Part of the milky way from the Trouvelot astronomical drawings (1881-1882) by E. L. Trouvelot (1827-1895)

A Winter Update

The last few months sure have been SOMETHING, haven’t they? I don’t even know where to begin this post. I’ve never been great at small talk–a condition that’s only grown more pronounced this past year. How do you respond to, “How’s it going?” when the inside of your brain is just alarms, Swamps of Sadness, and one long, guttural scream that started sometime in the early 90s? You don’t. Thankfully, Zoom makes it easy for me to briefly embody my favorite emoji (😬) and move on. So let’s just pretend I did the same thing here, with a bonus, “I hope this finds you well…” (because I do).

Lacking any immediate solutions to offer for deadly global pandemics and/or deadly domestic terrorism, I can only (again) urge you to look for ways to help others in your community. Volunteer, donate, signal boost–whatever you can do with the time and resources you have. Small changes are all most of us can offer, but they do add up.

On to the update…

[Art by: Alexis Goble] Glowing golden sparkles and stars rising from an old, opened wooden treasure chest. Darkly lit on a planked surface with black chalkboard background.

[Art by: Alexis Goble]

Cast of Wonders surprised and delighted me earlier this year, by selecting my story, “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart,” as a 2020 Staff Pick. This story originally appeared in Factor Four Magazine (gone, but never forgotten) and then appeared on Episode 413 of Cast of Wonders in May 2020. You might recall that editor and host, Katherine Inskip, brought me to tears with her gorgeous commentary at that time. Well, Cast of Wonders is two for two now, because host Denise Sudell, the Cast of Wonders Community Manager, did it again with her moving commentary, specially recorded for this Staff Pick reissue. Denise’s analysis captured the heart (pun!) of this story as I originally imagined it and you can’t ask for a better feeling as a writer–or, as a person–than to have your heart be so clearly seen and understood. “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart” is one of my favorite stories and I’m so grateful it found such a wonderful second home…twice! Listen at the link below…

Cast of Wonders 446: The Half-Life of a Broken Heart (Staff Picks 2020)


In February, as part of the Women in Horror Month festivities, I was thrilled to join Nicole Givens Kurtz, Meghan Arcuri, and Kaaron Warren for HWA-NY’s Galactic Terrors reading series. Watch the recorded event here and subscribe to the Galactic Terrors newsletter for info on future readings.


In April and May, I’ll be leading a new slate of workshops for young writers (Spellcasters, Cryptozoolapalooza, and Super Spies & Top-Secret Tech) at The Center for Fiction–read all about it here!

Note: These online sessions sold-out last time, so if you have any young writers (ages 9-12) in your life who might be interested, please don’t wait to register! Also, please help spread the word on Twitter (and anywhere else)!


Finally, I have several exciting new short story publications coming up, but I don’t think I’m supposed to officially announce any of those sales yet. So I’ll just say this: these stories are three of my absolute favorites (which I know I say a lot, but I think I only try to publish the work I love the most), involving (respectively) haunted hotels, nature vengeance, and a taxi driver who transports the dead. More details coming soon!


[Image art by E. L. Trouvelot]

Coming Soon! Horror Writing Workshops for Kids at the Center for Fiction

Illustration of a castle at night background for HalloweenI’m thrilled to be leading a new series of horror workshops for young writers at The Center for Fiction next month, kicking off the Halloween season *AND* the CFF’s KidsWriting program!

We’re going to have a lot of fun exploring some of the genre’s most popular branches and playing around with its most infamous tropes. Halloween is my very favorite holiday and even though I know this year will be different, I’m still all-in for celebrating the spooky season, and, IMHO, this is a perfect way to do that safely and creatively.

We’ll be meeting via Zoom beginning on October 10th, with the first of three sessions (detailed below), which can be bundled or taken individually. Registration is open now, but attendance is limited, so please don’t wait.

Additional info from the CFF event page:

Designed for young writers, ages 9-12, these writing workshops will focus on fostering creativity in a fun, encouraging environment. Each session breaks down a different branch of horror and will include writing sprints, interactive discussions of story structure and common tropes, and opportunities to share and review our work. Parents are encouraged to register for individual sessions based on their child’s interests or for multiple sessions at a discount.

Saturday, October 10, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Haunted Places & Ghostly Faces
In this workshop, we’ll be writing ghost stories, urban legends, and crafting original “local lore” about hauntings, cursed places, and other spooky, unexplained phenomena. Poltergeists welcome!

Saturday, October 17, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Movie Monsters & Creepy Creatures
From vampires, werewolves, and zombies, to shape-shifters, ghouls, and mummies–and everything in between–in this workshop, we’ll be writing stories about the terrifying things that go bump in the night (or in your closet)!

Saturday, October 24, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Scary Science & Techie Terrors
Whether it’s extraterrestrial invasions or evil scientists, destructive blobs or sentient computers—in this workshop we’ll be writing Sci-Fi Horror about the places where science and technology meet the unknown and the unexpected.

 

All Kinds of Updates: Spring 2019

There is much to discuss and I keep intending to do individual posts, but work-work has been intensely busy this year and there just hasn’t been time. (In addition to writing fiction, I also run a freelance copywriting and work-for-hire business–so get in touch if you have an upcoming project you’d like to discuss! Yay, self-promotion-within-self-promotion! Incepromotion??? Probably!)

In order to get to everything before it is covered in the ash and brimstone of this dark and relentless timeline, I’m trying something of a round-up/newsletter¹ format.  Let’s see how it goes…

In case you missed it, I have a story coming out next year in NEW SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK! It’s a tribute anthology to the classic series by Alvin Schwartz (which featured those incredibly iconic and nightmare-inducing illustrations by Stephen Gammell), and is edited by Jonathan Maberry (who has been delightful to work with). I don’t have an exact pub date yet, but it will be out sometime in 2020 from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Speaking of horror-related things, I’ll be at StokerCon again this year! I’m doing a reading and a couple of panels, both involving the intersection of horror and the YA reader/horror fan. Please stop by and say hello if you’ll be there too.

Looking further ahead, I’m thrilled to be a 2019 National Park Service Artist-in-Residence this summer. As an AIR, I’ll have two glorious unplugged, uninterrupted weeks of writing at Fire Island National Seashore in New York. For those unfamiliar with New York’s geography, Fire Island National Seashore is a gorgeous, coastal park on a section of Fire Island, which–according to the Native Land app, (support them here)–occupies the traditional territory of the Unkechaug. (If you’d like to learn more about the Unkechaug, check out this recent episode of WSHU’s “The Full Story,” in which Unkechaug Indian Nation chief, Harry Wallace, discusses efforts to preserve Native American culture.)² I love our national parks system–they were formative for me growing up and I’ll be writing lots more about this incredible opportunity as my residency draws closer.

Even further ahead–as in, sometime in 2020–Fireside Magazine, one of my very favorite fiction magazines, will be publishing my story, “The Words I Starved For,” and I don’t think I could be more excited. Fireside recently announced some editorial changes, so there’ll be more news and a longer post to come, including details on the issue and editor, but for now a deep and heartfelt thank you to departing editor, Julia Rios, for believing in this story–all the heart emojis!

What else is new(ish) and of note, you might ask? Or not. I’ll still tell you!

  • I recently taught a writing workshop for kids at the Center For Fiction‘s gorgeous new space. We had a lot of fun and I hope to host similar workshops in the future, so stay tuned…
  • Check me out on Curious Fictions, a site which features short fiction (mostly reprints) and posts from some of your favorite authors. If you love short stories, definitely take a look around.
  • I’ll be reading at Summer Dark, on Friday, June 28th at 6:00 p.m.

² For additional reading, check out (and support!) Jeremy Dennis’s excellent resource, On This Site.

¹ Back in olden times (the mid-naughts), when I worked in online marketing, newsletters were all the rage. “Newsletter! Newsletter! Newsletter!” the people cried in joy. Then Twitter and Facebook stomped in, newsletters lost traction, and in the new world of social mediocrity, the people just cried. But now, in the toxic wake of those sites, it seems like newsletters are staging a comeback–just in time for the apocalypse and possibly thanks to the Patreon model, which may also be floundering I hear? idk. I didn’t board that particular train, not having that kind of platform at the time (or really ever) and now it seems like there isn’t any point and–to complete the metaphor–that maybe the Patreon train has left the station. I should probably join Patreon. We’ll see. Maybe we can all try this app called Real Life. But it would have to be spelled without vowels, right? RLLYF? Is this app’ening? Where’s my hoodie and TED Talk and IPO?

³ I know these footnotes are out of order, but honestly, an ambling tangent about newsletters doesn’t deserve top billing.

What I Did This Summer: The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop

This summer I had the pleasure and honor of attending the 2017 Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop. Organized by University of Wyoming professor (and SFF author) Michael S. Brotherton, PhD. (who founded the program) and astronomer Christian Ready, Launch Pad is hosted at University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mike and Christian at WIRO.

The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop’s tagline is “Improving science literacy through words and media.” As Mike and Christian explained on the first day of the workshop, many people obtain their science through fiction and media. If the science is wrong in the fiction they’re reading (or watching), they won’t know and will walk away at best misinformed, at worst with a radically incorrect view of how the universe operates.

Creators have a responsibility to the story, absolutely, but they also have a responsibility to their audience. If creators do their best to keep the science accurate and plausible in their works, the audience gets a little bit of knowledge along with their rollicking space battle scene and may be inspired to learn more, or even apply what they’ve learned to their own creations, thus spreading knowledge instead of misinformation. The Launch Pad site sums this up nicely:

“Our primary goal is to teach writers, editors, and creative professionals about modern science, specifically astronomy, and in turn reach their large and diverse audiences. We hope to both educate the public and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

On Day One, Mike and Christian warned us they’d be compressing a lot of information into just one week (I believe the term “fire-hosing” was bandied about). Now, I implore you to imagine how impossible a feat it is to further compress that week into a singularity single blog post. So this will be a highlights-only post–and in a week packed with literally nothing but highlights, it will inevitably fall short of even that modest goal.

Classroom sessions were super full days–from 10 a.m. to about 5 p.m.–packed with a science-tsunami (not a real term) of engaging lectures and presentations from Mike and Christian, as well as special guest lectures and lab activities. The “Kirchhoff’s Laws and Spectra” lab with the affable Jim Verlay, PhD. seemed to especially delight the class. All the instructors, especially Mike and Christian, excelled at making the covered material accessible to a wide range of comprehension levels.

Training montage, BYO Rocky music.

After dinner, we kept going with observation sessions, a planetarium show, and several guided discussions about “Science Fiction Science,” wherein Mike walked us through examples of science and astronomy as portrayed in fiction (TV, film, and books), covering who got it right and who got it wrong (in some cases, hilariously wrong, see: Armageddon). These discussions yielded some of my favorite (and funniest) moments of the week.

On our penultimate evening, Launch Pad organized a trip to the Wyoming Infrared Observatory (WIRO), where we got to tour the facility, be jealous of the students studying there, and take in the stunning views from the top of Mt. Jelm at 9656 ft. (Much props to our T.A., Doug Farren, who navigated a rental van through some ridiculous switchbacks to get our group up the mountain. Also, for his patience while we all jammed our phones out the windows in an attempt to capture the incredible sunset that night.)

8

Phillip Jeffries. (Okay, no, it’s WIRO…probably…)

Let me pause a moment to rave about my wonderful co-attendees–what a talented, inspiring, and kind group of humans with whom to share this experience (see the full list of names under 2017 Attendees on the Launch Pad site). Between them, I think they’ve covered every genre and subgenre of science fiction and fantasy; so definitely go check out their books and stories.

2017 Attendees, all super-bleeping-awesome.

In addition to a cubic shit ton (not a real measurement) of information, Launch Pad also provides room and board–we stayed at the gorgeous Honors House, where we enjoyed private dorm rooms bigger than most NYC apartments. Also, the lucky (and hardworking) students that stay there during the school year have a huge rec room (and a laundry room!!! and a dishwasher!!!–can you tell New York has warped me?). The staff and volunteers at the University of Wyoming were equally impressive. I can’t speak for all attendees’ experiences, but everyone I interacted with seemed exceptionally warm and friendly. The campus and buildings were gorgeous, and as for Wyoming itself—wow…

Moon over Wyoming, from Mt. Jelm/WIRO.
(If you squint you can just make out Jerry Horne bashing his binoculars.)

Just. Gorgeous. Actual rolling prairies! Actual snow capped mountains! Actual pronghorns and buffalo and camels (idk, but they were there)! Blue skies for miles. Sunsets that you wouldn’t believe. Absolutely breathtaking. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a lot of incredibly beautiful places in the world, and Wyoming ranks up there (altitude* pun!) with the best of them.

*Speaking of altitude: As a life-long New Yorker I’ve always lived at (or, occasionally below) sea level. I didn’t really think about this until the first “Hydrate or Die” emails started zipping through my inbox in advance of our arrival. Hogwash! I thought. Surely I’d been at a similar altitude before! But no, Fake News! The startling truth was that I’d never even visited a place higher than about 2,000 ft. above sea level. So I arrived in Laramie more than a little nervous about altitude sickness, but it turned out to be just fine. Better than fine actually. There may be less oxygen in Laramie (elevation: approx 8,000 ft.) but the quality of that oxygen is apparently much, much better (no surprise) than here in NYC. Also, as advised, I hydrated like a m-er f-er. And as such, I saw just about every bathroom on the UW campus—all lovely. Five stars. Would visit again.

I am so grateful for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime** experience. Not only did I gain valuable material for a series I’m currently writing; I also walked away with a notebook filled with story ideas that will probably take me several lifetimes to complete. (But I’ll still try to get though them all in this one.) So huge thanks to Mike and Christian, my co-attendees, the sponsors (see below), and everyone at Launch Pad for providing a week of education and inspiration that I’ll never forget.

**Unless…Alumni workshop? Just saying…

NOTES:
Launch Pad is a funded workshop, generously sponsored by Space Telescope Science Institute and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). If you are an author/editor/creative professional who is interested in attending, the application period for the 2018 workshop should open sometime in Spring 2018.

If you are interested in helping support this excellent program, please donate via the Launch Pad fundraising page.