Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SLWG Author Series with Illustrator Jennifer Stolzer

SLWG Author Series with Illustrator Jennifer Stolzer

Jennifer Stolzer
Writer and Illustrator

The SLWG Author Series in February was proud to present illustrator Jennifer Stolzer. She discussed what an author can expect when working with an illustrator, the process she goes through in translating the author’s vision, and the differences between illustrating the whole book versus just the book’s cover.

View the SLWG Author Series with Jennifer Stolzer –

The SLWG Author Series is held on the third Thursday of the month at STLBooks in Kirkwood. This was the first interview of the series held at STLBooks and we are thrilled to have them as our host.

Find the interview with Jennifer Stolzer on The Writers’ Lens tumblr page  or on the SLWG website  
Find all the SLWG Author Series interviews on Youtube or on the SLWG Website.

Learn more about Jennifer Stolzer and find samples of her artwork at

100 W Jefferson Ave
Kirkwood, MO 63122 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Authors learn how to “sit down & pitch” at free Guild workshop

Once you’ve written a book, getting the attention of an agent or publisher isn’t always easy. Learn how to promote yourself and your writing at the St. Louis Writers Guild’s second annual Sit Down and Pitch” workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, March 1, at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd. in Kirkwood.

“Pitching to an agent or publisher might be the scariest thing a writer has to do,” said Brad Cook, St. Louis Writers Guild president. “This workshop is free and open to all. We invite everyone who is planning to attend the Missouri Writers Guild (MWG) conference in April or other writing conference this year.”

Brad will offer tips for delivering an effective five-minute pitch, then writers will get a chance try their pitches within small breakout groups of other authors. “Even if you don’t have a pitch when you arrive, you’ll have one by the time you leave,” he said.

Then you’ll be ready to pitch to real agents and publishers at the 2014 MWG Conference, Fifty Shades of Writing, April 11-13, in St. Louis. For more conference information and registration, visit

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild, a MWG chapter, at

Monday, February 24, 2014

Christy Tillery French: Dolly Parton finds multi-series author a kindred spirit

Welcome to Christy Tillery French, whom I met as one of the L&L Dreamspell authors. Christy is a multi-published, award-winning author whose books cross several genres. She is the author of The Bodyguard series, the Obsolete series, several standalone novels, as well as co-author of the Appalachian Journey series. To find out more about her work, visit her website at

What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? Although I generally write genre fiction, which is plot-driven, the characters are what bring my writing into focus. With each book, there is always one character I fall in love with – many times not the protagonist or antagonist but a more tertiary one, and that character is the one who leads me through the story. 

What inspired your latest book? My sister Cyndi Hodges (Caitlyn Hunter) and I just released Moonfixer, book 2 of the Appalachian Journey series which is based on our great-aunt Bessie Elliott who lived in the western mountains of North Carolina in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bessie was a healer, psychic and independent woman born at least 100 years before her time. She was part-Cherokee and herbalist, utilizing herbs the Cherokee did to treat those who were injured or sick. Our dad and uncle tell these heartwarming, at times humorous stories about Bessie and the mountain people surrounding her and this is our way of making sure these stories don’t just fade away. We’re happy at the reception both books in the series have received so far and hope it continues on.

Would you share a bit about your next project? Actually I have three ongoing projects. I’m finishing up The Bodyguard and Bridezilla, book six of my Bodyguard series. I’m writing the second book in my Obsolete series, which is a dystopian action-adventure. And Cyndi and I have just started the third book in the Appalachian Journey series, Constant Gardeners. At times, I despair I’ll get any of them done!

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? The best compliment I ever received was from Dolly Parton who wrote me a letter after reading a couple of my books. She told me I was as “crazy and out there” as she was. I love that! I also received a letter from a fan who was going through a traumatic time in her life and she told me that she used my Bodyguard books to escape from her troubles. That really touched me. I also like it when readers say they learn things from the Appalachian Journey series, which we research extensively so that we can offer a lot of historical detail as well as Cherokee legends, culture and medicines.  

MOONFIXER: In the dawning years of the 20th century, Bessie Daniels leaves her home town of Hot Springs and travels east over the mountains to live with her new husband Fletcher Elliott in the Broad River section of North Carolina. Bess and Fletch stay with Fletcher’s parents for the first five years of their married life with Bessie teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and Fletcher working at the lumber mill in Old Fort while they save to buy property of their own on Stone Mountain.

In 1906, they purchase 400 acres of the old Zachariah Solomon Plantation which includes a small house with a shack beside it, a branch of Cedar Creek and a row of dilapidated slave cabins...

And ghosts.

Thus begins Bessie’s next phase of life where the gift of sight she inherited from her Cherokee ancestors grows stronger, her healing abilities are put to the test, and she encounters a vicious secret society that tries to force her and Fletcher to turn their backs on a family sharecropping and living in one of the cabins. When Bessie and Fletch refuse to give in to their demands, the group strikes back, bringing pain and suffering to their once serene existence on Stone Mountain.

My books are available at in the following formats: ebook, paperback and audio
book (Whistling Woman) and can be found at online book stores as well as brick-and-mortar stores – if not on the shelf, they can be ordered.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Denise Elam Dauw's historical novel explores music, love & lucidity

Welcome to Denise Elam Dauw, a music educator in west St. Louis, Missouri, whom I got to meet at the St. Louis Writers Guild Author's Series lecture. She holds a M.M. in Music Education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a B.M. in Music Education from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Specializing in instrumental music as a band director, Ms. Elam Dauw also has experience teaching choir, orchestra, piano, music history and appreciation, guitar, jazz band, marching band, and color guard. She is currently a member of the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and volunteers for the St. Louis Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

What brings your writing into focus? The characters. I've always felt perceptively attuned to other's thoughts, feelings, and emotions my whole life. Likely because I grew up being very shy and quiet, so observation of character and the empathy associated with emotions comes easily. I also would not have written this book had it not been for my grandmother, who was a primary inspiration in my life and for a large portion of this novel. 

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? My simple answer? ... With a full-time teaching job as a band director and two kids at home, the answer is coffee! That, and I absolutely love my work teaching music; it is my raison d'ĂȘtre (my reason for being).

What inspired your latest book? "If Music Be the Food of Love" is a historical fiction novel about how music has the power to bring about true love and bring people back to lucidity - if only for a few moments... this story is about the fight to save the one you love through the music. Initially, I was inspired by a visit to see my grandmother in the hospital, who was suffering from an infected bed sore and pneumonia at the time. She was also diagnosed with Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease nine years prior and was completely unresponsive to touch or speaking. After several moments, I started singing a favorite song of ours: Judy Garland's "Dreamland." Within just the first verse she started to turn her head slowly toward the sound of my voice, gradually open her eyes, and then remarkably tried to mumble the words. I'll never forget that moment as it validated all I strive to do with my students on a daily basis - create meaningful connections through music. I would say Part 1 of the novel is slightly more fact than fiction as I outline my grandparent's beautiful love story. 

What do you think readers will like about your book? It moves quickly, travels through multiple historical periods, and musically has something to offer everyone. From the '40s with Frank Sinatra to the '60s with the Beatles, to classical piano repertoire that shapes so vividly in your mind that you swear you could play it yourself! 

What movie star would be perfect for (your main character) and why? I am currently working on a screenplay and know who I'd like for each of my female characters, but I have to be very particular about the male lead. Without giving away the plot, the male protagonist has to be able to sing, play guitar and play classical piano, which is a huge undertaking. When creating and visualizing the main character,  Robert Pattinson was actually my muse - I know he could handle the role!

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? That reading my book touched their heart in some way, helped them deal with the emotions of losing a loved one to Alzheimer's, or most importantly, inspired discussions on the topic in their home or involvement in Alzheimer's research. This is a love story more than anything, but my mission is to raise funds and awareness, and create opportunities to learn more about the disease. 
What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? Actually, a pivotal selection is featured on my commercial book trailer and becomes a powerful force in the climax of my novel: Chopin's Nocture No. 8 in Db (preferably performed by Peter Schmalfus, the 'Chopin King'/ interpreter).

IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE: Relive the passion and romance of Mae, Jean, and Ellie - three ailing women whose lives were forever altered through the powerful presence of music, opening gateways to true love. Amidst their current illness, the women are separately visited by a man of alleged paramount significance. Who is this man? Is he the key to helping these women or can music unlock the answers in time to save them all?

Purchasing links (also on website): 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Maintain Discipline

The Winter Olympics in Sochi play out and you can see the fruits of athletes' training and disciple. It is a commitment that they make, a sacrifice to chase after being the best in their sport—the training, the diet, the events in people’s lives missed, the thrill of achievement and the bitter taste of defeat along the way that pushed them to this level of competition.  Some of them have overcome injuries that would have benched most people. Some have overcome obstacles that would have made others walk away. Some have even quit only to be driven to try just one more time. They are champions just to be there.

Does this sound at all familiar to you as a writer? It should. Unlike those Olympians, our discipline requires us to sit in a chair when we probably could use more time in the gym. Yet, every writer who works at the art—chasing the dream and after having achieved it once, twice, or more—trains every day in the art of writing. Writing cannot be taught. You can teach the mechanics of writing. But you can’t teach the art behind it. This can only be developed with discipline. The goal of our daily training can only be achieved with a discipline of doing our art, putting ourselves out there, and never ever giving up—even when we feel like we should.

Not that long ago, I almost retired my pen. I was and still am nowhere near the goal I want to reach. Over the last several years I have had a heap of obstacles that have stood in the way of my writing. As I faced them—still face them—I felt myself slide into depression as I couldn’t believe my dreams were crashing about me. But, this is where the amateurs and the professionals separate. It is the discipline to keep going and recover what you have lost to try again—and again—and again and never surrender.

There is no one way to climb the mountain range that we climb. Each of us takes our own paths to each summit, see the next one and start to mount the next climb. True, there are a lot of books and advice out there about how to write or how to manage your career. The fact is no matter what you do you can’t make the climb without the discipline to get it done. Like the Olympians who challenge themselves to reach for the Gold, you have to challenge yourself for the next achievement in your writing career. It takes talent, it takes determination, and it takes discipline. The sport for the Olympians is their calling and their life. This art of writing is ours.

The Olympians dare everything to stand as tall as they do. Do you dare so much?

Please visit and You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens.  You can also find me on Facebook at

Also, check out Write Pack Radio at or on Facebook at or on twitter @WritePackRadio. Write Pack Radio brings Pop Culture, Writing, and Publishing together and throws them into a crucible of humor, clarity, and passion.

Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lens On: Manuscript Formatting Part One

Lens On: Manuscript Formatting
Part One – Formatting a Manuscript for Submission or Contests  
By Brad R. Cook

Agents, editors, and publishers have so many submissions to go through don’t give them any reason to drop it in the T-file! Producing a quality, professional product is the best way to get noticed.  

Even if you are not going the traditional publishing route, and have a damn-the-man attitude, you’ll still need to hire editors, e-book formatters, and other freelance professionals. Having a properly formatted manuscript will save money. As a freelancer for several years, I can tell you not having a properly formatted manuscript could double the price, because it will take twice as long to work on.

The writing is what should stand out, not the font, the indents, or anything else.

Proper Manuscript Formatting

Use a standard font, 12 point type in black only, Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier
            Do not use all bold, no crazy colors, and no cute fonts, in fact don’t use Courier, they say you can, but use Garamond instead.   

Double-space the entire text
            Single space is great in a 6x9 trade paperback, but on a 8.5x11 sheet of paper it is a literal wall of text. Double space so a reader, or more importantly, an editor can get through the page without a headache.

Begin the next sentence one space after the period  
            History lesson: back when we used typewriters, due to the spacing issues of letters (look at courier and it will give you an idea) they had to put two spaces at the end of a sentence so the readers eye would notice the break. Welcome to the future, fonts are spaced more appropriately and adding those spaces, not only looks awkward, but also adds pages to your novel.

One inch margin on all sides of your document
            One inch is standard, don’t make it .5 so you can turn 12 pages into 10 pages. Not to mention they stick out (not in a good way) especially in a stack of manuscripts.

Indent five spaces for the first line of each paragraph  
            This is best done by formatting the paragraph in the document’s toolbar or by using the tab button; do not hit the spacebar five times.
            Every paragraph needs to be indented in a manuscript, most people know this and get it right, but I’m mentioning this because of how most people indent or even center for that fact. Please do not use the spacebar! Someone, your publisher, your e-book formatter, your editor will have to go through the entire manuscript fixing these mistakes. Please save them from wanting to rip every hair off their body, and set your paragraph indent in the toolbar. Then all you have to do is write and the document does all the formatting for you. Thank you.

Do not add a space between paragraphs
            Remove the default line spacing (Why Word, why couldn’t the default have been standard manuscript format!)
            History lesson: In the early days of the internet to break up the text heavy screen (back when blogs had text that scrolled for days, now we just use gifs) a space was put between paragraphs.
            As the age of the long blog fades into six second videos, let this practice of adding a space between paragraphs fade into history. It not only adds half an inch to a stack of manuscript pages, but it breaks up a readers flow, and that’s the last thing a writer wants to do.
            Set this for the document, usually under Page Layout, and let the program do the work for you.

Begin the first paragraph four to six lines below the chapter heading
            If the document is double-spaced, just hit Enter twice and – if you’ve formatted the document in the program, then it’s already indented too – and start the first sentence.

Start each new chapter one third of the way down on a new page
            For short stories this is about where to start the story on a page. Leaving space around the title is not only appealing to the eye, but also clearly denotes a new section of the story.

Use a title page
            Contact information should be included unless otherwise specified by the guidelines. Do not number the title page, begin numbering on the first page, usually chapter one.

Place page numbers in the bottom right hand corner
            Just like a book.

Use a header on the upper right hand corner of each page
            Include your name and the title of your manuscript. Name – Title or I always use Name | Title

Use 20lb bond paper, white, with a high brightness
            If you have to print the submission for a contest or conference please use only white paper. For some reason, especially in contests, people think crazy paper is going to help out their entry, but yet again you want the writing to stand out not the paper.

Acceptable file formats
            Try to submit everything in a .doc file. Other file formats are accepted, .docx, .rtf, or pdf, but to be honest it’s about where you’re submitting it. If handing it off to an editor they will want .doc file, same as with an e-book formatter, but a printer might want a pdf. Always follow the guidelines.

Do not embed pictures into the manuscript
            This will happen when the book gets to layout. Send them when the publisher asks for them; maybe send a couple with the submission packet. Ask what the agent or publisher would like to see.

Tips when formatting

Be consistent! How anything is displayed is up to you, if you want to use year/place instead of place/year that’s fine but keep it the same throughout the whole manuscript.

When entering a contest, do not put your name on the manuscript, only the title page.

Always follow the submission guidelines!

Coming soon - Part Two: Formatting Tips for Ebooks and Print

Brad R. Cook, author, publisher at Blank Slate Press, and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit or for more information. Follow me on Twitter @bradrcook, @blankslatepress, @stlwritersguild, or my tumblr page Thoughts from Midnight

The Lens On: Series is a reoccurring series of articles on The Writers’ Lens highlighting various aspects on writing; they are meant to start a discussion on the stated topic. For more information on this topic please consult Google or other literary sources.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bonnie Milani: HOME WORLD book trailer goes Hollywood

Click here to see more trailer stills for Home World!
Guest post by Bonnie Milani
Author of Home World

Since I'm a benefits broker here in LaLa Land (aka Los Angeles) I do a lot of work with folks in what we Angelenos call The Industry - as in, the Entertainment Industry. Anybody working in or around Hollywood knows how horrendously difficult it is to break into the Industry, so I'm very, very respectful of my clients' privacy. Still, like any other author I'm proud as a new mama of 'Home World'.  So I sent ebook copies of the novel to folks I knew well and figured would actually enjoy the book.  To my vast surprise, a director client of mine dropped me a note a couple of weeks later to say he didn't just love the story, he WANTED to do a movie style book trailer for me.  Turns out he'd been looking for a short sci fi project, & Home World fit the bill. Good thing it was a note and not a phone call, because I really could not have managed a coherent sentence at that point. 

Available on Amazon
Now, I've been around the Industry for over 30 years, so I thought I had a fair-dinkum notion of just what it takes to put a shoot together. OY, was I wrong!  My client - who was now my producer/director - was absolutely wonderful.  We've worked together on his insurance so some years, and I've had the privilege of watching him work at work on set at Warner Brothers Studios, but this was my first chance to be a part of a project. But as the project developed over the next four months he walked me through the logistics of location scouting, developing a script (I got to co-write!), assembling a crew, casting, wardrobe...and, nightmare of nightmares - production insurance! Ouch. But, finally, we had the locations worked out, the sets built, the cast selected. Thanks to my wonderful producer, the entire project was a labor of love for all concerned.  He talked a cinematographer friend into being our Director of Photography (DP).  This was HUGE, because our DP insisted that if he was going to shoot the trailer, he was going to do it RIGHT.  So he brought his whole lighting and sound crews - AND used Arri Alexa cameras for the shoot. That didn't mean anything to me, either, until my producer mentioned I might have seen what those cameras can do in a little movie called 'Avatar'. 

The REAL fun, though, was wardrobe and make-up. This being a labor of love, we had no budget to speak of. So we borrowed. You'll recognize some of the outfits from movies like 'Matrix' or 'Snow White & the Huntsman'. I was on set to help with some last minute script rewrites, and help our wardrobe mistress (who turned out to be another Home World fan!) make sure the costumes came as close to the characters in the novel as possible. The biggest challenge, of course, was Strongarm - turned out that getting a set of MOVABLE wolf's ears requires full-scale audioanimatronics plus two months' design & programming time. Oh, and quite a few thousands of dollars. Emphatically not in the budget. So we worked around it. How?  'm not giving that one away!

Keiko & Strongarm
The shoot itself took about 20 hours, non-stop. Anybody who's never been around a working set tends to think it's all glitz and glam. Let me tell you - the crew started set up around 4:30 in the morning. We wrapped the shoot at midnight. TWO breaks - 15 minutes for lunch while crew loaded sets for the next location and 15 minutes for dinner. Kim Huynh, the girl playing Keiko, didn't even dare eat, because she couldn't afford a belly bulge in the next scene. During a day shot, Carson Aune (whom we 'borrowed' from True Blood) had to sit through light set up (think 'boiling air') in full leather regalia with the instructions NOT to sweat. Let's hear it for actors - he didn't.

The still shots give you a hint of what goes into making Hollywood magic. Come back in March - and we'll welcome you to Home World.

Learn more about Bonnie Milani and Home World via her Blog Ring of Power interviews.


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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pat Bubash: Interviewing is exhilarating

Welcome to this week's guest, Pat Bubash, a fellow St. Louis Writers Guild member! Her professional career was in education for more than thirty years, mostly as a school counselor, family advocate, and adult education instructor. Her M.Ed. is from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, with 30 hours in post-graduate work in testing and assessment. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Stephens Minister. As a counselor, she has served on various boards: Kids in the Middle (children of divorce), The Olive Branch (homeless pregnant teens), president of St. Louis Association for Counseling and Development. She authored a book, Successful Second Marriages, and submits articles to a variety of online sites.


When and why did you begin writing? Writing is something I have always enjoyed. Unlike my fellow classmates of (many) years ago, when the teacher assigned a writing assignment, I did not groan, but happily began writing. I remember with such delight my fourth-grade teacher telling me I had the "10" dollar word when I asked her how to spell "convince."  I think the assignment was on Christopher Columbus. When my turn came as a teacher, I created assignments with the intent of encouraging even the "non" writers to unearth their creative juices by utilizing art, sports, even cartoons to inspire the reluctant writer. Letter writing was another form of creative writing for me. As a child and an adult, I often lived far away from our relatives. There was no email nor Skype available at that time. I wrote long, informative letters describing my environment, school, and new friends. I continue to send notes, letters (a little less lengthy!) via snail mail. I find my thoughts flow as my pen hits paper. Funny, but I have never been keen on keeping a journal, but love writing letters.

How much time do you spend on research? What type of research do you do? I encourage writers to belong to an organization that promotes writers, provides resources, encouragement, support- what we need to foster our continued writing. I was not so fortunate to be aware of St. Louis Writers Guild or St. Louis Publishers Association until "after the fact" - my book was completed when I discovered what a wealth of information had been available. Another "late to me" is the importance of building your platform before you even publish your book. Do this via blogs, social media, organizational involvement-develop a following of readers who will be looking forward to the book that you will be providing for them. I am still looking for a critique group that works for me- relationships is a different style than the writing of  the novelist, but I do know belonging to a critique group is beneficial in developing good writing. A new area of platform-building for me has been BlogTalkRadio. In the past months, I have had several interviews on a variety of shows -- a new experience for me, which I am finding very enjoyable.  

Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write? I love listening to people's stories, and, then writing about them. Of special interest to me are the personal accounts of accomplishment, survival, and achievement. Interviewing is exhilarating for me. I find myself lost in the words of the speaker anxious to put their words into a story. This excitement does not carry over to writing poetry or fiction. I was sorely disappointed to discover I really did not "understand" nor could I get the style to be a contributor to the Chicken Soup books. These three areas are not only challenging for me, but seem to allude me. My niche is developed as a result of my counselor role. I have an understanding for people's life experiences, an empathy, personal connection making the writing flow easily. I have one challenge that I am determined to overcome: I want to write my parents' life story. I have starts everywhere, but no chapter yet! 

What inspired your latest book? My book was inspired by the parents, students, even grandparents who shared the emotional difficulty of divorce. As a school counselor, my office was a safe place to shed tears, unburden, and speak honestly about anguish, hurt, disappointment, even anger. Whatever I was told, I could have responded with, "I know how you feel." I knew because I had experienced the same life-changing situations.  So, not only did I want to provide a book of inspiring, encouraging, and hopeful stories, but I found the process of interviewing and listening therapeutic for me. This goes back to the previous comments: I love hearing people's stories, and I want to share them in a positive, helpful way for others.

Note from Pat: "When Bill McClellan readily and graciously gave me a review [on the back cover], I was thrilled. I admire, enjoy, aspire to his style of writing. The other compliment for me was the number of readers who stated, "I felt that I was sitting in the room with you as you talked with the couples you interviewed." That was the goal, a style that was easy to read,  personally relevant, meeting the tag line: inspiring, encouraging and hopeful."

Next book:  Marriage Blisters:  Spousal Behaviors that Rub you Wrong (or Raw)

SUCCESSFUL SECOND MARRIAGES: Patricia Bubash, M.Ed. Licensed Professional Counselor, interviews nine married couples who have achieved success in their second marriages in her new book, Successful Second Marriages. Patricia was inspired to find the formula for a successful second marriage as a result of the failure of her own own marriage, motivated to look for the secrets to what it takes to make it work and share her findings with the world, using her own pain to help others.

Her discoveries are written from an open-hearted, transparent point of view that is accessible to readers and gives them the sense of reading something far more personal than your traditional “self-help” book.

Buy at Amazon

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Blank Slate Press Re-Opens to Submissions and is Growing!

Blank Slate Press Re-Opens to Submissions and is Growing!
By Brad R. Cook

First the Big News – Blank Slate Press is re-opening to submissions!

Okay now the real news; I have joined the team at BSP!

That’s right I’m an author and publisher! Exciting!

As a partner in Blank Slate Press, I will lead the team in Marketing, Author Management, and Acquisitions.

Blank Slate Press was founded in 2010 by Kristina Makansi to discover, nurture, publish and promote emerging writers. Many of the titles they’ve released have won awards. BSP is an adventure in the future of publishing. It truly is writers publishing writers! Because we are so small (i.e., micro, nano, itty bitty), we can only publish a limited number of books per year. In doing so we can maintain the quality of each book and the attention we give to each author. 

Fiction Submission Guidelines
The Blank Slate Press imprint is genre-blind but with a literary sensibility. We accept adult and young adult genre fiction and literary fiction submissions, and we are looking to publish a few non-fiction titles. The bottom line is great writing, intriguing characters, and a little extra something to stand out in the crowd–even for non-fiction. BSP seeks excellent writers who are committed to and excited about marketing their book, fostering their author presence online and off, and building a community of readers. You do not need to have an agent to submit your work.

So, to repeat: We consider all genres and literary works for adult, young adult and middle grade, but the writing must have what we call a “literary sensibility.” In other words, we love genre fiction, but we’re not just looking for good storytelling. We’re also looking for writing that is insightful and moving, and that will stay with the reader long after the book is closed or the device turned off. Note: we do not publish poetry.

We believe in top quality novels with a literary mindset. That isn’t changing, what is, the number of books we produce in a year!

As for me, I’ll always be looking for great stories with deep complex characters and strong voices. I’m on the eternal hunt for books that make me think, wrench my emotions, and define my life… basically books that move me.

So do you have a great story, a strong voice, top notch writing, and a new twist on the genre? Then BSP may be the right publisher for your hard work!

Blank Slate Press is a traditional publisher. For submission guidelines and what BSP is looking for please visit 

I’m really excited to help writers reach their lifelong goals!

Brad R. Cook, author, publisher at Blank Slate Press, and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit or for more information. Follow me on Twitter @bradrcook, @blankslatepress, @stlwritersguild, or my tumblr page Thoughts from Midnight 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Listen to Your Mother" auditions to 2/21

Listen To Your Mother--a national movement that gives motherhood a microphone--is taking submissions through Feb. 21. 

"This is a great opportunity to take your words from page to stage," said Ellie Grossman, co-director/producer. "We are looking for stories about motherhood--the beauty, the beast, and the barely rested. You don't have to be a mom--we're looking for anyone who has a powerful, inspirational, emotional, funny, sad, heartwarming story about motherhood." 

Click image to enlarge.

Monday, February 3, 2014

George Sirois: More "fact" than you'd think in his YA sci-fi novel, EXCELSIOR

Welcome to George Sirois! He self-published his first novel From Parts Unknown in November 2002, which he is re-working as a five-part eBook serial and paperback release. When he self-published his Young Adult/Science-Fiction novel Excelsior in July of 2010, it was named “Top Pick” by Night Owl Reviews and a quarter-finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Working with Rocking Horse Press in 2013 gave the story a much-needed new lease on life. George’s writing has also been seen on and as a featured columnist. After living in New York City for most of his life, George and his wife and their two dogs now happily call St. Louis, Mo., their home. In his spare time, George is an avid cinephile, a collector of film scores, a lifelong fan of the New York Giants, and enjoys West Coast Swing dancing. 

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? I would have to say, more than anything, the stories. I love taking a character or group of characters or a city or even a whole world and filling them with their own mythology. After watching the outstanding documentary on DC Comics super-villains called "Necessary Evil," I would add that a really fun part of my writing is creating the right villain to put my protagonists to the ultimate test.

How much fact is in your fiction? More than you would think. When I was in high school, I filled steno notebooks with stories when they should have been filled with homework assignments or notes in class. (I prided myself on being quite the underachiever.) And during my senior year, I shared some of those stories with my English teacher and she loved them. She encouraged me to keep going, and at the end of the year, she took those stories into account when she calculated my final grade. I was two points short from having an 85 and she added those two points, calling it "Excelsior Extra Credit." I never forgot that and made sure to add that moment into my novel.

Would you share a bit about your next project? I have two projects I'm working on now. One is the first of two Excelsior sequels. I don't want to go into a lot of detail on this, except to say that it'll be longer than the first, it'll be darker than the first and it will go into a lot of my main character's backstory.
     The other is a complete rewrite of my novel From Parts Unknown into a five-part serial. It's a more adult-oriented science-fiction story, something more along the lines of the sci-fi films of the 1970s like Rollerball and Soylent Green.
     I asked myself in 1995, "What if wrestling was real?" and a few years later, I wrote a concept to a video game, then a treatment, then over 10 drafts to a screenplay, and then - finally - the novel. I self-published it in 2002 through iUniverse, but when I re-read it in 2011, I realized that it wasn't very good anymore. So I got the rights back and started giving it a full overhaul.
     I have some bits and pieces to add to Parts 1-4 and the outline to Part 5 is almost finished.

What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers? Love going on Facebook and Twitter to meet new readers and introduce them to my work through my author page - - but that's no replacement for meeting them in person and answering any questions they may have. The launch party for Excelsior was really special since I got to speak to a lot of kids that were really looking forward to reading the story.

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? I've always been a lover of film scores and one of the first things I did after completing the first draft of Excelsior was put together my own soundtrack for it. While a major scene used Hans Zimmer's score from King Arthur, I think the "theme" music would be from Trevor Jones' Thirteen Days. The first track "Lessons of History" and the last one "The Will of Good Men" would be the perfect music to open and close the movie. (I'm always holding out hope that Excelsior will find its way to the big screen in my lifetime!)

EXCELSIOR -- Created by high school senior Matthew Peters, Excelsior – savior of faraway planet Denab IV – is becoming an Internet sensation as the main character of a popular online comic strip. But before Matthew can enjoy his burgeoning success, a beautiful older woman arrives at his school and tells him that not only is she from the planet Denab IV, but that Excelsior's lifeforce lives within him. Now, with Excelsior's old enemies regaining strength, Matthew realizes he is the key to Earth's survival and Denab IV's salvation, and he has an opportunity that he never thought possible, to become his greatest creation.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

When Feeling Like a Fraud

Often in a writer’s career there are times when they question if they are really a writer or (to borrow from Neil Gaimon) that some man with a clipboard will show up on their doorstep and tell them that they need to get a real job, wear a tie and go into the office every day. This anxiety comes from the uncertainty that we hold in ourselves. It is that voice that says you are not good enough, you are washed up, you really don’t have a clue what you are doing, you have missed your opportunity—and we listen to that voice. What can we do when we are faced with feeling like we are frauds?

Sadly, there isn’t any single answer to how to face it. Not every writer handles this the right way. Some “disappear” from the industry. Some turn to substance abuse. Some even turn to suicide, as we feel hollow without our art or we feel that drive that pushes us like an unrelenting taskmaster. Others face it in more healthy ways of reaching out to other writers and feeling their support or to supporting friends and family.

From a personal point of view, this feeling is a constant companion. I have had some poems, articles, and short stories published but I haven’t “made it.” This is how I keep my “monster” gagged. To be honest it hasn’t always worked. I have almost walked away from this calling in life more than once . . . more times than I want to count. But there is a drive that keeps me going. 

1.  Remember you are human, not the embodiment of perfection.

There is a saying on a plaque that my grandmother had given my father. I didn’t know where it had come from until after she passed away or I would have thanked her when she was alive, because it has kept me going through a lot in life: “Don’t worry if you work hard and your rewards are few. Remember, the mighty oak was once a nut like you!"

All humor aside, the fact is our art and ourselves as writers are organic. We may have heard the call of our muse when we were very young or much later in life, but that call was a seed planted in our minds (or soul). We start to work on our art. We haven’t been touched by some divine being with the ability to just sit down and create a masterpiece. Our abilities grow and the path is frustrating, rocky, slippery and never straight. To be strong in our art we have to face these tribulations, as much as we don’t want to. Without facing those fears, failures and stumbles we couldn’t be the writers we are today. Some of us get recognition for our art sooner than others, but even those writers are still growing or they quickly become forgotten.

2.  Remember why you write.

If I had a quarter for every time a “want-to-be” writer  have approached me or asked at a writing workshop or conference “how do I get rich writing?” I might be able to pay the National Debt off for us all and still live comfortably. Not that wanting to write for money is bad—I would love to be able to live on that kind of income rather than rely on a second full time job—but if you are going to write because you think you are going to get rich you may as well grab a pick axe and a pan and mine for gold somewhere else. It would probably be as much work with as little payoff as this craft of ours.

You decided to answer the call to be a writer for a reason. Do you remember when you were  bright eyed with the idea, the feeling behind those first scribbled words were  first put on the page (digital or paper)? Why did you do it? What about it gave you satisfaction? Your reason to write may have changed since those first steps into this strange creative world. What was the initial reason? If that reason has changed, has it changed for the better?

When we are writing for the wrong reason, we get in our own way and we doubt our talents and gifts. We see our flaws, our failures, and succumb to the negative seduction of the inner critic. When I feel like a fraud, I look at what I am trying to write and what I am trying to do. I dissect my motives behind the question of “why write this story?”  That question can kill the work I am doing or cause it to be shelved for a later time because the fault and the doubts aren’t really about my talent but about the motive behind the story. I have to reconnect with the art in me and what has brought me to this insane industry in the first place—has led to the sacrifices we all make in pursuit of it.

3. Remember that any flaw as a writer that you have, you are never as bad as you think. (No matter what any critic says either)

We all have our problem areas in our art. Some of us it is dialogue, some it is avoiding cookie cutter characters, some it is description, some of it is voice. We all have them. To us they stick out and we get frustrated OR we submit for publication with blinders on and then wonder why it got rejected. This frustration and feeling of rejection is the gateway through which our doubts and fears enter. We can sit there and ponder, “Well [enter other author name] writes crap or ill disguised fan fiction that gets published. Why can’t I?” Then our frustration grows and often unrealistically.

The fact is, unless you are some kind of “Mozart” of the writing world, you are flawed and those flaws bleed into your writing. Instead of being frustrated, embrace those flaws—learn them and learn how to find them in your manuscript. Stop beating yourself up over it and adapt to overcome. Yes, it means a lot of work. Everything we achieve or fail to achieve is directly related to how smartly and diligently we work on our art. Why beat yourself up over being you? How useful is that to improving what you do? (If that sounds flip, it really isn’t. I face this not only as a writer, but also as a martial artist. It is in what we do when we face it that defines us as an artist.)

4. Remember that every writer has flaws.

I wish I was any of my literary heroes: Erle Stanley Gardner, Isaac Asimov, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Alexandre Dumas, and the list go on. The fact is, I’m not. Not anywhere near them. Because I have grown to idealize them, much as many writers do Stephen King, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Walter Mosby, and others, we start to see them as the idea rather than the flawed human and flawed writers that they were or are. Pick up any one who has been published a lot and read their work with a jaundice eye of our craft and you will be able to see their flaws. As you read them over time you will see how they have grown as a writer to over come those flaws BY WRITITNG!

They may have gone to some workshops or taken some classes here and there, but they worked to improve their craft by constantly writing and working to improve their flaws. These flaws sometimes still stand out like a “neon kick me sign” in their first drafts, but they go back and rework the pieces to improve them.  Personally, I have created a writing method for me to be able to spot my flaws as a writer with a laser focus. As I fix them and trying to ignore that inner critic, I have to remember that I am organic. I will always have flaws. There is no perfect manuscript and all you can do is do your best and remember why you write in the first place.

The truth is that we all face the feeling in being an inadequate writer or being a fraud.  It is how we face this feeling that defines us as an artist. We only become frauds and failures when we give into the feeling and walk away from your calling.

Thank you for reading and please visit and You find me on Facebook at 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.