Back in the Field: Writers in the Field returns for 2022

TL;DL: Writers in the Field, a unique, outdoor hands-on event for writers, is October 8 & 9 in the Dallas area. Click links for schedule (see also stations) and tickets. I’ll see you there.

“A grown-up field trip” for authors

Writers know that the best kind of research is hands-on experience. Something that you have actually done is much easier to viscerally and authentically convey to a reader than something you have only read or watched videos about. Almost as good as doing it yourself is being able to talk face-to-face with an expert. Unfortunately, not everything lends itself to easily acquiring hands-on experience and it is a rare author who has an expert for everything on speed dial.

Enter Writers in the Field (WitF) … a unique two-day event providing us with the hands-on experiences and access to helpful experts that allows us to bring these activities and lifestyles vividly and credibly to life in our work.   “It’s a one-of-a-kind outdoor, grown-up field trip filled with experts, new information, and tons of inspiration,” explained Kathryn McClatchy, vice-president of WORD (Writers Organizations ‘Round Dallas), who handles promotions and media for WitF.

Firing black powder weapons at Writers in the Field 2019 (photo: Jon Black}

After two years off because of COVID, the WitF team is overflowing with energy and enthusiasm for 2022. “It feels like we’re a bit out of practice,” McClatchy admits. “But we’re so happy to reconnect with our community of writers and experts. It is also very exciting to have new members of the team bringing fresh life and new skill sets to the event.”

Programming for 2022 reflects of mix of popular favorites and exciting new opportunities. Some of this year’s highlights, old and new, include:

  • Becky Burkheart on Horseback Writing (all things equestrian for authors) as well as session on soap making
  • Genevieve Dodd of Tea Punk Teas on Historical Moments in Tea
  • Dan Greenig on Tech for Writers
  • Georgina Holzmeirer on Dowsing Rods
  • Detective RJ Hanson on Criminal Investigation: Details and Dummies
  • Tex Tompson on forensic lock-smithing, lock picking and breaking and entering  

“I always think of Writers in the Field as a buffet of skilled professionals,” said presenter and author RJ Hanson. Digging deeply into his law enforcement/investigation career for the Criminal Investigation class, Hanson says the tagline for his presentation should be “Crime and murder, you’re doing it wrong.” He looks forward to sharing aspects of a few real-word cases with attendees and taking questions to help authors with particular issues they’re having . But Hanson isn’t going to let them go without showing they’ve learned something. “I will hand out a statement from an actual kidnapping case, quiz them on it, and show them the technique I used to prove its veracity.”

Writers in the Field also includes sessions on the craft and business of writing. Among this year’s options are “Publishing Wide” by Adam D. Jones, “Scene and Structure” by Keith Goodnight, “Villain Character Development” by Amanda Arista, “Writing in Vivid Color” by Lisa Bell, and  “You Got Science in My Fiction” by Rhonda Eudaly.   

Tex Thompson shows the noobs a thing or two about locks, Writers in the Field 2019 (photo: Jon Black)

While there are a few indoor classrooms on site, most of Writers in the Field (as the name suggests) occurs outdoors. In 2022, the event is returning to its traditional location at the Steampunk November grounds in Mansfield, Texas (on the southern edge of Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area). Camping is available ($25 for the entire weekend, payable at registration) and the weather is supposed to be beautiful (I’m a writer, not a weather god) partly cloudy with highs in low 80s and lows in upper 50s.

If camping is a bit too much “field” in your “Writers in the Field” don’t worry, there are a variety of hotel and AirBnB options nearby.


WHAT: Two days of hands-on activities and demonstrations on topics handled (and often mishandled) in fiction.

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, October 8 & 9, 2022.

WHERE: The Steampunk November grounds, 492 Cordes Dr., Mansfield, TX 76084

HOW: Tickets ($65 for all weekend)

WHY: Because it’s awesome (have you not been reading all this?)

INFO: WitF Website

Becky Burkheart is on a mission to make sure writers get horses right! Writers in the Field 2019 (photo: Jon Black)

Diving into The Green Muse

This month sees the release of my first Mythos story, “The Green Muse” part of the innovative anthology The Chromatc Courtedited by Peter Rawlik and published by 18th Wall Productions.

The Chromatic Court by [Rawlik, Peter, Morgan, Christine, Pulver Sr., Joseph S., Mackintosh, Paul StJohn, Lai, Rick, Black, Jon, Grant, John Linwood, Barrass, Glynn Owen, Harris, Micah S.]The Chromatic Court is anthology of horror/dark fantasy anthology exploring the connection between color, art, and the powerful entities of the Cthulhu Mythos, drawing especially heavily on the feel flavor, and weird meanace of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow.

As someone who has been a fan of the  Mythos since college, I’m very excited about this story, and very excited to talk about it. So, I thought I’d play Q & A with myself by sharing the author interview compiled by my publisher.

… also, I may be the first person in the history of the universe to quote Ralph Wiggum while discussing the Cthulhu Mythos.

Q) Tell us about your story?

Johannes Chazot’s Illustration for “The Green Muse.”

A) Set in the fertile artistic and literary scene of 1910s Montmartre, The Green Muse chronicles the journey of Drieu Gaudin, a novice reporter at Paris’ top arts and culture newspaper. His editor, a man of very traditional artistic sensibilities, assigns Drieu to report on the murders of several Cubist painters. Seeking to unravel the mystery behind the artists’ bizarre deaths, Drieu is challenged not only by one of Frank Belknap Long’s most celebrated creations but by encounters with the Parisian avant-gardes’ leading lights: Picasso, Modigliani, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Max Jacob.


Max Jacob waits to encoutner readers in “The Green Muse.”

Q) What is your favorite part of your story and why?
A) This project was a labor of love for me. For a very long time, Paris’ artistic scene in the early part of the 20 th century has captivated me and inspired voracious reading on the topic. The greatest joy of The Green Muse was breathing life into the enchanting world of 1910s Montmartre. Within that broader answer, it was especially gratifying to shine some light on poet Max Jacob, a figure unfortunately and undeservedly less well known than the other historical artists who appear in the story. Spoiler Alert: it was also exciting to expand on the fascinating yet under-explored mythology of the Hounds of Tindalos.


Q) Every story in The Chromatic Court details a noble,  a powerful Mythos entity, and the art form they hold sway over. What is your entity’s art and what drew you to it? 
A) As anyone familiar with my work is likely aware, music is my greatest passion among the arts. Painting, however, runs a close second. This is especially true of painting from this particular time and this particular place; as artists began grappling with the question of what the invention of photography meant for painting. Movements such as Cubism and Fauvism arose from attempts to answer that critical and vexing question. As Picasso observes in “The Green Muse…”

“Painting is dead. At least painting as you know it. Photography killed it. But, in death, painting is free. Our quest is figuring out where it goes from here.”


“Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!”

Q) In The Chromatic Court, every Mythos entity and their art is also tied into a specific color. What is your noble’s color, and why?
A) As revealed in the title, green. I could point out the relevance of green to the absinthe which features so prominently in the era and in the story, but as Ralph Wiggum says, “The rat symbolizes obviousness.” Less explicitly but more importantly is that color’s connection with envy, specifically the jealousy Montmartre’s artist feel for each other’s success, talent, and romantic prowess. In various forms, jealousy is a driving force for the main characters of “The Green Muse,” Drieu and Cara, as well as some of its historcial figures,  like Picasso.

Q) How do you approach writing Mythos fiction, particularly when it’s a mix of the Cthulhu Mythos and Chambers’ Yellow Mythos?
A) For me, the most important element of successful Mythos fiction is believably but compellingly conveying the protagonist’s mental journey from the comforting illusion of everyday life to the sub-rosa Mythos reality beneath. When blending Lovecraft and Chambers, the challenge is balancing the Outer Gods’ concrete if alien terrors with the latent and more diffuse menace of The King in Yellow.

Read Chapter One from “The Green Muse.”

Inside “Swinging Londons”

(A novel in an anthology? My story, like the TARDIS itself, is bigger on the inside than the outside)

This month sees the release of Defending Earth, a  charity anthology of Sarah Jane Smith stories raising money for researching cancer (which killed SJS actor Elisabeth Sladen in 2011). My contribution, “Swinging Londons,” rapidly mushroomed beyond the original concept, ultimately reachng 42.5K words.

Why/how did this piece grow so long. Part of it is simply that “Swinging Londons” was hella fun to write. But there’s more than that, “Swinging Londons” isn’t just a story for me … it’s a labor of love.

I first discovered Dr. Who on  KERA, the Dallas Public Television station, in the late 80s. At time, this was something that branded me as a nerd even among nerds. Nevertheless, it was a revelation … a vision of sci-fi so much more expansive and full of possibility than anything I had encountered previously.  My favorite Doctor was (and remains) John Pertwee, especially those episodes with Sarah Jane Smith and “Swinging Londons” is very much an homage to those episodes.

It also proves that, even when writing sci-fi, I am incapable of breaking his historical fiction addiction or my fondness for cameos by real-life historical figures.

As much as I’d love to toot my own horn about the role of “Swinging Londons” in Defending Earth,  I need to credit the real heroes … curator/editor Mary-Helen Norris and artist/illustrator Sophie Iles.

So, obviously, I’m very excited about this piece. For all the of Dr. Who fans  out there (and, dare I hope, fans of Jon Black), I’ve copy/pasted a Q&A about “Swinging Londons” from the press kit for Defending Earth.

Q) Which Sarah Jane story (any medium) is your favorite, and why?

Sladen in 2003

A) My favorite Sarah Jane story is Planet of the Spiders (Sladen/Pertwee) with Pyramids of Mars (Sladen/T. Baker) a very close second. Of course, these are among the finest stories in Dr. Who cannon in their own right. They also present Sarah Jane at her best and most compelling: smart, pragmatic, determined, inquisitive, and, above all, humane.



Q) Tell us about your story?

A) In “Swinging Londons” the space-time surrounding that great city has become dangerously unstable, swinging rapidly between alternate possible versions of itself. As UNIT cordons off London and struggles to prevent dragons, Black Shirts, Mole People and other threats from spreading to the rest of Britain and the world, Sarah Jane and the Doctor travel into the heart of the disturbance seeking its cause. After she and the Doctor are separated, Sarah Jane must navigate dozens of alternate Londons while searching for the Time Lord, acquiring a strange companion of her own, and encountering someone she never expected…all before the small matter of saving her London by ending the instability.

Q) What is your favorite part of your story and why?

Yeah, you wonder why this picture is here …

A) While the story allowed me to delve deeply into my historical fiction and alternative history addictions, the true joy of writing “Swinging Londons” came from exploring the relationship between Sarah Jane and the Doctor: specifically, the complicated and sometimes ambivalent emotions even an exceptional human would experience having a best friend and companion who is not only effectively immortal but possesses abilities which often seem to knock at the door of omniscience and omnipotence.

Q) Why do you love Sarah Jane?

A) While Sarah Jane is an ideal “everyman” to bring viewers along on adventures in time and space with the Doctor, she is so much more than that. The adjective “plucky” is, admittedly, cliché when referring to British heroines of a certain time period. That doesn’t mean it’s not a perfect characterization of Sarah Jane. With her resourcefulness, common sense, perseverance, and compassion Sarah Jane epitomizes how, in a universe full of ostensibly much more formidable creatures, humans manage not only to survive but thrive.

A Short Selection of Press for Defending Earth and/or “Swinging Londons”

Blogtor Who

The Doctor Who Companion I

The Doctor Who Companion II (Interview with editor M.H. Norris)

Time Lord Archives (extensive review of “Swinging Londons”)

We are Cult