Authors we like

Here are a few of my favorite authors with links to their websites. I’ve been involved in the Colorado book community for so long I know a ton of authors around here. I co-hosted an author interview show on local cable TV and met even more. I can’t possibly list them all, so this list will be primarily to mention a few I know a little better, or who I’ve read recently, or who you might otherwise overlook. Plus a few I’ve had limited contact with, but that contact felt especially cool to me. But obviously, if you buy me a lunch, I’ll add you to my list of “favorite authors.” In fact, that’s an important part of the definition.

For information on nearly 300 of my favorite Colorado authors, go to the “Find
An Author” page maintained by Book Organizations of Colorado Inc:

www.coloradobook.org

As past president of Colorado Independent Publishers Association, one of the largest state-based organizations of its kind, I know many folks who publish their own books. They can be tracked down through CIPA:
http://www.cipabooks.com
and they hope to have an online catalog of member books soon at
http://cipacatalog.com

I was also on the board of directors of the Colorado Authors League. A couple hundred published writers belong to that group:
http://coloradoauthors.org

And I was on the board of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, which has over 400 members:
http://www.rmfw.org


Inexplicably, many fine authors do not live in Colorado. The large publishers are all beginning to create author lists on their websites, much as Clearwater has done for fifteen years. To be fair, having only one author for several years made it easier for us. A few large ones include

Simon and Schuster authors

Houghton Mifflin authors

Penguin Group Authors

Random House Authors

Harper Collins Authors

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Here are a few specific authors I’ve read and recommend. Some are friends, some I’ve just had contact with. There’s something interesting to me about each of them.

Henry Adams

With two presidents in his ancestory, Henry started out ahead of most of us. Last year I re-read his 1904 book “Mont Saint Michel and Chartres” because I thought my brain was turning to oatmeal and maybe reading something more challenging would help. It did, to the extent that it confirmed the oatmeal hypothesis. This book describes France in the time between 1050 and about 1200 by comparing its architecture, music, literature and religion. Fascinating, but not an easy read. Then I read his more famous book, The Education of Henry Adams, which was once listed as one of the most important books of the 20th century. It is not like reading a comic book and if you are not an avid reader with a good vocabulary, don’t bother. But if you are, this book is like living through the last half of the 1800’s from the perspective of a guy who got invited to Lincoln’s inaugural ball and hung out with Teddy Roosevelt.

Mark Anderson

I probably told more people about Mark’s book “Shakespeare By Another Name” than any other book last year, and yet I haven’t met anyone else who’s read it. It’s a biography of Edward de Vere, the 17 th Earl of Oxford, who many people believe wrote under the name of Shakespeare. By linking the well documented events of de Vere’s life, and his letters, with the plays and sonnets, Anderson makes an overwhelmingly convincing case. In fact, I told several people that de Vere’s life would make a great TV series, with each episode ending with a short scene from the play he transformed it into. I don’t know Mark at all, I just want you to read his book so I have someone to talk to about it.

Margaret Atwood

She doesn’t need my help promoting her work. I just note that her assistant was especially gracious in helping coordinate permission to use brief excerpts from Ms Atwood’s work in my book, Joy Writing.

Dave Barry

Another person who does not need my help. If he wanted my help, how does he explain the restraining order? When I was even more of an unknown writer than I am today, if you can believe such a time existed, he wrote a nice blurb for my book There Are No Electrons, and I’ve been grateful ever since. I turn his books face out in the store, I mock his competitors, I wash his dog twice a week. We’ve met once, briefly (he is a remarkably fast runner) he sends me post cards from time to time, he gave me permission to quote him in Joy Writing. It makes my eyes well up to realize he had nothing to gain from giving me a blurb, and in fact, it probably caused hordes of other science and math writers to beseige him, so now he has to decline all such requests, just to be fair. And yet he gave me a blurb. Which just goes to show he is obviously not THAT fast a runner.

John Berendt

I enjoy each of his books, and he generously personally approved my quoting him in Joy Writing. When I started reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil I cringed. It was good, but he took so many risks as a writer I feared he would not be able to sustain the juggling without losing me. Amazingly, he did just fine and I did not need to worry on his behalf. In that book, he demonstrated a remarkable ability to choose one detail or one anecdote that accomplished what I require several pages to do. So I put his next book, City of Falling Angels on my Christmas list last year, got it, and enjoyed a nice vacation in Venice by reading it.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, the legend, gave a nice blurb for There Are No Electrons, and sent a lovely note, which is framed in my office. Like me, he believes that education is about the most important thing we can give our children. That and a sense of wonder and magic. He has done a lot to give the world wonder, magic, and education. And, in my case, has set a standard of graciousness that I’ll never match. He probably had better ways to spend his time than reading my goofy book on electricity. If you know some young person who hasn’t yet been introduced to the world of science fiction, get him (or her) some books or stories by Ray Bradbury. A little gem of his you may not have read is a series of essays collected as “Zen in the Art of Writing” which was originally published by a tiny company.You may also not know that this guy can be quite funny when he wants to be. He will teach you the meaning of the Irish crime, “drunk and in charge of a bicycle.”

Terry Brooks

Author of about thirty books, including the Shannara series (which my sons read and loved) and a neat writing book called Sometimes the Magic Works. He didn’t have to approve my quoting him in Joy Writing, his publishing company did that for him. So I especially appreciated the nice note he sent.

Louella Bryant

I sat next to Ellie at dinner during a conference at which we both spoke. It was fun to talk about writing with a creative writing professor who writes books for children and young adults. That seemed an interesting perspective. Turns out we agree about many things, which means she is either brilliant or charming, or possibly both.

Bruce Cameron

I sat next to Bruce at a huge book signing event. Obviously, everyone had already purchased his book, Eight Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, and he had not yet published “How to Remodel a Man” so he graciously directed prospective customers to my stack of “Calculus for Cats” books. Sure, he did not direct any of the pretty women my way, or any of the people who looked like they could actually afford to buy a book, let alone anyone who looked like they could maybe read one, but still, it was a nice gesture. When we have more serious conversations we discover we don’t agree on many of the large issues of the day. So we avoid serious conversations. Instead, we talk about what we have in common, which is that we both like his books.

Bebe Moore Campbell

The author of seven notable and prize winning books, including three New York Times bestsellers, she sent a nice note with permission to use her quote in Joy Writing. I did not realize at that time she was sick. Sadly, she died Nov 27, 2006 of brain cancer.

Becky Clark

This author of An Uncivil War, a historical novel for middle grade readers, is very active in the Colorado book community, and the person who originally suggested that Book Organizations of Colorado create its Find An Author website area, listed above. Becky has too much energy. She’s funny. She gets things done. I hate her.

Ted Conover

I met Ted at a writers conference while he was researching his book “Whiteout.” Neat guy and a fine writer who has crafted a fascinating life for himself. He lives some interesting role for six months or a year, then writes a book about it. His book “Rolling Nowhere” came from living with hobos and riding the rails; his book “Coyote” is the result of living with the guys who smuggle illegal aliens into the country from Mexico. “Whiteout” tells what it’s like to live as a cabdriver amid the super rich of Aspen. “Newjack” is the story of his time as a guard at Sing Sing. I’ve read them all, enjoyed every one, and will read whatever else he writes. He sent a nice note with his permission to quote him in Joy Writing, and even pointed out a typo I’d missed.

Clive Cussler

I had never met Clive when he agreed to read There Are No Electrons and maybe contribute a blurb. The blurb he sent was fabulous, and the more impressive because he was the first well known person to go out on a limb and say he liked it despite its goofiness. That takes a special kind of confident and generous spirt. Since then, I’ve met him a few times, talked on the phone, exchanged brief notes, and sat across the table from him at a group lunch. Each instance has reinforced my opinion that this is not only a guy who is good at what he does, this is a good guy and I’m glad I’ve had this little connection with him. He’s published about thirty novels, sold millions of copies. Don’t pick up one of his books unless you’ve got time to finish it. I find it’s best to start one early in the morning because then I lose less sleep. If you start at night, you’ll be reading all night.

Annie Dillard

There are many reasons to like a writer. We might admire their skill as a storyteller, or the way they mold a character. Whenever I’m asked who I think crafts the best sentences, I answer Annie Dillard. Her nonfiction books like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, or The Writing Life, or An American Childhood rank among my all time favorite books for that reason. Plus, the brief comment she sent with her permission to quote her in Joy Writing made me laugh out loud.

George Garrett

George, the former Poet Laureate of Virgiania, was a hugely prolific (32 books) and well respected literary author, poet, editor (20 books, many periodicals) and teacher of creative writing (for 42 years). In fact, the Associated Writing Programs named one of their awards in his honor. He was also very funny and generous and a bit of a rascal. I chose him as my “mentor” at a writers conference years ago because, frankly, I’d never heard of any of the instructors, and he was the only one who was smiling in the brochure. It was my happy dumb luck. He was very helpful to me, generously gave me a blurb for There Are No Electrons, as well as for Joy Writing. If I could magically gather a dozen smart, funny, interesting people together for drinks, George would be there. Alas, George has completed his earthly manuscript and has moved on to a new celestial project. I suspect he ends each day swapping tall tales with Mark Twain.

Art Goodtimes

Art is a performance poet, and also a regular poet. Very smart fellow, he’s been a County Commissioner down in Telluride Colorado for a long time. He’s one of the most dramatic performers of poetry you’ll ever see, but also writes poetry that works when read silently. We don’t get together very often, but always have a good conversation when we do. Some of his writing can be found here.

Bob Hazen

I did not realize that Bob was a kind of a big deal author, professor and scientist when he sent me a very nice letter about There Are No Electrons without my even asking. I sent him a note thanking him for his kind words, and only later realized, hey, this is a guy I ought to try to take advantage of! So I started using an excerpt from his letter as a blurb, and he hasn’t sued me, so you gotta like a guy like that. Perhaps his most famous book is “Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy” which he co authored with James Trefil. But he’s also written many other books, and is an accomplished professional symphonic trumpet player as well.

Carl Hiaasen

The author of nineteen mysteries that contain a humorous and, dare I say it, twisted element, he also sent me a nice note about Joy Writing that he did not need to send. So, even though he doesn’t need my help, I encourage you to buy his books anyway.

Liz Hill

Liz has been even more active in the Colorado book community than I have, and knows more people. She’s the brains that keeps Book Organizations of Colorado running. She’s publishesd three young adult novels with Anne Wolfe, had stories anthologized, and is coming out with a book for grownups very soon. I’ve read it, I like it, I hope you buy it.

Wally Lamb

Again, a nice note that he did not need to send, and he obviously has a very gracious assistant

Francine Mathews

One of the very few people whose conversational vocabulary intimidates me. I have to ratchet up my attention to keep up with her. A former CIA employee, she writes thrillers with a lot of brains. I don’t read much in the genre, but I enjoy hers. I’ve met her several times, we sat together at a funeral, she appeared on my TV show. Nice lady, and pretty, but scary-bright. And, of course, a bestselling author.

Terry McMillan

Author of Waiting to Exhale, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. She sent a nice, encouraging note with her permisssion to quote her in Joy Writing.

James McPherson

The director of the Iowa Writing program, perhaps the premier writing program in the country, who sent me a very kind letter about Joy Writing, so I like him.


Leslie O’Kane   aka Leslie Caine

Leslie writes mysteries with humor, so they engage not only one’s brain, but several other organs as well. She has sixteen out, with her eye on hitting an even twenty. Leslie and I share a passion for the Denver Broncos and were in a critque group together for a while. She knows me well enough that, when she was scheduling speakers for a writers conference, she scheduled me opposite the biggest draw at the conference, on the theory that I was the one speaker who probably wouldn’t hate her forever for doing so. Which I don’t. My session was full and we all got through it without casualites. But obviously she still owes me big time.

Edward Ormondroyd

Edward wrote my favorite children’s book of all time, David and the Phoenix. The magic I experienced reading that book may be the biggest reason I started to write. I read it over and over, and memorized lines from it. I still remember the quote from page 100 I used on my little buddies. He also wrote several other books that did not get the attention they deserved. A few years ago I considered expanding Clearwater by publishing good books that had gone out of print, so I tracked down Edward. Turns out he had agreed to let someone else republish David and the Phoenix just the week before, but we had a nice telephone conversation. I was disappointed for me, but glad for children everywhere. We developed a very pleasant if sporadic correspondence, and he agreed to write a blurb for my book Joy Writing.

A very young Bill Clinton got to meet John F. Kennedy. Some kids imagine having John Elway throw them a football. I had Edward Ormondroyd read a book I wrote and say nice things about it.

.Karen Reddick

Her book “Grammar Done Right” should be on every writer’s desk.

Tom Robbins

We all know he’s creative with stories and ideas. He might have a character that’s a spoon, for example. Beyond that, very few authors of any kind have the sort of linguistic imagination of Tom Robbins. I’ll be reading him, and for a few pages I think I’m safe in the company of an ordinary writer. Then suddenly, almost casually, he unleashes some words as if they were tigers he had hiding in his pocket, completely unexpected, unbelievable, absolutely impossible to defend against. After he’s let them grab my throat and shake me playfully for a while, he laughs and calls them off. Obviously, I had to use him as an example in Joy Writing. Beyond giving me permission to quote him, he also sent a nice, personal note, as if we were old friends, and apologized for his slowness, saying he had been in France. He even included a postcard from France, as if I needed proof. People who treat other people like old friends probably have a lot of old friends.

Reg Saner

Reg was one of my college professors. I liked him so well I took several courses from him, including creative writing and poetry. Years later we reconnected when he spoke to a writers group I was involved with, and I discovered his huge body of published poetry. Then I discovered his prose, which is elegant and insightful yet very masculine. He writes about nature from the perspective of a guy who hikes through it, climbs it, fishes it, canoes through it, gets soaked, frozen and baked by it. He writes like a wrestler describing his worthy opponent rather than like an observer outside the ring. When I read his book The Dawn Collector I told several people I thought it had a shot at a Pulitzer. If you enjoy very literate nonfiction, give it a try.

John Steinbeck

When people ask me who my favorite author is, the simple answer is, “John Steinbeck.” At his best, he perfected getting out of his own way. He manages to focus so intently on the story he’s telling, the image he’s conveying, the theme he’s expressing, that you don’t notice the writer at work at all. It seems completely effortless.

OK, so every book won’t appeal to every reader. Grapes of Wrath will be a slow slog for some; you won’t “get it” unless you read it all. His early books, like In Dubious Battle or Cup of Gold aren’t worth anyone’s time. And some of his nonfiction, like Sea of Cortez will only appeal to people who are already fans and want to meet the real life people behind some of his characters, or who are really into biology, which, coincidentally, I am. People who had to read Of Mice and Men in school may think he’s a dark writer, but he’s also a very funny writer. Cannery Row is a hoot. The sequel to that, Sweet Thursday isn’t known nearly as well (probably because they didn’t make a movie out of it) but is equally charming and funny. Travels With Charley is as good as taking a road trip yourself without leaving home. East of Eden is harder to read, but many people think it’s his best. I’ve even read the journals he kept, and bought a book of his letters, which I enjoy a lot. But I keep a few of his books unread, like The Russian Journal, because I will be sad when I’ve read everything he wrote. He wrote a lot so I probably don’t have to worry.

Barbara Steiner

If you buy children’s books, you know Barbara. I confess, I have not read her books. I just know her as a neat, interesting lady who has done so many remarkable things in her life I can only imagine how fun her books must be. This is a woman who sparkles and glows.

Irv Sternberg

Had lunch with Irv and realized we’ve been friends for a quarter century, yet I somehow overlooked him on this list. After retiring from the world of newspapers and working in exotic lands like Iran, Irv started writing fast-paced action/adventure books, sometimes using the pen name of Mark Irving. He’s got a half dozen or so out there (and more in the pipeline) with great blurbs from folks like Stephen White and great reviews in places like Publishers Weekly and Writers Digest. I read several of those when they were typed manuscripts, and Irv has read mine in the same condition. His suggestions improved my writing. Plus, he’s a good guy to hang out with.

Henry Taylor

Years ago I was one of fifty unpublished authors invited to attend a writers conference in Aspen. I was delighted, but sadly decided I could not afford to attend. When I told Karen Chamberlain, the director, she offered me a sort of “work-study” scholarship. In exchange for a special rate I agreed to set up chairs before sessions, move podiums, and be otherwise useful. When I discovered a campground outside of town where I could sleep in my van for six bucks a night, I decided I couldn’t pass up the chance. There were going to be a couple other “scholarship” attendees, so the work would get spread around.

The first evening they had an outdoor wine and cheese get acquainted session. It was lovely and I felt for about five minutes like a real writer mingling with my literary peers. Then it started to rain hard and fast. Everyone grabbed their wine and raced inside. Except for me. Part of my job was to carry all those platters of cheese and bread into the building. That wasn’t bad, I don’t mind working. The hard part was that the building had a huge picture window. While I was getting drenched and muddy, I could see all those smart, witty folks sipping their wine, laughing at each other’s jokes and mingling with elite writers. I was the poor guy, the unpublished writer who was at the bottom of even this food chain of other unpublished writers. I wondered which ones were the other scholarship attendees, and muttered quiety but rather eloquently at them.

Luckily another guy came out with his teenaged son and started to help me. He was obviously smart and funny and a hard worker, and so was his son. We joked about the rain, and literature, and writing while we worked and at some point I realized I’d rather be hauling platters and chairs in the rain with interesting folks like these guys than sipping wine with people who might turn out to be dull and pretentious. We got the job done in short order and joined the rest of the folks inside. I decided this was going to be a good conference if my fellow lackeys were this interesting and cheerful. It no longer bothered me that I wasn’t getting to spend as much time trying to impress the Real Writers.

The next day I discovered that the guys who helped me were not scholarship folks at all. It was Henry Taylor one of the Real Writers, and his son Jack. They had seen a guy out there working who looked like he could use some help, so they came out and helped. No big deal. It turns out Henry had just won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry the previous year for his book A Flying Change. I had never read him before then, but he quickly became one of my favorite poets. He writes with the same masculine, real world quality that he carries chairs with, which is a good thing, and he has a remarkable gift for imagery. Support the good guys, buy his books.

Sheri Tepper

Sheri’s daughter introduced us back when I was in real estate and Sheri was running Planned Parenthood. Sheri and I nearly did a deal or two together. Very smart lady, and hard working author of dozens of books of sci-fi fantasy and other genres. After a long and very successful career, once she “retired” the words must have just exploded out of her, because she’s been so prolific. I have only had brief and mostly indirect contact with her for the last twenty years, mostly in the form of her daughter saying, “Mom says hi.” but I recommend her books because I recommend her as a person.

Carol Waugh

I am one of the few people who have Carol’s instructional book on roller skating. She is now into creating art quilts and has written several books about that.

E.B. White

Adults know White as the guy who updated and rewrote his own writing teacher’s book, “The Elements of Style,” widely known originally as “the little book” which has come to be known just as often by it’s authors’ names, “Strunk and White.” Kids know him as the author of Charlotte’s Web, Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little. All of those were tidbits, little footnotes to his primary career as an essayist. That is how his contemporaries knew him, that’s why he became famous, and that’s where he shines. White the essayist is one of my favorite writers.

For years he wrote for the New Yorker. He released twenty two books that I know of. He won just about every award one can win, including the Pulitzer. Several of his best essays were compiled into a book called “The Essays of EB White” which is where I’d suggest you get acquainted. His letters were also compiled into a book, which I own and love. White is funny, perceptive, easy to read and elegant. It is a darn shame that many adults who consider themselves well educated have never read him. Don’t be one of those.

Stephen White

A besteselling Colorado mystery/suspense author, whose stories often include a psychologist in Boulder. If you’ve spent time there, it’s fun to read about familiar places, if not, it’s like visiting. I’ve only met him briefly, but he sent me a very gracious blessing of my use of his words in Joy Writing that went beyond what was required of him. I don’t read anyone’s books in the sequence they were written. Most recently I read and enjoyed his book “Kill Me.”