Podcast Ponder 1: I Should Be Writing

I Should Be Writing Ep. 378: Preparations

This episode of I Should Be Writing is actually a good one to start with if you’ve never heard the podcast. About halfway through, she explains what it’s all about and even a little about her other podcast, Ditch Diggers. One of my favorite aspects of this podcast is how each episode feels more like a conversation with Mur Lafferty than like she’s imparting invaluable wisdom from some lofty pedestal. When I feel alone in my struggles, I can come to this podcast and feel like I’ve got someone in my corner rooting for me.

In this episode she talks about her struggles with being prepared and how being a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants) makes that difficult. Even though I’m an outline junkie, I can still relate to the constant state of unpreparedness. No matter how much I outline, research, plan, etc. I never feel ready to start writing or keep up with this blog. For instance, this post was supposed to have been written this past weekend, but I never actually got around to it until yesterday. In fact, I’m typing this up while my two year old is climbing on me and shoving a bottle of kids vitamin gummies in my face. (For the record, he’s already had two and I know all too well what too many of these can do to your digestive system.)

I suppose part of that unpreparedness has something to do with all of the various responsibilities life and motherhood come with. It’s exhausting trying to be prepared all the time! And any time I’m fully prepared in one area, I’m therefore lacking in another.

Mur addresses this as well with her example of feeling ready to record a recent Ditch Diggers podcast episode, only to discover an important part she’d forgotten to prepare for. It’s like getting the dishes in the sink done only to find more in another room later on. Or finishing a school worksheet only to get marked down the next day for not doing the work on the back you hadn’t realized was there.

Then she brings up the usefulness of checklists. I have to admit to a bit of a chuckle at that point. Not because it’s not a fabulous idea or an excellent tool. I know they work wonders for many people, but even though I enjoy making lists (outline junkie, remember?), I have two main problems with them. 1. I always lose the lists or can’t remember which app I saved them in, which means I spend more time looking for the lists than using them. 2. The minute I make a to do list, something major inevitably crops up to put a huge dent in my plans for the day. Like the results of too many vitamin gummies.

Mur then spends the last half of the episode giving practical suggestions and tools to help prepare for writing. She never says you have to do any of them to be a successful writer, though. They are simply tools and methods to try out in order to figure out what works for you. I use some of them and am intrigued by others. Mostly though, I’m just grateful to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it all together. That any time I’m feeling like a failure and that I’ll never amount to anything, I can always turn on this podcast and be reminded that not only am I not alone, but that success isn’t dependent on always being prepared for everything.

Do you ever struggle with being prepared? Or are you one of those rare breeds who manage to remember everything? More importantly, have you ever had too many vitamin gummies? It’s quite unpleasant.

Meet A.S. Akkalon

This week I’d like to introduce you to the talented and hilarious A.S. Akkalon, aspiring author and blogger. Get a taste of her humor and read her exceptional short stories at www.asakkalon.com

A.S. Akkalon planned to run away and join the circus until the fantastical worlds of David Eddings, Katharine Kerr, and Raymond E. Feist inspired her to become a fantasy author. 

By day, she works in an office where computers outnumber suits of armour more than two-to-one, and by night she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

If life has taught her anything, it’s that the cat is always right.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

My name is Alecia and I’m definitely not obsessed with cats or dragons. Sorry, I can’t say that with a straight face. 

As well as cats and dragons, I’m moderately fond of medieval castles, and manage to maintain my romantic illusions about them because I’ve never actually visited one. Nor have I visited a hobbit hole even though I live in Middle Earth.

I am working on making friends online with people I will never have to meet, ridding the world of coffee by drinking it all myself, and editing my high fantasy novel, which is still WAY TOO LONG.

I’m trying – and failing – to not judge you for the hobbit hole thing. Not that I’m jealous of you for living in Middle Earth or anything.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I think I’ve always loved books. It’s possible in a past life I was a book.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

I loved so many books as a child, but one of my favourites now from back then is Winnie the Pooh because it’s cute, funny, and at least a little profound. I’m working on collecting it in as many languages as I can… and then learning the languages. Collecting the books has turned out to be easier than learning the languages.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I left this question for last because it was the hardest. Is “the heavy one that I dropped on my foot, breaking it” a valid answer?

I can’t decide whether to roll my eyes or be impressed that you managed to break your foot with a book.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was Catling’s Bane by D. Wallace Peach. I just finished reading it for the second time. The first time I was beta reading for Diana, the second time was just for fun. If you enjoy beautifully written fantasy I recommend you check it out.

Sorry, I can’t pick just one favourite book. The others might get offended and smother me in the night. Or maybe that’s the cat.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Shakespeare, because then I could say I met Shakespeare. Also, I could see if he talks as funny as he writes. 

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I write every day, but I’m not convinced I’m a writer now. In fact, I’d rather not be.

There’s something about labelling it that feels limiting. If I’m a writer then I ought to be like this and behave like that, and I’m automatically *not* a whole pile of other things, like a vegemite sandwich. It’s easy to do both writing and vegemite sandwiching. It’s much harder to be both a writer and a sandwich.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?  If so, what was it about?

I’m not sure it was the first story I ever wrote, but I remember writing and illustrating a story about a pricess (not being able to spell “princess”). She started out as a little pricess and turned into a big pricess. Somewhere along the way she was captured by an arch-villain called the Big Thing. Don’t worry, she escaped in the end. And possibly was eaten by a plastic crocodile.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey?  The best part?

I find plotting difficult. It took me six months of planning before I started writing my current work in progress. Then there was the time my Roomba ate the index cards of my first draft. [asakkalon.com/wall-e-roomba] That was a desolate day.

I was horrified just looking at the pictures!

Every evening when I get to sit down and work on my book is the best part, except when my cat bites me for reaching over his back to type.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

“Stuff happened” is not a plot. Even if it was exciting stuff.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

Right now I’m editing my fantasy novel RAIN ON DRAGON SCALES, and today I love it. Tomorrow might be a different story. 

The very short summary: An impetuous arena fighter must mend a powerful duke’s alliance with a clan of dragons if she’s ever to return home.

I’m also working on improving the very short summary for RAIN ON DRAGON SCALES, adding two posts a week of random humour and snippets of life to my blog, and writing a short story to give to people who sign up to my blog. The short story is called THE DRAGON’S APPRENTICE, and it’s about a human boy who is apprenticed to a dragon. It turns out I’m very slow at writing short stories.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

Reading about writing. Oh, and world domination.

Does your cat know? Because His Royal Fluffiness might have some objections.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

Learning! (And no, that’s not the same as wishing for more wishes.) Because then I could get to be an expert in anything else, obviously.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?

An isolated cabin in the snowy mountains somewhere, with a log fire and reliable internet.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

I blog at www.asakkalon.com, or you can find me on Twitter way too often (@AkkalonAS).

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thanks for having me here. It’s been fun! And cats are better than dogs.

Thanks for gracing my little blog with your unique flair.

If you enjoyed A.S. Akkalon’s answers as much as I did, leave a comment and let us know, then check out her blog for more hilarious fun.

Introducing . . . Podcast Ponder

I’m a busy mom of two little boys, so I rarely have time to sit and read anymore. As a result, I’ve migrated from reading about writing craft to listening to podcasts, like Writing Excuses, Manuscript AcademyDitch Diggers, 600 Second Saga, and many others. Now I can learn about writing while doing dishes, folding laundry, and hunting for that special sippy cup that I swear looks like all the others.

While brainstorming ideas to write about here, I began writing down my thoughts on some of these episodes for fun. Then I thought, why not share them with all of you? And Podcast Ponder was born.

So now, every other Wednesday, between author interviews, I will share about a recent podcast episode on which I’ve been pondering.

Check out the links above for a sneak peek at what I’ll be pondering about. And let me know what you think about them.

Meet Carl Rackman

This week I’m introducing mystery thriller writer Carl Rackman. He’s the author of Irex and Voyager, both of which can be found on Amazon. If you’re a fan of Clive Cussler or Robert B. Parker, you’re sure to love these as well.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

I’m Carl, which is a pen name (Carl is actually my brother’s name!) I’d rather be known as Carl Rackman to the outside world. I’m British and live in Southern England. I used to be an airline pilot and flew professionally for 15 years – I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica! I had to stop flying two years ago when a mystery virus damaged a nerve in my inner ear. I began to lose my balance and become disorientated. For almost two years it kept recurring; for long periods I was housebound, couldn’t drive, couldn’t socialise or even speak on the phone for more than about 20 minutes. It was a genuinely crushing personal experience. But from that low I began to write, and have since realised I have a great passion for creative writing and have almost finished my third novel in a year.

You As A Reader:

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I’ve always loved reading. I learned to read very early as a young child, so I’m told, and used to devour any story. My Mum would read bedtime stories most nights (if she wasn’t working) and as I got older I read some of the classic British children’s fare: Roald Dahl’s stories, Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle books, Norman Hunter’s Professor Branestawn.

Who doesn’t love Roald Dahl and Doctor Dolittle?

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

My absolute favourite books as a child were Willard Price’s Adventure series, about two American teenage brothers whose dad ran an animal centre for exotic animals. They went around the world capturing rare and amazing animals for the world’s zoos, while having some hair-raising and quite brutal adventures along the way. It was so un-PC by today’s standards but they were my Harry Potter!

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

The book that changed me the most has to be (cliché alert!) the New Testament of the Bible. It’s funny how people don’t regard religion as anything much when they have control and mastery of their lives, the way I did for decades. Then the world flips you upside down, everything you knew changes, and you have to make a radical reassessment of your entire self and your values. It literally changed everything about my life: the way I see the world, the things I care about, and the way I choose to express myself in relationships.

The “normal” book that changed me was Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast Of Champions. It was the first book I’d read to make me realise that the message of a book didn’t have to have anything to do with the story. To my 15-yo self, it was the most amazing, original and worldview-changing thing I’d ever seen. I had a similar feeling reading JD Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye as a college student, and again when I read Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.

5. Last book you read and current favorite?

Last book I read was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a wonderfully-written, imaginative urban fantasy set in London, which was my home for years. It wasn’t all good, but I loved the writing. My reigning favourite book is Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I could feel almost every fibre of the main character Rabo Karabekian.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Honestly, I’m not big on heroes or idols or whatever. In the end, they’re just people like everyone else, and would be as uncomfortable meeting me as I would be meeting them! But yeah, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 🙂

Great thought to remember! Even Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was once an amateur.

You As A Writer:

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

When I recovered from my illness and realised I would rather write than fly planes.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

I used to write creative stories for homework in primary school. One was about a nightmare and it got submitted to a national competition. I obviously didn’t win or I would have heard something. But it was framed outside the headteacher’s office for the rest of the year!

That’s still great encouragement for a youngster!

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

The most difficult part of my writing journey has been other people. Their sympathetic but glassy-eyed lack of understanding has caused me more self-doubt and angst than anything to do with actual writing.

The best part of my writing journey has been other people. Their support, love and incredulity on reading the finished product (“I can’t believe you wrote this!”) has brought me more pleasure and self-worth than anything to do with actual writing.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

My father-in-law said to me, “You should write. I think you’ve got a book inside you.” He was right.

As a self-published author, the best piece of advice I received was “Get an editor. You can’t do it on your own. Unless you want to do it badly.” They were right too.

It must have worked because your writing is impressive.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

My 75% finished work in progress is called “Jonah”, a claustrophobic mystery/thriller set on a WW2 destroyer in the Pacific. The main character is a young sailor who was the sole survivor of a deadly kamikaze attack. Not only that, he was completely unscathed even though everyone else around him was killed. He already has a reputation for being lucky, but now he is ostracised and bullied by others afraid of the circumstances of his escape. The crippled ship must sail alone back to the West Coast, but on the way home the crew are beset by visions and hallucinations, especially of a sea monster that threatens to pick them off one by one. Our ‘lucky’ MC is the only one unaffected, and he begins to incur the animosity of the others as they suspect him as the cause of their misfortune.

Fun Stuff About You:

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I build scale models of aircraft and ships. I build to a very high standard and have won several awards for my work, and made some good money from building commissions and selling my finished models. Like writing, it’s a great blend of research, creativity and skill. Unlike writing, I’ve actually made some money from it!

For you readers, I’ve seen pics and he’s talented. Really talented.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

Espionage. I’ve always wanted to be an intelligence agent. I’ve made several applications to the security services in my life, though that would be telling.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

French Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora Bora). I never got to “do” the Pacific when I was a pilot, and it’s one of the only appealing places left on Earth for me.

Final Thoughts:

15. How can people connect with you?

I’m always on Twitter. @CarlRackman please feel free to connect. I also have a website and blog at rackmanbooks.com and a lame Facebook page (because Facebook IS lame) but I prefer to interact on Twitter.

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thanks very much for asking me to take part. It’s been emotional.

Thank you for sharing. You certainly have a unique story. I’m still enjoying Irex and can’t wait to read more of your books.

If you’d like to buy Carl’s books, you can find them here: