s a snappy checklist for self-improvement. This is “Perfect Abs in Twenty Minutes A Day” and, this time, it works.

I devoured Conan the Grammarian with a smile on my face and a pen handy to ink-up the pages with underlines at key passages and stars in the margins.

Do any of these sound useful? “Narrative & Description; Showing vs. Telling.” “Voice.” “Action.” “Clichés of Characterization.” “The Hated Revision.” Twenty-seven sub-chapters in all, you can do the math. The reading is brisk and the points are efficiently made. (Having judged Colorado Gold and other writing contests for years, Susan Mackay Smith knows when the brain starts to hurt or the eyes glaze over.) When I was finished, I felt as if I had a new, higher bar to reach. I felt like a better writer.

Conan wants the ideas and the story in your head to reach the reader in clear, efficient and powerful fashion. You may think you know what you are trying to say, but is the story in your head making the journey to your reader's imagination in the most effective way possible? The most clear?

Conan may not be cuddly, but he will set you straight.

Just $10!

Actually, $9.95.

(Get two; one for you and one for a writer pal.)

Order on Amazon here.

Rocky Mountain Writer #66

owens-2Robin Owens & Ghost Maker

A chat with fantasy paranormal romance writer Robin Owens.

Robin discusses a recent column she wrote about her love of an audio books and about the two series is currently writing including her latest, Ghost Maker.

She also talks about the good old days of RMFW. Robin was one of three individuals, along with Sharon Mignery and Christine Jorgensen, who were named this year as “honored guiding members of RMFW.

Robin D. Owens has published twenty seven books, five novellas, and two short stories.

She was the recipient of the 2002 Romance Writers of America RITA® Award (like the Oscar in her field) for "Heart Mate."

Twice she has been named Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and she has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Colorado Romance Writers.

Robin Owens

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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 #65

rachel-delaneyRachel Craft & Wild Magic

This time on the Rocky Mountain Writer we have another writer who contributed to the RMFW short story anthology Found, published last September.

Rachel Craft, who writes as Rachel Delaney, had a story called “Every Drop of Light” included in that new anthology.

Rachel Craft is a full-time engineer and part-time writer. After deciding to pursue writing as a second career, she discovered RMFW and never looked back. Her short fiction has appeared in Cricket magazine, and her first middle grade novel, Wild Magic, was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold contest.

On the podcast, Rachel talks about the distinctions between young adult and middle grade fiction and what sparked her interest in speculative fiction, beginning with a story she wrote about her fourth-grade math teacher’s evil twin brother. She also talks about how moving from state to state as a child may have helped her develop her storytelling talents.

Rachel lives in Boulder with her fiancé and Jack Russell terrier.

Found Anthology

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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 #64


barb-2Barbara Nickless & Blood on the Tracks

In June of 2012, Barb Nickless and her family were told to evacuate their house in Waldo Canyon, northwest of Colorado Springs, because a wildfire was bearing down. Authorities told Barb to plan on being gone for a few days.

Instead, Barb’s house burned to the ground, one of hundreds of houses lost in that devastating fire.

Earlier this year, Barb published her first novel, a mystery thriller called Blood on the Tracks, and that fire played a role in how Barb approached the work of writing fiction. No details here – you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

And now Barb is dealing with another wildfire—the good kind—with the sales of her book. For a few weeks this fall, Blood on the Tracks was ranked #1 in nationwide sales, ahead of writers such as J.K. Rowling. And the reviews have poured in, too – thousands of reviews on Amazon and the novel is still carrying a nearly solid five-star rating.

On the podcast, Barb tells the story of the Waldo Canyon Fire and talks about the research that went into Blood on the Tracks, which features railroad cop and Iraq war veteran Sidney Rose Parnell and her k-9 companion Clyde. Barb talks about her immersion approach to writing and the amazing story of how she found her agent during Thriller Fest in New York City. She also recounts the decision-making process that went into going with Thomas & Mercer, the publishing house that is part of the Amazon empire.

Barbara Nickless was made in Japan, born in Guam, and traveled through numerous ports of call to land in Colorado.

When she's not writing, traveling, or wandering through libraries, she is usually in the Colorado Rockies where she loves to hike, cave, snowshoe and drink single malt Scotch—rarely, please note, at the same time.

Barbara Nickless

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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 #63

cover-conanSusan Mackay Smith & Conan The Grammarian

On this episode, it's Conan the Grammarian, in person.

For a couple of decades now you have read Conan’s column in the monthly newsletter from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and now Conan is out with a book titled Conan the Grammarian – Practical Guidelines on Grammar and Craft for Fiction Writers.

The writer behind Conan is Susan Mackay Smith, former RMFW president. Yes, in case you did not know, Conan is a she.

On the podcast, Susan talks about the nuns and their rulers who helped her develop her interest in grammar and she talks about the importance of knowing the basics, especially when it comes time to submit writing to contests, agents and editors.

This episode also includes a brief reading from Conan the Grammarian as Susan reads the entire chapter “In Defense of Fiction.”

Susan Mackay Smith is a past president of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and a frequent judge of the Colorado Book Awards. Traditionally published in fantasy under the nom de plume, Mackay Wood, she is a second-generation Colorado native with a degree in history and (more important to her) a BHSAI (British Horse Society Associate Instructor) from the Porlock Vale Riding School in Somerset, England. She lives in Boulder with the most wonderful man in the world.

Conan The Grammarian

Mackay Wood

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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