Joel's Writing Studio

"What we need is imagination, but imagination is a terrible straitjacket." - Richard Feynman

Joel Van Valin, novelist and publisher, at your service!

A little bit about me ... I'm from St. Paul, where I still live (after a short interlude in Santa Monica). I live just outside the entrance to the State Fair grounds with my beautiful wife Lisa, identical twin boys Sam and Alex (born June 2018) and a pair of cats (Percival and Mel). (For a video featuring Percival, click here.)

I work by day as a technical writer. I love wine and Greek gods, used to fly airplanes, and have an inexplicable fondness for The Kinks, Byron & anything English. If I lived during the Middle Ages I would probably be a wandering minstrel.

My first novel, The Flower of Clear Burning, was published in 2002, and my second novel, The Grand Dissolute, was released in the fall of 2015. I also have a chapbook of poetry published, The White Forest.

My main hobby is Whistling Shade, a literary newspaper that contains stories, poetry, literary essays and many other brilliant things. We also publish books and are searching far and wide for the perfect romantic narrative poem for our Geste series. I have also been posting articles related to time travel fiction over at Time Travel Nexus.

So anyway, welcome to the studio. I've put links to some stories and poetry below, and lists of favorite movies and novels. Feel free to kick back on the sofa and grab something to read. Heck, have a beer if you want.

About The White Forest       About The Grand Dissolute       About The Flower of Clear Burning       About Whistling Shade       Published Work

About The White Forest

The White Forest is a volume of lyric verse (and yes I can say that with a straight face). I've written poetry since my high school days and had poems appear in a few journals (see Published Work), but this is my first collection. It is what is known as a chapbook, which means it is a slim hand-made volume of about 20 pages or so, and is only $9. Sporting a couple of sonnets, a spell, a hymn, and various love poems, it is a bit revolutionary for the year 2018 ... but I've always been a renegade when it comes to verse! The White Forest can be purchased from the publisher, Prolific Press.

Studio Contents

Stars in the Rain


Red Tree Song

Torech the Shipwright

My Top 100

About The Grand Dissolute

The year is 1998 and Jimmy Pagley is falling in love—with a pretty, foreign cafe waitress named Haydee. What he doesn't know is that Haydee is a temvelar, a time traveler from the 29th century, on a mission to find her old mentor. Soon Jimmy and Haydee find themselves caught up in a dark conspiracy of rogue temvelars and government agents, on a search that leads through airports and space stations, art museums and suburban backyards, Greek temples and Medieval castles, and beyond time itself. The Grand Dissolute is a traveler's portrait of a tumultuous, romantic age—our own.

Kathleen Flynn (The Jane Austen Project) wrote this about my novel: "A particularly interesting conceit is the notion that the world of the 29th century, which has solved many of humanity's most pressing problems, is also a little boring, and the world of the future feels a wistful attraction to the louche, vibrant, disorderly late 20th century, an epoch they call the Grand Dissolute (wonderful name)."

The book can be purchased at:
Eat My Words!
Subtext Books
Barnes & Noble

About The Flower of Clear Burning

Lovers of fantasy that like heroic battles and plenty of action inside a believable plot will want to read THE FLOWER OF CLEAR BURNING. Joel Val Valin is a gifted storyteller who will appeal to fans of Patricia Briggs and Candace Sans. - Harriet Clausner,

The Flower Of Clear Burning is confidently recommended as being an adventurous and highly entertaining novel of courage and determination. Midwest Book Review

You get a taste of what it was like to be men and women from that era in times of plague and war. - Patricia McGrew, Timeless Tales

I wrote The Flower in 1996, more or less just to entertain myself while I did research on a far more serious novel, As You Came from the Holy Land. But, in one of those little ironies the seem to pervade the life of young writers, The Flower of Clear Burning was accepted by a publisher (the first one I sent it to) while As You Came from the Holy Land is yet to find a home.

The main characters of The Flower are three witches—Valla, Theresa, and Hanoli. They're not quite like the witches of MacBeth, as two of them are right sexy, and they're all pretty good ladies at heart. In fact they're going on a dangerous quest, through the dark forest east of their town of Hillkirk, in order to find a legendary flower. The flower is said to have the power to cure the plague that is slowly making its way up the coast. Oh, and if that's not enough, there's an invasion by some barbarians in the east brewing. A handful of other characters also get mixed up in all this ... there's Theresa's cheap merchant husband, Clarance; a foreign doctor named Marshall of Heith (Hanoli's sweet on him); a noble forest knight named Carlbear and his lover, a mysterious sorceress; Jeb, a roguish prince; and a drunken gypsy named Razi.

The Flower of Clear Burning was published in 2002. Unfortunately the original publisher, NovelBooks Inc., went bankrupt, and so the novel is no longer in print. Just send me an e-mail if you would like an electronic version of the novel.

Chapter 1 from
The Flower of Clear Burning

About Whistling Shade

So why did I start this odd little magazine? Well, I'll tell you the truth - I'm not the dean of an English department, I don't have "connections" with The Loft or the New Yorker, and I'm not an eccentric millionaire. And no, I'm not some sort of "writer in residence" at Iowa City. I'm just an ordinary guy; I work as a technical writer for a software company, ski cross country, walk my dog, drink at parties, that sort of thing. I do have a degree in English from the 'U', if that makes you feel better.

The basic reason I started Whistling Shade is ... no one else had. I thought it rather strange that in a metro area of 2 million, vibrant with theaters and cafes and bookstores and a major university, no one had thought to start a popular literary newspaper. So I figured, heck, I can do that. It turns out that Whistling Shade is quite unique—even larger towns like San Francisco and New York do not, apparently, have their own freely distributed literary newspaper (if you find one, let me know!).

Whistling Shade is supported by the rather nice salary I earn from my employer, DTI. The software we write is for newspapers, so I've learned a lot about the newspaper industry there. And also about the technical aspects of formatting and printing publications. So, presto, the idea just came to me to put all of this to a good use and start a literary magazine. Oh, and if you're curious as to how I came up with a wacky title like "Whistling Shade", see the editorial to the first issue.

Published Work

Below is a list of stuff I've published so far.

  • "Spring Haiku", Three Line Poetry

  • "Detective Drawbridge and the River Mystery", Knockout (last poem in their last issue)

  • "Fairy Tale", The Park Bugle (2017 poetry contest winner)

  • "Wind and Tress" and "The World", The Talking Stick, Volume 25

  • Being Young and in Love, Blue Bonnet Review

  • "Legends", Leaves of Ink

  • "Bird Bath", honorable mention in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest in 2014

  • "Drinking at a Bar with Friends", the Avalon Literary Review

  • The Far-away Places, Six Three Whiskey

  • "Waylayers in the Forest of Anachronie, Into the Willows

  • "The Empty Road", Best Farewell Sonnet in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest in 2012

  • Ghosts of Alun Seritz, Silverthought

  • A Parlor Tale, Silverthought

  • "Root River Pilgrimage", Rochester Post-Bulletin

  • "The Bride Passed By", "Crossing Over", "The White Forest", Free Verse.

  • "Tell Me Where All Past Yeares Are", Downgo Sun.

  • Cafe Rammarico, Coffee Stories, selected stories from the Café Diem Fiction Contest 2005. (First prize.)

  • Disobedience, Dislocate, Summer 2005. Dislocate is a print journal published by the Creative Writing program at the University of Minnesota.

  • The Keys, The Copperfield Review, Summer 2004. This historical fiction e-zine is my favorite place to while away a lunch break!

  • The Man with the Beautiful Wife, Small Spiral Notebook, Spring 2004. This is a New York-based lit journal that also has print editions.

  • "Dream of a Street in Heaven", Half Drunk Muse, Spring 2004. This little e-zine is packed with some great poetry!

  • "Lines for a Real Estate Agent" was one of the editors "select six" on the poetry page over at Jacobyte Books.

  • "Red Tree Song", "Bluebells", and the short story "Horse and Rider", Muse Apprentice Guild, Spring 2003.

  • The Gingerbread House, Urban Pioneer, April 2003. A story that pokes fun at genre fiction.

  • Martin Slackmeyer and Television, The Writers Hood, March 2003. My humorous sketch about an anti-television fanatic.

  • "A Spell for Lighter Rain",, issue 16, February 2003. This rather odd site is chalk full of good poems.

  • Four of my poems appeared in the Poets-in-Tents Literary Journal of Community Poets.

  • "House Painter", Gumball Poetry, Fall 2002. These guys also publish their poems rolled up in capsules in special "gumball poetry" machines. Just when you thought the world couldn't get any stranger ...

  • "Leaving England" and "Girl Walking in the Wind", Kota Press, September 2002. This is a splendid site devoted to themes of loss and healing.

  • Literature Today - A View from the Trenches, Urban Pioneer, September 2002. My broadside against big publishing.

  • Pig's Eye, Bygone Days, July 2002. Story about fur trappers in Minnesota in the 1830s.

  • The Golden Age, Alien Worlds #27, June 2002. Pulp sci-fi, "visitor from Earth worshipped as a god" sort of thing.

  • Resurrection, Fifth Di, April 2002. Speculative story involving a Revolutionary War veteran and time travel. Really!

  • The Rescue at St. Bridget's Cove, Alien Worlds #22, February 2002. Rescuers are sent to find survivors of a small ship that crashed on a distant moon.