Busy, busy, busy. Stories to read, stories to write, classes to teach. That’s where I’ve been. But let’s get to it, shall we?
One of the highlights of last week’s action was getting to appear at Real City’s inaugural Noir at the Bar. Apparently Raegan Teller had enough fun at a Mondoville version that she wanted to carry it down the highway to Columbia, and she was kind enough to invite me to close the event (or maybe she just figured that I would likely run everyone else off.)
The venue was The Aristocrat, a gastropub in Columbia’s Vista district, near the bar that served as the Berries’ home base back when the group was a going concern. It’s a lovely venue, and I very much enjoyed my grilled cheese sandwich. By the time I finished, both the event room and I were full. Indeed, it reached the point where one of my colleagues couldn’t even squeeze in, and a fellow drummer friend of mine actually watched from the sidewalk, outside the bar’s front door.
And I’d say the crowd got what it came for, from Raegan’s opening story about a voyeur and a cop bent on promotion set the evening’s tone quite nicely. Buck Brinson shared an account of a missing girl and a hired killer, while Rex Hurst put a humorous spin on a tale of evil spirits and feuding families, a story that worked nicely for Halloween. Meanwhile, Chuck Walsh read us scenes from his novel Black Mingo Creek, a thriller set in the swampland of the Carolina Lowcountry.
But lest you think that this was merely a boys’ club, Raegan was only one of several women writers who demonstrated that dark fiction does not require a Y chromosome. Writer and podcaster Kasie Whitener shared a disturbing story about a woman’s anxious wait through a menacing situation. Bonnie Stanard‘s “Seven-Inch Heels” kept the crowd chuckling through her account of a woman trying to win back her man — until it was time to stop chuckling. Meanwhile, Cathy Blake, a writer and illustrator of books for young people, demonstrated that she has more strings to her bow as she told a tale of social media bullying and supernatural revenge — or was it?
And in the words of Buddy Cole, “And then there’s me/” Because we had been told to keep the readings to eight minutes, I went with “Bowery Station, 3:15 a.m.”, from El Bee’s Dark City Lights antho. The story generally goes over well, and fortunately it worked again, because I would have hated to end the evening with a thud. But everyone seemed well pleased, and it was — as ever — a nice chance to meet and great readers and writers I hadn’t previously met. Maybe they’ll invite me back next time; I hope so.
Meanwhile, I’ve written a couple of stories this past month, and sent them off to editors in hopes that they (the stories, not the editors) will find a home. (I mean, editors deserve homes too, whether they buy my stories or not, but, well, you know.) The most recent one I finished Sunday, with a 3,400-word burst in my office. I was a little blurry by the end of it, but I think it turned out well. Here’s hoping the editor agrees.
Also this weekend, I had to make a supply run to Real City to pick up a few things at the area EnormoMart, and made a side trip to my usual used media dispensary. I was lucky enough to run into my buddy (and erstwhile bassist) Justin, along with his lovely lady. Not quite as cool, but nearly, was the fact that I found a book from an author I’ve been meaning to check out for a few years. With a little luck, I’ll at least get started on it tonight. Just what I need — another gateway drug. But let’s be honest — my bookshelves aren’t going to clutter themselves.
So let’s wrap things up with some music, huh? I know that being an English professor will never be confused with scenes from Cool Hand Luke, but it can sometimes be tiring in its own way. As a consequence, I sometimes find myself turning to music to gear myself up for the next hour’s lecture. This track, from NYC hardcore punk legends Agnostic Front, is one of my go-to songs, and seems at least as effective as a frappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. From their 1998 album Something’s Gotta Give, this is “Gotta Go.”
See you soon!