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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Gail Z. Martin: Strategic Short Stories

By Gail Z. Martin

My epic fantasy contracts call for no less than 175,000 words. The contracts for my urban fantasy novels and the steampunk novels I write with my husband, Larry N. Martin, call for around 120,000 words.
No problem. But 8,000 words? Panic!
That’s how I felt the first time I looked at the word count on a short story contract. But that’s just a long chapter! My mind screamed. And then I took a deep breath and thought about it again. Yeah. It’s a chapter. Maybe two. Not so scary. I do that all the time.
Except that in the case of a short story, that “chapter” has to have its own arc, and a beginning, middle and end. It’s not building toward a greater whole; it is the whole. That took some getting used to.
I’m going to divide short stories into two large categories. One is the completely stand-alone short story, the kind that creates a whole world unto itself and relatable characters in under twenty pages, then vanishes like a soap bubble. And then there are the short stories that are more like episodic TV, where each story has its own arc, but it exists as part of a larger ongoing universe and may be part of a larger arc (season) of related stories.
I have friends who write the first kind of short story. They get published in Asimov’s and Analog and I marvel at what they can do in such a brief piece of work.
I write the other kind of short story, the TV episode kind of story that may or may not have its own “season” of related stories with a larger arc, and which tie back to not only other stories I’ve written, but to book series. My short stories and novellas are what TV producers would call ‘spin-offs’. They are additional adventures by some of the characters from the books, that occur before, between and around the books in the series. Sometimes, the characters in the short stories are the main characters from the related books, and sometimes they are side characters.
So in my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, the title character is a significant secondary character in my Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings book series. He’s not the main character in those series, but he is very important, and a reader favorite. Readers wanted to know his back story, which was not part of the story for the books. So I’ve written the equivalent of three serialized novels comprised of related, sequential short stories or novellas. I self-published those short stories on Kindle/Kobo/Nook, bringing out a new story each month in 10-story ‘seasons’. In June of 2016, Solaris Books, the publisher for my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, will bring out the first print and ebook compilation of the initial ten Jonmarc Vahanian stories plus an eleventh, exclusive story only in the compilation.
I had a couple of goals with the Jonmarc stories. First, I wanted to retain readers who loved the Chronicles series until I get the chance to come back and write the next six books in that series, and I wanted to reward loyal readers who genuinely cared about the character and wished to know more. Second, I wanted to capture new readers who might not have read the Chronicles series before reading the Jonmarc stories, but who might fall in love with the world and go looking for the books. And third, self-publishing the stories creates a nice additional revenue stream. Getting asked by Solaris to do the compilation was icing on the cake.
I also write a series of Deadly Curiosities short stories, linked to my urban fantasy series. In
that case, Solaris asked me to do a short story for an anthology and they liked that story so much, they requested a series based on it. I had written a few other stories in that world for other anthologies, but they were set in different time periods, following one of the immortal characters and the ancestors of the book’s main character. Now there are dozens of Deadly Curiosities short stories that occur before and around the two books (Vendetta, book two, comes out in December 2016). They not only spawned the book series, but they accomplish all three of the goals that I had for the Jonmarc stories.
I’ve got a series of novellas (and one short story) coming out in my Ascendant Kingdoms series that serves a little different purpose. The fourth and final book in that series—Shadow and Flame—comes out in 2016. The six novellas and the short story come out in the time gap between the release of book three and book four, and my goal there is to ramp up excitement for the series conclusion. But there’s also a six-year gap in the beginning of Ice Forged, the first book in the series, between when a crucial event happens and when the action picks up again. What occurred in that gap wasn’t part of the story arc for the book series, but it makes for a good related but stand-alone set of novellas, while also providing some interesting back story for established readers, hopefully capturing new readers, and contributing revenue (see a pattern?).
The fourth series of short stories is based on the Iron & Blood steampunk series I co-write
with Larry. These are spin-off stories following the exploits of two secondary characters who are agents with the Department of Supernatural Investigation. We started writing the stories because we were asked to be part of several steampunk anthologies, and it just made more sense to us to write something tied in to the novel. Of course the ‘about the authors’ blurbs in the anthologies tie the story to the novels, hopefully sending readers who want more looking for the book. And when we promote the anthology to our established readers, we tell them that there is an Iron & Blood story in it, hopefully sending our readers to the anthology as well. When those rights revert, we can bring the short story out independently. It’s a win for everyone.
When you think about contributing a short story to an anthology or writing it on its own, look for ways to use the story strategically so that it works harder for you by helping to promote your other work, draw in new readers, or reward your established readers. They can flesh out your fictional worlds for readers and help you with world building, while creating extra writing revenue and being just plain fun. And that’s the most important part—the fun!
My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art,
brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:

Trick or Treat!

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here Launches Dec. 29

Treats not Tricks! My friend John Hartness shares an excerpt from the Black Knight Chronicles    Hard Day’s Knight Chp 1

Trick Or Treat excerpt A Legacy Of Stars

More Treats! Enjoy an excerpt from Eternal Wanderings by my friend Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Happy Halloween! Read an excerpt from my story Shadow Garden, a Deadly Curiosities story

New BlaineMcFadden short story set in Velant Prison No Reprieve @orbitbooks

About the Author

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.
Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.  
Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Tour stop: Interview with narrator Becky Parker Geist

I Left My Brains in San Francisco
The second Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator book, in audio

Author Karina Fabian; narrator 
Becky Parker; publisher, Damnation Books

Welcome to Becky Parker Geist, narrator of Karina Fabian's Neeta Lyffe books. Becky is the founder and owner of Pro Audio Voices, serving clients internationally as a go-to place for exceptional voiceover for audiobooks, advertising and animation.

After receiving her M.F.A. in Acting in 1981, Becky began narrating Talking Books for the Blind through the Library of Congress, narrating over 70 titles in two years, and quickly became one of their most popular narrators. As a professional stage actress, she has toured internationally (England and U.S.) and on the east and west U.S. coasts. She performs a wide range of voiceover work, but has a particular love for creating audiobooks with sound effects – the more theatrical the better! Becky brings her broad range of theatre skills – acting, directing, producing, marketing – to bear in all her voiceover and production work.

Committed to leadership and building strong, long-term relationships, Becky serves as President of BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association) and is a member of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Assn), APA (Audio Publishers Assn), and TBA (Theatre Bay Area).

Becky is married to classical composer John Geist and has 3 adult daughters: Elise, Jes and Jerrilee. As of 2015, Becky can truly say she is bi-coastal, going back and forth between New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been having a blast working Off Broadway in NY for the past few years and has been a professional stage actor in the Bay Area since 1985.

What advice would you give authors about how to solicit auditions for their book? For instance, ACX gives choices such as female/male/male reading as female, Spanish/British accent, brooding/storytelling/etc. Your selection of the narrator for your audiobook is really crucial. I actually do presentations to authors on this very topic. 
Here are a few tips:
1.    First, decide if the gender of the narrator is important. Most of the time, this is determined by the narrative voice. It the book is written in first person, then obviously you’ll want someone of the narrator’s gender. If written in the third person and the perspective of the narrative is predominantly one character that also suggests (though does not dictated) the gender. But aside from those cases, I recommend you leave it open to either. You can learn some interesting things the more open you are.
2.    If it is a memoir, seek someone with a voice that feels like it could be you at the age perspective from which you’ve written it, including gender, accent, tone.
3.    If you have characters with accents AND those accents are important, it’s best if you find out before you get started if the narrator can pull them off. Remember that the more important thing is a narrator who can really tell your story well, even if the accents are not perfect.
4.    Don’t worry about descriptors such as “brooding,” unless one of those qualities dominates the story. For example, if it is a horror story with paranormal creepy stuff and you want that dark feel in the voice, then go ahead and specify. But generally you’re looking for a narrator who connects with the writing and can deliver an excellent performance of it – enhancing the writing by bringing it to life.
5.    Select an audition section of text that you think may be the most challenging in the book – usually a scene with the most different characters in dialogue. You want to make sure the narrator can make those vocal differentiations so the listener can figure out who’s talking.
6.    Listen to other books narrated by the people you’re considering – and not just the beginning, but further into the book. Is the narrator still engaging?
7.    Ask the narrators to change the way s/he read something in the audition, just so you can find out if s/he is capable of taking direction.
8.    Don’t settle for mediocre. Mediocre won’t help you sell your audiobooks and will reflect poorly on all your other editions as well. Better not to produce an audiobook at all than to do it poorly.
9.    While going through ACX to find narrators is one way to approach that search, it is not the only way and is often not a very effective way. Seek out audiobook producers who know how to work with ACX and can help guide you through the process and also get a narrator that is right for your book.

Recently a friend received several auditions on her book. She liked their voices, but thought the inflection was wrong (too little, too much) and one gave more of a dramatic reading than a narration. Is it appropriate to give that feedback and ask for "reauditions?" Unfortunately, “liking” a narrator’s voice is often what an author considers as the top priority for selection. What should be top of the list is the narrator’s ability to effectively engage the audience – and that is a factor of emotional connection. You’ll want a narrator who is an actor, not just a voice. When the actor connects emotionally with the content and effectively delivers a performance that carries that connection, it will engage the listener in a way that simply reading text aloud cannot. It is absolutely appropriate to give feedback and ask for changes (as I mentioned earlier). Remember, if the narrator is not making your content make sense either in a textual way or an emotional way, then your audience will not be hearing the book you wrote.

What makes you want to work with an author again? Authors who understand how to craft a story well and who create interesting and distinct characters are my favorites. Karina excels at both. Also authors who recognize the value of and are open to the collaborative process of audiobook production, which is similar to the way a playwright and actor create a new performance experience. I appreciate authors that provide pronunciations for made up names and words in advance – that is so helpful and time saving for me. Another big thing is I love working with authors who have a following, who actively promote themselves and their books. Karina has all these qualities!

And then obviously if we might be working together again, that suggests that the author is publishing multiple books. I like that. I think of each relationship with my authors and publishers as long-term.  I really care about the authors and publishers that I work with. And I continue to help market the audiobooks I produce, so our relationship really is ongoing even after the audiobook launch.

How long does it take you to produce an audiobook? It typically takes about 5 times the length of the finished book to do a regular narration-only audiobook without sound effects or music. That’s mostly editing and mastering time, which takes about 4 minutes for each finished minute of recording. That’s an average, of course, and depending on the writing, it can factor out to be more or less. Karina’s text flows easily aloud, so that typically will shorten the time a bit.

But when I add in sound effects, that significantly adds time to the process. How many effects there are and how much music, whether I have to create them or if they are easy to source – all these make a huge difference in the amount of time it takes. I think it is safe to say it probably doubles the amount of time to produce the book. Possible more, especially when I’m creating music. It’s not just about finding the sounds, but also making sure the volume mix is right so each sound is an enhancement and not a distraction. For I Left my Brains in San Francisco, I created a song using royalty-free music by Kevin McLeod. That took several hours just for that one piece that was then mixed in at a specific moment in the audiobook. It’s fun but it does take a lot of time.

I think most people don’t understand what it takes to produce a great audiobook. They picture reading into a microphone and that’s it. But there’s a real craft to it. It requires things like character vocal differentiation and consistency, acting each part in the performance of narrator and each character, narrating with a level of vocal modulation that comes across over the recording and still sounds completely natural, fitting the style of narration and tone to best suit the content. I consider all these things part of the actor’s job. There are a lot of people out there calling themselves voiceover talent who came into the industry because people told them, “You have a nice voice – you should do voiceover.” Many authors get fooled as well by the idea that it is just about sitting down in front of a mic and reading their book. Think about great storytellers who perform as storytellers in front of an audience and have to keep them engaged throughout, and film actors who may do hundreds of takes of a single scene to get it right. Creating an audiobook is a bit like a combination of those two skills.

Find Becky at:

Karina Fabian is an award-winning fantasy, science fiction author writes comedic horror that will make you die laughing and come back for more. Check out her latest at

Find Karina at:

 Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:

Anxious for some zombie humor? So are we, but I Left My Brains in San Francisco still isn’t up on Audible. BUT you can get the first 3 chapters free and a chance to win the audiobook of Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, the first in the series. Go to Hurry! This offer goes when Audible finally posts the book! UPDATED 10/19: Now available on AUDIBLE!

Video Links


Zombie Quiz 1:

Zombie Quiz 2:

Crappy Crude Song: