Reflections on Time Travel & 4th Street Notes.

So, Megan (my wife) is transcribing some of my notes from 4th Street this year.  I intend to blog about the panel notes, once they’re typed, but for now I’m dealing with my marginalia – all the little memorandums I wrote to myself so I could do something later.

There’s a theory about time travel that says if you meet yourself, Past You will be an idiot and Future You will be an asshole.  This is because your Future Self will be annoyed by all the mistakes Past Self made that cannot be corrected, causing Future Self to dwell on those errors, and likely be rude about them.

I can confirm half of this theory. I’ve never knowingly met Future Me, but Past Me is definitely an idiot.


Paarfi asks the reader to wait while he explains

Calamancy Juice

Amy’s Pizza Rolls

Red Boat Fish Sauce


RIHV reframe flashbacks

Fargo Cons – talk to libraries

Don’t sleep, there are snakes


The last note caused my wife to ask me just how much I had to drink that night, and if I was doing okay.  As it happens, it’s the name of a book.  Also as it happens, I remember all but one of the above notes.  Two brands of food to try, a writing note on my novel in revisions, a note about organizing local conventions, the name of a book… I have a theory that in first person narratives involving strong voice and reader confusion, the hook is often in the form of the narrator directly asking the audience forgiveness or permission, and that permission causes a stronger suspension of disbelief and deeper reader engagement – a sense of dialogue between narrator and reader, however illusory, that builds trust in the text.  Steven Brust read the first few pages of his new Paarfi history, and Paarfi asks permission or forgiveness three times in the opening pages – if not confirming my theory, at least implying that Paarfi believes in it (possibly Steve, too, as he did the same thing in the opening lines of Jhereg “There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor…”

I have no idea what CL is, except that I want to download it.  This was in all caps, underlined, and circled.  It is clearly the most important of my notes.  4th Street folks – can you help me out here?

My past self is an idiot.


Leaning In.

Fourth Street this year gave me three new projects to work on.  I cannot, of course, split my attention in three NEW directions and hope to get anywhere.  I have a finished novel & short story in revisions, two commissioned projects (one very close to finished, one barely begun), five unfinished short stories, one serial Patreon project, and one novel.  The idea of adding a short story, a novella, and a novel on top of that is absurd.  I do that, and I never get anything done.

So what do I do, when my cup overfloweth?  I write brief intros, take extensive notes, grit my teeth, and file those projects in the back.  Then I turn back to The Hellion Prince, my novel in progress.  Fourth Street also showed me that I need to re-pace the third act, insert falling action, stop delaying revelations and burn story, stop writing connective tissue and quilt again.  I re-outlined act three with two new one-chapter scenes that trace an important character arc, and if I write 1000 words every day on The Hellion Prince, I’ll be finished by the end of September.  So the new Arthurian novella; the FBI-profiles-vampires short story, and the Incrementalists spinoff novel that looks like Ocean’s Eleven, the Thomas Crown Affair, and Inception had a baby – those wait.

I just have to lean in, let those beautiful, exciting ideas marinate a while, and eat my vegetables.

Today I finish my commissioned project (science fiction poetry by the spiritual heir to Gabriele d’Annunzio) , and I get to that first new scene in Hellion Prince. Tomorrow I work on finishing a Byzantine short story about demons, and I work on the next scene.Starting new projects is like dating someone new – there’s that NRE, new relationship energy, a spike of elation that makes you want to focus everything there. But I’m married to my novel. And finishing projects is way, way more important than starting new ones.


One year, one 4th Street, and more than ten thousand words later, I’m teaching myself not to be intimidated by the blank page – or the amorphousness of a blog with only one post to define it.

At 4th Street this year, Jon Singer taught me how to induce a light hypnotic trance, and I’m writing to you now from the tailing end of it.  It’s immersive, encompassing.  Tricky to describe.  The best I’ve managed thus far is that I have a sense of being the work I’m doing – there’s a perceptual lensing, discarding awareness of self and surroundings for awareness of process.  This is both encouraging to a flow state in which I can move words quickly through my fingertips, and, I hope, beneficial to the words themselves – I had an utterly different post composed a moment ago, and I erased it, because the ideas didn’t compress the way I wanted them to.

I’m going to be doing this every day – the trance induction, I mean, although hopefully there will be regular blogging, too.

I’m very curious to hear from anyone else – do you experience trance or flow while writing?  Does it come naturally, or do you bring it on?  And what does it feel like?  generally, in a writing flow state, I’m too intensely directed at the words on the page to think about the shape or heft of the state of mind, but here I’m more introspective – I can’t be sure if that’s because I’m writing about the experience, or if the state of consciousness itself is different.

Anyway. Enough navel-gazing for now.  Time to go commit acts of fiction.