Rocky Mountain Writer #115

Mike Houtz & Dark Spiral Down

Mike Houtz just signed a deal with Wild Rose Press to publish his first novel, Dark Spiral Down.

The deal wouldn’t have happened had Mike not signed up for one of the key features at every Colorado Gold conference—to pitch to the many agents and editors who fly into Denver every September for the express purpose of meeting new talent.

One thing to led another and Mike signed the deal with Wild Rose Press just a couple of weeks ago.

After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers.

A rabid fan of authors such as Tom Clancy, Brad Taylor, Vince Flynn and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations.

When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, coaching youth sports, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a gold medal trout stream. Mike lives with his wife and two young sons at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver.

Mike's website

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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

Rocky Mountain Writer #114

Pamela Nowak & Colorado Gold Workshop Proposals 

In the words of Pamela Nowak, there are “tough decisions” ahead.

That’s because she and her committee will receive three times as many proposals for workshops at Colorado Gold than she has room to book.

Yes, planning for the 2018 edition of September’s Colorado Gold conference is well underway and that includes determining the topics and presenters for the 70 or so hours of programming that is being selected and organized.

On the podcast, Pam takes us behind the scenes of the process and offers some tips and suggestions how you might put yourself in a good position to be given a slot. You may have a “cute idea,” as she puts it, but you’ll need to give that proposal some real meat.

Pam Nowak, who is co-chairing the 2018 conference with Suzie Brooks, is a former and longtime chair of the conference herself and she is also a past president of RMFW.

Pam is also a dedicated and award-winning writer and she is currently working in a new genre, as you will hear.

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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

When I’m Sixty-Four

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me?”

Fill in the blank…

Of course: “…when I’m sixty-four.”

Yeah, I played the HELL out of Sgt. Pepper when it came out.

My older brother and I each had record players, but one copy of the record between us. We would sit in each other’s rooms and listen. Rapt. Over and over. The White Album, too. Holy smokes. We were nuts about The Beatles. When a new album came out, we would own it within the week.

I liked The Stones better than he did; he liked The Who more than me. (Tommy changed my mind. But every band took second place to The Beatles).

But that song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.”
Catchy, bouncy, plaintive—impossible. And so clean and melodic, the second song on Side Two after the psychedelic “Within You, Without You.”

Sixty-four seemed ancient. I pictured a wheelchair, watery oatmeal, infirmity. Will you still need me? Will you still feed me?

Then my father died at age 54 in 1979, and seven years later, my mom died at the same age. By the late 1980’s I thought maybe there was some sort of ticking time-bomb inside me, too.

You know, an expiration date.

By the time my mother died, I had been writing fiction for a few years. I was working on a draft of an early novel.

Three years after my mother passed away, I got married in a double wedding on the top floor of an old funky warehouse in LoDo (when the buildings were empty). It was 1989. I had just landed a good agent in New York for that first book, a mystery, and quit a good TV news job to write a second book. The first book had taken six years. I didn’t want the second book to take that long.

At the wedding, the bar was open before the ceremony started. We had a great rockabilly band on hand for the dancing.

And we walked down the aisle to…

“When I’m Sixty-Four.”

Our friends loved it. We laughed.

Sixty-four seemed, still, so distant.

Eighteen years later, I finally got published at age 53—a small, indie press. I had a great time seeing a book reach readers. Phew, published. Right under my personal deadline (literally).

Did I have one year left? It didn’t feel like I was about to die. I mean, what does that feel like?

A second book came out when I was 57 and a third when I was 60. Then, a fourth at age 61. The third and fourth with Midnight Ink, a fine house.

Last week, I turned 64. (No wheelchair! No watery oatmeal!)

I Feel Fine. (Another Beatles song.)

And I am making plans to publish Book #5 next fall—the fifth book in the Allison Coil series. It’s called The Melancholy Howl. At the same time, my amazing agent in New York is shopping a standalone mystery. It’s called No Lie Lasts Forever.

And I’m starting to write a new one.

My heroes are writers like Pat Stoltey, still in her mid-70s and cranking out books. Or James Lee Burke (born in 1936) and Lawrence Block (1938) and still, yes, cranking out books. How about Mary Higgins Clark? Born in 1927.

Every day I write is a good day. Every day I wrote was a good day.

There are lots of cool things about the writing business, starting with the writing itself.

But here’s one more. As I start to think about winding down the professional career (Note to my mortgage holder: starting to think about it, not actually doing it yet!) I am glad to have writing out there as something that will keep me going, interested, engaged. Most of all, it will keep me writing.

No matter what happens to the stories I put together, I’ll be writing.

Maybe even when it’s time for watery oatmeal.

Rocky Mountain Writer #113

Jason Evans & Writing Memorable Villains

On Saturday February 17, Jason Evans is leading RMFW’s free monthly workshop and if you have trouble developing and writing your bad guy, this session might be just what you need.

The program is about writing memorable villains and on the podcast we’ve got Jason Evans here for a preview of what he’s going to cover—and exactly how he’ll inspire you to get it right. Your villain, Jason says, needs to be a “fun house mirror” version of your hero and “great villainy” grows from true pain.

Jason Evans always wanted to be a writer, he just didn’t know it. He grew up in Southern California and taught high school social studies after college until he got married and moved to Denver in 2004.

Jason continued in education until he realized his heart was in fiction. Since 2012 Jason has had several short stories published, ran an online magazine, and became a regular panelist at local conventions. He blogs regularly on his own website and Writers from the Peak, in addition to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

This Spring the WhimsyCon Anthology will be published, giving Jason his first credit as an editor. Jason earned a masters in history in 2012 and, as you’ll soon find out, also has a bit of major news about his publishing career that was announced just this week.

Jason Evans' website

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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 #112

Susan Brooks: Conference Workshop Proposals & Literary Wanderlust Update

As soon as we turned the corner into 2018, the conference planning for Colorado Gold kicked into gear.

In fact, planning started much earlier but RMFW members and others were notified a couple of weeks ago that they now have the chance to apply to present during one of 70 or so workshop slots that will be offered during 2018 Colorado Gold in September.

That prompted a check-in with conference co-chair Susie Brooks for a quick overview of the workshop proposal process.

It also gave us a chance to catch up with her publishing enterprise, Literary Wanderlust, which has 8 new titles planned on its 2018 publication schedule.

Wanderlust is the right word – she’s got a wide variety of titles on the way, from a flash fiction compilation to a fracking romance set in South Africa.

Since 2009, Suzie has served on the board of directors for RMFW and has served for many years as solo conference chair.

She holds a master’s degree in publishing from George Washington University and has many years of editorial experience.

Literary Wanderlust's website

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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 #111

Wendy Terrien: 2017 Independent Writer of the Year

Last summer, Wendy Terrien was named Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Independent Writer of the Year.

In August, she published two novels on the same day. Both were sequels to her first novel, The Rampart Guards, which just happened to be named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016.

In December, she was elected president of RMFW.

Today, she’s busy working on a new novel and she's got an agent who is preparing to help her land a traditional publishing deal.

In short, Wendy Terrien has a lot going on.

In addition to her novels, Wendy published a short story, “The Fate Stone,” in the award-winning anthology Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time (March 2016), and “Light” in the award-winning Off Beat: Nine Spins on Song (April 2017), both from Wicked Ink Books.

Wendy graduated from the University of Utah and transplanted to Colorado where she completed her MBA at the University of Denver. She focused her marketing expertise on the financial and technology industries until a career coach stepped in and reminded Wendy of her passion for writing. Wendy began attending writers’ conferences, workshops, and retreats, and she hasn’t stopped yet.

Wendy Terrien's website

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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 #110

Jennifer Rose & The Book of Keys (Twins of Orion Series)

Jennifer Rose might have just what you need as you begin to ponder your writing goals and plans for 2018.

On Saturday, Jan. 6 Jennifer is presenting RMFW’s free monthly workshop at the Sam Gary Branch library in Denver.  The workshop will run from 1 to 3 p.m.

It’s called Level Up Your Mindset and Productivity.

On the podcast, Jennifer offers a preview of some of the tools and tips she believes lead to success.

But, wait, there's more.

There's also Jennifer's fairly unusual combination of interests, martial arts and opera, and the publication earlier this year of her first novel, The Book Of Keys.

The book is the first in the Twins of Orion series and it's already drawn rave reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.

Jennifer's website.

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 #109

Denitta Ward & Somewhere Still

Denitta Ward will tell you that she did it all backwards.

But she got on the path to publication earlier this year when took RMFW’s online course about self-publishing, taught by Lisa Price Manifold.

The result? The publication of her first novel, Somewhere Still, in November.

Denitta is a member of the Women's Fiction Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and (of course) Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is delighted to be the 100th member of IPAL.

After decades of writing legal briefs and contracts, Denitta picked up her pen and decided she'd write the stories she really wanted to tell, about young women discovering their own resilience in times of societal transition.

In fact Somewhere Still is set in the Roaring Twenties era in Kansas City and the follow-up jumps ahead three decades to Cuba.

In both cases, however, Denitta is exploring a topic that remains relevant today about the “power dynamic” between men and women. Even writing in a clean style, Denitta explores an age-old question: who is writing that paycheck and what are women willing to do for that money?

Denitta Ward's website

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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

Shout-Outs!

1. How about that Western Slope chapter of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers? Last Saturday morning, 28 writers gathered for a three-hour workshop. They came from Grand Junction and all over, from Meeker to Montrose.

Energy, enthusiasm, eagerness? In abundance. All sorts of writers—and half were non-RMFW members. Shout out to Vicki Law for the idea of a Western Slope chapter (many years ago) and to Terri Benson for running it so well today. Terri makes it look easy and, clearly, she’s getting the word out to the community at large. Plan a trip to the Western Slope around one of these workshops? Why not?

2. How about Jeffery Deaver? If you were there for his keynote at RMFW Colorado Gold a couple years back, you remember he left a mark. Friendly? Yep. Down-to-earth? Check. One of us? Yes. Even though he’s sold 50 million books, you’d never know it. I remember spotting him in the back of a workshop during Colorado Gold, taking notes like just another student. This year and next, Jeffery has been presenting workshops around the country—for free—for chapters of Mystery Writers of America. No charge!

So, in April (Saturday, April 7), RMFW and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America are teaming up to bring Jeffery to Denver for a four-hour workshop on writing commercial fiction. More details soon. But with no cost for the presenter, the price will be very reasonable. Save the date. This will be at The Renaissance Hotel. Shout out to Jeffery Deaver for giving back. In a very big way.

3. NaNoWriMo crazies, you may my respect! If you did it, congrats. If you tried, congrats. I have no idea how you pour out the words in such volume for a whole month. What I know is that there are 1.5 million ways to write a good story and NaNoWriMo clearly works for some. Fifty thousand words in 30 days? That’s commitment. That’s production. Hats off.

4. Where would this town be without The Tattered Cover? Last month, on “Indie’s First” day, Tattered Cover organized a whole crew of writers to serve as guest booksellers, including many RMFW members. I had a fun two-hour shift alongside Jennifer Kincheloe and I had a long chat with Cathy Langer, who is retiring after forty (count ‘em, forty) years as the lead book buyer for Tattered Cover, one of the best bookstores in the country. Happy trails, Cathy. Thanks for all you did to shape and fashion one of the truly iconic bookstores in the country, a place that welcomes all and has done so much to support the local writing community.

5. And here’s to Pat Stoltey (one of those NaNoWriMo success stories) and Kevin Wolf. Check out Pat’s insights on the latest Rocky Mountain Writer podcast. She’s 75! She’s writing up a storm! She’s got ideas galore. Her latest book, Wishing Caswell Dead, comes out this month and it’s been a story she’s been working on for years. And years. Pat has had setbacks, but she’s just kept plugging away.

Same with Kevin Wolf. Kevin had a big publisher for his first novel, but a small publisher will work just fine for his second novel, Brokeheart. Both Pat and Kevin could have soured or gotten discouraged. No way, no how. Think you might hear some whining? From them? No way. They have stories to tell. Case closed. Shout out to them both!

And finally, thanks to all the fabulous guests I’ve had the opportunity to chat with on the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast! It’s never too early to reserve your spot.

Drop me a line: podcast@rmfw.org.

Rocky Mountain Writer #108

Pat Stoltey & Wishing Caswell Dead

Pat Stoltey’s fourth novel comes out in just a few short weeks (Dec. 20) and it’s been quite a ride.

Revised and revised some more, Pat says that one point she realized she had written the life out of her characters.

So she backed up and started over again until she got it right.

Wishing Caswell Dead is set in the early 1800's in a village on the Illinois frontier. It’s a historical mystery about the evil that hides within a village, one girl who is determined to save herself and her child, and a violent murder no one wants to solve.

Pat Stoltey grew up in east central Illinois so it's not unexpected she would use that part of the country as a setting. The Village of Sangamon is not a real place, but Pat says it has become so real to her she's now writing a follow-on story using the same setting.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, a Scottish Terrier named Sassy, and a bossy brown Tabby known as Katie Cat.

Pat's website

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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