Endless giggling.

Today I got paid six dollars and eighty-five cents (that is to say, five cents a word) to write a poem.  Part of a larger commission and a bigger paycheck, but special, because this poem was, as it happens, an erotic poem – one of those that you glance over on a page, find perfectly innocent, and begin to read out loud to a friend, and only when you hear it read out loud do you begin to slowly turn red and realize that yes, indeed, THAT is what you just said.

Or anyyway, that’s the idea.  Dirty double entendre has fascinated me in verse since my class read “Romeo and Juliet” aloud in class.  Everyone but me laughed at “bring me my long sword, ho!”  I was the only one who laughed at “the bawdy hand of the clock is on the prick of noon.”  My teacher, saying nothing while the rest of the class stared at me funny, gave me the most immensely grateful look I have ever seen on a human face.

Anyway, speaking of poetry, I don’t yet have permission to share my commission pieces, but I can share an old poem I wrote for my college poetry seminar.  I explained to them with a straight face that it was about the places inspiration comes from – like the Greek Muses.

Appeals To Mount Helicon

It rises imagined in my mind
Green slopes and never grey
Rich with mazy grasses and foothills orchard-laden
Blossoming with lilies and columbine in spring
Their scent, present in the air
So thick you even think to see the pollen dancing
Between the rustling trees and over cool waters
It is a place for prayer.

I meditate at a cleft between hills
Thinking of the taste of honeysuckle, gazing up
Wondering which Muse might be looking down
Favoring some pilgrim or another,
A supplicant after images and words
And of the spiralings of stars
The pink of blossoms and the floating petals
Underneath the dancers’ feet
An aspirant to art, and to mountain-climbing
The ascent-
To climb these cloud-drenched heights!

But I cannot, I think, climb alone
Even through the grass the sharp stones cut my hands
Portrait-perfect edges, knifelike ridges
Scaling this apotheosis of a mountain from a painter’s mind
A metaphor for effort
So I sit, face upraised, and braid the stems of flowers
Waiting for the valley to become high ground.


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.

Following the Bellwethers.

I read a lot on WordPress, but I haven’t kept a blog off Dreamwidth in ages, and even that one’s been collecting cricket noises for a few years, as other social media devoured my attention.  Still, when I was at 4th Street this last weekend, at least three or four of the interesting and admirable writers and fen I met had WordPress accounts, and so, social animal that I am, I’m following suit.

Okay.  That’s enough warm-up to take away the blank page anxiety of a new blog. Time to go back to pretending to be fictional people, and save the labor of sounding my barbaric yawp over the rooftops for later.

Coming Soon: What I learned at 4th Street this year.