Notes from the May, 2016 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting

We had our forty-fourth Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting on Saturday, May 14.  Thanks to Cary, Matt H, Beth, Marianne, Lisa, Sean, Kathy and Mike for joining me to talk writing and stories.  And as always, thanks to Jaime for his benevolence on our behalf.

We started with a few quick news items:
– Reminder: The June meeting will be on the THIRD Saturday, June 18, instead of our usual second Saturday, because I’m going to be at the Printer’s Row book fair on June 11.
– Our serial story: 12 chapters are done, and we have one writer left.  He is supposed to get me his chapter sometime this week.
– The writers groups from the LaGrange and Brookfield Libraries put out an anthology!  It’s available in paperback and Kindle.
– As mentioned, the Printers Row Lit Fest will be the weekend of June 11 & 12.  I’ll be at the IWPA table both days, so stop by and see how I’m doing.
– If you’d prefer old books over new, the 55th Chicago Book & Paper Fair will also be held on June 11 at Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union Hall.
– I still haven’t seen Matt H’s article in Streetwise yet, but he says we should all continue to patronize the Streetwise sellers when we see them.
– I reported that I had a great time at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention last month.  One of the highlights was when I took my second copy of Legends of New Pulp Fiction around and had a significant number of included authors sign it.  I bought one copy to read and one for autographing, and because of the Kindle Match discount, I also bought the Kindle version (it’s a benefit book, after all.)  Since I was not reading my ‘reading’ copy, I brought it in to the group and Sean took it home.  I plan on lending it out again once he brings it back.
– Kathy said that she enjoyed the Book Club Play at the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn.  She said that she’s enjoyed several plays she’s seen there and she recommends this one.  Beth also said she saw it but didn’t like it that much.  You can see the play and make up your own mind as it’s playing Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through May 28.

Internet Notes –
– I found an interesting article about the Basic Components of an Author Website (plus links to other resources) –
– Apparently, there’s a market for a perfume that smells like books. (Lisa says she’s seen a similar scent in candles.)

Sean suggested that we go around the table and share what we are currently reading, if we like it and why.  As you can imagine, each of these triggered spontaneous side conversations.  I tried to capture the lists accurately, and apologize if I got something wrong:
– Sean says he’s been ‘reading’ many audio books from Audible.  He’s currently working through The Fellowship of the Ring, but in recent months has completed Stamboul Train and The Comedians by Graham Greene, Dickens’ Bleak House, The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Jack London’s White Fang, and has enjoyed them all.
– Lisa is currently reading Little Deaths but hasn’t been enjoying it.  She recently finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and liked that much better.  When asked if she’s the type to not finish a book once started, she said that she is since Nancy Pearl told her it’s okay.
– Marianne is reading an annotated Poe collection.  She said that she’s read many of the stories before, but that she’s interested in the insights the annotations bring.  She’s also re-reading Torso, about the Cleveland Torso Murders, as research for a future project.
– Beth was at a loss for titles because she didn’t have her Kindle handy, but she’s been reading a lot of mystery series lately, the Victoria Thompson mysteries being one such series.  She’s also read and liked The Devil’s Company by David Liss.
– Matt H has been reading some lighter fare to contrast the tone of the current story he’s writing.  He’s read some of the Lazarus Gray stories by Barry Reece and Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams.  He’s also enjoyed Eco’s Name of the Rose, Counternarratives by John Keene and some philosophical non-fiction: On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt and Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James.
– Cary is enjoying Room by Emma Donoghue
– Matt B just finished Johnny Havoc by John Jakes and is currently working his way through the aforementioned Legends of New Pulp Fiction.
– Kathy took a few books to read on her recent flight to Singapore, but she didn’t have the exact titles.  She read one of Diane Keaton’s memoirs, one of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith and The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma.  She’s also recently read A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell, Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling and The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman.
– Mike said he’s working his way through the Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (the good one, not the one with all the typos.)  He’s also enjoyed Geek Wisdom, edited by Stephen Segal.
(If I got any of this wrong, please e-mail me and I’ll correct the notes.)

During the varied conversations that came out of these lists, we discussed a few other items that may be of interest:
The Strand Magazine is an excellent quarterly magazine which contains short mysteries, interview and reviews
The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has produced two films and several old-time radio-style CDs based on Lovecraft’s work.  I’ve seen the movies and have five of the CDs and can vouch for their quality.
– There was quite a bit of discussion of pulps, and while there’s really not one good place to go on the web to get an overview of the genre, since the subject matter they included was so broad, there are a few relatively inexpensive collections that can get you a taste of what people mean when they talk about ‘pulp fiction’:
The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps
The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories
The Big Book of Adventure Stories
Amazing Stories: Giant 35th Anniversary Issue
— Wildside Press has released many Kindle-only megapacks reprinting pulp stories.  I don’t know how curated the selections are, but there are usually a couple dozen stories for 99 cents, so if you don’t mind the Kindle, there’s a lot to read for little money.  One such is a collection of stories from Weird Tales
— An excellent snapshot of new stories written in the pulp tradition is Legends of New Pulp Fiction

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual conversation and critiques of the submitted pieces.  The first piece we discussed was our serial story, even though we’re still waiting for one more chapter.  I started out by going over who wrote which chapter, and we discussed some of ideas that were developed, many that were added and some which were dropped as the story went on.  Marianne liked the way there were multiple keys used in the story, and since she has a large collection of old keys, she brought in some examples that resembled ones which were described in the story.

I also apologized for the confusion in assigning two character names.  I thought I was being clever in naming one guy Craig Scott and the other Scott Craig, but I never wrote the two in the same scene so didn’t realize how confusing that could be.  Sean said that confusion was the reason he killed off one of them in his chapter.

I expect to have the chapter from the final writer any day now, and when I do, I’ll send out the complete story, including author’s names for each chapter.  We will likely post it to the blog once that’s done, but I want to get each author’s approval before I do that.

We agreed that we had a great time writing the story, and would like to do something similar again.  A suggestion was made that maybe next time, we should do like the LaGrange group did and have everyone write something based on a common theme.  We plan to discuss this at the June meeting (reminder: NOT the second Saturday) so if you would like to participate, give some thought to an idea you think would make a good prompt and bring it to the next meeting.  If you can’t make it, you can send your idea to me and I’ll bring it up to the group.

Thanks again to everyone for joining me this month.  Here’s the schedule for the next month or so:
– the next Tamale Hut Café Reading Series event will be next Saturday, May 21 at 7PM.  The featured reader will be Cyn Vargas. Please check the blog or Facebook for more information.
– around June 5, I will send a reminder to you to submit a piece for critique during our next meeting.  This e-mail will also contain the current round-robin story.
– as I get pieces, I will send them out as quickly as I can
– our next THC Writers Group meeting will be Saturday, June 18 (NOT the second Saturday) at 2PM at the Tamale Hut Café.

Thanks for your interest in the THC Writers Group.  I hope to see you at the next Reading Series event or next Writers Group meeting.

Matt B


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