New Story!

My flash fiction piece, “Sweet Invidia,” is out by Akashic Books in their “Mondays Are Murder” series. Give it a read.  Oh, and follow me on Twitter. 

A New Adjunct

I’m staring at my soup. It’s tomato with basil, and just a tad burnt. I slurp it down and cut the heat with soft Saltines, which I’ve let sink into the mix. A textbook balances on my knee. A stack of blue books filled with diagnostic essays has been strewn across the bed. I lean back. I breathe. The breath is sharp and full of worry. Staring back at me from the textbook is a chapter I haven’t read and a set of questions I haven’t prepared to grade. I close the book, lay it down, then return to my…

Tears, Tassels, and Terminal Degrees

I chose to pursue the MFA to extend my academic career and study writing, an act I had always loved and enjoyed for as long as I can remember. I could insert the obligatory “You don’t need an MFA to be a writer” here, but I’ imagine pursuants of the terminal degree have already read all the arguments, and my comments won’t present anything new. I wanted to stay in school. I wanted to teach. I wanted to join a community of writers. I wanted to make myself more marketable. The latter being a top priority, I enrolled in the…

Adventures in World-building: Devising Magic Systems

A complex fantasy world isn’t built in one day or seven days. In fact, fantasy writers may find that their secondary-world isn’t complete until after their story comes to an end. This is a daunting concept to consider, particularly for writing-perfectionists with a tendency towards completeness. Even more daunting is the process of creating a magical world where the traditional features of society are completely altered by a unique force unknown to those of us living in the real world. As the world-builder, you are tasked with creating a system of magic that is consistent and believable. Without consistency, you…

Discuss: Your Brain on Fiction

In an effort to justify the benefits of reading fiction to the average non-reader, I came across a video short explaining the effects of fiction on the brain. The video titled “How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better” is produced by DNews and gives viewers a unique perspective on the process of reading. Watch the video to see what I mean. The idea presented–grounded cognition–relates to how people “live” the stories they read because their brain activates certain areas that relate to the subject written about or the activities described. The video promotes reading fiction to viewers in a way that…

No Right Way to Write Dialogue Tags

My natural inclination to write dialogue is as follows: “Your style is generic and boring,” said Lisa.” Notice I wrote said Lisa, rather than Lisa said. I can’t place when I started using this particular syntax, or why I started using it. How do any of us decide on style and syntax, when the books we read are widely different? My first thought–we write what sounds natural to us. But when I read the previously mentioned line aloud, I cringe. Now when I read “Your style is generic and boring,” Lisa said, the tag rolls right off my tongue. So why have I…

Adventures in World-Building: Fantasy Religions

Religion is a staple in any fantasy world. And although our society is filled with worshipers of various faiths, creating a new religion for a novel, short story, or even table-top game is bound to be challenging. Here are a few elements to consider: Pantheon or Solo God? Your characters may worship a single god, but that doesn’t mean there has to be just one. A pantheon is the collection of all gods in a religion or of a set of people. The Greek pantheon includes the deities of Olympus, yet cities would often worship specific deities. If you go the…

4 Essential Beta Readers (and 1 who’s super useful)

Every new short story or novel needs a few good beta readers. You can certainly go ahead and grab your mom, significant other, cousin, and crazy cat-lady aunt, but these aren’t necessarily the best choices. There are few types of people you’ll need to beta read if you want to maximize the benefit of these efforts. The Genre Lovers Every writer needs someone with a similar appreciation for the story’s genre. If you’re a fantasy writer, find a buddy who loves reading and writing fantasy, then go find another buddy who just loves reading. The reason for this is simple: you’ll…

Writer Gear, April 19: Out in Nature

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived -Henry David Thoreau Writing among nature is beautiful. While planted on a rock or a park bench or a fallen tree trunk, my imagination gracefully springs to life. Perhaps it’s all of the green and brown hues. Or maybe it’s the high pitched chirps juxtaposed with the fanning of leaves in the Summer wind. Whatever it…

The Charms of Cross-Genre Writing

When I hear the word “cross-genre”, I instinctively picture Gene Wilder’s Dr. Frederick Frankenstein and Peter Boyle’s  Monster performing a tap dance to Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. The visual says it all: easily identifiable figures of the horror genre set to musical stage for absurd effect. Comedy-horror, as it is best described, is just one of a multitude of mixed genres. Other examples include dark fantasies, tragicomedies, comedy dramas, and science fiction westerns (can you say Firefly/Serenity anyone?), and the presence of such genres leaves writers a vast canvas on which to combine the elements at their disposal. There…

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