Reader Appreciation

A kind gift shared by somebody who has an interest in my work.
A kind gift shared by somebody who has an interest in my work.

When a book of mine is published I don’t view it as a product, nor to I wish to push it as something to buy. Instead it’s my hope I’m giving people access to an experience. A party, if you will, open to whoever wants to attend. Over the years I’ve hopefully become a better party host. Hard to say. However, earlier this week an older book of mine, The Plague Factory, finally made it into Kindle format and instantly began to do well, climbing high on the charts for both African American Poetry and United States Poetry.

That people responded quickly and with enthusiasm to this release humbles me. In August of this year I will have been a writer for 14 years. Over that time a lot has changed in my life, but I still remember what a privilege it is to do what I love as a career. Privilege as in an honor, not a guaranteed right. While the Beastie Boys may have urged us to “fight for our right to party” I know that being an artist isn’t about the public perception of “living the art life”–it’s about keeping your nose to the grind stone, orchestrating a party for others to participate in 24/7.

Yesterday a fellow named Philip posted this on my Facebook wall: “Thanks John! Your book ‘The Troublesome Amputee’ is one of my favorite poetry collections. I carry it almost everywhere I go.” Messages like this have been coming more and more frequently now that I’ve finally gotten myself firmly established in the various social media outlets. It is not lost on me that even if I wrote the book, I didn’t build this myself; that very network of like-minded people on social networks is responsible for having gotten the word out to make The Plague Factory a success. You can’t have a party with just one person!

There have been many surprises along the way. Often I find myself opening parcels containing hand crafted objects, homemade greetings cards, books, and more. It is always a pleasure to have this contact with people around the globe–readers, authors, editors, artists, and others–operating on a similar wavelength. Although I may not express it often enough: I am grateful for each of you who have allowed my work into your life, and that thanks is a daily phenomena. It does not evaporate with the rising sun. A conscientious host doesn’t kick out partiers mid-revel.

Another gift recently sent by a like minded author.
Another gift recently sent by a like minded author.

If you have supported my work over the years consider this an open love letter to you. Wow, that looks kinda creepy now that I see it in print. What I’m mean to say is that you have an open invitation to the party indefinitely. I like having you around, and hope you’ll feel welcome to come back and hang out again. This is where you’d probably expect me to hit you up to buy my book. No. Instead, if you want to contribute your resources to a good cause, maybe you’ll take a look at Speculations by Matthew Duvall; all proceeds go to help his brother fight lymphoma. Another worthy book is Hazard Yet Forward, a charity anthology benefiting Donna Munro in her battle with cancer.

In the meantime, if you really insist on reading more of my work, here is a set of links where you can do so free of charge. Consider it a party favor.

“Alive, Alive-Oh” poem in Bewildering Stories
“The Ankle-Biter’s Guide to Slithering” novelette in The Dream People
“Arnztigation Sonnet” poem on johnlawson.org
“Attila King” flash fiction in Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens
“A Brief History of Mummies” flash fiction in The Dream People
“Scalp Full of Salami” flash fiction in The Strange Edge
“View From a Pedestal” short story in The Pedestal Magazine
“What?” novel excerpt in Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens

Halloween Yet Forward

Happy Halloween, everyone! This post deals with a new interview, an anthology appearance, and more, but first: I don’t know about you, but this is my favorite time of year. Having said that, many of us are still suffering from the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy. I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and warm during this time.

On that somber note I’ll not be segueing into goblins and other such seasonal creepy-crawlies which may denote silliness, depending on the reader’s perspective. Instead I harken back to a familiar refrain for those following me online these last few months. And that is support of author Donna Munro during her struggle with cancer. How are we achieving this? By means of the multi-genre anthology Hazard Yet Forward.

Earlier this year when Donna was diagnosed with cancer her fellow Seton Hill alumni members organized this anthology. Who better to do so than graduates from one of the only MFA programs for writing popular fiction? The result is a massive collection of short fiction over 700 pages in length, spanning horror, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and more. I was lucky enough to be included in this project despite not being part of the Seton Hill family; you can read how that came about in my post Moving Forward Despite the Danger.The piece I contributed is a reprint titled “The Invisible Girl.” It’s a longish surreal, quiet horror tale, and has always been a favorite of mine. Beyond that so many of the other works are just plain great. Most importantly all proceeds from the sale of this anthology go directly to Donna and her family to assist them during this difficult time. If you are not in dire straights yourself after the destruction brought by Sandy, or already contributing to hurricane relief efforts, perhaps you’ll consider investing the $9.99 required for this cause. If nothing else it will make a great gift for the avid reader in your life during the back end of this holiday season, when joy and goodwill triumph over the fear and gloom ushered in by Halloween.

Now, you might be wondering what all of that has to do with October 31st, or Halloween specifically. I’m one of the Hazard Yet Forward contributors spotlighted in Jason Jack Miller’s Sound Check at Inveterate Media Junkies (IMJ) today. Check it out at http://inveteratemediajunkies.com. Over 30 of us are featured here as of today in brief interviews. Learn more about the history surrounding our contributions, our creative process, our thoughts on the genres and the craft, and more. Several of those involved in the Hazard Yet Forward project are also contributors to the media reviews and news site Inveterate Media Junkies and have donated their column space to bring you these features. This continued spirit of generosity from them does not surprise me, nor does that of Inveterate Media Junkies itself after having gotten to know the site owners. Yes, in the interest of transparency I will put it out there that I’m also a contributor to the site as recently announced.

Having said all that I hope you and yours have a fun, scary time tonight! I’ve been so busy with storm prep–and weathering the storm itself–that my son’s costume has fallen by the wayside, as have any treats to be given out. I’d better go get on that unless I want to deal with a despondent child this evening, and a front yard bedecked in toilet paper come the morning. In the meantime I hope you find my interview entertaining, particularly my selection of weapons for the zombie apocalypse.

Moving Forward Despite the Danger

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
~Dr. Seuss

I travel a lot, and as such am accustomed to meeting people. Sometimes they are even good people, and that’s nice. Occasionally I’m lucky enough to meet great people, and it is those instants I realize just how fortunate I am to live in a time and place where it is possible to be an author/editor. Meeting incredible people, however, is something I don’t know how to deal with. It doesn’t happen. We live in a culture saturated by mythologies–the incredible event, the incredible friendship, the incredible romance–all playing out thousands of times a day for us in film, television, and literature. Thus far 2012 has afforded me the opportunity to actually meet not just one, but multiple incredible people, and have incredible experiences, and develop incredible friendships. I’m fairly certain they’ll have to make a movie, book, and television show about it all some day.

In June I found myself in the auspicious position of being an editor guest of Seton Hill University’s In Your Write Mind Workshop. On the first evening of the workshop a large group of us went out to dinner at Primanti Brothers, a western Pennsylvania tradition. Among the ten of us I found myself positioned next to an unfamiliar face. The woman’s name was Donna, and despite my poor small talk skills it was clear Donna was friendly and intelligent. We talked again at a room party much later that night, but I didn’t realize until the next day she was one of the handful of organizers for the entire workshop.

It’s called a workshop, but it’s really a writing conference in terms of size and scope, only it’s more valuable than most conferences you’ll find yourself attending. Donna had a huge role in making that happen, especially the Gatsby Costume Ball. Looking back on it I cannot believe the whole thing only took four days; it has all the memories and significance of entire months of my life.

It came out a couple weeks later that Donna had been diagnosed with breast cancer. When considering the interval of time it takes to receive medical test results it seems entirely likely that she was operating at the workshop with the prospect of having breast cancer weighing on her. To function gracefully during the 24/7 workload and sensory assault that was the In Your Write Mind Workshop merely being a participant would be difficult for a lot of us, not to mention being an organizer and participant…but then to heap that extra level of stress on with health concerns. You would have never known it from how she conducted herself publicly.

Not surprisingly those involved with Seton Hill’s Popular Fiction Writing MFA program banded together to create a charity anthology unlike any other. At well over 700 pages, with works ranging from romance to horror, from fantasy to mystery to science fiction, Hazard Yet Forward anthology gives you your money’s worth while knowing ALL the proceeds go to assisting with Donna’s medical costs. This is one of those rare times when you can actually give back to somebody who regularly gives all they have to the writing community, and it has been made a matter of convenience. For more information, or to purchase, simply visit: http://www.amazon.com/Hazard-Yet-Forward-ebook/dp/B008TXBN8I/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=1DQ9KRJNCCGUF&coliid=I1GDJ5L18ZCHC2

And yes, I have a story in the table of contents. There are almost 80 authors in all, ranging from veterans to new voices, all of whom are quite accomplished. Please allow us to entertain you in exchange for your support of Donna’s continued cancer treatment.