Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: The Post-Hocalypse

One year ago today, my last book came out. The copies got a little held up in transit, but we had a TREMENDOUS launch party, and took the leftover credit-cupcakes out for an epic bar crawl afterwards.

I didn't write anything in 2017 (it's been hard to feel like another book is really what the world needs from me right now). But as I psych myself up to get back on that horse, I can't even regret the lapse. I've had the most fantastic adventures, with more terrific people than even I can handle knowing. It's such a treat to know you, and I can't wait to see what kind of ruckus we can raise next year.

Click here for the whole album.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Listen, Bitches

Here is a handy trick, for when you know your blog post / FB entry / office memo / etc is taking too long to get to the point. Start the first sentence with "Listen, bitches." You can go delete it after you've finished writing. But I guarantee it will get you straight to your point. For example:

Listen, bitches.

I would rather eat a bucket of eyeballs than promote myself. Especially on social media. All that hashtag-spamming algorithm-twisting click-follow-share-like-buy digital donkey-braying feels incredibly gross and fake, and I hate it like I hate stepping in a puddle with socks on. 

Now. With that said, Kristine Hall of Hall Ways and #LSBBT is THE BEST blog-tour-guide there ever was or will be. She is just egregiously kind, and helpful, and patient, and so good that I even have to take back some of those ugly things I said about social promotion in the above paragraph.
You know what she did?

She set me up a special prize drawing, where I can put the first chapter of my next book in with the three copies of One Night in Sixes that we're giving away. (It ends at midnight tonight, so go quick if you want in on that.)

She put together this neat scrapbook, where I can show off the amazing beautiful things that some of you guys have made and done for me, that I could never, EVER have done for myself.

And she has put my book in the hands of SO many fantastic bloggers and readers, like Tabatha Pope and Melyssa Prince and Texan Girl Reads and Bookadelphia who have written reviews that I would have never in a million years known how to ask for myself. Like this one here, that legit made me cry, because she just GETS IT.

I don't know how much sense this will make to those of you who haven't done the author-thing, but like... Kristine brought my book back to life, y'all. I thought it was dead. I thought I had failed. Now there's all these brand-new people picking it up, and some of them are enjoying it the way I had never EVER dared to hope that perfect strangers would or could, and my writing-world is a garden of possibilities again.

So, even though I'm probably always going to be rotten at instanipulating the blogarithms, I'm prepared to confess: in the right hands, these book-tour-barn-raisings are really something else. Hashtags and all. And if you don't have someone on speed-dial already...

#listenbitches: Hall Ways is the fearless, friendly media-mancer you need, want, and deserve in your life. Go find her.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

WFC 2017: This is How We Stop Failing

This is a post about hosting events, and more specifically about running genre conventions, and most-specifically about World Fantasy Con. It’s also about the ongoing problem of inclusivity we’ve been having over here in literary SFF fandom, and my worm’s-eye view of what we can do to improve it.

NB: I am fairly new to fandom (my first convention was in 2013), and among the younger set of traditionally-published SFF authors (I just turned 35). I am an instigator, organizer, presenter, and/or attendee for three-quarters of a shitload of events annually, most of them writing-related. I also had the singular honor of being the volunteer coordinator for the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio over this past weekend.

Like Mi Tierra, it was lit. (Shoutout to Sam Knight for the brilliant photo.)

There is a little story to tell first, and it goes like this:
Once upon a time, there was a little girl in third grade. (Not me.)

She came to school one day with a huge rat’s nest in her hair – and man, it was making her miserable. She could NOT sit still or pay attention or hardly even stand to be in her own skin.

The teacher, my beloved Auntie M, finally stopped class, pulled a hairbrush out of her purse, sat the girl down at the front of the room, and started to brush her hair. She carried on the class discussion while she brushed and brushed – gentle and carefully, a little at a time. It took the better part of the morning – but when it was done, the difference was night and day. The girl felt SO much better without that awful knotted wad of hair gnarled up on her head. After that, she third-graded happily ever after, for the whole rest of the day.

Y’all, we do have a huge rat’s nest in SFF fandom, and it is making us ALL miserable. It’s a whole horrible tangle of issues (a rat’s nest always is). It’s harassment, and discrimination, and invisibility, and lack of accessibility, and more besides.

The people on the receiving end of those things are sick and goddamn tired of dealing with them. The people deliberately perpetrating those things are assholes we badly need to get rid of. And the rest of the people, the ones who just want everybody else to chill out and have the same good time they’ve always had – well, a lot of them are anxious, defensive, and tired of getting yelled at for every problematic thing under the sun. And none of these feelings happen spontaneously or without reason: a little neglected tangle becomes a big angry knot becomes a huge event-wrecking snarl, and soon nobody involved is having any fun. Except maybe the assholes.

But short of whipping out the scissors, there’s only one way to untangle a rat’s nest. You have to start from the bottom and work your way up. And I mean from the BOTTOM.

Con-runners, event-organizers, fellow hosts of all stripes – you see this Maslow’s hierarchy chart here?

This is what I’m talking about. We have to start from the bottom of THIS. We have to start with meeting people’s basic physical needs.

Does your event have reasonable facilities, including accessible parking and clear signage? Are there restrooms and water available, and easily findable? Is the temperature comfortable? Can your attendees sit when they want to, stand and walk when they need to? Can *everyone* hear and see what’s going on? If it’s a long event, do you have food available (for purchase or for free), and is there enough for everyone? Does the menu provide adequately for people with common dietary restrictions? (Fact: humans require protein to live, and the joyless oil salad your hotel liaison is touting as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and halal satisfies nobody.)

This was our improv-directory for the mass autographing session: because letting authors sit where they want is a time-honored WFC tradition, but helping guests not have to hike up and down every single aisle and row to find their person is just plain thoughtfulness - whether they have limited mobility or not.
These considerations are not the last step in the event planning process, the mandatory-minimum meat-suit maintenance we have to do in order to get on with the important stuff. This IS the important stuff. Hospitality is a sacred duty so ancient we tell stories about the people who screwed it up. Traitors to guests are tortured in the deepest circle of Dante’s hell – worse than thieves, worse than murderers, worse than blasphemers and adulterers and people who leave trash in the airplane seat-pocket – and even if you aren’t feeding your attendees the roasted flesh of their own children, you absolutely cannot afford to fail on this front. Anything you are ignorant about you’d better learn. Anything you can’t do or provide had better be unmissably advertised beforehand, so that the people you aren’t equipped to serve know to plan accordingly or stay home. The instant they walk through your door, your guests are entrusting you with their one irreplaceable human body – and you MUST care for it faultlessly.

Sometimes it's the littlest stuff, y'all. Like pulling chairs away from the round serving table so that all feet and wheels can get the whole way around it without blocking traffic.
And that brings us to the second step on the pyramid. Guys, it is not enough to have staff on site. Their mere presence is not sufficient – because A) those people need to be equipped (advised, trained, directed, empowered) to spot problems in the making and help the guests who need it, and B) your guests need to be able to find them. I cannot overstate that second part. How do we KNOW who the helpers are in the crowd? Are they wearing matching T-shirts? Special hats? If “blue badge” means “staff”, how do attendees know that? Regardless of what insignia you use: if it can’t be spotted clear across the room, it isn’t visible enough. And if your guests don’t know that a staff member is present, he or she might as well not be.

The 'deputy sheriff' star badges I used for WFC were a step in the right direction, but not visible enough - you can barely see them here. (Fortunately, Team Domitz took the whole 'volunteer uniform' thing to a new, slightly frightening level of badass.)

Realness, y’all: I had a terrific time at World Fantasy Con in 2015, but it had conspicuous failures on both the physical needs and the security/safety steps of the pyramid. And it is FAR from the only major convention to do so.

If you’ve read this far, I trust it’s because you’ve recognized the bigger problems we have in our community – with passively excluding disabled people, with harassment and silencing of women in particular, with utterly failing to draw in minorities and then giving the “diversity panel” token treatment to those we do manage to attract. (And, I would add, with dogpiling on people who are more scapegoats for than active perpetrators of the issues listed above.)

All of the above are failures of inclusion, fault lines in our greater fan/writer community. They are conspicuous and highly-charged cracks in the “belonging” step of Maslow’s hierarchy. And we will NEVER be able to repair them until we fix those first two steps in the foundation. At a societal level, that means addressing poverty, violence, and institutionalized inequality. But in microcosm, at a convention or other event, it means ensuring that ALL our guests feel safe and well cared-for from start to finish.

All of us organizers want to put on a great show, and we are all apt to feel frustrated when the end result is criticized. Eventomancy is one of the most demanding of the extrovert sciences, and not for the faint of heart. But to my fellow party-planners: when you catch yourself feeling frustrated by criticism and sorely tempted to fire back or give up, please don’t. We need your passion and energy for big-tent human connection now more than ever. Instead, go back to the beginning. Start at the bottom, with the most basic and universal human needs, and work your way up. Ask yourself “how will they find the bathroom?” (And for a photo-annotated love-rant on what a ten-out-of-ten host-tacular convention looks like, click here.)

Unfortunately, we at World Fantasy 2017 were not able to unilaterally clear step three of the pyramid. But we have enjoyed a whole lot of post-con positive buzz, and I dare to hope that our stumbles were considerably smaller than in previous years. If that is true, it is because everyone on the back end put a hell of a lot of effort into getting those first two steps on absolute judo-grip lockdown. Watertight accessibility and harassment protocol. Killer hospitality suite with a 'conucopia' of dining options for nearly every appetite. Clear signage, abundant space, and visible volunteers everywhere. This weekend was Texas hospitality done right - and I could not be more proud to belong to a con-com and a culture that is synonymous with boisterous, big-hearted generosity.

Baltimore, the ball is in your court now. You know what to do.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Move over, Mickey Mouse Club...!

Take a hike, Hugo Awards. Smell you later, New York Times. Today, I have officially Made It - because today, I have become a Halloween costume. Love you to the moon and back, Anne!
(I dressed up as a muggle. Shirt by Jodi Thompson . Body by McDonalds.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Not #MeToo

Not me. Somehow.

I have no idea why. Can't take credit for having unbearably great parents and upbringing. Maybe living as a sedentary suburban nun had something to do with it - I never drank or dated, didn't socialize, lived at home until I was 24. It probably helps that I live in a fat suit, make zero style effort, and dress like a fourteen-year-old boy. (Thank you for loving me anyway.) Also, having mostly dude-friends for the first 20 years definitely equipped me with a "one of the guys" cadence, which may put out dickhead-deterrant signals I'm not aware of.

But that's the point, right? You shouldn't have to be an hourglass John Candy to avoid the bad touch. You shouldn't have to be a teetotalling sexual dustbunny to keep from getting hurt. My experience should NOT be the exception to the rule.

Anyway - nobody should apologize for having a great life. I'm just sorry I haven't had more to say when this subject has come up previously. I'll try to be a better listener and advocate. Regardless, please let me know whenever I can send some surplus goodness your way: if there's one thing I love about being human comfort food, it's getting to share it.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Writers in the Field in the Books!

I don't have any photos of Writers in the Field, partly because we were using my phone as a wifi hotspot for the ticket booth. But here's some of what's been filling up my feed over the past couple of days.

And really, you guys. I already knew Shane Richmond and Leslie Richmond couldn't put on anything BUT a phenomenal show. I already knew that Marsha Hubbell and Sarah Hamilton and Daniel Wells and the rest of the WORD crew would ride-or-die to make it happen. And I was *pretty* sure that William Humble would do the hardest job - namely, translating and diplomatically buffering between the word-nerds and the sword-geeks - with his inexhaustible good humor. 

But even so, I was knocked acock by the enormity of the enthusiasm we generated this weekend - on all sides. People like Lauren Liebowitz and Kelly L White and Dominick D'Aunno dropped everything and diverted to WITF to showcase their particular expertise. People like LB Clark and Misty Ellen Mikes and Sanan Kolva moved heaven and earth (and literally slept in their cars) to get themselves here to drink it in. And people like Pamela Skjolsvik and LeAnn Robinson and Alicia Holston have graciously endured the most monstrous neglect while we threw 110% into making this thing happen. (I'm done being a zero, you guys - I promise.)

Usually after I get home from a big event weekend, I hit the emotional skids in a big way - as if I've used up a month's worth of joy in three days, and wake up afterwards with a horrible serotonin hangover. But this doesn't feel like the end of the show. It feels like we've just tossed a match into a whole fountain of good-will gasoline.

We made us some magic here, y'all. We started something huge. And I SO appreciate all of you who came, who helped, and also who dauntlessly led the cheer squad (Jennie A Komp, Jenny Hanniver, I'm looking at you!) New things always need extra love, whether they're animals or human beings or stories or ideas, and that extra helping of faith and affection has made all the difference today.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sailing My Failboat Beautifully Onward

I woke up today and was 35. (You're not supposed to put that kind of info out on the Internet, but Equifax has already scrawled my data on every virtual truck-stop toilet wall from here to China, so whatever.) I would like to celebrate by taking off the professional enthusiast's hat for a minute and indulging in some reflective realness.

Lately, my entertainment indulgence has been watching the infuriating greatness that is Silicon Valley. And despite my aversion to cringe comedy in all its forms, MAN do I empathize with Richard. Working 80-hour weeks for months on end with a ragtag bunch of iconoclasts who have somehow bought into your mapcap vision? Constantly circling the drain, curling up in a fully-clothed fetal position in the bathtub, convinced that THIS time you really are fucked? Absolutely SURE that you could knock the world on its ass, if only you could stop being your own worst enemy long enough to make it happen? Oh yes.

We occupy the best and worst of all worlds, simultaneously.
Granted, I haven't invented a revolutionary compression algorithm, and my little proto-company isn't getting multimillion-dollar funding offers. Nor can I pretend that any of what I'm killing myself trying to do will ever put a roof over anyone's head. Honestly, it's a great day for the WORD crew if we can throw a good party and still break even. And sometimes it's hard to justify the effort, if it's never going to make you rich OR save the world.

But I gotta have something to hang my hat on in order to keep moving forward, and lately - in the year of our lord 2017, in which we're all stumbling through a neverending shit-blizzard of murder-suicide madness - it's this:

You know who doesn't tend to end up as a mug shot on the evening news? People who can take pride and pleasure in what they do - whether it's writing or gardening or fixing houses or dressing their dog up as Batman.

Or folding tiny little rainbow origami books, like my friend Frank.

And I worry that we're losing emphasis on doing in favor of *being* - in favor of swearing allegiance to a group, a tribe, a label, and then walling ourselves up behind like-minded individuals and the institutions who cater to them. You'll never hear me say that being and belonging isn't important - shit, I spent three books exploring just that - but my notoriously unbalanced self is at least Libra enough to commit to tipping the scales back toward the joy of doing.

Because people who feel like they're accomplishing something, be it ever so small or silly, are so much less likely to hurt themselves or others. The demons that haunt creative people are real and dangerous, but not as dangerous as those who whisper to people bereft of purpose.

So that's why we're doing WORD, concocting all these madcap schemes to get writers fired up and connected. That's probably why you and I are friends. And that's why I'm so glad that you are still out there fighting to do the things you care about, even when it feels like you're killing yourself just to tread water.

Hang in there, y'all. Do your small things with great love, and try to make sure that at least some of them are projects of your own devising. It's the only way I've found to make all the tired worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Acknowledging the Cost

Man, I'm going to regret writing this. But here goes.

Sooner or later, we all have to take a turn defending the status quo. And it sucks.

Sooner or later, something (or someone) crucial to our value system is implicated in a disaster or a tragedy, and we have to take a turn in the cognitive hot seat, saying "well, let's not be hasty here - you can't use this as an excuse to XYZ - the *real* problem is ABC."

Nobody likes to be in the hot seat. Nobody likes to be put on the defensive. And in moments like those, our brains actually, literally defend our worldview harder than ever. We double down as instinctively as a pill-bug rolling up under a three-year-old's inquisitive poking. It's what we're neurologically wired to do.

Today a white guy with a shitload of guns is in the spotlight, and the right is on the defensive. Eventually there'll be another ISIS attack, and the left will take its turn.

But y'all - the thing I wish we could ALL do? (Besides hold hands and sing kumbaya.) Is understand that when we say "well, hang on - you can't just up and ban these people/things - that would be a betrayal of the greatness America stands for" - what everyone on the other side of the fence hears is "and that's why we have to let this keep happening."

Guns are a constitutional American right - and that's why we have to let this keep happening.
Immigration is what this country was founded on - and that's why we have to let this keep happening.
The free market is an essential cornerstone of our democracy - and that's why we have to let this keep happening.

Any time you try to deflect criticism of your thing (that you are deeply invested in) over to some other thing (that you are not invested in), without offering any specific, meaningful skin-in-the-game plan of action, your statement always ends with the unspoken "and that's why we have to let this keep happening."

(Example du jour: "it's not guns, it's mental illness" - but I'll wager the percentage of the people saying that who have personally called, written, and/or voted to advocate for improved access to mental health care is slim at best. The left-side equivalent is probably "it's not Muslims, it's radical Islamic terror" - which rarely comes with a solution more nuanced than "pull out of the Middle East and hope that in twenty or thirty years everybody will have settled down and stopped hating us.")
And that's why your argument wins no converts.

I wish our neural wiring would allow us to straight-up admit our feelings this way. I wish we could psychologically afford to stand up and say "I accept this blood as the cost of doing business." I mean shit, maybe we can. We've long since done it with cars. Being an automotive society means that there WILL continue to be fatal accidents, DUI manslaughter, kids forgotten in hot cars, and cars/trucks used as weapons of terror... but the only way to completely prevent those deaths is to stop driving, and we are not willing to do that.

That does not mean we're bad people. It means we've weighed up the pros and cons, and accepted a certain number of auto fatalities as the cost of doing business. We'll happily do what we can to *minimize* that cost (what company doesn't want to reduce its operating overhead?) - but only so long as it doesn't impede the business itself.

So when your goal is to vent, to commiserate with the other people on your team, to express your feelings - absolutely go for it. No criticism here.

But whenever it's your turn in the hot seat, and you feel obliged to defend the value/importance of your thing to the unpersuaded world at large, your efforts will be so much more fruitful if you start by acknowledging its cost.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Digging in the Spurs at the Paragraph Ranch

Y'know, it's always a strange experience coming back from a convention. Kind of feels like going home from Hogwarts for the summer. There was this magical place, full of fantastic people and all the most delightful conversations... and now I'm back here in the real world, belatedly plugging back into the news, the inbox, and the Face-feed, and y'all - I'm not sure who started what, but absolutely EVERYONE is pissed off about something. I swear this happens every time.

They call it a 'hard return' - and boy, is it ever.

There's a pattern to the readjustment, too. First you're annoyed that the 24/7 Internet slap-fight has made no allowances for your lingering literary wizard-buzz. Then you feel guilty for getting to run off to La-La Land in the first place, even and especially while things were getting real on the six o'clock news. Sometimes you just feel like everything you're doing with your life is some kind of first-world frivolous... or at least I do. It's hard to feel like writing daring new adventures for your story-barbies is all that important or helpful when the doomsday clock perpetually reads one minute to midnight.

But you know what else? We are sharing a planet with some incredibly sharp, talented, big-hearted ambitious doers - and if you put your own self out there often and enthusiastically enough, sometimes you can catch one of them on their way past, like the Little Prince netting a comet.

Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you can catch two.

I'm still not sure exactly how it happened, but I seem to have roped a pair of shooting stars called Kay Ellington and Barbara Brannon. You might already know Kay as the editor of Lone Star Literary Life, and Barbara as the director of the Texas Historical Commission's panhandle region. Writing plus Texas history. Hold that in your memory buffer - it's about to get radically relevant.

And so is this place right here.
Because guys. Kay and Barbara have cracked the code. They have figured out how to harness writing-energy and turn it into something that makes a positive, real-world impact before you ever publish a single word. Are you ready? Here's their secret.

Step 1: Find a historic West Texas town that has been losing population to the big cities - one that has modern infrastructure and conveniences, but needs a new economic engine to survive.

Step 2: Move there. Buy a big plot of land with a storied house and outbuildings. Work like a twenty-mule team to completely update and remodel it from top to toe.

Step 3. Invite scriveners of all stripes to come out for a writers retreat like no other - in a place where you can perfect your craft in perfect rustic splendor, while your presence helps keep small-town Texas living sustainable for generations to come.

It's called the Paragraph Ranch - in a little place called Spur, Texas. And if you are up for the adventure, I'll meet you there. Here's what we're doing:

WHEN: December 1st-3rd

WHERE: In Spur at the historic Back Door Inn (we are making our home base at this fantastic B&B for the first year, while Kay and Barbara finish their renovations).

WHAT: Come and write! And while you're there, let's talk about your work. Send me your current project - whether it's 800 words or 80,000 - by November 27th. (Yes, you can send me your entire novel. No, I'm not scared!) I'll read it and come ready to have a one-on-one conversation tailored to your specific goals and concerns. Kay and Barbara will also open up the treasure trove of their knowledge as successful working authors, and we'll have opportunities for you to share some of your writing with the group.

HOW MUCH: $250 for the weekend. That includes your room and board, and all of the expertise on offer - everything but your gas and road-trip snack supply!

We're keeping it simple this first time out, and giving it 100% - all you have to do is get there. Here is the thing, though: we have to make our minimum head count by November 1st in order to hold our space at the Back Door Inn. (I hope this won't be hard to do: we have eight beds, and two are already spoken for.)

So. If you like the idea of racking up good keyboard karma - if you want to get in one last big burst of word-slinging before the holidays eat your life - if you're willing to pack up your laptop and hit the road to help keep small-town living going strong - please sign up as soon as you can. (If you have questions about it, hit us up - lonestarliterary at , tex at - and we'll be happy to tell you more!)

Regardless: you know this isn't your only chance to catch a comet, y'all. You know you don't have to wait for a moonshot to make good things happen for yourself, or to put your goodness out into the world. I'm just saying: if you've been feeling a little short on light in your life, there is a twelve-gigawatt bright idea passing right overhead - and you never know where it might take you.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Writers in the Field: Your Hogwarts Letter Has Arrived...!

Okay, so you know that whole thing about karma: whatever it is you dump out into the cosmic ocean on a daily basis will eventually wash back up at your front door. I can't say for sure that it's true, but I have been striving (however imperfectly) to pour out Exxon-Valdez quantities of love and realness and radical generosity. Helps cut down on water weight, if nothing else.

Of course, you never know exactly whether or how your moral exports will come back to you – but a few months back, a bona-fide unicorn beached itself at my feet. Only this is a marine metaphor, so like... maybe a narwhal or something. His name is Shane.

He's basically Mead Hall Dumbledore.
Anyway, so you know that thing, when somebody just randomly says to you, "Hey, so my wife and I own sixteen acres down south of the airport, and we've been running this big-ass awesome steampunk ren-faire for a few years now, and I'm not a writer or anything, but I'm a huge reader, and... how do I say this... is there some way I could help you guys like, not screw up your fight scenes?  And period clothing and such? Like, if I got some of my sword guys down here, and a poisons expert, and the WWII artillery crew, and some folks who could show you how to pick locks and sew Victorian underwear and make real-life herbal remedies and stuff... do you think writers would be interested in a thing like that? We can throw in a wine-tasting too, by the way. Do writers like wine?"

And y'all... when a dapper pipe-smoking karma-narwhal asks you a thing like that, there is really only one thing to say.

Writers in the Field: a hands-on, gloves-off, first-of-its-kind research experience for writers! Handle authentic weaponry, clothing, tools, and more - Interview nationally-renowned field experts - Explore thirteen acres of live demonstrations, special exhibits, and rare displays - October 14th and 15th in Mansfield, Texas. Featuring wonders medieval to modern - outdoor venue with shade and seating - wine-tasting by prior reservation - live music and evening performances - tickets starting at $30! Register now at

It's called Writers in the Field. It is going to be PHENOMENAL. And I am asking for your help in making it an unforgettable smash hit.

Shane and his crew have thrown themselves into building this event. They've been hammering away at the pavilions and the booths for weeks now.

They've brought in a slew of experts from their huge arcane Rolodex, for every kind of hands-on tutorial and demonstration you can think of.

A small sampling of the faculty. Anybody know a good potions professor?

They've got first aid, security, parking, concessions, restrooms, vendors, electricity, and wifi all taken care of – and kept the ticket price for the entire glorious weekend to only $45. Yes, really.

This is it, guys. This is your Hogwarts.
This is going to be an incredible event, y'all. It's built - it's happening - and the only thing we need now is you.

And let me be clear: even if you live a thousand miles away, we still need you. 

If the logistics don't work out for you to attend this year – we still need you.

If this isn't exactly up your genre alley, or your writing is on the back-burner right now, or you've already given your bottom dollar for worthy causes and don't have a penny to spare – we still need you. 

Because damn it, the fun's not going to have itself!

If you're thinking "man, this is such a cool idea - why hasn't anybody done this before?", let me tell you: it's because an event like this is a five-leafed clover. Because nailing down the venue AND the outdoor-event-management know-how AND the talent AND the community connections AND still keeping the cost down to something the humble striving scrivener can afford... is damn near impossible. You can't do all this when you are hiring for each of those positions. You can't create something like this as a strictly transactional enterprise.

Which means that something like Writers in the Field can only happen under the most perfect and unlikely conditions – when you have *exactly* the right balance of passion, talent, generosity, and one-in-a-million golden opportunity. We just-so-happen to have lucked our way into the perfect primordial alchemy here - and you are the lightning that is going to bring it to life.

Your playground awaits...
So. If you like the idea of making hands-on education and research opportunities accessible to writers from every walk of life – if you want tentpole writing events that go beyond the ballroom of the airport Hyatt - if you want to see this event come back next year with even more variety of activities, for even more kinds of writers – if you want to help us establish a strong precedent for one day having something like this in YOUR neck of the woods – then we need you to come out of the gate *roaring*, as fierce and enthusiastically as you ever have. We need mentions. We need shares. We need good old-fashioned buzz. More than anything, we need 'proof of concept' - and that means tickets sold.

...and so does your saloon.
And of course, I wouldn't ask you to do anything without putting my own skin in the game. So let me make you a deal.

1.    If we can sell 150 two-day tickets between now and midnight on Sunday (three days from today) I will personally read 5,000 words of your work - any format, any genre, any combination - and you and I will have half an hour of undivided real-time conversation about it. Phone or Skype or whatever you want to do. Once we hit the 150-mark, you forward me your ticket receipt and attach your doc file and we will make us a date.

2.    If you can't attend Writers in the Field but want to get in on the critique deal – or again, want to vote with your dollars for more events like this one – we can totally do that. Just buy a ticket and use promo code GIFT when you check out. We will give the ticket to a local writer who couldn't otherwise afford to go - and you will get the critique, even if we don't hit the 150 mark. Like I said, y'all – this is about love and realness and radical acts of generosity. And, you know, learning how to hit people with swords.

This is how we do it, guys. This is how first-evers become first-annuals, how we know more and do better, how we give ourselves something fantastic and special to be proud of, even when it feels like the whole rest of the world is going all to hell. This is how game-changing greatness begins.

It is also how legends begin.
Epic, unforgettable, totally-worth-the-hangover legends.

Are you pumped? Are you ready? Then pick out a job below and go!
Set your watches now, y'all: in one month exactly, we make literary-adventure-field-trip history!

Friday, September 1, 2017

The End of the Tour

Not gonna lie, y'all. Lately it feels like we're living under a darkening sky - so many people in such dire straits - and even the best acts of solidarity seem microscopic compared to the enormity of the need. I've really enjoyed my little tornado alley tour, but it's hard not to feel like the whole exercise is a bit privileged and frivolous. Who can get worked up over the finer nuances of playing with story-barbies when the whole world is underwater, on fire, or both?

But I just got this beautiful message from a beautiful person whom I met on the tour, and she said it would be all right if I shared a part of it here.

"I don't think you realize what a difference you actually made for me on Sunday. Frankly, I attended your presentation not expecting much. I don't know you. I haven't read your writing; although, I certainly intend to. I went simply to get my mind off of my son. He recently found out he has testicular cancer. The prognosis is good, but I must tell you I've been terrified, and I thought by attending your presentation I would be able to think about something other than cancer for a few hours. You provided that for me, and your enthusiasm and funny disposition actually made me smile which is something I haven't done a lot lately."

It's a hell of a thing, isn't it? And even though it showed up in my inbox, I'm thinking maybe it was meant for you too. It is so unfortunately unacceptable to be anything but "fine" in front of other people, even when we're really, really not - so you just can't know when that one little thing you did or said made all the difference for a person that you weren't even thinking twice about.

It's so good to see so many people putting themselves front and center to help with the fallout from the hurricane - but I hope you are also giving yourself credit (and doing things that let you give yourself credit) for helping the people right there in front of you, whether you knew they needed it or not. Those needs don't tend to show up on the 6 o'clock news, and if you don't catch them, it's likely nobody will.
Also: I know gas and time are in short supply here in DFW, but if you would likewise enjoy a couple hours of "and now for something completely different", the last stop on the tour is tomorrow at 10AM - The Plate Tectonics Theory of Dialogue at the Roanoke Public Library - and I would be heartily glad to see you.

Friday, August 25, 2017

How Not to Evacuate a Texan

New proposition: instead of naming hurricanes on an alphabetical boy/girl system, let's call them according to whatever will appropriately intimidate the people who need to evacuate. If we had called this one Hurricane Post-Game Traffic, Texas would be deserted clear up through Abilene.

Also: 'evacuate' is a wussy word. Nobody with a Winchester and an ounce of self-respect wants to think of themselves as retreaters. Next time you need to move a mass of rednecks, NOAA, drop the Frenchery and call it a 'Yankee raid'.

Now lock up and light out down there, y'all - shit's going to get Biblical.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Tornado Alley Bliss

Guys. Guys. In the past 24 hours, I've driven 900 miles, given two presentations, and gone eclipsing with the hedonists of Hebron, Nebraska. Needless to say, my death is now imminent. But before I go, I need to tell you something. Come closer. Are you listening?

This. Is. AWESOME.

This tornado alley tour is barely half done, but it's already been the best, most amazing thing. I have turned tricks on Route 66. I have listened to George Strait's "Amarillo by Morning" while literally driving to Amarillo at the crack of dawn. I have been phone-coaching writers while doing 80 on highway 80 (hands-free, natch), preaching the gospel from town to town like some kind of redneck revivalist, buying gas and motel rooms with the wares I sell out of my trunk, and all of it, ALL of it made possible by one or more exceptionally generous, hard-working writer-wranglers in each of these magical midwestern metropoli. 

This photo is an incredibly deep metaphor for... something.

You know. The ones who put their own work on the back burner to make a good time happen for other people. The ones who turn a bunch of atomized, scribbling saddos into a crew, a posse, a bona-fide network of word-warriors. I tell you what: this industry is one of the most frustrating, archaic, long-odds masochism olympics out there - but Misty and Mike and Kimberly and Lynette and people like them are the lynchpins that keep the wheels bolted on and the literary world turning.

And just on the off chance that I happen to survive the night, this I vow: I am done chasing invitations to workshops and conferences. From now on, I am not waiting to be asked, much less asking to be asked: I am here for the people who are here for *their* people, and the rest of the world had better strap in and watch out!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Farm to Marvelous

The Tornado Alley Tour has begun!

And you know - there may come a day when I am sick to death of going places, but I don't think I will ever stop being bowled over by the opportunity to be a guest in someone else's life. It is just such a thrill and a treat, y'all - to spend a day living in an alternate timeline, if you will.

Like, I will never be a mother of five living on a 20-acre farm in Texas hill country - but the next best thing is getting to have a sleepover at Bokerah Brumley's place. 

It is just a special kind of magic to wake up to preening ducks outside your bedroom window, have a breakfast of fresh fruit and eggs gathered up just that morning, and then go outside to watch kids playing with plastic lightsabers on the trampoline while turkeys peck and gabble and the dogs supervise from the porch. More than that, it is just so refreshing to be reminded of the value of doing some things the old-fashioned way - whether that's letting the tots play in the dirt, being a full-time professional parent, or DIYing your Sunday dinner. 

So today's shoutout is to my fabulous country ladies - Bokerah and Amber and Lauren, Zetta and Maren and every other fearless farm-to-market-road fort-holder who doesn't brag NEARLY as often as she should about the priceless treasure-garden of a life she has quietly cultivated while people like me were stuck in traffic :) )

Fly that flag proudly, you doughty dames - this town mouse heartily salutes you!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Brief Moral Meditation

At times like this, when emotions are running high and our national jimmies are thoroughly rustled, I find it worthwhile to ask: "What is is the hardest, bravest thing I could do right now?"

That is sometimes a hard question to answer. Chances are that this thing, whatever it is, will not win you easy backpats from other people on your team. It will not be cathartic or gratifying to even contemplate. It will almost certainly involve some kind of cost or risk to a vulnerable part of your identity. And it will be impossible to discover this thing while you are here in the midst of the public-opinion maelstrom.

So the next time you have a chance to be alone with your thoughts, I encourage you to meditate on what your bravest, most self-challenging act might be. It's okay if you can't bring yourself to attempt it right now. (I'm right there with you - sharp enough to know what I should be doing, chicken enough to not be doing it.) But knowing better - *hypothesizing* better - is the first, most critical step to doing better.

And telling other people how to act and feel isn't working.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Announcing Tex Thompson's Tornado Alley Tour!

Listen, y'all. I can get down with left-coast libertines. I love the weather - the food - the public transit - the weather - the creative scene - and the weather's not bad either.

But it's time to get back to my roots. My people. My time zone. And that's why we're hitting the road and doing it: a two-week beat-the-heat red-state road-trip - with a different writers' event around every corner, and a good time to be had by all!

Will I see you there?

Click the titles below for time and venue specifics
unless otherwise noted, all events are free or pass-the-hat!

hosted by the Cisco Writers Club

It's a truth every interviewee knows: there's nothing more tragic than missing out on your dream job because the interviewer can't see past the stain on your collar. In this class, we'll tackle the grammar and style mistakes that even experienced writers make, and highlight winning strategies for scrubbing them out of your manuscript. Don't give your reader even one easy reason to toss your work aside: come learn how to put the "pro" in your prose!

Sat, 8/19 - Amarillo, TX - Word Alchemy Lab (Micro-Level)
hosted by the Texas High Plains Writers

If your book were a movie, it would be an instant classic. A stellar premise. Unforgettable characters. Mind-blowing plot turns. But somehow the words on the page aren't fully conveying the tension of the tight parts, or the loveliness of the pretty parts, or the shocking-ness of the shocking parts. Never fear!  In this class, we'll study the art of adapting your writing style to suit any purpose, refining each page and paragraph, and fine-tuning every line until it sings.

Sun, 8/20 - Lubbock, TX - The Plate Tectonics Theory of Dialogue

When it comes to dialogue, a good scene is a 'geologically active' one. Like pieces of the Earth's crust, characters clash, fold, and buckle as they interact (and yes, sometimes even bump and grind!) In this high-energy, interactive workshop, we'll analyze the features of real human speech, and how to amplify and manipulate them to suit your purpose. Whether your current scene is as subtle as a tremor or as explosive as an earthquake, we'll craft dialogue guaranteed to keep your plot moving, your pages turning, and your readers on their toes.

Mon, 8/21 - Kansas City, KS - The Seven Deadly First-Page Sins
 hosted by Lynette M. Burrows

There's no one right way to begin your story – but there are plenty of wrong ones. In this class, we'll take you on a cautionary tour through the pits of page-one hell, complete with agent pet peeves, reader turn-offs, and "thanks but no thanks" editorial dealbreakers. Don't let your manuscript suffer in form-rejection torment: let us guide you through the slush-pile inferno and lead your story toward the light!

Weds, 8/23 - Lincoln, NE - Quasi-Fictional: An Evening with Patricia Scott and Tex Thompson
hosted by Francie and Fitch independent bookstore

Shakespeare's Coriolanus becomes a high school baseball drama. American colonialism is reimagined in a world of cowboys, fishmen, and "culture magic". And authors Patricia Scott and Tex Thompson invite you to join in for a rousing roundtable conversation, in which we ask: how much fact makes for first-rate fiction - and when does fiction actually change the facts?

Thurs, 8/24 - Tulsa, OK - Dialect to Die For
hosted by Nevermore Edits

When it comes to dialect, we often hear that 'less is more'. So how do you render a good Scottish brogue, or Southern drawl – and for that matter, how can you give a non-English-speaking character a voice that's distinct but still readable?  In this class, we'll examine how to represent accents and speakers of other languages in a way that captures their voices without reducing them to verbal tics, gimmicks, or stereotypes.

Sat, 8/26 - Oklahoma City, OK - Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding From the Inside Out

It’s a hard truth every writer knows: a good story needs a great setting, and many a diligent storyteller has gotten lost in the details. But doesn’t have to be that way! Whether you’re adapting the past, delving into distant regions of the present day, or conjuring other worlds altogether, some principles of good story-grounding are universal – and you can start applying them right away. Come learn the secrets of crafting immersive, dynamic settings – real or imaginary! – that your fans will want to explore for years to come.

Sun, 8/27 - Ardmore, OK - The Plate Tectonics Theory of Dialogue
hosted by Arbuckle Creative Writers

When it comes to dialogue, a good scene is a 'geologically active' one. Like pieces of the Earth's crust, characters clash, fold, and buckle as they interact (and yes, sometimes even bump and grind!) In this high-energy, interactive workshop, we'll analyze the features of real human speech, and how to amplify and manipulate them to suit your purpose. Whether your current scene is as subtle as a tremor or as explosive as an earthquake, we'll craft dialogue guaranteed to keep your plot moving, your pages turning, and your readers on their toes.

Sat, 9/2 - Roanoke, TX - The Plate Tectonics Theory of Dialogue 
hosted by the Roanoke Public Library

When it comes to dialogue, a good scene is a 'geologically active' one. Like pieces of the Earth's crust, characters clash, fold, and buckle as they interact (and yes, sometimes even bump and grind!) In this high-energy, interactive workshop, we'll analyze the features of real human speech, and how to amplify and manipulate them to suit your purpose. Whether your current scene is as subtle as a tremor or as explosive as an earthquake, we'll craft dialogue guaranteed to keep your plot moving, your pages turning, and your readers on their toes.

Want to see one of these in your home town? Email me at tex at - have Powerpoint, will travel!