Category Archives: The Arcana Chronicles

NECON 38: A Retrospective

In Fall 2017, I attended the Gamut Writer’s Workshop, and one of the many (not entirely sober) conversations I had with Rena Mason was that I should join the “NECON group–they are all horror writers  from your area and are a lot of fun.”

“Sure,” I said, after hearing more about this writer’s convention. “Sounds like fun!”

Then, I fucking forgot.

At Stokercon earlier this year, I was chatting with Tony Tremblay and Matt Bechtel who told me (again) ALL about this conference called NECON and that I’d have a really great time.

“Great!” I said. “I’ll sign up right away!”

Then, I fucking forgot. Again.

Finally, I think it was Todd “Tarbox” Keisling who said (rather kindly, I thought), “are you gonna sign up motherfucker,  or do I have to kick your goddamn ass?”

“Fuck you, Wood”

I might not be remembering that accurately. I’ve had strokes.

Anyway, I signed up. So the weekend right after Readercon I caught a lift with my editor Amelia Bennett, her husband Paul, and Brian Kirk (IT WASN’T MY FAULT, BRIAN) and set course for Rhode Island and Camp NECON.

Holy Mother of God. What a fantastic experience. Damn, I hate saying Rena, Tony, Matt, Todd (and the others) were right–but they were.

You KNOW they’ll lord that over me until Cthulhu comes back.

I’m still processing the experience, but let me take a stab at why NECON was so amazing.

DAY ONE

We checked into The Roger Williams University Baypoint Inn and Conference Center where NECON has been held for some time. The place is what you’ed expect for a Inn on a college campus: 80’s architecture, basic rooms and amenities.

BUT.

I’ve never met so many NICE staff members in one place in my life. I was told the folks at the Bayport Inn liked the NECON crowd–but I didn’t understand what that meant until I walked through the front doors. Resourceful, ready (and genuine) smiles, always offering to help, always receptive. I dropped my luggage off and proceeded with the Crew to “1776” to pick up a few last minute things.

“Last Minute Things”

The first afternoon was geared toward setup, folks arriving, and the “In Real Life” reconnections that happen when you mostly chat with friends online for the better part of a year.

As evening fell, I found myself out in the quad–the courtyard of the Bayport Inn– where there was an organized Scotch tasting going on. I brought my newbie offerings: a bottle of Laphroaig Lore and a distiller’s edition of Oban. I also had a bottle of Single Barrel Select Jack Daniels for anyone not into the Scotch tasting.

“Damn it, there’s that bug spray…wish I’d actually used it.”

The problem is there were DOZENS of bottles of scotch brought to the quad for tasting. Okay…that really wasn’t the problem. The problem was that by the end of the evening IT WAS ALL GONE.

“Yes, I’m drinking a Newcastle. It was intermission.”

Tony Tremblay ( in the photo above) and Bracken MacLeod organized the shindig. In fact, I brought the Laphroaig specifically for Bracken to try–but he was late getting back from dinner. He found me cradling the Islay Single Malt, muttering “No more. Bracken only. G’way.”

After assuring me it was, in fact, himself, he took the bottle from me gently and poured himself a “wee dram.” The rest of the evening went very well. And I learned what a “Saugy” was…

“Bracken and Tony–I think this was from Tony’s camera but who the hell knows?”

DAY TWO

Awake. God help us all.

One point of order before I continue. I might add a few notes here and there, but most of the kaffeeklatsch/panel notes below come from the NECON online program. 

After a breakfast that wasn’t half bad compared with the normal hotel buffet-style grease-fest, I hit three kaffeeklatsches:

Upon Further Review: Book Review Kaffeeklatsch
Stephen Cords, Brian Kirk, Frank Raymond Michaels, Madelon Wilson, Craig Wolf

An interactive discussion of reviews–what should and shouldn’t be in them. Some comedic moments when discussing some of the worst reviews people have received.

Read Any Good Books Lately?: The Year’s Best Books Kaffeeklatsch

Barry Lee Dejasu, Jaime Levine, Hildy Silverman, Erin Underwood, Hank Wagner

 

A nice discussion of the latest and greatest since NECON 37

 

And the Oscar Goes To: The Year’s Best Films Kaffeeklatsch
Michael Arruda, Scott Goudsward, Rena Mason, Charles Rutledge, Matt Schwartz, L.L. Soares

From the program: “Black Panther. There, I saved you all an hour.”

I agree with this. NEXT!

After lunch (pasta salad, sandwiches, and fruit) I sat in a few of my first NECON panels.

Angry Little Gods: The Art of World-Building
Dana Cameron, Charles Colyott, Craig Shaw Gardner (M), Charlaine Harris, James A. Moore, Nicole Peeler

For some authors, it’s not enough to simply create characters and plots; some feel the need to create their own worlds as well. Sometimes those worlds are identical to our own with just a few tweaks, and sometimes they’re vastly different. Our panel of architects discuss what it’s like to build your own sandbox before letting your characters play in it.

The Spark: What Inspires a Great Short Story
Meghan Arcuri-Moran, Christa Carmen, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Toni L.P. Kelner, Ed Kurtz, Helen Marshall

 

It’s the question all short fiction writers hate — “Where do your stories come from?” And since most Necon Campers are too old to believe that old wives’ tale about a stork, we’ve gathered some of the best in speculative short fiction to give us a glimpse into their creative process.

At this point, I blew off the podcasting panel (sorry about that) to take a “too many people” break. And maybe get a beer. Maybe.

Changing Lanes: Writing in More Than One Genre
David Wellington, Dana Cameron, Chris Irvin (M), Helen Marshall, Errick Nunnally, David Demchuk, F. Paul Wilson

Horror, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy … How are authors successfully writing and building audiences across multiple genres? Our extremely versatile panelists discuss how they pull it off.

Dr. Wilson had the BEST response to multiple genres and the possibility of losing your audience if one switches. Paul writes the delightful Repairman Jack series among many other things…he decided when he wanted to write a medical drama, that Jack would be hired by a doctor. A noir crime story? Jack would be hired by a police department. Etc.

After a “class photo” was taken, it was off to dinner (chicken medallions) then the toast/update with a Hall of Fame induction ceremony. For the record, Errick Nunnally did a fucking awesome job as host–even adding a Dallas Mayr (Jack Ketchum) fitting memorial:

“This bottle of scotch has to be gone in five minutes…starting now”

We all stepped up for a shot. It was empty in two minutes flat.

The shenanigans were followed by the “meet the author” party where I apparently proposed to Christopher Golden, cried a little when I finally picked up James A. Moore‘s Dinner for One (his memoir of dealing with his first wife’s death), and hung out with Todd and Erica Keisling who had copies of his wares, including his latest novelette The Smile Factory. I may have completely blown my book budget for the con in one night. 

“Budget blown. And this is only the first night. I believe the total stood at 42 new books by Sunday #SorryNotSorry”

The evening turned into a social event in the quad afterwards. I have no pictures of the afterparty, officer.

And I never did find that Cards Against Humanity game.

DAY THREE

“For fuck’s sake. I’m a 53 year old disabled fat white guy. I need more than four hours of sleep!”

Remember that line. It bites me in the ass later.

Breakfast, then the morning programing started at 9:00. I was pretty excited–in the afternoon I was going to run an errand then go into Providence to hit some bookstores and have dinner with the Bennetts and the Keislings.

Doin’ It For the Kids: Children’s Literature vs. Mid-Grade vs. Young Adult
Patrick Freivald, Lynne Hansen (M), Peter Johnson, Kya Stillson, Jeff Strand, Trisha J. Wooldridge

You can never start a reader too young, but the business of publishing has made putting a book into a kid’s hands more and more complicated. Our panelists will discuss writing, selling, and marketing books aimed at the different pre-adult audiences.

I’ve been thinking about publishing some mid-grade fiction. My first indie book, The Prodigal’s Foole was considered by some to lean more MG or YA…except I used the word “fuck” too many times. Imagine that.

BOO!: Modern Ghost Stories
P.D. Cacek (M), Tom Deady, John Foster, Michael Rowe, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Tony Tremblay, Dan Waters

 

The oldest horror tales in the world involve ghosts and haunted places, and they’re still going strong today. What keeps the public interested in hauntings? What are some modern examples that both honor this age-old tradition and put a new spin on it?

I love ghost stories–from Dickens classic A Christmas Carol through Rolad Dahl’s numerous collections and Rin Chupeco’s The Girl from the Well–I adore the genre. My upcoming Bayou Whispers is a Southern Gothic Thriller, but you can bet your ass there is a ghost or two in there.

Closing Time: Remembering the Life and Work of Jack Ketchum
Linda Addison, Jill Bauman, Ginjer Buchanan, Sephera Giron, Gordon Linzner, Doug Winter (M)

The horror community lost a giant when Jack Ketchum passed, but Necon lost our friend, Dallas. Our panelists discuss the man, his work, and his legacy.

Many of the Dallas anecdotes were personal and heartfelt. I met him once in New York–we were both smokers at the time and he was an amazing, talented, and generous man. It was a glorious five minute chat. About Scotch.

Leaving the compound was bittersweet. First, the crew dropped Brian Kirk off at T. F. Green airport as he needed to leave NECON a day early. It was great meeting him, though, and as a reminder IT WASN’T MY FAULT. Just sayin’ man. 🙂

Second, we hit a couple of bookstores in Providence, including the famous Lovecraft Arts & Sciences.  Wallets lighter, we then settled in for an amazing sushi dinner with martinis before heading back to Camp NECON.

All in all, a marvelous and hysterical (“Tarbox” and “Porno Batman”) afternoon/evening.

 

We got back in time for the infamous NECON Roast–this year’s victim was Matt Bechtel. By sacred oath, no more can be said in public about any NECON roast–sorry to “short” change you.

Remember when I wrote earlier that I said I would be bitten in the ass later?

Yeah. It’s later.

I was in quite a bit of pain (a leg filled with old blood clots will do that) and decided to call it an evening. I’d been in the quad two evenings in a row and knew what to expect. I was sad not to hang out with friends new and old of course, but c’mon! There would be nothing really new this evening right?

RICHARD WOOD YOU DUMB SOM’BITCH.

James Moore and Cullie Seppälä (Tessa) got MARRIED in the quad, and the ceremony was officiated by Bracken MacLeod.

And I missed it. Fuck.

“Credit the pic to David Wilson. I think. I dunno…I WASN’T THERE.”

DAY FOUR

Last days at conventions are always so bipolar–on one hand, I’m sad to be leaving an amazing group of wonderful people. On the other hand, the cosmic evil that is social anxiety is telling me to get the fuck out of there.

Eggs and sausages with a gallon of coffee made me feel a bit better, and it was time to get on with it.

All week, the weather had cooperated. But on Sunday, the last day of NECON, the rains came, fitting my mood perfectly. I went to one panel and the closing ceremony/town hall meeting before heading out with Amelia and Paul.

Being Weird in the 21st Century: Cosmic Horror and Weird Fiction Beyond Lovecraft’s Mythos
John Goodrich, Paul McMahon, Mary SanGiovanni (M), Darrell Schweitzer, K.H. Vaughan, Halli Villegas

The Old Ones may be timeless, but that doesn’t mean Weird Fiction doesn’t occasionally need to be refreshed. How has this style of literature stayed so popular and relevant through the years? Our experts share their insights.

I loved this panel–three separate Bayou Whispers epiphanies occurred during the conversation. By the end of the hour, I had eight pages of notes.

Necon Closing and Town Meeting
Tell us what we did wrong, what we did right, and what you’d like to see us do next year. Also, we award the Necon Olympic Medals!

The goodbyes were coming. Many folks left for the airport first thing that morning. Others were trickling out throughout breakfast and the last panels. There was a sense of closure in the air. Or mildew. Not sure which.

NECON is a family. We are weird, and “out there.” We will play RPGs and card games while drinking like fish and discussing whether or not Stephen King’s latest is as good as his last (SPOILER: Yeah, The Outsider is pretty good, IMHO).

This was the first convention that I din’t feel like an outsider. I was made welcome from the start, considered family by the end.

When Amelia and Paul dropped me off, I sat in my writing Lair for a few hours just processing the experience. I finally met the Bennetts and the Keislings in real life. I reconnected with Mercedes M. Yardley, Rena Mason, Hillary Monahan, Cat Scully, Jim Moore, Christopher Golden, Tony Tremblay, Jeff Strand, Peter Halasz, Bracken MacLeod, and so many others. I met Brian Kirk, Sephera Giron, Errick Nunnally, Heather Lovelace-Hack, Mary Hart, April Hawks (MAAAA!), David Demchuk, Vikki Ciaffone, Duncan Eagleson, Paul McNamee, Max Bechtel…

You get the idea.

Authors. Artists. Editors. Book Dealers. Renegades and rogues. Call them what you will.

I call them family.

Am I ready for NECON 39 in 2019? Goddamn right, I am. Where’s the Scotch?

 

ReaderCON 29

***Note: The ReaderCON panel by panel commentary that follows is in reverse order***

 

SUNDAY

 

 

 

 

The con is coming to a close, and the scramble to pack up all the podcasting gear and *ahem* the ‘few’ new books now in my collection took me until 10:00 AM.

All About the Odyssey Writing Workshop – Jeanne Cavelos

Earlier this year, I applied to the Odyssey Workshop (on par with Clarion and other high-end writing workshops). My application was politely declined, but I received a lot of excellent feedback from Jeanne on my 4k word submission. My goal was to attend, listen, and see (other than a talent issue on my part) if there were other things I could have done to get me in the door of this six-week intensive program. Not only did I learn a few interesting things for next time, Jeanne remembered me and my application. Is that a goos thing? I’ll let you know if I get in next year.

The Shirley Jackson Awards

In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916 -1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, The Lottery. Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a board of advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2017 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

Award Winners in RED below:

NOVEL

Ill Will, Dan Chaon (Ballantine Books)
The Bone Mother, David Demchuk (ChiZine Publications)
The Changeling, Victor Lavalle (Spiegel & Grau)
The Hole, Hye-young Pyun (Arcade Publishing)
The Night Ocean, Paul La Farge (Penguin Press)

NOVELLA

Fever Dream, Samantha Schweblin (Riverhead Books)*
Mapping the Interior, Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com)
The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, James Morrow (Tachyon Publications LLC)
The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, Margaret Killjoy (Tor.com)
The Lost Daughter Collective, Lindsey Drager (Dzanc Books)*
The Murders of Molly Southbourne, Tade Thompson (Tor.com)

* TWO winners in this category in 2018

NOVELETTE

“Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street,” Chavisa Woods (Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country)
“The Resident,” Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties)
“Sun Dogs,” Laura Mauro (Shadows and Tall Trees Volume 7)
“The West Topeka Triangle,” Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed Magazine)
“You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych,” Kathleen Kayembe (Nightmare Magazine)

SHORT FICTION

“Blur,” Carmen Maria Machado (Tin House, issue 72, Summer 2017)
“Live Through This,” Nadia Bulkin (Looming Low)
“The Convexity of Our Youth,” Kurt Fawver (Looming Low)
“The Mouse Queen,” Camilla Grudova (The Doll’s Alphabet)
“The Second Door,” Brian Evenson (Looming Low)

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press)
She Said Destroy, Nadia Bulkin (Word Horde)
The Dark Dark, Samantha Hunt (FSG Originals)
The Doll’s Alphabet, Camilla Grudova (Coffee House Press)
Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country, Chavisa Woods (Seven Stories Press)

EDITED ANTHOLOGY

Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow (Pegasus Books)
The Djinn Falls in Love, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin (Rebellion Publishing / Solaris Books)
Looming Low, edited by Justin Steele and Sam Cowan (Dim Shores)
Shadows and Tall Trees Volume 7, edited by Michael Kelly (Undertow Publications)
Tales From a Talking Board, edited by Ross E. Lockhart (Word Horde)

How Horror Stories End – Ellen Datlow, Nicholas Kaufmann, Jess Nevins, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

The reader’s expectation of a horror story’s ending or anxiety over the question of how it will end significantly shapes the experience of the story. Which horror stories require cathartic happy endings, and which are satisfying even when evil wins? If the reader likes everything about a horror story but the ending, does that spoil the story or just lead to fix-it fanfic? What moral messages are sent by a horror story’s ending?

James Morrow –  Jim read from and upcoming work that he describes as a “demented Doctor Who episode.” It follows the biblical Lazarus through time as he ends up in the 1960’s, Constantine I’s Council of Nicaea and shenanigans in-between. It is typical Jim Morrow–thought provoking, blasphemous and laugh out-loud funny. This was a marvelous way to end the con!

 

SATURDAY

Imagination All Compact – Carlos Hernandez, C.S.E. Cooney, Brittany Warman, Mike Allen, Sandi Leibowitz

A two-hour speculative poetry spectacular. Also, HAIL CLOCKIE!

Mental Illness in Horror – Erik Amundsen, Nadia Bulkin, Teri Clarke, Hillary Monahan, James Morrow, Terence Taylor

In June 2017, author Magen Cubed tweeted a detailed examination of mental illness tropes in horror, positing that representation has mostly been “schlocky [and] careless.” Sometimes mental illness creates a terrifying threat or antagonist; it can also influence settings such as hospitals and institutions. Cubed puts forth that both of these portrayals demonize mental illness. If horror writers begin to look at people with mental illness as actual people with their own possible heroic arcs, what kind of portrayals might be created instead?

This particular panel was the only one that I was a bit disappointed in. The first 20 minutes or so were rather upsetting personal stories of mental illness from some of the panel, and it took some time to get around to literature. The stories were heartbreaking, don’t get me wrong. But not what I was expecting.

Group Reading: Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers – Marcy Arlin, Rob Cameron, Teri Clarke, Randee Dawn, Brad Parks, Ted Rabinowitz, Sam Schreiber, Marcus Tsong

Various spec-fiction works in progress read by the group. Almost makes me wish I still lived in Brooklyn.  Almost.

C. S. E. Cooney Claire & Carlos are two of my favorite people to see at cons. Upbeat, brilliant and funny, I was delighted to find out that Claire would be reading from Desdemona AND that the book was recently purchased by Tor.

Funny, dark whimsey. Delightful stuff AND she gave me a FREE copy of her CD recorded under her musical whimsey name Brimstone Rhine.

TELL me Brimstone Rhine isn’t also a great name for a demon huntress?

New Frontiers in Fairy Tale Adaptation – Sara Cleto, Rachel Pollack, Veronica Schanoes, Shveta Thakrar, Brittany Warman, Navah Wolfe

Fairy tale adaptations continue to flourish in a wide variety of media including novels, poetry, film, television, and comics. In this panel, a fairy tale scholars and creative writers who have adapted fairy tale material will explore the innovative directions of recent work. How are artists putting the fairy tale to new uses? What contemporary work best exemplifies the potential of the form? Where can we go next?

This was a fascinating panel. I wrote a fairytale sequel a couple years ago based on an old Japanese story called “The Boy Who Drew Cats.” My story, “The Ink-Washed Cat,” is a disturbed and much darker exploration on the consequences of that first story and I wanted to see where it would fit in this new fairytale paradigm.

The Con Suite

 

 

 

 

So here is something y’all should know: playing Cards Against Humanity…as a DRINKING game…with a bunch of writers goes pair-shaped VERY quickly.

And now you know why it’s taken me days to finish this post.

FRIDAY

I’m writing this early Saturday morning as Friday was a jam-packed insane fest–all goo things including a live recording of episode 78 of the Word Count Podcast! But that was a bit later in the day–let’s get to the readings and panels I attended first while trying not to throw up in anticipation of my first Readercon panel.

Gamification of Story Development – Liz Gorinsky, Auston Habershaw, Carlos Hernandez, Bart Leib, Lauren Roy, Gregory A. Wilson

Story-focused games can be useful tools for authors. What happens when a writer draws up a character sheet for their protagonist and lets someone else play it out? Which gaming systems are best suited to developing stories? How can games support writing without creating chaos?

A great set of discussions around complex gaming (tabletop and online) and the creativity behind game stories and their collaboration of development.

Kaffeeklatsch with James Morrow

Jim and his wife Kathy were in great form for this casual discussion of the publishing industry, Jim’s latest work (which he’ll be reading from on Sunday) and a general Q&A which focused on Jim’s research, love of movies and more.

 

Understanding Neuroscience – Benjamin C Kinney

With my work with Brigham & Woman’s Neurology department on the development of gaming and creative strategies for stroke victims, I was very interested to see what Mr. Kinney had to say. His presentation and discussion hovered around helping writers to understand how to think about the brain. How can one make sense of something so complex, and extract stories that are coherent, plausible, and free from the cliches of the past fifty years?

Group Reading: The New American Bizarrerie – Christa Carmen, C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Julia Rios, Patty Templeton, Jessica Wick

From gothic to gilded, from Latinx SF to weird Americana, from the Icarus-altitudes of the surreal to the depths of the dark fantastic, readers C.S.E. Cooney, Julia Rios, Carlos Hernandez, Jessica P. Wick, Patty Templeton, and Christa Carmen will regale listeners with a glorious gallimaufry of contemporary speculative fiction.

 

 

 

 

The Word Count Podcast LIVE! – W.B.J. Williams, M. J. King, Eden Baylee, Bill Kirton, Kathleen Kayembe, R. B. Wood

Here is the podcast:

Episode 78 of The Word Count Podcast went live in Salon A with  a set of stories and a video all based on the following prompt:

W. B. J. Williams – “Where The Children Are”

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

M. J. King

Melissa makes her home in the woods of coastal Maine with her husband, where she writes many flavors of fantasy. Her short stories have found their ways into the anthologies Fight Like a Girl and What Follows, and she is an occasional contributor to the Wordcount podcast. Between writing, travel, the dreaded day job, and demands of family, she can sometimes be found reciting lines on a stage. Some might even call it “acting.” Follow her adventures on her personal blog or on Twitter (@mjkingwrites).

Eden Baylee  & Bill Kirton

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 trilogy with Dr. Kate Hampton—a psychological mystery/suspense called STRANGER AT SUNSET. In addition to working on her next novel, Eden created Lainey Lee for the Lei Crime Series, a feisty divorcée who finds adventure and romance in Hawaii. Her novellas are available on Kindle Worlds.

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! To stay apprised of Eden’s book-related news, please add your name to her mailing list.

Website: http://www.edenbaylee.com

Blog: https://edenbaylee.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/edenbaylee

Twitter: @edenbaylee

Bill Kirton

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

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

I 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, my writing has concentrated on prose fiction. I’ve written many short stories and ten novels, two of which have won awards, with a third being long-listed for the Rubery International Book Award.

I’ve held posts as a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews and, since 2015, have been organiser of a Scotland-wide scheme which places professional writers in schools to help students with the transition to writing at university. I still give workshops in schools from Orkney to Dundee as part of the scheme and I’ve written five books in Pearson Educational’s ‘Brilliant’ series on study, writing and workplace skills. I 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/

Kathleen Kayembe 

Kathleen Kayembe is the Octavia E. Butler Scholar from Clarion’s class of 2016, with short stories in Lightspeed, Nightmare, and The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Volume 12, as well as an essay in the Hugo-nominated Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler. Her work appeared on the SFWA and Locus Recommended Reading Lists for 2017, and she is a Shirley Jackson Award nominee. She also publishes queer romance under the pen name Kaseka Nvita, edits part time, and runs the occasional Amherst Writers and Artists writing workshop. She currently lives in St. Louis with a beloved collection of fountain pens, inks, and notebooks, and never enough time to write what she wants.

R. B. Wood

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-wining anthology “Offbeat: Nine Spins on Song” from Wicked ink Books.  Along with his writing passion, R. B. is host of The Word Count Podcast, and is studying for his MFA at Emerson College.

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


 

Carlos Hernandez

I adore Carlos–he is one of these human beings that is genuinely Brilliant, curious, funny talented and nice. He is probably the most genuine person I’ve ever met. He read from his upcoming middle-grade novel.

 

 


THURSDAY

Arrived at ReaderCon mid afternoon and setup for the live recording of The Word Count Podcast schedule for tomorrow at 5 PM. Logistics is something pre-strke me loved and post-stroke me struggles with, but in the end, we are ready as we will ever be. Melissa (with baby) and Walt will be joining me on the panel tomorrow and I meet with both of them to discuss final arrangements (okay—I met with Walt to discuss final arrangements. I meet with Melissa because: BABY).

After dinner with Glenn (as is tradition) I attended a delightful trio of back-to-back readings by authors whose work I enjoy and are genuinely good people to boot:

John Langan

John read a bit of his piece from the upcoming The Devil and the Deep:Horror Stories of the Sea edited by Ellen Datlow. A haunting tail of murder and hauntings.

 

F. Brett Cox

Brett read a few things for us. A couple of short poems and two pieces from his upcoming collection: The End of All Our Exploring.

 

Scott Edelman

One of my favorite Readecon mainstays and an amazingly delightful man, Scott read his story from  an upcoming anthology to be released in October 2018.

 

And now the Thursday program is over and I’m heading back to meet up with Glenn to cause more mayhem…ah…ReaderCon!

ReaderCON 29 -Pregame

This evening is the “free” portion of the Readercon program. As I look back over the decade of attending this particular conference, I’m amazed at how many people I’ve met through the con and how far I’ve come as a writer.

I’ve budget for FOUR conferences in 2018–I’ve already been to Boskone and Stokercon. This month Readercon and NECON are back to back, so it boils down to one question: Will I survive the month of July?

While I gird my loins (and pray my liver will serve me has it has in the past), I am delighted to let you all know the I will be doing a LIVE broadcast for episode 78 in Salon A at the Quincy Marriott, 5 PM Friday the 13th of July. I’ll be posting loads of pictures, recordings and descriptions over the next few weeks and hope you’ll join me for this bit of my writing journey.

And never fear–I have notes on Bayou Whispers to incorporate into the manuscript in-between sipping bourbon and catching up with old friends.

It’s Thursday, 12 July and Day One at Readercon. Let’s see what happens next.

Reflection and Hope

Happy New Year to you and your family. May this year be a blessing for you all.Copyright 2018 Boston Globe

I’m typing this via an iPad, by the way. So let’s just blame Apple for any typos, omissions, grammatical errors and stupidity, m’ kay?

Honestly, I hadn’t planned on a blog post until the new season of the #WordCountPodcast launching in a few weeks.

Then I saw one of my handwritten PostIt notes with the words “write more blog posts 2018” scrawled on it.

Might as well kick that off right now, then—it being the first day of 2018 and all.

Reflection

2017 was a year with highs and lows like each year before it. My cognition hasn’t improved much since the strokes 2 years ago, and I developed new DVT blood clots a couple weeks ago.

But with both of these issues, I’m choosing to look at the silver lining.

My cognition hasn’t improved, but the work-arounds I’ve been learning and practicing under the watchful eyes of the brilliant folks at BWH Neurology continues to improve. The DVT’s, while worrying (no one seems to know why my blood acts up occasionally), the clots were caught and the situation is being managed pharmacologically.

There were many more triumphs this past year, and that is what I want to focus on in this post as the wins of 2017 will springboard me into 2018.

Highlights from last year include:

• My Wife started her own consulting company in 2017 and she already has two clients.
• My sister is shortly moving into her brand new home in Florida with my Mom. Construction began in 2017.
• My son began his Junior year at Albright College and is now living off campus.
• My daughter began her senior year in High School and she has already been accepted at college for the fall (announcement pending her final decision).
• Four published stories, one in an award-winning anthology.
• Completed the brilliant Contemporary Dark Fiction online class offered by Richard Thomas
• Met new friends in the class, and here I want to single out S. L. Coney and Becca Borawski Jenkins who have been and will continue to be marvelous friends, writing Sherpas and over all brilliant and delightful people.
• Was accepted at Emerson College and began my online MFA
• My first semester consisted of two graduate courses—a writing workshop and a literature course—resulting in a 100.00 and a 95.88 respectively.
• The Emerson Writing, Literature and Publishing department chair along with the Popular Fiction director at Emerson have added teaching courses to my curriculum which I also begin this Spring.
• I read 68 Books last year. Check out that list if it interests you over at my Goodreads site.
• I attended the Gamut Magazine Writer’s Workshop in Chicago—finally meeting both Richard Thomas and Mercedes M. Yardley. Those two were on my “must meet” bucket list. I was delighted to ALSO meet: Joe Meno, Jac Jemc, Lindsay Hunter, Jan Bottiglieri, Casey Frechette, Sarah Read, Rena Mason, Ashleigh Gauch, Alec Fugate, Pamela Dugan, and Alana Southwood.
• I attended BOSKONE and ReaderCon (and will be at both again in 2018) and signed up for StokerCon (coming this March).

That’s just the “highlights reel.” Friends and relatives came for visits, I finally decided to give up my car (as driving is a focus issue for me) and that was an incredibly free feeling. I have the love of an amazing partner, and a support system in place that I am incredibly great full for.

Focus on the positive. That is one of the mantras for 2018. The other is “be better.”

The Future-2018 Goals & Hope

There will always be things I want to accomplish and don’t get done over the year. I spend the first few days of the new year reflections on what was done and on what was missed. Are the missed things important? Are there things I need to logically accomplish first before I can tackle a specific goal?

These questions and more go into my planning for the next year.

I expect this list of future goals to be a “living” document. The first page of my new bullet journal contains the list I’m about to share with you. I do expect that it will change and morph as the months slide by. But has of today, January 1st, here is what I hope to accomplish in 2018:

• Attend my daughter’s high school graduation.
• Continue to grow and nourish the relationship Tina and I share.
• Build and execute a health regimen that takes into account my physical and mental limitations, yet allows me to work toward improving my physical situation.
• Continue to write every day. My goal: 500 words a day. Whether on a story, revision, blog post, what have you.
• Build a Social Media platform that makes sense yet doesn’t become the typical “time suck” that platforms like Facebook can become.
• Build a writer’s identity/Marketing plan.
• Write 12 short Stories (“publication ready”) and one novel. 500 words a day X 365 = 186, 500 words. At 5 k per short story (60k) and 90k for a novel, that should be doable if I push it.
• Determine the final direction for my “Arcana Chronicles” series.
• Crush another 24 credits toward my MFA. My goal is to graduate in May of 2019.
• Attend three writer conferences and one workshop beyond Emerson.
• Remap my finances—medical expenses has eliminated any hope at retirement, so I have to figure that all out this year and execute a financial plan.
• See my children as much as possible.
• Visit with my family in Florida for a week without the travel/health trauma I experience now (Currently I cannot travel more than an hour without significant anticoagulation—and I still ended up with more DVTs. A Solution must be agreed between my doctors and I).
• More author networking
• Sign up for and actually read TWO trade magazines
• Map a daily schedule that will allow for meditation, exercise, rehabilitation, writing, networking, school work and “down time.”
• Attend more Emerson events and plug into the WLP department more.
• Blog once a week
• Better planning, effective time management (which has been a joke since the strokes), and a more positive outlook.
• Be kind. As kind and loving as my wife is to me, her family, and all our kitties.
• Be Better. Be better at SO many things…

I’m sure more will be added to the living version of this list. But it’s a start.

I counting on y’all to keep me on task.

Peace and Love,

Richard

Five Days in Wicker Park (The Conclusion)

So, where was I?

Yes. Thursday Evening.

Thursday (con’t)

After the afternoon critique sessions, we had another amazing dinner–this time at Piece, a Chicago high-end pizza joint.

At this point, once fed and watered (and by “water” I mean “Jack Daniels”), it was time for us to take a tour of locales used in Richard’s novel Disintegration. While warm in Chicago for October, rains occasionally dampened the mood (so to speak).

However, the rain gods hit the pause button long enough for our tour. It was fantastic seeing the places from the book–the changes in the neighborhood as well.

Let’s go to THAT bar…

The evening wasn’t done yet.

There is a little pub featured in a pivotal (and by “pivotal” I’m mean a “sex in the bathroom”) scene in Disintegration. It was based on a real bar called the Inner Town Pub. This is where the tour ended–because Richard was going to read from a bit of the novel tonight.

Awesome.

Let me set the stage. The ITP is a hole-in-the-wall bar, it has a dozen or so stools, a pool table, some neat stained glass and a couple of tables.

It also has a small stage in the back.

I’ve been in so many places like this in so many different countries, that I think these types of places are a universal constant.

These places all smell the same, by the way. Ireland, Germany, Korea, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Morocco, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, and Uruguay.

They smell of desperation, beer, and decades-old cigarette smoke.

Anyway, we settled into a couple of tables. There were a few regulars (and by “regulars” I mean “30-something drunk boys and girls”) playing pool and we asked if they would mind if there was a reading.

It’s at this point in the story that I need to pause and tell you how drunk and “uninterested in the arts” I expected these folks were. I was right about the first bit–they were amazingly wasted. But when Richard began to read…the bar fell silent.

Even with a Chicago Cubs play-off game in the background.

It was one of those unexpected moments that you figure would probably suck, but didn’t.

I’d missed the part of the sign that said “Home to the Arts.”

And then, on the way back to the inn, the rain gods opened up the taps and pissed on us…

Trains and rains in Wicker Park

Friday

Poetry day.

I’m about a lyrical as the Donald while he is 3AM tweeting-on-the-toilet. #Covfefe

But we were going to meet Jan Bottiglieri and the topic was connecting cross-genre writing, so I was intrigued.

Poetry, I discovered, is more like computer coding–at least coding back when I was trained for it. It is, according to Jan, “a story told with an efficiency of space.” I never thought about it that way before.

Word count is pretty far down on the worry  list for us prose authors. In Poetry, space concerns are near the top. Since this session I’ve gone back to some of my old poetry books and have looked at them anew. Tennyson, Frost, Eliot, Longfellow.

There is an elegance in the pages I never noticed before.

I read a poem a day now. Because I have some make-up work to do.

That afternoon, we reviewed another two stories, then off for a third brilliant dinner at Lillie’s Q. I’m not usually a BBQ fan, but this place was AMAZING.

It’s the “almost all of us” group shot time:

We did look in on a few bookstores after dinner and, with our wallets significantly lighter, made our way through the rain back to the inn.

All us introverts are beginning to tire out from the amount of social interactions in the last few days…so I’ll wrap up the weekend fairly quickly.

Saturday

The rather fantastic Joe Meno discussed and workshopped with us on the craft and creative processes around speculative fiction. The reason I’m not going into further detail on this session is what I wrote here was the genesis of something…that could be interesting.

Let’s just say I revised and added another 20,000 words to that workshopped piece since that session.

We had one last story to critiques for the week, and people began to go their own ways soon after. Dinner (and Richard was four for four with his foodie-place selections) was at the Publican Anker and was, in many was, the epilogue to a story that started only a few days earlier. I had to leave for the airport very early the next day, and needed to pack and finish up school work. We broke early–none of us that comfortable with the goodbyes that would ensue.

*Sigh* Goodbyes are hard after spending a week in basic isolation pouring your heart out via the written word.

It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot. Made new friends.

And I miss them, to be honest.

Every day, when I head down to the Lair to write and work on my MFA assignments, see a few pictures from this trip.

 

 

 

I smile, then get to work.

This whole thing is about making my writing better. I had no idea that the journey would introduce me to some warm, genuine, talented, and brilliant people. Lucky me.

Yeah. Good times.

Peace

Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here

Five Days in Wicker Park (Part Two)

It’s really interesting what happens when a group of introverts get together. Through out the week, whenever a break occurred, we all scattered like rabbits to our perspective safe spaces.

It’s interesting and strange for two reasons. The first is that I was always an extrovert, pre-strokes. Post-stroke Rich’s personality is entirely different. The second reason is how close introverts with common interests can become in such a short amount of time.

Speaking for my own thoughts here–I was terrified at the though of traveling and meeting a bunch of people I’d never met. Yes, the “want” to meet Richard and Mercedes over-road that terror, but I felt it none-the-less.

My wife had said “you’ll be fine.”

She was right.

So before we get to Wednesday’s notes, allow me to introduce you to my fellow inmates:

Pamela Durgin  is a new writer from the west coast. Her story we workshopped —Fires 1976–was a real dark fantasy coming of age story. Obviously I don’t want to say more about these as I hope this 9and all the stories) get published some day. She is a delightful person, smart and talented. It’s interesting that Pam and I are the more…”age-seasoned”… of the writers in attendance, yet we are the newest to the craft.

Alec Ivan Fugate is a “new weird,” bizarro, dark writer with an amazing amount of talent. his story The Egg did something I’ve been trying to do for a while now–made the premise of an old (really good) episode of The Twilight Zone fresh and new. I don’t think he set out to do that–which speaks to the talent of the piece. He attended with his delightful partner and both of them made an amazing couple!

Ashleigh “Allie” Gauch is a brilliant human being. I know I’ve been (and will continue) typing that phrase, but part of the magic of this workshop is the intelligence and passion of it’s peeps. Her story, Camasado is a different perspective on a popular fairy tale/novel that I won’t divulge hear–especially since the story will be expanding to a much larger work. I don’t have an Allie pic, so here is a picture of Lair Kitty.

Rena Mason is a writer, screen writer, fellow member of the HWA, certified RN, brilliant, and funny as hell. That first night in the “Dirty, sexy Taco Place,” she made margarita’s come out of my nose. Her story, Macular Degeneration was a delightful ghost story with chills and murders galore. I don’t have a Rena picture either (photography fail, apparently), but since she adores pugs, here is a picture of a pug in a cat costume.

Sarah Read is a writer and editor-in-chief for Pantheon Magazine. A brilliant (there is that word again) storyteller, her piece, Crosswind, was a storm chaser story with a brilliant twisty plot. No more shall be said! Accept…I don’t have a picture of Sarah either, so here is a wind-swept cat…

Now that you know the players along with our Gamut hosts, let’s talk about day two.

Thursday

Right then. Spent the early morning working on MFA stuff and finishing Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (no wonder he took the 2017 Nobel prize in literature). I’m nervous–and not just because I’m staying in “murder central.” Today, we are workshopping Sex in Literature with Lindsay Hunter. And then my piece for the workshop get’s decimated in group critique.

First, the sex.

Lindsay is delightful. Go read her stuff. All of it. Then follow her on twitter. Stop short of stalking, m’kay?

I’d honestly never really wrote a sex scene I’ve been happy with–they all feel like Penthouse forum letters that are trying to be clever.

Fifteen minutes into the lecture on Sex in Literature….I understood why. I was looking at sex scenes as scenes about sex.

Real literature-sex isn’t about sex at all. It’s about character and story. It’s not 50 Shades of Porn Grey. It’s about being intimate with your characters and showing that intimacy  on the page.

Now I will do all you budding writers a favor. I received a piece of advice that changed everything I thought I knew about “sex on the page.”

Ready?

Even if you don’t use it, write a sex scene with your main character. Want to understand them on an intimate level (the answer, BTW is YES. YES YOU DO)–then write that scene.

It will change your relationship with your character(s).

Lindsay had us write a sex scene in fifteen minutes. During that time, she  threw in three curveballs (a phone keeps ringing, a loud noise is heard, and someone interrupts) to be incorporated into the story.

The FOURTH curve ball was thrown when we had to read our scenes out loud.

It was an amazing learning experience.

We were all spent (pun intended) at the end of the morning session, but they day had so much more planed. Next up would be the evisceration of a very personal short piece I wrote called Dear Dad.

How to make authors cry in three easy steps.

Dear Dad was a short story I wrote originally for one of Richard’s classes. I had two other dark fantasy stories that would have fit the Gamut mold a bit better–so why did I pick this piece? Especially knowing how difficult an epistolary piece is to pull off by experienced writers?

Because 90% of the story was true.

When my dad had a kidney removed due to cancer back in 2013, I started writing him letters. As I was in Boston and he in New York, I couldn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked–work and family.–“life stuff” got in the way. I wrote hundreds of letters over the years…they were every day musings with a bit of humor tossed in. He enjoyed them, and that made me happy.

When he passed away from cancer in 2016, it was on the same day my own cancer diagnosis was confirmed.

How about that for a kick in the goolies?

Part of my personal grieving process included sifting through the letters I wrote to him. I don’t remember when i decided to use a few of them to wrap a story around, but picked a handful of the letters, and began to write.

This is what became Dear Dad.

The problem with the story is that it’s not clicking as an actual story, and I was too close to it to see why.

So I swallowed my pride as well as my loathing of sharing deeply personal details with strangers, and submitted Dear Dad to be scrutinized and picked apart by my new colleagues and my mentors at Gamut.

The group got me past why I was stuck with the story. They made some amazing suggestions. That was what I was hoping for.

What I didn’t expect was how my story–as rough and crappy as it was–impacted a lot of people in that room. There were tears. There were moments of silence because people became too choked up to continue. Even in its current form, that’s the flood of emotions  Dear Dad brought to the surface.

Hell, my story even became the reason that Casey Frechette and I got to know each other. He and I spent until the wee hours of Friday morning talking about our fathers.

Now I know how to fix the story itself. Will it work? Will it pull the same amount of emotion while becoming a cohesive story? I’ll let you know if it is ever published.

Thursday dinner and the Disintegration walking tour, however, would happen before Casey and I bonded as brothers. More on that in tomorrow’s conclusion.

Read Part One

Read Part 3 (The Conclusion) Here

 

Five Days in Wicker Park (Part One)

Earlier in October, I had an…experience.

Many of you know the significant health impacts that air travel has on me. There is a different cocktail of meds I have to take to fly that make me rather sick—so why go to a writer’s workshop in Chicago when I’m doing something similar with my online MFA?

Why? Because it mattered.

My wife, God bless her, understood my desire to go, and fully supported my decision.

And the trip was far more impactful and meaningful than even I imagined it would be. Totally worth it.

I know…I see you rolling your eyes. Follow me a little longer here.

I’ve been struggling with how to quantify and document my time with the wonderful folks of Gamut Magazine spent in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. I think the best way to start is to set the “Wayback Machine” to February, 2016.

When I was recovering from surgery, I had a Skype call (post successful Kickstarter) with two of the people behind the newly funded Gamut Magazine:

Mercedes M. Yardley, who wrote one of the first reviews of The Prodigal’s Foole back in 2011 when she was with Shock Totem, was on the call. She has been an “online friend” for nearly a decade, and is one of the fiction editors over at Gamut (oh and a Bram Stoker award-winning writer of beautiful, whimsical, horror).

Mercedes is also an inspiration to me to for her strength. She will laugh at this, of course. But it’s true.

The second person on the call was Richard Thomas, Editor-In-Chief of Gamut and someone I’d never interacted with before.

We spoke about the craft, and we spoke about a direction for me as a writer in a post-stroke world.

Richard suggested, “maybe taking an online course.” But stopped short of recommending any other sort of education.

I liked what he and Mercedes (who I hadn’t spoken with since I interviewed her) had to say throughout the call. I was recovering, but determined. I read Richard’s Disintegration novel. Then a few of the collections he edited. And more of his short stories.

Now I liked what he wrote too.

After that, I ended up taking one of Richard’s courses through LitReactor. Then a second. Then his 16-week Contemporary Dark Fiction course.

I could do this. I couldn’t be who I was before the “series of unfortunate events,” but I was beginning to see a possible new direction for my life.

I threw caution to the wind and applied to the creative writing online MFA program at Emerson College. Richard provided one of my references.

I was told it was a long shot. I was also told it would take a month or two to process my application and read over my materials (all of which were writings I had done for Richard’s classes).

Four days after submitting my full application and required writings, I was accepted to Emerson.

The point of this preamble is to explain to you how important it was to me to meet this man.

And to meet, finally, Miss Murder herself.

I hope you have a sense now as to how important this trip was. It was a personal pilgrimage, an educational field trip. Even a bit of an American Walkabout.

My five days in Wicker Park were all of these things and so much more. I’ll share some of my journal entries.

Wednesday

Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

My favorite start to a movie, and the perfect summation for the start of this trip. Sick, cranky, and damp from a torrential downpour, I dump my bags in the room (which is completely separate from the rest of the Wicker Park Inn, down a dark foreboding alley and where Miss Murder would declare, with glee, “Ha! This is where you’re gonna die!”) after checking in and go in search of food.

Umami Burgers aren’t, but they are tasty.

I stop into a fancy burger joint with a promising name. It isn’t long before I’m chatting to a bunch of younger people—all actors—for a local company. I dry off, the burger settles my nausea, and I teach them how to make proper espresso martinis.

Laughing and with renewed excitement for this workshop, I head back to the Wicker Park Inn and spend the evening working on my MFA (reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go) and rereading workshop submissions.

Wednesday

Delight and Despair

I met Mercedes and Richard today. Mercedes eyes light up when she sees me and she gives me a huge hug of welcome—it’s obvious we both were looking forward to our “in real life” friendship encounter. This woman, by the way, is a saint (and she proves that over and over through-out the trip, as you will come to see). Why is it all the sweetest writers I met are dark fiction writers? It must be because they get the darkness out on the page, right?

Then Richard walked in. With a big smile, I stuck out my hand to finally shake his.

I got a bear hug instead.

Yeah. That was fucking cool. It was genuine, and heart-felt.

 

 

 

I’d met two people I’d been looking forward to meeting for a while now and that was pretty sweet.

What I didn’t expect was to meet new people that, by the end of this gig, I would feel just as strongly about.

We start off with some introductions and a lecture on the “horror of the unreliable narrator” by the amazing Jac Jemc which was followed by a panel discussion and talk with the team from Gamut (Richard, and Mercedes, of course, and Casey Frechette—a fiction editor at the magazine and someone I connected with on quite a few levels after we workshopped my “Dear Dad” story.

This is where the despair part of the section title comes in. One of the attendees took a dixie on the last step leading down from the Inn’s meeting place. She ended up with one sprained angle, and one that was fractured. An ambulance was called and Mercedes went with her to the hospital.

And no, I’m not telling you who fell. That’s up to her to tell.

As you can imagine, that episode put a damper on things for the rest of the day (and, indeed, tempered our activities for the rest of the retreat).

We reviewed one of the short stories for the workshop, then had dinner and drinks at Takito Kitchen–hereafter known as the “dirty-sexy taco place.” The Margarita’s were awesome, by the way…as was the tapas-style food.

 

 

 

 

Read Part 2 Here

Read Part 3 (The Conclusion) Here

Submissions now OPEN for the SEVENTH Halloween Special!

There will be money involved. Bet you’re reading NOW, huh?

This will be the seventh Halloween Creep-tacular Special.

And boy to I have a story for you guys.

When I was younger and living on Long Island, there was this place. A scary-as-shit place we all knew about, and few dared to tread.

Call it Pilgrim State Hospital, or the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center. We called it creepy as f%^k.

It’s hey-day was in the 50’s, but through the decades, many of the buildings were abandoned. Land has since been sold off, but there are still a few of the old crumbling structures left.

Despite the fact that a much smaller psychiatric center is on the site and it is well guarded, you still can explore the grounds and the remaining dilapidated campus without too much hassle.

If you dare.

So for this, the #WordCountPodcast‘s SEVENTH Halloween Special, I want you to cook up a story about the insane, the abandoned, or the haunted.

Make it scary.

We have a Facebook Page that we have a goal of reaching a thousand likes this year. So give it a like or share it with your friends. The more listeners and contributors we have, the better the shows will be.

There are  over 400 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 past (free) shows, the links below will take you to them:

LIBSYN

or

iTUNES

There are seventy shows available right now!

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

THE WORD COUNT PODCAST – EPISODE 71 “Insane, Abandoned,  Haunted.”

GENRE: Any.

DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by Friday 20 October 2017 by MIDNIGHT Eastern time.

THE DETAILS: The work must be an original story based on the picture above and Halloween.

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 Fanpage 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 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 20 October 2017. You can also e-mail me with questions beforehand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but 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.


NOW THE MONEY PART.

I will pay $25.00 USD via PayPal for each accepted story up to TEN original stories in total.

One Submission per person. NO Reprints and NO multiple submissions. It MUST be an original story you have written and have rights to. If you DO NOT follow the guidelines, your story will be rejected out of hand. Acceptance criteria is up to me, and I’ve had strokes, so it might change day to day. You must have a PayPal account.

Payment will be made upon e-mail acceptance of your story and the offer of payment is only valid until 25 October, 2017.

 


***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

 

 

REVIEW: Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors

4.5 stars out of 5

Reviewer’s Note: I was provided with an Advance Release Copy (ARC) of “Ugly Little Things” by Crystal Lake Publishing in return for a fair and honest review.

The Basics:

Todd Keisling is a nice, unassuming, generous, funny, and talented author. He is a delight to interact with and—as forward writer Mercedes M. Yardley says—“He’s somehow privy to more than we are.”

He is younger than I, yet so much wiser.

This collection is delightfully evil. I enjoyed each story between the covers, and have noted my favorites below. These characters creations of Keisling’s are amazingly real. As real as you, me, your coworkers…

Or your grandmother.

You will fear for them, cheer them on…wish them well or ill. And that is all by the author’s grand design. Pick this one up and enjoy the nightmares from the mind of an author who knows how to send old-fashioned chills rocketing up and down your spine.

The Details:

“A Man In Your Garden” is the perfect overture piece for this anthology. Keisling, in one brush stroke, shows us to expect the unexpected and reminds us that we can be our own worst enemy.

“Show Me Where the Waters Fill Your Grave” both surprised and horrified me. I’ve seen those videos of caskets floating down streets after Katrina. This was one of my favorites from this collection.

“Radio Free Nowhere” preys on your worst fears if you’ve ever traveled lonely roads without radio reception. Imagine: no cell signal, your ipod is out of juice and Sirius isn’t syncing up. It’s just you, the road, and a haunting tune sung by an unseen “woman…”

Next is “The Otherland Express,” about a teenager caught between unrequited love and an abusive father. The seventeen-year-old is met on the bus by one of many nobodies in the world and a choice is made. This one will leave your skin crawling.

“Saving Granny From The Devil” is a modern take on the Devil and Daniel Webster. Keisling’s delightful character development in the exploration of an age-old trope makes this one fresh and unexpected. Decisions made for the right reasons sometimes have unintended and horrific consequences.

Next was my least favorite story—“The Darkness Between Dead Stars.” Told in a “This is really what happened” style from the viewpoint of an engineer for a doomed Mars mission, I really didn’t sympathize with either the narrator or the “MVP.”

“Human Resources” made me laugh out loud, and I so do enjoy Keisling’s dry sense of humor. In the form of an e-mail resignation letter from a newly converted Human Resource Manager, this Lovecraftian note brings back for an encore performance Charles Boid (Praise His Glory).

Still chuckling over the last story, the horrific college boy/lust piece, “House of Nettle and Thorn,” is disturbing for many reasons, not the least of which is the depiction of the main character’s roommate: “Nick Edgleman’s contribution to the great human identity would be equal to a crusted stain on a pair of boxer shorts with the reek of Axe body spray.” We ALL knew somebody like him…

My second of three favorites was “When Karen Met Her Mountain.” Once again, Keisling’s deep character work creates a believable protagonist, whose own past horrors are reignited and amplified when a cult kidnaps her husband.

“The Final Reconciliation,” a novella I’d just recently read, completes the Ugly Little Things collection. It is the story of The Yellow Kings (delicious Lovecraft and “True Detective” reference), a heavy-metal band of four youngsters from Kentucky who set out on their first tour–told historically through an interview with the metal band’s now aged guitarist, Aiden Cross.

Keisling’s knowledge of Heavy Metal and his meticulous description of “band life” makes this piece my top pick of my favorite three.

Beware the groupies and preorder a copy today!

REVIEW: BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonder

Step right up, if you dare…

I was provided an Advanced Release Copy (ARC) in return for an unbiased review.

I have a secret obsession with dark, disturbing, weird, and well-written anthologies. Crystal Lake Publishing has come out with a few of my favorites over the past few years, and BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is the latest favorite, following on from last year’s Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and their annual Tales from the Lake collections.

The Short Review:

Buy it. It’s amazing and editor Doug Murano did a marvelous job putting together the collection–which features amazing wordsmiths such as Clive Barker, Lucy A. Snyder, Neil Gaiman, Stephanie M. Wytovich, John Langan, Lisa Morton, Richard Thomas and many others. Oh, and a wonderful foreword from Josh Malerman that you really shouldn’t skip over. Five Stars.

The Longer Review:

Right from the gorgeous cover by artist John Coulthart, the reader is invited between the pages into a literary carnival of wonders and the grotesque.

Behold! is divided into three sections – Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders (as the title suggests). The choice of Lisa Morton’s LaRue’s Dime Museum kicks off the Oddities section. It is a delightfully different and weird “freak show” type tale that is both unexpected and fresh. Brian Kirk‘s Wildflower, Cactus, Rose was a tough story to read based on the subject matter—but was beautiful and spine-tingling at the same time. The Baker of Millepoix by Hal Bodner is the story that most resembles a painting—beautiful, colorful. Picturesque, even. Finally, Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament is a marvelously disturbing tales of guilt and horror intertwined with desire and love.

I was delighted at this point to discover that each section was separated by poetry by Stephanie M. Wytovich. An Exhibition of Mother and Monsters is between ‘Oddities’ and ‘Curiosities’ and As a Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party dove tails into Lucy A Snyder’s Hazelnuts and Yummy Mummies close out ‘Curiosities’ and kicks off ‘Undefinable Wonders’

Curiosities begins with John Langan‘s Madame Painte: For Sale–a buyer beware story of sorts with a delicious ending. Chivalry by Neil Gaiman is next and is a feel good story….of a sort. Gaiman always draws me into his world-creations. Fully Boarded by Ramsey Campbell is a story that will give even the most stalwart traveller pause. Amelia’s Wake by Erinn L Kemper is a dark story of grief and sadness. Her story really resonated with me after the death of my dad last year.

A Ware That Will Not Keep, is an anecdotal story told by a grandfather about the atrocities of WW II and John F.D. Taft tells a sympathetic tale that is both sympathetic and horrific.

Horror to me is taking the everyday and turning it onto itself. Was the creaking floorboard REALLY just the house settling? Ed Pruitt’s Smoker by Patrick Freivald takes bee keeping to a very different place and works so very well.

Hazelnuts and Yummy Mummies by Lucy A. Snyder had me laughing to myself (as it was 3AM at the time, my wife found this disconcerting). If you have a unique take on humor, you will adore this one.

Undefinable Wonders begins with The Shiny Fruit of Our Tomorrows was such a real-world story, that I think you might have to read this one for yourself to process it. A nice one by Brian Hodge.

The Wakeful is another one of those ‘every day’ stories that make horror so disturbing. I’m just glad I was inside when I read it. Kristi DeMeester is now on my ‘to read’ list.

Christopher Coake‘s strange story Knitter , while clever was so different from The Wakeful that it shocked me into a different place. It is very well written and presented—I may just have not switched gears fast enough.

I adore subtle anti-religion tales, and that’s what Sarah Read gives us with Through Gravel. Deliciously executed.

The collection ends with one of my favorite authors, Richard Thomas and his short entitled Hiraeth. Yes, I had to look it up, and I’m glad I did before reading. Hiraeth, loosely translated, means homesick—but so much more. There is a passion and a sorrow in the Welsh word that no English translation can capture. This story was beautiful and deep—and is perfectly named. There is hope here. Beauty and wonder as well. And there is the knowledge that our world is unknowable in its complexity.

BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonder is a collection that you will read over and over. Pay the entry fee and discover the worlds within for yourself.

But take heed. Some of these stories may change you.