Scratching & More Scratching

What’s new, pussycat? A couple of largely news-free writing months for me. As I expected a while back, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple months raising my voice, doing my best to help hold power accountable, etc., etc. No glory in it, but when your elected representatives don’t just disagree with you or ignore you, but actually lie to the media regularly about your existence… you have to speak up.

scratchAlas for missing AWP, given it was just a couple hours away, but I have other things on the go, and hours and dollars are finite. This year I plan to attend ICFA and NecronomiCon, both with my scholarly hat on (though I’m participating in a group reading at ICFA, and TBD about NecronomiCon). If things go as planned, I’ll also be participating in some group readings around Richmond this year. Details forthcoming.

Are you a writer? Do you aspire to make any money from your writing, but aren’t quite there yet? Read Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin. It’s new out this year, and it’s got some really good stuff in it about aspects of the writing life that often go publicly unaddressed, and about which many people are not well informed. All sorts of good essays and interviews in it, and worth its weight in gold for the blend of windows it offers into the life of the “full time writer.” In some regards it’s of a piece with Nick Mamatas’ Starve Better, which I’ve previously mentioned, and Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife.

But What If It’s Life That’s Political?

Lindsay Chudzik at Strange Matter

Lindsay Chudzik emcees at Strange Matter, photo by Justin Stillman

Last Friday I attended Love Trumps Hate: A Community Reading, held at Strange Matter here in Richmond. My ass-kicking friend and fellow writer Lindsay Chudzik made all the arrangements for and publicized this event, which was well attended and featured readings of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The works all explored “experiences with racism, homophobia, sexism, sexual assault, and xenophobia,” and we raised money for Safe Harbor and Health Brigade, a couple RVA orgs working to support sexual assault survivors and the LGBTQ+ community.

The event was electrifying, and there was a lot of courage on that stage. I read “Sufficient Pangs,” a piece of flash fiction I published several years ago and revised lightly for Friday. The story turned on a moment of sexism of the buddy-do-you-understand-what-you’re-saying variety, the kind that we all gotta step up and talk about in the moment. Thank you to my friends and colleagues who were able to make it out to hear everyone read, and to Lindsay for making it happen.

Despite living here as long as I have, it was my first time at Strange Matter. The crowd was a welcome blend of alt, art, college, and hip. Great staff and food, and I’m grateful they served as a venue for this event. Will I try a different combination of cheeses on my grilled cheese next time? Only time will tell.

The elephant in the post is, of course, why J.T. Glover, writer and reader of dark and weird fiction is all fired up about social justice. Friends, I don’t plan for this to become a political blog, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say I was horrified by the events of the past month. The election of Trump, the wave of hate crimes in the weeks following, and the country’s public surge to the right are more than troubling to me, and I think we have a hard road ahead. The modest efforts I previously made to support candidates, organizations, and initiatives that align with my beliefs… were not enough to prevent a truly terrible happening.

Even assuming Trump’s presidency and a complicit legislature don’t result in the actual destruction of the U.S. as we know it, or some sort of global conflict, I think there’s a solid chance that we’re about to enter a truly miserable period in American history. It’s still too early to be certain, but so far the next four years appear likely to include some combination of Gilded Age business practices, Red Scare-era propaganda, re-fighting the battles of the Civil Rights Era, and Cold War paranoia, plus greater general public tolerance for xenophobia, discrimination, and non-interventionism than we’ve seen for decades.

Life is always political, and it’s always been more political for marginalized groups than for straight, white, male, able-bodied, land-owning, etc. Americans. As such, if those latter traits apply to you, this is the time to use your power to speak out against the threats that lie ahead. We owe it to those who do not have our privilege to raise our voices.

And finally, if Love Trumps Hate sounds good to you, keep your antennae up. There was interest among attendees in doing it again, and I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more such events in the years to come.

Dennis Danvers’ The Watch

The WatchThe Watch by Dennis Danvers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoughtful take on anarchy, mutual aid, and the legacy of the Confederacy as seen through the eyes of a visitor from the past. This is a heartfelt book, and a fine picture of Richmond that brings the punk anarchy of the 1990s to life like nothing else I’ve read or heard. Kropotkin’s humane approach to life is a tonic, especially when it leads to repeated jarring crashes against our world today.

View all my Goodreads reviews

A HEX on Richmond!

IMG_2796Yesterday was a bad (or was it good?) day for witches in Richmond. Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt came through town on his U.S. tour, which included a talk and signing at the ever-excellent Fountain Bookstore. If you weren’t able to make his reading last night, Fountain does have on hand for you signed copies of his first novel translated into English: Hex.

I’ve been enjoying reading Thomas’ novel from the library, and I was delighted to pick up my own copy last night. It has appealed to many readers, including Stephen King. It’s a witch tale for the 21st century that will appeal to anyone who likes haunts mashed up with YouTube, The Cabin in the Woods, or the like:

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

 

eye-sewing kit

“Just squint. This won’t hurt a bit.”

If you were able to attend the reading in person, you got the pleasure of receiving a creepy little giveaway that Thomas prepared with the help of some friends: an eye-sewing kit. Why, pray tell, would you sew eyes? Read the book to learn more, naturally.

My wife and I had the pleasure of showing Thomas around the city during the day, and we visited various places apropos for a horror writer, including the Poe Museum and Hollywood Cemetery, among others. Richmond, which has lately been burning up all those 10-best-cities-for-whatever lists, has a vibrant arts and literary scene and history, which we talked about all day, from Poe to murals. We can’t wait to see Thomas again, hopefully on his next visit to Richmond.

At the Poe Museum, photo by Kyla Tew

At the Poe Museum, photo by Kyla Tew

Is Thomas Olde Heuvelt coming to your neck of the woods? Maybe: he’s on a six-week tour, the longest ever by a Dutch author, and he’s going to be visiting many places. Check it out, and check his website for updates:

13575831_1053880871360407_2809826670692591205_o

 

 

TONIGHT! The Writing Show: Novel Ways to Organize Your Research

logo for The Writing ShowTonight’s the night, folks! If you live in Richmond or nearby, you are welcome (as always) to attend the James River Writers Writing Show. This month I am moderating a discussion about Novel Ways to Organize Your Research, featuring panelists Bert Ashe, Harrison Fletcher, and Jennifer Hughes. Bert is the author of Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, Harrison is the author of Descanso for My Father: Fragments of a Life, and Jennifer works at Literature and Latte on Scrivener, the word processing software.

$12 members | $15 non-members | $5 students
Social: 6pm | Show: 6:45pm
THE FIREHOUSE THEATRE
1609 West Broad Street (free parking at Lowe’s)

Makeout Creek in the House

As it says on the tin:

sample copies of makeout creek

Last night I got my contributor’s copies for the Twin Peaks-themed issue of Makeout Creek, and the issue’s a beaut. I’m grateful to everyone at Makeout Creek who made the issue happen, and particularly to Andrew Blossom, who edits thoughtfully, communicates thoroughly, and makes Richmond a better place.

The Author Website: Build It to Build a Following

Hey Richmond! Come to The Writing Show tonight at the Firehouse Theatre!

logo for The Writing ShowA great author website doesn’t have to be complicated. Find out how to build a website that can showcase your work to publishing professionals and help you connect with readers.

Topics our experts will discuss include

  • What are the must-haves for the author website
  • When to bring in a professional
  • Blog subscriptions versus newsletter email lists
  • How to fund your author website, or use it to find funding
  • Adding social media and blogs
  • Press packages, FAQ documents

When: Wednesday, April 29, 6:00 pm

Where: Firehouse Theatre 1609 West Broad Street(Parking available across the street in the Lowe’s lot)

Price: $12 for Members, $15 for non-Members, $5 for Students

Speakers:

Justine_Headshot smJustine Schofield is the development director of Pubslush, a pre-publication platform that offers crowdfunding and pre-order options to authors and publishers. A writer at heart, Justine received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. A prominent voice in the publishing industry and an advocate for educating authors and publishers about crowdfunding, she is a regular contributor to The Future of Ink, Business Banter, and more.

AB Westrick sm

A.B. (Anne) Westrick is the author of Brotherhood (Viking 2013), winner of the 2014 Jefferson Cup Award, the Housatonic Book Award, the Jane Addams Honor Award, and the Notable Trade Book Award. Brotherhood also made the ALA’s 2014 list of Best Fiction for Young Adults. From 2006-2012 Anne was JRW’s Administrative Director. She lives near Richmond, VA, and blogs once a month about the craft of writing. www.abwestrick.com

bod_joshua_caneJoshua Paul Cane is a web programmer living in Richmond, VA. For nearly 17 years, he has built, redesigned, and consulted on web applications for Federal and state agencies, non-profits, businesses, and authors. Not only does he write code, but he writes fiction: humorous short stories and now an urban fantasy novel. He serves as a board member and membership committee chair of James River Writers.