Writing Groups

Should you join a writing group?  In the interest of full disclosure, as of this writing, I’m a member of three different groups.

“Jesus, Mike. Say yes much?”  

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  It seems like a lot of groups.  It is, but I’m getting something a bit different from each group.  To answer the question, “Should I join a writing group?” I have to answer – it depends.  

“Brilliant. That’s all you’ve got?”

Stick with me! I’ve created this handy-dandy Writing Group-O-Matic decision tree to help you figure it out.

Continue reading “Writing Groups”


Dangerous Writing

I was driving this morning around doing some last-minute holiday preparation and heard a radio story on NPR.  It was a show called How I Built This and featured Jim Koch, one of the founders of Sam Adams brewery. I didn’t catch the whole show, but I had to share the small bit that I heard.

In reference to his choosing his career in brewing, he said, “There are choices that seem safe but are dangerous and choices that seem dangerous but are safe.”

Do you want to retire and look back on a life half-lived? Jim Koch didn’t. I know that my previous career was one of those choices that seemed safe but was very, very dangerous to my essential nature.

Writing seems dangerous me. That doesn’t mean it’s safe, but I feel more in tune with my spirit than I ever have before.

Have you made choices that seem safe?  Are you living in one now or do you feel dangerously satisfied?


SF World Building – Internal Method

This is a continuation from last week’s post.  We talked about external world building with a speculative fiction example.  Today we’ll dig into the internal method.

Internal world building springs from character and story. The world is determined after the writer establishes their primary characters and main conflicts.  This is not how I usually work.  Even though I primarily write character driven stories, I find it easier to have worlds with ready-made conflicts to hang interesting characters from. It will be an experiment.

Because I’m a visual person, when I get a character stuck in my head, it’s usually because I’ve seen someone or something and can’t help but imagine the backstory.  Recently, I found a bent Saint Christopher medal buried in the dirt at the base of a sheer rock-face.  It’s one of those items I just can’t get out of my mind. Let’s see what we can make of it. Continue reading “SF World Building – Internal Method”


SF World Building – External Method

You, are a world builder.

“But, Mike. I write modern day literary fiction.”

All writers do some form of world building even if their work is set in modern day Wisconsin.  The choices of what to show and what to hide are just as important to the setting of the story.  Many writers will do just as much work to learn about an existing place as I do research to fill out a world created from whole cloth.  I would argue that writing about an non-imaginary place is harder.  If I make it plausible, a reader might accept my creations of flora and fauna (because I SAY jackalope ride yeti on Seti Alpha V) but they can find out if the crocus start to bloom in northern Wisconsin in March. Continue reading “SF World Building – External Method”


Fiction Monday is Here Again – Granny Neumann

I have once again failed to deliver a post before the close of the weekend.  We must both be punished with fiction Monday.

Granny Neumann Goes Skateboarding

“James Francis Neumann. I am not getting on that skateboard.”

“Oh, come on Grams. Just for a second. I want to Snapchat it.”

“I don’t understand the words you’re saying, Jimmy, and I’m not getting on the skateboard.” Continue reading “Fiction Monday is Here Again – Granny Neumann”


The Writer’s Conference

I went to a local writer’s conference last weekend and I’m going to tell you why I think you should attend one.

This particular conference was sponsored and hosted by our county library system. It was reminiscent of small, software-specific technical conferences I  attended when I was in the tech industry.  There was a keynote presentation, several different course tracks,  socials and even had a coffee station in the morning.  This conference was free, so big value points right from the start.  I attended the same conference last year (shortly after I started writing seriously) so this was a good comparison year for me.

You might be saying to yourself, “That’s nice for you, Mike, but my library system is pretty small.” To which I would say to you, “Have you asked, you poo poo head?”  I think local libraries sponsoring writer gatherings is way more common than you might think.  Librarians are legally bound to be either a) a writer or b) an author groupie. Often times they’re both.  Even if the library doesn’t sponsor a gathering, I bet you that one of the librarians knows about one locally.  Ask the one with the blue highlights-the young one who help set up the teen space with squishy chairs that are nicer than the ones you have at home. You know who I mean.  He’ll know.

One of the few criticisms I have about the conference is that it was not well advertised.  It was hard to find online and if I hadn’t heard about it from a friend, I never would have know it existed.  Even so, there were almost 250 people who registered and attended.

Why should you attend a program like this? Continue reading “The Writer’s Conference”


Fiction Mondays – Betty Mae

I’m running late on my post because there was a local writers conference that I attended Friday and Saturday.  There are several new posts swirling in my nether regions that were, at least in part, inspired by the conference.  I attended a world building session and have a LOT to say about it- both the world building and the session.  I’m going to give it another few days before I write it to see if the heat will increase or abate.

I’ve decided (mostly) that if I make it to Monday and I still haven’t created any new content, I’ll push out a little fiction.   Most of what I post here will not have anything to do with the genre fiction I’m currently working on. Here’s a short piece I wrote as an exercise.

Betty Mae

Betty Mae was able to reach into a pot of boiling water and pull out an ear of corn. I never saw her do it, but in the sea of family stories, this one feels true to me. Continue reading “Fiction Mondays – Betty Mae”


World Building

At the most recent meeting of my Transplants Writer’s Group, we discussed world building.  The group consists of two literary fiction authors, a non-fiction author and me representing speculative fiction.  One of the comments that came out was, “It’s hard enough writing in a world I already know. I don’t know how you SF guys do it.”  This surprised me because I LOVE the world building part of writing.  Most of the discovery and research I do before I start a project is all about world building.  The other surprising assumption was that world building wasn’t as important for non-SF writing.  This is not true at all.  Every writer does world building.   Continue reading “World Building”


It’s a Long Way …

Every couple of weeks, Mrs. Blackwelder and I take the Young Blackwelders to the library.  YB One is a competitive reader and generally tries to make sure there is no middle grade fiction left on the shelves for anyone else.  She shoves armloads of books into cloth shopping bags to see if she can make them bust open at the seams.  Seriously.  I’ve seen her sweep a seven-book series off the shelf directly into her bag.  While she preps for binge reading, I generally pick through the 808.xx to see if there are any writing books that catch my eye. Continue reading “It’s a Long Way …”