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What Riley’s Scops Talk About . . .
When They Talk About Love

February 26th, 2015

tim sommers leadThe polar vortex didn’t keep story lovers from turning out at this month’s storytelling night at Riley’s Pour House.

If you were there, you know firsthand how thoroughly the act of storytelling can warm a frigid night.

If you didn’t attend, and you live anywhere in the Pittsburgh area, you owe it to yourself to drop by next time. Either way, we hope you enjoy this post and will consider spreading the word about Story Night @ Riley’s.

This months session featured a roster of talented scops who explored (in the words of Raymond Carver) “what we talk about when we talk about love.”

Doug Claytor thumbnailThe night’s lineup featured a number of new faces, storytellers whom we hope will become regulars. Among them was Tim Sommers (above left), an accomplished scop who has performed on The Moth stage in London and New York. In introducing his story, Tim spoke of his belief that love stories take a lifetime to be fully realized. Nevertheless, he shared a piece of a story in which love helped bring him back from a nearly fatal accident — a smash up that he related with the intensity of a thriller writer.

Also on hand was Doug Claytor (right), a spoken-word performer from Maryland who specializes in the ancient art of reciting verse from memory. A true 21st-century scop, Doug presented three poems as spoken-word stories, delivering them without the aid of book or paper. By doing so, he demonstrated the kind of connection a performer can established by speaking directly to an audience. That’s what Story Night is all about.

Cheryl RileyThe night also featured some familiar faces, among them Karen Yun-Lutz, Cheryl Riley (left), Richard “Shag” Shaughnessy (below right), and last year’s All-Star champion Owen Kilbane. I hope to post audio from some of their presentations soon.

For this installment of The 21st-Century Scop, I’m offering three of the presentations from Riley’s Love Night, featuring the debut performances highlighted above plus the opening story that I told to kick off the evening. Give a listen to all of them, and, if you like what you hear, please spread the word. If you have any trouble playing any of them, please let me know. I’ve been using Libsyn as the podcast service provider for these 21st-Century Scop recordings. The service seems quite reliable on my end, but I’d like really like to know what you think.

Shag LoveFinally, if you like what you hear in the recordings, we’ll be doing another storytelling night on March 31, when the theme will be St. Patrick’s Day stories — the perfect topic for an Irish pub.

If you’d like to gather some raw material for a story, consider attending Riley’s big St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 14, when I’ll be taking the music stage with some of the members of the Laughrey Connolly Band at 7:00 pm. Also performing will be John Puckett and The Wild Geese Band. Be there, and I guarantee you’ll have stories to tell.

So much for preamble. The audio players are below. Listen, enjoy . . . and scop on!

Photo of Lawrence C. Connolly copyright © 2014 by Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette.
All other photos copyright © 2015 by The 21st Century Scop.

Hallowen: Magic, Mystery & the Macabre Trick or Treating with Friends

September 8th, 2013

HalloweenMagicMysMacabre-500Halloween comes early this year, with the September release of Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre – another terrific anthology from award-winning editor Paula Guran and the good people at Prime Books.

The book is a follow up to Paula’s 2011 anthology Halloween, which featured 33 classic reprints by the likes of Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and F. Paul Wilson. It also featured a thoughtful essay about the origins and traditions of Halloween, which you can read here.

Unlike its predecessor, the new book features all-new Halloween-themed stories. I’ve just finished reading my copy, and it’s a terrific book – perfect material for a cool autumn night.

scent-of-magicAmong the standouts is “The Halloween Men,” a horror story by my good friend Maria V. Snyder, a writer more often associated with romantic fantasy than horror fiction. She and I currently serve as residency writers in the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, and at this summer’s residency she attributed her foray into the macabre to hanging out with Michael A. Arnzen and me. She was being generous, of course. But regardless of how the story came to be, it’s a terrific read. Set in a strange world where the wearing of masks is enforced by mysterious men in black robes, “The Halloween Men” displays the kind of spare yet fully-realized fantasy that has made Maria one of the best fantasy writers working today. If you haven’t discovered her yet, consider checking out her books Scent of Magic, Poison Study, Touch of Power, and all the other titles that you can read about at Good reading awaits.

TimeAnother standout story is “All Souls Day” by Barbara Roden, who in recent years has established herself as one of the contemporary masters of short fiction. Publishers Weekly, in a review of her collection Northwest Passages, refers to her work as “deftly executed tales of subtle horror,” and her story in this collection continues that tradition. Barbara is also a multi-award winning editor who, along with her husband Christopher Roden, has been running critically acclaimed Ash-Tree Press since its inception in 1994. I first met Barbara and Christopher at World Fantasy 2007, and we’ve been good friends ever since, getting together at the major conventions at least once or twice a year. In 2010 they edited and published This Way to Egress, the definitive collection of my horror stories.

Jack Pumpkinhead by William Wallace DenslowHalloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre also features terrific new stories by Laird Barron, Laura Bickle, Jay Caselberg, Brenda Cooper, Brian Hodge, Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jonathan Maberry, Norman Partridge, John Shirley, Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem, Carrie Vaughn, A.C. Wise, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro – some of the modern masters of magic, mystery, and the macabre.

Oh yes, it also contains one of my stories – a new tale of physiological horror titled “Pumpkin Head Escapes.” And since the book releases this week, my friends and I get to do some early trick-or-treating.

Care to join us?

Image Credits:

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre,  Prime Books 2013. Scent of Magic, Harlequin 2013. Northwest Passages, Prime Books 2010. Jack Pumpkin Head, illustration detail by William Wallace Dinslow from L. Frank Baum’s The Road to Oz (1909).