Tuesday, January 25, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Catherine E. McLean


Catherine E. McLean

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I'm an amateur photographer. My favorite subject is flowers--especially the ones that grow in my garden or yard--or even in the pastures. My photograph of a butterfly caught with wings open, about to take off, won me the grand champion ribbon at my local fair. It's a good photo, but the image I caught on camera of a pink iris, which won first place as a black and white photo at the Crawford County Fair, is truly a work of art. The iris holds pride of place on my living room wall.

In addition to photography, I've been sewing garments and costumes since I was eight years old. I've made everything from underwear to a replica of an 1878 Side-saddle Riding Coat. When we showed Morgan horses, I made all my Hunt Seat, Saddle Seat, and carriage driving attire.

5. Who are you reading right now?
Me. I'm editing and polishing my last novel so I can get to work on the next story waiting in the queue. Oh, and I do have a stack of books I want to read but those might have to wait until vacation time.

6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I'm one of those writers who cannot not write. My Kid (my muse) is always sending ideas up from the basement of my mind. Those ideas, story sketches, scenes, characters, etc. have nearly filled a four-inch ring binder. Over the past fifteen years, the ideas have enabled me to write thirty novels, ten of which made it to editors' desks, but no sales yet. (Writing Space Opera and Futuristic Romances are a very hard sell in today's market.) On the bright side, I have done lots of short stories. Those have sold and currently I have a flash-fiction, science fiction short story "Just Desserts" at http://www.goldenvisionsmagazine.biz. Stop in, read it, and vote or comment on it.

9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
Over the years, I've identified nine types/styles of writers. Most people know the "panster" and the "outliner," but I fall into the category of the "foundation" writer. I get a story dump, the necessary information that lays the foundation for the story My Kid (my muse) wants told. That dump is always close to the opening of the story and comes with the main character up against a dilemma. That foundation may be ten pages or a hundred. By interviewing the characters and working with My Kid (Muse), I fill out my Project Bible and the story unfolds. Once I have an understanding of the theme and ending, I fill out 3x5 cards that keep things in their story sequence. Then it's time to write.

Note: Pennwriters is hosting my online course for "The Project Bible" which begins February 1, 2011. Information is at www.Pennwriters.com (click on the courses tab).

Project Bible_McLean
The Project Bible by Catherine E. McLean

13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
In order of influence, they are: William Zinsser, Isaac Asimov, Elizabeth Moon, David Weber, Justine Davis, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Catherine Asaro. Why is Zinsser first? Because when I was a fledgling secretary, he wrote On Writing Well. Reading that book changed my outlook on writing. Reading that book had me vowing that if I never wrote anything that sold, I would at least have written well. I also own the thirtieth edition of Zinsser's On Writing Well. Time and technology may have changed and necessitated updating the information but writing well, with clarity and simplicity, is something I think every writer should strive for, regardless of genre.

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Of course. Tom and Jerry rank at the top of my cartoon picks. In second place is Marvin the Martian. In third, Bugs Bunny. Wait--if Marvin and Bugs are together in a cartoon they top Tom and Jerry as my favorites.

Catherine E. McLean sincerely believes a writer needs to be self-educated so she studies and reads extensively about the business and craft of writing--and writes. She has given more than 35 writing workshops and judged more than a dozen writing contests. In order to help others achieve their writing goals, she shares her acquired knowledge and expertise at www.WritersCheatSheets.com and privately evaluates writers' work.

Before turning to fiction, Catherine was a freelance journalist who subsequently became the editor of a trade publication, holding that position for eleven years. She also edited two newsletters, one of which garnered her a national award. After completing the rigorous Professional Writing Courses at The University of Oklahoma, she became published in short story length in science-fiction, paranormal, and contemporary (including contemporary romance). She has had two dozen articles on the craft of writing published. Currently, she markets short stories (writing as C. E. McLean) and novel-length work.

In 1995, she joined Pennwriters, and holds a Published Penn status. In 2010, she received the Pennwriters Meritorious Service Award. She will be doing the workshop, "Passivity, a Different Way to Look at Show-Don't-Tell" at the May 13-15 Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh PA (www.Pennwriters.org).

Catherine lives on a farm in Western Pennsylvania where she and her husband bred, raised, and trained Morgan Sport Horses. As a horsewoman, she was a reserve national champion competitive trail rider and a champion in hunt seat pleasure. Now retired from raising horses, she and her husband share their rambling farmhouse with four opinionated cats--inherited when their daughter went off to culinary school--and one Ruff Coat Jack Russell Terrier who thinks he's a cat.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book: Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Perspective Creative Writing Students


I am one of several Seton Hill Writers who contributed to the Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Perspective Creative Writing Students by Lori A. May. This guide offers prospective graduate students an in-depth preview of low-residency creative writing MFA programs, as well as interviews with program directors, faculty, alumni, and current students.

Low-Residency MFA Handbook by Lori A. May

Here is the full list of Seton Hill Writers:
Shelley Bates (Shelley Adina)
Matt Duvall
Natalie Duvall
Heidi Ruby Miller
Jason Jack Miller
Cynthia Ravinski
Nicole Taft
Albert Wendland

Lori is a part-time writing instructor and a member of the AWP, MLA, and the Michigan College English Association. She is a frequent guest lecturer and workshop presenter at writers' conferences and graduate writing programs. In addition to her freelance writing, Lori is the author of Moving Target (Athena Force), The Profiler, and stains: early poems. More information about her is available online at www.loriamay.com.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book: Thrall by Mary SanGiovanni


My sister writer and critique partner from Seton Hill, Mary SanGiovanni, has a new novel titled Thrall coming out from Thunderstorm Books.

You can pre-order it now!

Thrall_Mary SanGiovanni
Thrall by Mary SanGiovanni

Here's a synopsis:

The last thing Jesse Coaglan ever wanted to do was return to his hometown of Thrall, New Jersey. Tucked away in the wilds of the northwestern corner of the state, Thrall has always been a very strange place to live. The town was a poison that affected people's minds, their souls, their bodies, and their perspectives. So Jesse abandoned his friends and the one woman he loved, and left everything behind.

Seven years later, Jesse has found a reason to return — a reason that, in spite of his best attempts otherwise, he can't ignore. His old love, Mia Dalianis, has left him a voicemail message begging him to come back, if not for her, then for the daughter Jesse never knew he had. Jesse needs to go back. He's been running for a long time — from relationships, friendships, everything he is afraid of and feels guilty over. He realizes that the nightmares will never stop until he goes to Thrall. With help from Nadia Richards and some old surviving friends from Thrall, Jesse intends to find his daughter or die trying. He goes looking for redemption, but what he discovers about his old hometown may destroy him and everyone he's ever cared about.

"Thrall is a feast of both visceral and existential horror—the gut tightens and the mind reels. Mary SanGiovanni joins that select cadre of women writers who are ignoring the safe old tropes and pushing the genre in new directions."
—F. Paul Wilson

Mary is also a contributor to my upcoming writing guide, co-edited with Michael A. Arnzen, titled Many Genres, One Craft.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Heidi's Pick Six

KD Brogdon

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Texas Ranger Kenneth Douglas. He is a deeply religious, honest and caring person. He sacrifices his personal wants and needs for the well being of others.

2. Tell me about your travels.
I have traveled several times to Central America. I think Costa Rica in the most American Friendly, although Nicaragua is gaining ground fast.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee in the morning, ice tea in the afternoon.

4. What else can you do besides write?
I am, and have been, for the past 25 plus years a Tampa Police Officer, Sargent for the past 16 years.

5. Who are you reading right now?
I am reading my new book, The Guardian, an engaging story. Also, The New Centurions.

6. Pop culture or academia?
Both. The world goes round.

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The toughest scene; writing about a character's thoughts of suicide. Having to place, or attempt to place your thoughts in the mind frame. I have seen, and investigated, several suicides, but never addressed the thought pattern.

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I have no idea. I sit in front of my notebook, or just a notepad, and it just starts pouring out.

9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I played baseball early in life and was fortunate enough to play as a young adult. At the Police Department, I played in the Police Olympics. I have 10 medals from gold, silver and bronze. Currently, I am an avid jogger.

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
All music speaks to me, pop more than others. I taught myself to play my baby grand piano.

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I try to outline some stories, but the flood is too much. I can sit on an airplane and have 12 pages written on some subject by the time I arrive at my destination. Nutz.

13. Celebrity crush.
Halle Berry. I dream of making her walk sideways, but most guys do....

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
Stephen King. I actually met him once. I was at a book signing event, and that night went to dinner. Some of the folks that I was with knew someone he was with. I doubt if he would remember me. "Write everything down."

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I do not watch much TV.

K. D. Brogdon is a tenured police sergeant in Tampa, Florida. He has served on local, state, and federal advisory committees for Traffic Law Enforcement and Safety. He has received recognition for his service, including Officer of the Year. He received his MBA from Tampa College. He grew up in Louisiana and currently lives in Brandon, Florida.

Monday, January 10, 2011

WORKSHOP: The Project Bible


Online Course

INSTRUCTOR: Catherine E. McLean is a longtime Pennwriters member who has given more than 30 workshops and had two dozen articles published on the devices and techniques of writing fiction. She will be giving a workshop at the May 2011 Pennwriters conference in Pittsburgh, PA. To learn more about Catherine E. McLean, go to http://www.WritersCheatSheets.com.

DATE: February 1 – March 8, 2011


COURSE DESCRIPTION: Covering more than 5 weeks and 8 class sessions, this has been dubbed “The All-In-One Writer's Course for Creating Stories from Start to Finish.” Make a New Year’s resolution to improve your writing. Having a Project Bible means:

* No more going off on tangents
* No more dead-ending half way through the project
* No more false starts
* No more losing control of the plot
* No more characters taking over the original story
* No more careless mistakes or confusion
* No more dreadful first drafts requiring endless revisions

The Project Bible is a guide and reference resource that enhances creativity, provides essential information for writing short stories and novels, and helps you write more marketable cleaner copy. It’s a godsend because every Project Bible is personalized and customized by you the individual—and how you write and tell a particular story.

FREE BONUS: You will receive 3 FREE writer "Cheat Sheets"!

(NOTE: This course is for those who have a clear understanding of fiction writing terms and who have completed one or more stories ranging from 5,000 to over 100,000 words.)

"Not only did Catherine take time to answer all of my questions, she elaborated on each with examples I easily understood. . . . She knows her stuff!"
- T.W., Houston, TX

“The instruction provided is a great mix of topics that are usually covered individually in expensive "text" books. I'm really pleased with what was covered.”
- J.B., Elizabethville, PA

“My writing, editing, and reading have moved to a new level because of the techniques I learned in Catherine's course.”
- E.W., Sante Fe, NM

"I found the course extremely user-friendly and helpful. I learned a lot of tricks that will make my writing better. Her handouts were easy to understand and very informative."
- R.B., Jericho, NY

* Subscribe to the Pennwriters Online Courses announcement list for email on our latest workshops:

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Flashback: January 6, 2010


Here's a look back at my posting this day in 2010. This was when VR Barkowski tagged me for The Eight Writing Questions.

Here's one of them as a teaser:

3) What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
There is a scene in my current novel ATOMIC ZION where an Israeli Secret Policeman is shaving and cutting his hair, and as he sees the changes to his appearance slowly come into focus in the mirror with each snip of the scissors or swipe of the razor, he recalls memories of the woman he loved, including her murder. It becomes a reawakening scene, and its tenderness stayed with me long after I wrote it.

So what did you post on January 6 these past few years?

Monday, January 03, 2011


Paths to Publication

Codename Prague_D. Harlan Wilson
Codename Prague by D. Harlan Wilson

Here’s an abridged version of my path to publication . . . I started out writing poetry in college. I never wrote anything before that, but I took a poetry course that turned me on to it. This was around 1990 at Wittenberg University in Ohio. Of course, nothing I wrote was good, and I didn’t submit anything for publication, although I had aspirations for publication. I kept at it and after college I managed to place a few poems here and there, mostly in small press magazines and journals. Then, for whatever reason, I thought I’d start writing novels. I don’t remember why, or where I found the audacity. I wrote three novels, bad ones, but I didn’t think they were bad at the time. And yet I never submitted them for publication. Then, in grad school, at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, I took a fiction writing course and started writing short stories. I abandoned novels for the next ten or so years and focused on the short form to hone the craft. Short stories are great for beginning writers because you can finish them quickly and if they suck you can just move on to the next one. Mine sucked. To this day, I don’t like the majority of the short stories I’ve written and published. But I began submitting stories with resolve; the more I was rejected, the more I sent out. For the first year or two, all I got were rejections, but then I finally sold a story, and things took off. I still received a lot of rejections – and I still do today – but my acceptances increased exponentially.

In 2000, I was asked to put together some stories into a chapbook by Carlton Mellick, the avant-punk author who started Eraserhead Press, which is currently run by Rose O’Keefe. Carlton had read some of my published fiction and liked it. The name of the chapbook was Kafka-Breathing Sock Puppets. At the time, Eraserhead Press didn’t publish full-length books, but they started to in 2001, and I expanded my chapbook with more stories into a proper 40,000-word collection, The Kafka Effekt, my first book. In the next few years, I published two more collections, one with Eraserhead Press, Stranger on the Loose, and one with Raw Dog Screaming Press, Pseudo-City. Most of the stories in these books were originally published in various online and print magazines.

After Pseudo-City, in 2005 I think, I decided to “revert” to the novelistic form. I felt like I was better prepared to pull it off, even if I was significantly apprehensive about my novel-writing ability, and continue to be. But I had ideas and wanted a new challenge. I wrote Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia, and it ended up winning the Wonderland Book Award for best novel in 2008. It was the first novel to win the award, and it’s not a well-known or widely publicized award, but it was nice to know that a few people thought I could write a decent novel.

In the last two years, I’ve published two novels, Blankety Blank: A Memoir Of Vulgaria (Raw Dog Screaming Press) and Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance (Shroud Books), as well as a book of literary criticism and theory, Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction (Guide Dog Books). I’m an English professor now and have been writing criticism (essays, reviews, etc.) as long as I’ve been writing fiction, but criticism is a different animal, so I’ll leave that for another time. Within the last few months, I’ve also published another fiction collection, They Had Goat Heads (Atlatl Press), and early in 2011, I have another novel coming out, Codename Prague (Raw Dog Screaming Press), the second installment in my “scikungfi” trilogy that originated with Dr. Identity.

My publishers are all small presses. I’ve met and developed close relationships with the owners over the years by going to writing conventions, continuing to publish and making a name for myself, and promoting my work. I don’t have an agent, and I don’t really want one. I could make more money if I placed my books with bigger publishers, but not that much more money – my stuff has always been and always will be amply weird and I’m not destined for Grisham-like or Rowling-like financial success and acclaim. That’s not why I write anyway. The publishers I work with literally give me full creative autonomy over my writing, and that’s important to me, and I get raises and crap at the university where I teach for my scholarship. This isn’t the road that most fiction writers take, and I wouldn’t encourage it. But it works for me.

-D. Harlan Wilson
January 2011

Here's what people are saying about Codename Prague:

"This novel is from the wild edge of science fiction, in the tradition of Philip K. Dick's Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch—fast, smart, funny, and full of a scarily plausible vision of just how weird things could get if we take our biological fate into our own hands."
Kim Stanley Robinson, Nebula, Hugo, Locus, BSFA and John W. Campbell Award-winning author of the Mars trilogy, the Three Californias trilogy, and The Years of Rice and Salt

"Codename Prague is a thrill-a-minute combination of James Bond, Robert Ludlum, and cyberpunk, set in a dangerous, erotic, and not-as-distant-as-you'd-wish future."
Mike Resnick, Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author of 100+ novels, collections, anothologies and nonfiction books

You can visit D. Harlan Wilson online at http://www.dharlanwilson.com/ and at his blog Goatheads Anonymous.

Here's a link to D. Harlan Wilson's PICK SIX interview in 2007:

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Flashback: January 1, 2006


Here's a look back at my posting on this day in 2006.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

What did you post on January 1 these past few years?