January’s Writerly Update

Welcome to 2022!

Wait, what? 2022? Really? Time flies, doesn’t it? Writing achievements and milestones await us. This is the year ACCURSED SON will debut, and I’m refining the book until I hand it over to the publisher this summer.

Writers grind away at their work, battling anxiety, depression, and impostor syndrome. Between enormous doubt and several gallons coffee our stories emerge. Some will be published. Most will not. But the process of writing, the lone word-herder jockeying for relevance at the keyboard is a testament to stubborn perseverance. If you’re a writer embarking on this journey, may 2022 bring you success, clarity, and renewal.

As for me, here’s what’s happening…

I Bought a Word Processor

Ever since the fall semester ended, my writing has slowed to a trickle. Ideas for short stories showed up, but evaporated into nothing. Perhaps the holiday season occupied my time, or winter’s seasonal blahs hit me hard, but I couldn’t write anything.

That’s when I took advice from the original Florida Man himself, Martin Shannon. For those who don’t know, Marty is a damn great writer, and a prolific one at that. He’s claimed to have written over a million words since the start of the pandemic. You can read about him and his exciting pulpy urban fantasy books here

Marty touted the effectiveness of a word processor versus a computer for writers who don’t want distractions. Face it, when you write, your mind wanders. You’ll check the Internet for a fact, then end up staying there, falling down a research rabbit hole, playing games, or checking email. By the time you pull yourself away from Wordle, an entire afternoon is lost, and with it your precious writing time.

Word processors don’t distract you. With clunky keyboards and primitive LCD screens, there’s no way you’re getting on the Internet. You’re getting no-nonsense, distraction-free writing machines.

I purchased a used AlphaSmart NEO and am still getting used to it. This little beauty uses AA batteries instead of wall outlets for power, and I had to buy a separate USB adapter that connects to my laptop so I can transfer my writing to Microsoft Word for editing. Despite these technical shortcomings, the word processor works like a charm.

I’m currently writing a short story on my NEO and, while the screen only allows for a few lines of text, the experience is strangely immersive. No longer am I lost on the Internet or my attention diverted to some other task. I had a distraction-free writing session last week and transferred a large chunk of text to my computer for the win. 

This hunk of molded gray plastic is my portable writing buddy. I look forward to chasing words with its super clickity-clackity keyboard for years to come.

Sure, it resembles a bygone relic from 2007, but the AlphaSmart NEO gets the job done one line of text at a time.

Anthologies Galore!

I have signed a contract for a Peter Pan-inspired story that will appear in Shadow Spark Publishing’s Panthology, an anthology featuring distinctive spins on J. M. Barrie’s legendary character. Panthology will be released June 21, 2022 and contain ten stories, including one from me. My story, PETER, PANNED, features a Neverland awash in filth and depravity. Peter Pan has grown old but he hasn’t grown up, much to the disappointment of those around him. What’s an emotionally-stunted adult to do but start a controversial podcast? Panthology contributing writers include Jessica Moon, Mandy Russell, Salem Wolf, Valerie Storm, Victoria Gross, K.R.R. Lockhaven, Ashley Anglin, Mariah Norris, and Kaitlin Corvus. 

My short story NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES, will appear in the Three Time Travelers Walk Into… anthology by Fantastic Books. NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES is Time Bandits meets Bill & Ted with elements of Money Heist. A conman from the future gets more than he bargains for after uniting John Dillinger, Jesse James, and Blackbeard for an audacious heist. Three Time Travelers Walk Into… also features great stories from Jody Lynn Nye, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Henry Herz, Louise Piper, Gail Z. Martin, Gregory Frost, L. Penelope, David Gerrold, S.W. Sondheimer, James A. Moore, Peter David, Heather McKinney, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Hildy Silverman, Adam-Troy Castro, and Jonathan Maberry. Michael Ventrella has done it again and edited another amazing anthology. Find out more about Three Time Travelers Walk Into… from Michael’s website here.

A New Semester

I’m back teaching English 102: Composition II! A new semester means a new class…and classroom. Last year I started teaching virtually via Zoom due to the pandemic. This year I’m teaching a class at the main campus, which is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. The college has safety procedures in place (everyone is vaxxed, masked, and practices social distancing) for both students and faculty. After a delayed opening, classes for the spring semester are now in session. I anticipate productive months ahead with a refined lesson plan. Onward! 

Second Draft Retreat

I recently participated in the #5amwritersclub’s virtual Second Draft Retreat, held Jan. 21 to 23 on Zoom. Ralph Walker, a writer who led last year’s successful Unforgettable Characters & Incredible Journeys retreat helped 17 writers polish their first drafts. I entered this retreat with the same novel, a mystery about a newspaper reporter in 1966 who must write about a murder in a New Jersey seaside resort. 

Participants from the #5amwritersclub’s Virtual Second Draft Retreat. Say cheese!

The retreat was intense, and involved group exercises, rewriting, and discussions about the writing craft. Ralph urged us to “make it worse” and increase tension by putting our protagonists through multiple obstacles that test their resolve. The feedback I received helped me improve my first draft. This baby will require serious rewrites, but it’ll be a more engaging and exciting story. 

If you’re a writer and would like to participate in one of Ralph’s virtual writing retreats, he’s running another Unforgettable Characters & Incredible Journeys retreat from April 8 to 10. For more information, contact Ralph on Twitter @RW-Igloo.

That’s it for now, fam.

See you in February with more mirthful wordage and blandishment.

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