Friday, November 30, 2012

Could You Stop Writing?

Could You Stop Writing?
By Brad R. Cook

I’m serious, can you stop?

Before any big lottery, like the 550 Million Jackpot this week, everyone starts speculating, what would you do with all that money – it really is the best part of the lottery. First comes the obligatory, “I’m quitting my job.” That’s followed by the cars, boats, and antique books that we’d buy, (is that just me?) Then start the big dreams, putting colonies on the moon, buying an island, or finally building that castle I’ve always wanted.

But then I was asked if I would stop writing… I hadn’t thought of that. Sure with my new found wealth I could lie on an Ibiza beach or hang out in a Scottish pub for a few years. Life would be easy for awhile, but even I have to admit, after five minutes I’d be contemplating plot lines, characters, and looking around at how an Atlantian hit squad would assault that beach. That’s just who I am.

I’ve heard this challenge in workshops and from other writers. It’s like a sick taunt. “Go ahead and try to stop, you addict.” But worst, is that it’s true. First, the typing chills come, when your fingers start searching for the keys.  Then the errant plot bunnies scamper around your feet, and your mind starts creating conversations for everyone around you. If not satiated, the symptoms get worse – napkins will no longer be for wiping, but become the notepads for novel ideas that may never see the light of day. Then at its height…you start blogging. Say it isn’t so, give in to the addiction, and let the words flow… *exhales*

Writers write.
Painters paint,
Sculptors sculpt,
Programmers program,
And Baristas…make it all possible.
It’s who we are and we can’t deny it – or the words will stalk you.

By the way, if I had won, I would have paid off the big publishers to produce all my novels, and then paid people to buy them. I’d then finance the movie, toy lines, video games, and graphic novels. I’d be George Lucas, and then I’d sell it all and make even more money…maniacal laugh.

My challenge to you is this – don’t stop writing!
Never stop creating, never stop reaching, and never give up!

Find new ways of writing. It’s good practice for what you really want to write.
Try a script for a play or movie, craft a poem, pen a short story about what’s outside your window, whip up some fanfic, or just write a scene in a completely different genre.

One could call these writing exercises, but, it’s really about expanding your horizons, challenging your brain, and improving your craft.

I suppose my answer to the title question is no, I can’t stop. Words swirl in my head, along with character traits, woven plot lines, grammar rules, and scenes for future novels. We are storytellers, bards of the most creative degree, who twist language into art and toy with the emotions of the reader. We do this not out of some maniacal god-complex, but as a natural response to being creative.  Art is emotion, and words are art. If a picture is worth 1000 words, my books are worth 75 to 100 pictures.

Accept who you are, embrace the obsession, hoard all the words you can, and let the stories flow. We’re writers. To deny the words is to stop breathing or eating. It could possibly, or not really, cause of cancer, but don’t quote me on that.

As for the lottery – the odds might be against you but somebody always wins… until they lose it all a few years later.

Let us know in the comments what you would do if you were a super rich writer.


Looking for a last minute gift idea – consider one of these two books!

Zero Time by T.W. Fendley

St. Louis Reflections an Anthology by St. Louis Writers Guild in honor of its 90th Anniversary


Both are available through online retailers or off line at Left Bank Books in the Central West End.


Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit or follow me on Twitter @bradrcook

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Meet Hal & Warren: Book signing Dec. 1 at All on the Same Page Bookstore

Readers in the St. Louis area have come to know All on the Same Page Bookstore as one of the big supporters of local authors. This Saturday, two of the authors previously featured on The Writers' Lens will be there signing their books, just in time for holiday giving!

All on the Same Page Bookstore is located at 11052 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, Mo.

Warren Martin, starting at 10:30 a.m.
Learn more about Warren in his Oct. 29 interview

Hal Simpkin, starting at 1 p.m.  

Learn more about Hal in his Nov. 19 interview 


This is T.W. Fendley. Thanks for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens. 

You can find out more about me at


Meet Steve Epner, author of SIMPLIFY EVERYTHING, from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 1, at:
6 North Café
14438 Clayton Road
Ballwin, MO 63011

This book is all about getting out of do-do!

“Do-do” is the mode business people seem to be stuck in. Head down, shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grind stone, push, push, push. It is easy to fool ourselves when we are hard at “do-do” work. That is why it is often called busy work. We look busy. That  gets us promoted. We work extra hours. We complain that we cannot get away from our desks.

It is time to get out of the “do-do” trap and instead strive for “done-done.” Finish something. Get results. Move forward.

In this book we examine ways to get to “done-done” by asking simple questions to diagnose opportunities, focus on solutions, come up with something to try,
and then put it in action. There is plenty of opportunity to improve. Stop thinking about it and get something done. You will be amazed at how much can be accomplished.

STEVE EPNER was an early pioneer in the world of computers. He wrote his first program at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1965. In 1976, Steve  founded his own consulting company, User Group, Inc.  Steve earned his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Purdue University in 1970. In May of 2007, he earned a Master of Science from the Purdue University College of Technology. That fall, he was appointed the Innovator in Residence at Saint Louis University. 

Steve Epner makes complex concepts understandable for mere mortals and busy executives.

Autographed books will be available for sale on December 3.
Online: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Meet JOE THE CRAB author 11/24

Meet Tim Hill, creator and author of the JOE THE CRAB series for children ages 2-8, from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Nov. 24 at:
6 North Café
14438 Clayton Road
Ballwin, MO 63011   

Tim also speaks to groups about the same issues that face Joe: bullying, diversity, loneliness and supporting others in need.

JOE THE CRAB GOES FOR A SWIM: One day, Joe the Crab goes for a swim and finds two of his friends playing a game. How will Joe react to feeling left out?


Jennifer Stolzer is the illustrator for the Joe the Crab series, and is also an animator and the author of the coming teen fantasy novel, THREADCASTER.


Autographed books will be available on Nov. 24. Books can also be purchased online:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Critique Choice Giveaway and post by Margo Dill: What Makes My Novel MG

This week we have a special giveaway from our guest, Margo Dill, who's blogging about "What Makes My Novel Middle-Grade (And Not YA or a Chapter Book)." She's offering the winner the choice of:

  • professional critique of the first 5 pages of any novel, nonfiction work, or short story
  • professional evaluation of a blog or social media profile with a written summary of what works and suggestions
The rules for entering the contest are a bit different this week, too:

To enter: comment on this post between now and midnight, Monday, Nov. 26, 2012. Please include your email address so we can reach you if you win.

MARGO DILL is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength atVicksburg (White Mane Kids, October 2012) and has two picture books under contract with St. Louis publishers. 

She is an editor, columnist, instructor, and social media manager for WOW! Women On Writing. She enjoys speaking to groups on various topics from writing to the Civil War while she is also busy running her freelance editing business and blog ( 

She lives in St. Louis with her family and boxer, Chester.

Guest post by Margo L. Dill

            When I teach the online course about writing a middle-grade novel for WOW! Women On Writing (link to, one question my students seem to struggle with is whether or not they are actually writing a middle-grade novel. I don’t kick them out of class if it turns out they are writing for a younger or older audience. But it does help to understand what you are writing and whom you are writing for before you get ready to submit, publish, and market your book! If you don’t know your audience, it is definitely harder to write.
            So, what makes a book middle-grade? Let’s take my recently released middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, ( and look at it closely. First, the characters in a middle-grade novel are between the ages of 10 and 13—generally being 11 or 12. There’s an unwritten rule that children don’t like to read about main characters younger than them. You may be able to think of examples where they do; but if you are a new author to this age group, follow the rules as closely as possible and create a character that is somewhere between 9 and 13. In my book, I have the main character, Anna, who is 13. Then I also included a boy character to appeal to boy readers—that’s James, and he is 11.
            Besides age of characters, the biggest thing that makes a book middle-grade is the voice and way that the author deals with various subjects and themes. In Finding My Place towards the beginning, Anna and her family have to run to a cave built behind their house because the Yankees are bombing their city. During the escape, her mother is hit with a shell and dies. This is a pretty serious theme for middle-grade. However, if I was writing it for a YA audience, I would have described more of the death and the body as well as the devastation that the main character was feeling. Because it is a middle-grade novel, I explained that the mother was hit and killed. Then  I have one scene where they are all sad and trying to figure out what to do. There’s a difference in the “war”—it is not as graphic in my middle-grade novel as it would be if I was writing a YA novel for teens.
            Here’s a more contemporary example. In a middle-grade novel, the characters who like each other might kiss and hold hands. In a YA novel, they are going to be faced with whether or not to have premarital sex. I like to compare these novel ideas to TV shows: Middle-grade is like Hannah Montana; and Young adult is like Beverly Hills 90210 or Glee.
            The most important thing you can do if you are interested in writing a middle-grade novel is to read current ones. You will see the different ways authors deal with serious subjects without crossing the line to YA.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just released: Hal Simpkin's THE LOG CABIN GAS STATION, prequel to G-EYE

Today it's my pleasure to introduce HAL D. SIMPKIN, a friend I met through the St. Louis Writers' Guild.  

HAL grew up in rural St. Louis County and in Memphis, Tenn. He graduated from Normandy High School in St. Louis.  Hal has an M.S. degree in Business Management from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., with undergraduate work done at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
   His two full-time employers were the United States Army and McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis, where he was a member of the Flight Test Division. Extensive writing was done for both employers.
   A book entitled Paired Comparisons and Personnel Compensation: A Computer-Aided Approach was written as a required thesis for his postgraduate degree.  A copy is in the library at Lindenwood University.
   After retirement from McDonnell Douglas Corporation, Hal began writing for pleasure, both nonfiction and fiction. His nonfiction book, Captain William H. Thorwegen: A compilation of notes from Ruth Ferris, is in the Missouri Historical Society Library.
   Hal’s first novel, G-Eye, was published by High Hill Press in 2009. In 2010, his short story Road to the World, a memoir, was selected by the St. Louis Writers Guild for inclusion in its anthology, St. Louis Reflections, honoring the organization’s 90th anniversary.
   For a number of years, Hal served as a member of the Board of Advisors of St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf.  He also formed and directed a corporation that designed and produced revolutionary classroom amplifiers for teaching of the profoundly deaf.
   Hal and his wife, Chris, live in Missouri.

Hal will be signing books from 1-3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, at:
All On The Same Page Bookstore
11052 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, MO
If you can’t make it to the signing and want Hal's books, they're available at:

Now, let's hear more about you, Hal!

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus--e characters, the stories, the love of words? The combination of all three.

What inspired your latest book? Memories of my wasted youth.

What do you think readers will like about your book? Good plot, great characters in a nostalgic setting.

Would you share a bit about your next project? Continuation of the Chris Christopher series. Chris has an interesting client.
What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers? My blog. Visit it at www.haldsimpkin

How much fact is in your fiction? I don't remember.

What movie star would be perfect for (your main character) and why? Frank Sinatra at age 20-25.  Look alike!  He was a great actor.

What makes your book/characters unique? They think they're real.

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing?
It made me think. I liked it.

Is there a different genre or type of book you’d love to try to write? Not really.  I've done enough non-fiction for a lifetime.

What’s your favorite writing accessory or reference? Don't have a favorite, but I do wear out dictionaries.

What is your favorite writing/editing/query-reading snack? Beer and almonds.

If you could borrow one person’s zest for writing and/or life, whose and why?
Rex Stout. He had those qualities throughout his life.

Describe the best writer you know and something wonderful he or she has written. Do you really expect me to answer that?

Fill in the blanks: Writing/Editing books is like life.  You never know what to expect.

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? "That  Lucky Old Sun" by Frankie Lane
THE LOG CABIN GAS STATION: Chris Christopher is a people-person. And being a people-person around a collection of quirky characters can get a guy involved in ten or a dozen strange problems.

Chris needs funds for another year of college - so he's back at his last-summer job as a gas-station attendant. The typical workday is periods of furious activity with plenty of idle time for pre-semester study. And a number of visiting loafers from the neighborhood supply usually good, always engaging, company. 

Adventure, mystery, nostalgia and romance... important ingredients in the life of a man when he and the world were young.

G-EYE: World War II is barely history when Chris Christopher, a young man from Missouri, responds to a Selective Service notice to register for another possible draft. At the Registrations Center he meets two army recruiters with an interesting pitch. The army has a need for young men who match their unusual requirements. Chris is a match.

After hurried arrangements and rapid changes to his lifestyle, Chris closes out his college career, takes a night train for Chicago, and meets with a couple of atypical army officers. This is where his adventure begins.


This is T.W. Fendley. Thanks for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens. You can find out more about me at

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shawntelle Madison: KEPT out 11/27!

Welcome to SHAWNTELLE MADISON, a friend I met through the St. Louis Writers Guild. Shawntelle is a web developer who loves to weave words as well as code. She’d never admit it, but if asked she’d say she covets and collects source code. After losing her first summer job detassling corn, Shawntelle performed various jobs—from fast-food clerk to grunt programmer to university webmaster. Writing eccentric characters is her most favorite job of them all. On any particular day when she’s not surgically attached to her computer, she can be found watching cheesy horror movies or the latest action-packed anime. She lives in Missouri with her husband and children.

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’s all about the characters. Each of my stories starts out as one person I want to follow. There’s something about them that is unique and I feel compelled to write about them. Whenever I start a story, I’m walking with one person. In the end, both the reader and I have met not only the protagonist, but a cast of characters with their own stories. If I’ve done my job, the reader will want to know what happened to the majority of the people the protagonist met.

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? Most of the time, something has to fall between the cracks. (I try not to let it become too many things.) I have to keep up with a to-do list in Outlook or I start to get behind, especially when I have to tackle both work and writing. Since I work from home during the day, I have to deal with the distractions of a messy home, work, and writing. So the answer to the question is get organized and stick to it.

What do you think readers will like about your book? I hope they will enjoy rooting for Natalya and feel empathy for a flawed character. I love to write about protagonists with flaws. If you start out at the bottom, the only direction you have to go is up, and like any reader, I love that kind of journey.
What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers? I love social media! Especially Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. I could chat on those for the longest time. What’s cool is that you can bring others into the conversations and anything goes!

How much fact is in your fiction? I try to make things as factual as possible—I do write urban fantasy so this is rather difficult. But when I can, I include real street names, city names, and more. It adds local flavor and grounds the book. In Kept, I really wanted to incorporate Russian history into certain places, and some of those are real facts blended into the narrative.

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? The biggest compliment in my humble opinion would be to say I entertained them. When I read a book, I want to forget about work, the house, and the family. I want for that moment in time to fall in love with the hero or want to kick butt with the heroine. I hope to do the same for someone else.

KEPT (available Nov. 27):  Fresh from defending her pack in battle, Natalya Stravinsky, a whip-smart werewolf with a lovable neurotic streak, wants a little rest and relaxation. Once an outcast, she's now eager to rejoin the ranks of her New Jersey pack, and has even gotten a handle on her obsessive urge to hoard holiday ornaments. Yet Nat barely has time to revel in her progress before the next crisis comes howling at her door.

Nat's father has suddenly gone missing, captured by the Russian werewolf mafia. And as Nat steps up to save her dad from a mob boss's deadly game, two men step in to play another round for her heart: her gorgeous alpha ex-boyfriend, Thorn, and her new flame, the sweetly sensitive wizard Nick. With her life growing more harried by the minute, Nat must stay cool, calm, and collected . . . or else risk losing everything.  

This is T.W. Fendley. Thanks for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens. 

You can find out more about me at

Friday, November 9, 2012

Holiday Book Fair at Left Bank Books - This Weekend!

St. Louis Literary Consortium
Holiday Book Fair
at Left Bank Books

November 9-11, 2012
Left Bank Books – Central West End
399 N. Euclid, St. Louis, MO

The newly organized Saint Louis Literary Consortium is pleased to announce their first joint event to be held in conjunction with Left Bank Books. The event will host publishers and featured authors on the weekend of November 9, 10, and 11 at Left Bank Books’ Central West End location, 399 North Euclid Ave, 63108. While books from each of the organizations will be available the full three days, featured authors will be present for signings at various times throughout the weekend. (Store hours are: Friday and Saturday – 10:00 am to 10:00 pm; Sunday – 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.) A list of featured books and scheduled authors will be posted on member websites before the event.

“Saint Louis has a long and rich literary history, and this event is a way to celebrate continuing that tradition of excellence. We’re delighted that Left Bank Books is hosting us and giving us the opportunity to showcase local publishers and authors just in time for the holiday shopping season,” said Winnie Sullivan, Executive Director of PenUltimate Press. “For readers who love small presses and who want to support local authors—and local booksellers—this will be a great weekend.”

“This is just the first event that our new group has in the works as we come together as publishers and organizations to promote the literary arts in the Greater Saint Louis area,” Nancy Hughes of the St. Louis Poetry Center said. Along with the St. Louis Poetry Center and the St. Louis Writers Guild, participating organizations include Blank Slate Press, PenUltimate Press, Stonebrook Publishing, and Walrus Publishing.

This holiday season give the gift with a St. Louis touch, support your local authors!

Over 40 Participating Authors!
Several of whom have been featured on The Writers’ Lens.

Qiu Xiaolong *
Mary Ellen Havard*
Tullia Hamilton *
Catherine Rankovic
Matt Freeman *
Curtis Comer *
Angie Fox
TW Fendley
Cole Gibsen *
Brad R. Cook *
Peter Green *
Linda Austin
Claire Applewhite *
Leigh Savage *
Brenda Neubauer *
Liz Maloney *
Faye Adams *
Bill Adams*
Pat Bubash *
Bruce Lucas *
Robin Tidwell*
Steve Weigenstein*
Jean Ellen Whatley *
Hannie J. Voyles
Vicki Bennington *
Daniel Brannan *
Loretta Goebel *
Kelli Allen *
Wanita Zumbrunnen*
Denise McCormick Baich*
Steven Schroeder*
Mary Ruth Donnelly*
Jennifer Fandel
Susan Grigsby
Niki Nymark *
John S. Tieman
Marjorie Stelmach
Glendall Wallace
Drucilla Wall
Eamonn Wall

* indicates the author is having a book signing


Holiday Book Fair Schedule

Friday, November 9, 2012

2pm to 4pm
            Brenda Neubauer
            Wanita Zumbrunnen

4pm to 6pm
            Robin Tidwell
            Bruce Lucas

6pm to 8pm
            Jean Ellen Whatley
            Leigh Savage
            Denise McCormick Baich

7pm to 8pm
            Mary Ellen Havard

Saturday, November 10, 2012

10am to Noon
            Matt Freeman and Curtis Comer
            Marcel Toussaint
            Cole Gibsen

12pm to 2pm
            Vicki Bennington
            Daniel Brannan
            Loretta Goebel
            Steve Weigenstein

1pm to 3pm
            Qui Xiaolong

2pm to 4pm
            Claire Applewhite
            Steven Schroeder
            Niki Nymark

4pm to 6pm
            Peter Green
            Pat Bubash

Sunday, November 11, 2012

11am to 1pm
            Brad R. Cook
            Mary Ruth Donnelly

1pm to 3pm
            Faye & Billy Adams
            Liz Moloney

3pm to 4pm
            Mary Ellen Havard

3pm to 5pm
            Tullia Hamilton
            Kelli Allen

See you at Left Bank Books!

Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit or follow me on Twitter @bradrcook

To learn more about St. Louis Writers Guild, visit Saint Louis Writers Guild on Facebook or on Twitter @stlwritersguild