This Weekend: I Love a Writer!


Our writers’ resort at the beach has many workshops on the horizon, and there is still space available for the upcoming I Love a Writer Weekend. This would be a great gift for the writer in your life! More information is available below, and all retreats/workshops are easily purchased through the links provided.

February 12-15 • I Love a Writer Weekend

Do you love a writer? Or maybe you love writing? Spend a weekend connecting with your partner and your muse. This couple’s weekend will be designed to inspire and encourage connection. Balancing creativity and relationships can be hard. Take some time to appreciate your partner and the arts. We will have activities for non-writers, writing time and couples time. Candle-lit dinner included! Cost is $300 per couple. Hosted by Jennifer Barnes.
Book Here

March 25-28 • Create a Kindle Book in a Weekend
(optional add-on writing days March 29-April 3)

Brainstorm, compose, edit, format and upload a Kindle book in just three days! You’ll need to do a little prep before this weekend but you’ll come out the other end with a completed product ready for sale.  This workshop is ideal for any level of writer from unpublished to those with multiple releases. Learn speed techniques and leave your inner editor behind. Never self-published on Kindle before? We’ll walk you through the set-up. Add optional extra writing days to fit your schedule and work on longer projects. Cost for the weekend is $350 and includes basic proofreading and cover design consultation, add-on days are $65 per night. Share a room and get $75 back (Email us for details on shared rooms). Hosted by John Edward Lawson.
Book Here

smaller_black_and_whiteApril 15-18 • Fiction with Limits Workshop

Flash fiction, prose poetry forms, and rigidly limited word count fiction writing is a challenge that can lead to jumping off points for longer pieces or just makes for a unique challenge. If you’re feeling blocked or just want to learn to harness the power of economy of words, learn how drabbles, tweet-length fiction, and even story sonnets can help reboot your creativity. Hosted by K.W. Taylor.
Book Here

May 6-9 • Create a Kindle Book in a Weekend
(optional add-on writing days May 10-15)

Brainstorm, compose, edit, format and upload a Kindle book in just three days! You’ll need to do a little prep before this weekend but you’ll come out the other end with a completed product ready for sale.  This workshop is ideal for any level of writer from unpublished to those with multiple releases. Learn speed techniques and leave your inner editor behind. Never self-published on Kindle before? We’ll walk you through the set-up. Add optional extra writing days to fit your schedule and work on longer projects. Cost for the weekend is $350 and includes basic proofreading and cover design consultation, add-on days are $65 per night. Share a room and get $75 back (Email us for details on shared rooms). Hosted by John Edward Lawson.
Book Here

May 21st, 1:00-8:00 • Broadkill Resort Open House

Come for a visit to check out the guesthouse. It’s likely that we’ll have a beach bonfire, literary activities, fundraising, refreshments and more. More details soon. If you would like to spend the night Email us for details.

Only Human by Mike Mehalek

“Dragons do not cry. They control their emotions. That is what all dragons were taught, but I am now the only one alive to remember this lesson.” 
Cover Art by Allie Raines
Now for sale at Amazon

What does it mean to be a human? 

Meet Vincent, a most unusual dragon who has been trying to avoid answering that particular question for thousands of years, ever since his kind banished him and forced him to spend the rest of his life as a human. When a new love arrives unexpectedly, Vincent discovers that the only way to find happiness is to revisit his violent past and to confront his uncertain future. Haunting, heart-felt, and sometimes funny, Vincent discovers that even through tragedy, the things we most often try to avoid are those that make us whole.

What others have said

ONLY HUMAN takes you on a journey through Vincent’s past lives and loves as he navigates his present incarnation and the darkness that follows him throughout the ages.

Heidi Ruby Miller, author of Greenshift

There’s lots to love about ONLY HUMAN: action, mystery, secrets revealed and redemption. Add to that dragons (who doesn’t love dragons?), wicked bad guys and an all-too-human narrator who will win your heart…the strongest element of this book is the love story…This is an epic, timeless story and a small intimate one at the same time. Dip your toe in, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

-Jennifer Barnes, editor at Raw Dog Screaming Press

Purchased and enjoying!!…AND I had a dream I was a flying dragon last night! It was awesome!

-Amazon Reader

Watch the trailer below


For fun

Who would play the characters in the movie version?

About Me

Mike Mehalek writes fast-paced lyrical books that can be enjoyed with one reading but have enough substance for re-reading. He brings stories to life that demand to be told, regardless of the hopes/dreams/fears/desires of his characters-the Story first-always the Story. 

He’d love for you to visit him at his blog, Writing is Tricky

or on Twitter @mikemehalek

If you’d like to join his email list, please email

with like to join in the subject line.

Peckinpah Pre-order Available!

peckinpah-preorderThe second edition of Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance by D. Harlan Wilson is now available for pre-order. In addition to a new introduction and cover design, pre-orders will also be signed and include a free short story!

To get your own copy visit the publisher’s pre-order page at

“A frighteningly talented cultural theorist and writer … D. Harlan Wilson’s latest novel, Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance, is a gore-shock Kafkaesque rampage that clips along like Peckinpah’s trademark editing—alternately slow and fast—and … will likely thrill fans of Peckinpah and those who have never heard of him alike.”
The Pedestal Magazine

Halloween Yet Forward

Happy Halloween, everyone! This post deals with a new interview, an anthology appearance, and more, but first: I don’t know about you, but this is my favorite time of year. Having said that, many of us are still suffering from the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy. I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and warm during this time.

On that somber note I’ll not be segueing into goblins and other such seasonal creepy-crawlies which may denote silliness, depending on the reader’s perspective. Instead I harken back to a familiar refrain for those following me online these last few months. And that is support of author Donna Munro during her struggle with cancer. How are we achieving this? By means of the multi-genre anthology Hazard Yet Forward.

Earlier this year when Donna was diagnosed with cancer her fellow Seton Hill alumni members organized this anthology. Who better to do so than graduates from one of the only MFA programs for writing popular fiction? The result is a massive collection of short fiction over 700 pages in length, spanning horror, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and more. I was lucky enough to be included in this project despite not being part of the Seton Hill family; you can read how that came about in my post Moving Forward Despite the Danger.The piece I contributed is a reprint titled “The Invisible Girl.” It’s a longish surreal, quiet horror tale, and has always been a favorite of mine. Beyond that so many of the other works are just plain great. Most importantly all proceeds from the sale of this anthology go directly to Donna and her family to assist them during this difficult time. If you are not in dire straights yourself after the destruction brought by Sandy, or already contributing to hurricane relief efforts, perhaps you’ll consider investing the $9.99 required for this cause. If nothing else it will make a great gift for the avid reader in your life during the back end of this holiday season, when joy and goodwill triumph over the fear and gloom ushered in by Halloween.

Now, you might be wondering what all of that has to do with October 31st, or Halloween specifically. I’m one of the Hazard Yet Forward contributors spotlighted in Jason Jack Miller’s Sound Check at Inveterate Media Junkies (IMJ) today. Check it out at Over 30 of us are featured here as of today in brief interviews. Learn more about the history surrounding our contributions, our creative process, our thoughts on the genres and the craft, and more. Several of those involved in the Hazard Yet Forward project are also contributors to the media reviews and news site Inveterate Media Junkies and have donated their column space to bring you these features. This continued spirit of generosity from them does not surprise me, nor does that of Inveterate Media Junkies itself after having gotten to know the site owners. Yes, in the interest of transparency I will put it out there that I’m also a contributor to the site as recently announced.

Having said all that I hope you and yours have a fun, scary time tonight! I’ve been so busy with storm prep–and weathering the storm itself–that my son’s costume has fallen by the wayside, as have any treats to be given out. I’d better go get on that unless I want to deal with a despondent child this evening, and a front yard bedecked in toilet paper come the morning. In the meantime I hope you find my interview entertaining, particularly my selection of weapons for the zombie apocalypse.

Beyond This Point You Die

I’ve got a message for you
and you’re not gonna like it
The poison is in you
It’s something you’re born with
and you’re not gonna fight it
You’re too weak to fight it
Nothing left but to feed it
until it’s strong enough to feed on you
–Acumen Nation, “Message From the Grave”

The is a signpost for all who are considering a career based solely on their writing talents. If you’re like me you will meet all sorts of wonderful authors, agents, artists, actors, directors, special effects people, fans, librarians, retailers, and more during your time in the business. Unique people you would not otherwise encounter. They will encourage you, respect you, assist with your career, and just overall actively like you. You’ll see them at events all over the country on a regular basis.

“This sounded like a warning was on the way,” you’re likely saying, oozing relieved exasperation. “Hanging out with famous people is a problem?!”

As much as they make you feel like you’re part of something, as much as they make you feel like a rock star for the weekend, there’s always the return to real life. The life that involves not having friends because you’ve spent the last thirteen years locked away in your house furiously keystroking away. The life that involves groceries and credit cards. Airplane tickets and hotels each cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention the fact somebody needs to take care of your child when you travel for business.

It’s tempting to fall into the trap of attending every fan convention and business conference you hear about because one more tip might pan out, it might make all the difference this time. One more editor of magazines or anthologies or books might take a liking to you and help secure your financial future. And whether that happens or not, there’s still the addictive feeling of being around people who actually like you–which is one reason why I expressed such concern over certain happenings at industry events in a recent post. But it’s not all rainbows and pancakes, folks. There is a limit to resources such as time and money. Where does one draw the line?

Okay, so, I’ve been an author for thirteen years. If you are imagining me sitting around wearing–or not wearing–whatever I want, you are correct. No need to maintain the hygiene standard or one’s personal appearance in the dark cave of creation. Surely that has merit. And by working from home I’ve saved tens of thousands in childcare costs over the years. Yeah, I live in the Washington, DC area when I should be living someplace like Oklahoma, where the cost of living is forty percent less. I don’t purchase anything new, nor do I buy things used. I buy food. In other areas I tend to rely on hand-me-downs and freebies–it’s amazing what you can find on Freecycle. Sometimes I go to a thrift store. But I don’t get books, movies, music, or collectibles. That’s what birthdays and holidays are for.

My high school wardrobe is all gone, save for one T-shirt. And yes, I still wear it. When I say that you should know my high school 20th reunion is coming up in two months. My mother tends to buy me slacks, jeans, and shoes as gifts, meaning I don’t worry about purchasing those items; I must make those two or three pairs of pants and one or two pairs of shoes last until the next year. Sometimes she even buys long sleeve shirts for me, and shirts–as noted above–can last quite a while.

Still, though, a person needs money to get by at some point, and eventually you cross a responsibility threshold. In my case I have to cut my losses and abandon four conventions I was thinking of attending in the second half of 2012. I’ll be updating my events page shortly, and to any who might have been counting on seeing me I offer my apologies. For now isolation is the best option. Of course, it’s not true isolation: I interact with the people in my household, my next door neighbors, and clerks at the post office or grocery store. Occasionally I see my in-laws, or my mother. For the most part, though, I get through the day without having to use my voice, and that’s not entirely bad. Other people might wither and die under such conditions, I suspect, and I worry about them choosing this career path.

“Okay, okay,” you’re saying. “Enough bellyaching. We all know that writing is art, and as an artist you’re living the art life. You’re living the dream.”

There is a difference between being a writer and an author. I attempt to relate this to people all the time, but my words seem to slide off the Teflon of their meninges. The message is this: if you want to be a “writer” pick up a pen or pencil. Commit words to paper. Better yet, go contemporary and use an electronic device such as a computer or tablet. Boom! You’re a writer. Put your creations in a drawer, go about your business, and perhaps you can take the Emily Dickinson route to posthumous fame and fortune.

To be an “author,” however, your primary goal is making a career of writing in the here and now. That requires writing for profit as opposed to writing for fun, being professional in your interactions, and making the same investment of resources in “yourself as a business” that would be expected from any other entrepreneur. Allow me to supply a quick checklist of facts to assist with a smooth transition into your career as an author:

  • On the average it takes six years before getting your first sale.
  • The average first-time novelist is 40 years old.
  • Six percent of authors are able to derive their full income from writing alone. The other ninety-four percent are not.
  • As a freelancer you do not have a benefits package. There is no retirement plan, there are no paid sick days, paid vacation days, paid holidays, or paid “family leave” days–you know, like being able to go and bury your family members, help take care of their children, estate, and all that good stuff. There is no health, dental, or eye coverage. Sure, you can buy insurance as an individual, but for the cost you better hope you fall gravely ill to make the expense worth it. Although, in fairness, there are a couple organizations–such as SFWA–through which you can get coverage.
  • Speaking of organizations for authors, a pay scale considered professional by them is often in the neighborhood of five cents per word. With the average novel being 80,000 words in length that comes out to $4,000, meaning to break the single person’s poverty line you have to not only write and edit but also sell three novels per year. If you have a spouse and child you need to write and sell five books a year to break the poverty line. If you intend to be the bread winner, that is. Remember the term “professional” implies a career. Is this sounding like a career so far?
  • Post script: I’ve been told the standard in Charles Dickens’ came out to five cents a word. When you research the matter you find that adjusted for inflation they were getting $1.47 per word.
  • The National Writers Union has been pushing for $1 per word for about eleven years now. I like to think it will be the standard someday, even though it’s a third lower than the going rate back when slavery was legal.
  • No, this is not all the product of mendacious altruism on the part of author organizations. That’s just what happens when the burden of establishing payment is on the employees as opposed to being on the employers. Not unlike professional wrestlers us authors are viewed as independent contractors, and as such don’t qualify for the benefits received by the “real” employees of the companies we work for, often have to cover our own travel to events, and so forth. And like the charity wrestling events to raise funds for sick pro wrestlers we authors have charity anthologies and other such drives to generate funds for the sick in our ranks. What incentive do publishers have to change this system? Everything else in place a century ago for business and society is still in place, right? Why not do the same in publishing.
  • Last time I checked the average member of WGA–the Writers Guild of America, which is the union of screenwriters–makes $90,000 a year from sales and residuals (aka royalties). Hollywood studios are allowed to only work with WGA members. How to get into this organization? Easy, just have a movie deal in place already. Joseph Heller wrote a book about it one time.
  • Back to the real world of publishing–such as it is–McGraw Hill is the lone book publisher in the Fortune 500. Of course, they generate significant income from sales of software, professional development for teachers and administrators, testing materials, lab manuals, study guides, and self-published textbooks through McGraw Hill Create. But yeah, they also find time to sell books.
  • On a panel at AWP (the Associated Writing Programs conference) SPD (Small Press Distribution) said their average book sold fifty-six copies per year. That may sound bad, but the average self-published title sells about 100 copies total.
  • In 2002 there were 247,777 books published in the United States; in 2011 there were 3,092,740. Yes, in less than a decade competition for each book sale or review is 12.5 times higher. And somehow there was a nine percent DROP in book sales from 2010 to 2011? During a sickening increase in the number of books made available to the public? Is Congress running the publishing industry? Actually, the government does regulate everything associated with the economic crash that left less spending money in the hands of consumers…but I digress…
  • In Fortune 500’s listing of fifty-three major industries in the USA the printing/publishing industry ranked #49. And that’s only because when you broaden it to printing and all forms of print media there are fourteen companies in the Fortune 1000. Only two of them are book publishers. McGraw Hill, and Scholastic–who, like McGraw Hill, derives much of its revenue from teaching tools as opposed to just book sales. Sooooooooo…maybe it’s not just authors in the poorhouse, eh? Publishing in general isn’t looking so hot.
  • Technical writers make $53,000 a year on the average. Go write corporate letters, reports, and best practices binders. No? You’re not a “corporate whore,” you’re a “serious writer?” Be prepared to make–surprise!–between $2,000 and $10,000 a year. Even a “good” contract with an advance of $50,000 could be three years in the making when considering writing, revisions, getting an agent, doing the revisions requested by the agent, then the agent generating interest and finally a sale. Fifty grand split between three years’ work breaks down to less than $17,000 per year–Walmart wages!
  • If you are an author you function poorly as a citizen of the United States. Get it? Poorly? Ha ha.
  • But seriously folks, you’re likely stroking your chin and thinking, “Hmm. That Lawson guy’s grape harvest is sour this year.” Or, “Hey, you don’t want it to turn out like that then just don’t be a failure!” On the contrary I’m quite happy with my accomplishments–and yes, I do have accomplishments. I’ve been a finalist for the Stoker Award. I’ve been a finalist for the Wonderland Award. I’ve had two nominations for the Rhysling Award. I’ve had two nominations for the Dwarf Stars Award. I was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I’ve won all kinds of writing competitions which came with all variety of prizes, the largest of these being the Fiction International Emerging Writers Competition–which paid what was at the time a pro rate and publication in a prestigious literary journal. I get paid to travel the country and speak, be a guest of honor, teach workshops at places like Rutgers University and Seton Hill University among others. A lot of authors have told me I influenced them; in fact my core audience seems to be authors, judging from my sales–yeah, there’s not a lot of authors. While I might be able to get by on street cred and admiration I cannot feed it to my son, nor clothe him in it.
  • I’ve also heard editors at major publishing houses are not in the business of subsidizing art. They are in the business of massaging egos. The logic is this: make the story progression simple enough that somebody who may or may not have a high school education can guess each outcome before it happens, making them “feel intelligent.” The sensation of possessing intellectual prowess is gratifying, inducing the reader to purchase more titles from that author/publisher. This is the advertising strategy they employ, because they are throwing the books at anybody and everybody, using shelf space in grocery stores and airports and anywhere else somebody who isn’t a devoted reader will be. Look up the Lester Dent writing method. Print it out, put it in a place of honor, and grovel before it daily. It will be your formula from now on if you want to “make it.” It’s a buyer’s market, so you have to do whatever they please if you want that $$$. O-ho! Thought you could get away with not being a corporate whore? The truth is you are correct in that whores actually get paid, but authors not so much, making you just a corporate slut, because as we all know sluts do it for free. Treat the reader, and yourself, with as little respect as possible.
  • There are a few authors who are able to pull off the formula while at the same time creating something beautiful and full of art, without ever making a whore, slut, or lowest common denominator fool of anybody involved. It gives me hope to see such authors doing well; I was fortunate enough to evaluate one such manuscript for a friend earlier this summer, and have every confidence she will conquer the world. I intend to emulate her approach from this point forward, despite knowing at this late stage I can’t achieve the success she has. My track record of low sales disallows “big” contracts. Still, if I can get even “modest” contracts that will be an improvement for me.

You may be pondering the age-old, “If you could do it differently would you?” Irrelevant. If I were capable of something different I would be doing something else. My neurological and experiential composition preclude all other courses of action. That is why I am returning to the dark cave of creation from whence I came. Plus the fact a thirteen year gap in your employment record doesn’t help at job interviews, nor does a lack of even an undergraduate degree. Once you’re this far along the only way out is to find a way further in.

Now, if my signpost reading “Beyond This Point You Die” has not been constructed with letters blarlingly large and gaudy enough to be seen from the other side of creation…I offer a selection from my latest poetry collection, SuiPsalms, because, well, I feel like it:

You Will Not Meet Me

When we bump into each other
on the street, when we are
introduced by an acquaintance,
when we are pressed together
by the tides of a party: you will
not meet me. Not halfway, nor
a third. Your vision is blurred
by the retroviral
suspicion that I could be
a degenerate descendant of Yahwe’s
anger and remorse. My approach
is cloaked in a rotten egg
smell that begs the question
Did somebody pull God’s finger?

You will not greet me.
Despite the countless lumens
exuding from my pores a darkness
slips through, eclipsing your
smile. You will be assured
I am merely dirty from my travels,
my long fall before deplaning,
my meat slow-smoked and full
of carcinogens, soot circling
in my eyes.

You will not embrace me.
Instead your vigorous hand-
shakes sweat and suffocate
within the confines of your jockstrap.
The back-pat of camaraderie
is tucked away in the pocket
of your other jacket, the one that fell
victim to a Korean dry cleaning conspiracy.
The brittle peck on the cheek
is stuffed in your bra,
its sincerity enough only to fill
one side, the mastectomy
of etiquette.

You will not meet me
.000000000000001 to the 10 billionth power %
of the way. What necessitates this
calculus of avoidance? What cultural
steroids were administered to make
you + me non-Euclidian
in scope? This withering
divisibility, this non-reciprocal
subtraction, this utterly predictable
stiletto massage administered
with intimate familiarity.

You will remember
some man, some pretender, some
time you wish had not been
wasted, soiled by misrepresentation.
But you will remember.

Moving Forward Despite the Danger

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
~Dr. Seuss

I travel a lot, and as such am accustomed to meeting people. Sometimes they are even good people, and that’s nice. Occasionally I’m lucky enough to meet great people, and it is those instants I realize just how fortunate I am to live in a time and place where it is possible to be an author/editor. Meeting incredible people, however, is something I don’t know how to deal with. It doesn’t happen. We live in a culture saturated by mythologies–the incredible event, the incredible friendship, the incredible romance–all playing out thousands of times a day for us in film, television, and literature. Thus far 2012 has afforded me the opportunity to actually meet not just one, but multiple incredible people, and have incredible experiences, and develop incredible friendships. I’m fairly certain they’ll have to make a movie, book, and television show about it all some day.

In June I found myself in the auspicious position of being an editor guest of Seton Hill University’s In Your Write Mind Workshop. On the first evening of the workshop a large group of us went out to dinner at Primanti Brothers, a western Pennsylvania tradition. Among the ten of us I found myself positioned next to an unfamiliar face. The woman’s name was Donna, and despite my poor small talk skills it was clear Donna was friendly and intelligent. We talked again at a room party much later that night, but I didn’t realize until the next day she was one of the handful of organizers for the entire workshop.

It’s called a workshop, but it’s really a writing conference in terms of size and scope, only it’s more valuable than most conferences you’ll find yourself attending. Donna had a huge role in making that happen, especially the Gatsby Costume Ball. Looking back on it I cannot believe the whole thing only took four days; it has all the memories and significance of entire months of my life.

It came out a couple weeks later that Donna had been diagnosed with breast cancer. When considering the interval of time it takes to receive medical test results it seems entirely likely that she was operating at the workshop with the prospect of having breast cancer weighing on her. To function gracefully during the 24/7 workload and sensory assault that was the In Your Write Mind Workshop merely being a participant would be difficult for a lot of us, not to mention being an organizer and participant…but then to heap that extra level of stress on with health concerns. You would have never known it from how she conducted herself publicly.

Not surprisingly those involved with Seton Hill’s Popular Fiction Writing MFA program banded together to create a charity anthology unlike any other. At well over 700 pages, with works ranging from romance to horror, from fantasy to mystery to science fiction, Hazard Yet Forward anthology gives you your money’s worth while knowing ALL the proceeds go to assisting with Donna’s medical costs. This is one of those rare times when you can actually give back to somebody who regularly gives all they have to the writing community, and it has been made a matter of convenience. For more information, or to purchase, simply visit:

And yes, I have a story in the table of contents. There are almost 80 authors in all, ranging from veterans to new voices, all of whom are quite accomplished. Please allow us to entertain you in exchange for your support of Donna’s continued cancer treatment.

Updated Workshop Itinerary

+++NEW INFO+++

Raw Dog Screaming Press will be at the In Your Write Mind workshop at Seton Hill University, Thursday June 21-Sunday June 24. Here is my schedule:

6/22 1:00 – 5:00 pm Pitch Sessions – John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes

6/22 7:00 – 10:00 pm Mass Autograph Signing – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

6/23 9:00 – 10:15 am Benefits of Publishing with a Small Press – John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes

6/23 2:30 – 3 45 pm Future of Publishing – John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes

6/23 4:00 – 5:15 pm Agents and Editors Panel – John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes

6/23 at the stroke of awesome Gatsby Costume Ball – dress to depress!