Sunday, February 28, 2016

Learn how to “hand-sell” your books at Guild’s March 5 workshop

If people just pass you by at book signings, learn how to close the deal at the “Human Fly Fishing: Hand-selling Books” workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, March 5, at Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd, Kirkwood, Mo. Free to St. Louis Writers Guild members, $5 for nonmembers.

The presenter--Ronald R. “Reggie” Van Stockum, Jr.--is a lawyer, teacher, biologist, writer, guitarist, and recently an actor living on his family's old farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

He has a B.S. in Biology from Santa Clara University, and an M.S. and PhD. in Biology from the University of Louisville. He also has his Juris Doctorate in Law from the University of Louisville and practices law from offices in Shelbyville. He concentrates his legal practice in environmental law, and his biologic research in historical phytogeography.

Dr. Van Stockum has published numerous articles in the area of law, science and creative writing. He has published two novels of magic realism: Markman's Home (2014) and Cosmos, the Stellar Stalker (2015). He has also published a number of short stories including “The Great and Terrible Wilderness” and “Ollie Deaton and the Breathitt County Silver Mine.”

After the ARCHON 39 science fiction and fantasy conference last October, St. Louis Magazine writer Thomas Crone wrote of his experience: “HUSTLED, but gently: While walking through the Gateway’s halls, I was summoned by a book vendor with this one-liner: ‘You, you have a backpack with enough room for a book!’ As simply as that, I wandered over and listened to the pitch by author Ronald R. Van Stockum Jr., who sold me a copy of Cosmos: The Stellar Stalker, which I’ve not yet delved into. His approach was so refreshing that I couldn’t resist plunking down $12 on a sci-fi thriller taking place in 1976 Louisville. Honestly, if this fella’s book is half as entertaining as his table persona, I’ll get a bit of entertainment outta this one.”

Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at


Thursday, February 25, 2016

FIRST LOOK: "Letters to Olivia" by EC Holm

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a new series of posts called FIRST LOOK featuring excerpts from stories by up-and-coming writers. We hope you enjoy getting to know them!

Welcome to EC Holm, who was born in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an honorable veteran of the US Air Force, and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Maryland University College in Computer Studies. He was influenced by NASA’s space program all his life. Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and Neil Armstrong were some of his heroes. Written works of Steven Spielberg, William Shatner, Ursula Le Guin, E. M. Forster, and Mark Twain piqued his interest in science fiction and adventure.

From: Letters to Olivia

Dear Olivia,
Well, I’m out here, like I said I would, writing to you on my tablet. I’m traveling in a cramped capsule with five other people, and all of them are guys. Even after 10 days of travel, they have been behaving, but I’m going nuts missing my best friend.

How are things back home in San Jose? I hope you’re keeping yourself safe with the gang fights everywhere. Who would have thought that the news of alien contact, a few years ago, would rupture into civil unrest worldwide, right? The Encounter mission, to meet the aliens, has still a few years to launch. What will happen then? Full blown wars? I hope not.

The Writers’ Lens is about "Bringing fiction into focus." What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? What brings my writing into focus is the idea that the written word is code for the brain. The brain then creates this world as prescribed by the code. Then our soul is immersed and plays in such a world. The reader can touch smell and taste in this world. It’s the ultimate virtual reality. You cannot get that with a computer. In short, it’s the love of communicating a good story.

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? I have two jobs. What I do is I use Google Drive/Docs to write any free time I have, like on breaks, using my phone. At home, I write on my laptop. Leveraging modern technology this way allows me to make progress even with a demanding schedule.

What inspired your latest book/story? There are many companies interested in mining asteroids. Following these efforts and other space commercial efforts helped inspire me to write Letters to Olivia. The storyline is also inspired by my personal travels. Ever so often, I have encountered amazing people. So this story is about meeting new people in a new place.

What do you think readers will like about your work? I’m working on this idea of immersing the reader into the story. The stories are adventure stories set in a science fiction multiverse. I have taken from an ancient book, The Book of Enoch, to create beings of a different dimensional realm. I’ve also taken from M-theory the 11 dimensions and fashioned 3 realms. Lastly, I’ve taken the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics that explains multiple universes or realities.

This mixture of scientific theories and religious mythology gives a rich multiverse to explore adventures in the human condition in relation to the vastness of space. So, I think my readers enjoy stories about bad guys and good guys, about love and loss, about what it means to have it all and what it means to have none of it.

How much fact is in your fiction? I do base my fiction on real science. The Earth-based ships operate on known scientific principles. The alien ships operate on some more exhotic principles. Though scientific principles are applied, the engineering may not exist. Also, the dimensional beings get more fantastical, or fictionalized, technology. I like to keep in mind modern accomplishments such as smartphones, tablets, artificial intelligence in software, 3D printing, Virtual Reality, etc. I like to give a nod to these as well as the developments in commercial space.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Authors Are Letting Everyone In for #AuthorLifeMonth

Authors Are Letting Everyone In for #AuthorLifeMonth
By Brad R. Cook

There is a fun daily photo challenge making its way around the internet this month, authors are letting everyone into their secret world. Okay, I’m not sure how secret some of it is, but we are pulling back the covers to show what goes on in our lives.

It’s called #authorlifemonth and authors from all over the world are sharing a different photo everyday letting the world into such gems as, Where I Write, My Favorite Cover, Favorite Book in My Genre, Current WIP, and so much more.

YA and NA author Dahlia Adler created the hash tag, which asks authors to post a photo every day in the month of February according to a preset list of challenges. You can read all about why she created it and more about #authorlifemonth on her blog –

I missed the first couple of days because I was sick and not doing any social media at the time, but I loved the idea and the daily challenges. So every day I have been posting my photos. It’s also been fun to search the hash tag and see what my fellow authors are doing each day. Yesterday was Where I Write, and it is great to see the desks, chairs, and couches where everyone works their magic. For me, I’ve never been one who is able to write at a desk so I posted a pic of my couch where my cat (pictured, kind of) and I write all my books.

The main contest is on Instagram, but like all good hash tags it has permeated to all the platforms. So if you’re not on Instagram, no worries, join the fun and post your daily challenge… just remember to tag each photo with #authorlifemonth so we can all enjoy.

Today is: Where I Relax… I hope to see your photos

Dahlia admits she missed that this year February has 29 days, she only created 28 challenges, so feel free to do whatever you wish on the leap day.

#authorlifemonth has been fun, and a great way to peer behind the covers and see the secret life of authors. It’s almost the kind of thing that Ken Burns would narrate, or you might find on NOVA. We writers tend to be a solitary lot, but if I’ve learned anything this month it’s that we are more alike than you’d expect.

Authors show us your 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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Three Thoughts... from Other Writers, Part II

Three Thoughts… from Other Writers, part II
By Brad R. Cook

Last week, I posted three thoughts from other authors about writing. I liked it so much I wanted to do it again. This time, though, to honor Black History Month, I bring the sage advice of three of my favorite African-American Authors – Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, and Octavia Butler.

1 – “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. 
– Zora Neale Hurston

2 – “The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart. 
– Maya Angelou

3 – “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. – Octavia Butler

I will never forget reading Their Eyes Are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston in high school, it was the first book to really touch my soul, and taught me the power of books. Maya Angelou is one of my favorite poets. Her work taught me how words should flow. I was never much of a poet until I started reading her poems. I’ll never write poetry like her, but when I do, I try to channel her power. I will admit that I am new to Octavia Butler, I knew of her, of course, but I didn’t really learn about her until a recent Write Pack Radio episode honoring her life. She is an amazing lady and author, and her books are now in my to-be-read pile. But this quote speaks to me as a writer, and so I pass it on to you.

One more just for fun, he isn’t American so I didn’t include him in the official three but here is a great quote from Dumas. Something to remember about all the advice you’ll find online.  “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” – Alexandre Dumas

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, February 3, 2016

Three Thoughts... from Other Writers

Three Thoughts… from Other Writers
By Brad R. Cook

I’ve been bringing you my thoughts on writing, so this week I thought I’d share what other writers think about the craft. Here are three different authors advice on writing – in convenient graphic form. By the way, there are hundreds of these on the internet. I’m a big fan of them, and I will post these as my background to remind me that all writers have similar struggles.

1 – I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. – Joss Whedon

2 – Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. – Anton Chekhov

3 – If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.   
– Elmore Leonard

What is your favorite writing mantra from a famous author? 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