Just Finishing My New Novel: “Nulley, P.I.”


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Robert Nulley and his sidekick Mike McCoy are private investigators. With one small caveat: they’re gay. They’re not the stereotypical PI’s like Mickey Spillane’s shoot-em-up Mike Hammer or Easy Rawlins, the breakthrough character in Walter Mosley’s collection of detective novels. No, these Private Investigators simply do surveillance, serve court papers, find missing persons and otherwise live a normal homosexual lifestyle, until they are unwittingly pulled into a plot of sex, murder and blackmail.

Roll through the streets of San Francisco in Nulley’s beat-up ‘63 Ford Falcon (which threatens to stop at every stop) in this raucous period of the early 70’s before the AIDS epidemic when Polk Street at 2:00 a.m. was like high noon. Share the hilarious antics of Mike, Dr. Watson if you will, who has no problem expressing his sexuality or kicking a motherf#@%&+’s ass. And follow Nulley’s unrequited love affair with the man in his life.

And what mystery would be complete without transsexuals living as women and exotic dancers at one of the most popular strip clubs in the city? When “Honey” and “Melony” are murdered and the police have few clues to go on, how do our Sherlylock Holmes and his Ms. Watson get caught up in this plot of sex, extortion and murder?

Colorado’s new marijuana laws


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Let me start by congratulating Colorado’s legislators for doing the right thing in passing the new marijuana laws; they are long overdue. The American people have been hoodwinked for far too long. The use of marijuana has been stigmatized ever since the late forties and early fifties with propaganda films like Reefer Madness. The film, now a cult classic shows young people going insane after having smoked marijuana; they seem to have ingested a hallucinogen such as LSD or magic mushrooms. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact it is quite to the contrary.

The US government conducted studies back in the fifties to determine the harmful effects of cannabis, to no avail. The studies were inconclusive, yet the propaganda rages on. In my humble opinion the government’s motives were much more sinister than simply researching the effects of marijuana. The incarceration of minority youth ever since is staggering. Coincidence? Not at all. The growing number of prisons being built for profit isn’t coincidental either, but that’s a topic for another day.

The other night I watched Bill Maher, and one of his guests was a Senator discussing the subject of  marijuana use. I listened as he tried to convince Bill about the research from a study that said, in effect, that marijuana is just bad. He went on to describe the ill effects, which certainly didn’t measure up with my experience.

I had an advocate in Bill Maher, who refuted some of the stereotypical hysteria surrounding the use of cannabis. Quite simply, marijuana isn’t going anywhere. The sooner we stop arresting people for using this harmless weed, and in fact stop this mind-boggling war on drugs, the better off the country will be. There has to be a better way.

I’m writing this blog post because I recently read that the legislators in Colorada are now haggling over methods to determine (like the blood alcohol level breathalyzer test) what percentage of marijuana one can have in their system without significant impairment while driving an automobile. I immediately saw the fly in the ointment. Having nothing to guide them but the stated alcohol requirements, making the cannabis legal has its drawbacks. The law will no doubt use a wide brush to paint cannabis smokers with the same stroke as drinkers of alcohol. I know that non-smokers will no doubt agree with this assessment. But to lay down the law this way is definitely the wrong approach. There is no comparison between driving a little stoned and driving drunk.

Alcohol brings out the rage in people. It makes them drive like maniacs, as if they were invincible. On the other hand, marijuana has a calming effect. Users are more cautious, and drive with pleasure when high. In fact, on long drives I like a toke on a joint and my music. It makes driving really enjoyable.

So I say to the lawmakers in Colorado: Do your own research. Drive with someone high on marijuana and see just how cautious they are. No speed demons here. The mixing of the two drugs, alcohol with marijuana is quite another matter. When alcohol is in the equation all bets are off. The alcohol part will override the effects of just smoking weed. If Colorado lawmakers make new laws according to the old stereotypes, their work will be self-defeating.

Two Great Wayfarers Reviews


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I am so honored by these two new great reviews of Wayfarers. It really is thrilling, and very humbling, to have so may people respond so positively to my work. So I had to share! (The emphasis added in the reviews is my own, because honestly, how could I not??)

The first is from The Electronic Urban Web Report. This is just an excerpt; you can read the full review here.

“In reading this book, visions of Hattie McDaniel immediately come to mind, in her role as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind. McDaniel actually became the first African American to win an Academy Award, that of Best Supporting Actress for this movie. Beulah, in Cook’s Wayfarers, could easily have had the part of “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind. The book also conjures up visions of Roots and the recent controversial movie, Django Unchained. Ironically, Django and Wayfarers were both set in 1858.

This book, beginning in the antebellum South, has many subplots, along with love interests and childhood devotion between two young men that carry it forward into adulthood. The author is meticulous in his character nuances, along with the time period. This is a powerful book – Cook is the Alex Haley of a new generation. The author weaves a heartrending story of a time and period that a lot of us would like to forget, a period of human deprivation and injustice.”
Read the full review here.

The second review is a short one from The Historical Novel Society, a site that I often reference to get recommendations on what I should be reading next. I will add the full review since it is not long.

I found Wayfarers a satisfying read, with rich detail, realistic characters, a complex plot, and, most of all, a consistent point of view. Some U.S. Civil War aficionados might fault Cook for not including generals’ names or locations of battles or even dates, but for myself, the not knowing was a realistic representation for the types of people portrayed in this book, specifically slaves during this time period.

The slaves find out they are free from a passing soldier; they then need to decide whether to stay or leave. Those who are able to walk away from plantations to head north are the “wayfarers” of the title, and theirs is not an easy journey. But along the way, just as for those who stay behind, they form new bonds, building families to replace the ones they’ve lost or never had.

I think the sense of bonding was the aspect I liked most about Wayfarers. There are two main characters—Daniel the slave boy and Jerry the massa’s son—whose bonding starts early in their childhood and continues, as we learn in the prologue, well into their adulthoods in “the life” of New York. How they regained their bond after they were forcibly separated is the thread of this book, plaited with vivid characters who tugged at my heartstrings. I read this book in one day, my only quarrel being the sections where Cook over-explains, as though unsure of his mastery. The dialectic spelling does not take long to get used to and is integral to the realism. Recommended.

Have you read Wayfarers? Please do me the honors of writing a review for it on Amazon.

Sandy Hook Elementary School


I had decided not to write about the tragedy in Connecticut. It was too painful. There was no way for me to comprehend this horrifying mass shooting, and the killing of little babies. As much as I tried to make sense of it, nothing came to me.

All of that changed when I read a piece in the Huffington Post by Bryan Fischer, a conservative Christian fake, who claims that the reason the school was targeted was because prayer has been taken out of public schools. First off, that’s just not true. This is the same fool that has drawn the ire of groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center for his anti-gay rhetoric and vitriolic tirades.

Another fake preacher, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, made similar remarks on Friday. “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Needless to say these are two of the most disgusting lowlifes on the planet. They make their money from the least-informed and most ignorant people in our society, purposely misleading and begging for money at the same time. The Tea Bag evangelicals actually think the hog wash these two lunatics say is gospel.

The tragedy is no doubt horrific, and there are no words. But as I have stated in the past, the pain of death is left with the living. After I heard that the victims of this incomprehensible act of murder were mostly children as young as five years of age, my thoughts were with the mothers and fathers. All I could think about was a young mother or father who had dropped their child off at kindergarten that very morning receiving a call informing her or him that their baby was dead, shot to death at school.

It is ludicrous for these fools to insinuate that God was the mastermind behind this senseless massacre because prayers had been taken out of school. This type of divisive rhetoric has no purpose, just a perverse spewing of hate, and it’s not clear to me why. Somehow they have enough tricks in their bag to swindle the fools that listen to their garbage.

I’m sorry that I read the article. Their swill doesn’t even deserve a rebuke, but it’s worth exposing them to write this blog.

My condolences go out to all of the parents and spouses of the deceased. I will not speak of these two vile, despicable, phony evangelical shysters again.



Season’s Greetings to all of my loyal readers, my Twitter followers, Linkedin pals and my Facebook fans. I truly appreciate all of your encouraging words, reviews and patronage. Here’s hoping Uncle Otto and Wayfarers are remembered when stuffing those Christmas stockings.


What’s love got to do with it?


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I have the thank my new friend Karen Ingalls who posted a question on Linkedin, “how hard is it to get friends or family to write a review of your work, even though they said they liked/loved your book?”

This was the only question on the thread that struck me as a relevant question, because I’ve had the same issue. Being a hairdresser has helped me get necessary feedback. As I wrote my first novel, Uncle Otto, I’d bring snippets/chapters for my clients to review.

At first they were lukewarm, and as I progressed it went to that’s amazing. The good thing was I had a chance to see my progress as the reviews got better. With those responses as a comparison, I felt I could trust their critique.

Another clue, that it’s a legitimate response, is when the reader engages in questions about a character or a scene. One client observed in Uncle Otto that she could actually see the heavy down pour, and feel her feet being sucked in the mud, that made the characters trek arduous to say the least.

After finishing Uncle Otto, while still in manuscript form, I had several of my clients read it, and received great reviews, and a few wrote reviews. I felt I was home free. I had no idea how hard it would be to get friends/family to write reviews; even though they loved it. Some did write great reviews, but most didn’t. I’ve read for several book clubs, and most did write good reviews on Amazon.com.

So, the take away from this question, “how hard is it to get friends or family to write a review of your work, even though they said they liked/loved it;” seek reviews from professionals, there are plenty online, or anyone that is willing to read and review your work. Don’t depend on family or friends for their support; what’s love gotta do with i?

I suppose that’s why I’m writing this blog; to shine light on my two novels Uncle Otto and Wayfarers. Visit my website, www.winfredcook.com and read some of the reviews from readers who read and loved each book.

Interview with Author Kathrin Rudland

This week, I am excited to be able to feature fellow indie author Kathrin Rudland whose book “Tragedy and Triumph” takes readers back to a different time. Read on as she shares her motivation for writing the book and ask your own questions of her on social media via Twitter and Facebook.

1.       What drew you in about the Civil War era? About Elmira, NY?

History is not merely battles, marble monuments and political issues. History is about the everyday lives of real people, their beliefs, work, emotions, and mostly, their struggles to stay alive without suffering or disease. Several years ago when I began to research the Civil War POW camps, it amazed me that most accounts focused on the brutal conditions that the prisoners endured. Little was written about the mental hardships the soldiers faced, especially in Elmira’s camp. Granted, the understanding of psychological issues by society was in its infancy at that time, but today professionals are well-aware of the effects of mental disorders on soldiers. One-fourth of the men in the Elmira POW camp died and many non-academic historians like to point their fingers at retribution tactics of the North. Most of the Confederate POWs in the Elmira prison camp arrived with some form of dysentery from unsanitary conditions in Confederate camps, upper-respiratory problems from little or no clothing/blankets or trauma from battle fatigue. They had just left battlefields with scenes of unimaginable horror and arrived with post-traumatic stress disorders. Clearly, they arrived through the camp’s gates in compromised health. Then they languished there for one year, helpless, while their homelands were summarily destroyed as their families barely survived. Life as they knew it was gone. It is no small wonder that many of the prisoners suffered from some form of depression and simply gave up the will to live. There was no future for many of them.

2.       What surprised you about the time period you researched?

I read somewhere that verisimilitude of any historical fiction character is the most critical element to write. Descriptions of characters had to be not only realistic, but accurate in the details of that time period. It seemed like a daunting task from the very beginning. I envisioned some Civil War historians or history buffs reading scenes and shaking their heads at the gross errors.  How could I write about a man’s feelings before a battle? I’ve never been in a battle or even held a gun. Wouldn’t my character’s hands shake as he tried to push the ramrod down the barrel of his gun? How could I possibly know what emotions a slave felt when running away through the Underground, hunted like some animal? How would I react if I fell down into a well? What would it take to have the nerve to mutilate my face? What did it feel like to wear smelly, scratchy woolen clothing all of the time? How can anyone read by candlelight? (I can hardly eat by candlelight.)What was it like to walk in muddy streets or spit-covered floors in a long dress? Many, many times it seemed overwhelming to write honest, credible moments in the lives of my characters with my limited exposure to the circumstances of their lives. It took a great deal of reading about that period to uncover many, many details of their life styles. I did a lot of play-acting of many scenes in my mind to get it right. I just hope I did some level of justice to those people and their lives.

3.       Will you return to this time period in future writing?

I will return to this time period, in particular, to explore the minds and attitudes of many of the early, emancipated women who lived in that area of New York. Their strong voices need to be heard again.

4.       Why did you choose the letter format?

The letter-writing format was a mechanism I used to impart deeply-felt feelings without the interference of physicality, messages without the need for reactions from the listener. The message, not the reaction, was the more important effect. I let the reader imagine the reaction in his/her imagination. Oddly, the easiest letters to write were those of the dying soldiers; those letters had been inside my head for a long time before I wrote them. I knew those characters and felt depressed when I wrote some of their last thoughts to loved ones. I wrote, “In the hours of the death watch, Truman wrote many of their messages. Sorrow and anger had long disappeared from the minds of the dying prisoners, replaced by sheer exhaustion and some unspoken acceptance of something larger and inevitable; for some, it was a belief in life after death.”

5.       Explain the relationships between characters and why they write each other.

I tried to depict Truman and Elizabeth as reserved, introspective people. I thought their letters to one another satisfied their need to express their opinions and impressions through meaningful words. I wanted them to be characters comfortable with being alone, solitary. Both felt it was tiresome, maybe awkward, to interact with unfamiliar people, exchanging pleasantries and chit-chat. They were never frivolous personalities, but not asocial. The scene of the Fourth of July celebration when Elizabeth talks with a group of men is clearly her way of relating what she knows from Truman about the horrors of slave punishments. She had a non-social purpose interacting with a group. In an early description of Truman I wrote, “Even in casual situations, such as walking through town, he would cross the street on an imaginary errand, his scowling face down rather than confront someone and stop to talk.” Both felt life was simpler and less complicated when one was alone. One of my favorite quotes from the poem, After the Dinner Party by Jane Kenyon is “At dinner I laughed with the rest, but in truth I prefer the sound of pages turning, and coals shifting abruptly in the stove.”

6.       Are there any political messages in your book? If so, what are they?

There are definitely political messages in the book and it’s for the reader to determine what they are.

7.       What did you discover about yourself through writing Tragedy and Triumph?

What does anyone discover when writing historical fiction? It took a long time to research because of the nature of the times; records weren’t kept as meticulously, and access to what does exist can be trying. I wanted to get everything right; I read many resources, sorting through opposing viewpoints of the same events in several sources. The book took many twists and turns. At the end, I discovered that I had actually written several novels within one manuscript. It was painful to delete characters – I even felt as though I needed to apologize to several of them as they were sent to the “deleted world of cyberspace.” I grew to like some of the characters more than others, sort of like students in a classroom. At one point, one character was killed off in one chapter, only to accidently resurrect in another (an astute member of my writer’s group cheerfully noted this slight indiscretion, and for years kept tabs on all of my characters and their short-lived lifestyles. It became his raison d’etre).

I changed the names of some of the characters when someone said that they sounded like names from soap operas; “Hadley” became “Elizabeth” overnight in the touch of a key on the keyboard. There was a great rolling of the eyes with the writer’s group during readings for several months. “Who,” they would chime?

8. Sum up your writing journey in one phrase.

Nulla dies sine linea – no day without a line.

Does Otto swagger


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Uncle Otto by Winfred CookWhat body features do you check out when you are out and about? While driving to work the other day in my usual manner, I was checking out the parade of eye candy among the pedestrians and I had this thought: Does Otto swagger?

I realized that while driving I constantly look for my favorite body parts; the face is secondary. I’m sure for some it’s the other way around. Do you look at your favorite body parts first? Do you look first at the face of the person with a body you like? Since I don’t have the consensus of the general public, I guess I’ll have to tackle this one myself.

A good friend showed me a picture on her cell phone of a quite attractive person who was interested in her. However, as she stated, “there’s no swagger.” I knew exactly what she meant.

What happens when the body and the face don’t match up? And how important is swagger, anyway? In any case, I’m sure that in all cases they have to match. What I mean is, if the body is great and then you get a look at that mug…

Sometimes, both the face and the body are in sync but there is still something missing. Then the swagger really comes into play. All I can say is that the right swagger is important; sometimes it’s a deal breaker. When it’s not present, I know it. This led me to my next thought.

So does Otto have a swagger? Does his appeal come from something beyond his good looks? In my novel, Otto is smart and has the propensity to lead. He is looked up to by his peers and adored by women, but I’m not sure he knows the impression he gives others.

I believe that when someone has a swagger, they often don’t know it themselves. Sometimes it’s called arrogance or mistaken for such. Even though I created my version of Otto, there is still no way for me to see beyond the words on the page.

An author’s view of marketing


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One of the bloggers that I correspond with suggested the ins and outs of self-publishing your book. I do agree with his findings; however, I think there is a more sinister aspect of the writing world:

What new writers don’t know, and possibly, can’t know until they take that plunge, is that marketing is the key to success.

All writers want their work in print. It’s a badge of honor that I proudly wear. I had no idea what marketing entailed. I thought since I had a great book, (finalist in The Indie Excellence Book Awards) that I was halfway home – not.

This only means that you are halfway, and since I’m an optimist, I see it as half full. Half full means that you have lots of work yet to do. I’m confident that my hard work and my introduction to social media: facebook, twitter and linkedin will help to propel me into the mainstream reading networks. I do believe that social media is the way of the future, and as soon as I find out the best way to use it, I will most certainly pass that knowledge on.

There is another problem that most new writers don’t anticipate, and that is the cost of marketing.

I had a publicist at the beginning, a friend. Her message was to secure your base. That meant all of the media outlets that were within our reach. I did several book clubs, newspaper interviews, TV interviews, and readings at bookstores. We did everything that we could think of within our budget. All of these things helped but until you get the right “eyes” looking at you work, you have to keep going.

Which step have you reached today? Don't give up.The important thing here is not to give up. As the old adage goes, “He was an overnight success.” Nobody is an overnight success. John Grisham got thirty-five rejections before, what I consider his best work, “A Time to Kill,” was picked up by a major publisher. What if he had given up on the thirty-fourth try?


Life After Uncle Otto


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It’s not what I thought it would be

I had no idea what happens next after one writes a novel. When I created my characters and breathed life into them, they became real. They had feelings. They laughed, cried and had problems like most people. When you develop a character you essentially become that person. You speak for them, think for them and act for them. I didn’t expect the emotions, the pains of death or loss, to have the effect they had on me.

Kleenex to mop up tearsThen I realized that it wasn’t me experiencing pain or loss. It was my characters. So when I wrote about the tragedy of Napoleon’s death in Uncle Otto, I could hardly see my laptop screen for the stream of tears. In fact, I welled up as each one of the cast of family members and friends learned about Napoleon’s death. It was exhausting.

There really was no life after Otto; he had become a part of me. I carried him and the others around with me all the time. It was as if I created another universe. There, I was a prominent part of the story; not as a character, but as an observer. At any given moment, be it bedtime, driving, walking out and about, one of the scenes would pop into my head and take me there. I almost remembered all the words.

I didn’t expect to have that whole world at my beck and call. I thought that writing a story would be like reading a book. No matter how much you liked a book, at one point it slipped into oblivion. Not when it’s your baby. Unlike human babies, your baby never grows up, and you can enjoy it over and over and over and over…