Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chris S: Writing through the doubt

Guest post by Chris Stuckenschneider

The types of writing that I do are varied and intended for different audiences but the way I focus for each is similar. For the past 16 years, I’ve written a weekly column for our community newspaper, The Washington Missourian. In the past, I’ve written travel articles for The Missourian, and profiles of folks in our area for the Senior Life Times.

I also write monthly reviews on three children’s books under the nom de plume “Newsbee,” The Missourian’s literary bee buddy. He’s always on the fly looking for quality hardcover books for kids. Additionally, I review books for adults in “Novel Ideas,” a book column I created for The Missourian that’s been ongoing for a dozen years or so

Another type of writing I do is for The Missouri Press Association, serial stories that have appeared in newspapers across the United States, and led to the publication of two of my books based on the serials, "Twist of Fate, the Miracle Colt and His Friends," and “Patriotic Pals, Tails of Civil War Dogs."

There are other assignments that vie for my time as well, posting about book news and reviews on MO Books, the Missourian’s blog at emissourian.com, and on a blog on my website, chrisstuckenschneider.com.

Because I write in my home office, I’m fortunate to enjoy quiet, no radio or television disrupting my concentration. I also write shoeless, cranking up a small space heater if it’s a blustery day. Without shoes, I feel less restricted—surely I’m not the only writer to be a bit quirky?

Once an idea hits—please let an idea hit—there’s research involved to ground myself in a subject. Often this not only requires going to the library and seeking reliable sites on the Internet, but also conducting interviews if I’m working on a book or a people profile for my column.

Saying what I mean necessitates plenty of time for revision, my favorite part of the writing process, other than the magic moments when I have a break through and move from feeling like “I’m going to fail this time,” to “Wow, where did that come from?” I despise this ongoing doubt, but recently heard author Alice Hoffman, who has written more than 30 novels, say each time she begins a new one she has no idea how to get started.

Writing is all about sticking to it—suiting up and heading for the computer, writing through the doubt. The reward is an aura of mystic that sometimes comes like a gift when I’m immersed and clicking away on the keyboard, a sense that something hovers on the edge of my consciousness and carries me along. I love it when that happens—it’s totally spontaneous and never ceases to amaze me.

ABOUT CHRIS:  Chris Stuckenschneider is the author of two children’s books—“Patriot Pals: Tails of Civil War Dogs,” with art by Richard Bernal, published in 2013, and “Twist of Fate, the Miracle Colt and His Friends,” a Missouri Show-Me Award Winner, in 2011-2012.

A columnist and book editor at The Washington Missourian for the past 16 years, Stuckenschneider also coordinates Book Buzz with her colleague Dawn Kitchell. The award-winning newspaper column for children has become a community-wide service project that has provided more than 10,000 new hardcover books to schools in the Missourian’s readership. Book Buzz is distributed at no charge to newspapers across the United States by the Missouri Press Foundation.

Stuckenschneider has called Washington, MO., home for over forty years and in February 2014 co-authored a coffee table book with Jeanne Miller Wood, photo editor at the Washington Missourian.

“My Washington, Photographs and Reflections” celebrates Washington’s 175 anniversary. Stuckenschneider’s books are published by Reedy Press, St. Louis, MO. 

TWIST OF FATE -- A truck careened along the Missouri interstate on a starless night carrying 42 horses destined for a slaughterhouse in Dekalb, Illinois. Suddenly without warning, the truck failed to manage a curve on I-44. Brakes squealed, and the top-heavy trailer lurched and crashed to its side.

Twenty-six animals survived that night.

Told by Twister, an unborn colt at the time of the accident, the new children’s book Twist of Fate: The Miracle Colt and His Friends (published by Reedy Press) highlightsthe experiences of some of the surviving horses and their care  at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch outside Union, Missouri.

Author Chris Stuckenschneider imagines a thoughtful, unassuming voice that shares the story of Twister’s birth and his new life at Longmeadow, a haven for rescued and abused farm animals. Resplendent scenes of the 165-acre farm, rendered in paintings by Kevin Belford, show Twister making friends and discovering his surroundings amid lush hills and meadows.

Twist of Fate not only delivers an inspiring tale, the book teaches as it entertains. The author intersperses sidebars about five other amazing horses rescued at the accident and taken to Longmeadow. Readers also learn about the ranch itself—operated by the Humane Society of Missouri-- where care is provided for countless abused and neglected farm animals. The book concludes with an invitation to visit the ranch.

PATRIOTIC PALS -- Chuck, a sensible Border Collie from Missouri, and his poodle sidekick Tilly, reveal little-known stories about hero dogs of the Civil War in Patriotic Pals (Reedy Press).

Chuck and Tilly go on a multi-state road trip that begins in the key Union city of St. Louis. On their educational and entertaining journey, they encounter legendary dogs from the war, including Big Brutus, the saluting Newfoundland who earned his stripes at Antietam, as well as Abe Lincoln’s beloved mutt Fido.

This beautifully illustrated children’s picture book depicts vivid scenes of past and present. Children (grades 4-6) will learn plenty about the Civil War throughout—not just dates and locations—but also the importance of canine cohorts as warriors, mascots, and, of course, man’s best friend.

More than 400 newspapers nationwide published Patriotic Pals as a serialized story in 2012.

MY WASHINGTON -- Founded in 1839 and located on the banks of the Missouri River, Washington, Missouri, is a community that retains its old-world charm while embracing change with an eye to the future. My Washington: Photographs and Reflections (Reedy Press), a lavishly illustrated coffee-table volume, features photographs of local landmarks and favorite spots, as well as heartfelt sentiments about the town from more than 150 citizens proud to call the community home.

People of all walks of life— neighborhood butchers, bank presidents, students, college grads who’ve returned to raise their children—share their perspective on what makes Washington special. Longtime residents offer their memories, too, as they revisit double features at the Calvin Theater, enjoy ice cream sundaes at Schroeder Drugs, and meet friends at Buds games.

Interviews by Chris Stuckenschneider give context to gorgeous scenes depicted by photographer Jeanne Miller Wood. A limited- edition book, My Washington serves as a tribute to the community on its 175th anniversary.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Einspanier: My vampires don't sparkle

Welcome to Elizabeth Einspanier,  a writer of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and cross-genre fiction, as well as poetry of all types. Her short stories have been published in Down in the Dirt and Dark Fire Fiction, and her poetry has been published in Aphelion, Haiku Journal, and Abandoned Towers Magazine. She has been a member of the St. Louis Writer’s Guild since November 2013.

She has been writing as long as she has been able to string words together into an interesting story, so naturally by the time she enrolled in college it was clear that a BA in English was the way to go. Her inspirations are as diverse as Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, C. S. Lewis, Arthur Conan Doyle, Madeleine L’Engle, and Jonathan Coulton, and when she is not writing she works full-time at the St. Louis County Library, where she feeds her hunger for new books. Her other hobbies include playing Dungeons & Dragons and watching strange movies.

She is a native of St. Louis, but frequently visits worlds of her own creation.

What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? Mainly I enjoy offering a different take on a genre, trope, or mythos, rather than recycling the same old things over and over again until my stuff essentially disappears into the crowd. I also like throwing unusual characters into otherwise classic stories, just to see what happens. My mind likes to look at old things in new ways, and in new combinations, and more often than not it results in something I have an awesome time writing.

What inspired Sheep's ClothingBasically I was getting tired of all the modern vampire novels featuring decadent "beautiful elite" vampires that were all sex gods or goddesses who just happened to drink blood. My tipping point was reading Twilight, and I just ran as far as I could in the opposite direction, back to the Bram Stoker, old-school vampires. Of course, I couldn't exactly rehash Dracula either, or I'd still just be following someone else's literary path. I think the Western angle finally came in shortly after I read the comic Desperadoes and realized, hey--the Old West would be great for a supernatural tale like this. I mean, vampires in the Wild West? Native American shapeshifter myths? Why not? It kind of fell into place from there.

What do you think readers will like about your book? First, my vampires don't sparkle. If you like your vampires to be bloodthirsty, vicious predators that actually fit the horror genre, then I think you'll like Sheep's Clothing.

Second, I researched the daylights out of this thing, from the time period to the monsters. The setting itself is as period-accurate as I could get it, only with the addition of vampires and werewolves, and rather than having "everybody" know about vampires, I acknowledged that they weren't even a part of popular culture yet, since Dracula wouldn't be published for more than two decades. As for my werewolf protagonist, he's half-skinwalker on his Native American side, setting him squarely within the mythology of the American territories.

Third, both my protagonists are complex characters that you want to root for--the skeptical doctor who wants to save his town and woo his next-door neighbor, and the wandering gunslinger who wants to avenge his lost love. They're both very human--even the one who isn't.

Would you share a bit about your next project? I have several projects in progress right now, but the one I'm currently working on is a sequel to Sheep's Clothing that focuses on Wolf Cowrie. It's entitled Hungry as a Wolf and offers a different take on the flesh-eating zombie tale by taking a hard left at the Algonquian myth of the Wendigo. Wolf's going to have more difficulties finding allies in this one, because it takes place in the Black Hills in 1875, where white settlers are in the middle of a gold rush and the local Sioux (Wolf's people on his mother's side) are trying to get them off their sacred land. I'm still plowing my way through the rough draft, but I'm making fairly swift progress.

How much fact is in your fiction? Quite a lot, actually. It might seem odd considering I write speculative fiction, but most of my stories are set in a version of "our" Earth that happens to have some crazy stuff going on in it, so I like to start with a pretty stable base of familiarity. Even my supernatural elements are based on existing folklore, so even if I have this creature in a setting that doesn't have the term werewolf in the local lexicon, my readers will be able to pick out that it's still a werewolf with the serial numbers filed off. 

SHEEP'S CLOTHING --  It is the year 1874. 

Doc Meadows, frontier doctor working in the small town of Salvation, has always considered himself a sensible man, and has not believed in monsters for a long time. When injured half-Indian Wolf Cowrie staggers into his practice one night, however, he brings terrifying news--a vampire he hunts plans to settle in Salvation and turn it into his own private larder. Now Doc has to overcome his skepticism and fear in order to face down this new threat to his town, before Salvation becomes just another ghost town in the territories...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Can Utopia exist in all the Dystopic Fiction?

Can Utopia exist in all the Dystopic Fiction?

The Write Pack Radio Rebroadcast

With a world filled with Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and so many dystopian stories, can Utopian stories be published today?  Is the idea of a Utopian world a fleeting illusion? Can a person or a society grow in a Utopia? Could artist exist? Is mankind able to truly exist in Utopian world or would we get ourselves expelled or choose to leave as Bilbo left the Shire?


Is one man’s Utopia another man’s dystopia?

The Write Pack explores Star Trek, Logan’s Run, Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Batman, Divergent, 1984, Transformers, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings as they try to tackle the debate between Utopia vs. Dystopia.

There are many talks on the internet about writing, but nothing like Write Pack Radio. Write Pack Radio brings Pop Culture, Writing, and Publishing together and throws them into a crucible of humor, clarity, and passion.

Every Sunday at 3pm CST, Write Pack Radio brings you a new topic and a lively discussion of issues facing every writer or anyone navigating the tumultuous waters of the publishing industry.

Find the Write Pack Radio on www.blogtalkradio.com/writepackradio 

Other Episodes you’ll find on The Write Pack Radio
Amusing the Muse
Traditional vs. Self vs. Hybrid – Part One
Brown Bagging Books: Are You Judged By What You Read
Traditional vs. Self vs. Hybrid – Part Two 
Cyborgs vs. Androids vs. Robots

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tiffany & Sean Williams tell authors: Communicate! Collaborate! Enjoy!

It's my pleasure to introduce Tiffany and Sean Williams of Airbending Media Productions, who produced the audiobook of my short story, SOLAR LULLABY -- T.W. Fendley

TIFFANY graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor's in Theatre with an emphasis on acting and directing, plus a minor in psychology - so watch out! She may just analyze YOU! Tiffany has been working professionally since 1993 as an actor; director; producer; costume, sound and prop designer; stage manager; technical assistant; box office assistant; board member; business manager, production manager and college professor for theatres. She's also provided voice-overs for plays, phone messaging services, and training videos. Tiffany is an eight-time winner of a Collin Theatre Center Award and received the 2004 Unsung Heroine Award at Collin College.

SEAN serves as the producer and sound engineer for Airbending Media Productions, LLC. Having studied at the Omega Recordings Studios School of Applied Recording Arts and Sciences from 2004-05, he handles all work from recording, to editing and mastering. And soon he will try his hand at vocal narration. Learn more about Tiffany and Sean

Why/when did you decide to do audiobooks? We (my husband and I) decided to embark on a new career narrating and producing audiobooks in June 2013. We chose this route for a multitude of reasons... The major ones being we wanted to do something that would allow us to work from home and use our artistic skills. We have a good friend in LA who is narrating audiobooks and with his encouragement, we went towards the goal of starting our own media production business.

You've produced a variety of audiobooks -- from nonfiction to genre, short stories to full-length. How do you choose which books to audition for? We look at various things when we decide what to audition for including interesting subject matter, paid per hour vs. royalty share, authors web presence, and book reviews. I research the books before auditioning by reading extra excerpts (usually on Amazon), visiting the author and publisher websites, and checking reviews on Goodreads.  I liked the synopsis of 'Solar Lullaby' as soon as I read it and wanted to audition for a Sci-Fi book. I was thrilled to be selected to narrate it. Both my husband and I think this short story has the potential to be full-length novel or film.

Recently a friend received several auditions on her book. She liked their voices, but thought the inflection was wrong (too little, too much) and one gave more of a dramatic reading than a narration. Is it appropriate to give that feedback and ask for "reauditions?" As a theatre artist, I like to get direction so that the work I am auditioning for fits into the vision of the project. Having details before the audition is ideal. Knowing the backstory leading into the audition helps with defining the characters too. Often that information is left out which is why I started researching the books. On the other hand, micro-managing the audition is a red flag.

If the voice seems like it might work, but the reading/interpretation is not exactly what they are looking for, requesting a re-audition with notes/direction is okay. I have resubmitted at the Right's Holder request before, and sometimes it works out, others times it didn't. The Right's Holder needs to go with the voice that feels right to them, but the Narrator needs to have room to create characters. While they may be different from what the author hears in their head, it can work out well for the piece. Micro-managing does not work in this arena and can prevent a project from getting done on time and with enthusiasm for the piece. My husband is great at talking with me if a character isn't flowing well, since what I hear in my head for the character may not be coming through the mic like I think it is. 

What makes you want to work with an author again? Communication. Responding to questions regarding pronunciation, or character notes; being flexible if there are unforeseen events that delay recording (a rarity, but things can happen); and sharing promotional/market tools/ideas. Also, if I'm not selected for a project, an email beyond the generic rejection from the Right's Holder thanking me for auditioning is wonderful! Especially if I had resubmitted an audition at their request. I will be likely to audition for a future project if they post something.


As a narrator, do you look for authors with an established marketing platform? If so, what's most important to you --FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, other? It is preferred, but not required. As long as a marketing plan is in place and we can work together. I use FB, LinkedIn, and Pinterest at the moment, and with the start of our website (www.airbendingmediaproductions.com), we've added a blog. Also, there are lots of websites that review audiobooks. One author we worked with donated her profits to a different charity each month. That made my philanthropic heart happy! She even added a charity at my request to her list. (www.HDSA.com)

What three tips would you give authors about working with narrators/audiobook producers? Communicate! Collaborate! Enjoy the process and success of the medium!

LIKE them on Facebook!

NOTE: If you’d be interested in submitting a review to Amazon and Goodreads, please contact me for a free copy of SOLAR LULLABY at twfendley@gmail.com. Check out the three-minute sample on Audible

Monday, March 31, 2014

Free Guild workshop 4/5 helps writers get the most from conferences

Discover how to “Get the Most from Writing Conferences” at the St. Louis Writers Guild’s free, public workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, April 5, at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd. in Kirkwood.
Local publishers Lisa Miller, Kristina Blank Makansi, and Brad R. Cook will talk about what writers need to do before, during, and after conferences, such as:
           How to select the best conferences for you (location, genre, agents, cost, etc.)
           Benefits to signing up early & staying late
           "Agent etiquette" & your future career
           How to choose between sessions 
           Networking opportunities 
With author Peter H. Green as moderator, the three panelists will share their insider knowledge as organizers of these upcoming conferences:
·      April 11-13--Missouri Writers’ Guild’s Fifty Shades of Writing conference at the Ramada Inn St. Louis, Downtown at Convention Center: www.missouriwritersguild.org
·      August 23--St. Louis Writers Guild’s Writers in the Park: FREE at Lions Amphitheater in Kirkwood Park www.stlwritersguild.org 
·      Oct. 10-12--St. Louis Literary Consortium’s first annual Lit In The Lou: A festival of the book for St. Louis! In the University City Loop http://stllit.blogspot.com/ 

Lisa Miller founded Walrus Publishing, Inc., in 2007. She expanded its mission beyond St. Louis by publishing books people enjoy reading, collaborating with writing groups and programs, and assisting writers to reach their publication goals.
Kristina Blank Makansi founded Blank Slate Press in 2010, and has since edited and published several award-winning novels. As co-founder of Treehouse Author Services, she works with authors seeking representation and those who want to self-publish. A Young Adult dystopian novel she co-authored, THE SOWING, has garnered nearly 50 Amazon reviews and hit several Amazon best-seller lists.

Brad R. Cook, president of the St. Louis Writers Guild since 2011, leads author management, acquisitions, and marketing at Blank Slate Press. He writes historical fantasy and poetry, and is a founding contributor to The Writers’ Lens blog and The Write Pack, a weekly show on BlogTalkRadio.
Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild, a MWG chapter, at www.stlwritersguild.org