Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Treasure in Old Time Radio Dramas

By suphakit73, published on 15 May 2014
“With the ringing of that phone it is mystery, adventure . . . .”

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows . . ..”

In a bygone time stories were brought over the airwaves into peoples’ homes. This mode of entertainment was eventually replaced over decades by the television. But the old dramas have become available at first on tape, now on CD and through downloads. The art of this storytelling method is revived through modern podcast dramas. But what is this storytelling method and what does it have to teach other writers?

The radio drama, or as it is now referred to as the audio drama, is a story that is told nearly completely through dialog. With the exceptions of some sound effects and background music, the story unfolds with the characters describing what they see and do. When you sit down and analyze the method that is being used by the scriptwriter you will realize that this isn’t an easy task. You are having to put any description into dialog without making it sound forced.

If you have difficulty with dialog or in making your descriptive narrative flow like natural speech, you might want to listen to audio dramas. Where can you find them? Look on iTunes and Radio Spirits. Or if you have satellite radio, listen to Radio Classics.

Audio dramas that I would recommend are (note, I tend not to be a comedy fan, so most of these are dramas):
  • War of the Worlds
  • Les Misérables
  • The Shadow
  • The Saint
  • Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
  • The Whistler
  • Dimension X
  • Suspense

Should you want to try your hand at writing an audio drama and wonder if there are any contests to send them to, well you are in luck. BBC World hosts an annual worldwide contest. You can google BBC World for more details and tips on writing audio dramas. Even if you are not interested in doing it, you might find the tips helpful with your writing.

Please visit and You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens.  You can also find me on Facebook
Also, check out Write Pack Radio at or on Facebook at or on twitter @WritePackRadio. Write Pack Radio brings Pop Culture, Writing, and Publishing together and throws them into a crucible of humor, clarity, and passion.
Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Pain of Writers Now Has a Song

From Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the endless comment sections, to the emails, store signs, and scribbled notes we scrawl every day, our language is complex and carries some really confusing rules –

I before E, except after C and then there are words that don’t follow this golden rule like neighbor.

I rest my case. I see why we’re streamlining the language; we have too many passwords to remember and can’t focus on all these rules.

Beyond everything our teachers tried to drill into our heads, another far more sinister menace gnaws at our language. Text speak or even worse, people who don’t care about words. I know, I don’t get it either but yes there are people who don’t care if it’s an adverb, adjective, noun, or even if it's a real word.

But they’re words!

Writers and especially editors cringe worse than nails on chalk board when their eyes are assaulted by incorrect grammar. We see them everywhere and now Weird Al Yankovic, master of the parody song, has given writers a gift – Word Crimes a parody of the Robin Thicke track Blurred Lines.

A quick thank you to Al for this song, not only has it brought a spot of joy to my week and an anthem for the future – but as a long time fan, I dig it!

Kudos to Al for the line in Tacky too – “My resume is printed in comic sans.”

Al must be a writer. 

Had to share.

Brad R. Cook, author, publisher at Blank Slate Press, and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit or for more information. Hear more on the Write Pack Radio Follow me on Twitter @bradrcook, @blankslatepress, @stlwritersguild, or my tumblr page Thoughts from Midnight

Thursday, July 10, 2014

STL Books hosts launch 7/15 for two new "Not Your Mother's Book" anthologies

Our thanks to Linda O'Connell for sharing the story of how she and Dianna Graveman helped create these two new "Not Your Mother's Book" anthologies!

How did you become involved in developing Not Your Mother's Book...On FamilyI was recruited by Ken and Dahlynn McKowen of Publishing Syndicate to assist them in co-creating this anthology. Dahlynn and I had a previous relationship. She had worked for Chicken Soup for the Soul for ten years.

What was the process for acquiring stories? We solicited true, first-person stories through the Publishing Syndicate website, the WOW Principles Newsletter and through social media and other writer's sites. We received hundreds of stories from all over the world, and we selected 60-65 stories. They were read by me and several editors, but the publishers made final decisions.

How is NYMB different from most anthologies? The stories are not syrupy sweet or sad and sappy. They are a bit edgy, contemporary, humorous and real, confirming the fact that families are not always perfect. The family book contains stories by both men and women telling tales out of school. Some will make the reader nod in agreement, shake their head in disbelief or laugh out loud.

Did you collaborate or work alone? Dianna Graveman, a St. Louis writer, and I worked closely with the publishers to develop two separate books. It was a labor of love that lasted almost two years. Dianna co created Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Mom. The stories in her book range from birth to empty nest and are about mothering in the modern age. These first-person accounts are relatable, fun poignant and funny.

Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Mom is the seventh release, and Not Your Mother's Book...On Family is the eighth. has callouts for many new titles in development.

Do you have a book launch event scheduled? We are planning a joint book signing for both titles at STL Books, 100 West Jefferson, Kirkwood, MO on 7/15 from 6-9 p.m. There will be as many as two dozen contributors participating.

The books are also available at your local book retailer and online.

Linda O'Connell
Linda O'Connell is an accomplished writer and seasoned teacher from St. Louis, MO. A positive thinker, she writes from the heart, bares her soul and finds humor in everyday situations. Although she has won awards for poetry, inspirational prose and fiction, she prefers writing personal essays. Her true stories have been published in 22 Chicken Soup for the Soul books and many other anthologies and publications. Linda enjoys a hearty laugh, dark chocolate and walking on the beach.

Dianna Graveman
Dianna Graveman has worked as a teacher, manuscript editor, college instructor, and corporate training designer. She is coauthor of four regional histories and over 160 published articles for companies and publications that include Kirkus Media, CBS St. Louis, The American Surveyor Magazine, Teachers of Vision Magazine, and Writer’s Digest Books. Dianna teaches workshops and business writing seminars for the University of Missouri-St. Louis "Write Stuff" program and presents programs for libraries, writing conferences, schools, and businesses. She also provides editorial and design services through her company, 2 Rivers Communications & Design, and in partnership with Treehouse Author Services.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

L.S. Murphy: Characters must resonate

Welcome to L.S. Murphy, who lives in the Greater St. Louis area. She watches Cardinals baseball, reads every book she can find, and weaves tales for teens and adults. When not doing all of the above, she tends to The Bean (aka her daughter), her husband and a menagerie of pets. 

She is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the St. Louis Writer’s Guild.

Repped by Julia A. Weber of  J. A. Weber Literaturagentur.

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? For me it has to be the characters. The story can be great from a plot stand point, but if a character doesn’t resonate with me it doesn’t work. That goes for reading too. I can love a plot but not the characters.

Most of the time, I get a glimpse of an idea and the characters come to me. With “The 13th Month” (available in ONE MORE DAY) I was given the theme of the anthology. Nixon, the MC, came to me first. I honestly had no idea what my story would be about at that point. His voice really spoke to me.

In REAPER, it came together a little differently. I wanted to write a story about a stereotypical mean girl and turn her into Death. What would that do to her? How would someone react to that situation? The plot formed first and the character came second.
I love the way characters react to whatever gets thrown at them. Sometimes it even surprises me. 

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? 
It isn’t easy. I try to schedule writing time for myself and make it clear to my family that I’m not to be disturbed. Naturally all sorts of issues pop up during that time. It’s an ongoing battle. I always have at least one notebook or journal with me (usually three to be honest) so I can jot notes whenever there’s a minute or two. My latest writing tool is the digital voice recording app for my phone. I turn the radio off and plot on the way to work and home, then transcribe everything later. 

What inspired your latest book? 
PIXELATED, which will be released through Bloomsbury Spark, dates to a moment in high school. There is a scene where my MC, who is a city girl, drives up to her new school in Nowheresville, IA and sees a line of tractors in the school’s parking lot. That stems from my HS creative writing class. My teacher would take us out of the school for inspirational walks around town. We were walking back one day and he screamed at us, “Stop! Look!” He pointed to a line of tractors in our school’s parking lot and said, “If that isn’t inspiration, I don’t know what is. Now write!” I thought he was insane, but that stayed with me and led to writing this novel. 

Would you share a bit about your next project? I’m currently revising a New Adult novel about a college baseball player who suffers a terrible injury and hires a tutor to avoid academic probation. He falls for the mysterious tutor and makes some not smart choices. It’s a ton of fun since I’m writing from the male POV which is somewhat challenging.
What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? For REAPER, it has to be Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

For PIXELATED, Small Town, Big Time by Blake Shelton (or Boys ‘Round Here)

REAPERThere’s no way sixteen-year-old Quincy Amarante will become the fifth grim reaper. None. Not over her shiny blue Mustang. Her Jimmy Choos. Or her dead body.

She’s supposed to enjoy her sophomore year, not learn about some freaky future Destiny says she has no choice but to fulfill.

It doesn’t take long for Quincy to realize the only way out of the game is to play along especially since Death can find her anyway, anywhere, anytime. And does.

Like when she’s reassuring her friends she wants nothing to do with former best friend Ben Moorland, who’s returned from god-knows-where, and fails. Miserably.

Instead of maintaining her coveted popularity status, Quincy’s goes down like the Titanic.

Maybe … just maybe … that’s okay.

It seems, perhaps, becoming a grim reaper isn’t just about the dead but more about a much needed shift in Quincy’s priorities—from who she thinks she wants to be to who she really is.

You can buy REAPER at:


Saturday, July 5, 2014

When Writer’s Block can be a Good Thing

By Master isolated images, published on 01 March 2011
It may be sacrilegious for a writer to say this, but I have come to believe that the old foe known as writer’s block can be a good thing. When I am plotting or writing a story I will come to a point where writer’s block will suddenly shoot out of my unconscious and bring my muse to a halt. It is inconvenient, especially when I am working on a deadline. But, despite the pain the reason for the writer’s block is important.  Why?

There is an egoism that comes with writing. We, as creators get lost in our writing. We write things that our readers don’t read. We write the unimportant things and sometimes fall in love with.  These passages feel important to the writer because it gets our character from point A to point B in our story line, but it is unimportant to the reader. The reader will at best skip them and at worse close our work and move onto some other story.  When I start writing this type of section, I hit writer’s block. Actually, I don’t hit it—I crash into it like a jet plane that was going Mach speed.

Despite how important or fantastic I think what I am trying to write is or how important I think it is to the reader, the unconscious side of me knows it is a huge mistake. Some would say to write it anyway and edit it out later. At least in my nature if I leave it in for later editing too much of it will stay in. Instead, I listen to this instinct that raises the writer’s block. I will sit and ponder and try to figure out what it is that was important in what I was writing and see if there is another way to address it.  Sometimes that means moving on to another side project—like this blog is today. Sometimes it means doing something else entirely—for myself martial arts practice or throw darts, etc.

What are the reasons you run into writer’s block and what do you do to overcome it? Do you find it helps your writing or a hindrance? 

Please visit and You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens.  You can also find me on Facebook at

Also, check out Write Pack Radio at or on Facebook at or on twitter @WritePackRadio. Write Pack Radio brings Pop Culture, Writing, and Publishing together and throws them into a crucible of humor, clarity, and passion.

Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Connecting to Readers

twobee, published on 12 October 2011
Recently a fellow writer posted a blog about her experiences on Facebook as an author. It doesn’t matter what conference you go to or magazine on writing you read, we are all told that we should have a platform that includes blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media oriented pages. The purpose of which is two fold: to sell our products and to connect with our readers. But do we really connect with them? Do we really want to open up who we are with them?

There is no treasure map with X marking the spot to tell us exactly what we need to do and not to do to connect with our readers. They get tired of the “buy my book” routine that you see all over Twitter and Facebook. They really don’t want to read about your politics and you are likely to attract more trolls than readers that way. Also, your readership is usually comprised of people from all political parties and walks of life. Once you post in favor or against a political party or its representative, you just put at risk losing a huge chunk of your readers. In fact, I had stopped following one famous author for a long time because every time I turned around she was posting about politics. Eventually I started following her again, but that was because she went back to talking about her writing.

What do our readers want to know from our social media and our blogs? The good news is that while we are all writers, we are also readers. As in my example above, what did you want when you first clicked “Like” on someone’s Facebook Page? Sit down and make a list of what you were hoping to get out of following that author’s page—except writing techniques. Only we fellow writers are usually looking for that.  Now, ask yourself, are you providing this information—this list of topics—to your readers? Is there anything special about you and why you do what you do that might be of interest?

I am not going to say that this is easy. I don’t know about you, but by nature I am an introvert. I find it more comfortable to discuss writing technique than about why I do what I do. The skill of opening up about who I am and what I go through is something I am just now learning to do. It is something I have to do. We’ll see how it goes. Unless I am willing to fall down, how else can I show who I am and be able to connect to those whom I want to reach with the stories I write?
What are you doing to reach your readers?

Please visit and You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens.  You can also find me on Facebook at

Also, check out Write Pack Radio at or on Facebook at or on twitter @WritePackRadio. Write Pack Radio brings Pop Culture, Writing, and Publishing together and throws them into a crucible of humor, clarity, and passion.

Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Literary agent helps writers prepare query letters at Guild’s July 12 workshop

Inklings Literary Agent Whitley Abell
Literary agent Whitley Abell will help writers gear up for the Publish Your Dreams contest by explaining the dos and don’ts of writing query letters from 10 a.m. to noon, July 12, at the St. Louis Writers Guild (SLWG) workshop.

Whitley, who joined Inklings Literary Agency in 2013, will also talk about what agents look for in submissions. The workshop will be held at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd. in Kirkwood. Free to St. Louis Writers Guild members; $5 for nonmembers.

Jennifer Stolzer, SLWG secretary and contest coordinator, will join Whitley to explain the Guild’s submission guidelines for the members-only Publish Your Dreams contest. The winner will be announced Aug. 23 at SLWG’s free conference, Writers in the Park.

Prior to joining Inklings Literary Agency, Whitley completed successful internships with Carol Mann Agency and P.S. Literary Agency. She is based in St. Louis, Mo., where she daylights as a production manager for several medical and S & T journals. She graduated in 2011 BA in English and Creative Writing, and again in 2012 with a MAT in Secondary English Education, which basically means she can tell you anything there is to know about feminist literary theory and the Common Core Standards. Whitley is primarily interested in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and select Upmarket Women's fiction.

The winner of SLWG’s Publish Your Dreams contest and entries from other Missouri Writers’ Guild chapters will be submitted to Walrus Publishing Inc. for possible publication. If the SLWG manuscript is selected, it will be placed on their editorial schedule for publication between Winter 2015 and Summer 2016, said Walrus founder Lisa Miller. If not selected, Walrus will provide a one-page review of the manuscript with recommendations for editorial assistance.

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at