Crafting the Short Story

9/11/2017

September is in full swing: the kids are back in school, the leaves are (against my will and vehement protests) starting to change color, and it’s time for another of my renowned writing courses. Well okay, maybe not renowned, but certainly eagerly anticipated. By all accounts, a good time is had by everyone that comes out for these classes, and hopefully this fall will be no exception.

In any event, this month marks the debut of “Crafting the Short Story“. In a slight departure from my previous horror writing workshops, this one will focus more specifically on the art of the short story. Why the change-up, I’ve been asked. Well, there are a couple of reasons for this. Horror is a small but cozy niche market, and the number of people interested in reading it, let alone writing in it, is relatively small. In an attempt to avoid over-saturating the market with waves of horror writers, this class will be offered sporadically, and Crafting the Short Story will be interspersed as well.

Short story writing is a different sort of animal from novel or poetry writing; different, in fact, from essentially all other writing forms. What sets it apart? Why is it so difficult to write good ones? What allows you to develop strong characters and gripping plots in such a limited space? These answers and more await you in the hallowed halls of academia!

I’ll be offering two sessions this year – a fall session starting on the 25th, and a winter session that begins in January. You can go here for more information.

– JP

Moving Day Musings

8/31/2017

It’s the last day of August, and there’s just one more day until the Labour Day weekend signifies the end of summer. I’m sitting here at the keyboard, still in the midst of an angry and defiant battle with cable providers that I’ve done my damnedest to pit against each other in a battle to the death, but (at least temporarily, with less-than-stellar service) we’re back online. Today also marks the three-week anniversary of our move to the new house. I’ll have some writing-relevant news in the next post, but in a post earlier this month I indicated that I would, at some point, have a little something to say about my take on the move. Well, today’s the day.

Sheryl and I came here earlier this month, from the house in which I spent the last seventeen years. It was originally my grandparents’ house, and I spent the first four years of my life in there, too. If you take into account the vast amount of time I spent in there during my childhood and early teen years until both grandparents were gone, it’s safe to say I spent over half my life in that house. That tiny, cramped house with the odd floor plan and all of its quirks. I lived in a few other places during the ensuing years, but in the end I kept coming home, and there I stayed until three weeks ago.

I moved in there seventeen years ago, a little over a year before my first marriage kicked off. In the grand scheme of things that was a short-lived experiment, and I think it’s appropriate that I’m no longer living there now that the starting point of my second marriage is less than two months down the road. New life, new wife, clean slate, sort of thing. But first wife aside, over the years I shared that space with a couple of others who came and went; in fact, the only constant is my old dog, who I brought home as a tiny puppy about a year after I moved back in there, and who is now a senior citizen wandering around the new place, gamely trying to figure out the lay of the land.

I spent many years during that span alone in that old house – well, sort of. I was the only living human inhabitant, is what I mean to say. I have reason to believe that one of my deceased predecessors was (is?) still lurking in there, and made him/herself apparent from time to time. There’s an interesting tale behind that statement but it, too, is another story for another day.

One of the biggest things I’m still trying to get used to is the lack of noise in the new place. I don’t mean to suggest it’s silent in here – far from it. The dog paces incessantly, the cats dash up and down the hallway like their lives depend on it, and there’s been a steady stream of workers putting the finishing touches on various things around here. But the floorboards don’t creak in familiar ways, there are no stairs that squeak to let me know which one is being stepped on, and I can’t hear the old furnace as it rumbles to life in the basement. The size of the rooms is different here, which means the acoustics are “off”. The hum of the refrigerator sounds echo-y. The trickle of the filters in the fish tank sound strangely hollow.

I’m not complaining by any means. I’m slowly but surely settling into the new place and, like my old dog, getting a feel for new surroundings. It’s only been in the last couple of days that I’ve had much of a chance to really spend much time in here and start to get familiar with the aura of the place. There’s a lot more room to spread out in here, which delights the resident animal kingdom greatly. But the old place was like an old pair of tennis shoes: broken down and not much to look at any more, but comfortable in a way that something new can never be. I like to think that the reason the new place sounds so hollow and open by comparison is that it isn’t filled to the brim with memories yet. It’ll take some time, but we’re working on that part.
– JP

Midsummer Musings

8/12/2017

The dog days of summer are upon us, and even though I haven’t had much to say in this space recently, rest assured I’ve been staying busy.

The biggest thing occupying my time in recent weeks has been the move to the new house. While I slaved away at the office Sheryl was busy boxing and transporting stuff to the new place, right up until Thursday when we spent our first night together in the new place. Unfortunately, thanks to my internet provider dropping the ball, we’re without internet, cable and home phone service for some undetermined time. We are not going away quietly by any means, but in the interim I’m writing this from the big armchair in the old place, where we still have service. It’s convoluted and inconvenient, but it is what it is. And hopefully a short-term solution.

In terms of actual writing news, I’ve been reaping the fruits of the winter’s work… sort of. Some of you will recall the frenzy of creativity that took place in this very house during the snowy months. To recap, I plotted, wrote, edited and finished a novel, a novella and a number of short stories, all before the snow melted. Now, in the middle of what I’m calling a creative recharge (code for “I’m not working on much of anything right now”), I’ve been sending all of these completed works to various places in the hopes of placing them in good homes. I’d be thrilled to see some of this in print in 2018. Fingers crossed!

I’m just looking around at the empty rooms and walls no longer adorned with art, no bookshelves sagging under the weight of our extensive (and, as I’ve been recently reminded, very heavy) collection… not much at all, in fact. I’ll post something soon in regards to my take on leaving the house I’ve spent so much of my life in. For now, with this post in the books and my laptop fully charged once again, I’m leaving home… to go home. Happy Saturday, folks.

– JP

A Few Odds and Ends

7/8/2017

Happy Saturday (or Friday maybe, depending on your time zone)! Just a few quick notes today, starting with my first sale in a little while. My absence from the market of late has been largely due to a lack of submissions lately, since my attention has been focused on finishing off my new novel and wrapping up some other unfinished business. I touched on the details of this a little bit in my last post. I’ll get more specific on this sale later on, once the contract’s been signed. For now, suffice it to say it’s one of my favorite stories, and a market I’ve enjoyed working with in the past.

This actually got my juices flowing a little bit, to the point where my desire to see my name in print inspired me to look into a couple of other markets that might be suitable for some of my recent pieces. Whether hit or miss, to be chronicled as events unfold.

Speaking of finishing my new novel, I’ve… well, finished my new novel. All edits, beta reading, and last-minute nips and tucks have been completed, and it’s all wrapped up in a nice, neat and, if I do say so myself, gripping package. Now it’s time to start the next step: the selling stage. I’ll delve into this process a little bit in a future post here since it’s a crucial part of the writing game that often goes overlooked by all other than the tireless writers themselves.

On a somewhat related note, earlier today my ruthless editor wrote an excellent piece that offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the creative process and dynamic works in a two-writer household. It’s definitely worth a look.

That’s all for now. I’ll keep you posted along the way on how things shake out. As always, thanks for following along in this space. Enjoy your weekend!

– JP