Summer begins?

I’m leaving town tomorrow and heading to Philadelphia to spend some time with fellow writers, catch up with old friends, and eat my way through the culinary delights of the city of Brotherly Love — assuming, that is, I can get the last of my grading done. The semester is over, but like a bad rash its aftermath just won’t go away. I’ve got a couple delinquent research papers and exams still to mark and grades to submit. But soon…yes, soon I shall be free.

Summer. Much-anticipated and filled to the brim with goodness. Unfettered time to write (or in the case of this summer’s plan, revise Project Awesome). Trips to Seattle and Norway to look forward to. Even a short excavation season coming up in June and July to keep the inner archaeologist sated. Only three months, but so much awesomeness!

Yes, once it truly begins, this summer should be a delicious one.

Until then, back to the grading mines!

Reversal of Fortune

Yay! My latest publication, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, is now available to read in Fictionvale Magazine. You can purchase a digital copy (for kindle, .epub, or .pdf) for $3.99.

The story explores a near-future in which Manhattan has become a post-apocalyptic prison cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors have cobbled together a twisted game in which they vie for territory and resources, but when two little girls mysteriously appear on the George Washington Bridge the game is thrown into disarray and power shifts in a way none of the players could have imagined.

The issue of Fictionvale in which REVERSAL OF FORTUNE appears (Episode #3: A Different Outcome) revolves around the theme of alternate history and includes nine fantastic tales, in addition to mine. I hope you’ll check it out!

Getting where you’re going in five not-so-easy steps

We’re about midway through the Paradise Lost IV workshop, and I’m starting to realize that if there’s a theme to this weekend’s lectures, critiques, and discussions it’s this:  think about the long game, both in your career and in your writing.

Many of the talks and lectures have focused on structure, narrative, outlining and how to make pacing and dialogue work for you as you lay pipe toward your big finish.

How can you set things up? How can you pay them off? When & where do you want place the big reveals and redirects, and when do you give your reader a moment to take a breath? How can spoken interactions between characters function as action, advance the plot, and get the reader where they need to go? How do you make the beginning and ending of your novel echo back on each other?

In short, how do we think about structure?

This weekend’s instructors, J.A. Pitts, Melinda Snodgrass, and Walter Jon Williams are, perhaps by coincidence or perhaps by design, a great combination of guests. Their insights and remarks have dovetailed off one another in really thought-provoking ways, yet they’ve also provided distinct perspectives. Their advice, while generalizable, has also been personal and definitive. There’s something refreshing to hearing someone say, “yes, everyone has their own method, but this particular method really works, so listen up.”

Rather than zoning out during lectures and then going back to my room to surf the web or crash, I’ve found myself engrossed — the guest instructor’s remarks have stirred up ideas and insights on my current writing projects in spades. After each session, I’ve hurried back to my room to make notes on my outlines — full of new ideas to see my way through problems that had previously stumped me.

Basically, I’m getting a lot out of PLIV and enjoying the hell out the fine company at the workshop to boot.

What more can you ask for?

The Lone Star Two-Step

Or, I could title this post “On the Road Again” or “Back to Texas I go” or…you get the idea.

This weekend is the Paradise Lost writers retreat in San Antonio, Texas. I’ll be there, soaking up knowledge, participating in critiques, eating healthful cuisine (erm…scratch that last, I guess), and hanging out with friends. And, when it’s all over and I return on Monday, I am happy to report that I won’t be getting on an airplane again for at least a month and a half.

Today, though, I journey to Queens, suitcase in hand, teach, teach, teach, trundle to the airport, and then wing my way to the Lone Star State.

I’ll try to post something useful this weekend. Emphasis on try.