ReaderCON 29

R. B. Wood

Former technologist, world traveler, & storyteller.

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



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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

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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

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

IMG 1713 e1531787140190C. 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

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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

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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

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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.

IMG 4994 e1531569362621Kaffeeklatsch 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 IMG 3955 e1531569679721the 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

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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.

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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:

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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:


smaller wbj williamsW. 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

IMG 1774M. 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

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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

BillkBill 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:

14680495 10100376104490440 2665601882501184178 nKathleen 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.

rbwoodR. 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

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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.




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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:

IMG 4958 e1531449516627John 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.


IMG 5336 e1531449676891F. 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.


IMG 5949 e1531449844770Scott 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!

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