Where I’ll Be: Norwescon 2022

If you’re coming to Norwescon, here’s where you can find me! I’ll also be spending much of my time at Jennifer Brozek’s booth in the dealer room – and will have swag! Come say hi.


Go, Flash, Go! Flash Fiction for Writers
3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Cascade 9 & 10
Cat Rambo (M), Brianna Tibbetts, Izzy Wasserstein, Bruce Taylor

Reaching Inclusion
4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Olympic 3
ChrisTiana ObeySumner (M), Sheye Anne Blaze, Cat Rambo

Opening Ceremonies
7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Northwest 2 & 3
Fox Squire (M), Rob Carlos, Cat Rambo, Connor Alexander, Patrick Swenson, Lydia K. Valentine


NWW Critique Session with Cat Rambo
10:00am – 12:30pm @ Cascade 13
Cat Rambo (M)

Interview and Q&A with Cat Rambo
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Grand 2
Jennifer Brozek (M), Cat Rambo

Reading Like a Writer
3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Olympic 3
Cat Rambo (M), Izzy Wasserstein, Louise Marley, Jon Lasser


Autograph Session 1
10:00am – 11:00am @ Evergreen 1&2
Cat Rambo, Jack Skillingstead, Berlynn Wohl, Laura Anne Gilman, Dale Ivan Smith, Curtis C. Chen, Evan J. Peterson, Julie McGalliard, GregRobin Smith, Gabe (G.S.) Denning, Brianna Tibbetts, Amanda Hamon, Heather S. Ransom, Sara A Mueller, Bruce Taylor, Rob Carlos, Patrick Swenson, Lydia K. Valentine, Connor Alexander

Autograph Session 2
11:00am – 12:00pm @ Evergreen 1&2
Carol Berg, Brenda Cooper, Rhiannon Held, Patrick Swenson, Joseph Malik, Joseph Brassey, Eva L. Elasigue, Louise Marley, Mikko Azul, Connor Alexander, Mike Jack Stoumbos, Nancy Kress, David D. Levine, Lydia K. Valentine, Cat Rambo, Rob Carlos, Jeff Sturgeon

The World According to Cat Rambo
1:00pm – 2:00pm @ Grand 2
Cat Rambo (M)

Reading: Cat Rambo
3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Grand 2
Cat Rambo (M)

The Spice Must Flow: Drugs in Genre Fiction
5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Cascade 11
Evan J. Peterson (M), Cat Rambo, Gabe (G.S.) Denning, Rhiannon Held, Brooks Peck


The Anxious Convention Pro
12:00pm – 1:00pm @ Cascade 9 & 10
Cat Rambo (M), Zamesta Cosplay, Jay Boyce

Surviving in the Land of Short Stories
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Cascade 11
Cat Rambo, Jack Skillingstead, Patrick Swenson

Closing Ceremonies
4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Cascade 9 & 10
Rob Stewart, Rob Carlos, Cat Rambo, Patrick Swenson, Lydia K. Valentine, Connor Alexander

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Classes Coming Up This Weekend

The Mystery Writing class is canceled, but three others remain this weekend, wrapping up a great month of classes.

Demystifying Outlines with Margaret Dunlap, accompanying picture of a chalk outline of a bodyDemystifying Outlines with Margaret Dunlap, Saturday, March 26, 2022, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time.

Outlines: some writers swear by them, some writers swear at them, some have sworn off them entirely.

I, Margaret Dunlap, became an outliner because outlines are an integral part of the television writing process. (It turns out, studios  want to see evidence that you’ve got a working story before they commit a million dollars or more to putting a group of writers’ hairbrained ideas into production.) Over five seasons as a writers assistant on four different series, I wrote more outlines than I probably should have been asked to, but I learned a lot doing it. What I took for granted at the time was that as I was learning, I always had a slew of examples I could reference, and a staff full of writers giving me notes when I got something wrong.

It wasn’t until I started collaborating with novelists that I realized there’s no equivalent resource for fiction writers.

So let’s pull back the drape and get into the guts of outlines. What are they? (It depends, what do you need it to be?) Do they have to have bullet points? (Not unless you find them useful.) Do they have to follow a set format? (Now that your English teacher isn’t reading it, probably not.) Is there a minimum length? A maximum one? (Nope! Although there are some practical upper and lower bounds to keep in mind.) Wouldn’t the time you spend on an outline be better used writing the actual story? (That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always writing my actual story.)

In this class, we’ll talk about outlining as part of an iterative writing process, whether it’s part of your pre-writing, a tool to turn to when you’re adrift in mid-draft, or a way to kick-start revisions after you’ve typed “the end.”

We’ll look at examples of different kinds of outlines and explore tips and tricks for incorporating story planning into your own creative process. We’ll also learn how to read an outline, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, and how to use it to spot a story’s pitfalls… and also its potential.

The phrase “write an outline” doesn’t have to trigger flashbacks to research papers, didactic English professors, or oceans of red ink. In fact, they’re a surprisingly flexible tool that you can learn to use to spark, rather than block, the creative process.

Picture of an open doorway to illustrate the online writing workshop "Beginnings and Endings" with Cat Rambo, an online live class.Beginnings & Endings with Cat Rambo, Saturday, March 26, 2022, 12:00-2:00 PM Pacific Time.

Beginnings are sometimes the last thing a writer finishes, and they must lead gracefully into a work that ends with the same sense of panache. In a class that combines lecture with in-class writing exercises and discussion, we’ll look at examples from speculative fiction in order to figure out how they work and develop concepts that we can apply to our own writing. You will learn how to use beginnings to create their counterparts and vice versa while looking at strategies for both and getting a chance to test and ask questions about these techniques over the course of the workshop.

Picture of a teacup and toast to accompany "Dunking Your Reader in the Details," an online workshop about creating immersive description.Dunking the Reader in the Details: Tools for Creating Immersive Worlds with Cat Rambo, Sunday, March 27, 2022, 12:00-2:00 PM Pacific Time.

How do you create a world that feels immersive to your reader without drowning them in description? What details should be included — and what should be left out? How does the writer pull a reader in through word choice and invocation of the senses? How can making a map help you make the world more understandable for the reader? What are the most important considerations in both world building  and character creation? Cat Rambo gives you twelve tools to use for creating immersive worlds, along with writing exercises designed to help you master each technique, and a chance to ask questions about their use.

As always, there are three free scholarships in each class! Details are here on how to apply.

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Norwescon Author Guest of Honor

I’m super pleased to be able to announce that I’m Author Guest of Honor at Norwescon this year. Norwescon’s the first con I went to as an author and will always have a special place in my heart accordingly.

While there, I’ll be on plenty of programming (I’ll post that schedule as soon as I have it), and I’ll also be spending time at Jenn Brozek’s booth, where I’ll definitely have copies of ALTERED AMERICA, CARPE GLITTER, MOVING FROM IDEA TO DRAFT, and THE SURGEON’S TALE.

If there’s another book of mine you’d like to buy and get autographed while there, drop me a line in e-mail and I’ll make sure I stick it in my luggage, but otherwise I’m flying there and have limited luggage space, so I’m snagging the smaller books.

I will be reading for the first time ever from the sequel to YOU SEXY THING, hurray! Come to the reading if you want to know how DEVIL’S GUN starts off.

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Possible Upcoming Changes to SFWA Membership

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an august non-profit on whose board I have served in the past, held its business meeting in January of this year, and since it was virtual, I had the chance to attend, which was a nice chance to see some familiar faces, meet some new ones, and hear what the organization has been up to in the past year.

An interesting development for SFWA that seems to have been flying under most people’s radar is that the organization’s members will be voting on whether or not to change the membership requirements in a way that the organization has not previously done. This may be one of the biggest changes made to the membership yet in the organization’s 50+ years of history.

The new qualifications: a writer can join as an Associate member once they have earned $100 over the course of their career, and as a Full member at the $1000 level.

That’s a huge and very significant change from the current, somewhat arcane membership requirements of $1000 over the course of a year on a single work to become a Full member. Particularly when you think that one of the most contentious propositions on the discussion boards in the past has been the idea of re-qualification, of making people prove they qualify on a yearly basis. Moving away from a system so complicated SFWA had to create a webform to walk people through whether or not they qualified to something like this is a big win in so many ways.

Why I’m absolutely voting yes:

  • This change makes SFWA available to more people in the earlier stages of their career, which is often when they most need that community, support, and advice.
  • More and more varied members will make the Nebulas a heck of a lot more interesting and perhaps combat some of the logrolling that I’ve witnessed over twenty or so years.  This has the potential to really shake things up in a good way.
  • More and more varied members means more volunteers and budget and that’s huge. One of the best things about admitting indie writers was the wealth of knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm added to the organization overall. This is even more of that.
  • That also means more people talking on the boards. I’ve been a moderator on those boards for a long, long time, and they remain a source of community, news, and information for me. The more the merrier, in my opinion. 
  • This change also opens up the game writing qualifications in a way that answers a lot of the existing issues. SFWA’s admitting game writers has been a bit bumpy, mainly because of the incredible variety of ways that writing can manifest.
  • On a small personal level, it may mean I’ll witness less truculent bullshit from people personally affronted by the existence of the past requirements, although people will continue to think SFWA is a gelatinous cube.

For this to pass, enough of the full members need to vote on it. If you are a full member, I urge you to check your email for the mail with the voting link, which would have come on January 15, with the subject “[SFWA] 2022 Call for SFWA Board Candidates & Bylaws Vote”. The cut-off date for getting this done is February 15, a rapidly approaching deadline.

One other change from the board meeting answers the question of how this affects the idea of “SFWA qualifying markets,” which has in the past been used as a way to make sure fiction markets increased their rates every once in a while. We’re going to see a fiction matrix that looks at a number of factors, including pay, but also response time, quality of contract, etc. It’s very nice to see this long overdue project finally manifest, and I bear as much guilt as anyone in the long overdue part, since I was around when it was first proposed and should have kicked it along significantly harder than I did. I’m very happy to see this and ten thousand kudos to the people who made it happen.

There wasn’t much else to the meeting that surprised me. Like a lot of the F&SF organizations in 2021, live events have been a problem. (This surprised me given that SFWA was one of the first organizations to put on a pandemic version in a way that really showcased what a virtual event could be.) But hotel and event stuff has been problematic for a lot of events, to the point where some seem moribund or seriously endangered, and given that, it’s unsurprising that cancellation costs of the event have wounded the SFWA budget.

Overall though, SFWA remains pretty robust financially, and the Emergency Medical Fund, Legal Fund, and Givers Grants programs are still doing stellar work. You’ve seen some of that continue to play out in the DisneyMustPay campaign. I will remind people that it’s a good place to direct charitable donations, and that you can also support it through the Amazon Smile program, buying SFWA’s Storybundles and HumbleBundles, or even by buying one of those cool secret decoder rings.

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Cat Rambo Interviews Joe R. Lansdale

CAT RAMBO: One aspect of the great appeal of the Hap and Leonard books is their enduring friendship, including its ups, downs, and petty annoyances like one of them eating all the animal crackers every once in a while. Presumably you didn’t set out to write one of the great friendships of literature, but how do you think it developed? What do you think you learned about friendship from writing theirs?

JOE R. LANSDALE: I never set out to write a series, let alone one that has endured as well as this one. They have become beloved by their fans. I added in all the better aspects of friends I have and have had, but unlike the friendship between these guys, not all of mine have endured, and some that did, well, those friends have passed. There’s also wishful thinking involved. The  kind of friendship you would like to have. I learned a lot from their friendship, as it made me explore myself to find their similarities and their differences. My brother Andrew Vachss and I were very close, and he had a lot of Leonard’s aspects, but the overall personality of Leonard is, like Hap, a combined one. Hap, however, is very much like me, if not exactly like me. I learned to try and be a better person through their exploration, which is not to say I started out a bad one. In fact, in many ways I’m better than both of them. I haven’t killed anyone and have no plans to do so. You could call that, for them, a flaw.

In the introduction to the book, you talk about Hap and Leonard existing in a special kind of time since you’ve been writing them so long, aging at a different rate than you or I. Has that ever created problems for you with writing, moments when you regret establishing a particular fact because it conflicts with something you want to do?

Yes, sometimes it does, and sometimes I contradict something because I don’t reread the books. I might check a thing here and there, but once finished, I move on.

You have written so widely across genres and forms – comics, fiction, screenplays – that Nightmare Magazine described you as having become your own genre. What do you makes something enough of a Joe R. Lansdale story that you want to write it?

I’m excited about it. Sometimes that means it will turn out great, and sometimes I feel it will, and it doesn’t come out as great as I hoped. I always do my best, however, so I never feel like I threw one over the fence. One thing nice about Hap and Leonard is I’ve explored different kinds of crime and adventure stories with them. I like writing a variety of things, but Hap and Leonard come as close to it gets to me considering writing nothing else. I love those guys.

You’ve also talked about the novella being your favorite form to write in. Is it because of the wideness of possible word count there, or are there other considerations? People have told me we’re in the middle of a renaissance for novellas – do you think that’s true?

I think it just might be. I’ve written them for a long time, and in fact, some of my novels might be called novellas if anyone wanted to quibble.  I think novel or novella is more about how something is published. If it’s between hard covers it tends to be considered a novel, or soft covers. If it’s part of a collection, it’s considered a novella. That’s not a dyed in the wool fact, just a common consideration.

You began your writing career with nonfiction, farm articles to be precise. Has anything from that time ever snuck into a story?

Frequently, as in Mucho Mojo, though I got some of my rose farming facts confused. My old boss was quick to point that out. But it’s in several books and stories.

When you want to read short stories, what authors do you go to? Is there anyone you’d suggest people search out?

I reread a lot of older fiction. I read new stuff all the time, but it takes time for me to feel the need to reread, and then I get on a kick. I like writers that have impacted me, like Ray Bradbury, Raymond Chandler, James Cain, Ernest Hemingway, Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck. Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Mark Twain, Henry Kuttner, Cyril Kornbluth, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Jack Finney, and this list could go on.

Among your comic work is one of my favorites, Jonah Hex. Any plans to do more writing with him? Are there any comic book figures that you’d love to write but have never gotten the chance to?

Well, I haven’t been asked since Tim Truman and I did our three series run. I love comics, but I’ve satisfied a lot of my itch there, but now and again I get a bit of comic hives and I want to scratch. I would and probably will do more comic work. I no longer have any characters I’m dying to do, as I’ve done many, but who knows. A Batman comic would be fun. I’ve only written about him in animation and in  a couple of stories, a novel, and a children’s book, but no actual comics with him.

BIO: Joe R. Lansdale is the internationally-bestselling author of over fifty novels, including the popular, long-running Hap and Leonard series. Many of his cult classics have been adapted for television and film, most famously the films Bubba Ho-Tep and Cold in July, and the Hap and Leonard series on Sundance TV and Netflix. Lansdale has written numerous screenplays and teleplays, including the iconic Batman the Animated Series. He has won an Edgar Award for The Bottoms, ten Stoker Awards, and has been designated a World Horror Grandmaster. Lansdale, like many of his characters, lives in East Texas.

If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Notes From the Patreon and Other Forms of Crowdfunding Workshop

I recently taught a Patreon and Other Forms of Crowdfunding workshop for Clarion West, focusing on running an effective Patreon, and thought I’d provide some of the notes from that.

When I first started on Patreon, I remember one elderly SF writer calling it “hipster panhandling,” and I dunno… I’ve been pretty happy that I’ve stuck with it, and I know I’m giving my patrons a solid value in return for their support. It has been interesting to see some attitudes shift towards crowdfunding in general, particularly with the rise of self-publishing as a valid career approach, and nowadays it seems like Kickstarter is driving many anthology projects.

Some background for those that might want it: Crowdfunding is a way of funding (perhaps a one-time project, perhaps a long-running or ongoing entity) that depends on small contributions from many people. It can be a one-time donation or an ongoing one, like a subscription. Examples of cowdfunding platforms include Patreon, Kofi, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and Onlyfans. Patreon can be subscription or per-creation; I’ve chosen to go the subscription route.

I have been running my Patreon for a number of years now and have hooked it into my school. Along with other benefits, supporters get discounts on classes and, at higher levels, free classes. I try to post on at least a weekly basis, and to include snippets of what I’m working on. In March, I’m bringing back the story discussion group and adding one to look specifically at books on writing craft. Those events are recorded on Zoom, and the story group has been a lot of fun, particularly when we’ve had the authors in to talk about the stories as part of the discussion. I’ve tried all sorts of things over the years: weekly AMAs, recipes, serial fiction (still need to finish that one up!), etcetera, and my patrons have been patient with the various convulsions over that time.

Currently Patreon provides me somewhere between $1400-1500 per month, depending on monthly fluctuations (I am on the Premium plan, rather than the free version, which means Patreon takes less.) Some of that incoming money then flows out to pay guest teachers, depending on which classes people sign up for. Here’s the list of what’s coming up, and you can see it’s 50% guest teachers, 50% my own classes. But it ends up being a nice chunk of money that helps stabilize an income that can be pretty erratic otherwise, and which comes primarily from writing and teaching.

That money doesn’t magically fall out of the sky, though. (Alas!) It’s not a question of someone happening to read one of my stories and thinking “I loved that” and searching me out on the Internet to find out if I’ve got a tip jar on my website. That would be lovely, certainly. But it takes a level of fame and exposure I, and most writers, lack.

Plus that’s not really how tipping works, people dumping money in random containers without much reason. You have to give people something in exchange for that, even if it’s a fleeting experience. It doesn’t have to be carefully composed and polished — sometimes a random picture of a pet being cute will turn out to be one of the most popular things you’ve ever done. Authenticity is one of the best things you can give. I often provide snippets of what I’m working on, or take a look at something that I want to think about, like examining a paragraph of description to see how it works.

The most important thing that I can tell you is that Patreon or other crowd-funding efforts require work. That’s something that you have to factor in when you want to start one up. You need to figure out how to provide value for your patrons in a way that works for you. For me, hooking it into my online school was a terrific fit.

Patreon provides the tools I need, although I will continue to gripe about not being able to find old posts easily. More than anything else, I make use of the Discord server that Patreon provides me. They handle getting patrons on there, but one time out of twenty or so, I end up having to troubleshoot. The Discord server also hosts a number of students, friends, other Rambo Academy Faculty, etc, and is the place where a lot of activity gets coordinated. We’ve finally achieved enough of a critical mass that it’s a lively and entertaining community, with channels devoted not just to writing stuff, but community exchange like pet pictures and such. While on the road right now I haven’t been able to access the server and I have been sorely missing checking in.

There are a number of extra benefits like that when creating a Patreon campaign. I focused on growing that community when the pandemic started, and it’s one of the things that kept me sane and productive in the last couple of years. It’s been a great thing seeing so many students and mentees publishing in recent years, and it feels important to be making a contribution to the F&SF community not just in terms of “here’s my content, enjoy” but helping drive events and gatherings.

I think of Patreon as a side-gig, one of the freelancing projects that make up my work flow. Like any side-gig, you want to not let it derail you from the most important stuff, nor do you want to get overly dependent on it. One of the best things you can do as a writer is cultivate those small springs where you can, doing things like sending out reprints, getting speaking engagements, etc. Patreon can become a pretty good source of revenue, but it takes time, thought, and effort.

I recently did the Patreon Creator survey and that made me aware I’m not promoting mine quite as heartily as I should be, and that I’m not using every aspect. For one, I will confess that I do not look at the exit surveys when someone decides to stop, even though I really should. That’s because I had someone say something hurtful enough in one few years back that I made the conscious choice to just assume everyone’s doing it for financial reasons and just not worry about it anymore.

And that’s another thing about Patreon that I need to underscore – it can be a source of incredible encouragement, but it can also be a place — most particularly when you start out — where you feel like you’re howling into the void without anyone answering back. That one step forward, two steps back feeling can really start to come into play if you get a few people dropping off at a bad time. Build in some armor for yourself, however you need to, and remember this is your campaign. You get to do it the way that works for you, and it’s okay to experiment.

Overall, writing is a sporadic and inconsistent financial existence. One month you’ve got a hefty advance check and then the next it’s just a handful of things like that 2.23 royalty from Smashwords. A Patreon or other crowdfunded campaign can be incredibly helpful in evening some of that out — but it’s not a magic fix that will do it effortlessly.

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Classes for May

And here are the May classes, hurray!

Important Change: While the 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific slot remains the same, the other slot has moved from 1-3 PM to 12-2 PM Pacific.

Class cost is $79 for Patreon supporters and former students; otherwise $99. There are three Plunkett scholarships in each class taught by other teachers; classes that I am personally teaching will take extra ones or sliding scale as appropriate. All classes are recorded and the recording is sent out the week after class. You can register to just get the recording if you prefer; please indicate that’s what you’re doing if so.

To register for a class, mail me and include:

The class or classes
Whether or not you are a Patreon supporter/former student
How you would like to pay (Paypal, Venmo, check, other)

May 1	AM	Rebecca Demarest	     Basics of Writing Memoir
May 1	PM	Cat Rambo	             Groups, Parties & Crews: Writing Ensembles
May 7	AM	Nisi Shawl	             Working with Short Stories
May 7	PM	Jordan Kurella	             Emotional Self-care for Creatives
May 8	AM	Cat Rambo	             WTFBBQ: Writing Experimental Fiction
May 8	PM	José Pablo Iriarte	     Emotional Impact: How to Punch ‘Em in the Feelz 
May 14	AM	James L. Sutter	             Highspeed Worldbuilding, Session 1
May 14	PM	Micheal R. Underwood	     Power and Politics in Worldbuilding: Schemes, Factions, and Cultures
May 15	AM	James L. Sutter	              Highspeed Worldbuilding, Session 2
May 15	PM	Cat Rambo                    Story Fundamentals 	 
May 28	AM	Cat Rambo	             Creating an Online Presence for Writers
May 28	PM	Jordan Kurella/Shiv Ramdas   Radio Gaga: How Radio Craft Can Hone Your Writing
May 29	AM	Cat Rambo                    Freelancing, Hustles, and Sidegigs: Ways to Work without Derailing Your Writing
May 29	PM	Evan J. Peterson	     Queer is a Verb: Disrupting the Norm

Descriptions of New Classes:
Basics of Writing Memoir: (Rebecca A. Demarest) Memoirs can feel like novels, full of characters, dialogue, setting, and plot turns and twists, but they are not fiction. How does one use skills with fiction to create a memoir? Why write one, and how do you get started? What are the pitfalls that writers starting a memoir can fall into? Join us for a workshop that will get you well on the road to working with this form.
Working with Short Stories: (Nisi Shawl) Join one of the masters of the short form for a workshop focused on exploring its truths and techniques.
Radio Gaga: (Jordan Kurella/Shiv Ramdas) Radio DJs are the oral storytellers of our time, and like prose fiction writers, they do their storytelling with words. From opening hooks to narrative, dialogue to monologue, setting to emotion, characters and plot arcs to climaxes and cliffhangers, storytelling on the radio does all the same things it does on the page. Everyone’s heard the maxims about reading your work aloud when revising, well, how about taking the next step into the how and why and seeing how it can help strengthen your own story, even before you have to edit? Jordan and Shiv, former radio DJs and current SFF writers, take you through a host of host of radio techniques that not only apply to writing prose fiction- but might even help with new structural ways to look at and address all of these in your own WIP. And yes, the dreaded infodumps too!
Freelancing, Hustles, and Sidegigs: Ways to Work without Derailing Your Writing: (Cat Rambo) Being a freelancer can be one of the most erratic financial existences around and often involve a number of writing-related side jobs. How do you find and maintain such work without it impacting your writing? Cat will cover editing, teaching, crowd-funding, and other ways to supplement your writing income without eating all of your writing time.

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Classes March-April

Because I’ve got so much going on, classes are on hiatus till March, but once they start, there’s a bunch! May is coming within the week; I am still nailing down two classes for it.

Important Change: While the 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific slot remains the same, the other slot has moved from 1-3 PM to 12-2 PM Pacific.

Class cost is $79 for Patreon supporters and former students; otherwise $99. There are three Plunkett scholarships in each class taught by other teachers; classes that I am personally teaching will take extra ones or sliding scale as appropriate. All classes are recorded and the recording is sent out the week after class. You can register to just get the recording if you prefer; please indicate that’s what you’re doing if so.

To register for a class, mail me and include:

  • The class or classes
  • Whether or not you are a Patreon supporter/former student
  • How you would like to pay (Paypal, Venmo, check, other)

Here is the current list. New classes are bolded. AM classes are 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time; PM classes are 12-2 PM Pacific time.

March 5 AM Xander Odell Writing Neurodiversity
March 5 PM Cat Rambo Eating Your Words: How to Write About Food
March 6 AM Kate Heartfield Planning and Outlining Your Novel
March 6 PM Cat Rambo Principles for Pantsers
March 12 AM Cat Rambo Replying to Other Stories
March 12 PM Evan J. Peterson Two Truths and A Lie: Writing Unreliable Narrators
March 13 AM Jennifer Brozek Project Management for Writers
March 13 PM Cat Rambo Follow the Money: Using Economics in Plotting, World-building, and Character Development
March 26 AM Margaret Dunlap Demystifying Outlines
March 26 PM Cat Rambo Beginnings & Endings
March 27 AM Rebecca Demarest Building Blocks of Mystery Writing
March 27 PM Cat Rambo Dunking the Reader in the Details
April 2 AM Tracy Townsend Reading Like a Writer
April 2 PM Cat Rambo First Draft Novel Blues
April 3 AM Cat Rambo Writing Stories that Change the World
April 3 PM P.J. Manney New Mythos Class
April 9 AM Fran Wilde Cussing in Secondary Worlds
April 9 PM Sam J. Miller Writing Masculinity
April 10 AM Cat Rambo Moving From Idea to Draft
April 10 PM José Pablo Iriarte/Cat Rambo Writing Nonbinary
April 23 AM Monica Valentinelli Introduction to Game Writing
April 23 PM Cat Rambo Fixing the Broken Story
April 24 AM Catherine Lundoff So You Want to Put Together an Anthology?
April 24 PM Cat Rambo Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
April 30 AM Cat/Wayne Rambo The Algorithms of Storytelling: Design Patterns and Fiction
April 30 PM Henry Lien Outlining for Pantsers

Descriptions of new classes that don’t have pages up yet:

  • Eating Your Words: How to Write About Food: (Cat Rambo) Taste is one of the most evocative senses to explore in writing, adding new dimensions and resonances to a scene. In this workshop, we’ll talk about how to incorporate food details into your scenes and worldbuilding, including some specific techniques that we’ll test out in class. Come prepared to learn how to write drool-worthy food to delight your readers.
  • Planning and Outlining Your Novel: (Kate Heartfield) Starting a new novel can be daunting. How long will it take? How long will it really take? How many drafts should you plan for? Should you write in drafts at all? Is an outline necessary? How do outlines work, anyway? In this class, an award-winning novelist who’s been through the drafting and revision trenches many times will take you through a process to plan it all out in a way that works for you. We’ll talk about time management as well as the craft side of moving from idea to draft and beyond. And we’ll discuss the psychological side of dealing with the unexpected — and the tedious — aspects of novel writing. Suitable for those who already have an idea in progress, in any genre, and for those who don’t. We’ll do a few short exercises together in class.
  • Follow the Money: Using Economics in Plotting, World-building, and Character Development: (Cat Rambo) Far too often, writers don’t consider the economic underpinnings of the world in which they’re working. But factoring in finances can yield new story ideas as well as plot twists and turns, rich world-building details, and insight into character and motivation. How do you use economics to create not more sensible worlds — but more interesting ones?
  • Writing the New Mythos (P.J. Manney) Description to come.
  • Writing Nonbinary: (José Pablo Iriarte/Cat Rambo) What does the idea of nonbinary do to traditional ways of writing gender, and how does it create richer, more interesting characters? How do you write nonbinary characters? How does being nonbinary shape writing not just about gender, but fiction overall? Join two accomplished story writers in a class that will combine lecture, discussion and writing exercises to deepen your understanding and skills.
  • Fixing the Broken Story: Cat Rambo Sometimes you know a story isn’t working, but you don’t know why. Identifying gaps and structural problems is the first step to fixing them. In this workshop you will learn techniques for identifying what’s missing in a story and then fixing the problem through a mixture of lecture, discussion, and in-class exercises. bring a story (or two) that you want to work on!
  • Outlining for Pantsers: (Henry Lien) This workshop teaches writers a painless but powerful technique to create a plot outline for their novel or story without killing spontaneity or discovery. Instructor Henry Lien has developed a Plot Grid technique to offfload the outlining process to a document that will keep track of the plotting for you. The Plot Grid allows for a sort of x-ray vision revealing the rhythm of your plot threads, and is scalable from the beat level to the act level. The workshop also explores how a) the Plot Grid delegates plot structure to a document that can be manipulated and rearranged in a mechanical way, freeing you to disregard structure and remain spontaneous; b) the Plot Grid allows you to see and be in control of your story like you’ve never been able to before; and c) The Plot Grid enables you to write stories that you couldn’t have before because their architecture or choreography were too intricate. Students will leave the workshop with a finished portion of their Plot Grid and clear steps on how to complete it for the rest of their novel. Note from Cat: I expect this class to run well over the two-hour mark.
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Guest Post: The Belfast Bar’s Beer-Battered Cod from The Big Cinch by Kathy L. Brown

The Big Cinch. (Art by Renato Pinto.)

In the prohibition-era, supernatural noir novel, The Big Cinch, Sean Joye, a young veteran of 1922’s Irish Civil War, has made his way to his brother’s place in the United States and into the employ of an ambitious judge. The courthouse charwoman, Mrs. MacSweeney, decides he’s just the person to rid the place of some troublesome haunts that only she can see. She shows up at Sean’s brother’s pub to convince him to do his duty.

Mrs. Mac’s Ghost Problem

Mrs. Mac’s whiskey seemed to take effect and she tucked into her dinner like a starving person. “I’m a God-fearing, Christian woman. I’ve never been a drinker. I marched with the temperance ladies. I’ve no truck with the devil or his wiles. But the new courts building is cursed. I’ve felt it since we moved in. And it’s getting worse. The vile things are bolder every day.”

“But why do you think I can help you with ghosts?”

She considered her words.

I waited, anointing my fish with malt vinegar. We batter the cod here, as Grandmother Joye did. No soggy breadcrumbs. Makes all the difference.

“I say ‘get thee behind me, Satan.’ But I was cursed with a bit of the Sight, I suppose,” she said at last. “‘Twas worse when I was a girl. But when you came outta the lobby this morning, I could see their mark on you. They’ve claimed you as one of their own.”

One way or the other, the fae are responsible for humans with the Sight—a knack for seeing the unseen and knowing the unknown—and we recognize each other. Perhaps outright, or maybe just an attraction to a kindred spirit. But in those days, I refused to look at many things I could plainly see.

“Do you want pie? I want pie.” I half stood and waved at Maud. “Is there apple?”

Mrs. Mac sopped up the grease on her plate with a bit of bread and popped it into her mouth. “No one believes me. I’ve about been sacked for warning folks.”

“What can I do?” I had a thought. “Shall I find you a priest?”

She about choked on her Bevo. “The Church of Rome has no answer here, boy.” She looked pleased though, as Maud brought warm pie with cheddar cheese. “No offense. I know it’s the way you was raised and you don’t know no better.”

“None taken.” I agreed to coffee at Maud’s suggestion and the child poured it for the two of us. “So, not saying you are right or wrong about me and what I might see or feel or know—”

“I want them to leave me alone. To go back to Hell and leave me be. Seeing as you know them, I thought you could tell the haunts that.”

I couldn’t deny I’d run smack dab into the Veil before. But I didn’t need this bother right now. I didn’t want it. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just don’t see how I can help you.”

Her faded blue eyes turned bright with anger. She gripped her fork like a weapon. “‘Tis a shame you’re marked for damnation.”

Grandmother Joye’s Beer-Battered Cod

Sometimes people use cornmeal or even breadcrumbs to prepare fried fish. But, according to Sean, that would be wrong.

  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen Icelandic cod (If frozen, unthaw completely.)
  • Salt and pepper to season fish
  • 1 ½ cups flour, plus more for dredging the fish
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 12 oz Smithwick’s Ale (Or any mild ale or lager. Grandmother doesn’t like the effect of high heat on stouts or IPA.)
  • Melted lard or shortening or vegetable oil
  • Malt vinegar, lemon wedges, and tartar sauce as desired

Beer and Fish: The batter makes all the difference. (Photo by ndemello from Pixabay.)

Pat fish fillets dry and cut into individual portions. Lightly salt and pepper them, then dredge in the flour.

Thoroughly mix 1 ½ cups of flour, baking powder, salt, and dill together with a fork.

Stir in the beaten egg and enough beer to make a thin, pancake-like batter.

Submerge each piece of dredged fish in the batter briefly, then set aside for a few minutes while oil heats. (This is messy work. Take care the fish fillets don’t fall apart)

Using a heavy skillet, melt the cooking fat to a depth of ¼ to ½ inches. Heat at moderately high heat until shimmery. Test the oil temperature with a spoonful of the batter. If it cooks up to a golden-brown dollop in about 60 seconds, the oil is ready for the fish.

Avoid crowding the pieces in the pan. Cook on each side about 3-4 minutes (depending on thickness of fillet) until golden brown. Grandmother didn’t have an instant read thermometer, but the fish would have an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.

Serve hot with malt vinegar, lemon wedges, or tartar sauce. Fried potatoes (chips) are the traditional side dish.

Author Photo: Kathy L. Brown. (Photo by Jon Aikin.)

BIO: Kathy lives and writes in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Her hometown and its history inspire her fiction. When she’s not thinking about how haunted everything is, she enjoys hiking, crafts, and cooking for her family. Her novel, The Big Cinch, published by Montag Press, continues the supernatural noir Sean Joye investigations described in her novella, The Resurrectionist, and novelette, Water of Life.  All stories are available as paperbacks and e-books from Amazon.com and paperback from Barnes & Noble. Wolfhearted: A Novella is a secondary-world, YA fantasy. Follow her on Instagram at kathylbrownwrites, Facebook at kbKathylbrown, and Twitter at KL_Brown. Kathy’s blog, Kathy L. Brown Writes the Storytelling Blog, lives at kathylbrown.com.

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Hurray! It’s Time for the 2021 Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Holiday Sale!

The holiday sale is over!

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