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 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.

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #2

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #2
RMFW Writing Contest; Writing Across Gender

On the second episode of the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast, RMFW Colorado Gold contest chair Chris Devlin talks about what’s new in the 2015 version of the contest, which is now open to all aspiring writers. Note: contest closes June 1!

Also, 2015 Writer of the Year nominee Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries, including the forthcoming Flask of the Drunken Master (St. Martin’s Press, July 2015), offers some advice about writing across gender.

Show Notes:

More about the Colorado Gold Contest rules and instructions: http://rmfw.org/contest/

More about Colorado Gold contest chair Chris Devlin: http://www.chrisdevlinwrites.com/

More about Susan Spann: http://www.susanspann.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.

RMFW Joins The Wide World of Podcasting

By Mark Stevens

We interrupt this blog's regular programming, writing advice, inspirations and musings to bring you this commercial announcement:

Drum roll....

RMFW has a new podcast.

As this post goes up, ‘The Rocky Mountain Writer’ should be finding its way to your favorite podcast provider, including iTunes. It's also posted from the home page at rmfw.org.

podcastlogo2The first episode features an interview with Shannon Baker (current Writer of the Year) about her fabulous new book contract. It also includes an interview with Charles Senseman about his tips regarding how to claw your way through the painful process of writing the dreaded synopsis (he will help you back away from the ledge). And, finally, conference “goddess” Suzie Brooks give us a rundown of what’s coming up at the Colorado Gold Conference in September.

The second episode will be available within two weeks and includes an interview with Chris Devlin about the Colorado Gold contest (entries are due June 1!) and a chat with Susan Spann about writing across-gender.

So—subscribe today and spread the word.

Please note—this is a work in progress.  I’ve already learned a few things about sound recording and editing that will help in the overall sound quality come Episode #3.

How can you help?

For starters, feel free to contact me with suggestions. This is designed to showcase RMFW members, events, activities, you name it.  The podcast world is rich and active, particularly among writers and readers. There are more than 100,000 podcasts being produced today, but only a handful that are truly knock-out when it comes to learning the craft of writing and learning more about the business. (Here’s one list, however, if you’re looking for some ideas.)

The success of the podcast will depend on the quality of the ideas and voices involved. My preference is to use the podcast to promote and highlight upcoming RMFW events and to interview authors with genuine advice and ideas for others—at any level of experience.  It’s a fast-changing world out there (I don’t need to tell any of you about that) and the podcast can help listeners keep up.

One feature I’d like to start is a conversation between a beginning writer and someone with more experience—an “ask a pro” segment. If you have a question you’d like to discuss (whether it’s writing style, something technical, a plot problem, any situation you might be in with your career) drop me a line and I’ll find someone to jump on the telephone for a conference call. Then, we’ll record a conversation about the issue—and hear some suggested ideas for how to fix it.

Just a thought.

Perhaps you have your own ideas for the effort; I’d love to hear them.

This is “our” podcast. Over time, I think it will shine like everything else RMFW takes on—the conference, the newsletter, the critique groups, the monthly meetings. On and on.

Check it out—then drop me a line.

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #1

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #1

Interview with Shannon Baker, RMFW Writer of the Year;
also talks with Charles Senseman and Suzie Brooks

In the inaugural podcast, host Mark Stevens interviews RMFW Writer of the Year Shannon Baker about her new book contract;

chats with writer Charles Senseman about his tips on writing the dreaded "synopsis" that every writer needs to query or pitch;

and talks with Colorado Gold conference "goddess" Suzie Brooks about the upcoming three-day conference in September.

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.

Whack the Cliché

By Mark Stevens

Is it possible to write a 100,000-word novel that is devoid of clichés?

Completely scrubbed free of all tired descriptions, predictable scenes, over-used descriptions, seen-them-all-before characters?

A panel* on clichés at Left Coast Crime last month in Portland sparked my thinking.

First, check this out:

The word cliché is drawn from the French. (My source is Wikipedia; there are several versions of this.)

In printing, "cliché" was the sound made by a printing plate—one cast from movable type—when it was used. This printing plate is called a … wait for it

A stereotype.

When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly, as a single slug of metal. Thus, “cliché” came to mean such a ready-made phrase.

Cliché—ready-made. Too easy. Banal, commonplace, shop-worn, old-hat, hackneyed.

Sound like a novel you want to read?

A side note, also from Wikipedia: Most phrases now considered cliché originally were regarded as striking, but have lost their force and impact through overuse. The French poet Gérard de Nerval once said "The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile.”

OK, imbeciles, join me over here in the land of predictability and tell me: how do you avoid them? How do you avoid the ready-made crap?

These were a few cited by the Left Coast Crime panel:

The sassy Latina detective, say. Or staging a high-speed chase in the city (and no cops follow or give chase as well). The “slight” gunshot wound in the shoulder, yet our hero carries on. Isn’t a ticking clock, the device itself, a cliché?

Here’s one I can’t stand: the bad guy manages to bring a knife a few millimeters from our hero’s eyeballs, yet the hero’s resistance is j-u-s-t enough to hold it off. Ack!

There are cliché scenes, cliché gestures, cliché sayings, cliché lines of dialogue, too.  "Cover me, I'm going in!" "Is this some kind of sick joke?"

How do you keep the writing fresh, original?

Fill in the blank. As tough as _____.  As cool as a _____.

Go.

I mean, 100,000 words—all those characters, all those scenes and all that prose: how do you make sure it’s all original? Fresh?

And, should it be?

Wouldn’t that be exhausting? Can an entire cast of characters in a well-populated novel, every bit of description and every line of dialogue … be original?

Martin Amis thinks so: “All writing is a campaign against cliché. Not just clichés of the pen but clichés of the mind and clichés of the heart.”

So there’s a standard for you.

Worth shooting for?

--

* The LCC panel was The Taste of Copper and the Smell of Cordite: Clichés in Crime Fiction. Panelists included David Corbett, Lisa Alber, Blake Crouch, Bill Fitzhugh and James Ziskin.