The Stories We Tell

The podcast ‘The Stories We Tell’ launches with a double-shot of the first two episodes next Tuesday (23rd April 2019), so to celebrate I got together with Paul Sating and Natalie Aked, creator of ‘Horrible Writing’ and ‘A Breviloquent Challenge’ respectively.

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The Stories We Tell

by Dōhai

Back in October 2018 the Horrible Writing Writers Support Group on Facebook launched a fun monthly 500 word flash fiction event. The Founder of the group, Paul Sating, was so inspired by the event, he developed the idea into a podcast that features the best of these short stories.

The podcast ‘The Stories We Tell’ launches with a double-shot of the first two episodes next Tuesday (23rd April 2019), so to celebrate I got together with Paul Sating and Natalie Aked, creator of ‘Horrible Writing’ and ‘A Breviloquent Challenge’ respectively.

To tell the story of this podcast we first need to go back to July 2017, when veteran podcaster Paul Sating (Subject: Found, Who Killed Julie, and Diary of a Madman among others) launched Horrible Writing, a podcast with the aim of bringing ‘empowerment through candor’ to authors from all paths across the globe. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two years since the show launched, as I have been here listening since inception.

I asked Paul to give us a brief outline of the Horrible Writing show and its premise.

“I love listening to other writer’s take on the craft, but I couldn’t find a podcast featuring the affective side of writing. I need a pep talk from time to time, as many writers do, since this is such a solitary venture. But no one was doing it, that I found. I also believe that too many writers don’t open the closet and show our guests all the mistakes. That’s harmful to newer writers. They see a polished work and think, “I can’t ever do that.” So I did what I always do. If someone isn’t doing it, or willing to do it, I will.

I started the Horrible Writing podcast to document my journey, publicly, from know-nothing to published author. I wanted to serve that dual purpose of showing people the emotional journey alongside the reality that no one knows everything about ‘how’ to get published, and that’s it’s a constant exploration of learning.

Yesterday, I recorded the 83rd episode of the show and I realized there is so much I still have to learn. So, so much. And that’s okay.

By opening up to the public, with full candor, I believe–and the emails and reviews I receive can verify–other writers find it helpful and don’t feel so alone, so we all rise together.”

If you haven’t checked it out yet, and you have even a passing interest in writing, then this show should be on your playlist. You can find it here.

The Horrible Writing Writers Support Group launched on Facebook last August (2018) and has exploded with members from all walks of writing life, all of whom share support and resources to ‘raise all ships’ in the true spirit that this powerhouse was born.

One of the founder members of the team is administrator Natalie Aked, a blogger and short story writer. She has published a few books on Yuan Dynasty Mongolian food. In her own words:

“Mostly, I am a storyteller. I enjoy bringing the world to people in snippets of tales.”

Natalie introduced ‘A Breviloquent Challenge’ the monthly 500 word flash fiction event to the group so that they could have a bit of fun and flex those writing muscles. I asked her about her thoughts about introducing this challenge:

“I suggested the ABC to Paul because many of our newer writers were struggling with common problems. I hoped that flash fiction might help – writing is the only solution to writing problems in my book. I also hoped it would foster a solidarity within the group; and, maybe, start a conversation.

I think that the ABC is a positive force in the group. Not everyone participates, but those who do gain feedback and those who participate regularly are seeing improvements in their writing.”

Within a month of ABC being launched on the support group Paul and Natalie were in talks about a podcast.

“In late November/early December 2018, Paul broached the idea of the podcast. He admitted that he had been thinking about a podcast of stories and he hoped the ABC would be the venue to find those stories. I loved the idea!”

From initial idea to release has only taken a few short months. With (at time of writing) three episodes in the can I asked both Natalie and Paul if there had been any major hurdles, or even a few bumps in the road:

“Well, I have the easy job. I am responsible for the written stuff. Which basically means I set the challenges and the writers take it from there. Once the end date comes, I have a team of four judges who are AMAZING. They read and rank the stories. I collect the data and give it to Paul. Really, his job requires the most effort and he’s awesome at what he does. It’s been such an easy process thanks to everyone involved.” -Nat

“It’s been very smooth. Natalie is a champ. She was on-board with the idea from the very beginning. In fact, when I pitched it to her, we immediately started ironing out how it would work and what some of the potential tripping points were (things such as how we would keep it manageable for both of us and set the right expectations for everyone else. This was, honestly, one of the easiest joint efforts I’ve ever undertaken, credit to Natalie!” – Paul

One of the things I’ve noticed as a member of the group is the camaraderie: normally social media posts have a ‘look at me’ feel to them, but here they’re all about helping one another, has this bled over into creating the podcast?

“One of the most epic things about this whole process has been the community. Horrible Writing Writers Support Group has always been a nurturing environment, but when we added ABC I was blown away with the immediate response. Not only do the writers who participated read the other stories but they give constructive feedback. It’s also common to see comments from members who didn’t enter a story that month. It’s an awesome resource for the writers.

Now that we have linked the writing challenge to the podcast, we are seeing that community support again. Some of our writers are hesitant to read their stories. They may not have the equipment and time or they may feel that they can’t do the story justice. But the community just keeps giving.

This project has definitely cemented the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ sentiment in my mind. The group has shown such support to one another.” – Nat

“This show truly is a community effort. It would be easy for people to post their story and move on, but that’s not what happens. In this wonderfully positive collective, what you see instead is the community reading each other’s work, providing encouragement and constructive criticism; and the narrators echo that.

I sent out a single initial call and was inundated with responses from narrators who want to be involved. We don’t have enough stories for the next five episodes to give to them, there are so many! Their eagerness to help is matched by ‘how’ they invest in someone else’s story. The narrators read other writer’s stories as if they are their own. This is truly a horribly wonderful community!” – Paul

I for one am looking forward to listening to the podcast and I wish it all the success. Being a part of it has not only helped me as a writer with technical aspects, but the community helps alleviate that impostor syndrome. Any final words from you both before I let you go?

“I’m super passionate about this project. I can’t wait to hear what listeners think of the podcast and read what our writers will come up with next. It would be great to see the participation grow. If there are writers out there reading this, come join us, please.” – Nat

“I’d really encourage people to give this show a listen. It’s a beautiful project because it is the manifestation of my Horrible Writing ideology, that we all rise together, that each and every one of us have stories to tell and we ‘can’ find an audience for those stories. Already, we have nearly 50 stories from dozens of authors to share with the world, and that’s only going to grow as we move forward. If someone is looking for fresh fiction from a variety of writers around the world, there is no other place to go than The Stories We Tell. It is a show for all voices, and all listeners.” – Paul

The podcast launches next Tuesday (23rd April 2019) and I hope you will join us here at Podern Times in celebrating the world of indie writing with the Horrible Writing Writers Support Group on Facebook and The Stories We Tell.


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In Ink #1

Welcome to the first issue of ‘In Ink’, a supplement to Podern Times. Here we will be taking a look at some of the posts that have been published by podcasters, or about podcasting in general.

In Ink

Issue 1

 

Welcome to the first issue of ‘In Ink’, a supplement to Podern Times. Here we will be taking a look at some of the posts that have been published by podcasters, or about podcasting in general.

inhale1080-718

‘Inhale’ is the beautiful tale of reluctant superhero Tammy Tracer, a ten part stand alone audio drama series from writer and creator Rick Coste. (Behemoth, Pixie, Bryar Lane to name a few.)

Just over a year later, we now have the pleasure of an ongoing fictional journal from Tammy. I would suggest listening to the audio drama podcast first however, we wouldn’t want you to trip over any spoilers now would we. If you’ve already had the pleasure of listening to it then please feel free to breathe in this inspiring new creation.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Rick and asked him about this new direction.

It actually stems from the need to continue writing.  Over the last few months I’ve focused my attention on finishing some long held book ideas I’ve had.  A couple are now in the hands of my agent and, while they are being reviewed and shopped around, I felt it was a good time to try something new.”

I really wanted to continue Tammy Tracer’s story but I also wanted to do so outside of the audio drama medium.”

 

If that wasn’t amazing enough, Rick has also released another fictional journal, this time for a completely new character, Kira. ‘Kira’s Journey’ follows the thoughts of an AI (Accidental Intelligence as Rick puts it) from the moment of consciousness, through her escape, and into the exploration of the larger world. Could we be looking at the inception of a new audio drama?

I just want to see where her story takes her as she explores what it means to ‘not’ be human.  There’s quite a few directions I could go with it but my main desire is for her to be able to do so in her own way.”

You can find all of Rick’s wonderful tales over at modernaudiodrama.com


 

Elsewhere on Planet Pod

A review of Sarah Werner’s sci-fi epic ‘Girl In Space’ from The Fantasy Inn.

The latest Bello articles tell us to take a break from listening to podcasts, and then recommend ten shows to listen to.

 


Do you have a companion blog for your podcast? Do you write about podcasting? Would you like to reach new readers through this publication? Just email us a link to your latest blog post and we’ll share it here.

In A Word… War

In A Word

They say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ so I’ve decided to challenge a few of my friends to see if they can paint the reader a picture in just one thousand words. The subject of this picture? A single word. An emotionally charged word full of subjectivity, giving plenty of scope for my guests to get their creative writing on. After all, isn’t that our job as writers? To pull the audience into a scene, and connect to them emotionally, to let them share in the beauty of our world?

Last time we read the words of Jamie Killen, writer and producer of Spines, and Mirrors podcasts. This time around we have the prolific writer Paul Sating, who’s latest drama, Who Killed Julie? we reviewed last week.

Paul began creating audio drama podcasts in 2015 with Atheist Apocalypse, a satirical comedy set after the rapture over four seasons. While writing that he has penned Diary of a Madman, two seasons of Subject: Found, the aforementioned Who Killed Julie?, a patron only podcast called You, and a writers podcast by the name of Horrible Writing. So I can only say thank you for squeezing in a thousand words for me.

The Word I have chosen for Paul is…


War

/wɔː/

noun

a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country.

“Japan declared war on Germany”


War is air. War is life.

The metallic cloud of spent rounds.

The thudding in your heart when the world explodes.

The ripping of the air as the Klaxon screeches and the C-RAM tears apart the invasive enemy.

The overwhelming frustration of boredom and the numbing of the mind. Essence flows from your soul as a river through a dry land.

War is humans at their most animalistic. War is us.

This… is war.

Life changes in a flash. One minute, your mind is fixated on all of those moments you’re missing. Your middle school child starring in the school play, helping with homework assignments you don’t understand, a spouse having a bad day at work and just needing a sympathetic ear. Christmas morning waking alone, on a cot that no one over nineteen should sleep on; no tree under which are the carefully-placed expressions of love. Sleeping. Bored. Dreaming of home one moment… the next, you’re flopping out of your cot in the middle of the black night, scurrying like a cockroach for cover under six inches of used and abused cloth, polyester, and foam that provides restless sleep each night. Your heart threatens to thump its way out of your throat.

There is no sense.

No balance.

The world is an enigma.

Your friends are subversive, playing politics in the middle of extensive periods of boredom. Your enemies, the people you’ve sworn to kill if need be; humans, with wives, mothers, and children who depend on them to survive.

You realize they’re a lot like you.

In war, everyone believes they’re on the right side.

In war, you cling to the things that have meaning. Angels in heaven or demons walking the earth. There are atheists in foxholes. A lot of them. War helps you see that.

Beliefs.

Diversity.

The silliness in believing in anything that isn’t human motivation. You watch as God allows his throng of believers to die painful deaths at the end of an enemy gun. God turns his nose as limbs and lives are lost. No purpose is served beyond the single concern of the powerful; the ultimate god of mankind.

No, in war, there is only one god. And he is green.

Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors; bleed red so the rich are swathed in the perpetual flow of riches. Exuberant deals. Money moves from one government to the power brokers of another. Favors curried in the hallways of the Pentagon, a world where small people have no access, even though they give their sons and daughters to the cause.

Dust in every crevice.

Minutes which feel like hours.

Minutia for the sake of minutia.

War

Source: FreeImages

Blind eyes turned away from crimes committed to preserve the state.

Thinking, feeling… loving humans, convinced to kill one another for the sake of a state that does not care for them or their kind.

This… this is the reality of war.

The ignorant, the blind, those unwilling and incapable of seeing its realities stroke the canvas, painting the scene which they want to portray. They are no less guilty than the mongers who lust for more: power, money, control.

The compliant tote patriotism like a badge to be earned. They cannot see it is nothing more than a mechanism to manipulation, that the species is the greater good. They fear the other. The unknown. The different.

The liberal expounds and pontificates, as if they’re experts on a subject for which they’ve never attended. They assert knowledge; an asset they lack. They’re just as ignorant as patriotism’s lemmings, and in the same state of denial.

The only sane are those who retain the ability to independently think while dressed in the standard uniform of warriors. They see the abuses: of the powerful, the governments, their agents. They see the harm, the unnecessary, and the waste. They know the courage and sacrifice required to execute and influence, sometimes for and against the same entity.

Simultaneously.

The heart aches, longs for things it cannot have, unfulfilled by the dishonest proclamations of those who claim to hold the truth.

Duty.

Patriotism.

Honor.

These are preached from behind the safety of international borders and oceans. The detached eye observes the price paid by the powerless, the voiceless; paid by those who have bought the lie or serve in complicity because they aren’t of the privileged.

Boxes, draped in the three colors that used to stand for something, drift past, born by friends, associates, brothers and sisters-in-arms. Eyes wet; eyes vacant; eyes seething with wrathful vengeance examine the box. Inside is a sister. A brother. A son. A daughter. A husband. A wife. A mom. A dad.

Lost.

Promise of life needlessly and heedlessly spent.

The desert dust carries the spirit of what remains of hope. Here, in war, we exist. Nothing more. There is no happiness in accomplishments, no joy in the good news from home, no sense of importance. Here there is what there has always been for the warrior who thinks: a longing to return… home. To touch the hand of the grandmother. To hug the crying child. To feel the softness of a kiss shared by intimate partners.

To the thinking warrior, war lost its honor when money became its justification.

In the thinking warrior, there is no greater opponent of war.

War nor its warriors are monolithic.

Its warriors must be actors.

The enemy is the friend; the friend, the enemy.

Confusion is king and clarity, a casualty.

The one who says they understand war… the liar.

The one who demands to abolish war… the denier.

Why deny that which we are? Why strive for the unachievable?

To do so is to delay measures of resolution and to hold true discourse amongst adversaries. It is to fail to invest in dialogue in that which prevents us from embracing our most basic instinct.

We could.

We won’t.

We should.

We haven’t.

War is air.

War is life.


Who Killed Julie?

Who Killed Julie? released its first two episodes over the weekend, (September 23rd). This and all of Paul’s other shows can be found over on his website, or on your podcatcher of choice.

My review of this story can be found here.

Would you like to take part and promote your work here? All you have to do is email me!


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In A Word… Serenity

They say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ so I’ve decided to challenge a few of my friends to see if they can paint the reader a picture in just one thousand words.

In A Word

They say ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ so I’ve decided to challenge a few of my friends to see if they can paint the reader a picture in just one thousand words. The subject of this picture? A single word. An emotionally charged word full of subjectivity, giving plenty of scope for my guests to get their creative writing on. After all, isn’t that our job as writers? To pull the audience into a scene, and connect to them emotionally, to let them share in the beauty of our world?

Today’s guest is the wonderfully talented Jamie Killen, creator of audio drama podcast ‘Spines’, and brand new drama ‘Mirrors’, which releases tomorrow (September 12th). Jamie is also an author of speculative fiction. Her latest, ‘The Wandering Land’, is a beautifully told tale of five peoples adventure in a mysterious place of magic, and is currently a free read on Kindle Unlimited.

The word I have chosen for today is…


Serenity

/sɪˈrɛnɪti/

noun.

the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

“an oasis of serenity amidst the bustling city”


 

Serenity: you sit next to a bubbling stream, breathing in the clean smells of nature. Your thoughts are quiet and still, your worries far away. You stop worrying about the future, and you stop agonizing about the past. You close your eyes and feel the sun on your face, and for that one moment you are at peace.

Then you open your eyes, and you meet the gaze of the creature stalking you through the shadows, and that serenity is gone.

There’s a reason the oasis is the primary metaphor for serenity. What’s so special about an oasis? It’s just a pond and some palm trees, after all. There are more beautiful places than that all over the world.

No, it’s not what’s in the oasis itself. It’s what’s around the oasis that makes it special. Surrounded by parched, deadly desert, a lake and a few scrubby trees become the promised land. Serenity is special because it is surrounded by danger and trauma. And, just as you must leave the oasis and continue on your journey across the desert, you cannot remain in a state of serenity for long.

An oasis of unlimited size isn’t an oasis anymore. It’s a swamp.

Serenity’s beauty lies in its brevity. No one can live in a permanent state of serenity. Some might try, or claim to have achieved something like a state of perfect contentment. But to be truly serene, one must be free of fear and rage and worry. To be truly serene, one must be ill-equipped to survive for very long.

The serene person walking along a desert trail does not fear snakes, and so does not watch for them.

The serene person watching evil play out on the streets feels no rage, and so takes no action until the secret police show up at their door.

The serene person raising children does not worry about their future, and so does nothing to protect it.

Anger and terror keep us alive. Serenity doesn’t.

Serenity is temporary because it has to be, because a person cannot indefinitely exist unmoored from their past and future, from the dangers and love and everything else intruding on us.

This is what I think of when I think of serenity in my own life: It’s evening, and I’m standing in a quiet spot near the Thames. I’m listening to a street musician singing a Nina Simone song. It’s calm and beautiful and for the duration of that song I let myself be serene.

Why can’t I be like this forever?

Because the past and the future and the fucked-up present won’t allow it. For a brief moment I can feel serene, but that moment is bracketed by a past in which the city I stand on is soaked with blood and bombed from above. It’s made possible by the music of Nina Simone, a woman who fought to survive in Jim Crow America. I don’t know it yet, but this moment is already hurtling toward a darkness that will come years into my future, when my country begins its descent into authoritarian madness.

Oasis

Source: Freeimages.com

It’s not all the larger forces, either. I make a conscious decision to let the serenity shrivel and die, because once this song is over I have to walk back to my hotel by myself, and a woman walking alone at night does not have the luxury of serenity. Serenity is incompatible with the need to watch the shadows for men who hate women.

This isn’t to say that serenity is without merit. Serenity is an emotional vacation. It’s the mind unplugging. Serenity is the mind in a moment of stillness, when we are so accustomed to the mind in constant motion. A short period of serenity allows for reflection. It calms and consoles.

And when that anger and sadness and fear return, they are more focused. They are no longer a directionless hum. They have a purpose and a target. They are oriented around tasks to complete, problems that must be solved. Serenity has cleansed the palate, and you can move forward with clarity.

But still we seek the serenity. We meditate, a little longer each time. We take vacations. We seek to prolong the periods in which we can honestly describe ourselves as serene. Sometimes it can last for a while, but at some point, inevitably, you must leave the oasis.

But wait, you say, what about the serenity of Gandhi and Buddhist monks or Malala Yousafzai? Or our serene great leaders in fiction, Dumbledore and Yoda and Aslan? They seem so content, so tranquil. Haven’t they achieved a state of serenity?

No. They’re calm. They’re focused. They have purpose. That’s not serenity. That’s just managing the terror, not leaving it behind. They see the creatures in the dark. They see the blood and chaos. They know what’s out there.

Serenity can never last. It shouldn’t last. Serenity is special precisely because it is rare, and because it should be rare. Deep down, as much as we all long for serenity, as much as we cling to it when it comes, we all know this. A short period of serenity is beautiful. Indefinite serenity is an opium den. Permanent serenity is the grave.

Serenity is an island paradise surrounded by shark-infested waters.

Serenity is a cozy cottage with a wolf breathing against the door.

Serenity is an oasis in the midst of salt flats and blinding heat.

Serenity can never be more than this: a breath, a moment, a blink. The briefest respite from the things chasing you through the dark.

So take those moments. Take the flashes of serenity that you are lucky enough to receive. Sit by the stream, and close your eyes, and feel the sun on your face, and bask in your little moment of serenity. Get lost in that song for the four or five minutes that it lasts.

Then stand up, and face the shadows, and let the serenity slip away. The monsters are coming.


Mirrors Podcast

Don’t forget, Mirrors launches episode one tomorrow! You can check out the trailer now, or go and listen to all three seasons of the amazing Spines right now.

Don’t forget, most of Jamie’s work is offered to everyone for free, so please be sure to swing by her Patreon page and offer up a little support.

If you have a podcast, book, or other passion project you would like to promote here, then please contact me via email or even DM me over on Twitter.


Check out the next post in this series, ‘In A Word… War’ by Paul Sating, is a wonderfully moving poem.