Five Days in Wicker Park (Part One)

Earlier in October, I had an…experience.

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

Why? Because it mattered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now I liked what he wrote too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to meet, finally, Miss Murder herself.

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

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

Wednesday

Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

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

Umami Burgers aren’t, but they are tasty.

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

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

Wednesday

Delight and Despair

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

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

I got a bear hug instead.

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Read Part 2 Here

Read Part 3 (The Conclusion) Here

The Seventh Halloween Special!

Our last show of the 2017 season is our seventh Halloween Special and I LOVE this time of year!

As I dive deeper into my MFA and into contemporary dark and horror fiction, I find myself delighted with the wonderful people I meet who play in this genre.

For example, I’m still writing up my experiences with the Gamut Magazine workshop and the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Fair, but rest assured–these experiences have changed me as a writer.

More on this after midterms. But first, the Word Count #Irregulars have stirred up a lot of evil in the four new stories you are about to hear. Based on the month of October, and this picture of the abandoned Pilgrim State Psychiatric hospital, they went to work to bring you a spectacular show.

As this is the last show of the year, I think there is something special awaiting you.

What did our guest authors come up with? Well, you’ll have to listen for yourselves.

Now, here’s Episode 71: The Asylum in October:

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).

As always, the WCP is FREE to download and listen  via iTunes or Libsyn as well.

Our guests:

Bill “Spectre” Kirton – “Guilt”

Before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer, Bill Kirton was a lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen. He’s written stage and radio plays, short stories, novels, skits and songs for revues, and five non-fiction books aimed at helping students with their writing and study skills. His five modern crime novels, Justice, The Darkness, Shadow Selves and Unsafe Acts are set in north east Scotland and his historical crime/romance novel, The Figurehead, is set in Aberdeen in 1840. The Darkness won the silver award in the mystery category of the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards and his spoof mystery, The Sparrow Conundrum, was the winner in the humor category.

He’s published a novel for children called The Loch Ewe Mystery, and his latest publication is a satirical novella about online gaming and the real and virtual worlds.

He’s had radio plays broadcast by the BBC and the Australian BC.  His short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including three of the CWA’s annual collections, and one was chosen by Maxim Jakubowski for his 2010 anthology of Best British Crime Stories. It’s also been optioned by a film company in Los Angeles.

He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.

Website: www.billkirton.com

Twitter: @carver22

Maria “Fangs” Haskins – “Angel’s Heart”

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and certified translator. She writes speculative fiction and poetry, and debuted as a writer in Sweden. Since 1992 she lives in Canada, just outside Vancouver, with a husband, two kids, and a very large black dog.

Website: https://mariahaskins.wordpress.com

Twitter: @mariahaskins

Cameron “Undead” Garriepy – The Eastman Asylum

Ms. Garriepy has no interest in time travel whatsoever. None. Really. In April of 2015, Cameron released Damselfly Inn, the first full-length novel in her Thornton Vermont series. The sequel, Sweet Pease is coming in November from Bannerwing Books.

Website: camerondgarriepy.com

Twitter: @camerongarriepy

Jack “Wolfie” Gwaltney & John “Frankie” McCaffrey – “The Trial

Jack Gwaltney was born in Virginia, went to the University of Virginia and lives in New York, fortunate to perform as an actor on stage, television and in film. Collaborating with John McCaffrey is one of the wisest things Jack does. Thanks to The Word Count Podcast!

 John McCaffrey grew up in Rochester, New York, attended Villanova University, and received his MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. He is the author of The Book of Ash and Two Syllable Men. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The #WordCountPodcast will return in January 2018!

Submissions now OPEN for the SEVENTH Halloween Special!

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

This will be the seventh Halloween Creep-tacular Special.

And boy to I have a story for you guys.

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

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

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

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

If you dare.

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

Make it scary.

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

There are  over 400 original stories at this point—all free for your listening pleasure, all we ask is for people to help get the word out. Click the link:

The Word Count Podcast Facebook Page

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

LIBSYN

or

iTUNES

There are seventy shows available right now!

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

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

GENRE: Any.

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

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

Do NOT exceed SEVEN minutes.

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

Your submission MUST also contain the following:

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

Send your file to me@rbwood.com (or via the dropbox link I can provide) by 20 October 2017. You can also e-mail me with questions beforehand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but will communicate that to you should it be the case. I add the ‘Explicit’ tag to the ‘cast, so if your story uses adult themes or language that’s ok—but it should be necessary for the story.


NOW THE MONEY PART.

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

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

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

 


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

Peace

 

 

The Word Count Podcast-Episode 70

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

-ALONE by Edgar Alan Poe

Welcome to episode 70 of the #WordCountPodcast!

The snippet of The Tell-Tall Heart can be found by following the link.

The voice actor was Shep ONeal.  The recording was adapted by Shelley Gollust and was produced by Lawan Davis.

Near Emerson College where I’m in process of studying for my MFA, there is a statue of Edgar Allen Poe. Although Poe’s opinion of Boston is…um…mixed, he was born here in 1809.

In 2014, the city finally unveiled a statue in his honor, and a photo of that statue was the subject for episode 70 of the WCP. And our #Irregulars delivered.

Quote the Raven, “Occasionally.”

Now, here’s Episode 70: The Tell-Tale Podcast:

 

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).

As always, the WCP is FREE to download and listen  via iTunes or Libsyn.

Our Guests:

Bill Kirton – “Nevermore”

Before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer, Bill Kirton was a lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen. He’s written stage and radio plays, short stories, novels, skits and songs for revues, and five non-fiction books aimed at helping students with their writing and study skills. His five modern crime novels, Justice, The Darkness, Shadow Selves and Unsafe Acts are set in north east Scotland and his historical crime/romance novel, The Figurehead, is set in Aberdeen in 1840. The Darkness won the silver award in the mystery category of the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards and his spoof mystery, The Sparrow Conundrum, was the winner in the humor category.

He’s published a novel for children called The Loch Ewe Mystery, and his latest publication is a satirical novella about online gaming and the real and virtual worlds.

He’s had radio plays broadcast by the BBC and the Australian BC.  His short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including three of the CWA’s annual collections, and one was chosen by Maxim Jakubowski for his 2010 anthology of Best British Crime Stories. It’s also been optioned by a film company in Los Angeles.

He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.

Website: www.billkirton.com

Twitter: @carver22

Maria Haskins – “Buried”

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and certified translator. She writes speculative fiction and poetry, and debuted as a writer in Sweden. Since 1992 she lives in Canada, just outside Vancouver, with a husband, two kids, and a very large black dog.

Website: https://mariahaskins.wordpress.com

Twitter: @mariahaskins

Jack Gwaltney & John McCaffrey – “A Descent into the Maelstrom”

Jack Gwaltney was born in Virginia, went to the University of Virginia and lives in New York, fortunate to perform as an actor on stage, television and in film. Collaborating with John McCaffrey is one of the wisest things Jack does. Thanks to The Word Count Podcast!

 John McCaffrey grew up in Rochester, New York, attended Villanova University, and received his MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. He is the author of The Book of Ash and Two Syllable Men. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Eden Baylee – “On Poe, Words and Legacy

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

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

In 2014, she launched the first novel of her trilogy with Dr. Kate Hampton—a psychological mystery/suspense called STRANGER AT SUNSET. In addition to working on her next novel, Eden created Lainey Lee for the Lei Crime Series, a feisty divorcée who finds adventure and romance in Hawaii. Her novellas are available on Kindle Worlds.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! To stay apprised of Eden’s book-related news, please add your name to her mailing list.

Website: http://edenbayleebooks.com

Blog: https://edenbaylee.com/blog/

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

Twitter: @edenbaylee

The #wordcountpodcast Episode 70 is now open for submissions!

September.

Outside smells like football, the evenings and mornings are chillier. Now that I’m back at school, albeit online classes, Autumn seems even richer to me.

So I found a picture of a statue near Emerson College where I am in the beginning throws of my MFA program. It’s a statue of Edgar Allen Poe:

Quote the Raven, “Occasionally.”

You can read about the statue and of Poe’s opinions on Boston over at this Boston Magazine article. My theory is that he was a Yankee fan.

(BEFORE I get the e-mails, YES I know Poe died 63 years before the Highlanders became the New York Yankees in 1913. It was a joke, son.)

Anyway, the telltale poet’s statue and the month of September are the dueling prompts this time around. Our #Irregulars should be all over this one!

If you are reading this, we would love to hear from you, either with a story submission or via social media. We have a Facebook Page that we have a goal of reaching a thousand likes this year. So give it a like or share it with your friends. The more listeners and contributors we have, the better the shows will be.

There are  over 400 original stories at this point—all free for your listening pleasure, all we ask is for people to help get the word out. Click the link:

The Word Count Podcast Facebook Page

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

LIBSYN

or

iTUNES

There are sixty-nine shows available right now!

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

THE WORD COUNT PODCAST – EPISODE 70 “Poe’s Boston in September

GENRE: Any.

DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by Friday 22 September 2017 by MIDNIGHT Eastern time.

THE DETAILS: The work must be an original story based on the picture above and the month of “September.”

Do NOT exceed SEVEN minutes.

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

Your submission MUST also contain the following:

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

Send your file to me@rbwood.com (or via the dropbox link I can provide) by 22 September 2017. You can also e-mail me with questions beforehand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but will communicate that to you should it be the case. I add the ‘Explicit’ tag to the ‘cast, so if your story uses adult themes or language that’s ok—but it should be necessary for the story.

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

Peace

REVIEW: Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors

4.5 stars out of 5

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

The Basics:

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

He is younger than I, yet so much wiser.

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

Or your grandmother.

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

The Details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware the groupies and preorder a copy today!

The Word Count Podcast-Episode 69

 

Can you smell it?

It smells like Football and Pumpkin Spice.

Yes, dear sinners…fall is approaching and I cannot believe there are only two more shows (after this one) left in the #WordCountPodcast season!

Many of my more degenerate and lovable friends have asked me if I planned (*snort*) on doing (*snicker*) anything special for episode (*chortle*) 69.

Sorry to disappoint you dirty-minded lovelies, but all I have for this episode is four amazing tales of your listening pleasure. Unlike my lack of maturity, the #Irregulars have come up with some amazing ideas regarding this month’s theme photo:

 

Intriguing, isn’t it? My mind went immediately to the tent the biologist setup in Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation–the first in his Southern Reach trilogy.

What did our guest authors come up with? Well, you’ll have to listen for yourselves.

Now, here’s Episode 69: Campsite in August:

 

 

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).

As always, the WCP is FREE to download and listen  via iTunes or Libsyn. Here is an embedded player, if you prefer:

Cameron Garriepy – The St. Andrews Target

Ms. Garriepy has no interest in time travel whatsoever. None. Really. In April of 2015, Cameron released Damselfly Inn, the first full-length novel in her Thornton Vermont series. The sequel, Sweet Pease is coming in November from Bannerwing Books.

Website: camerondgarriepy.com

Twitter: @camerongarriepy

Bill Kirton – “No Fairy Tale Ending”

Before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer, Bill Kirton was a lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen. He’s written stage and radio plays, short stories, novels, skits and songs for revues, and five non-fiction books aimed at helping students with their writing and study skills. His five modern crime novels, Justice, The Darkness, Shadow Selves and Unsafe Acts are set in north east Scotland and his historical crime/romance novel, The Figurehead, is set in Aberdeen in 1840. The Darkness won the silver award in the mystery category of the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards and his spoof mystery, The Sparrow Conundrum, was the winner in the humor category.

He’s published a novel for children called The Loch Ewe Mystery, and his latest publication is a satirical novella about online gaming and the real and virtual worlds.

He’s had radio plays broadcast by the BBC and the Australian BC.  His short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including three of the CWA’s annual collections, and one was chosen by Maxim Jakubowski for his 2010 anthology of Best British Crime Stories. It’s also been optioned by a film company in Los Angeles.

He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.

Website: www.billkirton.com

Twitter: @carver22

Maria Haskins – “Hidden”

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and certified translator. She writes speculative fiction and poetry, and debuted as a writer in Sweden. Since 1992 she lives in Canada, just outside Vancouver, with a husband, two kids, and a very large black dog.

Website: https://mariahaskins.wordpress.com

Twitter: @mariahaskins

Jack Gwaltney & John McCaffrey – “The Call of the Wild

 

Jack Gwaltney was born in Virginia, went to the University of Virginia and lives in New York, fortunate to perform as an actor on stage, television and in film. Collaborating with John McCaffrey is one of the wisest things Jack does. Thanks to The Word Count Podcast!

 John McCaffrey grew up in Rochester, New York, attended Villanova University, and received his MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. He is the author of The Book of Ash and Two Syllable Men. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The #wordcountpodcast Episode 69 is now open for submissions!

Oh it’s that time again, dear sinners!

Ready for a new #FlashFiction challenge? If so, then read on!

Here is the prompt for episode 69 of the #WordCountPodcast:

 

Ever hike in the woods and come across something unexpected? Maybe a little creepy? That’s what’s behind this photo.

So the Picture, and the month of August. That’s the latest challenge.

If you are reading this, we would love to hear from you, either with a story submission or via social media. We have a Facebook Page that we have a goal of reaching a thousand likes this year. So give it a like or share it with your friends. The more listeners and contributors we have, the better the shows will be.

There are a tad over 400 original stories at this point—all free for your listening pleasure, all we ask is for people to help get the word out. Click the link:

The Word Count Podcast Facebook Page

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

LIBSYN

or

iTUNES

There are sixty-eight shows available right now!

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

THE WORD COUNT PODCAST – EPISODE 69 “Abandoned tent in August”

GENRE: Any.

DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by Friday 1 September 2017 by MIDNIGHT Eastern time.

THE DETAILS: The work must be an original story based on the picture above and the month of “August.”

Do NOT exceed SEVEN minutes.

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

Your submission MUST also contain the following:

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

Send your file to me@rbwood.com (or via the dropbox link I can provide) by 1 September 2017. You can also e-mail me with questions beforehand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but will communicate that to you should it be the case. I add the ‘Explicit’ tag to the ‘cast, so if your story uses adult themes or language that’s ok—but it should be necessary for the story.

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

Peace

The Word Count Podcast-Episode 68

So, allow the host to have a bit of a Rant, if you will.

First, my sincerest apologies to the listeners and the Word Count Irregulars for the tardiness of this Episode. I, in my wisdom and having forgotten why I did not upgrade my Podcasting software in the first place, clicked on the “upgrade” button.

That f%&king upgrade button.

I subsequently spent over two working weeks (96 hours–I kept track) trying to back out, reload, reapply and in general fix software that was working brilliantly to begin with.

Pictures are now broken in the AAC. Now, I get that pictures aren’t really SUPPOSED to be in Podcasts anymore…but our prompts in 2017 are all VISUAL.

So, until I figure out how to either A) reload the old software with all my old settings and/or B) Find and learn how to use something better, we are back to audio only.

But I wanted to get the stories to you. The Word Count Irregulars are so unbelievably talented and amazingly generous with their time–all to provide a bit of literary flash fiction for your continued enjoyment.

I invite you all to sit back, close your eyes (unless you’re driving or operating heavy machinery, then you probably should keep your eyes open) and listen to the words our cadre of authors have brought forth from their loins.

Rant over. Now, for Episode 68: The Narrows in July

This is a photo I took while hiking in Zion National Park in Utah. This is the beginning of the Narrows hike, previous hikers sometimes leave their walking sticks for future hikers.

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).

We have a cracking good show this time around. As always, it’s FREE to download and listen  via iTunes or Libsyn. Here is an embedded player, if you prefer:

 

Eden Baylee – “Sticks and Stones”

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

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

In 2014, she launched the first novel of her trilogy with Dr. Kate Hampton—a psychological mystery/suspense called STRANGER AT SUNSET. In addition to working on her next novel, Eden created Lainey Lee for the Lei Crime Series, a feisty divorcée who finds adventure and romance in Hawaii. Her novellas are available on Kindle Worlds.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! To stay apprised of Eden’s book-related news, please add your name to her mailing list.

Website: http://edenbayleebooks.com

Blog: https://edenbaylee.com/blog/

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

Twitter: @edenbaylee

 

Bill Kirton – “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

Before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer, Bill Kirton was a lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen. He’s written stage and radio plays, short stories, novels, skits and songs for revues, and five non-fiction books aimed at helping students with their writing and study skills. His five modern crime novels, Justice, The Darkness, Shadow Selves and Unsafe Acts are set in north east Scotland and his historical crime/romance novel, The Figurehead, is set in Aberdeen in 1840. The Darkness won the silver award in the mystery category of the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards and his spoof mystery, The Sparrow Conundrum, was the winner in the humor category.

He’s published a novel for children called The Loch Ewe Mystery, and his latest publication is a satirical novella about online gaming and the real and virtual worlds.

He’s had radio plays broadcast by the BBC and the Australian BC.  His short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including three of the CWA’s annual collections, and one was chosen by Maxim Jakubowski for his 2010 anthology of Best British Crime Stories. It’s also been optioned by a film company in Los Angeles.

He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.

Website: www.billkirton.com

Twitter: @carver22

 

Maria Haskins – “Deathlight”

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and certified translator. She writes speculative fiction and poetry, and debuted as a writer in Sweden. Since 1992 she lives in Canada, just outside Vancouver, with a husband, two kids, and a very large black dog.

Website: https://mariahaskins.wordpress.com

Twitter: @mariahaskins

 

Jack Gwaltney & John McCaffrey – “Of Human Bondage

Jack Gwaltney was born in Virginia, went to the University of Virginia and lives in New York, fortunate to perform as an actor on stage, television and in film. Collaborating with John McCaffrey is one of the wisest things Jack does. Thanks to The Word Count Podcast!

 John McCaffrey grew up in Rochester, New York, attended Villanova University, and received his MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. He is the author of The Book of Ash and Two Syllable Men. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

REVIEW: BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonder

Step right up, if you dare…

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

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

The Short Review:

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

The Longer Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer of Things. Podcaster.