Rocky Mountain Writer #180

Mark Pleiss & April Warnings

The first novel from Mark Pleiss is called April Warnings and it’s a series of interconnected stories set in and around Baxter County in Nebraska as a twister bears down.

The narratives are connected by the Midwestern ritual of going into an underground tornado shelter, the disappearance of a young boy, and a growing mythology about aliens and cultists near the railroad tracks of the Callahan Ranch.

On the podcast, Mark Pleiss talks about his PhD in Spanish Literature, his long-time love for writing, his own strange fascination with dark weather, the pros and cons of writing linked stories, and the advantages of working with a small publisher.

Mark Pleiss has worked as a freelance journalist for The Omaha World-Herald and The Des Moines Register before completing the aforementioned doctorate in Spanish Literature and teaching at St. Olaf College, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Metro State University Denver.

Mark Pleiss’s work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Colorado Review, Pop Matters, The Omaha Pulp, Sequel, Fine Lines, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Denver Post, and The Bulletin of Hispanic Studies.

Mark’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 #179

Chuck Greaves & Church of the Graveyard Saints

Chuck Greaves new novel, The Church of the Graveyard Saints, is a literary mystery with a love triangle and an eco-thriller finish and it’s also the first novel Chuck has written that’s set in and around his adopted hometown of Cortez, Colorado.

On the podcast, Chuck tells the remarkable story about getting noticed in the publishing world for the first time and talks about the two sides of his writing life—one writing the Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries, set in Los Angeles, and his work as C. Joseph Greaves, producing more literary works.

Both halves of his output and have drawn considerable attention. Hush Money, the first installment in the MacTaggart series, won the SouthWest Writers’ International Writing Contest and was named a finalist for numerous national honors including the Lefty Award from Left-Coast Crime, the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and the Reviewers’ Choice Award from RT Reviews.

Chuck’s first literary entry, Hard Twisted, was called a “taut and intriguing thriller” by the London Sunday Times and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in Fiction. His third MacTaggart novel, The Last Heir, was a finalist for the 2015 Colorado Book Award for Best Mystery, while his fifth novel Tom & Lucky was named by the Wall Street Journal to its year-end list of the “Best Books of 2015.” The Church of the Graveyard Saints launches in September.

Chuck Greaves’ 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 #178

Susan Smith

So you’ve finished a draft of your novel and you’re ready to submit to agents and editors. You’ve checked it, you’ve read it.

A few friends said it’s good to go.

Not so fast.

Susan Smith has just the class for you—a special extended class at Colorado GOLD, one of the Friday morning “intensives” at this year’s three-day conference in September.

It’s called “Hands-on Honing.”

As Susan puts it, we all need to learn to be able to see our work from outside ourselves.

Susan Smith is also this year’s Honored Guiding Member at the Colorado Gold conference—so it’s a double opportunity to learn from an expert in the editing field and also someone who has been around the organization for many years. Susan not only wrote the book, Conan The Grammarian, she is an experienced judge of published and unpublished fiction.

Susan Mackay Smith has been a member of RMFW for many years, serving as contest chair, anthology editor, and president. She is traditionally published in fantasy under the pen name, Mackay Wood. She occasionally works as a free-lance book doctor and she’s a longtime judge of the Colorado Gold contest and a judge of the Colorado Book Awards as well. (And yes, she was once a contestant on the game show Jeopardy!)

Writers who head to the class should be prepared to dig into the “nitty gritty” details, as she puts it, of how to polish and how to edit and how to make sure you’re story is really ready to go.

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 #177

Sara Dahmen

Among the special guests at this year’s Colorado Gold conference is Sara Dahmen, whose is heading in from Wisconsin to teach a master class called “All the Secrets – An In-Depth Guide on Book to Film.”

On the podcast, Sara talks about her Flats Junction historical fiction series, which has already been opted for multiple feature films and is in production.

To say the least, Sara’s world is unique.

In addition to writing, she is a metalsmith of vintage and modern cookware and manufactures pure metal kitchenware in her garage in Port Washington. Sara has published over 100 articles as a contributing editor, has written for “Edible” and “Root + Bone,” among others, and spoke at TEDx Rapid City.

Her non-fiction book on cookware, FLAME, is due out in Spring 2020 (William Morrow/Harper Collins). When not sewing authentic clothing for 1830’s reenactments, she can be found hitting tin and copper at her apprenticeship with a master smith, reading the Economist, and spending time with her husband and three children.

We chatted with Sara as she sat on the shores of Lake Michigan keeping an eye on those three children.

Sara Dahmen’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 #176

Anne Hillerman

As Anne Hillerman describes it, she was shaking in her boots when she first set about writing new mysteries featuring the iconic characters Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn—characters created by her father, Tony Hillerman, and the lead protagonists in 18 award-winning novels.

But Anne Hillerman brought her own approach to the series and, with the release of The Tale Teller this spring, has added five new entries to the series set in and around the Navajo Nation.

On the podcast, Anne, who will be a keynote speaker at the Colorado Gold conference in September, talks about her decision to add female protagonist Bernadette Manuelito to the Chee-Leaphorn mix and about her approach to research and storytelling.

Anne Hillerman grew up in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the eldest of the family’s six children. She received a journalism degree from the University of New Mexico and worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist before becoming a full-time author.

Anne’s debut novel, Spider Woman’s Daughter won the Spur Award from Western Writers of America for the Best First Novel of 2013. Her next three titles – Rock with Wings, Song of the Lion, and Cave of Bones – were all New York Times best sellers. Anne also is the author of the award-winning Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn, created with husband/photographer Don Strel, and honored as the best photo book of the year by the Mountains and Plains Booksellers.

Anne Hillerman’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 #175

John Gilstrap

Writers, John Gilstrap thinks you should cut yourself a bit of slack.

Let the story flow. Get comfortable in your own writer’s skin. Stop copying the style of other writers.

Sure, learn the so-called rules, but don’t let them hold you back.

Gilstrap, one of the keynote speakers at the 2019 edition of RMFW’s annual three-day Colorado Gold conference, coming up in September, thinks are writers are “beaten down” by the rules and that they need to kick back and let the joy come through on the page.

On the podcast, John also talks about his very unusual start in the thriller-writing business and about his latest novel, Total Mayhem, released last month.

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling and Thriller Award-winning author of Final Target, Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies and many more including, way back when, the rocket-to-stardom title Nathan’s Run.

John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. He will write and co-produce the film adaptation of his book, Six Minutes to Freedom.

A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, hazardous materials, and fire behavior.

John Gilstrap’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 #174

Claire L. Fishback & The Blood of Seven

Claire L. Fishback, who enjoys scaring readers more than a little, is having a busy year. In March, she released LUMP: A Collection of Short Stories, some 51 tales in all.

Among those is “Remembra,” the story she published as part of the RMFW short story anthology FOUND.

And this month she is releasing The Blood of Seven, a novel that has been in the making for eleven long years.

As she recounts on the podcast, all this started in sixth grade, when Claire wrote scary stories to defy a teacher she didn’t care for … but who later told her to keep writing.

In the Blood of Seven, Detective Ann Logan sees a shimmering vision of a young girl. She tries to dismiss it as a trick of mountain light, but she can’t dismiss the arcane symbol that rose like a brand on her chest and burns with life when the vision becomes reality. Then townspeople begin to disappear, and Ann’s investigation plunges her into an eternal war between two secret societies — one serving the malevolent designs of a mysterious deity and the other trying to keep them at bay.

Do not let the blond hair and blue eyes fool you into thinking she might be a romance writer: Claire L. Fishback loves the “shock value” of a good tale of horror or suspense.

Claire FIshback’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 #173

Rebecca “R.J.” Rowley  & How To Be Funny and Make People Fat

And now for something completely different. And funny.

Feeling a little down? Feeling a little blue or stressed out?

This interview with Rebecca Rowley just might cure a few ills.

Rebecca is here with her new book, How To Be Funny and Make People Fat, a cozy comedy memoir featuring recipes and vignettes about how one humorist’s mother influenced her comedic, culinary, and life skills in and out of the kitchen.

She’s also here to preview her new anthology of stories, due out later this month – The 27-Hour Day.

Rebecca “R.J.” Rowley is a joker of all trades who captures life’s absurdities on the page and keeps them there until the proper authorities arrive.

A Colorado native, she is the author of cozy-comedy memoirs, humorous fiction, and satirical guides to life.

Outside of her library of books, other publications include satirical articles, short works of fiction, and random acts of poetry.

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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 #172

Stephanie Reisner – Independent Writer of the Year Finalist

What do stalkers, erotica, and the Russian mob have in common? That’s right–today’s interview with Stephanie Reisner. Aside from the flashy stuff, Stephanie talks with Natasha Watts about the nuts and bolts of making a living as a writer, and how Stephanie manages her various pen names.

Stephanie Reisner makes her living as a full-time writer and publisher and is published both traditionally and independently. With four pen names, she has over and 30 nonfiction books and 18 published novels in various genres to her credit. She also runs Darkerwood Publishing Group, a micro-press that publishes six additional authors under two successful imprints, DB Publishing (non-fiction) and Midnight Fantasy Press (erotic romance fiction).

Stephanie has been a member of RMFW since the early 1990s. She is both a PAL and an IPAL member and was an IWOTY Finalist in 2017 and has again been nominated in 2019.

Beyond her writing life, Stephanie is an acclaimed esoteric teacher, a plant wrangler, and a cat herder. She enjoys super-hero movies, collecting edged weapons, reading graphic novels, watching horror films, hiking, and yoga. She lives along the front range with her husband and three pampered house cats.

Stephanie’s website.

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Outro music by The Beatles

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 #171

Kay Bergstrom – Writer of the Year Finalist

It started with a novel called Tongue-Tied, her first Harlequin Temptation title in September of 1984.

Now, for Kay Bergstrom, it’s 87 books later – not including two 2 audio plays and 2 screenplay treatments and some short stories.

Kay, who is one of three Writer of the Year finalists this year for RMFW and who also writes under the name Cassie Miles, has been on best-seller lists including USA TODAY.

Bergstrom has considered retirement, but once you hear this interview you’ll know she has far too many story ideas to stop now.

As Kay puts it, she can look at the window and get an idea.

On the podcast, Kay talks about the early days of RMFW, the power of critique groups, and encourages RMFW members to reach each other’s works.

Kay Bergstrom, in short, is making a comeback. It could be that 87 books is just the start.

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by The Beatles

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