An historical fiction book trailer for the Revolutionary War novel, Carrying Independence.Carrying Independence… The Book Trailer
Are you surviving quarantine? Are you over sourdough and jigsaw puzzles? Climbing the walls? Then tune in Saturday night, June 20, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, for a virtual reading: Noir at the Bar Richmond. Come for the escape from shelter-in-place orders, stay for the noir, crime, and horror readings!Who’s reading?
S. A. Cosby
J. T. Glover
Shawn Reilly Simmons
D. Alexander Ward
Come check it out at https://www.crowdcast.io/e/richmond-virtual-noir-at-the-bar/register
The specter of looming death brings clarity to some things, confusion to others. I hope that you, reading this, are living with only the normal amounts of terror and insecurity, and that you have food, shelter, and access to medicine. Getting accurate, current information about much of anything is difficult right now, and clearly the rest of 2020 belongs to COVID-19.
The fatalities of this year are yet to be known, but I’m determined not to let my writing be among them, in so far as I can. Unlike many out there, including friends, I have a full time job — a double-edged sword for a writer, but one for which I’m so grateful at the moment. That I work in a library is an unmitigated pleasure and always has been, though our facilities are closed to the public at the moment to reduce virus transmission, and most of us are working from home.
In any event, so far this year I have two short stories set for publication. “The Touch of Lethe” is to be in an anthology that’s fairly soon to launch, and “The Haunted Object” is going to be in a magazine of various formats. I’m delighted about each in various ways, about which I’ll have more to say in due course.
This year has already seen the reprint of “The Doubtful Wonderland,” my story that originally appeared years ago in a now-defunct magazine of macabre neo-Victorian art and literature, The Willows. Editor Ben Thomas and his team got together to reprint the full run of the magazine via Kickstarter. If you’re interested in tales of the eerie and the occult, you can get electronic or print (hardcover or paperback) copies from https://willowsmagazine.com/.
If you’re stuck in quarantine and looking for something to read, you can, of course, read some of my fiction online. Also, though, let me point you at a thread I started on Twitter in March. I wrote it with my librarian hat on, and it’s all about what you can get from your library without leaving your house. The tweet did pretty well for a small-timer like me, mostly due to a kindly RT from Neil Gaiman, and it seemed to strike a chord with many people. Good luck, friends, and I hope you have or find something to read to keep you on an even keel in the weeks and months to come. Stay healthy.
Happy October, monsters!
Has there been a more common post since the long, strange years of blogging’s heyday than “it’s been a long time since my last post?” Certainly not on this blog, dear readers. What are the haps, you ask? In quasi-brief…
My short story “Questionable Things” appeared in Synth #2 (as alluded to previously). It’s a SF story intimately tied to Blade Runner that I wrote some years ago. I shopped it around for quite some time, but it was a “bridesmaid” story, terminally getting “I loved it, but” rejections. I trunked it after playing Shadowrun Returns, on account of that game also involving SF, Seattle, and a serial killer (no spoilers, I hope, as all that’s clear from the first paragraph of my story). Ultimately, I decided I liked it too much to let it go, polished it up, and C.M. Muller accepted it for his year-long project of publishing dark SF. (Vol. V of his excellent Nightscript series is available now.)
The novel I was working on last year collapsed under its own weight. I’d tried three different versions of it, two with substantially different plot points and an epistolary version of one of those, but no dice. I got a short story out of it that I’m shopping around, but other than that, I’ve trunked it and moved on.
Other things outside of The Writing rose up and took over frequently this year. I’d like to say that I powered through and wrote every day during that time, but it ain’t so. Many’s the writer who talks about setting up your life around writing, and sticking to your guns despite all manner of personal difficulty, but I haven’t managed it. I am, however, working on a novel, a couple essays, etc., and I’m reading any number of good things — most recently Peter Clines’ The Fold. It’s old-school SF with enough contemporary goodness to feel fresh, and a few elements that I think might appeal to readers of this particular blog, heh-heh-heh…
The best thing I did as a reader in 2018 was intentionally refocus on reading what I like. For too many years, I’d been reading a blend of things that I thought I should be reading as a writer, trying to expand my horizons and do right on multiple counts. In the process I purchased books to support various authors, causes, etc… and developed a 100+ title TBR pile. Some I was more eager to read, some less, and I’d find myself “sneaking” books from the public library. Also, thinking longingly of re-reading old faves (I’m an inveterate book-revisitor).
Reader, something really had to give. This was more than vaguely clear in 2017, but by the end of 2018, it was no longer vague. Last year I finished reading 69 books and 37 graphic novels/trade collections, and I set aside unfinished maybe 10 books. Some months I was tearing through books, others limping. The slower months were overwhelmingly those when I was reading “shoulds.” Part of the slowness was lack of interest, part frustration at seeing weak writers praised or succeed, part simply a lack of desire to read.
That last part should have been a big clue. Many writers read quite a lot, outrageous quantities compared to the average American, and for a very long time I was one of them. For a whole bunch of reasons, however, I reached a point in this decade where I was barely reading 2 books per month. Last year, giving myself license both to chuck books I wasn’t enjoying and to seek out authors and books likely to square with my interests, I read more like 6 books per month, 9 if you include comics.
Social media, the blessing/curse (blursing?) of our time, has been a blend of good and terrible in all of this. On the one hand, I’ve heard of books and authors that I wouldn’t otherwise have, some wonderful! One example of this is Matthew Bartlett, author of a host of genuinely strange neo-Decadent fictions. He can write, is a mensch, and is justifiably something of a darling in contemporary weird fiction… but much of his work is self-published, or from small presses. And so, like many authors these days, he’s almost entirely absent from libraries. Without social media, and Facebook in particular, I would likely never have heard of him (check out Gateways to Abomination).
On the other hand, the literary market is beyond saturated, leading to endless PR and social media touting of “brilliant,” “important,” “essential,” “vital,” “outstanding,” etc. authors, and while I realize people want to help their friends and sell their own work, too often this is false advertising. (Ditto blurbs, in which I no longer place any stock whatsoever, as guides to whether I’ll like a book.) Whether it’s the literary fiction community, the weird fiction community, the YA community, or whatever, people ride high horses all the livelong day about this shit, and as someone wisely pointed out to me in 2018, literary communities are endlessly incestuous and precious. Paying too much attention to them can be fatal to taste and joy.
I thought about this much more this past year as I read and re-read various popular authors. These are folks with well-developed chops for carrying a narrative along: Stephen King, Karin Slaughter, John Sandford, J. K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, etc., and of course I’m continually dipping back into Lovecraft, James, Machen, etc. Newer authors like Paul Tremblay or John Langan, or newcomers like Christine Mangan, have plenty of firepower in this regard, too. These are folks who have honed their craft and developed stories that work in the contemporary market.
There are so many different kinds of “good book,” or course, and the lists of authors you find in quality writing books like Delany’s About Writing include a host of different modes and styles. That’s a good thing! That said, as I focused in on heavier hitters, in terms of sales, reviews, etc., I likewise have been more apt to notice the green-eyed monster lurking under the faces of friends and writers I follow online, some bigger and some smaller.
Gaiman, King, Rowling, etc. are common targets for these complaints, and I get the frustration about the stiff competition to publish, but many people publicly and privately say boneheaded shit about authors who are titans in the field, as if the ability to win over readers is a bad thing. Part of that’s art-community nonsense, and building of various kinds of social capital, but to state the obvious, popular authors are successful in publishing. Luck, connections, family money, and so on do play into many literary careers, no question… and a lot’s been justifiably written about racism and sexism in publishing… but beloved authors are beloved. That you, Struggling Author, are not beloved does not mean that your favorite target is a literary shyster.
Reader, this blog post has grown unwieldy, and I’ve excised the 20% of it that would bring the wolves howling, in so far as anyone reads this blog. That, as a fellow writer I know who’s rarely online says, is part of the problem of talking about reading when you’re a writer. Anything other than glowing praise is at best going to result in silence. I offer no slings or arrows for anyone in particular here, but take it as you will that I no longer see “hidden,” “overlooked,” “obscure,” or “little-known” as signifiers of anything other than historical or market success.