Thursday, December 29, 2016

Rienspel a new novel by Ryan P. Freeman

Rienspel a new novel by Ryan P. Freeman
Brad R. Cook

To end off the year here on The Writers’ Lens, I wanted to showcase one more great writer and novel. Ryan P. Freeman has created a hi-fantasy epic with his latest novel Rienspel.

The Phoenix of Redd Volume I
by Ryan P. Freeman
What Rien discovers about his past will change his future…
Rien Sucat wiles his days away, bored-stiff in his small backwoods village. But soon gets more than he bargained for after he befriends a magical Phoenix, accidentally witnesses a secret necromantic ritual, and comes face to face with a league of racist, knife-wielding assassins out for his blood. Travel with Rien as he and the Phoenix journey from the unassuming Rillian village of Nyrgen through the enchanting depths of the Great Wood where the unquiet dead lurk, to the high north country of Firehall - elusive sanctuary of the Elves. Launch into an epic quest with consequences farther reaching than Rien could ever possibly imagine.

Rienspel is about heart. It is about family and about how the power of love played out in everyday life often carries lasting consequences. Rien’s tale transcends the dim shadows of our own world by revealing the lingering power we all carry through how we live and treat others. It is a tale about the Story we all reside in which readers both young and young-at-heart will find compelling. As C.S. Lewis once penned for his colleague and friend J.R.R. Tolkien, so it is with Rienspel, ‘here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron. Here is a story which will break your heart”… and re-forge it anew in Phoenix-fire.

Learn more about Rienspel at 

I sat down with Ryan for a moment and asked him about Rienspel and his writing process.

What brings your writing into focus, the characters, the stories, or the love of crafting words?
Probably the Story.
Why do you say that?
The stories which need to be written are the ones which stick with you, knocking on your doors and tapping at your windows until you finally give in and sit down to write them. Then, after you've pounded your head against the desk and resisted checking social media for the 10th time, the characters poke their heads out, like shy actors on a stage - your own deliberate words come sometime after.
The story is important.

What are your top three reasons for writing?
First, I am writing for myself - for the sheer enjoyment. I wind up getting these story ideas, and I catch myself wondering, ok - what happens next? And so I have to keep writing to find out.
Yes, you have to love what you write.
Second, I'm writing for others. One of thing things I learned from my time in radio was to get a picture of a listener from an event, and then stand it up whenever I would go on-air back at the studio. When I'm writing, I'm talking to this person/people - they're my audience.
Thinking of audience is important, and finally…
Third, I'm writing to explore real, legitimate questions about life, the universe and everything - and while everything I write apparently comes out looking an awful lot like fantasy, I'm deadly-serious about my pursuit for understanding.

What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers?
Nice! I like it.
I'm looking for others to share common passions, loves, and questions. Usually, this means either face-to-face or through animated Facebook messaging.

How much fact is in your fiction?
I often wonder just how much this distinction is illusory. One of my passions is for pan-mythology - the notion about how many popular myths appear to all be telling similar stories; so in the world of my stories, one of the things I'm trying to do is actively explore how all these parallel myths could weave together into one cohesive tale. In short, just how much fact is in my fiction? All of it (none of it).
An interesting idea.

One last question, which line did you struggle with more, the first or the last?
Honestly, I think I struggled with the first one more. I'm a firm believer in the Law of physics which says 'Objects in motion like to stay in motion'. When I first began Rienspel, neither my story, nor myself were in motion at all! I think I ended up going through three or four different drafts before I finally settled on where in the story I wanted to begin, and how to go about it.

Thank you, Ryan, for answering my questions.

Ryan P. Freeman
Ryan P. Freeman is a fellow adventurer. After miraculously surviving childhood cancer and several near-death experiences, he launched into the world of AM talk radio, hosting his own live program out of Albuquerque. Ryan is a former International Red Cross guest speaker, Pastor, and medieval-enthusiast; loves sampling craft-beers, is an unapologetically proud kilt-wearer, and proud member of the St Louis Writers Guild. Ryan also contributes to The Scribe Literary magazine. In his down time, his interests range from exploring real-world pan-mythology, survivalist camping, and copious video gaming.

To learn more about Ryan Patrick Freeman, his novel Rienspel, or his other works please visit

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen -, Iron Zulu -, and Iron Lotus  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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Early bird registration ends Dec. 31 for June Gateway to Publishing conference

Early bird registration ends Dec. 31 for Gateway to Publishing, a writers conference and FREE readers convention at the Airport Renaissance Hotel June 16, 17 and 18, 2017, in St. Louis.
St. Louis Writers Guild will host the weekend-long event, which features multiple workshop tracks for writers, a book fair, and marquee events for readers.
To register at reduced rate, visit:
June 16, 17, and 18, 2017
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
At the Renaissance Hotel in St. Louis, MO (Across from Lambert International Airport)
A Conference for Writers and a FREE Convention for Readers!

Workshop Jan. 7: "Pulp Fiction Isn't Just a Tarantino Movie”

Bestselling author Van Allen Plexico will discuss why “Pulp Fiction Isn’t Just a Tarantino Movie” from 10 a.m. to noon, Jan. 7, at a workshop hosted by the St. Louis Writers Guild. Held at a new location -- in the Dogwood Room at The Lodge Des Peres, 1050 Des Peres Rd, St. Louis, MO 63131 -- the workshop is free to Guild members, $5 for nonmembers.

His talk will cover:
-       What is Pulp Fiction?  (background and description)
-       How do you write it?
-       Who's publishing it today?

Plexico won the 2015 Pulp Factory Awards for both Novel of the Year and Anthology of the Year. He is the Amazon bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories, novellas, nonfiction books, columns and essays from a variety of publishers. In addition to his ongoing SENTINELS illustrated superhero novel series and his SHATTERING space opera series, he has written two bestselling nonfiction books about Marvel’s Avengers, as well as being selected to write the year-by-year history of the Avengers for Upper Deck’s commemorative trading card set.

He has written the adventures of many classic pulp characters for various publishers, including Sherlock Holmes, the Griffon, Hawk, Mars McCoy, Gideon Cain and Lance Star. John Blackthorn, a pulp character he created in 2011, won the New Pulp Award for Best New Character that year. His biweekly interview program, the White Rocket Podcast, was a finalist in the 2015 Parsec Awards. An Associate Professor at Southwestern Illinois College, he has appeared as a guest, speaker, presenter and event host at dozens of conventions and literary festivals across the U.S. 

Please note the new location for the Guild’s monthly workshops. For a map and directions to The Lodge Des Peres, as well as additional information about the St. Louis Writers Guild, go

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tyrants and Traitors, a new novel from Joshua Miller

Tyrants and Traitors, 
a New Novel from Joshua Miller
Brad R. Cook

Joshua Miller takes the reader back to into history with his latest epic, the first novel in The Lion's Dynasty. I had the honor of being in a critique group with him several years ago, an excellent author, he now has a new book and I wanted to share Tyrants and Traitors with you.  

Tyrants and Traitors by Joshua McHenry Miller
Book One of the Lion’s Dynasty
An Epic Inspired by the Original Giant Slayer

“Find the traitor hiding within Israel,” the seer warns Niklas, “or our nation will be enslaved and your hometown slaughtered.” So, no pressure. Niklas, a fifteen-year-old shepherd, spent his whole life dreaming of revolt against the hygiene-adverse Philistines, but when the all-but-impossible mission is thrust upon him, he starts to rethink the whole hero business. What chance does the daring schemer have when lions, the Mad King, and a literal giant stand in his way? As Niklas races to uncover the hidden traitor, conspiracies and armies converge on the nation—with his hometown directly in the crossfire.

I fired off some questions and we met up for a few minutes when he came in town.

What brings your writing into focus, the characters, the stories, or the love of crafting words?
I am enamored with the process of story craft. For almost ten years, I’ve studied from some of my favorite authors and screenwriters, and I’ve learned that all three components are essential. All that said, I find an acute delight in seeing scenes well executed in a story’s plot. Christopher Nolan is masterful in this, and I’m always reminded of the first words of his movie The Prestige. “Are you watching closely. Every magic trick consists of three parts. The magician (or the writer) shows you something ordinary… The second act is called the turn. The magician (or the writer) takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary... Finally, there is the third act, called the prestige, where you bring it all back to the beginning.” Brilliant!
Great movie! And I like that, the show, the turn, and the prestige. I’ll have to look for them in my own writing.

With Tyrants and Traitors set in the past, how much fact is in your fiction?
So, my story is a fantastical retelling of the original giant slayer (with a large emphasis on the fantastical), but given my educational background, I knew a lot more about the ancient middle-east culture than your typical gent or lady. So, there’s a lot of historical nuggets in the story that ended up in the final manuscript.

Tell us about your writing style--do you work from an outline or wait to see where the characters lead you?
One of my all time favorite authors is Jim Butcher,
Me too. Of course, the Dresden Files, but I loved the first of his steampunk series, The Aeronaut's Windlass.
and he was kind enough to post his process for writing a story via a live journal. He is a huge advocate for the architect approach toward writing, and while he (nor I for that matter) would never say there is only one way to write a story, it worked out pretty well for him, so I decided to follow suit. I plot out each beat of the story before I ever put my fingers to the keyboard, and it’s been tremendously helpful in my own efforts.

Do you feel writers benefit from belonging to industry associations or guilds?
Absolutely! So much of the publishing industry today is about networking, and the more opportunities you have to rub elbows and collaborate with other professionals the better! The Saint Louis Writers Guild did wonders for me while I was in the area, and I’m always looking for new partnership, networks, and guilds to join. My one caveat is to be wary of group think. Today’s industry is a bit like the wild west, and we’re all trying to find the right map to the buried treasure. However, at the end of the day, focus your efforts on connecting with readers, especially in your target audience. It’s been the primary working method for generations, and it will be for generations to come.

What are the top three pieces of advice you'd like to give new writers?
A great piece of advice for writing (as well as in life), is to find people you want to be like and stick with them. For me, that’s meant targeting my top five or six authors, and mirroring my own writing and career after their own. Obviously, each circumstance is different, but there are always tricks you can apply in your own efforts.
So true, I have done the same, learning from the master and emulating them. That was one, do you have another?
Second, focus most of your time on writing a good story. Many authors are too enthralled with the idea of getting a book published, and the quality of their book suffers for it.
The story is the most important part of the book. And third…
Finally, enjoy the journey. At the end of the day, whether you sell one hundred copies or one hundred thousand copies, you’re doing something most people only dream of. It’s a difficult ride, but it’s also a glorious one!

Okay, let’s get a little personal. What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers?
Coffee or fermented beverages. I’m a huge fan of networking and meeting new people, so whenever I have the opportunity to sit down with a reader and discuss why I made certain choices, how the story made them feel, and their insight into what could have been done better, I consider it a joy and an honor. However, I also have a ton of fun over on twitter, where pithy banter rules supreme! Say hi @talesofascribe.

Thanks for letting us into your mind, but one last question. Which line did you struggle with more, the first or the last?
I struggled with the first line of Tyrants and Traitors something fierce. My book is equal parts adventure and snark, and finding the right cadence to start off took me through two rounds of edits. They were literally the last words I wrote. I kept submitting thoughts to my editor (the amazing Sophie B. Thomas) who would shake her head and simply write back, it’s not quite right yet. In the end though, I thought we captured the feel of the book pretty well. ‘This was the first step toward revolution; an adventure bards would retell for generations. It was also, technically, stealing.’
Cool. Good beginning.

Thanks for talking with us here at the Writers’ Lens.
To learn more about Joshua Miller check out his website, 

Joshua McHenry Miller
Most people use vacation days to take actual vacations. Author Joshua McHenry Miller saves them for when JK Rowling releases a new Harry Potter book.

A nerd long before the world realized it was awesome to be geeky, he’s loved superheros, dragon slayers, and jedi knights as long as he can remember. Eventually, he wanted to do more than simply consume adventure stories; he wanted to create them.

For the last ten years he’s studied story craft, and the fruit of his work has culminated in YA novel Tyrants and Traitors. It’s a fantastical retelling of history’s King David. If you imagine a snarky love child between The Chronicles of Narnia and the Percy Jackson series, you’re on the right track.

When he’s not writing till his fingers turn white (he has poor blood circulation), he’s starting a church and working as a community developer in south-central Madison, WI. He’s also a huge Marvel fanboy, enjoys gaming (both the tabletop and video game variety), and would spend every day in open water if it were possible. He also loves connecting with his readers, so stop by his website at or say hi on twitter @talesofascribe!

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen -, Iron Zulu -, and Iron Lotus  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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Topic & technique inspire Van Stockum: Author, Lawyer, Scientist & Musician

Welcome to Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr.’s academic degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Santa Clara University, California, May 1972; a Masters of Science in Biology from the University of Louisville, May 1975; a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Louisville, May 1979; and a Juris Doctor in Law from the University of Louisville, May 1979.  Prior to entering the private practice of law, Dr. Van Stockum was an attorney for the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  He has been in the private practice of law as a sole proprietor since 1981.  Dr. Van Stockum practices from his office in Shelbyville, Kentucky.
   Dr. Van Stockum is published in the areas of biology, history, environmental law, and creative writing, and has addressed these topics in numerous presentations and seminars.  His resume can be found at and contains a complete list of his publications and presentations. 
   He is past Chair of the Kentucky Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and has served as Vice President of the Filson HIstorical Society.  He is past Chair of the Environmental Law Section of the Louisville Bar Association and past Chair of the Kentucky Bar Association, Environment, Energy & Resources Law Section.  He is also past President of the University of Louisville Alumni Association. Dr. Van Stockum currently serves on the Oil and Gas Work Group for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet working on revisions to oil and gas statutes and regulations.
   Dr. Van Stockum has published six short stories and two novels of fiction science and magic realism.  The first is entitled Markman's Home, and the second, Cosmos, the Stellar Stalker. He has also recently published his nonfiction short story entitled, "The Wonder of Natural Life in Kentucky."
The Writers' Lens is about "bringing fiction into focus."  What brings your writing into focus-the characters, the stories, the love of words? Feelings compel me to write. They are strong enough to continually nag at my consciousness, seeking an outlet of expression.  When I give way to these urges to write, I blend in scientific subjects that I am studying. 

How do you find time to write and do a demanding job? There is time in between other activities to write copiously. The only requisite is the activation of energy to get started and the reward that one feels in expression.  It is remarkable how much time is available "in between." Of course, one looks somewhat unsociable sitting at a social engagement and writing, but my friends have become used to it.

What inspired your latest book? My latest book is a novella that bridges one of my earliest and lengthiest books, Markman's Home, into the third of my novels, Xortal. I needed to expand on the ending of the first novel so as to increase the diversity and delight of the characters as they further interact under new circumstances.  In addition, I have had the pleasure of listening to Brad Cook lecture on points of view. If, in my thought process, I feel naturally comfortable in moving from one point of view to the next, then I am convinced to write that way. Multiple points of view in the same chapter.  So, the inspiration of my book is two-fold: one, topic and the other, technique.

What do you think readers will like about your book? I think most readers will find plot forwarding through different points of view to be either captivating or distracting. I intend to "capture" them by continuing to write in an action/adventure speed with unusual descriptions of human nature allowed by the varying points of view.  

Will you share a bit about your next project? I am a scientist and also a lawyer. I write a great deal of professional material in both science and the field of environmental law. I have been recently contacted by a law journal seeking the submission of an article regarding agriculture. I would entitle it "The Wondrous Journey of Food-Our Relationship Through the Ages."  I have found success in merging my nonfiction, technical style of writing with my creative fiction style of writing. That breakthrough came in a long short story entitled, "The Wonder of Natural Life in Kentucky," which has been very well received. I would anticipate writing this new book, which deals with the history of food, in a similar fashion.

What is your favorite way to interact with fans/readers? I enjoy promoting my books at conferences and seminars. Although conversation limits the number of books one can sell an hour, the ability to meet and get to know a potential buyer is a satisfying exercise.  Their willingness to engage in a journey through your writing when they purchase one of your books, is even more gratifying. Of course, when they return at another conference to tell you how much they enjoyed your work, well-that's simply "the cat's meow." 

What are your top three reasons for writing? 1) passion; 2) love; and 3) interest.

What is the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? There are two: a) It was fun; and b) I love your footnotes.

What is your favorite writing accessory or reference? I am a speed printer, so having a mechanical pencil with an effective eraser and a double-backed yellow pad makes me exceptionally comfortable and efficient. That is how I am writing now.  There are many references in the writing that I do, but I am always pleased when I am able to bring out the original Oxford English Dictionary. There is history of writing in that great work even if it takes a magnifying glass to examine! 

What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? "River Nights," by Reginald Bareham. You can find it on vimeo under "Reginald Bareham."  It is also on the sound track of the educational television documentary, "Harry Caudill, A Man of Courage." 

If you could meet one of your characters, who would it be and where would you meet? I am with them all of the time.  
© 2016 by Ronald R. Van Stockum Jr., All Rights Reserved   

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