Wednesday, May 4, 2016

First Look - A Clockwork Heart: A Steampunk Short Story by Brad R. Cook

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a new series of posts called FIRST LOOK featuring excerpts from stories. We hope you enjoy them!

A Clockwork Heart
Brad R. Cook

Obadiah has the most broken heart in all the land. After months of tracking his sorrows, and weeks hard at work in his workshop, he devises a solution – a clockwork heart. Lilly, his assistant, comes every day to care, feed, and clean up after the town’s inventor. Today is a special day, the day he fixes his heart.

A Clockwork Heart is available on Amazon.


Brad R. Cook is the author of The Iron Chronicles, a y/a steampunk trilogy, and a regular contributor to The Writers’ Lens. He began as a playwright, then dipped into the corporate writing world before moving into the publishing world. A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, he currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. He can be heard weekly, as a panelist on Write Pack Radio. He learned to fence at thirteen, and never set down his sword, but prefers to curl up with his cat and a centuries’ old classic.

Bradrcook.com @bradrcook on Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr.

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words?
I’d have to say it depends upon the story, but for A Clockwork Heart it would have to be the story. I write young adult Victorian adventures, and this was such a departure from that. However, it’s still steampunk which is close to my heart. I wanted to write a love story… with a twist.

How much fact is in your fiction?
It is fantasy, but I try to keep many of the historical elements. I do know that an artificial heart is much more complex than I have made it seem in this story, but that’s the fantasy. It is true that barbers used to be doctors.

Which line did you struggle with more, the first or the last?
For this story the last line was easy. It almost wrote itself, but the first line has changed in every incarnation I’ve created. Opening lines are tough. I’m always thinking of how can I hook the reader in only a few words.

What inspired your story?
Love. I wanted to write a steampunk love story. I always write adventures and I wanted to twist things up a bit.

A first look at A Clockwork Heart

Obadiah’s heart had cracked, been repaired, and shattered again. Now the pieces lay in the bottom of his chest clinking together whenever he walked.
The depths of this depression hadn’t been reached overnight, or even a couple months. It took years to reach this barren rock bottom. He tried to figure out where it began, and even created an intricate chart that spanned three walls of his workshop. Strings wrapped around push pins marked out all the connections of his life. How tragedies had strung themselves together in a linked chain. Small bits of parchment with notes scribbled in ink had been pinned to each point where the strings connected. Circled in white chalk were the biggest tragedies….



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Three Thoughts about Book Covers



Three Thoughts about Book Covers
By Brad R. Cook

Some book covers are artistic, some are photographic, some are horrific… but the cover is as important as the words inside. The classic cover, leather bound, gold embossed, with the cool ribbing along the spine put the focus on the material. The words almost didn’t matter. They were just there to let you know what was inside. With the switch to paper covers, we lost the cool look of the tome, but the importance of the cover image became the focus.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I wish it were true, but the reality is that everyone will judge your book by its cover. Readers want a cool cover, something that draws them in, bookstores want a professional cover to match the stock on their shelves, and publishers want an interesting cover that will stand out from the crowd. A good cover can elevate an okay book, and vault great books into mega-sales. It can make a reader spend two to three times or more the cost of a book just to snatch up the must have cover for a book with multiple editions.

A bad book cover can be a death nail to a book, killing sales, and giving the publishing house, and the author a bad reputation. There is a game, that myself, and a few other writers like to play when we’re in bookstores… Spot the Cover. It’s easy, as you pass through the shelves, spot the truly beautiful covers, and the absolutely horrible covers. Bad covers are usually blurry, have clashing colors, unidentifiable images, or are so basic that they look amateurish.

I’ve been a cover designer for a couple of years now, sure my covers for The Scribe, the monthly literary magazine published by St. Louis Writers Guild, are kind of simple, but keeping them interesting is still important. As I move into novel covers, I find that keeping up a level of high quality is the biggest challenge. So here are some of my thoughts about book covers.

1 – Depth and Layering
One of the most important things a cover can have is depth. Flat covers appear basic. They push the eye away. A cover with many layers draws the eye in. There should be a central image to hold the reader’s attention, and then images layered behind so the eye can move around. A simple image isn’t bad, bold colors can make a great cover, but the image still needs layers, or maybe a gradient for the background, to give the illusion of three dimensions. One of the worst things to happen to cover is pixilation of the images. Every layer needs to have a high dpi (dots per inch) to ensure the highest quality.

2 – Readable Names
After the central image, the two most important aspects of the cover are the title and the author’s name. They need to be easy to read both from a distance and in the thumbnail image as well. Having the right font is important. It needs to be big enough, clear enough, and thick enough to read. The lettering can be a script, or blocky, but it should mesh with the rest of the images. A thin script can get lost in a busy background, and a blocky font, if too squished together can be difficult to read. Focusing on the spacing, size, and color of the font will ensure that it can be read from a thumbnail to a poster.

3 – Consistency is Key
Covers should match the novel’s genre. A non-fiction historical novel with a flowing-haired, buff romance cover model, might give the wrong impression about what the book is about. It is also important the covers match, or at least hold a similar theme for a series of books. It will help readers know that each book is part of the series and will look good sitting on the shelf. Using the same font is one way to achieve this affect, as is using a similar theme for the cover images. Having the same artist create each cover is a good way to ensure this consistency.

There are millions of book covers on the shelf, meaning there are plenty of covers to study. So make your next book cover the best it can be.  Identify what you like and what you don’t like, and suggest those ideas for the next book. Here are a few covers I really like to get your started.

One of those gorgeous older covers...


The abstract cover for The Alchemist.















One of the most iconic covers in history...



 Harry Potter has had several covers - this is the US version. 













One of my favorite covers.... it has so many layers and was done by noted illustrator Keith Thompson. He did a gorgeous map inside too. This edition is now highly sought after by collectors.



Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen - http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Horsemen-The-Chronicles/dp/0989207951 and Iron Zulu - http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Zulu-Book-Two-Chronicles/dp/0989207978.  A member of SCBWI, he currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more at www.bradrcook.com, on Twitter @bradrcook https://twitter.com/bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr http://bradrcook.tumblr.com/

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Guild’s May 7 podcasting workshop helps authors reach readers

On May 7, David Lucas will introduce authors to podcasting—a part of the author platform often forgotten by those trying to reach their audiences—at a free workshop held from 10 a.m. to noon at Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd, Kirkwood, Mo.

David will share his experience as producer and host of Write Pack Radio (WPR)—a free podcast on the writing industry that has an international audience—and how he is taking a hobby and making it into part of his writing business. Podcasts are the modern online ‘radio show’ that can be accessed by the listener anywhere without any special equipment. Forbes Magazine predicts they will soon available on car radios, and they are easy to make.

David Lucas and Fedora Amis
David will discuss:
  • ·      Why an author (traditional or indie) should consider podcasting
  • ·      The different kinds of podcasting
  • ·      How podcasts let authors talk directly to their audience
  • ·      What you need to start a podcast
  • ·      How to reach and grow your audiences without spending a lot of money (if any)

David is a published fiction short story author and poet. He has a Master’s Degree in Management from Webster University. For two years, David has been the host and producer of Write Pack Radio, a podcast with a panel of authors exploring the changing writing industry. WPR can be found on multiple platforms, including iTunes, TuneIn, and Blog Talk Radio. David decided to take his experience in podcasting and his love for radio dramas and start Winding Trails Media, which will produce podcast audio dramas beginning this fall.

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at www.stlwritersguild.org.



"Soul Mates" author 4/30 at 6 North-Ballwin

Click image to enlarge.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

SLWG Author Series with Emily Hall of Main Street Books



This month the SLWG Author Series features Emily Hall, Proprietress and Co-Owner of Main Street Books!

I had the honor of interviewing Emily Hall about her workshop for St. Louis Writers Guild. Emily talks about the author/bookstore relationship.

Following the interview there are clips from her April 2, 2016 workshop – Wherever Books are Sold: A Guide to Forming a Lasting Partnership with Independent Bookstores.

Main Street Books
307 S. Main Street
St. Charles, MO

Learn more about St. Louis Writers Guild at www.stlwritersguild.org