Head Down

man on motorcycle

Writing advice is not unlike clothing: almost none of it fits universally. One common piece of advice I have followed this year, however, is reading like my life depends on it. 36 books, 31 graphic novels, and various essays, stories, etc.  (Also, a side order of 36 movies). What’s it all about?

Common wisdom is that you have to read a lot to be able to write well. I’m not sure if that’s true, and I’ve seen some decent arguments to the contrary, but the flow of words through my brain seems to have gotten the writing juices flowing more smoothly. It’s not enough for me to have read X many books in past, apparently; cultural or professional literacy is not the same thing as a regular diet.

It’s also about, not to put too fine a point on it, fun. The last several years have, regrettably, included very high quantities of not-fun, sustained at times for months at a go. My focus was divided in a few different directions, and I definitely wasn’t focusing on doing exactly what I wanted in terms of reading. Often I was trying to read things for purposes other than pleasure, and maybe it showed in my less-than-eager reading habits. I am, in any case, reading more novels than I have for a long time, and the sense of ebb and flow, of slow build, are things I have missed during the years when I focused more on short stories.

My “jar of fucks,” it also has to be said, has run low. I’ve started reserving my attention for the things I care about, and the things I both can and want to do.  An inevitable (and largely, if not wholly, pleasurable) consequence of this is less social media. As other have noted, when I’m not online as much, suddenly I have significantly larger quantities of free time to do with as I will.

To take that a step further, when I now do dip into Facebook or Twitter or whatever, I notice:

  • Time runs away like water. I look at the screen, and 45 minutes later I’m not sure what happened. Which I’m now OK with, because I plan for it, not just… let hours go by, scrolling.
  • The negative thoughts and feelings I notice in myself after more than a few minutes on social media are real, observable, and have effects on the rest of my day. Knowing this? I’m less likely to log in.
  • I love seeing vacation pictures, hearing about friends’ successes, and laughing at funny memes… but they seem to be nearly inseparable from Id, trolling, and flag-waving.
  • I am much more prone to check in on a handful of people, not necessarily the same from week to week, and then move on. The news feed, or stream, or what-have-you, is as apt to surface trash as treasure.

All that to say, this year (especially this summer) I’m more likely to be reading a book than be on Facebook, and it’s done me a world of good. I have a few things coming out later this year that I’ll post about, but for right now I’m mostly head down, either in a novel or a Word document.

Happy August.

 

 

 

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Writing Year 2017

library of congress photoMy writing year 2017 was pretty quiet, with one new story and one reprint in audio. This marks ten years since my first publication as “J. T. Glover,” with a number of milestones along the way. Have I learned anything since then? Sure.

1. Finish what you start, edit it, and then submit it.
2. Be cautious of anyone who uses the phrase “the writing community.”
3. Read the contract.
4. Words are infinite, but your time isn’t.
5. Reading is often helpful in writing more, both the usual stuff and new stuff, but don’t forget why you love what you love.
6. Listen closely to advice from currently working professionals.
7. Bad behavior is no bar to publication, but the publishing world is only so large, and people will talk.
8. Timely, professional business communication is a good sign.
9. You never know who’s reading your stuff.
10. For every person who extols the virtues of the writing life, three writers are broke, five have day jobs, one has a generous spouse or family, and two are very busy freelancers.

Anything else? Sure, but your time would be better spent on this stuff:

“Picking Up Things Instead of My Pen”

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life

BookLife

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.

A Couple Nice Notices

library of congress photoOnce I was talking with a good friend who’s also a writer, and we were lamenting the frustrations of the writerly life. Part of that’s never knowing who is reading your stuff, whether anyone likes it, etc. As my friend said, “you publish this stuff, and maybe no one reads it. It sucks.”

The great maybe-read, maybe-not question makes it all the nicer when you encounter someone with something to say about your work. As a writer without a book of my own (yet!), I most often hear things about stories I have in anthologies, and that’s the case with the two nice reviews here.

  • Des Lewis often posts reviews of work that he’s reading, while he’s reading, and I regularly see them floating around social media. I was delighted by his kind words about my short story “En Plein Air,” which appears in Nightscript 2.
  • Goodreads user Adamjames recently had kind words for “Pale Apostle,” which Jesse Bullington and I co-wrote for The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron a couple years back.

I’m grateful to the gents in question, and likewise to you, dear readers, for your time. And that’s it for a sleepy, falling-back sort of Sunday. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

A Pagan Suckled in a Creed Outworn

flowers in landscapeFor the last couple months I’ve been on social media very little. This was on account of sundry deadlines, projects, and all the other reasons people typically get offline. I’ve been happier and measurably healthier since then, albeit missing the connection. The horrors of this past week have spurred me to political participation, but not to dwell constantly on injustice, and I’m so glad not to be as much in places where the parade of atrocities never ends. I still hew to Wordsworth’s famous formulation, and I’m endeavoring to live for the things I care about most.

cover of forthcoming Valancourt anthologyAt times when the world does press in, I think it’s important to remember the things that don’t. This week I was talking with James Jenkins of Valancourt Books about the merits of reading classic (or simply older) fiction, and I don’t think it can be overstated. One of the best things I’ve done for myself as a reader or writer in the last year was read all of M.R. James‘ tales, of which I’d previously read some, but not all. No one asked me to do so; as a rule, dead authors are not particularly demanding. Still, the desire was there in me, and it led in a roundabout way to my writing “En Plein Air,” a short story that will appear this October in volume two of Nightscript, and which I think is one of the most effective things I’ve written to date.

Last week I placed an order for a small pile of books, using some of the earnings from my Richmond Young Writers gig, recent things that I’ve read from the library or about which I’ve heard really excellent advance praise. What I also look forward to reading are the things that nobody is urging me to read. Part of that involves plumbing bibliographies and reference books, part of it involves finding reprints, and part of it involves hewing to the titular requirement of this post.

Egyptian_-_Gnostic_Gem_with_Scarab_-_Walters_42872_-_ReverseThe survival of work from the past can be a chancy thing, and what is saved is not necessarily good, and what is lost is sometimes better forgotten. The finding of it, however, is part of a quiet and almost Gnostic kind of quest that demands nothing. It is the sort of thing that many authors have engaged in over the years, and which cannot—perhaps should not—always be repackaged for the demands of social media. Some quests are public, some private, but either way, I think that we forget our quests at the peril of our lives, to say nothing of our art.

Summer of Horrors

This year I’ve put up “out for the summer” signs on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I have a bunch of projects under way that have external or internal deadlines over the next few months, and the distraction would have been too much. I have plans to return in the fall, but it is shocking how much calmer and pleasant I am finding life without social media waggling interesting, heartbreaking, or infuriating things in my face. My third autobiography will be entitled A Life Without Clickbait.

v h leslieAside from checking on the haps at places like LitHub or AL Daily , I’ve been listening to podcasts when I’m not writing or reading. This includes most recently United Nations of Horror‘s Hellraiser Special, and This Is Horror‘s two-part interview with V.H. Leslie. The Leslie interview was thought-provoking, with some interesting overlap for me with a Fountain Bookstore event last month featuring two publishing professionals, one of whom is the Editor in Chief of Europa Editions, which publishes famed spotlight-shunner Elena Ferrante. Time away from the hurly-burly, it seems, has merits. I picked up Leslie’s Skein and Bone a while back, and I hope to read it this summer.

richmond young writers logoI’m also excited to be guest author this summer at two Richmond Young Writers camps led by Julie Geen. One is the already-full Dark Worlds camp for ages 12-14. The other is Halloween in August, for ages 15-17. Details on that, if you or a 15-17-year-old you know might be interested…


7B: HALLOWEEN IN AUGUST
AUGUST 1 – 5
With JULIE GEEN
Guest Author: 
John Glover
$150                                                                                                                                        REGISTER! 

Is every day Halloween for you? This is for those of us who love the darker genres, like horror, dystopia and science fiction.  We’ll fill our notebooks without worst nightmares, alien abductions, perhaps an apocalypse or two. Expect discussions on macabre topics and an exploration of why we enjoy the dark side. We will make each other uneasy and have a great time doing it.

Strange Love

Presumably most true Aickman-o-philes have seen this documentary already, but if you are one of his readers who have not, then enjoy.

I watched this tonight and enjoyed it, though I feel the film is probably most intelligible to those who are already deeply enough engaged with the dark and fantastic that Robert Aickman is not an unknown quantity. He is, in the U.S., at least, somewhere between an influential mid-century author of horror fiction and a cult author with a beyond-cult following. His work is refined and unusual, not well imitated, though some have walked in his footsteps. If you wind up in a conversation where people are talking about “strange stories,” Aickman is watching from a corner of the room.

Much about the documentary struck me, particularly the section discussing his personality: the “grit in the oyster” comment. So often excellent authors (or artists generally) are at heart awkward, rude, mean, or actually monsters. That tends to be less visible today, or perhaps such authors don’t have as easy a time of it, but it still astonishes me how much hue and cry a writer’s misstep engenders in “the writing community,” despite the vast, well-documented literature of creative people being sometimes outrageously disruptive and unpleasant. Aickman seems to have been on the benign end of that scale, but I don’t think he would fare well if he were around and trying to get started these days. His politics wouldn’t suit a lot of readers, and his manner suggests that he would be a disaster on, say, Facebook.

This film is a nice look at an author who lived in the days before Google, BookScan, the Wayback Machine, and constant surveillance and sousveillance. He was probably the happier for it, and perhaps a more interesting—and more enigmatic—figure than he would otherwise be today. Fortunately for his readers.