Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Point of View: It’s more than First vs. Third

Every story has at least one “point of view,” but there is more to decide than First Person vs. Third Person. Join author Brad R. Cook July 9 to explore not only Limited, Omniscient, and Objective points of view, but what it all means when the words hit the page.

The workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to noon, at Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd, Kirkwood, Mo. Free to St. Louis Writers Guild members; $5 for nonmembers.

“Point of view is critical to a writer’s voice, the story’s structure, and what the reader learns,” Brad said.

Author of the young adult steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles (treehouse publishing group), Brad R. Cook will see the release of book three, Iron Lotus, in November 2016. A former co-publisher and acquisitions editor for Blank Slate Press, he is a member of SCBWI, and currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as President. A founding contributor to The Writers’ Lens, a resource blog for writers, 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. Find more @bradrcook on Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr.

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

B-Fest, Teen Book Festival at Barnes & Noble

B-Fest, Teen Book Festival at Barnes & Noble
By Brad R. Cook

This weekend, June 10 – 12, 2016 Barnes & Noble will host B-Fest, a Teen Book Festival. Many stores have invited young adult authors to hold signings and create a nationwide book festival.

I’ll be signing copies of Iron Horsemen and Iron Zulu, my young adult steampunk adventures at the Chesterfield Barnes & Noble on Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 1pm. I’ll be appearing with two other young adult authors, Laura Nowlin and Mandy Ruzicka. I hope you can join us!

Laura Nowlin, author of If He Had Been With Me
A New York Times Bestseller
If he had been with me everything would have been different...

I wasn't with Finn on that August night. But I should've been. It was raining, of course. And he and Sylvie were arguing as he drove down the slick road. No one ever says what they were arguing about. Other people think it's not important. They do not know there is another story. The story that lurks between the facts. What they do not know―the cause of the argument―is crucial.

So let me tell you...

Laura Nowlin, author of This Song Is (Not) For You
Ramona fell for Sam the moment she met him. It was like she had known him forever. He's one of the few constants in her life, and their friendship is just too important to risk for a kiss. Though she really wants to kiss him...

Sam loves Ramona, but he would never expect her to feel the same way-she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Still, they complement each other perfectly, both as best friends and as a band.

Then they meet Tom. Tom makes music too, and he's the band's missing piece. The three quickly become inseparable. Except Ramona's falling in love with Tom. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.  How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

"Educators and librarians looking for fast-moving, interesting plots, in-depth characters, and meaningful themes need to add this one to their shelves."-VOYA praise for If He Had Been with Me

Mandy Ruzicka, author of Fun Wheeled American Style
Fun Wheeled American Style is a story about my views on things that I think are fun and experiences that I have taken from my own life as a full-time wheelchair user. It is geared toward young adults, with and without disabilities, or individuals of any age who need a little extra push to enjoy life and experience new things. Life is what you make it, and sometimes it can be a little too serious or get too real for all of us. My story will help you find ways to make your own fun.

The Iron Chronicles
Iron Horsemen, Book One of the Iron Chronicles
Alexander Armitage doesn't fit in at Eton College. Not only is he an American, his father, a new teacher at the college, is obsessed with ancient languages and the dusty old books he makes Alexander spend his time studying instead of trying to make friends. When his father is kidnapped, Alexander gladly leaves school behind and finds himself partnered with a baron's daughter, her little bronze dragon, and an eclectic crew of Sky Raiders in a quest to find him. When their search leads them to Malta, they discover a secret society intent on unleashing the ancient Iron Horsemen and usurping the reins of power in London.  
In a steam-powered Victorian world where pirates prowl the sky and secret societies determine the future like a game of chess, Alexander must confront the harsh legacy of the divided country he left behind, a new aristocratic world that rejects him, and the overwhelming pressure of being offered to become a Horseman himself.
Iron Zulu, Book Two of the Iron Chronicles
Alexander Armitage is back in the thrilling sequel to IRON HORSEMEN. It’s been almost a year since he saved London, and life has returned to the structured days at Eton College, a place he still doesn’t fit in. When a series of murders strike campus, they are blamed on the visiting Zulu delegation. But Alexander has doubts. In his search for the truth, he finds himself embroiled with the baron’s daughter’s dark past as they are captured and taken by armored Milli-train to the hidden city of the sky pirates. The chase is on, from the cobbled streets of London, to the great deserts and savannas of Africa.

In a steam-powered Victorian world where pirates prowl the sky and secret societies determine the future like a game of chess, Alexander learns the difference between what is savage and what is noble, while discovering the power within himself.

But we’re not the only authors appearing at B&N this weekend:

Kristy Blank Makansi, co-author of the Seeds Trilogy will be at the Chesterfield Barnes and Noble on Friday, June 10, 2016 at 7:30pm.

Join the Chesterfield Barnes & Noble at 7:00PM on Friday, June 10, 2016 for their Trivia Blast, created by Penguin Teen and Random House's First In Line, who will send one winner in every store advance reader copies* of the most anticipated new teen books. *Advance reader's copies will be preselected by the publisher.

George Sirois, author of Excelsior, Debbie Manber Kupfer, author of P.A.W.S., and Rebecca Jaycox, author of The Other Inheritance will be appearing at the West County Barnes & Noble at 12pm on Saturday, June 11, 2016.

Be at the Des Peres Barnes & Noble at 2:00PM to participate in a story development workshop created by Adaptive Studios and learn how to write a log line, create a spark page and reimagine popular characters.

Kourtney Heintz, author of The Six Train to Wisconsin, will be appearing at the Waterbury Barnes & Noble in Connecticut from 12pm to 2pm.

So check your local Barnes & Noble and see what is going on for B-Fest. Feel free to post other B-Fest appearances in the comments section. To learn more about B-Fest visit B&N’s website -  

Also, follow the weekend’s events using the hashtag #BFestBuzz

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The SLWG Author Series

The SLWG Author Series

Many may not know that I host a monthly interview for St. Louis Writers Guild. The SLWG Author Series airs on the third Thursday of every month and features an interview with an author or clips from the SLWG monthly meeting Workshops for Writers. All the episodes are available on Youtube, or they can be found on the SLWG Facebook page, and the Member’s Room of the website.

The SLWG Author Series has a new look and a new format. The interviews are on different topics, but we try to provide some insight for writers and hopefully provide some fun for the fans of the authors.

Check out this interview with Main Street Books co-owner and proprietress, Emily Hall. I interviewed her in April after her Workshops for Writers presentation which is featured in clips after the interview. Plus, see a few shots of Main Street Books, a great independent bookstore on historic Main Street in St. Charles. We discuss the relationship between authors and bookstores.

This is last month’s SLWG Author Series with David Lucas, president of St. Louis Writers Guild and President and Executive Producer of Winding Trails Media. We discuss podcasts.  

Here are some great clips from the March Workshops for Writers presentation with Ronald R. Van Stockum Jr. He had a great talk about hand selling your book, or what he coined Human Fly Fishing.

As a bonus check out this interview with award winning author Ann Leckie. We discussed her books and the unique POV she uses.

I hope you enjoyed the videos please feel free to check out the rest, there some great authors we’ve talked to over the last few years. Plus, check out the SLWG Author Series for June which will feature clips with author Eric Asher from his Workshops for Writers presentation on building your audience. See it any time after June 16, 2016.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Thoughts about Show Don’t Tell

Three Thoughts about Show Don’t Tell
By Brad R. Cook

Show Don’t Tell is probably the most reiterated writing rule… after write a good sentence… but what does it mean. Obviously, show the reader what the character is doing rather than tell them every action. There is so much more to this than three simple words. Show Don't Tell is easy to understand but impossible to master.

I think Anton Chekhov said it best:
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Showing – using an active voice and giving rich descriptions to imply what is happening to a character and how those actions make them feel.
Telling – using a few words to inform the reader of what has transpired.

Here are three thoughts about Show Don’t Tell:

1 – Don’t Skip the Good Parts
Telling robs writers and readers of what they both want out of any story – vibrant descriptions that create images in their minds. Writers want to create them, it’s what we all strive to do, and readers want them out of every book they pick up. We read or write to be transported to a different world. Showing allows us to smell every scent, feel every surface, see every wonder.

Telling a scene skips over all the good parts and cuts to the bare bones of the story. Wouldn’t everyone rather have a thick, juicy, St. Louis style rib, than a bone with a little bit of meat covering it. Of course. So don’t skip the good parts. Stretch out the moment. Spend time describing the details. Make the reader feel every emotion. The book will be better and your reader will adore you. 

2 – Add Rich Descriptions
Showing is all about descriptions. Use them. I’m not talking about purple prose - overly elaborate, long-winded paragraphs without any white space on the page - I'm looking for vibrant and well worded passages. Add descriptions to enrich the senses. Make every word count, make the reader cling to every moment so they pray it never ends. Descriptions are one of the best ways to show what is going on in the scene. 

Don’t say he swung the sword and cut the bad guy. Have the flick of a wrist circle the enemy’s blade and thrust through his defenses to push into the thick leather armor and the flesh underneath. Show the enemy collapse on the blade. The sword penetrates the internal organs and emerge out the enemy’s back. Tell the reader how the character feels seeing the life drain from his foe. It will be a stronger scene than just saying he swung his sword and cut the bad guy.

3 – Make it a Conversation
The other technique, beside descriptions to show and not tell is to turn it into conversation. Rather than have a single throwaway line. Have two characters talk about it. Have the main character see what is happening and describe it to another. A great example of this is Ant-Man when Luis info dumps what is happening off screen. They could have had all those scenes but that would have slowed the story to a crawl. By having Luis tell Ant-Man about everything it goes from a very telling scene (literally) to a rather iconic and funny scene. Now there are calls online for Luis to recap the entire Marvel story line.

Not only do agents, publishers, and editors want you to Show Don’t Tell, the real reason we follow this writing rule is for the reader. Our job is to give readers the best, most immersive story possible. With so many books on the shelf, readers gravitate to the ones that provide a unique experience and rich descriptions are one way to impart that experience.

So spend a little time with each scene in your next manuscript figuring out where you can Show and not Tell the story.

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen - and Iron Zulu -  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, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Three Thoughts about Steampunk!

Three Thoughts about Steampunk!
By Brad R. Cook

What is steampunk? Simply put – Victorian Science Fiction. Steampunk is a genre of movies and books that takes the possibilities of steam technology and the technology of the Victorian Age and then twists it into a myriad of possibilities. It’s part historical fiction, and part fantasy. But it’s all awesome. Steampunk is sky pirates on airships, gear technology, steam and steel mixed with corsets and top hats.

As a steampunk author, I have loved the genre since before it officially had a name, back when it was just Hollywood and authors infusing technology into their historical action flicks. I’m looking at you Wild Wild West. I love steampunk. I love taking what might have been and finding a plausible way to infuse it into my projects.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Steampunk and wants to, or for those like me who love all things steampunk – here are three thoughts about the genre.

1 - History is Steampunk!
One thing I love to do is go through the patents from the turn of the 20th century. The Victorian age was filled with dreamers who were only limited by their imagination. They came up with so many ideas that we might consider ludicrous but at the time were deemed plausible. Pictured is a German design for a saddle balloon. The designer believed that police would patrol the streets from a balloon, hovering above trouble. Today we have police in helicopters, so he wasn’t so off, but you have to love the ideas. There are so many more, I give a lecture on the great inventions of the Victorian age. You might have seen it at the St. Louis Science Center’s steampunk event but if not no worries I will be holding it again.

2 – Steampunk is Crafters and Storytellers
Steampunk is all about immersion. The many festivals around the country are about transporting people back into the age of Steampunk. We dress in period clothing, though adjusted to make it even cooler than history. Books and movies transport us to a variety of worlds. One of my favorite parts of Steampunk is that no two books, movies, or games are the same. Each is a unique world where steam, brass, and gears create the common thread that keeps them all cohesive.

3 – Steampunk is World Wide
It’s not just about the Victorian Age or London. James Ng is one of my favorite steampunk artists. He has this great Chinese steampunk aesthetic and I will fully admit that it inspired part of my next novel Iron Lotus. I wrote the Iron Chronicles as a worldwide adventure. The first book, Iron Horsemen, takes place in Europe. The second book, Iron Zulu, takes place in Africa. The third book, Iron Lotus, coming this fall, takes place in the Himalayas. With a grand ending in America just to make certain I got all the way around the world. Steampunk has gone all around the world. I’ve seen it in India, in China, in Australia, all over America, and of course in Europe and Russia. So it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are – Steampunk can be for you.

There is so much more, I might have to do another post. I didn’t even mention steampunk guns, watch part designs, furniture, steampunk computers and flash drives, or the entire top hat industry. There is too much steampunk to fit into any one post. Not to mention the other “punks” like dieselpunk, clockwork, atomicpunk, and more…

What’s your favorite part of steampunk, have a favorite author, artist, cosplayer, designer, or movie? Let us know in the comments.

The Milli-train from my second novel Iron Lotus. What could be more steampunk than a train with legs!

As always a big thank you to my illustrator Jennifer Stolzer for bringing my steampunk inventions to visual life. 

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen - and Iron Zulu -  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, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Learn how to boost readership with mailing lists & advertising campaigns

Bestselling fantasy author Eric R. Asher will offer tips on using third-party tools and Facebook ads to rapidly grow your reader base at the St. Louis Writers Guild workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, June 4, at Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd, Kirkwood, Mo. Free to Guild members; $5 for nonmembers.

“A solid marketing strategy is important whether you're traditionally published or self-published,” he said. “While established strategies like blog tours and release parties can still be effective, authors need scalable, long-term campaigns to help keep their readers engaged.”

Eric will discuss:
1. Why newsletters are one of the most reliable marketing tools.
2. How to bring more subscribers onto your lists.
3. Why Facebook ads are more powerful than ever, and how anyone can benefit from them.
4. Landing pages, and why you need them.
5. His three favorite list-building courses and companies.
6. Effective sites for promoting discounted ebooks.

We will also review the upcoming St. Louis book convention, Penned Con.

Eric is the author of the Vesik urban fantasy series and the Young Adult steampunk series, Steamborn. He is a former bookseller, cellist, and comic seller currently living in Saint Louis, Missouri. A lifelong enthusiast of books, music, toys, and games, he discovered a love for the written word after being dragged to the library by his parents at a young age. When he is not writing, you can usually find him reading, gaming, or buried beneath a small avalanche of Transformers.

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Three Thoughts about Writing a Book

Three Thoughts about Writing a Book
Brad R. Cook

Everyone has a story to tell. Those of us that write them down earn the moniker – Writer. Those that persevere through the publishing process become known as Authors. Here’s the secret, anyone can write a story. As a people, we have told stories since the dawn of time. People go into work on Monday mornings and tell stories of their weekends. We tell children stories to get them to go to sleep. The trick, and why some authors get paid the big bucks, is to make it a good story.

Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Octavia Butler said, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

They said it best, but here are my three thoughts on writing a book…

1 – Be a storyteller
Writers are wordsmiths, gods of our own universes, grammar Nazis, and more, but beyond all of these we are storytellers. Learn the three act structure, the bell curve of story arcs, and writing in an active voice. These are important but what matters most is that a writer be an excellent storyteller. Everything else is fixable in edits.

2 – Write Regularly
Octavia Butler and Stephen King both emphasized this, why, because it is paramount to being an author. The only difference between wanting to be a writer and being a writer is putting words on the page. I try to write every day, when I have a deadline I will write several times a day. However, if you can only write once a week that is fine. Maybe a couple of hours every weekend is all you can manage. I promise if you stick with the writing eventually you’ll write The End, and there is no greater feeling than hitting that last period.

Guard this time like a dire wolf… everyone and everything will try and chip away at that time. The trick is to make it routine, then your muse, your body, and your mind will be ready to write when the time comes.

3 – Read
Read books in your genre, books by your favorite authors, even books on how to write. Read a variety of things, in different styles, different genres, and be certain to read for fun. Seeing how sentences are structured will improve your writing. Seeing what others are doing will let you know what are the tropes of your genre, the clichés, and what you can do that will stand out from the others.

I am a fan of authors rules, I read everyone I can get my hands on. I like to see what other writers think is important, but I also read books on writing. Like Stephen King’s On Writing, the Emotional Thesaurus, and Punctuation for Writers. But there are so many more. Remember, reading is fundamental…

So write. Revise. Write some more. Then Submit.

I leave you with this,
Brad R. Cook’s advice on writing – “The magic is in the rewriting.”

Do you have any advice for writers, a favorite book, or quote? Let us know in the comments.

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen - and Iron Zulu -  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, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr