Monday, October 28, 2013

Learn how to jumpstart your novel or memoir at 11/2 Guild workshop

Whether the story you have to tell is a novel or a memoir, November is a great month to start writing it. Get inspired by life writers Linda O’Connell and Donna Volkenannt and novelists Jennifer Shew and Lauren Miller. They will show you how to jumpstart your book during the St. Louis Writers Guild’s workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, Nov. 2, at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd. in Kirkwood. Free to members, $5 for nonmembers

National Life Writing Month: Linda O'Connell & Donna Volkenannt
·      Learn about the many different kinds of "life writing"
·      Find how an essay can be expanded to a memoir
·      Get the skinny on how an expose` may or may not lead to publication
·      Discover how to unlock the power of stories to inspire, uplift, and heal

    National Novel Writing Month: Jennifer Shew & Lauren Miller
·      Learn how to get started with the 50,000 words of NaNo
·      Get up to speed on writing socially
·      Hear one author’s experiences with the local NaNo group
·      Find out about tools such as Scrivener

 \    Donna Volkenannt believes words have the power to inspire, uplift, and heal. Her personal essays, short stories, articles, and poems have won almost 100 awards, including honorable mention in the national Steinbeck short story competition and nominations for a Pushcart Prize and a Spur award. First-place winner of the 2012 Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award, she lives in St. Peters, where she blogs about writing and the sweet mysteries of life.

Linda O'Connell is a multi-genre writer whose niche is writing personal essays. Her stories have been published in twenty Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and more than one hundred national publications. She is developing an anthology for Publishing Syndicate and is the author of a book, Queen of the Last Frontier, the biography of Emily Keaster.

Jennifer Shew has always liked to write and read stories, mainly fantasy, because they let her imagination take over. That's why she was so happy to hear about NaNoWriMo ten years ago--it was like a license to write whatever she wanted. She has been a Municipal Liaison (ML) for the growing St. Louis NaNoWriMo region for seven years. She helps people get started with the 50,000 words of NaNo and host write-ins for folks to write socially. She’s excited to write her 500,000th word this year!
Lauren Miller reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and writes for the St. Louis Writers Guild's literary magazine, The Scribe. Her work has also appeared in publications such as The Poet's Art and a MMORPG (that's a massive multiplayer online role-playing game). After five years trying, the historical and spec fiction writer declared her first win last year by completing a 50,000-word novel during National Novel Writing Month.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Interview with manifestation maven Kimberly Schneider

Welcome to today's guest, Kimberly Schneider, whom I had the pleasure to meet last year at 6 North Cafe in Ballwin for the authors' anniversary gathering. I signed up for her free email course and have been enjoying her messages ever since. Starting in late October, we'll be sharing some of those on my website, but first, I'd like to introduce you to Kimberly:

What do you get when you take a person with the soul of a poet, the mind of a scholar and the heart of a healer--and turn her into a trial lawyer? Existential crisis and more graduate school!  Throw in a counseling degree and decades of coaching extraordinary individuals to consciously create meaningful lives, and you end up with Kimberly Schneider, M.Ed., J.D., LPC, author of Everything You Need Is Right Here: Five Steps to Manifesting Magic and Miracles

Kimberly Schneider’s work arises out of a belief that every experience offers a gift to us, if we are open to receiving it.  Her dynamic mix of storytelling, compassionate awareness and accessible poetry make her an engaging speaker and teacher. Kimberly teaches Communication at Washington University-St. Louis and is a regular contributor to Great Day St. Louis television show. She brings her rich life experience and unique insight to keynote speeches, individual and group coaching sessions, workshops, classrooms, radio and television appearances and Celtic Spirituality retreats in western Ireland. You can request her free Conscious Manifestation eCourse at

Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not? Yes.  I had a large number of (carefully selected) people read the first two drafts of my book.  Their suggestions and recommendations were tremendously helpful.  I wanted to know what made sense (and what didn't), what worked well, what didn't flow, where I needed more, etc.  And they told me.  I also had a fantastic editor who read every draft (my Mom, she's amazing--she taught English, is a great writer and editor herself and also really gets what I do, so she was perfect).  And then of course I hired a good copyeditor before I sent it off for printing.  

Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write? Do you have any advice for other writers? Read.  A lot.  Memorize poetry and lyrical writing that inspires you.  The more you familiarize yourself with quality writing by other people, in any genre, the better your own writing gets.  I'm constantly inspired by other writers.  In addition to reading new books all the time, I reread some of my favorites over and over, both because I enjoy them, and because I know that immersing myself in great writing shapes the way I put words together myself.  I really believe that the reason so many great writers come out of the south is that, in earlier times, most people who grew up there would have memorized portions of the King James Bible from a young age.  The lyricism of those words filtered deeply into their unconscious minds and influenced the way they wrote. I didn't grow up memorizing the Bible, or anything else, but now I do challenge myself to learn things I really love by heart.  

What inspired your latest book? I had a private counseling and coaching practice, and when the movie "The Secret" came out several years ago (a popular film about The Law of Attraction) I started to have clients coming in who said things like "Now I understand that I'm creating my own reality, and the reason I never get what I want is that I'm doing everything wrong.  It's my fault that my life is so hard."  

As a psychotherapist, I understood that sort of thinking to be counter-productive.  While I believe in positive psychology and conscious manifestation, the concepts surrounding those fields are widely misunderstood. Blaming ourselves for having "negative" thoughts and emotions doesn't work.  What does help is being powerfully present and cultivating compassion for ourselves and others.  I wanted to write a book that showed people how to do that and cleared up some of the misconceptions around the Law of Attraction.  

That's how Everything You Need Is Right Here: Five Steps to Manifesting Miracles came about. The book shares a lot of stories from my own life, especially around the joys and challenges of parenting our two girls.  It also offers simple, accessible tools my clients and I have successfully used to consciously create joyful, meaningful lives. 

What do you think readers will like about your book? I get a lot of feedback from readers, which is really nice.  Here's what I hear most often about what they enjoy in the book:  1) I share my own struggles and how I work through them. I don't pretend to do life perfectly.  (Life is messy!);   2) the stories I share about myself and my clients help make abstract concepts understandable; 3) they understand themselves as lovable beings (maybe for the first time ever); and 4) the exercises work for them. 

Would you share a bit about your next project? I'm getting ready to release an AudioBook called Terrible Beauty: Poetry and Reflections for Precarious Times.  It's a mix of my own poetry, along with the stories behind the poems and how they relate to the concepts I teach around miraculous living.  I've had a lot of requests to do a CD with my poetry, which I've shared in workshops and retreats for a number of years  I'm really happy with how it turned out and I'm excited to have it available very soon. 

What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers? The very best is when people come to my workshops, especially the week-long Celtic Spirituality retreat I do in western Ireland.  It is so great to get to spend time with people who are interested in some of the same things I'm interested in, to connect, to share ideas and sacred space.  

What are your top three reasons for writing?  1. It helps me make sense of life; 2. I discover things about myself; 3. It makes me happy when something I've written touches someone else.  

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? That it helped.  

EVERYTHING YOU NEED IS RIGHT HERE: An empowering, accessible, simple yet in-depth manual for falling in love with your Self and your life once and for all. You're not "doing it wrong." You've simply forgotten who you are, and why you are here. Dive into this book and remember. Breathe. Relax. Smile. Everything You Need Is Right Here. Everything You Need Is Right Here: Five Steps to Manifesting Magic and Miracles draws upon Kimberly's wealth of experience as a licensed professional counselor specializing in spiritual development--as well as her own inspiring life--to create an entertaining and profound step-by-step guide to transformation. "Using candid and authentic glimpses into her own and her family’s personal journey, Kimberly takes us right to the heart of what it means to create our own reality." (Jody Baron, author of Relax into Sex: The Art of Spiritual Lovemaking) "Kimberly’s words lie naturally and easily beside the words of John O'Donohue, Jalaluddin Rumi, Meister Eckhart and Mahatma Gandhi, making Everything You Need Is Right Here a treasure trove of artistic creativity as well as a cornucopia of right living.” (Noirin Ni Riain, sacred music vocalist and author of Listen with the Ear of the Heart) Take this journey through Kimberly's life of miracles and rediscover the magic in your own life along the way. Everything You Need Is Right Here.

Buy the Book: (directions for downloading introduction and first chapter for free; you can also get to Amazon link or digitally download from here)



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, October 18, 2013

Lens On: Word Counts

Lens On: Word Counts
By Brad R Cook

Word Counts…
Counting words… but I’m a writer not a mathematician!

As writers we deal in words, but as contests gained in popularity, and shelf space became regulated, the amount of words we're allowed has been set into industry standards.

Below are words count lengths for a variety of projects – but don’t freak out – these are suggested lengths. If your project is longer or shorter, that doesn’t mean your work is bad or wrong, but you may want to consider why your project isn’t falling within the acceptable range.

If your word count is too high, maybe you need to edit, tighten, or remove an unneeded scene. If the word count is too low, consider adding some chapters, or elaborating on a few key moments.

Word Counts by Genre
For adult commercial novels like romance, mysteries, paranormal, or horror – 70,000 to 90,000
Sci-fi / Fantasy / Thrillers (Big World Books) – 90,000 to 120,000
Young Adult – 60,000 to 80,000
Middle Grade – 30,000 to 45,000
Memoir – 70,000 to 90,000
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000
Novelettes – 7,500 to 17,500
Short Story – 2000 to 10,000
Flash Fiction – 500 to 1000

Now that you’ve seen where your novel's at, don’t get twisted into knots.
There is no need to freak out about word counts when you are writing, use them as a guide. Focus instead on the flow and pace of the story. Telling a great story is more important than the word count, let an agent, editor, or publisher tell you that you need more words or less. Unless you are submitting to a contest, most have a word limit, and you will want to come under that number. At that point, every word becomes important and, and conjunctions become good friends. 

If you want to know more about word counts, there are a number of places you can go. I consulted, Wikipedia, New Leaf Literary’s Tumblr page, a number of publishers websites, and Writers Digest.

May I suggest Chuck Sambuchino’s Writers Digest article – WORD COUNT FOR NOVELS AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS: THE DEFINITIVE POST

I try not to worry, and only calculate the word count at the end of the first draft. Except when writing short stories for contests – I stress over every word and phrase to whittle the story to within the accepted limit. Do you worry about word counts? Let us know in the comment section.

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

St. Louis Writers Guild's Annual Writing Contest

St. Louis Writers Guild’s Annual Writing Contest

Since its founding in 1920, St. Louis Writers Guild has sponsored an annual short story contest to honor writers. The first year, they decided on a short story contest. The next year, it was a poetry contest, and the following year it was an essay contest, but today SLWG hold these contests in a single year. Over the years, many notable writers have entered including Tennessee Williams, who won first place in 1935 for his story, "Stella for Star." (University of Delaware library; Special Collections Department; Tennessee Williams Collection, 1939-1994)

St. Louis Writers Guild has held many contests throughout its history, but every autumn they return to their origins to hold the Annual Short Story Contest.

SLWG’s Annual Short Story Contest
Opens to submissions on October 1, 2013
Postmark Deadline is December 1, 2013

St. Louis Writers Guild Annual Short Story Contest opens for submissions every October, the deadline is in December, and prizes are awarded in January. Historically, entries have come from all across the nation and Canada. Stories are blind-judged by an expert in the fields of writing and literature.

Writers do not need to be members of St. Louis Writers Guild in order to participate in this contest.

Topic: The work must meet the specific form requirements of a short story, be a work of fiction written in English, represent the author's original and unpublished work, and be intended for an audience composed of adult readers (as opposed to a story intended for children). Any topic is allowed, but works that include pornography, extreme violence, racism, and/or other content that is not appropriate for a mainstream literary audience are not eligible.


Entry Fee:
$15 first manuscript, $10 additional entry; limit two entries per person.

Word Length:
Story must not exceed 3,000 words. Title does not count in word limit.

This year’s judge is Jason Makansi, co-founder of Blank Slate Press. A complete biography can be found at

Announcement of Winners: Winners’ names and story titles will be posted on the St. Louis Writers Guild website in January and announced in SLWG’s electronic newsletter, Here’s News! Entrants can subscribe to Here’s News! on SLWG website’s Homepage. Facebook and Twitter too!

1st Place $100
2nd Place $75
3rd Place $50
Three Honorable Mentions $10

St. Louis Writers Guild no longer publishes the full text from the winning entries so that the author retains the publication rights. All winners are invited to read their entries before a live audience at a special SLWG open mic night.

Submission Mailing Address
All submissions are required to be MAILED, using the United States Postal Service and must bear a postmark date on or before the Deadline (December 1, of the current year). Mail entry to:
St. Louis Writers Guild
P.O. Box 411757
St. Louis, MO 63141

Complete submission guidelines can be downloaded or viewed at

Good luck with the contest!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dreamspell authors: We're back!

By T.W. Fendley

Two months ago, the authors of L&L Dreamspell were reeling from the death of publisher Linda Houle and co-publisher Lisa Smith's decision to close the business. Since then, many have found ways to get their books back into print, thanks to Lisa's prompt execution of their Reversion of Rights.

"I think what I've learned is just how much persistence is an essential part of this business," said author Chris Ferguson. "Obviously the closing of L&L DS was a personal and community tragedy for us. But of course it was also disappointing as an author. Fortunately there are avenues for good work to continue on, so setbacks are not the end of the world."

I solicited status updates from the Dream Team, and their paths to publication are as varied as the books they write. 


With Jennifer Stolzer's cover design, my historical fantasy novel, Zero Time, is available through Kindle and "in process" at CreateSpace. 

Jo Hiestand also chose the self-publishing route via CreateSpace and has already published 15 of her mystery novels (including two that were out of print for five years) and Esther Lutrell has several of her titles out under their new imprint, Golden Harvest Press. In addition to her novels, Jo also compiled two anthologies and published Carols for Groundhog's Day.

"We've learned a lot in these months," Jo said. "How to format the books for trade paper and ebook publication, how to buy ISBNs, how to list the published books thru Bowker so the books are included in the books-in-print catalog that other bookstores and libraries use to get info on your work, how to set up royalty payments and follow the sales reports, and how much work there is to getting a book out -- and so my admiration for Linda and Lisa grew tremendously."

Facing a busy fall speaking schedule, Cindy Sample chose to upload her two backlist books to Kindle. "I didn’t want to spend money advertising until my new book is released [in October], but word of mouth seems to be working. Today was exciting because for the first time ever my books placed in a top 100 bestseller category. As of this second, Dying for a Date is # 73 in sales of over 22,000 fiction books in the humor category."

Bobbye Terry (aka Daryn Cross) said, "I released mine as indies. Walk Right In became Like Humans Do, and Walk Right Back became Like Demons Do. I plan to release the third one, Like Zombies Do, next year, The two currently out were both re-edited before re-releasing and came out in both Kindle and print through CreateSpace. I did my covers with their Cover Creator. I placed two of my short stories in the collection, Moonlight Magic, published the same way."

"I quickly put Ghost Orchid on Kindle to keep it in the market while searching for a reprint publisher," D.K. Christi said. "I am particularly grateful to Lisa Smith of the former L & L Dreamspell team who provided quick assistance with our search and with the team of authors who have helped each other."

Christy Tillery French also placed all her books in The Bodyguard series as Amazon Kindles.


Nancy Means Wright reported her middle grade/YA novel,Walking into the Wild, is now available. "With a good review coming out soon in a magazine, I wanted to get it out asap, so the book will be published by my own imprint, Wildcat Books, at the new publisher Prince and Pauper Press."  

"(Jennifer Carson) and I have worked closely together to bring out my book with a bright new cover, new interior pages, back cover, adding a map, etc," Nancy said. "I paid her $300 for all this, and then put it up on Amazon in my name. So it’s a sort of alternative affair, not exactly self-pubbed, but I have some control for the first time in my writing  life!  And we’ve done it in about a month—which wouldn’t have happened had I tried a traditional press. I will take all royalties from e-book sales, and she will take a small % from online print book sales."

Anita Page's novel, Damned If You Don't, has been reissued as an e-book by Glenmere Press.

L.A. Stark said two ebooks (13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy and Strike Price) will be published by Stone Thread Publishing. "They have asked for more e-books in the Lynn Dayton series," she said.

Elise Dee Beraru said, "I'm going to release my two short stories as a double feature through Dark Hallows, probably at 99 cents for the pair. I just need to get them formatted and a new cover." The stories are "By the Dark of the Moon" and "Three Wishes," from the Dreamspell Romance and Magic anthologies.

Thom Reese's The Empty will be rereleased in early 2014 by the publisher of his other novels, Speaking Volumes. It will be an expanded edition that includes material removed from the Dreamspell edition to meet their word count restrictions. 

Catherine Winn has signed a contract with the new YA imprint of Poisoned Pen Press, The Poisoned Pencil, for the YA mystery novel that had been slated to be published by Dreamspell this summer. 

Peter Green said, "My plan has been to look for good sustainable small presses. I have found one, an imprint of a larger, established  press, where my two mysteries are on submission. If that’s accepted, I’ll go with it. If not, I may look for others. My fallback position is to self-publish with Lightning Source (which many indie publishers use, including the former LLD—part of Ingram, best distribution) or Amazon CreateSpace and KDP (best marketing in one huge market, but no others)."


When Lisa announced Dreamspell would be closing, she also let us know of her arrangements with Rhonda Penders, one of the owners of The Wild Rose Press Inc.  “You will not have to go through their usual "slush" pile but rather go directly to her and she will assign you an editor. She doesn't promise a contract for everything but she does promise to try very hard to find you a home at TWRP if you want it.”

Dreamspellers who have contracts with The Wild Rose Press include:
  • Leigh Neely and Jan Powell, True Nature
  • Marilyn Gardiner, Comanche Moon
  • Susan Coryell, A Red, Red Rose
  • Mark Rosendorf, The Rasner Effect
  • J.D. Webb, Smudge
  • Chris Ferguson, Suicide Kings
  • Nikki Andrews, Framed
  • Joyce Scarbrough, Symmetry
  • Lynn Schurr, A Trashy Affair, Love Letter for a Sinner, A Convent Rose
Contracts are also under consideration at TWRP for a new book from Jo Hiestand, D.K. Christy's Ghost Orchid, and Lynn Shurr’s Wish for a Sinner and Kicks for a Sinner

“I feel lucky to have titles coming out next year," Lynn said. "Trashy Affair was all edited and only lacked its cover before DS folded, hence the quick turnaround.” A Trashy Affair is also on Kindle.

Other advice Dream Team authors shared about getting books back in print included:
  • BackinPrint through The Author's Guild--"Costs you nothing at all except you have to join Author's Guild. iuniverse will do the printing and cover art. I hand all my St. Martin's Press books done that way. They don't do ebooks, though, just print." -- Nancy Means Wright
  • StoneThread Publishing--A traditional royalty-paying publisher for e-books only, is particularly interested in series. Publisher Harvey Stanbrough recommends first reading the About and the FAQs pages before reading the submissions page. 
  • Harlequin Worldwide Mystery & Suspense--"...they bought the first 
two in [my] series as reprints."--Jacqueline Seewald
  • Prince and Pauper Press--the publisher is Dreamspell author Jennifer Carson,
And advice on other markets (some currently closed to submissions):
  • Penumbra Publishing--"They cover a wide variety of genres. My latest sci-fi novel, Status Quo, is through them."--Mark Rosendorf  
  • Belle Books--"... is another publisher with a good reputation...They do romance and mystery and do give an advance.
They are very slow to reply though.

"-- Jacqueline Seewald

  • Spencer Hill Press--"We usually only take queries from agented authors, except in cases where we have met authors at conferences, etc. I am extending to you an open door because of our situation. Spencer Hill does have a wing for contemporary stories. Unfortunately, we don't do straight historical though."--Spencer Hill Press senior editor Jennifer Carson (who is also a Dreamspell author)  
  • Kings River Life Magazine--(Lorie Ham, editor) Reprints individual mystery short stories.--Nancy Means Wright