Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guild’s Feb. 1 workshop on Love Scenes: When to Turn Out the Lights

Multipublished author Lynn Cahoon will help clarify what heat level your writing needs during the St. Louis Writers Guild’s workshop onLove Scenes: When to Turn Out the Lights” from 10 a.m. to noon, Feb. 1, at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd. in Kirkwood. Free to members, $5 for nonmembers.

Most writers face questions such as: How much sex has to be in a book? When do they have to do the deed? What words can you use? Is your mother going to read this?

Lynn will discuss the different heat levels (and target publishers), provide examples of love scenes for all types of romances, brainstorm appropriate language to set the mood, and ways to find your muse and inspiration.

An Idaho native, her stories focus around the depth and experience of small-town life and love. Lynn has been published in Chicken Soup anthologies, explored controversial stories for the confessional magazines, short stories in Women’s World, and contemporary romantic fiction. She lives with her husband and two fur babies in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi River where her imagination tends to wander.

The first book in her cozy mystery series, Guidebook to Murder-A Tourist Trap Mystery, will be released by Kensington Publishing Corp. in April 2014.

More information about St. Louis Writers Guild events is available at www.stlwritersguild.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Braxton DeGarmo: "Story" brings focus to gripping tales based on current issues

Welcome to Braxton DeGarmo, a new member of St. Louis Writers Guild, whom I met last month at the Holiday Book Fair. 
Braxton went to Duke University, earned a Bachelor's Degree of Science in Engineering with a major in Bio-Medical Engineering, and then went into medical school at the University of Cincinnati. Following a residency in Emergency Medicine at Madigan Army Medical Center, he served tours as the Chief, Emergency Medical Services at Fort Campbell, KY and as a research Flight Surgeon at Fort Rucker, AL. In 1997, he became convinced he could write fiction after placing in the top 5 (out of 1100) in a writing contest. The next ten years saw him learning the craft of writing through local writers' groups, seminars, critique groups and more. Now, sixteen years after that first hesitant start, he can't find enough time to write as much as he'd like. Besides writing, he is an avid gardener and backyard daylily hybridizer. Their two children are grown and with three grandchildren nearby, "Papa" wears a number of hats.

What brings your writing into focus – the characters, the stories, the love of words? I love to tell a gripping story. So, while the characters help bring a story to life, it’s the story itself that brings my writing into focus. My stories are, for the most part, about current day issues. As an example, The Militant Genome speaks to the potential threats of bio-technology while looking at the undercurrent of racism that still bubbles through our society. Rescued and Remembered centers around human trafficking. Looks that Deceive takes a little different slant in that it deals more with psychological issues. Without spoiling the story, let me just say it deals with a sociopath. Indebted is different from my other stories in that it is the story of its characters and the hope, perseverance, and redemption they encounter. No matter what the topic, though, the story is central and I hope I will be known as a good storyteller.

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? Find time or make time? I’d love to say I’m a very regimented writer and I write so many words every day. I’m not. Some days nothing gets done with regards to my writing. Some days I plough ahead and chisel 4-5,000 words into stone. I also have to admit I’ve gotten worse by semi-retiring and working only part-time. When I worked full-time, I spent a lot of quality time with my laptop as I spent 8-10 evenings a month by myself in a motel room. Home has too many distractions, or should I say, honey-dos. So, it really does become a matter of making time to write. I can put out a first draft in 4-6 months and a final draft 3-4 months after that, but I have to give myself a deadline. I always work best under the pressure of a deadline.

What inspired your latest book? My latest book, Rescued and Remembered, focuses on the very real problem of human trafficking. Since releasing the book on November 25th, I’ve received a number of emails asking me, “Do you really think that’s happening here?” Unfortunately, the answer is ‘yes’ no matter where you are. Estimates are difficult to make, but those active in combating this problem in St. Louis figure there are several thousand young girls and women caught up in this illegal trade in our metro area, from being simple servants to prostitutes. While my book talks of Eastern European girls being smuggled into the country, the problem more recently has moved to young women from Central and South America. Can I give a plug here? International Crisis Aid, a local non-profit, opened the first safe house in St. Louis this past summer for women rescued from the human trafficking ‘industry.’ Look them up and consider a donation. Let’s help these women.

What do you think readers will like about your book(s)? What’s not to like? Seriously, I think my readers enjoy the stories with all of their twists and turns. My stories tend to make you think, while at the same time they keep you up past your bedtime. I’ve been told that my characters are engaging, yet real. So, as I said, what’s not to like?

How much fact is in your fiction? I tend to use a fair amount of fact in my stories. Fact helps ground a story in reality and if anything, I like realism in my novels. Few things bother me more when reading (or watching a TV show) than to find factual errors in the story. Particularly in this age of the Internet, it’s so easy to research a topic and make sure you have it right. This is especially true for thrillers that rely upon fringe science. Donald Maass, the über-agent, once advised me that to make fringe science believable is possible, but requires a lot of work to make a reader accept it. He used Crichton’s ‘Jurassic Park’ as the prime example. Cloning a dinosaur from DNA trapped in amber is scientifically impossible today, but Michael Crichton built his case well and made it believable. I didn’t envy working that hard to re-write ‘The Militant Genome,’ so I went to cutting-edge technology and found factual science to use in that book. The bio-technology I present in that book is in use today.

Would you share a bit about your next project? What would happen if terrorism struck your kids’ school? And what if that event was totally ignored by the media and politicians? What might happen if a third political party successfully arose from the grassroots of America and became a real threat to both existing parties?



Barnes & Noble:

The Militant Genome -- A master gene for race? Geneticists say such a thing doesn’t exist. However, the Colonel, founder of the Missouri White Alliance, has devised a genetic weapon capable of devastating dark-skinned peoples globally. He is only weeks, maybe days away from implementing his viral version of racial cleansing’s “final solution.” There’s only one threat to his plan – a hotheaded member of the MWA has become the target of a nationwide police search for murder and the kidnapping of local celebrity Della Winston … and the unwanted attention risks bringing federal scrutiny to the previously unknown white supremacy group.
Sarah Wade, MD, has enough stress as a senior Emergency Medicine resident. She never expected that her discovery of a murdered medical student would inadvertently jeopardize her career. Or that the next-day murder of a Nigerian diplomat would lead to the kidnapping of her best friend, Della Winston. The cascade of events pull her – and Seamus O’Connor, the detective assigned to the high-profile medical center murder – into a life-threatening conspiracy of murder, kidnapping, and rising racial tensions.

Indebted -- “Indebted” starts in the late 1960’s and life with an alcoholic father in rural western North Carolina couldn’t get worse for young Alice Cummings, until she gets pregnant out of wedlock and her father “sells” her baby.  She flees, resolved to find her child, but more tragedy derails her search.  Yet, her life turns around in a most unexpected way … before she disappears from the face of the earth.
For current day, mega-selling author, Myra Mitchell, the “Diva of Disaster,” a life of hard work and harder partying falls into a tailspin after a life-changing diagnosis.  In pursuit of a final book, she sets her sights on the unknown story of Betsy Weston, her favorite cartoonist, who appeared from nowhere in Ashville, NC,  and finds herself racing death to pay back a debt unveiled by her hunt.

Looks that Deceive -- The press calls “him” the L.A. Rapist, a misnomer in all ways for this serial assailant whose attacks on legal assistants leaves them in a vegetative state. Now, the deaths of two prominent medical malpractice attorneys have put authorities in an uproar and detective Lynch Culley is under extreme pressure to find the perpetrators. Or should that be singular? Has the L.A. Rapist upped “his” game? 
Amy Gibbs, RN is a newly recruited med-evac flight nurse who left the E.D. and its stress behind, along with memories of a certain detective who “dumped” her. On one fateful call, she hears the deathbed confession of a man who police are seeking as a person of interest, perhaps the killer’s accomplice. Within hours, the lives of Amy Gibbs and detective Lynch Cully again intertwine in a story that unravels a web of identity theft, electronic eavesdropping, and stalking amid a confusion of identities.

Rescued and Remembered -- The past three months have been hard for Jusuf. Fished from the river, nearly dead, he had lost his memory, could barely walk, and needed assistance simply to feed himself. His benefactor, Danijela, lives in fear in the remote river cabin owned by Ibrahim – the man who saved her. She believes him to be dead and his killer, Darko Komarčić, has put a price on her head, too.
For Amy Gibbs, RN, that time has been equally difficult. Suffering from PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, she battles the emotional demons of losing her boyfriend, Lynch Cully, to the same monster who twice attacked and nearly killed her three months earlier. Yet, enter Richard Nichols, an Army veteran recently returned from Afghanistan. His charm and confidence entice her. Yet, is he really who he says he is?
In a series of twists and turns, the four become embroiled in the battle against human trafficking. The results will affect not just their lives, but those of dozens of women caught up in the horrors of modern-day slavery. Like Danijela, these women are “undocumented aliens” brought to the U.S. under the promise of jobs and an education, only to be forced into slave labor and prostitution. Darko's criminal organization is powerful, well-armed, widespread...and rich enough to bribe politicians, policemen, and judges. But Jusuf and the others have vowed to fight, and bring Darko to justice. To do this they will need all their courage and determination ... guardian angels, and a miracle.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Adjusting Your Plot Style to Match Your Life

There is a great debate in the fiction writing world—do you plot or do you pants? The question is deceiving.  It is an assumption that when you are a plotter you are always a plotter and when you pants (writing from the seat of your pants) you are always a pantser and have to learn to develop a written plot to appease an agent or publisher. I once was a pantser. Pantsing gives the writer the same thrill as the reader has as they both experience the story for the first time without necessarily knowing what is going to happen next. While this gives a certain exhilaration to the writer, this has several stumbling blocks—stumbling blocks that has tripped me to fall on my face. Between a heavy time demanding bill paying job and taking care of an elderly parent, I would not be able to work on a piece for months—up to ten months at a time. By then, the story which needed to be chased fresh had long escaped from my grasp and another story would be added to the “dead pile.”

There is a saying in the U.S. Military, “Adapt, overcome, and achieve.” I had to take this saying to my writing heart. Over several years, as it became apparent that the demands on my time would not change and would more than likely only get worse, I had to learn to adapt and change. I had to learn to plot. This may sound like an easy thing to do. To borrow from Nike, “Just to do it!” The trick was to develop a plotting and writing method that still kept the taste of pantsing. The trick was to develop this plotting and writing method to develop the elements in order to make a much larger and hopefully better piece. Some writers who have watched this develop likened it to the four color printing method used to make full color pictures. After several attempts and tweaks, it works for me.

This story is shared to illustrate to any writer—from the beginning writer to the writer who is frustrated or finds that he or she must adapt their writing to fit their art and their life as it changes—that there is not any one way to prepare to write a story.  Nothing has to stop your creativity or to abandon your art. There is always a way, a path between all the advice out there to return you to your life calling.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DavidAlanLucasAuthor. 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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Help Save A Bookstore

photo by Steven Langhorst
Help Save A Bookstore
By Brad R. Cook

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Tidwell, author, publisher, and owner of All on the Same Page Bookstore for the SLWG Author Series.

Robin discussed why she opened the bookstore and the new membership program they hope will allow the store to stay open.

But it wasn’t a wake; we also talked about what’s new for Rocking Horse Publishing, that they will be opening to submissions this spring and a few tips for those who are considering submitting to RHP! We even hear from a RHP author on why she loves her publisher.

To learn more about All on the Same Page Bookstore’s new membership program visit www.allonthesamepagebookstore.com

Or stop by the store at 11052 Olive Blvd., Creve Couer, MO 63141 and shop one of the largest local author sections in this city!

To learn more about Rocking Horse Publishing, its authors, or submission guidelines visit www.rockinghorsepublishing.com

To view the SLWG Author Series interview, Goodbye to All on the Same Page Bookstore?  with Robin Tidwell, follow this link to The Writers’ Lens tumblr page.


View all the SLWG Author Series interviews on Youtube.
Here is the direct link to the interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBsS8s7jxgc

If you can help please do, bookstores are important part of the literary community of any city!

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dr. David Margolis: "If I'm still chuckling...I've achieved my purpose"

Welcome to Dr. David Margolis, a fellow member of the St. Louis Writers Guild. Dr. Margolis received his medical degree at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg Canada. After completing a residency in Internal Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio and a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, he practiced gastroenterology in the suburbs of St. Louis for thirty-six years before retiring in 2013. His stories have appeared in several medical journals as well as HumorPress.com, Long Story Short and Still Crazy.  He resides in Creve Coeur, Mo., with his wife, two poodles and a set of golf clubs.

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? Most of my writing most relates to the story that I am telling. I don’t think character development is my strong suit but I try to employ a humorous approach that will engage the reader and keep him in the story. I generally keep my writing brief with a minimal use of words, and this stems from my professional life as a consulting physician where I produced over fifty thousand notes and letters, attempting to express my thoughts in the fewest words possible. I love rummaging through the Thesaurus looking for interesting synonyms that will embellish the work. When I am done with a piece, if I am still chuckling, that tells me I have achieved my purpose.

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? I enjoy writing and try to put aside two to three hours a day for composing new stories. So far I only have written short stories about 750 to 2500 words in length and I try to produce a piece on average every two weeks. I am fortunate to be retired, so I can devote more time to the hobby that I enjoy, but even when working I found that there is a certain discipline required to devote some time every week to writing otherwise nothing gets accomplished. It seems that on my worst days when I was stuck with a story or just not in the mood, sitting down to the computer produced some of my best work.

What inspired your latest book? My book was inspired by the death of my dog Elmo who was an extremely intelligent black standard poodle.  Before that, I had not done any serious writing but I started off by composing a eulogy to him, and my friends and relatives seemed to like it so I converted the eulogy to a short story and that started me on my writing career.  I had always wanted to write a book about my experience as a gastroenterologist and I included a fictitious patient in that first story and that led to more stories about my patients as well as imaginary gastroenterologists and their imaginary patients.

I believe any reader who has an interest in the medical field or works with patients will find this book worth reading and I hope the humor in the stories will keep them smiling.  There is a story about my own colonoscopy and anyone over the age of fifty has had, or should have had this procedure so they can relate to my experience.

Would you share a bit about your next project? My next project is a book of humorous pieces. Some are related to medicine but other topics include dogs, golf, Santa Claus and characters from fairy tales and Nursery Rhymes as well as my tribulations negotiating life as a retired guy. I have written serious pieces but most of my publications are humorous stories. I am a five-time winner and finalist at Humorpress.com and those stories will be included in the book.

LOOKING BEHIND--This is a collection of fictional stories and poems based on the life of gastroenterologist, David Margolis MD. The stories include vignettes of his life growing up in Canada, his experiences in training, and his years as a practicing gastroenterologist both at home and in the office. Some of the stories are quite factual, others are more imaginative; many will elicit a laugh, and some may cause a tear to be shed. The book is infused with the author’s humility, humor and humanity as well as his honest concern for patients and should be of interest to those in the medical field as well as anyone interested in the practice of medicine.

You can get the book  or the ebook at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It is on sale at All on the Same Page in Creve Coeur or Subterranean Books on Delmar. His website is davidmargolismd.com
This is T.W. Fendley. You can find out more about me and my books at www.twfendley.com. Thanks for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Do Readers Really Want a Happy Ending…No, Not that Kind

Do Readers Really Want a Happy Ending…No, Not that Kind
By Brad R. Cook

Happy endings, do readers really want them? Collectively, do we just want to believe in them, or do writers just want a nice bow to tie everything together?

I know we are writers, but I’m going to talk about a movie. I watched Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 2 and for those who haven’t seen it yet, you may want to skip the next two paragraphs – have they moved on? Good, lets’ talk. So at the end there is a huge epic battle, beloved characters die, your heart gets wrenched several times as these characters you’ve invested in for several movies are torn apart. The bad guys get obliterated… I mean was there anything better than seeing the Volturi get what was coming to them. Then…oops none of that happened it was vision and then we get to why I wrote this post. The movie ends not with an epic battle but everyone agreeing we don’t really want to die today so we’re all just going to go away and leave everything as it is. (I know the book ends differently, but I’m talking about endings, I could care less about Twilight, except for Alice and Jasper, I liked them.)

My point, the movie ends not with the emotional heart wrenching ending that would have left me scared for days. It ended in a happy, everything’s going to be okay, kind of way.

I felt robbed. I wanted the emotional jarring; I wanted to sit around and lament Jasper, or bask in the glory that was Jane being ripped apart by wolves.

Okay, you can all come back now.

That made me think about endings. I write a lot of middle grade, and they almost always have a happy ending. I get it, kids need to believe that everything is going to work out in the end, and the emotional wrenching they got during the story can be eased by an ending that wraps up all the loose ends and knowing the characters will be okay until the next book. I consider this part of the “It gets better,” campaign. Which can be helpful to all kids.

But for adults, NA, Y/A and more, do we need the happy ending, do we want the happy ending? I love when a writer surprises me, when I get a twist I wasn’t expecting. I’m not referring to the gimmick twist, or the non-ending when nothing is resolved as the writer gears up for book two.

Would you really have wanted Romeo and Juliet to run off and live happily ever after. Two star-crossed lovers…who ran off to Genoa together. No, the tragedy has made it timeless.

If you are looking for happy endings then look no further than A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as Puck sets right all the night’s crazy antics. Everyone wakes in the morning and all the strife of the day before is gone, leaving only the lovers with the implication that now they shall live happily ever after.

So what is your ending preference? Do you have a favorite ending to a novel? Let us know in the comments.

I leave you with this…
If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.  ~Orson Welles.  

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

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dr. Clay Alexander seeks clarity, balance in character-driven tales of abuse, ethics

Welcome to Dr. Clay Alexander, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in October. I enjoyed his fast-paced novel during our tour of Japan, thanks to the wonders of ebooks that can be downloaded in foreign countries in the middle of the night!

Dr. Alexander graduated from Yale with a BA in English followed by an MD from Cornell Medical College. After five years of internship and residency at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, he joined the Army and spent two years, based in Japan, caring for Vietnam War wounded. He practiced and taught in New York City for ten years as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery (Columbia University) at Roosevelt Hospital.

Dr. Alexander moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1977 and continued his general surgery practice. He authored numerous medical articles, appeared on local and national (CNN) TV and served actively on many hospital committees and local Boards. He was on the Quality Assurance Committee of the Travelers Insurance company in Dallas as well as the Texas State Quality Assurance committee of the Texas Medical Foundation. He wrote opinions, both for plaintiffs and defendants in malpractice suits and testified at trial.

He lives with his wife in Southern California and is finishing his third novel.

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? I’ve been a voracious reader throughout my life and, in college, majored in English. This may sound strange for a physician, but I think the best doctors use both sides of their brain — one side for the science and the other for the caring. One doesn’t choose that major unless he loves the language and the limitless uses of its words.

The word “focus” has more than a single meaning. It can mean a concentration of energy. My books are not just exciting stories. There’s a layer underneath, a central theme that I hope stays with the reader long after the title is forgotten. In Ultimate Malpractice, it’s an underlying emphasis on domestic abuse and ethics. There is no lecturing—the lives and actions of the characters energize the theme.

The word “engrossing” is associated with focus. The characters themselves, with their strengths and weaknesses, should be so real that the stories they weave come alive. The plots keep the midnight oil burning.

There is “clarity” and “balance” in good novels; two other words used in the same context with “focus”. Good and evil — yin and yang — are obvious examples of this. A killer’s actions can be offset with a love story. A single character, going tragically downhill, can undergo an epiphany and struggle her way back — from tears to laughter— regaining her balance. I use these things to bring my writing into focus.

What inspired your latest book? My latest book should be published by February 2014. What inspired me were the “end-of-life” issues which influence the federal government’s health care plan and budget, upset physicians caring for certain patients and foment the public itself. The patients I’m concerned with are those who are terminally ill and suffering severely, but have no medical directive and are not in hospice. Doctors are then legally obligated to continue maximum treatment, including CPR, chemotherapy, dialysis, etc. etc.

How much fact is in your fiction? There is a significant amount of fact in my fiction. In Ultimate Malpractice, surgical operations are described simply and in layman’s terms. I have extensive experience (happily not with any of my own patients) in writing opinions and testifying in malpractice cases. In addition, certain unscrupulous activities by some personal injury lawyers are factually described. I have treated victims of domestic abuse.

What is the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? The highest compliment one can make about ANY writing is that it causes the reader to seethe with fury, weep at a tragedy, sigh at a lover’s first touch and laugh at a comic situation. The feelings should be so strong that the person sitting next to the reader turns and stares.

One can also say that the highest compliment a reader can make is to recommend the book to a friend . . . but that hardly explains why.

ULTIMATE MALPRACTICE--Surgeon Thomas MacAlister is on probation from the Medical Board of California for previous lapses in judgment, and is at risk of losing his medical license. It is a fateful day when he operates on Tony Hubbard for a perforated appendicitis. Hubbard is an unscrupulous personal injury lawyer who decides—when malpractice occurs—that money isn’t enough.  The lawyer has fallen in love with his law partner’s wife and decides that MacAlister has both the skill and motivation to take care of his competition. But is the lawyer himself at risk when he later threatens to file a malpractice suit?

MacAlister’s marriage to a bright successful young woman begins to disintegrate when she realizes his abuse and bizarre bedroom games are a symptom of a much deeper depravity. To what lengths will the surgeon go to keep her from revealing his secret life and what options does she have when he refuses to let her go?

Practicing excellent medicine is not only about curing disease; it’s also about understanding the patient and helping with the stress. It becomes more difficult for the physician if the patient has a serious mental illness. What happens when the situation is reversed?

Ultimate Malpractice ebook may be purchased on Amazon.com, Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble and several other sites.

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