Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Three Thoughts About… Point of View and Storytelling

Three Thoughts About… Point of View and Storytelling
By Brad R. Cook

Having seen some movies over the holiday season, including the really big one, and then reading the backlash online, I wanted to talk about how writers use POV – Point of View. This isn’t a post about the differences of First Person and Third, or if Omniscient is better or worse than Limited, I want to talk about how writers use POV to tell stories.

1 – POV limits the storytelling to one or a couple of characters.
It doesn’t matter if you use First Person and switch characters from chapter to chapter, or if Third Person is used in limited or omniscient. By selecting one of these storytelling techniques, the writer is choosing to tell the story from a certain character’s point of view. Every story needs a main character, or maybe an ensemble of central characters. But every person in your story, even the poor side character that only walks into the scene with a glass of water, has a story, a life, or actions that take place off page, or off screen.

2 – Point of View filters all information to the reader
Locking in a Point of View causes the reader to see and feel the story through that character. What would Star Wars be without experiencing everything for the first time like Finn, or through the hope Rey sees in the galaxy around her? We experience the horrors and pain of the hunger Games through Katniss, and her interactions with the other tributes. As writers, we control the emotional journey of the readers, and that’s a good thing. We take the reader on a roller coaster through our books, leading them through the low moments and raising them up to heights of tensions and joy.

3 – Readers might think they want everything but they really don’t
Readers or movie goers might think they want to know what every character is doing when not in the scene, or every character’s back-story, but in truth, they don’t. Victorian novels, the really thick ones that everyone had to read in school, but really we just watched the movie. The ones we tell people we’ve read, but only really paid attention to in class. Except for some of us – I love those novels, as well as a small group of professors and literary types. Victorian novels are notorious for including characters that didn’t matter, or jumping into elaborate back-stories that made readers wonder where the plot went. The world has moved on from that kind of story telling – writers don’t get paid by the word anymore. Readers want the plot, the action, and the emotion, in a refined and polished story.

The trick is to give a reader everything they need. A main character may not be able to see everything a villain does, or every little moment of the story, but the challenge for us as writers is to find ways to impart that information to the reader. There are right ways (POV switches) and wrong ways (Info Dumps) to include what can’t be directly experienced, but that is something for another day.

I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sure it was overly nostalgic and made me ask a thousand questions as I left the theater, but part of that is a time and pacing issue, and part of it is that Rey, Finn, and Poe didn’t have all the answers.

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen - and Iron Zulu -  He currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more at, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr

Friday, December 25, 2015

Baker discusses “The Empowered Writer” at Jan. 9 Guild workshop

Writers will learn the three biggest mistakes that keep them from building a fan base and a thriving career at Bob Baker’s “The Empowered Writer” workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, Jan. 9, at Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd, Kirkwood, Mo. Free to St. Louis Writers Guild members, $5 for nonmembers.
 Baker will show you simple ways to overcome these obstacles so you can make more of an impact with your words, books, articles, poems, and blog posts. This workshop is guaranteed to be interactive, eye-opening and fun.

Bring a notebook and pen so you can take lots of notes and leave with some easy but powerful action steps to build your writing career.
Bob Baker is on a lifelong mission to help musicians, authors and creative entrepreneurs use their talents and know-how to make a living and make a difference in the world!
He is a full-time author who has developed a successful niche writing and speaking about music marketing and self-promotion for songwriters, musicians, and bands.
He served six terms as president of the St. Louis Publishers Association and is an advocate for the self-publishing movement.
Bob is the author of the highly acclaimed "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" (which appeared in the movie "The School of Rock," starring Jack Black). He also created the "Music Marketing 101" course, which ran for five years at Berkleemusic, the online continuing education division of Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He has appeared in the media on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "Marketplace" and in such publications as Publishers Weekly, Electronic Musician, Music Connection, The Guardian, Canadian Musician, VIBE magazine, E! Online, and even The Onion!

 Bob's other titles include "The Empowered Artist," "55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet," "The Guerrilla Guide to Book Marketing," "Unleash the Artist Within," and more.
Check out Bob's free ezine, blog, podcast, video clips and articles at, and
Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Julie Whitley: Stand-alone fantasy evolves into sequel "The Stalker"

Welcome to Julie Whitley, a retired nurse who lives in Ontario with her husband and mother. Julie is the proud mother of daughter Jennifer and enthralled new grandmother of grandson, Hamish. Secrets of the Home Wood: the Sacrifice is her debut novel and represents a labour of love over twenty years in the making. Julie also loves to fill her time with painting, travelling, sailing with friends and scuba diving/snorkelling. Life is good!

1.  What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? I have loved to write since I was nine years old and I would sit for hours in my room writing stories and illustrating them. I have to say that the love of words got me started, but it is the love of a good story and the development of characters that inspires me now. I try to appeal to all the senses as I write, without being too poetic. Learning how to tell a story effectively has been an interesting journey and my skin has become much thicker through the process. I was once asked if I ever met an adjective I didn’t like. After being taken back for a minute, I realized there was a great deal of truth in the question. Having mentors and honest beta readers has helped me cure a lot of tics, but it is an endless fight to keep from developing new ones.

2. What inspired your latest book? My latest story, The Stalker, is the sequel to my debut novel Secrets of the Home Wood: the Sacrifice. The first story was decades in development from a creative writing exercise, to a one character journey that transformed into the story of a family. After all the time it took to complete The Sacrifice, I was positive it would be a stand-alone story. In fact, even as the last chapters were being written, it suddenly hit me—hard!—that a sequel was brewing. The arrangement of characters has changed a little, but the danger and suspense and three points of view is the same. I am enjoying the further growth of the two main characters, while the feisty third has been a pleasure to get to know.

3. What do you think readers will like about your book? Readers of The Sacrifice have said that they enjoyed the intricacy of following the three journeys of the protagonists. The read was quick even though 80,000 words and each chapter ending spurred on the turn of the page. I think that readers of the Stalker will be delighted with the same format and growth in the characters as well as the excitement of the new dangers they face. What has also been most fun for me is that while originally written for a YA audience, my readers have ranged in age from 10 to 80!

4. How much fact is in your fiction? Even though my story is fantasy, I have used some names of places and people from my life: a place I once worked, my best friend, my uncle who passed away just before I introduced his character. As well, I had saved up names that I had heard over the years and thought were wonderful. The world I created was an amalgam of countries I have visited and would like to visit and historical time periods. I researched the designs of medieval castles, but the rest came from my imagination.

SECRETS OF THE HOME WOOD: For Jonathon, the Home Wood that borders his grandfather's farm has always been a source of mystery and dread. Strange half-heard rumours passed among aunts, uncles and cousins never quite add up. More than twenty years ago, his father-when he was Jonathon's age-was swallowed up by the Home Wood for more than a day and came back badly injured. That was when his grandfather forbade any family member from venturing back there. And so when, from his bedroom window one morning, Jonathon sees his father once again cross into the Home Wood, he knows something is very wrong. Deceiving his grandfather, Jonathon sets out after his father and makes his way, for the first time in his life, into the woods. What he finds there is beyond even his wildest imagination.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bestselling author tells of life on the road at Dec. 5 workshop

Don’t miss “Road Hazards: The Life of a Touring Writer,” presented by bestselling author M.R. Sellars at the St. Louis Writers Guild’s Dec. 5 workshop, held 10 a.m. to noon at Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood, Mo. Free to members; $5 for nonmembers.
Sellars’ stories will range from being left behind during a hurricane to being inundated at a bookstore by fans cosplaying the antagonist from one of his novels, and everything in between.

A member of the ITW (International Thriller Writers), M.R. Sellars is a relatively unassuming homebody who, in his own words, “tells pretty lies for a living.” Although his penchant for creating fiction began at an early age, it wasn’t until 2000 that his first full-length novel, HARM NONE: A ROWAN GANT INVESTIGATION, hit bookstore shelves, officially launching the acclaimed paranormal thriller series and its associated spinoff.

All the novels in Sellars’ continuing Rowan Gant Investigations saga have spent several consecutive weeks on numerous bookstore bestseller lists, as well as a consistent showing on the Horror/Occult top 100. In 2010 a short e-novella featuring a supporting character from the RGI cast spawned a new series, The Special Agent Constance Mandalay Novels, the first full-length book being IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, which hit the streets November 2011. The second, INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE, is slated for release in 2015.

Sellars currently resides in the Midwest with his wife, daughter, and a houseful of rescued animals – a population that currently stands at one canine (Vicki the Wonder Dog) and three felines (Asphalt, Nachos el Tigre, and Mac the Klaw). He often describes the fluctuating menagerie as “the competition.” At home, when not writing or taking care of the household, he indulges his passions for cooking and home brewing.

M.R. Sellars can be located on the web wherever there is a virtual bar serving virtual single malt Scotch, single barrel bourbon, good Irish whisky, and decent beer. In other words, look for him on the major social networking sites.

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

See you at the Local Author open house Nov. 19!

Local Author Open House for Over 100 Authors!

We eat local, we shop local, so let’s read local!

Don’t miss the St. Charles City-County Library District’s Local Author Open House. At this one-of-a-kind event more than 100 local authors will be gathered in one place to sell and autograph their books, and to talk to visitors about how they got their start. The 2015 Local Author Open House, now in its 7th year, is being held at a new location allowing it to double in size.

The event will take place on Thursday, November 19 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Spencer Road Branch, 427 Spencer Road, St. Peters, MO 63376.

“This gathering of so many local authors in one place, is an event that you will not find anywhere else in the area,” said St. Charles City-County Library District Adult Services Manager Sara Nielsen. “We are excited to be able to help people discover the many authors that live right here in our own community.”

The St. Charles City-County Library District offers a special collection that features the work of local authors. This collection is housed at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch, or you can browse and reserve a title online.

To access the collection online, go to and select “Local Author Collection.” Refreshments will be provided, and attendance prizes will be given out.

Register online at or call the Spencer Road Branch at 636-441-0522.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Star Between the Rivers release party Nov. 7 at 6 North Cafe-Wentzville

Click image to enlarge.

 ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO - Not your average history book, The Star Between the Rivers: A History of the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department, 1805-2015 chronicles the journey of the department, from the appointment of the first sheriff following the Louisiana Purchase to the creation of a separate county police department after voters approved a charter change, in a coffee-table format with pictures on nearly every page.

“In 210 years the department grew with the community, handling legal and political issues and pressures while successfully managing rapid growth in law enforcement technology and criminal sophistication. Sheriffs, deputies, and department staff experienced triumphs and tragedies – with an unwavering commitment to keep the people of St. Charles County safe.”
- Excerpt from The Star Between The Rivers: A History Of The St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department, 1805-2015 back cover

The book was a committee effort suggested in 2014 by St. Charles County Police Officer Dave Fournell after he saw a similar book published by a sheriff’s department in another state. St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, retired St. Charles County Journal photographer Roy Sykes, retired St. Charles County Sheriff Tom Neer, St. Charles County Police Chief David Todd, St. Charles County Police Captains David Kaiser and Jim Hudson, retired St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department detective Marsha Corley, St. Charles County Director of Administration Joann Leykam, and St. Charles County Public Affairs Coordinator Colene McEntee served on the committee to bring the book to life.
“Whether you are a law enforcement professional, a history buff, or simply a proud current or past resident of St. Charles County, you will enjoy the stories and the multitude of pictures in this book,” said Tom Neer, who wrote the foreword. “It is exciting to finally have this history documented and in a format to share with the community served by our county sheriff and police departments.”
The community is invited to a celebration of the book at a public release party on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 10 a.m. until noon at Six North Café, 10 Cliff View Drive, Wentzville, MO 63385. Attendees will be able to meet members of the committee and purchase the book for $20. Only cash or checks (payable to St. Charles County) will be accepted at the event.
Starting Monday, Nov. 9, citizens can purchase books for $20 at the following locations. Cash, check (payable to St. Charles County) and credit card will be accepted (please note: There is an additional $1.25 processing fee added per book for credit card transactions):

 _St. Charles County Finance Department 201 N. 2nd St., Suite 541 St. Charles, MO 63301 Available to purchase Monday-Friday 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., excluding holidays.

 _St. Charles County Police Department – Records Division Window 101 Sheriff Dierker Court O'Fallon, MO 63366 Available to purchase Monday-Friday 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., excluding holidays.
 _St. Charles County Heritage Museum, 1630 Heritage Landing, St. Peters, MO 63303 Available to purchase Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. until 5 p.m., excluding holidays.
For questions, please call the St. Charles County Office of Public Information at 636-949-1864 or email

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Happy 95th Anniversary to St. Louis Writers Guild!

Happy 95th Anniversary to St. Louis Writers Guild!
By Brad R. Cook

St. Louis in 1920 was city of brick. A city on the rise. The brick wars, yes it was a war had reshaped the gateway to the west. The landscape was smaller than we know today. The city wasn’t as connected. Webster Groves was an orchard outside of town. None of the highways had been built – the main thoroughfares were Grand, Kingshighway, Lindell, Locust, and Natural Bridge. Clayton Road was listed on a map of the day as the road to Jefferson City. Imagine how long that would take.

St. Louis Writers Guild first meeting was held on Thursday evening, October 28th, 1920 in the living room of Shirley Seifert’s home on De Giverville Ave. About thirty people meet to discuss novel writing. A group of six local writers from various fields created an organization that would gather more often than the biannual meetings of Missouri Writers Guild. The topic for the first meeting was novel writing. They had high ideals for what it meant to be writer, and were drawn to surround themselves with only the best in the literary world.

Sam Hellman, the first SLWG president and a paragon of the silver screen, had a razor wit and his finger on the pulse of his times. A longtime newspaperman, Hellman was the managing editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but would turn his attention to Hollywood. He penned approximately 40 movies, many of which are considered classics of the golden age. He loved playing bridge and talking endlessly about writing. Elinor Maxwell McCord was quoted as saying, “Mr. Hellman is a riot in conversation. It was better listening to him than reading one of his stories. He keeps a running chatter of conversation, couched in the most marvelous slang imaginable, and some unimaginable.”
Hellman was an established writer for 20th Century Fox beginning in the 1920’s, and later switched to Warner Bros in the 1940’s. He wrote for Will Rogers (The County Chairman, 1935), Spencer Tracy (It’s a Small World, 1935), and the Ritz Brothers (The Three Musketeers, 1939), and worked with other major Hollywood names including John Carradine, Jane Darwell, Guy Kibbee, and Donald Meek. He wrote numerous Shirley Temple hits including (Poor Little Rich Girl, 1936) and (Captain January, 1936).
A few of his other masterpieces include, (Flying Fists, 1924) (writer), (The Lottery Lover, 1935) (writer), (Stanley and Livingstone, 1939) (historical research and story outline), (The Doughgirls, 1944) (writer), (My Darling Clementine, 1946) (story), and his final film (Powder River, 1953) (writer).

Shirley Seifert, the second president of St. Louis Writers Guild, was born in St. Peters, Missouri. Seifert attended Washington University in St. Louis where she majored in classical and modern languages. Her journalism professors encouraged her writing, and this led her to sell an article to Population Science Monthly. In 1919 Seifert wrote “The Girl Who Was Too Good Looking” and earned $100 from American magazine. Seifert’s regularly published in Redbook, McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, and New York Herald-Tribune Magazine.
Seifert’s literary career centered on historical fiction and many of her novels were set in the American Midwest, featuring ordinary people living in extraordinary times. She maintained a positive outlook regarding the Great Depression saying, “I am no defeatist. When I am doing research for a novel, I see how America will work out of its present crisis.” She wrote fifteen novels, and earned a noteworthy place in American literature when The Wayfarer was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Ralph Mooney, wouldn’t be president until 1941, but was instrumental in the early years of St. Louis Writers Guild. Mooney published short stories in popular magazines like the Saturday Evening Post, Argosy All-Story Weekly, The Popular Magazine, Munsey's, American Magazine, and People's Favorite Magazine. His most well-known stories include “Look like a Million” in American Magazine, 1921, and “Polysynthetic Football” published in The Saturday Evening Post, 1922.
He is most famous for his novel David Rudd, published in 1927, sometimes called a memoir; it has been explained as a romance of the Mississippi River. His next novel was a work of fiction titled Mr. Pelly’s Little Home and was published in 1936.
Mooney also ventured into the theater with friend C. Eugene Smith. In 1914, a three-act operetta, The Love Star was produced by W. Gus Haenschen, the words and lyrics were written by Mooney and Smith. This instrumental ensemble for chorus and piano was produced in St. Louis, Missouri by the Quadrangle Club of Washington University.

Jay Gelzer was born in England and she published many short stories in popular magazines including Goodhousekeeping, Collier’s, Woman’s World, and Cosmopolitan. She wrote two books: a collection of stories published under the title, The Street of a Thousand Delights, and Compromise: A Novel. In 1924, she copyrighted a dramatic comedy screenplay called Lonely Woman, and the 1929 film, Broadway Babies, was based on one of her stories.

William Brennan was a newspaperman who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post, he later became a screenplay writer.

Lenora McPheeters wrote short stories.

Unfortunately we are still working to find verifiable information on William Brennan and Lenora McPheeters, both were integral to the formation of St. Louis Writers Guild, but have not left as large a footprint on history as the other founders. Research continues in hopes that within some dusty corner more records can be discovered.

Thank you to Founders, the Charter Members, and the writers who attended those early meetings. Thank you to 95 years of writers who have continued their honored traditions and kept this organization alive and thriving. Without all of you we'd just be a footnote in history instead of one of the oldest and largest literary organizations in the Midwest.

Here's too many more years of gathering together to discuss what else – writing!

Thank you to the today's board, President David Lucas, Jennifer Stolzer, T.W. Fendley, Jamie Krakover, Peter Green, Lauren Miller, and Brad R. Cook.

I should also mention – Today is the 50th Anniversary for the Arch. I’m certain they chose this date to honor St. Louis Writers Guild’s 45th Anniversary.

Visit for more information about St. Louis Writers Guild. 

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Zulu, Book II is coming in November 2015. He currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more at, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr