Friday, August 30, 2013

Whatcha Readin'?

Whatcha Readin’?
By Brad R. Cook

Books are immortal sons defying their sires. – Plato

Here at the Writers’ Lens, Fridays are for books. A time to focus on readers. We all love books (at least I'm assuming if you're reading this blog you love books) and over the last few weeks, I’ve talked about reading your genre and other book related topics.

But today, I want to ask a simple question – Whatcha Readin'?

I’ll start –
I read Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Yeah, it’s a paranormal romance, I read it for research and because it was suggested by an agent. It was good, great voice and pacing. Beware; those not wanting a romance between a half-vampire and a hunter may want to check the comments for another book.

I also read Senshi by Cole Gibsen
Yeah, I’ve already read the second book in the Katana Series, but I hadn’t read the finished copy yet. I devoured it before vacation. It too has a great voice, and I like Rileigh, she kicks ass with a katana… I need say no more.

I recently finished Daring Missions of World War II by William Breuer
This was passed on to me by my uncle and is a great collection of stories. Some I knew, others I only knew because I have a freakish knowledge of history and I watch way too much H2, Nat Geo, Smithsonian, and Discovery – all the Discovery’s.

Right now, I’m reading a couple of Middle Grades for research, but I’m not mentioning the titles because I don’t like talking too much about a book until it’s done. I’m superstitious like that.

It’s been a weird end to the summer, literary-ily speaking. *groan*

So, what’s been on your summer reading list? Or what are you flipping through right now. Let us know in the comments.

Book lovers enjoy hearing about new novels. Maybe you’ll find the next novel that is going to move you. Also let us know on Twitter using @writerslens.

By the way, if you are looking for a book, or what people are reading, check out #FridayReads on Twitter. If you want, tag your #FridayReads with @writerslens and spread the word!

Yes, feel free to mention your own book in the comments, you read it right? Then it counts.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend, I know some us will be spending it in a book!

Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit , follow me on Twitter @bradrcook , or my tumblr page Thoughts from Midnight
St. Louis Reflections

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Guild workshop 9/7 focuses on Publishing Perspectives

Writers can explore options for getting published at the Sept. 7 “Publishing Perspectives” workshop sponsored by the St. Louis Writers Guild. Representatives of Walrus Publishing, Blank Slate Press/Treehouse Publishing, Month9Books and a nonfiction and poetry educator/editor will explain their services and answer questions from 10 a.m. to noon at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road in Kirkwood. Free to Guild members, $5 for nonmembers.

Lisa Miller
Lisa Miller founded Walrus Publishing, Inc. in 2008 with the mission to contribute to the Saint Louis Literary Community by publishing talented St. Louis writers. Walrus Publishing has three titles in print thus far and has several more “in the works.” Lisa is a member of the St. Louis Writers Guild, the Missouri Writers Guild, and a founding member of the St. Louis Literary Consortium. This year she is honored to serve as the Conference Committee Chair for the Missouri Writers Guild. Lisa has a B.A. in English from the University of Baltimore and an M.A. in English from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has most recently published her debut novel¸ Halfway There.

Kristina Makansi
 Born and raised in Southern Illinois, Kristina Makansi has a B.A. in Government from University of Texas at Austin and a M.A.T. from the College of New Jersey and an opinion on everything. She has worked as a copywriter, marketing coordinator, web and collateral designer, editor, and publisher. In 2010, she co-founded Blank Slate Press, an award-winning small press focusing on debut authors in the greater St. Louis area, and in 2013, she co-founded Treehouse Publishing Groupan author services and assisted-publishing partnership. Her current writing projects include co-writing and self-publishing The Sowing, the first book in The Seeds Trilogy, and she is hard at work revising her historical fiction, Oracles of Delphi, set in ancient Greece.

Catherine Rankovic
Catherine Rankovic’s books include Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis; Island Universe: Essays and Entertainments; Fierce Consent and Other Poems; and Guilty Pleasures: Indulgences, Addictions, and Obsessions. She has published her poems in numerous print and online magazines. She received her M.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, where she taught from 1989 to 2010; she now teaches poetry writing and creative nonfiction writing in the online M.F.A. program at Lindenwood University and is a professional editor of poetry and prose manuscripts at

Mandy Schoen
Mandy Schoen is a senior editor of Month9Books, LLC, and the managing editor of Swoon Romance (a digital romance imprint of Month9Books, LLC) and otherwise keeps plenty busy traveling the world, slaying dragons, falling in love, and whatever else her "To Be Read" pile has in store for her. When she’s not reading, hanging out with her family, or acquiring and editing incredible stories for Swoon Romance, she can usually be found huddling over a cup of flavored coffee. She lives in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, her boxer, and her Nook, but it’s probably easier to find her on Twitter at @Mandy_Schoen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Schedule for 8/24 Writers in the Park

It's FREE! Find out more.

9:30am - Registration in Lions Amphitheater, Kirkwood Park, 111 S. Geyer Rd., Kirkwood

10am - Nicole Evelina, author, represented by Jen Karsbaek of Forward Literary, presents Querying a Literary Agent 

11am - Mary Menke, owner Word Abilities, presents Editing Tips
11am - Robin Tidwell, author, co-owner of All on the Same Page Bookstore and Rocking Horse Publishing presents Designing the Book

12pm - Nancy Baumann, the Book Professor, presents Your Nonfiction Book: How to Shortcut the Process and Save Time, Energy, and Dollars
12pm - Tim Hill, author of the Joe the Crab Series, presents Writing for Children

1pm - Genre Talk, round table discussions of your genre, presented by SLWG's Cycle Critique Groups
1pm - Winners of the Deane Wagner Poetry Contest 


11am to Noon - Susan Grigsby, author, poet, and educator presents Kids Writing Poetry for young writers in 4th-8th grade! 

Free writers’ festival Aug. 24 offers tips for kids & adults

If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, St. Louis Writers Guild’s fourth annual writers’ festival in Kirkwood Park is the perfect way to start. 

The free mini-conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 24, at Lions Amphitheater in Kirkwood Park, 111 S. Geyer Rd. No pre-registration is required.

Created to honor the Guild’s 90th Anniversary, the day includes workshops from industry professionals, books from local authors, and plenty of food for all to enjoy.

This year’s workshops for adults will include presentations by:
·      author Nicole Evelina
·      editor Mary Menke
·      the Book Professor Nancy Baumann
·      children’s author Tim Hill and
·      the winners of the 2013 Deane Wagner Poetry Contest.

Susan Grigsby
Local children’s author and educator, Susan Grigsby, will offer a writing workshop from 11 a.m. to noon for kids in 4th-8th grade.

Sponsors of Writers in the Park 2013 are Sheila Dugan Voice & Speech Studio; Judith D. Chouteau/Fine Firsts; Jeannine Dahlberg, Author; Patricia Bubash,; and Missouri Writers Guild.

In case of extreme heat or rain, the conference will move indoors at the Kirkwood Community Center. Event schedule and speaker biographies will soon be posted on

Friday, August 16, 2013

ALA Best Book winner Daniel Hayes shares insights about writing

Welcome to Daniel Hayes, an acclaimed Young Adult writer I had the great pleasure to meet this summer at Dr. Joe Gallenberger's Inner Vegas Adventure conference. Although other interests brought us together, it was a bonus to discover that five of those attending the conference are pursuing writing careers. I hope to introduce them all to you here. :) 

Daniel Hayes lives in the town of Easton in Upstate New York, at the southern end of scenic Washington County. He attended school in Greenwich, New York, which became the fictional village of Wakefield in his novels. He currently teaches 11th grade English at Troy High School and creative writing for Hudson Valley Community College. 

His goal, in addition to writing more books (his fifth, My Kind of Crazy, is on the way), is to someday see film versions of his novels. Having fielded a number of queries from various producers over the years, he hopes, eventually, to be able to put Tyler and Lymie and the rest of his cast of characters up on the big screen. Should this happen, due to his considerable acting skills, he feels he should, at the very least, be considered for the role of the dead body in The Trouble with Lemons. He's already working on his ability to float face down. 

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? I’m not sure exactly what brings my writing into focus, but I do know that when I’m the happiest and most enthusiastic about life in general, this is when I do my best writing. It just flows and it’s easy when I’m feeling good. I’m not one of those writers who gets inspiration from suffering.

Would you share a bit about your next project? My next book is a road-trip story about two kids traveling up to Lake Placid. It’s called My Kind of Crazy. I remember watching those old Bob Hope/ Bing Crosby road trip movies years ago, so they probably played into the writing. Like those movies, it’s a little over the top, and I had fun with that. If I play my cards right, it will be funny and adventurous with a side order of spirituality thrown in. Plus, who doesn’t love a good road trip?
How much fact is in your fiction? A fair amount. I start with real places, and often with real people who then take on lives of their own as they morph into their fictional versions. For instance, in The Trouble with Lemons I started with the setting of a rock quarry we used to visit as kids. I also used a fictional version of the village where I grew up.

Describe the best writer you know and something wonderful he or she has written. I think one of the best dialogue writers is Richard Russo. Any of his books are good, but his first, The Risk Pool, is particularly good. Even great writers often have trouble making dialogue sound real, but Richard Russo is a real pro.

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? My book, Flyers, always seemed to have Superman’s Song, by Crash Test Dummies playing in my head as I was writing it as one of the motifs plays around with the difference between Superman and Tarzan. I still love that song and if a film deal ever comes through for it (we’ve had some interest), I’ll be pushing to get that song into the soundtrack.

Daniel Hayes's acclaimed trio of books about best friends, Tyler and Lymie, has established a tremendous following and earned the author two ALA Best Books for Young Adults commendations.

His fourth book, FLYERS, which introduced a new cast of characters, was a nominee for a 1997 Edgar award by the Mystery Writers of America and was named a 1998 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.

Find his books on Amazon and check out his website at

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

Friday, August 9, 2013

Books Aren't Going Away

Books Aren’t Going Away
By Brad R. Cook

A publisher has folded, more conglomerates are merging, and another bookstore has turned into a dollar store.

Run for the hills!

In a few years, I will either get to smile triumphantly or hide my head in the shame of my wrongness. But I’m going to make a bold statement – Books aren’t going away.

Ever since I became a writer and started on this publishing journey, people, from industry experts to the talking heads on tv have told me that books are dying. It made me sad, I like books, and made me wonder why I even wanted to get into this business.

But I say NAY… yeah, I said nay, I’m a historical fantasy writer, so I use nay.

I’m not an expert, nor do I have a magical publishing crystal ball, though, that would be really helpful. My evidence is the entirety of human history. You might have just heard the boom from me slamming that book down on the table.

Stories will never go away. Since we all started sitting around fire pits hundreds of thousands of years ago – maybe longer, I’m certain Neanderthals told a mean tale about their hunts – we have told stories. Some real, some made up, some meant to entertain, others meant to teach a lesson. One thing all humans share is a love of the story. Whether it’s the tale of a real person, or just the makings of a good popcorn movie, we love the told tale. We’ll sit there and listen to a storyteller, read tens of thousands of words in a book, or watch lights flicker in a darkened room. All to soak up the magic of an adventure we experience without fear.

Books and the stories they contain guide us, define us, bring us joy, sadness, and enlightenment. Books are the basis for tv shows, movies, and even a few memes. None of that is going to change. Movies might be flashy, and tv shows might get most of the story, but a book still gives you the most detail, the most emotion, and the most control over a story. That’s why they are such a great foundation for all the other platforms.

Paper books may one day sit only in the collections of the wealthy, just like they began, but books will remain. We may read them from our tablets, phones, or even have them beamed directly into our heads… oh, school would have been so much easier.

“I know Shakespeare.” – Neo

Okay, so maybe that’s still a few years off, but my point is not. Books in some form or another will remain. They’ll still need writers to pen those books, plus companies to edit, market, and distribute these books. But it may not be a pen that writes them; technically I have never penned a book, so change has already happened.

Ahhh, run for the hills… it's a great place to write.

Beyond the E-Book, what do you think is next for the book? Let me know in the comments.

I’m hoping for holographic books, where it beams an image of the book out of my phone. They’d have moving covers too. That would be cool.

Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit , follow me on Twitter @bradrcook , or my tumblr page Thoughts from Midnight