Rocky Mountain Writer #74

Lisa Manifold - WOTY and I-WOTY  Nominations

This episode is a quick chat with Lisa Manifold about the Writer of the Year and Independent Writer of the Year Nominations.

The deadline is coming up: March 11!

Don't miss an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of a fellow writer and/or nominate yourself. (It's perfectly legitimate to do so.)

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 #73

LS Hawker & End of the Road

This episode of the Rocky Mountain Writer is a chat with Lisa (a.k.a. LS) Hawker.

LS Hawker's third novel, End of the Road, was published last month by the Witness Impulse imprint of Harper Collins.

Lisa offers fun, interesting and heartfelt stories about her books, including an amazing story about her path to publication that took a significant turn on a famous date, 9/11.

Lisa talks about making the conversion from plotting from an organic approach to someone who now adheres to a tool called Story Grid to make sure she’s got all the necessary thriller elements in the right places.

LS Hawker is the author of the thrillers The Drowning Game, Body and Bone, and the brand new End of the Road.

The Drowning Game was a USA Today bestseller and also was a finalist in the ITW Thriller Awards in the Best First Novel category.

LS Hawker

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 #72

Marc Graham & Of Ashes and Dust

This episode features a chat with historical novelist Marc Graham and the latest installment of Writer's Rehab from Natasha Watts.

Marc is back on the podcast (listen to episode #35 for his first visit) a few weeks before the launch of his debut novel, Of Ashes and Dust.

We caught Marc just a few minutes after he returned home from attending an out-of-state workshop for writers about growing and building your online audience.

Marc offers a few tips he picked up, including some ideas about being “relentlessly helpful” when you get the opportunity.

Marc also talks about the power of knowing the core idea of your novel and how that key concept can help you both with the writing itself and with getting the attention of agents and editors.

Marc Graham is an actor, singer, bard, engineer, Freemason, and whisky aficionado When not on stage, in a pub, or bound to his computer, he can be found traipsing about Colorado’s Front Range with his wife and their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

This episode starts with a quick burst of inspiration in the latest Writer’s Rehab entry from Natasha Watts. Natasha offers ideas to help make sure your dialogue-heavy scenes come alive for your readers.

Marc Graham

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

Motivation

Motivation.

You hear it all the time. Your characters need to be motivated to pick up that sword and slay the dragon, venture to a distant galaxy, or figure out why there’s a dead body at the bottom of the well.

What motivates your character to do what they need to do in your story?

But, wait.

Strip away the story for a second. Let’s get back to your character before your story starts.

Long before...

Before she needed to grasp the sword, before he climbed into the rocket, before she lowered herself in the well to study the corpse.

Who is this person—at the core? How motivated was he or she--in general? As a person?

Was she ambitious to begin with? Or filled with ennui? Where did she draw motivation to, say, go to college or get a job? No, really, what drives her to get out of bed in the morning and go pursue her dream? Any dream?

And is it her own dream? Or a course charted by a parental unit? Family pressure? Family influence?

I’m thinking about all of this because I recently met a guy who was successful and highly visible for a long period of time.

And then, wham.

I mean, he got creamed. He was below down and he was below out. He had made some mistakes. He over-extended himself. He went completely belly up. He owed millions of dollars. It was a bleak scene. It took several years, but he’s picked himself back up. And now he's making another run at big-time business success.

He can trace his character and grit back to his parents and how he was raised. It’s such a key part of his life, how he absorbed what they taught him about how to approach that big wide world.

Why does anybody want to do anything?

That’s a common refrain of Brendan Murphy, a.k.a. “Murph,” the Asphalt Warrior (star of eight novels to date). Murph, the creation of the late Gary Reilly, lives a very alternative lifestyle. He questions capitalism, even the need for much of an income. How many people do you know who share that worldview?

With his idiosyncratic ways, Murph reminds me of Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, one of the most memorable novels I read in college, and Herman Melville’s Bartleby The Scrivener. Oblomov is incapable of doing anything significant. In the first 50 pages, he only moves from his bed to his chair. Told you. Great story.

And Bartleby declines most of the work assignments he’s given, even when the consequences mount.

Murph, Oblomov and Bartleby have their reasons. They are three-dimensional human beings.

Their lives are fascinating on their own because their sheer essence cuts against the grain of what’s acceptable.

Ignatius Reilly, also, the central character in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces.

Ignatius Reilly: “I mingle with my peers or no one, and since I have no peers, I mingle with no one.” Yes, to varying degrees, these four are anti-social.

The vast majority of fictional characters are not.

Your dragon-slayer.

Your astronaut.

Your detective.

Before the inciting incident that interrupts your character's routine life, who was this person? What got them up in the morning?

I don’t think it hurts, at a very fundamental level, to understand the answer to that question.

So your character stands out from the crowd.

Final thought from George Carlin: “Actually, if you ask me, this country could do with a little less motivation. The people who are causing all the trouble seem highly motivated to me. Serial killers, stock swindlers, drug dealers, Christian Republicans. I’m not sure motivation is always a good thing. You show me a lazy prick who’s lying in bed all day, watching TV … and I’ll show you a guy who’s not causing any trouble.”

Rocky Mountain Writer #71

David S. Atkinson & Apocalypse All The Time

One reviewer said David Atkinson’s novel Apocalypse All The Time combines absurdism, science fiction and sly commentary in a story reminiscent of Orwell, Kafka and Swift.

This time on the podcast, David Atkinson discusses his latest work and talks about his writing process, including his eclectic approach to reading – some 200 to 300 books a year.

He also talks about how he blends work as a patent attorney with his writing life.

In addition to Apocalypse All The Time, David Atkinson is also the author of Not Quite so Stories, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, and Bones Buried in the Dirt.

He is a Staff Reader for Digging Through The Fat and his writing appears in "Bartleby Snopes," "Literary Orphans," "Atticus Review," and others.

David Atkinson's website.

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 #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

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 #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

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

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

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