Saturday, April 19, 2014

A to Z Challenge: Q is for Quit (and Brian Qaufman and (And) Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov)

There are a few authors out there whose last names begin with Q, but I've chosen to cheat on the challenge instead and feature a northern Colorado writer whose name sounds as though it could begin with Q.

Featured Author:  Brian Qaufman (aka Brian Kaufman)

Brian was the instructor in a novel-writing class I took back in 2003. My critique group, Raintree Writers, was formed by a few of the participants in that class, and now Brian is a part of Raintree Writers.

A writer of twisted stories about twisted people, Brian seems like a normal guy. He writes well, is an excellent and supportive critiquer, but one can't help wonder what's going on his mind when he gets too quiet. Is he thinking about zombies? Corpses behind the walls of an old house?

You'll see what I mean when you read some of his work: Dead Beyond the Fence: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse, The Apocalypse Parable: A Conspiracy of Weeds, and Mary King's Plague. If you want to read an outstanding piece of historical fiction, though, get a copy of his novel about the Alamo, The Breach, written from the Mexican point of view. Hopefully he'll put that up as an e-book soon.

Featured Book:  (And) Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov

This is the first book I ever read by a Russian novelist, and the only one I've re-read. Just thinking about it got me back to my online library catalog so I could find it again.

I love this beautifully written story of life in a Cossack village in the early 1900s. The novel, which pits the upstart peasant farmer Gregor against Misha, a loyal Party member, and its sequel (The Don Flows Home to the Sea), won Sholokhov the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1965.

Word of the Day:  Quit

Occasionally I think I'll quit something I do now and replace it with something I'm not doing now.

One day it's writing. The next it's blogging. Or gardening.

Always in the interest of reading more...or crocheting...or painting...or really learning how to use my new camera...or taking a refresher course in piano...or taking guitar lessons.

I suppose I could give up blogging, but that would seem like cutting myself off from the wonderful friends I've made through blogs and social media.

I could give up gardening, but there's truly nothing like fresh veggies I've grown myself. Especially green beans, my favorite.

Writing, though? I don't think I could quit. It's the worst kind of addiction. Are there support groups for recovering writers? I'd need a good one.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z Challenge: P is for Psychic (and Annie Proulx and "(The) Prairie Grass Murders" by Me)

Day P in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. I had a bad couple of days with the "N" brain freeze for book title and then almost forgetting to do the "O" post because I had a guest blogger scheduled the same day. I think I'm over the mid-challenge slump now and ready to carry on.

Today I'm featuring one of my all-time favorite authors.

And for the book ... I couldn't help myself. I slipped in a little blatant self-promotion. I'm going to make it interesting, though. I promise.

Featured Author:  Annie Proulx

I selected this author because I loved The Shipping News, cried when I read "Brokeback Mountain" in the Close Range: Wyoming Stories Short Story Collection .. and, in her bio, it says she lives in Wyoming (as well as Newfoundland).

The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Prize.for fiction 1994.

Featured Book:  (The) Prairie Grass Murders by Patricia Stoltey

My very first novel, an amateur sleuth mystery featuring 60-something Sylvia Thorn and her older brother Willie Grisseljon was fun to write because I used the Illinois farm country where I grew u to set a lot of the action.

What I wanted to do here, however, was show you the cover art for the many incarnations of this book. First there was the hardcover from Five Star.

And then the audio book from Books in Motion:

The mass market paperback for Harlequin's online mystery book club:

And finally, thanks to the new popularity and ease of publishing an e-book:

That e-book cover was designed by a college student. I think she did a great job.

Word of the Day:  Psychic

I'm not psychic, as far as I know.

However, there's a lovely lady who's a member of Northern Colorado Writers who is a psychic. I attended one small group reading with her a couple of years ago, and then went about a year ago for a private session. She knew stuff about me and things happened during that session that kind of freaked me out.

I'm thinking about going back, though. I have a list of questions about a mile long. (And a couple story ideas.)

Have you ever visited a psychic?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Denver Teen Writers Get Their Own Summer Camp, Their Own Way ... by Trai Cartwright

Like lots of us, I’ve been writing stories since someone shoved a crayon in my fist. I got lots of oohs and ahhs from the adults in my world, not unlike a trained monkey at the circus might, but what I didn’t get was any kind of organized or professional support. There was exactly one creative writing class at my high school, and only a third of that time dealt with fiction. The rest of the time, I had to hack my way through poetry (anon, no!) and nonfiction (and this was before creative nonfiction, so it was basically journalism).

I was a sci-fi writer. I had no business or interest attempting either of those other mediums, but if I wanted any kind of fiction education, I had no choice.

When I grew up and started teaching creative writing for a living, I knew right away what my dream program was: a “boot camp” for teen writers. Four hardcore days of studying the craft with other teens, forming a tribe of people who understood exactly what it meant to be a writer, and encouraging them to pursue this most impossible of dreams.

It was the sort of program I would have died for as a teen.

So I went for it. I hired four local authors from different mediums to teach different tracks, I took on screenwriting, and away we went. Five years later, over 200 kids have attended Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camps, and the customer satisfaction is exactly what I hoped it would be:

"This was such a friendly environment, great learning and awesome people! Working with a writing teacher is important to me because they really have the finesse to help you. I can't wait for next year!"

Young writers are everywhere, but being writers they tend not to draw attention to themselves. They are the ones who disappear into their rooms for hours on end, not surfing or texting, but writing stories. They are the ones who pretend to follow along with classwork at their desks but in fact are revising a scene that just won’t stop running through their heads. They are the ones talking to themselves in different voices as their characters work out a piece of dialogue. They are the ones who keep book stores alive, who always have one foot and half their mind in another world, and who look somewhat bewildered when others are cheered for scoring a goal when they’ve just finished writing a 350-page novel and no one broke out the marching band for them.

Explorati Teens breaks out the marching band. We celebrate writers. We’re here just for them, so they can disappear into their very special cave for four days and do the thing they were born to do: write. Craft gets explained on a level designed just for them, revelations as well as friends are made, and best of all, they get help writing exactly what they want to write.

In Denver, no one else “lets” teen writers do this. There seems to be this idea that teens need prompts and guided exercises in order to write. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. They want to learn how to do what they do better. And that’s Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camp’s goal –whatever they are passionate about, we are passionate about.

So if you know a teen writer in the Denver area (or within commuting distance) who could use this sort of celebratory, inspiring, very serious approach to bolstering their endeavors, send them our way. We’ve got a camp for Middle Schoolers, developing High Schoolers, and for High Schoolers who are so advanced, they’re ready for a college-level education.

This summer is going to be serious fun!

Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camp

Fiction I (middle school) – June
Fiction II (high school) – July
Fiction III (advanced high school) – July – August
Cost: $275
Location: University Park, Denver (next to University of Denver)


Trai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

A to Z Challenge: O is for Opera (and Linda Osmundson and "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger)

Holy cow! I'm getting this one in at the last second. Hopefully I can get a couple days ahead this afternoon so I don't start stressing out before the month is over.

Best to get to it.

Featured Author:  Linda Osmundson

Linda is a northern Colorado resident who developed a beautiful series of Western art books intended for kids from 5 to 105. From her website:

"At the age of fifty, she told her husband she wanted to take a writing course. Because of her many past interests, he asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She has grown up to publish many articles in local and national magazines and publish [three] books. Although she lived and attended college in Texas, she was never a cowgirl."

 Her books include How the West Was Drawn: Cowboy Charlie's Art, How the West Was Drawn: Frederic Remington's Art, and her new release, How the West Was Drawn: Women's Art. Any one of them would make a wonderful gift for a child or grown-up who appreciates Western art (or just loves pictures of cowboys and Indians and all things related).

Featured Book:  Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

I am a big fan of this author's Cork O'Connor mystery series set in Minnesota. The book I'm featuring today, however, is a standalone novel--one of the best books I read in 2013. Here's a shortened version of the blurb from Krueger's website:

"New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson's Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. ... Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years."

Ordinary Grace is a nominee for the Edgar® Award for Best Novel. It already won the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Best Fiction, Thriller Dilys Award (Independent Mystery Booksellers Association), and Left Coast Crime "Squid" Award for Best Mystery Set Within the United States.

Krueger will be a keynote speaker at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in September.

Word of the Day:  Opera

I love rock opera. My favorite is Jesus Christ, Superstar. And I enjoy some traditional opera. Carmen is a favorite. So is La Boheme. I think of Porgy and Bess as opera, too, though the Gershwins were most likely happy to have their masterpiece called a Broadway musical.

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are fun, too.

And I like most anything with a wonderful tenor in the cast.

Do you enjoy opera? If so, what's your favorite?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A to Z Challenge: N is for Nocturnal (and Pam Nowak and ...)

As I told one of my writer friends, the second half of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is a slippery slope.

This is where I let my mind wander, take a day off from blog hopping, don't stay two scheduled posts ahead, and then risk panic.

What if my visitors stop coming? What if I don't get more comments today than I did yesterday? What if I fail the challenge?

Well, I won't die, that's for sure. But I will be disappointed. So, I'll soldier on and finish the month without goofing off too much more than I already have.

Featured Author:  Pamela Nowak

Pam writes historical romance, and she does it so well that she wins awards. As a matter of fact, she's a finalist for a 2014 Colorado Book Award for genre fiction for her novel Changes.

From Pam's bio on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Blog:

"Pam has a B.A. in history, has taught prison inmates, managed the Fort Yuma National Historic Site and run a homeless shelter. She was named the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year in 2010, chaired three conferences, and now serves as president. Pam and her life partner Ken live in Denver. Their combined families include six daughters and several grand-children. Together, they parent two dogs and a cat."

You can find out more about Pam and her novels at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Featured Book: ..........

Would you believe I couldn't think of a title I've read that starts with N? I couldn't believe it either. It's probably just a bad case of A to Z Brain Freeze.

Feel free to throw out a few suggestions.

Word of the Day:  Nocturnal

This is not a word that describes me. I start to fade around eight p.m. so I'm not good for much but watching a little television...mostly stuff that doesn't require concentration. I'm usually in bed before eleven.

I suppose I have to admit I'm not much of an early morning person either. I like mornings, but I want them to be quiet. No talking. Just reading the paper and drinking coffee.

What about you? Are you a night owl?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A to Z Challenge: M is for Marijuana (and April Moore and "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis)

M. Does this mean we're halfway home on this cursed Blogging from A to Z April Challenge?

Why do I sign up for this thing every year?

There are reasons. It gets me back in the habit of regular posting (although definitely not six times a week). I re-connect with old blogging friends and make some new ones. And I always learn something by reading all the extra posts I somehow find the time for (usually in the evening).

So here's my contribution for Day M.

Featured Author:  April Moore

April is a Colorado writer I met back at the end of 2003 when we ended up in the same novel-writing class. Shortly after, she and a couple more classmates started a critique group which I was thrilled to join. We are the only two original members still writing, but Raintree Writers has survived.

April's nonfiction book Folsom's 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men was published in 2013. She has a website and blog devoted to information related to her research.

 She has also completed a novel of women's fiction (with lots of humor) and is currently working on a YA/NA story. Learn more about April at her website and her Epicurean Vegan blog.

Featured Book:  Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

I'm not the most dedicated sports fan in the world, especially when it comes to baseball which I find a tedious game that always turns into a hot dog and beer marathon with a side of sunburn.

I do like football....but prefer to watch it on television.

Reading sports stories, however, is a whole different ballgame. I read the sports section of my local paper (admittedly searching mostly for the human interest stories), and I love books and movies about sports--nonfiction (especially biographies) and fiction.

Moneyball is one of the books I loved, and the movie was excellent too.

I'll send you to Michael's blog for his photo and videos of interviews and talks.

Word of the Day:  Marijuana

If you know what's been going on in Colorado with the new pot laws, you probably guessed I'd at least mention the subject during the challenge.

The new laws don't affect me much because I won't smoke anything (quitting nicotine back in 1982 was hard enough--I've seen the effects of lung cancer in my own family). And I'm already high on life so I don't need drops or edibles or infusions or whatever else is available out there.

However, I don't like the remote possibility a little smoke will blow my way. I've smelled pot, and to me it reeks worse than skunk. And I didn't much care for the inconvenience at Denver International Airport on my last trip when we had to line up single file to approach the Concourse A security station so TSA agents with drug-sniffing dogs could walk up and down the line and let the dogs check us out.

And that's all I have to say about that....for now.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A to Z Challenge: L is for List (and Sophie Littlefield and "Long Live the Suicide King" by Aaron Michael Ritchey)

I think that's the longest title I've had yet.

So it's Day L on the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. If you're visiting here for the first time and don't know about the challenge, you can visit the official website and list of 2,127 participants at Blogging from A to Z Challenge (April 2014). Here's the jazzy 2014 badge in case you missed it in my sidebar.

Featured Author:  Sophie Littlefield

I fell in love with Sophie's protagonist, Stella Hardesty, in the very first book of the series, A Bad Day for Sorry. There are now five books in the series. The blurb from Sophie's website:

"At first glance, Stella Hardesty looks like a typical housewife. Then she kills her abusive husband with a wrench right before her fiftieth birthday. A few years later, she's so busy delivering justice, helping other women deal with their own abusive husbands and boyfriends, that she's barely got time to run her sewing shop."

Sophie now has books in a second mystery series, women's fiction, and YA. I can't even keep up with her new releases anymore.  Sophie grew up in Missouri and now lives in California.  I think she should move to Colorado!

Featured Book:  Long Live the Suicide King by Aaron Michael Ritchey

I haven't read this YA novel yet, but it's on my Kindle, waiting patiently for me to hide away and read it straight through. Here's the blurb from Aaron's website:

"Seventeen-year-old Jim “JD” Dillenger knows exactly how his miserable suburban life is going to play out. At least drugs added a little chaos to his life, but after almost losing his soul, JD knows he has to quit. Now clean, he figures he has another sixty years of boring life followed by a meaningless death. JD decides to pre-empt God by killing himself. However, once he decides to die, his life gets better, more interesting, and then downright strange. New friends, a possible romance, and donuts, lots of donuts. Once the end is in sight, every minute becomes precious."

I've become a big fan of YA novels over the last couple of years. The writing is excellent, the stories fast-paced with great plot twists, and  the length lends itself to a fast weekend read.

Word of the Day:  List

This is a cool word because it has so many meanings. One can make a list like my To Do List which lists all the things I need to do for the next three days. One can list to music while he reads. And an object can list to the side as does my old office chair. Or a human, as I do when my knee is bothering me.

My To Do List is getting way too long, by the way. I think it has something to do with unfinished chores during the month of April while I'm busy writing 26 blog posts, responding to comments on those posts, and visiting new blogs on the A to Z list.