Category Archives: The Arcana Chronicles

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

Welcome to 2019

2019. Well, shit. That happened fast!

Normally I like to reflect on the year that was and the year ahead the week of my birthday—but 2018 ended as it began—an Emergency room visit (this time, kidney stones) and an unexpected visitor (my daughter, which was a delight).

The end result is twofold—my “New Year’s Message” is late, and I’m grumpy.

That last bit is not unusual for my curmudgeonly self.

But it IS a new year, 365 (now 364) days of new opportunity, hope and excitement. At least I’m endeavoring to make that my focus.

Shall I begin again, then?

Happy New Year!

The year ahead is already shaping up to be a busy one.

Things I’m looking forward to:

  • My Son will graduate from College in May.
  • My Daughter is transitioning from music to English as her major in college
  • I will be graduating from Emerson with an MFA in August.
  • Boskone, StokerCon and ReaderCon are on the docket for the year and I just renewed my Horror Writer’s Association membership.
  • NECon in July
  • Season 9 of The Word Count Podcast(which kicks off in January)
  • A visit with my sister, mum, and cousins in Florida
  • A Summer excursion to Maine.
  • Extended stays by family at the Boston home.
  • Completing Bayou Whispersand shopping it around.

There are probably other things I’ve forgotten, but I’ll add them to the “must dos” list as I remember them.

2018 was the first year I haven’t published a story since 2015…I plan on correcting that. I have seven short stories now ready for submission (one is already under consideration) so I hope to up the count of published works from last year’s dismal “zero” to “greater than zero.”

And this month I’ve kicked off “NENoWriMo (New England Novel Writing Month)” for a few local writer-type friends and I. And I need to eventually decide on the fate of The Prodigal’s Foole  and the Arcana Chroniclesseries I began to pen earlier in the decade.

Working on my health is a major factor as well…I have my annual cancer check (post Thyroid cancer) in March and the Neurological rehabilitation is a long process which will continue as well.

There is a lot to look forward too in the New Year. So perhaps I should table a bit of the curmudgeon and look for more of the positive. That sound suspiciously like a…*shudder*…”resolution.”

All things considered—it’s not a terrible change to attempt.

From my family to yours—make 2019 YOUR year. Kick ass. Make me proud.

Just turn the music down and get off my lawn whilst making me proud, okay?


RBW-JAN 2019




The Word Count Podcast: Episode 80

Where Have Our Students Gone?

The 80th episode of the #WordCountPodcast was inspired by this picture:

You can play this episode right here:

There are THREE original stories for you this time around, and I think you’ll enjoy what the Word Count #Irregulars have in store for you!

This episode, of course, leads into our Eighth Halloween Special next month. Time flies when you are having more fun than a barrel of whatever.

Before I introduce you to this month’s authors and their stories, I have just a couple of house keeping items before I list the bios and credits.

A reminder that we are looking to increase the number of likes on the show’s Facebook Page, so hope on over there and tell you 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 stream. 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 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:

Eden Baylee – “Final Ride”

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

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

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

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

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




Twitter: @edenbaylee

Bill Kirton – “School Bus”

Bill 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 have 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 me, 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, two of which have won awards, with a third 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, have 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 give 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:

Maria Haskins – “The Monster Hunter’s Last Lament”

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

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.


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.


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?”


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.


“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?


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.”


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***







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:


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)


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

* TWO winners in this category in 2018


“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)


“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)


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)


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!



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.


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.


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.




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):

Facebook pages:

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 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.




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.


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,


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.


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


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.


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.


Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here