So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Jeremiah and his fiancee post-graduationIt feels like there is just too much to say about my final Residency at Seton Hill, but I will endeavor to complete the recaps I started in June of 2016. My three years in the program went faster then I could have imagined. Each semester built my skills and confidence as a writer. Now, I feel ready to charge into the publishing world with my mystical lightning sword drawn high. Before I do that, here’s what I learned over the course of my time mastering writing about popular fiction.

When you first arrive at Seton Hill, make sure you give yourself extra time to navigate to your destination. You will get lost…repeatedly. I found at least one new area on every trip to campus, but somehow, I never got around to hunting down our taxidermized mascot. Don’t be like me. Seek out the magical stuffed Griffin. He probably has much wisdom to impart.

Don’t dread everything. Public speaking sucks, but you’ll never be put in a room with people rooting for you to fail. Everyone will be super nice and encouraging. Even when you get stuck listening to the rare person who doesn’t dig your work, you’ll still have other positive people providing feedback too. The teaching module and thesis defense are the two biggest sources of dread in the program, but neither is anywhere near as scary as it seems from afar.

A note on defending your thesis, if you rehearse reading your story for days, weeks, and months, be sure to practice thanking your significant other (in my case a wonderful fiancée) to their face. If you don’t, you run the risk of breaking down into tears as I did. It’s hard to get people to listen to your commanding authorial voice after you’ve just struggled to avoid a full-fledged tear fest at the lectern. Other than that speed bump, I loved the entire thesis defense. It was amazingly cool to get to answer questions about the story I’ve been writing for years.

The actual graduation flies by even faster than the rest of the time in the program. The entire ceremony seemed to occur in the blink of an eye. One second, I was eating lunch with my classmates, the next I was driving home through a nasty mix of snow and salt. In order to push through the winter slog, I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to be home with my cat, Strider. When I finally arrived safely at my apartment, Strider demanded food with a vocal me-yowl. Isn’t that cat-typical?

Oh, I didn’t even get to mention that I learned a ton of new stuff during this final residency. I took a worldbuilding class with NY Times Bestseller Kevin Hearne. He showed us how to make fantasy maps from the earth’s crust up. Timons Esaias also demonstrated the appropriate ways to use various weapons, defend castles, and write about wars. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but you’d be here all day if I detailed everything I did during this residency.
While this may be the end of my Seton Hill blog, it’s just the beginning of my writing career. I’ve got two stories out for publishing consideration at the moment, and I just helped launch New Pulp Tales. I also plan to continue building this site up with new posts soon. So be sure to check back in, and sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already.

Before I conclude this blog, I must offer a heartfelt thanks to everyone I interacted with at Seton Hill. My teachers were all amazing. My classmates were all fantastic. I’d re-enroll in Seton Hill and start over tomorrow if I could. If you’ve ever considered trying to hone your writing skills, I can’t say enough good things about what this program will do for you.

Farewell for Now

Jeremiah Dylan Cook

The End Is Near

The End is NearThese little residency recaps are getting harder to do the farther I get into Seton Hill’s Writing in Popular Fiction Program. All I want to do is tinker with my novel or craft a new short story. Speaking of, I have one that’s been accepted for publication in a small-press magazine. When it’s released, I will be sure to share access to the tale everywhere I can.

My fifth residency in the program is now over. It tore through my life like a tornado. By the end, I was thanking Cthulhu for my survival. Each residency has gone by faster than the last one. If you enter the program, you should prepare for that eventuality with the appropriate time dampening technology. It’s too late for me to salvage this past residency, but it’s not too late for you to salvage your future one.

That said, I managed to retain a few awesome lessons despite the residency’s speed. Most painfully, I learned that you should apply sunscreen when driving from Greensburg to Camp Hill. I arrived home in a sun-soaked delirium with cooked skin. Less painfully, I learned that the New Pulp genre is as cool as Old Pulp, where H.P. Lovecraft rose from. Heidi Ruby Miller taught a great class on the subject. I also learned, from Jason Jack Miller, that Folk remains a pretty great source for the creation of new fiction. On my third day of the Residency, I got a fantastic crash course on sending out novel queries from a real-life publishing agent, Ms. Rachel Ekstrom Courage. Lastly, I received a spookily good lesson on the Five Senses of Dread from Dr. Michael Arnzen. On top of those modules, I got to take part in a variety of workshops with dozens of talented writers of multiple genres. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned that I got to listen to two entertaining and enlightening talks from romance author Beverly Jenkins.

Now, with all that said, I didn’t just occupy my time learning while I attended classes. I also got to convey the lesson I spent the last part of my Teaching Popular Fiction class preparing. Thanks to fellow writer Dana Jackson, I even managed to do so with the inclusion of a YouTube clip I wanted to show (Seton Hill’s technology infrastructure is made for Macs, and I own a PC). My lesson on How to Write a Satisfying Ending came out fine, if a little fast due to my nerves. I still wish I could have delivered the lesson earlier in the residency, but the schedule disagreed with me. Either way, I made it through the class and the week. If I can finish editing one hundred and thirty-six pages and respond to my mentor’s feedback, I will be graduating during my next trip to Seton Hill in January. That’s something I wasn’t even sure would happen at the beginning of 2017. What a difference a year, combined with a huge amount of hard work, makes.

Until Next Time,
-J.D. Cook

A Short Lesson

I wanted to share this fun assignment I did for Seton Hill’s Writing in Popular Fiction Program. I needed to teach a simple process for my Teaching Popular Fiction class. I decided to instruct viewers on how to play Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue. It’s a super simple card game I’ve had for a few years now.  Initially, I filmed a great video with the help of my brother, but the game I originally chose, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu, was too long to adequately explain in the assignment’s four-minute time limit. So, I scrambled to put this together with the help of my amazingly wonderful fiancée.

The Road Goes Ever On

The Road Goes Ever On

Isn’t it unbelievable how fast time passes? In January of last year, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish my second novel. Now I’ve got a three hundred and fifteen-page fantasy epic that consists of 95,831 words.

My thesis novel is tentatively titled, The Swords of Fellowship, and I am immensely proud to have finished the rough draft. My mentors and critique partners have offered encouragement, support, and help the entire way. In nineteen months enrolled in Seton Hill’s Writing in Popular Fiction Program I’ve learned more about writing than I had in my previous twenty-six years of life.

I’ve also been able to network with some incredibly talented, friendly, and interesting writers because of the Writing Residencies. This past January, I met young adult writer Gretchen McNeil. She wowed me with her insanely cool story concepts and life story. I’m looking forward to downloading a copy of Relic, a novel she wrote partially inspired by my favorite horror film, the Thing. It will be a perfect book to read since I just got a copy of the Thing board game for Christmas.

Back in the June Residency, I got to meet Hank Phillippi Ryan. She’s an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Reporter turned mystery novelist. I’m planning to reach out to her regarding a Lovecraftian story I’m writing with a female reporter as the protagonist. Every speaker we’ve gotten to hear at our residencies has been outstanding thus far.

In the coming semester, I’m going to be learning about how to teach creative writing. This is a subject I am almost as excited about as writing itself. I can’t wait to learn how to pass on the lessons I’ve learned. Although, I am a little sad that I won’t be reading genre books for my class this semester, as in past ones. Last semester, I read A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, which quickly became one of my favorite fantasy stories. I also got to read terrific books like A Wrinkle in Time and Nine Princes in Amber.

Before joining this program, I’d never been able to submit my stories to magazines, ezines, or podcasts, aside from some stuff used in my college newspaper. Now I’ve sent my second short horror story out for possible publication. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to update this site with more exciting news over the next year.

Until Next Time,
-J.D. Cook

The Semester of Madness

Grave of Lovecraft

My second semester is a dead dragon, laying slain in my rearview window. That’s not to say the battle wasn’t fierce. In fact, I wasn’t sure I’d be continuing in the program. My writing has improved, but it’s been a slow process. I still have a long way to go, even if my thesis novel is at 159 pages. That said I celebrated a milestone this semester.

I received my first rejection letter. While this might not seem like such a good thing, it is. There was a time where I had no idea how to go about submitting work for publication. The Writing in Popular Fiction Program at Seton Hill has given me an endless number of places to send my work. It’s also eliminated my fear of rejection. Well, it’s at least lessened it considerably. Right after I got my first rejection, I sent out my story for publication with another online magazine.

Aside from writing, I also got to read more terrific books this semester. My favorite was N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. It’s just a delightful read, and I highly recommend checking it out. Along with that, I got to check out The Three Body Problem, Every Anxious Wave, The Goblin Emperor, The Martian, and The Eterna Files. They were all enjoyable Science Fiction and Fantasy reads. Yet, it was horror that consumed my mind this semester.

Back in High School, I discovered H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. It was an enthralling and creepy read. After that, I devoured any of his stories I found. Then time passed, as it usually does, and it wasn’t until college that Lovecraft came back into my consciousness. This was because my friends and I discovered the board game Mansions of Madness. Once again, I descended into his entertaining mythos. This past semester I heard his call again, but this time it was a bit more literal.

While at work I found many of his best stories on Spotify, and I was able to listen to them when my workload was light. I also received the board game Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu for Christmas from my amazing fiancée. The cherry on top of my most recent Lovecraft obsession was getting to visit him in person. No, I’m not mad. I took a trip to Providence Rhode Island to see a friend, and while I was there, I stopped by his grave. We also checked out the Lovecraft Arts and Sciences store, as well as some local Lovecraft spots. It was a great trip. Anyway, the Lovecraft fever is still going strong as I just bought Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition.

My second semester in this program wasn’t a cake walk, but I felt more confident than during my first. Just knowing how the program operated was a major help because I could better budget my time. Something that is not always easy with a full-time job, a fiancée, friends, and a black cat. Now I am eagerly awaiting my third residency with a healthy dose of cautious optimism.

Until Next Time,
-J.D. Cook