Meet the Irregulars: Cameron Garriepy

Thirteen Questions with CAMERON GARRIEPY

  • Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

 I do write under a pseudonym sometimes.

  • What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Two of my dearest friends, Mandy Dawson and Angela Amman, are my publishing partners. They read everything first, and I value their insights and critique like no one else’s. They know my voice, they know my world, and they’re not afraid to tell me when I’ve gotten it wrong. Every single book they’ve lent me their advice on has come out better for following it.

  • What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Two programs: Scrivener and Vellum.

  • How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

So, so many. I can name three robust partial to finished drafts, and there are at least three more fleshed out ideas, plus a handful of blurbs and summaries…

  • What does literary success look like to you?

Bringing in more than I need to pay out for my daily life, plus maybe enough for a sweet vacation once in a while.

  • If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

I’d have stayed an English major and gone on to an MFA early, solely for the connections. Would it make me a better writer? I don’t know, but greased wheels roll more smoothly.

  • What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

To borrow from Stephen King: butt in the chair. I’ve got a whole life that I love and a job that I need to be at so we don’t lose our house—or have to turn the lights and heat off, so writing sometimes takes more of a backseat than I’d like.

  • Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There are a lot of Easter eggs in my books—to other books I’ve written, as well as to my writer-friend’s worlds, so if you’ve read all of our stuff, you might catch them. If not, no harm, no foul.

  • Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I do read them, and aside from the initial pinch of disappointment when someone doesn’t like my work, I generally enjoy that I’m actually provoking a response from someone. Plus, algorithmically speaking, any review is a good review. Sort of…

  • What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Because romance novels for so long focused on “alpha heroes,” paragons of some (sometimes many or all) stereotypically manly virtue, that kind of man is always lurking about in my psyche. In truth, I try to write actual humans, with flaws and insecurities—my swoon-worthy heroes included. Allowing them to fail, to misinterpret or act foolish can be a challenge when I’m feeling inclined to put them on a pedestal.

  • What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

My research tends to be career-related, or geographical, since I write mainly contemporary romance set close to where I live. I almost never research before starting a book, since I’m rarely 100% certain what I’ll need until I’m in it. When I’m researching, it’s eleventy-zillion tabs open in my browser and weird conversations with my friends and family, then reading, and finally picking a stranger’s brain if I need to.

  •  What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

If you know Daphne DuMaurier, it’s likely because of Rebecca or Jamaica Inn, or maybe The Birds or My Cousin Rachel. My favorite of hers, my comfort read, my literary lovey is Frenchman’s Creek. I think it gets dismissed as “a romance” because there’s a noblewoman and a pirate and a love story, but it’s got so much going on under the surface about a woman’s self-discovery, about the nature of happiness and purpose and desire…

“And are you happy?”

“I am content.”

“What is the difference?”

“Between happiness and contentment? Ah, there you have me. It is not easy to put into words. Contentment is a state of mind and body when the two work in harmony and there is no friction. The mind is at peace, and the body also. The two are sufficient to themselves. Happiness is more elusive—coming perhaps once in a life-time—and approaching ecstasy.”

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

Where the Red Fern Grows. I sobbed through the ending. It was awful. I don’t necessarily believe in angels, but dogs are the closest thing I can think of.


BIO:

Cameron D. Garriepy attended a small Vermont college in a town very like her fictional Thornton. She’s missed it since the day she packed up her Subaru and drove off into the real world. Some might say she created the fictional village as wish fulfillment, and they would be correct.

She is the author of the Thornton Vermont series, and the founder of Bannerwing Books, a co-op of independent authors. Prior to Bannerwing, Cameron was an editor at Write on Edge, where she edited three volumes of the online writing group’s literary anthology, Precipice. Cameron appeared in the inaugural cast of Listen to Your Mother – Boston, and irregularly contributes flash fiction to the Word Count Podcast.

Since her time at Middlebury College, Cameron has worked as a nanny, a pastry cook, and an event ticket resale specialist. In her spare time, she cooks, gardens, knits, reads avidly, and researches hobby farming–chickens and goats are just waiting for her ship to come in. She writes from the greater Boston area, where she lives with her husband, son, and a geriatric pug.

http://camerondgarriepy.com

facebook.com/camerondgarriepy

twitter.com/camerongarriepy

amazon.com/author/camerondgarriepy

 

d

Review: Good Omens

Armageddon Will Be Quirky

Review of

GOOD OMENS: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

By Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

4/5 Stars

This one has been on my “To Be Read” pile for far too long, and with the Amazon Prime series coming up, I thought it might be high time to give it a go.

I love Pratchett and I love Gaiman, so why not?

In a world that was created on Sunday, 21 October, 4004 B.C. at 9:00 AM GMT (give or take 15 minutes), this quirky and delightfully funny take on Good vs. Evil begins a weird ride with the birth (and subsequent misplacement) of the anti-Christ.

But a demon (Crowley) and an angel (Aziraphale) like the world as it is, thank you very much and would prefer Armageddon be put off indefinitely.

What follows is a mish-mash of perspectives and misadventures for the demon and angel, an Anti-Christ child named Adam and his little Gang called the Them, who has no idea who the child is, but Adam keeps making his conspiracy theories come true, a hell-hound named Dog who is a cute and fluffy mutt, a descendant of the titular Agnes Nutter, the last two Witchfinders in England and the Four Horsemen.

The story is more akin the Hitchhiker’s Guide in tone and lightness of prose than some of either author’s darker works. It’s a fun read, but I pulled a star for the significant amount of head-hopping that is, at times, confusing.

Overall, a good read. As always, I recommend reading the source material before seeing the movie/TV show

 

 

 

 

Meet the Irregulars: Karl Dandenell

Thirteen Questions with KARL DANDENELL

  • What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

In the early 1980s, I spent a few days in England as part of a trip to Sweden, where my mother’s family lives. There was a heat wave going on, and the airlines had lost my sister’s luggage, so when we went off to Stratford-on-Avon and she had to wear all my gaming and athletic logo tee shirts. Man, you do not want to see British folks sunning themselves in the public park.

  • Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I would say that I prefer “having written” to “writing,” except for those times when the Muse actually bothers to stay for breakfast. That sort of flow is energizing but in a calming way. When writing is exhausting, it’s usually due to the fact that I’m writing the wrong thing, or fighting the POV, or just flogging a bad idea.

  • What are common traps for aspiring writers?

You know the old phrase, perfection is the enemy of the good. That one gets you every time. You don’t think about the fact that what you read is the end product of a long development process, with many hands (and eyes) contributing. Your own stuff on the page is just potential.

  • Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I did, back in college, because I was embarrassed about my (admittedly pedestrian) fantasy stories. I actually have a pseudonym in a way, since my earliest stories were published under my birth name, whereas everything since I got married have appeared under my married name, which is slightly different.

  • Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I don’t think lack of affect will sink your writing. It’s a bigobstacle to overcome, certainly, but you could potentially write amazing prose or explore outrageous ideas without all the icky emotions. I suppose it’s a question of compensation. Some of the early SF I read wasn’t exactly populated with emotional, three-dimensional characters.

  • Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Yes and yes. When I look back at my stories (no published books yet) I see some consistent motifs, themes, and character types. So you could say that my work exists in some sort of shared universe. Having said that, you could pick up anything I wrote and still enjoy it without getting the connections.

  • What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Good heavens, that would have to be Viable Paradise. It just kicked my ass in the best way, and forced me to get real. It also cemented the idea of having a proper tribe that supported your work and inspired you.

The worse money I spent was tuition at graduate school for MFA. I learned some valuable lessons and met some great people, but I attended the program at a very bad time in my life. I was too young, and my fiancée broke off our engagement about halfway through the process, so much of my time after that was a depressed blur.

  • What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I use to get in trouble in school for “acting out” and otherwise disrupting the educational environment. So my apology notes and punishment essays showed me that a good turn of phrase could fix a lot of situations.

  • How do you select the names of your characters?

With contemporary stories, I can usually draw from my own experience (office phone lists are great for this.) For fantasy pieces, I might use one of the random name generators and then tweak it until it sounds right. I’ve gotten lazy lately, and usually fire up a baby names website to pick a couple for each story, depending on the genre.

  • What was your hardest scene to write?

Transition scenes and housekeeping scenes are the worst me. Characters have to get from Point A to Point B, whether it’s a physical move, or just shifting the reader’s attention from one object to another. I envy writers who can see the movie in the their and follow their internal camera. For me, it’s more about doing stage directions and hope the actors can make it look natural.

  • What is your favorite childhood book?

Runaway Ralph. I was fortunate enough to meet Beverly Cleary at a school book fair-type event. We had to take a bus to Santa Barbara, and the bus was late, so we didn’t get as much time to see and hear the authors. Ms. Cleary was kind enough to stay later and answer questions for all the kids. What a class act.

  • Do you believe in writer’s block?

Believe in it? I have an annual membership, sir. It’s more real than the Easter Bunny and twice as deadly. I think the problem people have with writer’s block (or any other creative impediment) is a tendency to make it a binary state.  Blocked or not. Mauren McHugh described her writer’s block in this way: it wasn’t that she couldn’t write. It was that she felt she could only write shit.

  • What is your writing Kryptonite?

Anxiety. And depression. The Evil Twins. When I fall down the rabbit hole of worry, then the Muse pour her wine down the sink and grabs her coat. Serious depression makes everything harder, and you have also the lovely side effect of not caring about your work. Anxiety, on the other hand, can make you question every damn word and punctuation mark on the page.


BIO

Karl Dandenell is a first-generation Swedish American, survivor of Viable Paradise XVI, and active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He lives on an island near San Francisco with his family and cat overlords. He is fond of strong tea and distilled spirits. When not sitting in project meetings, he reads a lot of speculative fiction, and serves as a First Reader for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Website: https://www.firewombats.com

Twitter: @kdandenell

 

Submissions Open: The Word Count Podcast Episode 86

Forest of Wonder

The month of May is one of my favorite times of the year. Life is blossoming everywhere, the days grow longer and the sun begins to warm my old bones. I’ve always thought of this month as the “month of the fae” so I wanted a fitting, magical landscape picture to go with that sense of wonder:

 

Pretty and mysterious! I can’t wait to see what the Word Count Irregulars make of this one!

The guidelines for submission to the show are below–and anyone can send in a story for consideration.  I’m always open to new writers and new ideas.

I would love to hear from you, either with a story submission or via social media. I have a Facebook Page that could use a few ‘likes.’ The more listeners and contributors we have, the better the shows can be.

There are nearly 500 original stories at this point—all free for your listening pleasure, all we ask is for people to help get the word out. Click the link:

The Word Count Podcast Facebook Page

If you want to listen to the past (free) shows, the links below will take you to them:

LIBSYN

or

iTunes

There are eighty-five shows available right now!

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

THE WORD COUNT PODCAST – EPISODE 86 “Forest of Wonder”

GENRE: Any.

DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by Saturday 25 May 2019 by MIDNIGHT Eastern time.

THE DETAILS: The work must be an original story in English based on the picture theme above.

Do NOT exceed SEVEN minutes.

As this is a podcast, I need to receive a file of YOU, a friend or multiple friends reading (singing or otherwise performing) your work. MP3 FORMAT ONLY, and please attach your MP3 file to an e-mail or contact me for a Dropbox link.

Your submission MUST also contain the following:

• Your pen name
• Your latest bio (DO NOT ASSUME I HAVE YOUR LATEST)
• Links to your website(s) – Include your personal site, Facebook Fan page, etc.
• Your Twitter handle (if you have one)
• A photo of you I can use for the show notes
• At the end of your recording, please add “This is the author of […] and you’re listening to The Word Count Podcast.
• Permission to use your recording in the podcast.
• PLEASE Make sure you have included ALL ARTIFACTS I have asked for. Do not assume I can “Get your picture from the internet” or can “Pull your bio from your web page.”

Send your file to me@rbwood.com (or via the dropbox link I can provide) by 25 May 2019. You can also e-mail me with questions beforehand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but I will communicate that to you should it be the case. I add the ‘Explicit’ tag to the ‘cast, so if your story uses adult themes or language that’s ok—but it should be necessary for the story.

***NOTE: I will NOT accept stories that are discriminatory in ANY WAY (whether it be by race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc.), or that include rape. ***

Peace

What’s Next?

“What’s Next?”

Before the phrase “what’s next” was made popular by the series The West Wing, it was popular in my household growing up. When my brother, sister and I were very young, that question meant there were more chores and more work to do. As we got older, that question morphed into setting goals, reaching for them, assessing, and asking that very question while moving on to the next item on our to-do list.

During this week leading up to the Emerson graduation festivities where I will receive my MFA hood and degree, I’ve been thinking a lot about that age-old question of what’s next.

My 33-year corporate career is over—has been for a few years now. The last two of those years has been spent studying, reading and writing. Yet I haven’t published (other than episodes of The Word Count Podcast) since 2016.

I have three rejections for short stories in that time—all from people I know putting together anthologies. These were token submissions, at best. I have 20 short stories that I’ve written during the Emerson program that I should start shopping around a bit more aggressively.

I know I need to spend the summer finishing Bayou Whispers—my supernatural thriller set in New Orleans. And I have a couple of ideas for another novel and a few novelettes after that.

Reading, of course, is on the to-do list—you can’t be a writer without being a reader. Besides, I DO love a good book. I want to add reviews for books I read moving forward–one a week should be achievable.

The MFA I’m receiving is a “terminal degree,” which means I could start looking for potential teaching gigs. The stroke-induced anxiety I suffer from might impact my ability to stand in front of a class, but there is the possibility of teaching online courses or even writing essays. It might be worth trying both.

My “what’s next” has other possibilities as well. I’ll continue my podcast until at least episode 100—a personal commitment I made 9 years ago which I plan on fulfilling.

And there is the ongoing physical rehab that takes hours out of each day.

There are also people in this crazy literary industry I would love to work with. Editors, writers, agents and publishing houses I have jotted down in a sort of bucket list of talent I want to engage with and learn from.

So “what’s next” is just about anything I want it to be.

At the end of 2015, I nearly died from a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack, dozens of strokes and cancer.

And while I physically and mentally cannot do what I used to do for a living, in 2019 I find myself actually enjoying life more than I ever have.

“What’s next” is a question my parents ingrained in my very soul. That question, I realized years later,  stemmed from the fear of an unknown future.

So what’s next? Anything that I want.

Now the question excites me.

Peace, love and hair grease,

R

The Word Count Podcast: Episode 85

Cherry Blossoms

Welcome to episode 85 of the #WordCountPodcast!

This month, we have five stories from our intrepid authors, called the Word Count Irregulars–and you even have a little something from me for a total of six delicious tales based on the picture of Cherry blossoms in full bloom with Mt Fuji in the background:

Nothing says Spring to me more than cherry blossoms!

We’ve had a few posts for the new segment “Meet the Irregulars.” In the last few weeks, we’ve had 13 questions with  Bill Kirton, Maria Haskins, and W. B. J. Williams, and there are more to come.

Now, for those of you who are impatient, listen to the latest show here:

The theme for this season is Landscapes.

 

Before we get on with the show notes, a reminder that we are looking to increase the number of likes on the show’s Facebook Page, so hop on over there and tell your friends about us (use the #WordCountPodcast hashtag).

Second, as always, the WCP is FREE to download and listen via iTunes or Libsyn. This show is brought to you by writers who love the opportunity to share their stories with you. In many ways, the #WordCountPodcast is a hobby for us, as there are no advertisers or revenue streams. It’s just us, a microphone, a four channel mixing board and a passion for sharing our words with you.

We are not asking, nor have ever asked, for monetary compensation. This is our playground, and once a month we invite you to join us around a virtual campfire and listen for a bit.

However, I and my colleagues would very much appreciate it if you shared links for the podcast on social media, and perhaps check out each author’s links and bios (posted below).

In the meantime, allow me to introduce you to my talented friends:

Our Guests:

Bill Kirton – “A Matter of Love and Death – the sequel”

Bill Kirton was born in Plymouth, England, studied French at Exeter University and graduated in 1962. While teaching at Hardye’s School, Dorchester, he started his PhD on the theatre of Victor Hugo and was a lecturer at Aberdeen University from 1968 to 1989.

He’s also been a voice-over artist, TV presenter and has extensive experience of acting and directing. His directing credits include many French language plays as well as works by Shakespeare, Orton, Beckett and Ionesco. He spent a sabbatical year at the University of Rhode Island Theater Department, which commissioned translations of 3 Molière plays from him, one of which he directed himself. The script also won third prize in the British Comparative Literature Association’s Annual Translation competition, 1999.

Bill wrote and performed songs and sketches in revues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, stage plays, two of which were commissioned by Aberdeen Children’s Theatre, and radio plays for the BBC, two of which were also broadcast in Australia.

Since the late 1990s, his writing has concentrated on prose fiction. He has written many short stories and ten novels, three of which have won awards, with another being long-listed for the Rubery International Book Award.

Bill has held posts as a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews and, since 2015, has been organiser of a Scotland-wide scheme which places professional writers in schools to help students with the transition to writing at university. He still gives workshops in schools from Orkney to Dundee as part of the scheme and he’s written five books in Pearson Educational’s ‘Brilliant’ series on study, writing and workplace skills. Bill also co-authored ‘Just Write’ for Routledge.

Website (and blog): http://www.billkirton.com

Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=620980849 https://www.facebook.com/bill.kirton/

Twitter: @carver22

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY

Maria Haskins – “Knock Knock”

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and translator. She was born and grew up in Sweden, but now lives just outside Vancouver with her husband, kids, and a very large black dog.

Website: https://mariahaskins.wordpress.com

Twitter: @mariahaskins

R. B. Wood – “The Ink-Washed Cat”

R. B. Wood is a technology consultant and a writer of Speculative and Dark Fiction.  His first novel, The Prodigal’s Foole, was released to critical acclaim in 2012.  Mr. Wood recently has been published online via SickLit Magazine and HorrorAddicts.net and appeared in the award-winning anthology “Offbeat: Nine Spins on Song” from Wicked ink Books.  Along with his writing passion, R. B. is the host of The Word Count Podcast, and is graduating from Emerson College this year with an MFA in Creative Writing & Popular Fiction.

R. B. currently lives in Boston with his partner Tina, a multitude of cats, and various other critters that visit from time to time.

Around the web:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon’s R.B. Wood page

Eden Baylee – “Place to Die”
Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write and is now a full-time author of multiple genres.

She has written three collections of erotic novellas and flash fiction ~ SPRING INTO SUMMER, FALL INTO WINTER, and HOT FLASH.

In 2014, she launched the first novel of her STRANGER TRILOGY with Dr. Kate Hampton–a psychological mystery/suspense called “Stranger at Sunset.” In addition to working on her next novel, Eden created the LAINEY LEE SERIES about a feisty divorcée who finds adventure and romance in Hawaii.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! 

W. B. J. Williams – “A Poem to Defrost He Who Hides in the Mountains”

W. B. J. Williams holds advanced degrees in anthropology and archeology. He is an avid historian, mystic, poet, and author who manages an information security program at a prominent New England firm. He is noted for his bad puns, and willingness to argue from any perspective. He is endured by his beloved wife and two daughters, and lives in Sharon Massachusetts. When he is not at home or at his computer, he can often be found haunting the various used bookstores of Boston.

Websites: http://www.wbj-williams.net https://www.facebook.com/wbjwilliams http://wbjwilliams.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @wbjwilliams

Cameron Garriepy – “Murasaki and the Demon”
Cameron Garriepy wonders what would happen if you fed a baby demon. In April of 2015, Cameron released Damselfly Inn, the first full-length novel in her Thornton Vermont series, which is not about demons or cherry trees. The sequel, Sweet Pease is available now, and she fully expects to produce the third volume by year’s end.
 

 

Meet the Irregulars: W. B. J. Williams

Thirteen Questions with W. B. J. WILLIAMS

  • What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I have walked to the locations identified in the Maltese Falcon in San Francisco, eaten in Joe’s restaurant the same meal as Sam Spade, and taken photographs of the surviving buildings.

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

The first book I read which brought me to tears was the Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson.

  • What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers tend to get trapped into formulaic plot structures such as the “monomyth”, instead of writing a story built from the tension between what the character wants and the obstacles to achieving this.

  • What is your writing Kryptonite?

The one thing that destroys my ability to write is exhaustion.  I have a very demanding day job, whose funds I need to pay for the needs of my family.  Some days I come home from this job too tired to do anything but stare into empty space instead of writing.

  • What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

As I’ve many friends who are writers, I’ll mention Leo, Tracey, Helen, Alan, and Rich, all of whom have read stories of mine and offered constructive criticism.

  • As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I can’t imagine a mascot, as I’m not a sports team, nor do I play one on TV.  Avatar?  Well, you could say that my most recent story was inspired by Cthulhu, nor not, as you will. Just don’t say it out loud seven times on the night of a new moon while walking naked in Western Massachusetts WHERE NO ONE CAN GO.  IT IS MYTHICAL.

  • How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have four unpublished and one half-finished book.  I am actively seeking publication for two of those unpublished books.

  • What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Not all books I’ve written have required research.  When they have, I don’t wait on starting to write the book while I do my research, but plan to incorporate the research into a later draft.

  • Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

I view writing as a spiritual practice, and all my writing is regarding the spiritual theme of reconciliation.

  • What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

All my characters are sex positive.  Even the unicorn.  Especially the unicorn.

  • What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)

I write about my post-death experience mostly.  That and kadath.  Yes, especially kadath.

  • What was your hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene I ever wrote was the scene where my protagonist tries and fails to torture the person he blames for the torture he suffered in prison.

  • Do you believe in writer’s block?

I do not believe in writer’s block, as I’ve never been blocked when I’m not exhausted.  I believe that stress and other factors can impede creativity, but too many people aren’t self-aware enough to understand what stress does to them.


BIO

W. B. J. Williams holds advanced degrees in anthropology and archeology. He is an avid historian, mystic, poet, and author who manages an information security program at a prominent New England firm. He is noted for his bad puns, and willingness to argue from any perspective. He is endured by his beloved wife and two daughters, and lives in Sharon Massachusetts. When he is not at home or at his computer, he can often be found haunting the various used bookstores of Boston.

Websites: http://www.wbj-williams.net https://www.facebook.com/wbjwilliams http://wbjwilliams.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @wbjwilliams

Submissions Open: The Word Count Podcast Episode 85

Cherry Blossoms

April is always such a fickle month weather-wise. Here in New England, it’s a veritable crap shoot when choosing one’s clothes for the day. It’s winter in the morning, spring by 10 AM, Summer by 2 PM, fall by dinner, and snowing by bedtime.

It’s exhausting! So I thought something pretty would work for this month’s show:

 

Mount Fuji in the distance, with cherry blossoms in the foreground. I could tell you stories about Japan, but I thought I’d let the irregulars take a crack at it.

The guidelines for submission to the show are below–and anyone can send in a story for consideration. While I certainly love the stories our Word Count Irregulars supply, I’m always open to new writers and new ideas.

I would love to hear from you, either with a story submission or via social media. I have a Facebook Page that could use a few ‘likes.’ The more listeners and contributors we have, the better the shows can be.

There are nearly 500 original stories at this point—all free for your listening pleasure, all we ask is for people to help get the word out. Click the link:

The Word Count Podcast Facebook Page

If you want to listen to the past (free) shows, the links below will take you to them:

LIBSYN

or

iTunes

There are eighty-four shows available right now!

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

THE WORD COUNT PODCAST – EPISODE 85 “Cherry Blossoms”

GENRE: Any.

DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by Saturday 26 April 2019 by MIDNIGHT Eastern time.

THE DETAILS: The work must be an original story in English based on the picture theme above.

Do NOT exceed SEVEN minutes.

As this is a podcast, I need to receive a file of YOU, a friend or multiple friends reading (singing or otherwise performing) your work. MP3 FORMAT ONLY, and please attach your MP3 file to an e-mail or contact me for a Dropbox link.

Your submission MUST also contain the following:

• Your pen name
• Your latest bio (DO NOT ASSUME I HAVE YOUR LATEST)
• Links to your website(s) – Include your personal site, Facebook Fan page, etc.
• Your Twitter handle (if you have one)
• A photo of you I can use for the show notes
• At the end of your recording, please add “This is the author of […] and you’re listening to The Word Count Podcast.
• Permission to use your recording in the podcast.
• PLEASE Make sure you have included ALL ARTIFACTS I have asked for. Do not assume I can “Get your picture from the internet” or can “Pull your bio from your web page.”

Send your file to me@rbwood.com (or via the dropbox link I can provide) by 26 April 2019. You can also e-mail me with questions beforehand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but I will communicate that to you should it be the case. I add the ‘Explicit’ tag to the ‘cast, so if your story uses adult themes or language that’s ok—but it should be necessary for the story.

***NOTE: I will NOT accept stories that are discriminatory in ANY WAY (whether it be by race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc.), or that include rape. ***

Peace

Meet the Irregulars: Maria Haskins

Thirteen Questions with MARIA HASKINS

  • What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Back in my misspent youth, I spent a year living and working just outside London (I was a Swedish nanny/au pair of all things), and I since I am a huge (and I mean HUGE) fan of John LeCarré’s books about George Smiley, I went to look at the street where Smiley lives. It’s described in detail in several of the books, and I just had to see it for myself. A lot of my time in London was actually spent visiting locations from the books about Smiley. Like Hampstead Heath which is a “scene of the crime” in Smiley’s People. Oh, and Smiley lives at Bywater Street number 9.

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

The first time I finished Lord of the Rings I cried like a freaking baby because I didn’t want the story to be over. I wanted more of that world. I think I read the last half of Return of the King basically in one day and night (I was 13 or 14), and it just gutted me completely. I wanted to be inside that book, inside that story so badly.

  • What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’m friends with you, Richard! (I still owe you a drink, or more than one, when we get together in a pub some time.) Writing for the Word Count Podcast was one of the best decisions of my writing life. Being friends with you, and writing for this podcast, it’s my write club, it’s my monthly writing challenge, it’s what’s taught me about writing flash fiction. I don’t have writers that I socialize with in “real life”, but I know a lot of writers online, and it’s meant the world to me. It’s a community, it’s the people you chat with at the water cooler (AKA social media), it’s the company I keep to teach me things and find things out and just feel like I’m not crazy for pursuing this writing thing.

  • If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t give up. You’ll achieve things you haven’t even imagined yet. And dump that lit-fic and go all-out (or mostly all-out) speculative fiction instead. That last one is a decision I wish I’d made sooner.

  • What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?

Wow. That is a huge huge HUGE question. I just did the math the other night and I read about 50 different speculative fiction zines on a regular basis. If I was giving advice to someone who wants to get into writing and/or reading speculative fiction, I’d suggest they cruise the field of zines and find the style of speculative fiction that appeals to them, the stuff they want to read and write. Listen to the Escape Artist podcasts because you’ll get both originals and reprints. Read widely and with an open mind. Check out the established zines like Apex, The Dark, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fireside, Strange Horizons. Check out new stuff like Anathema, Fiyah, Reckoning, and Augur Magazine too. There is so much depth in the speculative fiction field right now, you will find a lot of stuff that appeals to you, and you’ll get a better feel for the field as well.

  • What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I don’t know that it’s under-appreciated, but Angela Slatter’s trilogy about Verity Fassbinder should definitely be read by more people. Supernatural crime/urban fantasy, set in Australia, and the books are full of fairytale and myth and characters you just want to follow wherever they go. It’s three books, Vigil, Corpselight, and Restoration. Highly recommended.

  • How many hours a day do you write?

It varies widely. I work as a freelance translator, I write a lot of reviews and roundups, and I have kids, so I never really know how much time I’ll have to myself for my own writing. Some days I don’t write at all. Most days I write at least two-four hours. Though a lot of that might spent staring at the screen and backspacing to get rid of what I just wrote.

  • Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

When I read Kai Ashante Wilson’s “The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps” it completely blew my mind. That insane mix of fantasy and scifi, of magic and science, of language and dialect and slang, the whole thing, the whole phantasmagoric, trippy awesomeness of it… I don’t think I’d ever realized you could write like that, and I loved it.

  • Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I am horribly thin-skinned and sensitive and I am really totally crap at taking criticism. Not as bad as I was in my younger days, but still. I revel in the good ones, while secretly thinking they can’t really mean it, and I have to sort of work my way through handling the bad ones. The bad ones don’t kill me like they did when I was in my 20s, but they still sting.

  • What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I’d give up sleep if I could. I love sleeping, but it just seems like such a waste of time some days.

  • What are your favorite literary journals?

Since I don’t read literary journals, I’ll list some of my favourite speculative fiction publications. I read a lot and I love a lot of them, but I’ll pick a few faves. I’m a huge fan of Flash Fiction Online, I loved Shimmer (which sadly published its last issue recently), and I am an enormous fan of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I also adore Reckoning, Anathema, and Fiyah. There are so many excellent SFF publications, but I’ll leave it at that for now!

  • What is your favorite childhood book?

I read a lot as a kid. My sister and I both read tons of Tintin and Asterix, so I have really fond memories of those books.

  • Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes, because I was unable to write for about 10 years. But I think people sometimes don’t talk about the same thing when they talk about writer’s block. There’s the “block” you get when you’re writing and you feel stuck on a story, whether it’s finishing it or starting it or whatever. That stuff I think you can work around by using some “tricks of the trade”. Then there’s the writer’s block like I experienced, which has nothing to do with a specific story, but has to do with the act of writing itself. For a variety of reasons related partly to writing, and partly to big life-changes for me, I basically could not write, could not physically get myself to think of stories to write or sit down and write any fiction for about a decade. It was almost like a phobia. The one thing I was really good at, that I loved doing, was all of a sudden a sense of anxiety. It was terrible. I thought I’d never write again. Finally it came down to a decision where I knew I either had to really, really give it a go or just … not. And, well, here I am. I think that kind of writer’s block is most likely connected to things going on in your life, rather than just having to do specifically with writing, and I am just so grateful I got back to writing. I still have a fear lodged deep inside me that I’ll wake up one morning and that block will be back again, that I won’t find words, that I’ll be unable to write, but it hasn’t happened yet.


BIO

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and translator. She was born and grew up in Sweden, but now lives just outside Vancouver with her husband, kids, and a very large black dog.

Website: https://mariahaskins.wordpress.com

Twitter: @mariahaskins

Meet the Irregulars: Bill Kirton

Thirteen Questions with BILL KIRTON

  • Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I was going to say both, but that would be misleading. The actual writing is exhilarating because I feel I’m out of myself, I inhabit the characters, I feel I’m with them, in whatever place or time they are. It takes a lot of energy and yet afterwards, the fact that I’ve done it, I’ve resolved the issues, created a scene (or more), leads not to exhaustion but to elation.

  • What are common traps for aspiring writers?

The main one is not trusting their own voice. By that, I mean that many think they ought to be writing ‘Literature’. I’m not using that as a derogatory term, but it can lead to artificiality, overblown images and/or expressions, pretentious observations, a completely unnatural use of language. One aspect of that is trying to mimic the style of their own favourite writers. By all means admire quality writing but remember that it takes many forms.

  • Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Not really, although having written in different genres (modern crime, historical crime, romance, satire, fantasy, adventure) I sometimes wonder whether I owe it to my readers to signal that I’m doing something different. And there’s one thing that did make me think I should use a different name. When I wanted to check my books on Amazon, I used my name as a search term, whereupon Amazon asked ‘Did you mean Bell Kittens’?

  • Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

‘Feel’ is the important word, there. We can be as cerebral as we like but, in the end, a story calls for involvement . You can instruct and ‘educate’ a reader but, in the end, you want him/her to be moved, to care about someone or something and if you don’t feel and care yourself, you’re fumbling in the dark.

  • What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I find the process of reading so absorbing that each book I read feels like I’m listening to either a friend or someone I’d like to be a friend. It’s also in the nature of the profession to know lots of other authors and they always have variations on the way I think myself about the whole business. In terms of helping me, I’ve learned lots from simply reading their works but, in the context of the Word Count Podcast, it’s my collaborations with Eden Baylee that have taught me most about writing. Whether I start the story, or have to pick up from Eden’s start, it feels as if the characters are separate from us – in a way, independent. They’ve moved in different, often unexpected directions from when I was last dealing with them, so they become more complex characters then they were when they were just ‘mine’. It’s very complicated but it’s something I’d recommend as an experiment.

  • If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Enjoy your writing but work hard at learning the non-writerly bits of the job, i.e. promotional work, marketing. And don’t expect to earn a living from it. But still do it.

  • What’s the best way you’ve found to market your books?

See the previous answer. My direct answer to this question is ‘I have no idea’. I’ve had excellent reviews, kind comments from readers, and sound advice from successful fellow writers  but I’m hopeless at it.

  • What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It obviously varies from book to book. With my Jack Carston series, there was a lot of work on forensic techniques, policing methods, etc. before the first one but, thereafter, the characters were established and could drive the narrative themselves. Then I turned to the mid 19thcentury and figurehead carving, so that meant I needed historical information (and I also took wood carving classes – and still enjoy carving as a hobby). There was also a bit of self-indulgence there because, to get the feel of being on a fully rigged tall ship, I joined the crew of the Christian Radich as a paying member and sailed across the North Sea from Oslo to Edinburgh. That book was The Figureheadand, in the sequel to it (The Likeness),  there was a travelling theatre company so I used the knowledge of 19thcentury theatre which I’d gained from my academic doctorate research on the plays of Victor Hugo.

  • Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

It never occurs to me to think that that’s what it is but it really is. You move out of the dimension of the present and inhabit the minds and world of fictional figures and places. Images, symbols, meanings, explanations all occur to you in and for the context of this as yet non-existent world, so you disappear into it. In a way, it’s a terrific sort of therapy, an antidote to the world of political stupidity.

  • What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

This will probably sound artificial but, while I recognize that (as a generalization) men and women do think differently and can be stereotyped, I’ve never believed that they don’t fundamentally share very many common beliefs and characteristics. In my latest book (The Likeness), the central female character, Helen, having a fierce individual persona and lots of determination (and being stuck in Victorian Scotland with its rigid, gender-specific conventions) quite often disagreed with me and did things which made my life difficult. (See also next answer.)

  • What was your hardest scene to write?

The Likenesscame about because several readers insisted that I write a sequel to The Figureheadmainly because they wanted to know how the romance between John and Helen developed. The final scene of the book provides the answer and I had to rewrite it six times – mainly because Helen wasn’t totally satisfied with any of the first five compromises I suggested. In the end, luckily, she and I came to an agreement, but only after a prolonged struggle.

  • Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, because all opinions are useful. I’ve been lucky, nearly all of mine have been kind so far. The only ones that disappoint are those that say more about the reviewer than the book. For one of my crime novels, which involved a nasty murder (as such books tend to), a reviewer ‘questioned the writer’s psyche’ and said it ‘creeped her out’ that I also wrote childrens’ books, while another gave a book one star because Amazon had sent her a different book from the one she’d ordered. But there’s nothing one can do about things like that, and one learns a lot from people’s opinions

  • How long on average does it take you to write a book?

There’s no such thing as ‘average’. Almost all of my modern crime novels took about 10 months for a first draft, then a couple of extra months for editing and proofing. The Likeness, however, took 4 years. (Thanks, Helen.)


BIO

Bill Kirton was born in Plymouth, England, studied French at Exeter University and graduated in 1962. While teaching at Hardye’s School, Dorchester, he started his PhD on the theatre of Victor Hugo and was a lecturer at Aberdeen University from 1968 to 1989.

He’s also been a voice-over artist, TV presenter and has extensive experience of acting and directing. His directing credits include many French language plays as well as works by Shakespeare, Orton, Beckett and Ionesco. He spent a sabbatical year at the University of Rhode Island Theater Department, which commissioned translations of 3 Molière plays from him, one of which he directed himself. The script also won third prize in the British Comparative Literature Association’s Annual Translation competition, 1999.

Bill wrote and performed songs and sketches in revues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, stage plays, two of which were commissioned by Aberdeen Children’s Theatre, and radio plays for the BBC, two of which were also broadcast in Australia.

Since the late 1990s, his writing has concentrated on prose fiction. He has written many short stories and ten novels, three of which have won awards, with another being long-listed for the Rubery International Book Award.

Bill has held posts as a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews and, since 2015, has been organiser of a Scotland-wide scheme which places professional writers in schools to help students with the transition to writing at university. He still gives workshops in schools from Orkney to Dundee as part of the scheme and he’s written five books in Pearson Educational’s ‘Brilliant’ series on study, writing and workplace skills. Bill also co-authored ‘Just Write’ for Routledge.

Website (and blog): http://www.billkirton.com

Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=620980849 https://www.facebook.com/bill.kirton/

Twitter: @carver22

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY

Writer of Things. Podcaster.