Mark Stevens is 2016 RMFW Writer of the Year. He writes the Allison Coil Mystery Series--Antler Dust (2007), Buried by the Roan (2011), Trapline (2014) and Lake of Fire (2015). Buried by the Roan, Trapline and Lake of Fire were all finalists for the Colorado Book Award; Trapline won. Trapline also won the 2015 award in genre fiction from the Colorado Authors League. Kirkus Reviews called Lake of Fire "irresistible." More about Mark on his website.
An interview with award-winning Denise Vega, who writes for teens and toddlers.
Denise talks about what inspired to write for young adults, how she keeps current with the world of teenagers, and how she draws from her own high school experience for the right emotional connections.
Denise is the award-winning author of seven books including Click Here, Access Denied, Fact of Life #31, and Rock On. Her picture books include her latest: If Your Monster Won't Go to Bed.
Both Click Here and Fact of Life #31 won the Colorado Book Award; Rock On was a finalist.
Denise is a former Co-Regional Advisor of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI and she’s on the faculty at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She is also a Young Adult Faculty Mentor for the Regis University MFA Creative Writing program.
We check back in with Laurence MacNaughton, whose new urban fantasy A Kiss Before Doomsday is set to launch in a few short weeks, just about a year after he debuted his new series with It Happened One Doomsday.
We are back with Dru Jasper and her crystal shop and her magical powers and sorcerers and major problems trying to stop, yes, another impending apocalypse.
Laurence Macnaughton grew up in Connecticut and sold his first magazine story at age 19. Over the years, he’s been a bookseller, typesetter, printer, copywriter and a prototype vehicle test driver.
Following the Q & A, Laurence reads the opening scene from A Kiss Before Doomsday.
RMFW writer friends of mine – and anyone writing fiction out there – I ask this: how many writers do you know who put together 25 novels (most of them in near-perfect shape) without ever receiving a word of encouragement for an agent or publishing house? In fact, Gary was discouraged many times. He would query now and then, get rejected, and keep writing.
Twenty-five! And most only need a light dusting, editing wise, to get them shipshape today.
Quality? Three Colorado Book Award finalist nominations so far. Booklist has raved about Gary's series. National Public Radio has twice talked about Gary's works in a positive light. And Gary's Vietnam fiction has drawn praise from Ron Carlson, Stewart O'Nan, Gregory Hill, Tim Bazzett, John Mort and David Willson, who reviews books for The Vietnam Veterans of America. The single story Gary had published during his lifetime was accepted by The Iowa Review and later included in the fourth volume of The Pushcart Prize anthology, the best fiction from small presses.
For many of his works, Gary Reilly did what writers are taught to do. He drew stories from his life. And livelihoods. For many other stories, he conjured from his quite active storytelling imagination.
So Gary wrote about going to war. He wrote about driving a taxi. And he weaved into his books many of the frustrations about being an unpublished novelist.
Gary, who died in 2011, left behind a mountain of fiction.
Here at the worldwide headquarters of Running Meter Press, we are closing in on the half-way mark of publishing Gary’s works.
Later this month, on Friday, June 23, we will launch The Discharge, the third book in Gary’s trilogy about his experiences during The Vietnam War.
The series started with The Enlisted Men’s Club, set in The Presidio and around San Francisco as Private Palmer (Gary’s alter ego) faced the grim prospect of going to war. Private Palmer drinks beer, smokes cigarettes, and tries hard, during the occasional training run, to imagine what lies ahead.
Palmer touches his shirt pocket for a cigarette, then drops his hand. The smoking lamp isn’t lit. Do real grunts smoke on patrol? The point-man has an incomprehensible look of panic on his face. Lt. Norbert turns him around by the shoulders and shoves him back toward his position. Can patrols in Vietnam be as half-assed as this? Palmer knows he could very well end up in the Infantry and that he is not guaranteed to remain an MP once he arrives in a combat zone, though maybe that’s just Army Apocrypha. He will never be able to separate his illusions from his ignorance. When he was inducted he had expected everyone to end up with nicknames, like Bookworm, Lefty, or Ace. His nickname would be Colorado, as in, “Colorado bought the farm last night, Ace.” Everyone would look like Bart Maverick, Bret’s less-interesting brother. When they got into arguments, they would raise their chins and say things like, “Back off, buddy boy.”
In The Detachment, Private Palmer is “in country,” but he’s an MP and his combat is internal. The Detachment is 154,000 words. It’s a one-year arc and its three parts are beautifully distinct. The war is nearby and Palmer and witnesses its toll, but he’s not fighting out in the jungles of Vietnam.
The sounds of the choppers fade as they fly toward the PX, cross over it, then separate and begin spreading out in a combat formation, their fantails easing back and forth, the Hueys now like tiny fish idling against a river’s current. A circle of light suddenly appears on the mountainside, a white disk that must cover twenty square acres, and at first Palmer thinks it has come from a helicopter. The circle probes the hillsides, slithers along its rills and gullies in search of VC, moves as rapidly as if Palmer himself were twitching the beam of a hand-held flashlight across the far ranges, thousands of meters swept in less than a second….
Tracer bullets streak toward the side of the mountain, the Hueys now like angry spiders spinning endless red threads, raking the gullies, the rills, the folds as the circle of white light stops, creating a bull’s-eye target for the bullets tearing up the earth…
The battle sounds cease, the faint pulse of the earth no longer throbbing at irregular intervals through Palmer’s soles. The massive spotlight begins to drift slowly north along the hillsides, its shape changing as it traces every mound and crevice like a flattened liquid cat in a cartoon sliding off a chair.
And in The Discharge, Private Palmer returns home to Denver and, quite frankly, here’s where I get chills.
I think about all the soldiers who have returned home, alive. I think about how returning soldiers from Vietnam were treated.
I think about how anyone would find meaning in life after seeing so much killing or being the cause of your enemy’s death. The suicide rates among veterans is a harrowing issue to this day and it's no accident that suicides play a major role in both The Enlisted Men’s Club and The Detachment.
Gary’s fiction captured the reality of the mental state of his fellow soldiers—and, of course, his own.
Coming home in The Discharge, Palmer (no longer Private Palmer) faces heavy bouts of ennui and a lack of purpose. The first section is bleak. Hopelessness is right around the corner. What to do? How hard to work? And what will hold meaning?
In the first section of this third novel, Palmer is looking for an anchor and ponders going to California so he drives up Berthoud Pass in a raging snowstorm and gets stuck, dreaming of San Francisco.
The whitened top of Geary, electric trolley cars every five minutes, the sweet odor of saltwater and green leaves and sandy Sunset Beach. At the beginning of this journey he thought he would somehow find himself at that place in the morning. He put a wine bottle to his lips, but there was no wine left. He set the bottle on the floor and it tipped and rolled and stopped.
He held his beer can until it was empty and he tried to think about the things other than the things which can never be escaped, and all the time he kept promising himself that the one thing he would not do alone in the dark mountains was cry about it. It seemed to him finally the only thing he had any control over, and when it began, he found he could not stop it.
He wept until the morning light turned the road and the forest to red and then to gold as the sun lifted above the far plains and shrank, and the road and the snow between the trees grew white as burning phosphorous.
In the second section of The Discharge, Gary switches to first-person as Palmer goes to Hollywood. In real life, Gary came very close to being hired to write for stand-up comedian Louie Anderson and this middle section gives an idea of how high Gary’s hopes were—and how he managed to deal with the disappointment. Or did he?
And in the third section, back in third-person again and back in Denver, Palmer decides to start driving a cab, just as Gary did. Still, Palmer is looking for routine and a sense of place in the world of work (without doing too much). And we see fictional Palmer "meet" the future fictional Murph, The Asphalt Warrior.
Murph is Gary’s greatest creation, the asphalt philosopher Brendan Murphy, star of eight novels to date. (Booklist has called Murph "a truly original fictional creation and National Public Radio has raved about the series as "huge fun.")
Murph, as fans of the series know, is an unpublished novelist as well as being a cab driver. As a cab driver, Murph wants to earn as little money as possible—just enough to keep his bohemian life afloat. And Murph is bound and determined to never get involved in the lives of his fares, a personal mantra that he violates on a regular basis (for our comic benefit).
But in The Discharge, as Palmer finds stability and comfort in the cab driving business (despite some harrowing moments), Palmer saves himself.
He’s still looking for escape, a way out of the now and the ordinary and a way to deal with what he experienced in Vietnam, an experience to which he “refuses to attach any nostalgia.”
How does Palmer escape? How does he heal himself?
By becoming an artist.
Against the darkness, he turns on the kitchen light. He sits at the table.
He’s got a mountain of fiction to produce and it offers him hope, a way forward. We can feel it.
We've published 11 novels so far. Ahead, a couple of 'noir' mysteries in the vein of Patricia Highsmith, at least one more Murph, some science fiction, some fantasy, and some big, old-fashioned multi-generational literary fiction.
Despite the occasional ray of hope from an agent here or a publisher there, Gary Reilly never stopped writing (right up to the end). He was a writer, through and through.
Gary Reilly knew his place in the world, as a storyteller. And an artist, the greatest writer I ever knew.
Join us at The Tattered Cover for the launch of The Discharge: Friday, June 23 | 7 PM 2526 E. Colfax Ave.
If you ask Shannon Lawrence that basic question, be prepared for some thoughtful analysis.
The genre, she will tell you, extends beyond jump scares and slashers.
Shannon recaps the recent free workshop she gave for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in Denver and explores one her favorite topics, the world and definition of writing horror. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t always involve gore or extreme violence.
On the podcast, Shannon also offers some tips about finding short story markets and how to keep track of where your stories you have submitted.
A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy.
Her stories can be found in anthologies and magazines, including Once Upon a Scream, Dark Moon Digest, and The Deep Dark Woods.
When she's not writing, she's hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there's always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.
Teresa Funke is a high-in-demand coach who assists writers with all sorts of advice for every step of the process.
As a writer and self-publisher, she has has done some creative and innovative things that have worked.
And a few that have not.
So she wanted to share what she’s learned, to help others avoid making the same mistakes.
Today, with decades of experience under her belt, Teresa talks about a new online tool called the Self-Publishing Blueprint that she produced to help writers sort through the many options and choices that are out there.
As Teresa puts it, the Self-Publishing Blueprint is the only tool you will ever need to cut through the confusion of self-publishing and save yourself from costly mistakes.
Teresa Funke is the author of six award-winning works of fiction set in World War II. She is the owner of Victory House Press, and successfully
produces and markets her own books.
Visit her website to learn more about Teresa and access additional resources for writers or read her motivational blog "Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life."
Follow this link to the blueprint, including a $50 discount.
His journey to publication was so long he still doesn’t believe Graveyard Shift will actually be in the hands of readers in mid-July.
On the podcast, Mike talks about that bumpy road to publication for his first urban fantasy and he sheds light on the many benefits of working with a good critique group. He also talks about the unusual jobs he has held, including work as an ICBM crew commander and as a launch director for the U.S. Air Force at Cape Canaveral.
Mike is a self-described geeky engineer and nerdy artist with an role-playing, cosplaying, computer gaming, and collecting and creating replica movie props. Mike devotes the largest share of his gaming time to Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game and he is a regular contribut to “The Long War,” a podcast and webcast dedicated to tabletop gaming.
Stay tuned after the interview as Mike reads a selection from Graveyard Shift.
This episode also includes another installment of Writer’s Rehab with Natasha Watts. This time, Natasha has some great tips to help you avoid the dreaded issue of repeating gestures as you describe your characters and their actions.
No, "completely annihilated" does not mean this a column about drinking.
This is about something Mario Vargas Llosa once said.
Okay, I’ll back up.
Last week I had a cool opportunity in New York to moderate a panel at the Edgar Symposium. This is a day-long event prior to the Edgar Awards, the annual prizes for the best in mystery and crime fiction.
The title of my panel was “The Author’s Life.” My panelists were all finalists for one of the top Edgar Awards—best short story, best paperback original, best novel, etc.
My panelists were Patricia Abbott (“Shot in Detroit,” best paperback original); Megan Abbott (“Oxford Girl,” best short story); Wendy Corsi Staub (“Blue Moon,” Mary Higgins Clark award); Reed Farrel Coleman (“Where It Hurts,” best novel); and Tyler Dilts (“Come Twilight,” best paperback original).
In prepping ideas for the group, I thought it might be fun to pose the same questions to my panelists that were also asked of famous writers by The Paris Review.
For instance, in 1957 Truman Capote was asked “Do you like anything you wrote long ago as well as what you write now?”
In 1996, Richard Price was asked, “When you’re writing a book do you tend to avoid reading other books?”
In 1993, Don DeLillo was asked: “Athletes—basketball players, football players—talk about ‘getting into the zone.’ Is there a writer’s zone you get into?"
In 2013, Ursula LeGuin was asked, “Did you ever catch yourself thinking about potential book sales when you were considering a project?”
And in 1968, John Updike was asked, “Are you conscious of belonging to a definable American literary tradition? Would you describe yourself as part of an American tradition?”
After we went around on the panel hearing answers from Edgar Award nominees, I read a portion of the answers from what the writers said in The Paris Review. It was interesting. There’s not enough room here to include the Paris Review answers or what my panelists offered up, but it was fun.
Llosa was asked: “Do you choose the subjects of your books or do they choose you?”
(Great question, huh?)
I highly recommend the entire interview, but his answer to this specific questions prompts Llosa to make a great case for the “irrational” elements of literary creation.
Llosa says he wants to write novels that “read the way I read the novels I love.”
And then he says this: “The novels that have fascinated me most are the ones that have reached me less through the channels of the intellect or reason than bewitched me. These are stories capable of completely annihilating all my critical faculties so that I’m left there, in suspense … I think it’s very important that the intellectual element, whose presence is inevitable in a novel, dissolves into the action, into the stories that must seduce the reader not by their ideas but by their color, by the emotions they inspire, by their element of surprise, and by all the suspense and mystery they’re capable of generating.”
Yeah, who doesn’t want to write a novel that is capable of “completely annihilating” all of a reader’s critical faculties.
Just a new standard to shoot for.
I thought I would share.
Sometimes you have to put technique aside and let the imagination go.
PS: The guy who ultimately won for best paperback original (Adrian McKinty, “Rain Dogs”) was unable to sit in on my panel due to personal issues, alas.
PPS: Megan Abbott and Patricia Abbott are the first daughter-mother combination of writers to ever be finalists for the Edgar Award in the same year. How cool is that??
Margaret Mizushima & The Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series
It’s been about 17 months since we had Margaret Mizushima on the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast, way back on episode number 23. At the time, her debut novel Killing Trail was a few weeks from publication and the buzz was just building for the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series.
Now, her second book Stalking Ground is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the release of her third, Hunting Hour, is only a few months away, and she is writing her fourth. And the series is set for its United Kingdom debut in early May with plans for publication in France coming, too.
So it's hard to imagine a better time to chat with Margaret Mizushima, who catches up with her cast of characters, including K-9 cop Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and local veterinarian Cole Walker.
Margaret also talks about how being under contract and facing deadlines has changed her writing process.
After earning a master’s degree in speech pathology, Margaret Mizushima practiced in a hospital and her own rehabilitation agency, and now she assists her husband with their veterinary clinic and her of Angus cattle. She enjoys reading and hiking and lives in Colorado on a small farm where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.