Friday, September 27, 2013

SLWG presents Kelly Cochran 10/5 on “Becoming an Independent Author”

Independent author Kelly Cochran will share her journey to publication, from making the decision to go the independent route to holding the book in her hands, at the St. Louis Writers Guild workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, Oct. 5, at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road in Kirkwood. Free to Guild members, $5 for nonmembers.

Sharing both the good and bad of her experience, Kelly will discuss the paperwork involved in publishing, book formatting and book cover options, software and services, marketing, and other topics. Her Independent Author manual will be available for sale and includes useful information to help guide you along the path to publication.

Kelly is no stranger to taking alternate paths to meet her goals. Having missed the deadline to register for her classes at the University of Florida's School of Journalism, she suddenly found herself in a truck heading north. She earned a degree in Technology and Management at the University of Maryland and after 20 years in the field of Information Technology, she is once again pursuing her love of writing and is excited to be an independent author. Her book, Buying Time: An Aspen Moore Novel, is the first in a St. Louis-based humorous mystery series.

Find out more about the St. Louis Writers Guild and upcoming activities at

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pearl Curran, A Writer Unlike Any Other

Pearl Rogers, featured in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat 1929
Pearl Curran, A Writer Unlike Any Other
By Brad R. Cook

At the turn of the last century a writer dazzled the nation and left her mark on St. Louis. Pearl Curran was a writer and poet, but she is most famous for channeling Patience Worth, a medieval noble woman. It is Patience who is said to have penned the novels. Beyond channeling her muse, Pearl was a charter member of St. Louis Writers Guild.

Pearl Lenore Curran (1883 – 1937) began life in a simple and unassuming way, on February 15, 1883 in Mound City, Illinois, and soon moved with her family to Texas. Pearl attended school until she dropped out in high school, stating she had a nervous breakdown due to the strenuous academics. She briefly returned to St. Ignatius Catholic School, but this lack of education would be an important factor later in her life.

Pearl and her family moved to St. Louis at the age of 14 and her interest turned to music. When the family moved to Palmer, Missouri, they sent Pearl for voice training in Kanakee, Illinois. She showed talent as a singer and pianist. Leading Pearl to Chicago, Illinois where she was trained by the renowned J. C. Cooper. She first worked for the McKinley Music Company addressing envelopes for six dollars a week, and then sold music for the Thompson Music Company.  Until the age of twenty four, Pearl worked in Chicago through the winter, and spent her summers in Missouri giving music lessons.

Pearl married John Howard Curran in 1907 and the two lived a modest but comfortable life until 1913 when Pearl underwent a remarkable experience. During the height of the spiritualist’s movement, Pearl used a ouiji board, and channeled a medieval noble woman named Patience Worth. Together they wrote a series of novels that Pearl claimed she transcribed while having psychic experiences with Patience. A widely read and beloved writer, she grew famous not only as a literary sensation, but also from the many scholars who sought out her novels for the intimate details of medieval life that she was able to draw upon. Details which at the time were thought to be impossible for a high school drop out to have known.

John Curran died June 1st, 1922 and she would marry two more times, though both would be short lived. The second of these marriages was to Dr. H. H. Rogers, and they lived in St. Louis. During this time she helped bring the St. Louis Writer Guild into fruition as a Charter Member, one of the original thirty members of the organization. In 1929 she was one of the featured authors in a St. Louis Globe-Democrat article on the prominence of St. Louis Writers Guild. In 1930 she moved to Los Angeles, California and lived the rest of her life with a friend, Mrs. Alexander Bailey Smith, Dotsie to those who knew her best.

A thorough investigation was conducted by Dr. Walter Franklin Price who published his findings in the The Case of Patience Worth, in 1927. It contained 509 pages of eye witness reports, opinions, reviews, poetry and an autobiographical sketch of Pearl. The book covers the years 1913 – 1927. In an article for the July 1926 Scientific American, titled The Riddle of Patience Worth, Dr. Price requested anyone who could debunk Pearl come forward. No one ever did.

If you would like to read her poems please visit  

Read more by checking out her novel, The Sorry Tale by Patience Worth

Recently, the Travel Channel did a short piece about her and you can find her writings at the Missouri History Museum.

Pearl was a fascinating woman and writer, I encourage you to learn more about her amazing tale!

I originally wrote this in 2009 as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild for a series of articles about the founding members in The Scribe.
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

Friday, September 20, 2013

Writing is Like a Marathon, but I Wouldn't Know.

Writing is Like a Marathon, but I Wouldn’t Know.
By Brad Cook

This week I hit the last period on my latest manuscript. It’s a wonderful feeling and anyone who has finished a novel can tell you there is nothing like sitting back and looking at everything you’ve accomplished. I imagine it’s the same for marathon runners after they finish a race, but I wouldn’t know – I could never survive a marathon.

Writing/Running Everyday
Marathon runners have to train everyday to build up their bodies for the race. Writers have to work every day as well. Books don’t write themselves, so sit down every day and put words on the page. If you write nothing more than a page a day in a year you’ll have a novel.

Slow steady progress – not like those sprinters, the poets
You can’t sprint for 26.2 miles and you can’t write a book in a night. Novels take time. Weeks, months, or even years can be spent pouring over the words. So, just like the guy running full tilt at the start of a marathon, the guy trying to write a book in a week probably won’t finish. Writers need to understand that it is steady progress that gets a books finished. Unless you’re a poet, they can crank those out in no time. Poets are the sprinters of the writing world.

Years of training to be the best
You can’t just wake and decide to run a marathon that day, just like you can’t wake up and write a best-seller. Writers constantly hone their craft through workshops, writing classes, webinars, and conferences. They keep us sharp and our writing improves with every new lesson.

Creeping doubts of quitting that must be overcome
Having never run a marathon, I don’t know how often it happens in a day. I bet it varies, though, probably happens at every race. Doubt is the mind-killer. For marathon runners doubt springs up with every ache and pain, with every quiver of muscle. For a writer, doubt comes with every awkward sentence, every new draft, or article on publishing that is read. Doubt can cripple the muse, but overcoming these emotions not only makes a stronger writer/runner, but is essential to finishing.

So write like a marathon runner:
Write everyday or most days.
Keep training and improving your craft.
Keep hydrated – but maybe just drink some water, you don’t need to splash it all over your laptop.
Keep your focus on the finish line.
And never give up!

Just remember what John Steinbeck used to say – “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”

So if writing a novel is like running a marathon – what is publishing like? Entering an Ironman triathlon! Good luck!

What is writing like to you? Let us know in the comments.

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

From the Crime Writer’s Library: True Stories of C.S.I.: The Real Crimes Behind the Best Episodes of the Popular TV Show

When the TV show CSI came on the air, the writing of crime fiction drastically changed. Before CSI, crime fiction writers could gloss over some of the details that were known more to the specialized scientist who assist criminal investigators in their investigation. We didn’t get the information wrong (or at least not usually), but we didn’t have to go into the details. After CSI, the public expects the crime writer (fiction or non-fiction) to stay up-to-date in this rapidly changing science.  True Stories of C.S.I.: The Real Crimes Behind the Best Episodes of the Popular TV Show is one resource to help writers to maintain be on top of these sciences. (Note: I said sciences, as CSI or Criminal Lab work involves many sciences. Unlike some of the lab technicians, we need to have a working grasp on the big picture. While Crime Fiction stories and Science Fiction have often shared many of the same audience, the two genres are now bleeding into each other in ways we haven’t really seen since the advent of Sherlock Holmes, the first fictional forensic detective.)

If you have never seen a real crime scene, count yourself lucky.  But, if you are going to open this book you need to prepare yourself for blood, dismembered bodies, and much more as author and Forensic Expert and Forensic Psychologist  Katherine Ramsland will walk you through the real life cases that the hit TV show episodes were based on.  She also looks into the authenticity of the forensic investigations recreated for the dramatizations, and the painstaking real-life forensic process employed in every one of the actual cases-from notorious mass-murderer Richard Speck, to the massacre of Buddhist monks in an Arizona Temple, to a baffling case of apparent spontaneous combustion.

If you are looking to incorporate forensic sciences into your crime fiction novel or if it is part of the work of true crime you are working on, this book is a good launch pad into those science.

Thank you for reading and please visit and You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Library potpourri -- three things to ponder

By T.W. Fendley

This is my second update about the "Library Request Exchange," a service we launched in January on The Writers' Lens (see link at the top of the right sidebar). Here's how it works:

  1. We exchange book info: Author, Title, Publisher, ISBN, genre/subject
  2. Then you put in a request at your local library for my book, and I put in a request at mine for your book.
YOU can make a difference. Thanks to requests submitted by Katherine Lampe and Karen Kraft, my debut historical fantasy, ZERO TIME, is now available at libraries in Colorado and Arkansas. Much appreciated!

Don't be shy-- contact your library about a book (or several) you'd like to see available!

Small press and self-published authors struggle to get their books into libraries. The reasons are many, from the sheer number of books currently on the market to the obstacles libraries face in adding new vendors, even ones like Amazon. 
It falls to writers to make their work easier for libraries to access, such as obtaining patron recommendations (see above) and getting their books listed on Ingram, Overdrive or other traditional library sources. 

Here's an excerpt from the September 2013 issue of Locus where Cory Doctorow gave an overview of some of the difficulties libraries face, including having to pay inflated prices of up to $60 for ebooks:
  • "The ALA has launched a program called Authors for Library E-books, through which authors like me (and you) can sign onto a call to their publishers to give libraries fair and equitable access to e-books. If you’re interested in signing up, you can find the campaign at"
The Authors for Library Ebooks campaign seeks to add author voices to those of librarians and readers in support of equitable access to digital content through libraries. There are many ways you can support this effort:
  • Sign on to the Authors Stand with Libraries statement.
  • Help raise awareness of this issue with publishers, other authors and the general public.
Just for fun, here's a site with a historical perspective on libraries:

Monday, September 9, 2013

SCBWI workshop 9/14: Hilary Wagner focuses on character building

Rats or Bats but No Doormats:
 Building Characters with Depth & Detail                    
Award-Winning Middle-Grade Author of the Nightshade Chronicles and more!

Join us for this author workshop on crafting and developing your characters and a bonus session on writing the perfect query letter. Perfect for writers of all levels!

Ms. Wagner’s bio includes the books Nightshade City and The White Assassin and the upcoming final book of the series, Lords of Trillium. She also has a fiction book deal continuing through National Geographic School Publishing and is a part of the anthology Demigods and Monsters, which features multiple famous authors including Rick Riordan!

When: Saturday, September 14th, 2013
Time: 8:30 a.m.(sign-in)–3:30p.m.
Where: Corpus Christi Parish Center, 206 Rasp St., Shiloh, IL 62269 (15 minutes from St. Louis)
Cost (includes lunch): $50 for SCBWI members
                                           $60 for non-members
Don’t miss this amazing opportunity!
Please e-mail the following Network Representatives for registration forms and/or more details:
Sherry Randle:  
Anastasia Ely:

Or visit for more contact/workshop information.
Rats or Bats but No Doormats:
Building Characters with Depth & Detail
Workshop Registration
Saturday, September 14th, 2013
 Corpus Christi Catholic Church Parish Center, Shiloh, Illinois

Last Name_____________________________ First Name________________________


City____________________________ State_____________ Zip____________________

Home Phone_________________________ Cell Phone___________________________

Email address (print clearly):________________________________________________
Prices:   _______ $60 for non-SCBWI members        
              _______$50 for SCBWI members
Registration: Registrations may be postmarked beginning Monday, July 15th, 2013.  Attendance for this workshop is limited, so register soon to guarantee a spot!
My check # ______ made out to SCBWI-IL is enclosed.  There are no refunds if unable to attend unless spot is filled from waiting list.  

Mail completed registration form and check, beginning July 15th, 2013, to:
SCBWI Workshop, Jonathan Schkade, P.O. Box 520, Hamel, IL 62046
Note: Registrations postmarked prior to July 15th, 2013, will not be accepted.    
When workshop reaches full capacity, those who did not get a spot will be contacted with the choice of being placed on the waiting list or having their check returned.

For more information, contact Anastasia Ely at or Sherry Randle at​t Workshop directions, lunch information, etc. will be sent out to registrants closer to the workshop date.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Jung Society Authors' Reception Sept. 7

Information reprinted from CGJS newsletter

C.G. Jung Society of St. Louis - Authors Reception
Saturday, September 7, 2013
6:45-10:00 PM

Kings House Retreat Center 
700 N. 66th St. 
Belleville, IL 62223 (click here for map and directions)
A wine and cheese reception will celebrate the release of the C.G. Jung Society's second collection of essays. Winners of the 2012 writing contest will be reading their work:

Adversity and the Movements of the Soul, by Mark A. Cameron, PhD, MA
"Jung once described God as 'the name by which I designate all things which cross my path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life.' I soon came to know this aspect of God intimately. Eventually, I would come to see the sly plan which God had placed into motion through this period of suffering."

Healing Through the Numinous, by Leah Friedman, PhD
"Recently, to my great surprise, I was visited by a mystifying, life-altering shift of consciousness. As I pondered what had happened, which I shall describe later, I thought about the meaning of the word numinous and realized that this was not the first time I had encountered numinosity."

Gifts of the Camino, by Deborah Terra Weltman
"I crossed the Pyrenees on foot, up and over incredibly rocky terrain, in higher altitudes than I'd ever been, and made it, exhausted, into Spain. What followed was a series of life lessons on the topic of trust. As it turned out, I was on the Camino to learn about trusting myself, trusting others, trusting that I would always be provided for, and in general, trusting God."

$15 Registration online (click here) in advance or pay at the door. If paying at the door please RSVP to let them know you are planning to attending:

Books will be available for purchase and authors will be available for signing.

Click here for a flyer and click here to see complete program and registration details online for the Third Jung in the Heartland Conference: Healing Through the Numinous 
September 5 - 8, 2013.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lens On: Pacing

Lens On: Pacing
By Brad R. Cook

Pacing may be one of the most important aspects of a novel and one few workshops touch on. This isn’t a post about sentences; today I focus on the flow of words and how quickly a reader can get through your writing.

Pace is a writer’s gift to the reader. No one wants to get bogged down in the middle of a book, struggling to turn each page, fighting every word and sentence as if trekking through the Amazon jungle with a machete. Readers want pages to fly by like a Lamborghini speeding down the highway.

Modern novels… okay, good modern novels, have a pace you can snap along with. I love them and I try to emulate them. I’m not exactly certain when it started, but I would argue that the noir detective novels might be one place. These mysteries really developed the quick pace dialogue that now dominates the market.

Older novels, especially the Victorian novels, had a much slower pace. Overly wordy prose, filled with tangents that deviated from the main plot, and monologues that lasted a page, led to books with hundreds of pages – giant tomes bound in leather, that are completely unsuited for a beach read.

I find that good pace comes mainly from three places –

1 – Back and Forth Dialogue – Quick dialogue with short or no tags is a great way to increase your pace. Too much description in a dialogue tag can slow down the natural flow of a conversation. Beware the monologue; unless you’re a teacher or lecturer, most conversations involve two or more people speaking over each other. Capture that on a page and readers will fly through your work.

2 – Action Scenes – Fight scenes, chase sequences, or sex scenes are a great way to increase the pace of your novel. These are the exciting parts, and naturally should be a quick read. All are places where you don’t want to bog down the reader with, long descriptions, too much emotion, or an over focus on scenery. It is actually really hard to talk while fighting or running – try reading out loud next time you’re running on the treadmill.

3 – Word Choice and Sentence Length – When a sentence, short phrase, long phrase, paragraph, chapter, novel, or article is packed with terminology, expressions, vocabulary; words that may be important to conveying the meaning of your prose, but all the writer ends up doing is making the reader, or audience, re-read the same passage repeatedly, over and over, until they fully obtained the meaning of your original intention. (that may be the worst sentence I have ever written, so I hope you get my point) Keep it short; keep it sweet, keep it simple and the pace will follow.

What is your favorite way to improve the pacing of your writing? Or do you recommend a novel with great pacing? Let us know in the comments section.

The Lens On: Series highlight various aspects on writing for The Writers' Lens; they are meant to start a discussion on the stated topic. For more information on this topic please consult Google or other literary sources.

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