Are You Superstitious?

Your Lucky Day in the Ozarks!

The Thursday afternoon early session is "Superstitions and How to Use Them in Your Writing." Conference regular sessions begin on Friday the 13th. We'll have door prizes throughout the day to make sure it's your lucky day in the Ozarks!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Meet Meg Dendler

Meg Dendler has considered herself a writer since she won a picture book contest in 5th grade and entertained her classmates with ongoing sequels for the rest of the year. Beginning serious work as a freelancer in the '90s while teaching elementary and middle school, Meg has over one hundred articles in print, including interviews with Kirk Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. She has won contests with her short stories and poetry, along with multiple international awards for her best-selling "Cats in the Mirror" alien rescue cat children's book series. Meg is an editor with Pen-L Publishing and also does editing work for independent and self-publishing authors.

Meg and her family (including four cats and her dog, Max) live in Arkansas. Visit her at for more information about upcoming books and events and all of Meg's social media links. You can also follow Kimba on Facebook and Twitter.

Meg says that if you want to purchase any of her books, the best way would be to go to her Amazon Page, and for autographed copies and matching toys visit her website 
You can read the first chapter of At the Corner of Magnetic and Main here

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Meet Claire Applewhite

Don’t let Claire Applewhite’s quiet nature fool you. She’s a woman with great ideas about what a publishing company should strive to be. Claire is quick to state that she is simply trying to “make her authors’ dreams come true.” An author herself, Claire knows what that feels like. Years ago she found a publisher who made her dreams come true and she says she still remembers what that felt like.  The first books Claire penned found a home with L & L Dreamspell.  But when one of the owners passed away the company closed its doors and Claire found herself with the daunting task of completely starting over. She decided that instead of searching for another publisher that would be as welcoming as the one she’d been with for years, she’d try to publish her own work and see how it went. That led to the July 2013 founding of Smoking Gun Press. But, as Claire says, “it took on a life of its own, and before long I was working with other authors who needed to find a good home for their work. Writers came to us,” Claire says. “I don’t know how they found us, but they just began to send us queries. It was almost like destiny.”  She hesitated for just a second and then added, “Whatever it is, it works.”

Half Price Books of the Ozarks
Half Price book signing in the Ozarks.

Claire Applewhite at a Barnes and Noble book signing.

When asked about the best piece of advice she could give a writer before they query Smoking Gun, Claire quickly said that it would be to “know what they want from her.” “What do they think I can give them,” she adds.  She suggests that also before querying her press, a writer does a little research to find out what types of books they take. And that they must know exactly what genre they’re writing, and be sure it’s something she would be interested in.

hazelwood-high-writers-week1 hazelwood-high-writers-week2 hazelwood-high-writers-week3 
Writers Week in St. Louis.

What does Claire wish she saw more of? Subtext. She says she loves a story with many layers. With stories inside stories and characters that are multi-layered and interesting.
She wants to “see the story beneath the lines, a passionate and compelling story told with the personalities of the characters explored.” She used an example of a couple who loved each other, then all of a sudden they are separating with no explanation. “That isn’t real life,” Claire says. “We need to know what happened to them to get them from true love to wanting to split up. There has to be a whole lot of story there that hasn’t been told. That’s the subtext I want to read.”
6 North Café Book Signing
Sixth North Cafe
When I asked why she rejects a novel, she said she doesn’t really reject all that many, maybe half of what she receives. Which is a rather low amount of rejections. Most publishers claim they might only take 5% of the stories they receive, sometimes even less. But Claire is adamant that the only time she turns down a story is if she just doesn’t think she can do anything for the author, or that she’s just not the right publisher for them. She will often recommend other publishers that might be a better fit.

Claire is always looking for the story that she can’t put down. Often times it’s a story that she is too tired to read, or something that at first she isn’t sure she’ll like, then she finds herself unable to put the thing down. That’s what she hopes for every time she reads a manuscript. She hopes for something gripping that she just can’t stop reading.

When asked whether she likes a story driven by strong characters or a strong plot, Claire said that if you’ve got strong characters they will drive your story and give it a strong plot. She says a “good strong character will do some wild things.”

Claire admits that she was a little surprised when she finally began publishing books for others, that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. If you have unique characters with a unique story to tell it needs to be written. And sometimes the rules that are used in one book, won’t work for another one. “It’s not an assembly line,” Claire states. “It all comes down to the dream of the author, and making that dream come true,” she says with a soft laugh. “It’s just so much fun to see how excited an author gets when they see their story unfold in book form. It’s what I love about the whole business.”

Smoking Gun Press has three new titles coming out soon. A Science Fiction novel titled Third Contact, Harvesting of Sol, by Engineer James A. Wilson, is available for preorder on Amazon now. Judicious Murder, by Val Bruech, a Joliet, Illinois Assistant Public Defender, is a thriller that will hit the shelves on December 4th. And Charles “Chaps” Harper, well-known Ozarks writer from Hot Springs, Arkansas has a thriller due out in February of 2017 titled Under Cuba.

After publishing both her own books, and other authors under the Smoking Gun banner, Claire finds the business is more than she thought it would be. She’s learning that there are a million stories out there searching for a publisher, and she feels as though it’s her obligation to bring a few of them to life.

I talk to a lot of publishers during the year, and what surprised me the most while talking with Claire is how passionate she is about making her authors happy, and helping them realize their dreams. Most people who also publish their own titles are honestly more interested in themselves. Not Claire. She seems to be able to keep her writing separate from that of the people she offers a contract to. She wants their dreams about their own books to be first and foremost when dealing with her company.  In my opinion, that’s the way it should be. Truthfully, not many of us do it for the money. Most of us do it for the love of story, and for the love of the people who write those stories. But Claire says it best when she told me, “Knowing how happy we are making our authors when their book finally comes out makes me feel like Santa Claus.”

Drop Claire a line or two. 
Smoking Gun Publishing
Claire Applewhite

Publishers Row

Our third Publishers Row was again a great success!

Get busy OCW writers because in 2017 we have invited even more publishers to participate in Publishers Row. There were six contracts written after our 2016 conference, and there is no reason why you couldn't have a contract in your hand after you leave Eureka Springs in 2017. Watch our website and our Facebook page for more information about who will participate in Publishers Row next year. Right now we have Smoking Gun Press, High Hill Press, Cactus Country Publishing, 4RV Publishing, Five Star Publishing, Kennsington Publishing, Mockingbird Lane Press, SnowFlake Press, Southeast Missouri University Press, Pen-L Publishing, and Amphorae Publishing already signed up and we're talking to another 5 publishers who have not yet attended an OCW week-end. We'll see you in Eureka!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It's Time to Get Scary!

We can't wait until next year to challenge you to a Halloween contest. We need us some spooky stories. Write a short story up to 3,000 words.  It doesn't have to be about Halloween but it has to be horror. It has to be scary. I mean really scary, because we don't scare easily and if you can make us cringe and cover our heads you will be the winner. No graphic anything. It's unclear when writers started thinking horror has to be a blood fest like Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It doesn't. True horror is usually very PG. We're not saying you have to be totally unbloody. A zombie beheading once in a while might be necessary. But you know what we mean. Now get to writing. The winner will receive a buffet breakfast at the famous, and very haunted Crescent Hotel. 

Deadline October 31, 2016. Send entries as an attachment to  Put Halloween Contest in the subject line. You will be notified if you are a winner by November 15th.

Just thought we'd share a few scary images to get your going. Or maybe these will keep you up at night...that's a perfect time to write horror.

Ghost stories: why the Victorians were so spookily good at them ...Horror Stories – Top ghost / paranormal videos, photos and stories ...Top 10 Children’s Horror Stories | Horror Novel Reviews

The 25 Best Horror Movies | PrettyFamousthe Art of 12: Seeking Funding For The Best Horror Story-Film Ever ...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Get the Most out of a Conference!

Our 50th Ozark Creative Writers Conference was a huge success. OCW is different because we don't have an organization that meets regularly and puts on a conference. We have a board of directors from all over the country who strive to put together a week-end that covers all the things a writer might benefit from. Let's get a conversation going about what you expect out of a conference. 

We know agents and editors are important and we often have more than one. We also know you love to hear successful writers talk about their work and how they became a success. In our latest board meeting we discussed doing more sessions on the craft of writing. What our board deeply wants to do is make each OCW conference something you can benefit from, whether it's a connection you might make that furthers your career, or a nugget of knowledge you might learn that makes your writing better. Let us know if there's something we're missing. Just comment here, or write to our blog e-mail

Now, let's get a conversation about writing going. Here's a problem I ran across when judging a couple of the contest categories this year. I judged the Bigfoot Lives Among Us contest. It specifically said "make me laugh," Yet, not many of the entries were funny. And a couple of them weren't really stories, but simply a straight forward narrative of a Bigfoot sighting. Almost like a very detailed news article. No characters, no dialogue, no action, just narrative. Granted, these entries could be fiction or non-fiction, but there still has to be some sort of storytelling style when the guidelines say story. With non-fiction that simply means to make it a creative non-fiction. Think about In Cold Blood, Capote was one of the first to tell a non-fiction story in the style of a fictional story. He actually called it a non-fiction novel. I prefer creative non-fiction, but they both mean the same.