Peri-Spooky-Seasonal

Here in the ol’ unhallowed laboratory concealed in the basement of the collapsing castle, it’s always spooky season, so it’s typically a slight shock to look up from my labors and notice the rest of the world taking notice. I do, however, love all things Halloween, so here on the cusp of October Country, I’m getting ready for slightly more horroring than usual…

vintage halloween costumes~
Make with the candy dish!

This week marked the return of Fountain Bookstore‘s JABBIES (“Judge a Book by Its Spine”) series, visits to Richmond by publishing professionals to talk about their work, authors, and forthcoming books. I’ve been to a few before and really enjoyed them, but this one was truly up my alley:

The Big 5 Names in Horror

I got a lot out of the event, learning bits and bobs about the industry that I truly hadn’t heard elsewhere. The discussion of comp titles at various stages was welcome, and I particularly appreciated hearing Kelly Lonesome talk about her vision for Nightfire. I’ve seen similar-ish panels before, particularly given the ongoing work I do with the Cabell First Novelist Award wearing my humanities librarian hat, but something about the combination of editors, sales force, and bookseller really gelled for me. And, of course, I bought a couple books…

John Darnielle's DEVIL HOUSE and Cassandra Khaw's NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH, sitting on a table
Unhallowed Reading

I read Nothing but Blackened Teeth a couple months ago, and it’s really stuck with me for its combination of motifs from different horror traditions. Plus it has by far the best ekphrasis I’ve read anywhere in a long time. I got halfway through Devil House in audio this summer and had to return it to the library, and I thought it was really good, so here we are.

As for my own literary efforts, they proceed apace. I didn’t reckon just how much it would strain my patience to shift gears to novels. Right now I’m forging through yet another draft of what I sometimes jokingly call UNTITLED FUTURE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND PULITZER PRIZE WINNER. Which would be a Hell of a trick for a short (~70K?) novel that rides the line between literary fantasy and horror, but stranger things have happened.

What’s next? If all goes as planned, querying on UNTITLED FUTURE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND PULITZER PRIZE WINNER by year’s end, and switching (back) to UNTITLED NOVEL OF ARCANE AND ELDRITCH HORROR (~150K? ~300K?). I traveled to do some on-site research for it last week, and I plan to take another research trip this spring, as I’ll have a better shot at getting inside some buildings and soaking up the vibe.

Happy Haunting, all you ghouls!

That Ol’ Year-End Summary

man on motorcycle
Turn left at Amazon, stop at Goodreads, go three sites north…

As dedicated readers of Dark Stories, Hidden Roads may remember, I’ve occasionally shared statistics on publications, submissions, etc. 2021 was a low-stats year, to put it mildly. My only fiction publication was a 50-word story, up recently over at Do Some Damage as part of an RVA City Writers challenge.

While I have a few things out there in the slush piles, my writing attention is currently bent toward novels. both the aforementioned one and the one that’s currently splashed around my office on a bulletin board, in jotted fragments, and in dozens of research documents and PDFs. This is the most research-y thing I’ve written for a while, at least since “There Has Never Been Anyone Here” (2018). I can fudge a lot, I can invent a lot, and I can research as I go, but sometimes a story requires more before it can reasonably get off the ground. This is one of those, and so I’ve been reading about some byways of Virginia’s history, architectural and otherwise.

My academic publications last year technically included “The Masks of E’ch-Pi-El: Interpreting the Life and Work of H.P. Lovecraft,” in Lovecraft in the 21st Century, edited by Tony Alcala and Carl Sederholm and published last month, though I don’t think copies are hitting stores or shelves until this month. This month will see the publication of Fantastic Cities: American Urban Spaces in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, edited by Stefan Rabitsch, Michael Fuchs, and Stefan L. Brandt, containing my “Olympia, Wilderness, and Consumption in Laird Barron’s Old Leech Cycle.”

And with that, Happy New Year! May 2022 bring you peace, joy, respite. and triumphs.

Open-Source How To Write Gooders

man on motorcycle
Turn left at Amazon, stop at Goodreads, go three sites north…

Mostly, I try not to dwell on writing process or business in detail anymore. I did it a lot in the ol’ LiveJournal days, back when I was just starting to find community and do the things that newly serious writers do. LJ waned, platforms changed, and so on. After I passed through some invisible but tangible doorway, long conversations about writing became less interesting. I had chewed over most of the big writing questions, at least the ones appropriate for me for the moment.

Things change. I’m currently enmeshed in the transition from one novel draft to the next. I’m working harder than I ever have to improve my scene transitions. It is literally exhausting, working on it at the intensity I currently am, from the analysis to the rewriting. This is new territory for me, which is nice. It’s encouraging to see that I have room to grow, can tell that, and can see a path forward.

Anyway, these days I mostly spend my social media time on Twitter (@smythsewn), which never lacks for writing-related drama. The perennial to-MFA-or-not-to-MFA debate popped up again last week, courtesy of an article about overpriced programs. Many hot takes resulted, but also some cool ones. I particularly liked Faylita Hix’s open-source MFA/professionalization thread, and Lincoln Michel’s post on everything he’s learned about “professional” writing.

Man Plans, and God Laughs

clown & policemen

Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, via The Commons at flickr

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…