Category Archives: The Arcana Chronicles

Submissions Open: The Word Count Podcast: Episode 90

Summer Goeth Before the Fall

I cannot believe that Summer is waning.

#WordCountPodcast episode 90 is now open for public submissions once again.

This month, we have a prompt from rural Pennsylvania the fits in nicely with both the coming autumn and our season theme of Landscapes:

In all honesty, Fall is my favorite season, and I think this month’s prompt catches the spirit of the seasonal transition rather well.

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 over 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:




There are eighty-nine shows available right now!


THE WORD COUNT PODCAST – EPISODE 90 “Summer Goeth Before the Fall”


DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by Saturday 27 September 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
• 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 (or via the dropbox link I can provide) by 27 September 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. ***


The Word Count Podcast: Episode 89

Where Giants Walk

A lovely follow-up show to our LIVE show last month is in store for you, dear listener! I lived in the Republic of Ireland for five or so years back in the late nineties, early aughts. While a wonderful experience in of itself, my favorite bit about living in Europe was the amount of travel I got to do.

As you know, the theme this year  is Landscapes.

This is a shot of the famous ‘Giant’s causeway’ in Northern Ireland–those six counties still owned by the British:

Stunning, right?

Four stories have been submitted and are presented to you for your listening pleasure!

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

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:

Maria Haskins – “For Old Time’s Sake”

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and translator. She grew up in Sweden, but now lives in Canada, just outside Vancouver, with a husband, two kids, and a very large black dog. Her fiction has appeared in various anthologies and publications, and she loves flash fiction with every fiber of her old and shriveled heart.


Twitter: @mariahaskins


Bill Kirton – “The Card”

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):

Facebook pages:

Twitter: @carver22


W. B. J. Williams – 
“The Giant’s Causeway”

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.


Twitter: @wbjwilliams

Rob Edwards – “Work Trip”

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and podcaster, currently living in Finland. His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and chapters from his novel Writ in Blood and Silver. His work can also be found in anthologies from Inklings Press, the Sci-fi Roundtable and in the superhero anthology Somebody, Save Me!


Facebook page:

Amazon page:

The Word Count Podcast LIVE from READERCON (Episode 88)

LIVE from ReaderCON 30

My posts from the con will be up later in the month as I knock out this episode of the podcast and prepare for the next con this weekend in Rhode Island.

Between getting the book ready for the Beta readers, two cons, and my upcoming thesis defense, so of COURSE I agreed to do a live show at ReaderCon this year. I mean, why the hell not?

Only two of the Word Count Irregulars were on hand for our second live show, so we amped up the story times to 20ish minutes and had a ball putting on a show in Salon C at the Quincy Marriott on Sunday, 14 July.

Here was the prompt for the episode:

You can listen to  the latest show here:

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:

W. B. J. Williams – “Rebirth”

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.


Twitter: @wbjwilliams

R. B. Wood – “Dear Dad”

R. B. Wood is a recent MFA graduate of Emerson College and a writer of speculative and dark fiction. Mr. Wood recently has been published online via SickLit Magazine and 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—a show of original flash 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

July 2019:The Month of Shenanigans

Hi Everyone!

I hope the celebrations last week found you all in good form and relaxing with family in friends. I, myself, have been of two-minds for the last couple of years celebrating the 4th of July—so it’s good I had something else to focus on!

My upcoming novel, Bayou Whispers continues to progress. While I was delighted to type “The End” at the bottom of the last page of the manuscript, the end (in this case) is just the beginning of fine-tuning the story.

I currently have over 230 notes from the development editor I’ve been working with. She’s been a huge supporter, friend, and mentor to me during the final push to complete my first book in nearly seven years.

Walt and I will be doing the live show at ReaderCON together…

July is ‘the month of shenanigans” for several reasons this year. First, I have two conventions I’m attending (ReaderCON 30 in Quincy, Massachusetts, July 11-14–where I will be recording a live episode of my podcast The Word Count–and I’ll be at NECON in Rhode Island July 18-21). Second, along with the conventions this month, I’m just coming off a week visit with both my grown children. A fun-filled and hectic week, to be sure! An, of course, Third is the novel which is due to the Emerson Faculty reading committee on the 22nd of this month.

There also may be a series of announcements coming up regarding teaching and new releases–but that’s post-July.

When the current shenanigans are over.

NECON: German for “Shenanigans with Fucking Scotch”

That’s it for now…more in a week or so. Thank you again for being with me on this journey!

Peace, love, and hair grease,


Review: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Rubber Chickens for EVERYBODY!!

Review of

SAL & GABI Break the Universe

by Carlos Hernandez

5/5 Stars

First, a few words about the marvelous work the Rick Riordan Presents imprint is doing in bringing to the forefront of young adult literature amazing stories for different cultures, peoples, and perspectives.

While Riordan is known for his mythic tales of gods, demi-gods, and magic, Carlos Hernandez graces us with his own brand of magic filled with Cuban-American culture, cuisine and a delightful smattering of specific slang and flavor of Spanish experienced in the community of which he hails.

I meant it when I wrote ‘magic.’ Sal is an aspiring magician—and I ordered a rubber chicken in Sal and Carlos’ honor!

But what really makes the story soar are the characters and characterizations in the novel. These kids (and these days, anyone under thirty is a kid to this old man) feel extraordinarily real to me. How they speak, how they act, and how they interact felt perfect. They aren’t orphans or “Peanuts kids” (no parents around). Nor is anyone the pure “Christ figure” or the “Devil figure.”

The “bully” at the beginning of the story isn’t a bully at all. Gabi is NOT the brilliant “Hermione-Granger” type she starts off as. No one is all perfect or all flaws.

Just like…real people.

Of course, real people can’t yank things back and forth between Universes, but that sort of whimsical ability plays into the situational adventure Hernandez weaves here. Tension is created by events and we get to watch (me rather gleefully) as these delightful characters react in ways that are unexpected at first but make sense as you close the back cover.

It’s how Hernandez plays with the expected character buckets and tropes of the genre (helped by exquisite prose) that make this story so much fun.

If you aren’t cheering for Sal, Gabi, and Yasmany throughout the story, I don’t know what to say to you.

My only negative is the duration of the wait until we find out how Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe. Oh, book two…I need you now!

But I’ll be on the line at the book store day one of the sequel’s release to get me a copy. Of that, you can be sure.

Carlos at a reading, BOSKONE 2017 and his signature in his book “The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria”


Review: Blood Standard by Laird Barron

Violence Was His Day Job

Review of

Blood Standard

by Laird Barron



4.5/5 Stars

Blood Standard by Laird Barron Is a violent, noir-esque mystery where the “hardboiled detective” is a mixed race (Maori/Caucasian) ex-mobster/hitter from Alaska.

Isaiah Coleridge’s love of animals gets him in trouble when he attacks a made-man of “the Outfit” who was heading up an illegal Walrus hunt to indulge in the black market ivory trade. Coleridge finds himself exiled to Upstate New York as a result and becomes a farm hand at a small, independent horse ranch. Where trouble is never less than a step behind the former hit man. When a local young woman with a troubled past goes missing, Isaiah quickly finds himself caught between local law enforcement, the Feds, mobsters, and street gangs–Familiar territory for Coleridge.

Barron does his normal Steller job creating deep characters who all walk in the grey areas between light and dark. His horror story background is used well in building tension and in creating a narrative full of twists and violence.

Laird Barron has crafted a terrific new series, and his fans from the horror genre should enjoy this fast-paced yet introspective tale typical of his writing. With the second in the series out now, I look forward to my next adventure with Isaiah and the quirky characters of rural New York.

Personal note: I had a wonderful hour-long conversation with Laird at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival last October, where we discussed his Coleridge series. He was the one who convinced me to take my upcoming novel Bayou Whispers and change it from a horror novel to a Supernatural Thriller.


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.


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.


Twitter: @kdandenell


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,


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.


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.


Twitter: @mariahaskins