Report on The Last Ekphrasis

IMG_3748Last night we enjoyed one another’s company for the last time — at least, it was the last time that Ekphrasis will gather under my auspices with its regular purpose of sharing and critique, since I’m moving to Texas to start my PhD at Baylor. It was a magnificent meeting! There were food and flowers, hilarity and drama, literature and art. In attendance were myself, Sharon G, Devon W, Eric M, Richard B, Curt D, Laura W, Andrew S MacD, Betsy G, Jeff H, Amanda L, and two newcomers, Thaina D and Diante R.

Even though it was a sort of a going-away shindig, it was really just an ordinary hard-working meeting. Lots of people shared excellent work.

IMG_3744(1)At the beginning of the meeting, Thaina and Devon shared the hot-off-the-press Spring 2016 issue of Xanadu, Lehigh Carbon Community College’s literary magazine. Thaina and Devon, along with Diante, are student editors of the magazine this semester, and I’ve been a faculty adviser to it for six years. This semester’s may have been the most professional issue of the magazine we’ve ever produced: the design is streamlined and debonair. Diante has a poem published in it; Thaina has a few poems and several pieces of prose.

indexThen Sharon G read another chapter of her Robin Hood novel adaptation, Mercy and Justice. This chapter included a sad story of a poor, cast-off, single, expectant mother, helped by Marian and Robin, which was a good way of revealing their compassionate character. Sharon has completed about half of this novel and hopes to draft the rest of it this fall, after finishing her current novel-in-progress, Chrysalis!

13184680_1014038361966917_2053915199_oRichard B and Eric M each showed pieces of their artwork. Richard is writing and illustrating a comic book starring his Jack Windsword character. Eric is working on drawings he’ll bring to the Baltimore Comic Con. Their work is somewhat similar–both depict heroes, villians, mythic, archetypal characters with bold lines and swift action–but their techniques are quite different. The black-and-white image to the right is from Richard’s book. The colored images below from Star Wars and Star Trek are some of Eric’s works of art.




Then we moved into a sort of stage-like area we had set up, in order to watch several theatrical scenes.

First up was a stage adaptation of a bit from a Brandon Sanderson novel, by Betsy G. It was a scene packed with secondary-world-building, lots of neologisms and names and cultural references. In it, an experienced con artist is teaching her apprentice how to fool her potential victims by posing as a foreign princess. The prize? Her dupe’s boots. 13184742_935769666536853_1112604979_o

Next up was a selection from Jeff H’s recent full-length adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, which was recently produced by Players of the Stage. This scene was Toad on trial for causing a motor car accident–which is really just a cover for his enemies to lock him up and take his ancestral mansion.

Then came my short play, Galatea Awakes, which I wrote for my creative writing class at LCCC, and from which I previously posted a selection. It’s a retelling of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, and I’m exploring themes of the artist’s isolation and relationships, the idea of the art as a child, issues of voyeurism and objectification, questions about the nature of beauty, etc. It was admirably performed by Richard, Andrew, and Sharon, and much hilarity ensued–sometimes when it wasn’t in the script, such as when Pygmalion whispers to his animated statue to “scroll down, scroll down” for him so he can read his script!

We got to see another play from my creative writing class, too: this one by Thaina. It is a side-splittingly funny drama entitled Why Deals With the Devil Never Work (And You Should Always Read the Fine Print). I’ll give you just a tiny snippet here to give you an idea of how funny it is:

ASH: Look man, I just really want my soul back. Please? Pretty please? Have a heart.
SATAN: What part of Lucifer, Demon, King of Hell, do you not understand?
ASH: I know you’re Satan and all, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk!
SATAN: Do you listen to yourself when you speak?
ASH: Hm? Of course I do! My soul is gone, not my hearing!

Yup, it’s all like that. With a great twist at the end.

And we were treated to a performance of a powerful slam poem by Diante, a tale of troubles and salvation. It is meant to become his final project for Creative Writing class.

Finally, Laura W ended our evening with a mind-boggling 2-min mystery: a piece of flash fiction in 500 words. Since Laura won most of the weeks of Signum University’s “Almost an Inkling” flash fiction contest, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was magnificent!

There were some amazing conversations, too, about the “Artist-as-inspired-romantic-genius” myth, about the use of profanity and taking the Lord’s name in writing and drama, about anachronism and style and craft. These are the talks on which my soul feeds.

So, yes: a fitting ending for, what, eight years, I think, of Ekphrasis meetings. I’ll miss you guys, and I hope you carry on!



Twitter Fiction: “If Soap Operas Met Science Fiction”

The other day, I overheard someone talking about soap operas and suspended animation in the same conversation. So I said soap operas would be a lot better if they included SF elements. I tweeted out this story yesterday on @SorinaHiggins. Here it is in full.

If Soap Operas Met Science Fiction

“Darling!” He exclaimed, on his knees. “I’ll do anything for you! What do you want me to do? Leave my wife and kids? Run off with you to the Riviera? Buy you a yacht?”

“Hold out your arm,” she said.

“My arm?”

“Your arm.”

She put out one hand, and purple suction cups blossomed from each fingertip. Schlook! They squelched onto his forearm, sucking little bubbles of flesh up into their moist interiors. He hollered in shock, then the yell turned into a gurgle as he felt what was being vacuumed through his veins, out through his skin, into her body.

It was energy. Pure energy. She was converting his caloric intake, his body’s electrical impulses, and every ounce of stored-up fat into a stream of vivid energy, melting him, draining him.

As he went limp and oozed slowly to the floor, she turned to the wall of her penthouse—his first gift to her when their fling had begun. She pressed her suction-cup fingertips to the wall and exhaled, long and slow. The marble wall changed to silver metal. The windows flickered as banks of control panels blinked into life. Her sequined designer dress slid from her body, which was scaly and sinuous.

The last thing he saw as he dissolved into oblivion was her spaceship detaching itself from the top of the apartment building and soaring off over Manhattan, and the last words he heard were:

“Never mind the Riviera, darling. You’ve given me the stars.”

“Secrets Bite” by Laura Wolfe

Secrets Bite

By Laura Wolfe

I tripped and fell into the puddle.

Mommy had buttoned my raincoat, hiked up my galoshes, and sent me out to play in the rain.  At first it had been sprinkly, and the puddles had been small and good for jumping.  But then the water dumped out of the sky, like someone had turned over a gigantic bucket, and the alley behind our house became a rushing river.

I ran as fast as I could to keep from being knocked over, but it’s hard to run in rainboots and I wasn’t surprised when I tripped.  I reached out to catch myself, expecting gravel-bite on my palms, but instead I pushed through something like Jell-O.

I dove through the water.  The light around me was grayish green, like the rainy day above.  There were strange fish, with slippery bodies that brushed up against my face and spiny fins that scratched my cheek.  Then there were stranger things, with tentacles and round mouths with teeth.  They looked hungry, so I wriggled away.

My palms plunged into a sandy bottom that sparkled and cut like broken glass.  My hands stung, and I wanted to put them in my mouth.

I lifted my head, and in front of me lay a clamshell big enough to sleep in.  An upside down waterfall of bubbles poured from its lips.

“I will tell you a secret,” said the pink and white giant before me, opening and closing its mighty door.  And he did.

I jumped up from the bottom of the water world, and I rose quickly.  A beautiful pale woman with green hair called from my right, but I thought she might have sharp teeth so I just reached for the air.

I shot from the puddle and landed on my knees.  “Mommy!” I cried, and ran to the back door.

She met me on the porch, lifted me and cuddled me.

In the warm kitchen, she dabbed ointment on my hands and cheeks while I told her about the puddle.  She smiled softly.  Then I told her the clam’s secret, and her smile melted.

“What an imagination.”  Mommy covered her eyes and turned away.


Who is doing National Novel-Writing Month this coming November? 1414872206879I have decided to try it for the first time. Since one is allowed to continue an existing project (provided 50,000 words are written in November), I’m planning to keep working on Ready-Made Grave, my #3DNC novel. Here’s the story.

12010569_10207630660587505_3619537982960083159_o* I have just about 30,000 words right now, from what I wrote over Labour Day weekend and what I’ve done since.
* If I write 1,000 words a day in October, that will serve as a sort of NaNoWriMo warm-up and will bring me to around 45,000 words (allowing for Sundays and a few other emergency days off, since I’ll be traveling to Massachusetts to help my Mom, who is still recovering from heart surgery).
* If I write 2,000 words a day in November (still with Sundays and the occasional day off), that should be an easy 50,000 in that month, bringing the total to 95,000 — a good solid novel draft.
* Then I would like to edit it down to 80,000, which should make a tighter, neater story.
* I’m well prepped for at least the first half of the novel, since I did all that before 3DNC, and again afterwards, when I did a massive plot re-organization. I’ve got my nice Moleskin full of notes, my fancy Excel spreadsheet of events, and my glorious Scrivener file with all of that in. I’m good to go — until I get halfway through, when my planning will give out.
* So it would be a good idea to do more planning beyond the halfway point, if I can; but I’m not sure I can. See, the death occurs halfway through. I think I need to let my characters do their thing up to that point, and only then start planning the next half. That’s when they get locked into the cemetery overnight and sit in a mausoleum trying to figure out whodunnit.
* I’m also working on a synopsis for the NaNoWriMo website, and I’ll post a draft here soon for your feedback.Whodunnit_ABC

Do share other thoughts! What prep are you doing? Have you done NaNoWriMo before? Leave me a link to a blog post about your experience!

“Almost an Inkling” Flash Fiction Contest Week 1 Winners!

magical_door_by_danielgnomesClick over to the contest home page to watch a video in which I talk about the winners and to download a .pdf of the winning entries!

Week 1 was:

Through Mysterious Doors
This week, we entered the world of microfiction with stories of up to 333 words that involved portals into other realms. Our writers took a character through some kind of gateway or past some threshold into a secondary world unlike our own.

Eugene Sullivan, “The Stairwell”

Brenton Dickieson, “One Step Into Dawn”

doorPOPULAR WINNER (tied):
Olivia Jakobitz, “Through the Porthole”

Cheryl Cardoza, “Fairy Rings”

Anne Whitver, “Never Trust a Clock”

Laura Crouse, “Lot’s Wife”

Here are links to some other works that didn’t win, but you might enjoy reading them:

Creative Writing Contest! Submit and Vote!

Power of WordsNote: please check the updated official page,, because some of the details of registration have changed since I wrote this blog post — and here is more info:

Dear Creative Writers and lovers of fantasy, mystery, and speculative fiction! I am happy to announce Signum University’s “Almost an Inkling” Creative Writing Contest!! This contest is running concurrently with a fundraiser for the University’s Annual Fund: your entry fee will help to support creative, accessible higher education (you are encouraged to give a larger donation when you submit). Register for the Signum University fundraiser kickoff, tonight! There, you’ll hear about the Creative Writing Contest and other great events.

Are you a writer?
Many readers of classic literature, fantasy, and speculative fiction find that writing is contagious: they want to write like their favorite authors! If this desire is burning in you, here is your outlet: Signum University’s first creative writing contest! Pick up your pen, pencil, laptop, stylus, quill, parchment, or papyrus, and write like J.R.R. Tolkien—but in a hobbit-sized story.

Flash Fiction
Cotton_Harlequin_BugsThis contest calls for submissions of TINY original works. We are looking for creative, imaginative, wild, well-crafted pieces of what William Nelles calls “microfiction,” “flash fiction,” “sudden fiction,” “minute stories,” “short-shorts,” or what Luisa Valenzuela calls “iridescent insects.” These miniature works of fiction showcase writers’ skills in a microcosm, calling for deft handling of character, plot, action, and description in a bite-sized space—or the surface area of a smartphone screen.

How it works:
Each week for six weeks (beginning on #HobbitDay, Bilbo’s birthday), new prompts will be posted, calling for minuscule stories on a variety of exciting topics. Tune in each Sunday as new guidelines are released for that week, then get writing! There will be doors, dragons, knights, time travel, spells, and sonnets.


  • Everyone is invited to submit entries to this contest! You do NOT need to be associated with Signum University or the Mythgard Institute to send in your work.
  • The public is invited to vote on their favorite entries! Each week, you will be given a link where you can go and click “like” on all the best works.
  • All submissions must be the original work of the author, previously unpublished anywhere else (including on a personal blog or other web space), and not under consideration for publication anywhere else.
  • This is not a place for fan fiction! All characters, names, specific fictional settings, and other unique story elements must be original and not lifted from any known work of literature. We are also not looking for anything that could be construed as pornography, libel, or hate speech.
  • Please follow each week’s prompts and length requirements carefully. Failure to follow these specifications will result in the failure of an entry to be considered for a prize. There will be no refunds of fees for entries submitted in error.
  • The entry fee is eleventy-one cents ($1.11) for each submission. Please fill out this Week 1 Registration first, then you will be given a registration code and a link to a submission form where you can send us your entries.
  • Contestants may submit multiple entries to any prompt and to any week in any combination.

What Winners Want:
There will be one winner and two runners-up in two categories of winners chosen from each week: one by popular vote, one by the literary judges. This means you have thirty-six chances to win—plus you and all your friends can vote on your popular favorites! Winners will be published in a special-edition ebook by Oloris Press and will receive an opportunity to read their work aloud during a webinar at the end of the contest. The judges are Prof. Sørina Higgins, Chair of the Literature and Language Department at Signum University, and Robyn Stone, Director of Poetry at Oloris Pubishing.

Signum University’s Annual Fundraiser
This creative writing contest is part of Signum’s fundraising campaign, going from Hobbit Day (Sep 22) through Halloween (Oct 31). We will be hosting special events, prize drawings and contests.

The fundraiser kicks off on Hobbit Day, Tuesday September 22, with a Tolkien Trivia Challenge and a presentation of the fundraiser goals and schedule by Corey Olsen, Signum president. Join us live! Reserve your seat for Tuesday September 22, 9:30 pm Eastern time. Sharpen your knowledge of Middle-earth and join us to vie for prizes—Amazon gift cards of $10, $20 and $30 for the third to first challenge winners.