Friday, June 23, 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 15

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Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 15th Mid-Week Flash challenge, you're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:

This week's photo prompt is actually an advert on Etsy. Antique keys seem to be popular. I have always been fascinated by keys and doors - and the metaphorical meaning of both.

Looking forward to seeing what this might inspire.

If you want to join in, here's what she's looking for:
General Guidelines:

Story length: Anything up to 750 Words (no minimum).
How enter: Either provide a link in the comments, or post the entire story in the comments.
Deadline: I will post a new one every Wednesday, but if you're inspired by a previous weeks, go ahead and write for it.
Genre/Theme: All/Any - completely open. It doesn't even have to refer to the picture.

And so, here is my entry for this round of the Mid-Week Flash Challenge... It's definitely horror, a little odd, and a bit gruesome, so be forewarned!

Winner Takes All

    Chloe's torments were just a merely to Reynard. He enjoyed his diversions with her inside the ancient catacombs beneath the church. They were perfectly suited for his amusements, and as a prison—for Chloe. Other than the obvious lack of freedom, there was never physical abuse in the way most would think. Reynard made sure his playmate ate well and provided for all the basic comforts. It was the constant toying with her mind that somehow brought him twisted pleasure. Taking her to the edge of sanity—then pulling her back before the next round—this was what he found exciting.
    Today, however, Chloe dared to believe her luck had changed; the game would end differently this time. While delivering her mid-day meal he placed his keys on the table near her cell, all held together by a shiny metal ring. As he talked, or should one say mocked her helplessness, they slipped to the floor when he bumped against the table, falling just out of his sight. As he continued to tease about her failed efforts to escape, she forced herself to look away from their location, hoping against hope they would remain unnoticed.
    After what seemed an eternity, Reynard left. Still, Chloe made no effort to retrieve the keys until his footsteps faded completely. When only silence could be heard, she edged closer to the bars, her slender arm stretching through. The tips of her fingers barely touched the ring, but that was enough. Once the keys were in hand, she held them up and smiled, even laughing a little.
    Reaching around the bars, she placed each one into the keyhole of her cell door, turning it as quietly as possible until one pulled the deadbolt back into the lock. She opened the door only enough to squeeze her body through. A squeaking hinge might be enough to alert her captor.
    The tunnel to the left led back to the church—and Reynard. The path Chloe suspected would lead to an exit went to the right. She had been partway down it before during one of Reynard's games. Walking quickly ahead, she soon encountered a locked door. Not long after finding its matching key, another door appeared down the tunnel, and then another. Testing each for the right key, every success provided a few more yards of freedom. Finally, Chloe came to a door unlike the others. It was much heavier. She could hear something beyond, perhaps a bird singing, though the sound was faint. She inserted each key into the lock, but none fit. She tried again. Surely Reynard would return and find her before she could escape. Chloe panicked, wondering if there would be time to try another route. The answer came quickly enough. When she turned, he was leaning against the wall, his arms folded.
    "What? Did you think I would make it that easy for you to escape? There are eight keys, but nine doors between you and freedom." Reynard sported an irritating smirk as he bent forward putting his face close to hers. "No, girl, you'll never see the light of day."
    Chloe felt the useless keys in her hand. Her anger grew as he laughed, the disturbing noise echoing through the tunnels.
    "Then neither shall you!"
    Summoning all the strength her body could muster, Chloe thrust the metal shafts deep into his eyes. He staggered backward, covering his face with his hands, painful wails filling the catacombs until he collapsed, the ornate brass ends still protruding from bloody sockets.
    Chloe sat on the floor, giggling as he writhed in agony, blood seeping from between his fingers. She had played the game well, rigged as it was, and managed to pull off a draw. Now, with both players a prisoner of sorts, the game could continue, but only madness remained to crown the victor.

 641 words without the title... 

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dear American Diabetes Association

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I hadn't planned on writing another blog post so soon, but it seems another public service announcement is in order.

A few weeks back, I was going through my mail. It was full of letters from various charities, each asking for a donation. This isn't unusual. I get about a dozen requests per week. Most get recycled.

One of them, however, was from the American Diabetes Association. What caught my eye were the mailing labels they sent. A lot of charities give mailing labels as a bribe an incentive to donate. If I kept all the mailing labels I get from charities I'd need to rent a warehouse to store them. These were different. They had classic motorcycles and cars on them. I'm old enough that I'd actually driven and ridden on some of those machines. They are the best mailing labels I've ever received.

Cool mailing labels from the ADA
Cool mailing labels

I was hooked. I had to give them a donation. I was doing my civic duty and all that crap. In addition, another writer I know, Beth Rhodes, is a diabetic, so helping her, albeit indirectly, was a plus.

As an added bonus, if you donated a certain amount you'd get a free tote bag. Now, I need another tote bag like I need more mailing labels, but it was part of the deal and I planned on accepting it graciously.

So, I sent in my check.

A couple of weeks later I found a tote bag wedged into my mailbox.

The infamous bag for ADA
The original bag...

It's an OK tote bag. It, you know, holds stuff. So far, so good.

I thought that was the end of it.

Today, I found out differently.

After coming home and parking the car, I went to the mailbox. I could see it wasn't closed. There was a package sticking out. I removed the item. What did I find but another tote bag. Great. I didn't need one; now I have two.

I went back for the rest of my mail.

And found another tote bag.

And another.

And another.

The other 4 bags in their mailers
The other four...

I had so many bags I needed a bag to hold them. Sadly, this was not a problem.

I don't know how the mail person got them all in there. The mail I wanted was in the mailbox, too. Looked like the dog had chewed on it—and I don't have a dog.

Standing at the mailbox, I pondered the significance of this event. Had the ADA sent out five tote bags to everyone who had donated? Was the USPS about to succumb to a burden they couldn't possibly handle? Did I get someone else's tote bag? Or, should I say, four other people's tote bags? Would the ADA go bankrupt from the postage fees? What should I do? I'm not even sure if my donation is tax-deductible now since the value of the bags is probably more than what I sent.

Mailing label says the ADA is a non-profit organization - that's pretty much guaranteed now...
It says they're a non-profit organization.
If they weren't before, they are now.

Someone at the ADA had made a terrible mistake and it was all my fault because I had given a donation. I felt so guilty about what I'd done I went to the ADA website and made another donation. I figure the way they're handing out tote bags they'll need it.


And if you haven't donated to the ADA yet, you might want to—before it's too late—for them. Just make sure you say "no" to the tote bag.

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Saturday, May 6, 2017

This Month's Free Photos - In Your Dreams

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This month is going to be a little different. I've been playing around with CNN. No, not that network—Google's convolutional neural network (aka CNN). Yes, they let you do that. For free. And it doesn't hurt a bit. Let me explain...

You may have noted that I do a little artwork. Very little, unfortunately. Still, I like to check out what's happening in the art world from the periphery on which I exist. Sometimes I even draw or paint something. A while back I stumbled onto a tool that really caught my attention and I've finally had a chance to work with it.

Google has created code for modifying images called DeepDream (or Deep Dream, depending upon the source). You can read about it HERE. I've spent a little time playing around with it on the web (link below) and thought I'd share a little of what I've done with you. Literally.

It works like this:

  1. You create a user id / password to get into the app (they don't ask for a lot of info)
  2. You upload an image (I've used both JPEG and PNG)
  3. Select whether you want to do a Deep Style or a Deep Dream (and how many levels!)
  4. Pick the parameters you want to apply
  5. Click on the generate button

The picture you make can be saved, downloaded, deleted, or re-edited, and can be kept private or made public.

This is a sample of what you can do with an image:

Original image of pocket watch
Original image of pocket watch

Both of the following images were made from the original using the Deep Style algorithms.

A Deep Style modification using the Simpsons themeA Deep Style modification

This one is done using one of the Deep Dream filters. You'll have to open it to a larger size to get the full effect.

A Deep Style alteration of the pocket watch image

Here's a closeup of the dial. Slightly disturbing, isn't it? Looks like the watch is the one doing the watching!

Disturbing closeup of the pocket watch dial

Now let's see what happens when we work with some nice flowers...

Original wood hyacinth photo I took last year
Original wood hyacinth photo I took last year

For the first step, here are the parameters:
  • Type = Valyrian
  • Resolution = normal 1200x1200
  • Inception depth = deep
  • Neural network layer = inception_3b-output

Hyacinth - first dream

For round 2:
  • Type = Neuron
  • Inception depth = deep
  • Transformation = none
  • Neural network layer = inception_3b-output 

Hyacinth - deeper dream

  • Type = Spirits
  • Inception depth = deep
  • Transformation = none
  • Neural network layer = inception_3b-output

Hyacinth - deeper yet

Even though a version of the original photo is here and I've given out the parameters I used, if you tried to do the same transformation the final output would not be exactly the same. There's something in the way the algorithms work that makes it slightly different each time.

Anyway, these are my free photos for the month! Use them any way you want!

And, as promised, here's a link to the site: Deep Dream Generator

If you're so inclined, you can read about convolutional neural networks HERE. Personally, I'd skip it and just look at the pretty pictures.

Check back again when you can. Maybe I'll have something even better!

Bonus image! click HERE to see an image generated from one of my photos  of a statue in McPherson Square, Washington, DC!

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Public Service Announcement: Hunt Valley Inn & Shore Leave 39

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The last couple of years I've attended the Shore Leave Con at the Hunt Valley Inn just north of Baltimore, Maryland. My group has reservations for this year's event, too. Since we booked our rooms, the facility has been purchased by Marriot and is now a Marriot Delta Hotel.

The Shore Leave folks say all reservations have been transferred over to the Marriot system, but they encourage people to confirm their reservations nonetheless.

Image of Hunt Valley Inn by
Image of Hunt Valley Inn by

Our reservations have been confirmed, but if you are planning to stay here please make sure you are in the Marriot system. The block of rooms assigned for Shore Leave guests is already full, so don't assume you're booked and end up with no place to stay!

Shore Leave has been here for a number of years, and the facility is well suited for the convention. It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes Marriot makes—both this year and for any future conventions. I hope to blog a little again from the convention again this year, so I'll post whatever info I get on this matter.

If you know of anyone attending Shore Leave 39, make sure they know about the change. And if they are staying at the hotel, ask them to confirm their reservations!

This has been a public service announcement!

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Change In Strategy: Blogging

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One of the biggest problems I have is finding time to write. I realize I'm not the only budding writer in this bind, but I've come to the conclusion that something has to change or most of my works will be published both incomplete and posthumously.

What I've decided is this: I will have to cut back on the amount of blogging I do.

You may have noticed I've already slowed a bit during the last few months. I've averaged over a post per week during the previous two years. I can't maintain that pace and make progress on my non-blog writing. There is just too much going on. So, perhaps, a post every couple of weeks is enough. That would make about 26 posts per year. Besides the time involved, I don't get a lot of feedback from the blog (except for Beth, Terri, and Tess), so I don't know if people are really interested in what I put out here or not. If you're on the edge of your seat somewhere waiting for the next installment of my wisdom-filled words, do two things:
  1. Let me know
  2. Get a life
I still hope to post the occasional short/flash story or poem, and any new stuff I have published will go here, but I won't be detailing every moment of my life on these pages. Not that I do now, but you know what I mean. I hope.

If you have any thoughts on this, or on your own blogging experience, please let me know!

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 6

Just a reminder: It's okay to leave comments!

Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's sixth Mid-Week Flash challenge, you're going to get some! If you want to join in, here's what she's looking for:
General Guidelines:

Story length: Anything up to 750 Words (no minimum).
How enter: Either provide a link in the comments, or post the entire story in the comments.
Deadline: I will post a new one every Wednesday, but if you're inspired by a previous weeks, go ahead and write for it.
Genre/Theme: All/Any - completely open. It doesn't even have to refer to the picture.
And so, here is my entry for this round of the Mid-Week Flash Challenge...

The Comforts of Home

Image Château à Cahaignes (Castle Cahaignes), located in Cahaignes, Eure, Upper Normandy, France. Abandoned in 1976

    The manor had long fallen into disrepair. Its magnificent halls, with their ornate decorations now covered by a layer of dust, were silent—save for the rustle of leaves or wayward bird that gained entrance through one of the many broken windows. Here and there, plaster cracked, paint peeled, colors faded. The great house was slowly crumbling, returning the landscape to its natural state, with entwining vines climbing the stone walls, their white blossoms filling the gentle summer breeze with sweet perfume. The once-stately dwelling was gradually, though inexorably, fading from existence.
    So would she, Penelope believed. This melancholy thought consumed her days and haunted her nights. She had already stayed too long. Still, the familiarity of her childhood home brought her comfort. She couldn't bring herself to leave. Each room, each carved mantle, even the play of light through the hazy windows brought back a memory. Most of all, it was the views of the countryside that thrilled her heart. The great oaks in the distance, the fields stretching over rolling hills, the gardens near the house—it had all been a part of her life. 
    To divert her mind from this sadness, Penelope took pleasure in her aimless wanderings among the rooms, delighting in the changing scenes as the days, the seasons, and even the years, passed. One room, however, remained unvisited. It was neither unique nor unusual in any way—merely a small, third-floor bedrooms in the northeast corner of the house that had seldom been used. From the lone window, however, one could spot the stone monuments of the family cemetery standing stoically on a small rise near the wood. The marble spires and obelisks, once brightly polished, now showed pitting and discoloration from age. Weeds sprouted from within the wrought iron fence that guarded the final resting place of her proud family. This disturbing reminder of how things return to nature was too much to bear. Therefore, the door was locked, the key tossed, and Penelope never again entered the room to preclude even the briefest glimpse of the cemetery in which she, too, was buried.   

 351 words without the title... 

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Saturday, April 1, 2017

March Madness, Annotated

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A couple of weekends ago I attending a wedding. It's not something I do often. I think I went to one before, though my memory of it is vague.

The timing of this particular celebration perplexed me. A wedding—in March—in Michigan? This must be madness, I thought. Disturbing images of my better half's family tree crept into mind. What other dark secrets await?

So, with much consideration and perturbation, Marie and I loaded up the car1 and headed north—and a bit west. After 700 miles of wind, rain, sleet, hail, snow—and a brief discussion with some girl and her dog asking about Kansas2—we arrived in Lansing, Michigan. Well, East Lansing, technically...

The establishment where Marie had made reservations is part of the Michigan State University campus. The hotel is attached to the venue where the reception was to take place and not far from the church where the ceremony itself would occur. Convenient, we thought. We pulled into the hotel parking lot late in the evening, and certainly long after the sun had set. At least that is what I presume as we had not spied so much as a glimpse of the orange orb during our travels, though the amount of falling snow was now reduced to a few wayward flakes. "I'm glad the bad weather is over with," we both said. All we wanted was to settle into a cozy room, do a minimal amount of unpacking, and go to sleep.

That blissful image was not to be, however. You see, to settle into a cozy room one must be able to enter said room. We loaded up a dolly with about half of our belongings3 and made our way to the room. Marie put the key card provided by the desk clerk into the slot and, when the indicator light turned green, pushed open the door—about 6 inches. She tried again, with similar results. Being a man, I immediately4 took charge. I slid the provided key card into the slot on the door and pushed it open to nearly 6.1 inches. A marked improvement, though still not adequate for the purposes of entry. Summoning all of my strength5, I took a brief run at the door (the hall was narrow) and pushed as hard as I could while Marie told me to shove it6. This action produced little improvement. Upon investigation, we determined that the door closure unit had fallen to a point where it blocked the door from fully opening. Forcing the hinged arm upward just a bit allowed us to open the door and gain access to the room. We rolled the dolly into the room as the door closed gently behind us. After emptying the dolly, we prepared to leave and fetch our remaining items. I grabbed the knob and pulled. The door opened about 6 inches.

To make a long story short, we eventually unloaded all of our things into the new room to which we had been assigned. We sat back to take a quick breather before preparing to turn in. It had to be a quick breather because the room smelled so strongly of industrial-strength cleaner that the thought of requesting yet another room entered our minds. Instead, we opened a window. This confirmed to us that the temperature outside was indeed below freezing. Still, it was an improvement, and the odor eventually dissipated.

As we settled in, from above we heard the sound of something rolling and then a muffled crash. Then footsteps. This scenario kept repeating until Marie took out the map of the complex and discovered our new room was directly under the check-in station. Every time a new guest arrived (or left) we were treated to a replay. At this point, we were too tired to care. Oddly enough, I slept well there7.

The next morning, of course, brought more snow. It may come as a surprise to many8 that it does snow in Michigan during the winter. Fortunately, the rain and rising temperatures melted most of it.

Who would have thought? Snow in Michigan in the winter? Preposterous!
Who would have thought?
Snow in Michigan - in the winter?

After a quick snack for breakfast, it was time to get ready for the wedding. There was much consternation as to what would be the best outfit for each of us. You'd think we were the ones getting married. Although we'd brought a lot of clothing with us, much of the packing was done hurriedly9, so the final choices had to be made. Eventually, and fortunately, we made it out the door, though never with confidence about our wardrobe selections.

The location chosen for the ceremony was St. Thomas Aquinas church. It's known for the huge stained-glass wall (not just a window or two) in the front of the building.

Stained glass window in St Thomas Aquinas
Stained glass window in St Thomas Aquinas 

After talking to a few folks, we took our seat and waited for the matrimonial activities to commence. I was still pondering the timing of the event. It finally started to dawn on me what was going on when the priest announced (mid-ceremony) they would "tie the knot" using a scarf with the tartan designs of their families' clans in Ireland. I'd never before seen this done. Marie reminded me St. Patrick's Day was the day before. Now it was all beginning to make sense. Sort of. Anyway, here's how it went (that's a cue to look at the following 2 pictures):

Tying the know with the tartan pattern of both families
Tying the knot

And with a sharp pull, the knot was tied!

The knot tied!
The knot tied!

Once the ceremony was over and all the official wedding pictures taken, the crowd went to the University Club for the reception. It is attached to the hotel were we stayed, so that was convenient. And even better—they were serving free Guiness. I might have to go to more of these wedding parties10. Eventually, they introduced the family members and, of course, the bride and groom.

The bride and groom partaking of a kiss
The bride and groom

The Irish theme continued during the ongoing festivities. They brought in an Irish dance group to entertain until they opened the dance floor to the guests. I'd not seen this done before and it was quite nice. And don't tell anyone, but Marie and I danced (a little). It's okay. No one was injured.

Irish dancers at reception
Irish dancers at reception

All this socializing stuff continued on well into the evening11. Eventually folks started drifting out. There would be a brunch the next morning, so it wasn't like they wouldn't see each other again.

Skipping ahead now to the brunch...

The brunch was held at a different location. I don't know why. But they served about a dozen different types of donuts and pastries, and this being Michigan, pasties. Marie and I split one.

After the brunch festivities were over, we had a little time before rejoining the bride and groom while they opened gifts. With the weather improving, Marie's sister and her husband were kind enough to give us a brief tour of Lansing and the MSU campus area. It's not that big of a city, so a brief tour was enough. As you can see, we stopped by the capitol building in Lansing. We didn't go in, though12. I would have knocked on the door, but it didn't look like anyone was home.

Image of Michigan's capitol building in Lansing
Yes, I did stop by the capitol

As we drove around the MSU campus, we made the obligatory stop by Sparty, the University's mascot. Technically, this is "Sparty II" as the original (not made of bronze) is displayed indoors to protect it from harm. We decided to take a picture here for no other reason than to prove I was in Michigan. It took a while, however, because we weren't the only ones with that idea. So, here we are—me and Sparty, just hangin'13.

Me and Sparty hanging out together.
Me and Sparty

The highlight of the tour was a stop at the MSU Dairy Store. In addition to ice cream (I got a Gopher S'Mores cone14), we made the required purchase of chocolate cheese15. Yes, it looks exactly like you'd think it would.

The MSU dairy Store - I got a single scoop cone of "Gopher S'Mores"
The MSU Dairy Store

You know, with all these pictures of Michigan State, some folks might get the mistaken impression I attended this fine institution16. No, nothing so grand for me. But I have to admit, a certificate from here would probably be more impressive than the one I got for my National Radio Institute home-study course17.

After leaving MSU, we went to watch the happy couple open their wedding gifts. You're not officially married until you get kitchen appliances for gifts. They also announced they were going to honeymoon in Ireland. After all the Irish stuff during the ceremony and reception, this came as no surprise. The best moment of the evening came when opening one of the gifts—a hand-made quilt. After the oohs and ahs were finished, Dominic (the husband) decided to put it back in the cardboard box in which it arrived. So far, so good. At that point, he proceeded to wad it up like an old tissue. Not so good. There arose a collective gasp from every woman in the room18. He received a lesson on the proper folding of quilts I'm sure he'll never forget.

The infamous quilt
The infamous quilt (in pre-wadded condition)

They next day it was time to head back home. Always up for a little adventure, we altered our route to take us by Lake Eerie—I mean Erie. Forgive me, it's an honest mistake. We took the following picture just a few miles west of Vermilion.

The sun-drenched shores and crystal blue waters of Lake Erie
The sun-drenched shores
and crystal-blue waters of Lake Erie

Surely it looks better in the summer19. The water was an interesting color of gray, somewhat akin to the shade of fluid ejected from your washing machine after doing full load. It seems the wildlife doesn't mind. We caught up with these geese at Sherod Park.

After this quick photo session, it was back to the highway heading towards home. It was late in the evening when we arrived. We were tired, but with a successful road trip under our belt we were already thinking of our next. Remind me to pack lighter for that one...

  1. When I say we loaded up the car, that is not an exaggeration. Had the trip lasted a day longer we would have required an upgrade to a medium-sized, diesel-powered truck.
  2. We asked if she needed assistance. Her footwear was definitely inappropriate for the weather.
  3. Due to the quantity involved, the term belongings seems more appropriate than luggage.
  4. Time is relative.
  5. Inertia, then, if you insist. I may not have strength, but as my girth increases, so does the amount of inertia my body can generate. I believe there is a formula for this. Something like Ici = (Adp * Wb)2, where Ici = inertia of charging idiot, Adp = avoirdupois, and Wb = the width of applicable backside in centimeters. Squared, of course. I can't say mass because I'm not a priest (rim shot, please).
  6. My memory is not entirely clear on the order of these events.
  7. It was just like being at work.
  8. Such as those planning the wedding...
  9. Perhaps horridly is the correct term here.
  10. To be specific, Irish wedding parties.
  11. Fortunately, so did the Guiness, which may explain why I was dancing.
  12. We didn't see any lights on, so we left. I put a note on the door: "Sorry, we missed you!" I'm not sure who we missed, but maybe we can stop by again sometime. Then they'll be sorry.
  13. From the looks of things, Sparty hangs a little better than me, but this is a PG-Rated blog, so enough said.
  14. I got a single scoop, but it was more than generous. You never know when you might need more inertia. As a note for future reference, there is usually a line, a large crowd, and a single-room restroom which also has a line (different direction, of course). Forewarned is forearmed—and, most likely, relieved.
  15. No, I haven't tasted it yet.
  16. I've been in a lot of institutions, but this wasn't one of them.
  17. I built an oscilloscope!
  18. There was a lot of gasping. I believe the windows actually bowed in as atmospheric pressure attempted to equalize. And, in truth, folding is just wadding in a very orderly manner. Well, it is to a man.
  19. Please-someone from Ohio-post a comment and assure me it looks better than this in the summer. The rest of your state we saw seemed very nice.

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Can You Hear Me Now?

Just a reminder: It's okay to leave comments!

Every now and then I check my author ranking on Amazon. Here's what it looks like for the past six months:

Amazon author ranking for K. R. Smith for the last 6 months.
My author ranking

You'll probably have to click on the picture to see any detail, but it's been reasonably steady for the previous 365 days with numbers between about 30,000 (best) to 300,000 (worst). Not a bad showing for a writer that doesn't even have a book published under his own name. Everything I've done has gone into an anthology of some sort.

Most of the anthologies to which I've contributed continue to sell at a steady, though dreadfully slow, pace. These are not the ones keeping my author ranking as high as it is. Most all of it is due to one book: In Creeps the Night.

This book is a Halloween-themed horror anthology, so I was wondering why it sells at such a consistent rate, especially since it is a couple of years old now. I contributed a small story to the effort: Little Monsters. It's an okay story, but I doubt it is the major draw for this work. There are maybe 30-40 authors who have stories in this book.

While the Kindle version sells well, what appears to be the major force behind the rankings is the audio version. It is narrated by Elizabeth Phillips.

Audiobook sales for In Creeps the Night
Audiobook sales for In Creeps the Night

The audiobook sales are really something special for a book with no real advertising behind it. Almost everything driving my Amazon author ranking is from this audiobook. I am very grateful for being included! Here are the current rankings for the audio version of In Creeps the Night on the US Amazon page.

US Amazon rankings for In Creeps the Night
US amazon rankings for In Creeps the Night

I don't know if other audiobooks are having the same success (please feel free to chime in on that), but it seems adding one to your publishing options might be wise.

That's all I have at the moment. Anyway, an hour has passed, so I have to go check my rankings again. I did say now and then...

P. S. Sadly, I make no money on the book. It is a charity anthology. But I'm okay with that.

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, February 27, 2017

It's Just Around The Corner

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Shore Leave 39, that is.

Image of the Shore Leave bunny

Well, maybe not exactly. But if you want to attend, you have to start preparing now. It's in July this year, from the 7th to the 9th to be exact. There is a limit on the number of attendees and hotel rooms for those coming in from out-of-town. I've already received my registration confirmation.

And the guest list of actors/actresses is growing. I don't watch many of movies or a lot TV, but I am familiar with a couple of them. For me, that's pretty good. It's what draws most people to this convention.

Image of Shore Leave 39 guests from the Shore Leave web site

As usual, I'm hoping to attend a few of the writer workshops and have a chance to talk to some of the many authors that will be present. Here they are (you'll have to click on the image to see them properly):

Image of Shore Leave 39 author guests from the Shore Leave web site

Some people think that only, uh, "eccentric" people attend conventions like these. I beg to differ.

Looks normal enough to me...

I also plan to post to the blog during the convention. I haven't done the best at this in the past, but if I'm lucky, at least one post will be while the convention is still in progress.

If you'd like more info:
Shore Leave is a fan-run science fiction convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland featuring guests from your favorite movies and TV shows of yesterday and today.

Here's the WEBSITE.

Here's the FLIER.


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, February 23, 2017

This Month's Free Photo - Venus

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Ready for another of my cheesy free photos? Well, you're getting one anyway. Someday, I'll manage to post a picture here that is worthy, but this will have to do for now (I seems to say that a lot on these free photo posts...).

Over the years I've had more than one sky photo on my blog. I like sunsets and the colors they display. This time I caught Venus sparkling in the gloaming as I was getting off the train from work. I've been looking for an excuse to use the word gloaming, and this post is it. One more thing off my list. Anyway, Venus is really bright this month, so even my cell phone could get a decent shot. It's often easier to get a picture of the Moon or bright planets with a cheap phone camera during dusk or early morning when the contrast is not as great. That's my tip for the day.

Image of Venus in sky - IMG_20170222_225632_CR.jpg ©2017 K. R. Smith - - may be used, in whole or in part, with attribution.
Venus in the evening sky
(yes, that dot in the upper left-hand quarter of the image)

Check back again when you can. Maybe I'll have something even better!

Image IMG_20170222_225632_CR.jpg ©2017 K. R. Smith - - may be used, in whole or in part, with attribution.

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Bought A Couple Of Dragons

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I spent a little time at the local gem and jewelry show over the weekend. My better half makes (and buys) jewelry, so it's an activity we do at least twice each year. Sometimes, even I purchase an interesting item or stone should it catch my eye.

Many of the vendors are Chinese or Indian, so it comes as no surprise there are carvings of cultural items. There are a lot of Buddhas, elephants and all sorts of other animals, and, of course, dragons. I happened to see a number of these inexpensive carved dragons in a display box and couldn't resist.

Image of carving of entwined dragons

So, what do dragons have to do with writing? Well, not a great deal. I did write one dragon story (The Sword of Hexworthy Manor) for the Swords of Darkness anthology, but it's really not a topic I dwell on. I really liked these little guys, though. Not sure what the stone is—probably a type of jade. Not all jade is the deep green expensive stuff. It doesn't matter so long as I like it. Now I need to find a nice place to hang it. The carving is only about 3 inches (75 mm) in width and reasonably light in weight, so it won't require any special mounting. Once displayed, I'll have this for inspiration should I need to write another dragon story!

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dead Men's Tales

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First of all, Happy Valentine's Day!

Now, back to business...

It's taken a while, but it's finally here!

Fringeworks has published Dead Men's Tales, a pirate-themed anthology with the twist that each story is told from the point of view of a deceased character. My contribution to this collection is Skarett's Treasure. This story concerns the plight of an indentured servant (Thomas) who, hoping to gain enough money to escape from the pirate's stronghold with the mesmerizing Maria, gets mixed up with Captain Skarett.

What type of story is Skarett's Treasure? Well, there are pirates, of course, mixed in with a little bit of horror and a touch of humor. While my tale may leave you wanting more, by the time it's done, Thomas will have had his fill!

Cover image (by Darrel Bevan) of Dead Man's Tales © 2017 Fringeworks Ltd.

As the back cover says:
"They say that dead men tell no tales, but that's not strictly true. Why else would fifteen men need to sit on a dead man's chest? Beware these pirate tales told by the dead themselves. They will thrill you, chill you, scare you and spare you the need to sleep on a dark and stormy night. And remember, they might talk, but their grog-drinking days are done. Yo Ho Ho

Here's the story line-up:
Image of author's names and story titles for Dead Men's Tales
I need to get a copy to see what changes the editor, Melissa Black, may have made to the story. I hope it's as good as I remember! Or, at least, not as bad as I fear... As an added bonus, the foreword was written by Kevin R. McNally, one of the main actors in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. The cover is by Darrel Bevan.

Dead Men's Tales is available in paperback from Amazon.
    Amazon US
    Amazon UK

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Write On Write Off?

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Not long ago, I saw a tweet from Terri Deno alerting me that Amazon / Kindle was shutting down its Write On writer collaboration project. I only had a brief exposure to Write On while following a couple of Terri's works. It was something I wanted to explore further, but it was always on my back burner.

Perhaps that's what happened to a lot of folks. Amazon wasn't clear about why they shut it down other than it didn't grow the way they hoped. They didn't explain how they wanted it to grow or how far off they were from what had been expected. This is the notice that is posted on the Write On forum:

"While we have been proud over the last few years to have brought together such a vibrant, active, and creative community, unfortunately we will be closing Write On’s doors on March 22. After this date, access to Write On will be unavailable."

It was so vibrant and active that Amazon decided to shut it down? I think one of the posters hit it on the head when he guessed Amazon hadn't found a way to make money on it, so it was axed. It seems they didn't put much effort into upgrading the site in the last year. Perhaps that was a clue as to Write On's eventual fate. I can't say Amazon did much in the way of promotion, either. Had it not been for Terri informing me of its existence in the first place I might have never known about it at all.

There are some who believe competition from similar sites, like Wattpad, caused Write On's failure. I'm not quite sure that's true based on comments by some on the Write On forum. Most were familiar with Wattpad, but thought it catered to a different demographic. Maybe a few folks will migrate to Kindle Scout. If anyone has any ideas on this, please pass them on!

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Anthology Coming

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Update: I just checked on this and my poem isn't showing up in the table of contents on Lulu. I've sent an e-mail to the editor to see if anything can be done. If not, well, I guess I'll submit it to another anthology! Thirteen O'clock has others that might be appropriate!

Update #2: Got a message from the editor. My poem missed getting into Welcome to the Dance because of a mix-up, so it will be in the "X VI" anthology (horror/supernatural). These are a series of anthologies for stories that don't fit their themed collections. X V (or X Five) is on its way to the presses, so X VI it is!

I have another (tiny) entry in an upcoming horror anthology being published by Thirteen O'Clock Press. It's a poem this time. It was supposed to be in a collection called Welcome to the Dance, but there weren't enough entries for a stand-alone book so it is being combined with another anthology, The Call, which suffered from similar difficulties.

I don't have a final title yet. I don't know what the cover will look like. I don't know how the anthology will be arranged as it is being combined. But here's a list of the accepted submissions (as provided to me by the editor) in alphabetical order by the author's last name. Well, sort of. Some of the entries have two authors.

The Call

  Brotherly Love by Diane Arrelle
  Grant’s Call by Roy C Booth and William Tucker
  London Kind by Gary Budgen
  Call of Blood by Michael B Fletcher
  His Calling by Michael B Fletcher
  Daydream of a Bored Fool by Dave Fragments
  Hemorrhoids of the Gods by Ken Goldman*
  Toll Call by Ken Goldman
  Rookies Take Point by David M Hoenig
  Out of Time by Kevin Holton
  The Message by Jeff Jones
  Blood Will Tell by Ken L Jones
  Dead Call by Ken L Jones
  Far Scarier Than by Ken L Jones
  The Nursery by Kevin L Jones
  Ring-Ring by Thomas Malafarina
  Coming Home by RJ Meldrum
  Signal To Noise by RJ Meldrum
  The Call by Rie Sheridan Rose
  You Can’t Lie Forever by Rie Sheridan Rose
  The Late Mr. McCall by David Smith
  Called by DJ Tyrer
  The Siren Call of Valentina Wentworth by Ken L Jones
  The Web Spinner by Matthew Wilson

* Looking forward to reading this one out of morbid curiosity...

Welcome to the Dance

  The Web Spinner by Patricia Anabel
  Last Dance by Diane Arrelle
  Dancing In The Dark by Edward Cooke
  Terpsichorean Titbits by John H Dromey
  The Dancing Partner by Joanna Elphick
  Cleansing of the Crypt by Michael B Fletcher
  Dancing Her Life Away by Michael B Fletcher
  Prom Night by Thomas Malafarina
  The Mask by Chris Marchant
  The Dancer by RJ Meldrum
  The Night Of The Dance by RJ Meldrum
  The Homecoming Horror by Maria Mitchell
  The Black Widow by Marie Mittmann
  The Darkest Dance by Marie H Mittmann
  Chairman Of The Bored by David Perlmutter
  Word Dancer by W K Pomeroy
  The Trigger by James Pyne
  Penitence Ball by CL Raven
  Our Night Is Come by Rie Sheridan Rose
  Among the Bones by K. R. Smith (poem) (See updates at top of post... there was a mix-up so my poem will be in a different anthology - better late than never!)
  Dance With The Devil For Endless Life by Ramona Thompson
  A Dance With Death by Wondra Vanian

Now, when I say my poem is a tiny entry, I truly mean that. It has 9 rhymes* using only 76 words all in one sentence. Isn't that enough to make you curious? It's so small it almost didn't make it into the book. The editor approved it, I got the contract, and then it was lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, a quick e-mail got things straightened out. I hope.

FYI, it will probably be out on Lulu soon. Please check out my little poem. And, if you really have to, some of the other author's works might be okay, too...

* Yes, it rhymes—you’ll have to deal with that in your own way. Oddly enough, I’ve had better luck selling rhyming poetry than non-rhyming free-form.

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Horror Bites Challenge #5 - Running Fast

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From the Horror Bites website:
Ok so I’m a bit late with this, the first challenge of 2017 but then, as you are probably aware, I’m not the biggest fan of consistency hehe. The last challenge was a photo my son wanted me to take, but this week he decided to take a photo himself. I love how he is just as much invested in these challenges are I am, always on the look out for a good scene to insure creepiness.

  1. As always post either the complete story or a link in the comments.
  2. Going to give you a bit more scope this week so how about a word count of 450 words.
  3. My son would like you to include a sport of some sort this time, so see if you can.

And so, here is my entry for this round of Horror Bites...

Running Fast

Horror Bites Image #5 -

    Elated at being alone and in the lead, Melvin settled into an even pace, his footfalls tapping out a rhythm that echoed faintly in the early morning mist. His breathing quickly adjusted. His lungs no longer burned, his heart no longer strained from the torturous effort that had pushed him not only to the front of the pack, but far beyond. A peek at his watch told him he was well ahead of schedule. All that remained left was the monotonous repetition of miles until the end of the course. A sign caught Melvin's eye as he pushed himself forward; "one way," it read.
    After what seemed like an eternity, Melvin checked his watch again. It wouldn't be long now. In the distance, he could see someone standing near a tape that crossed the road, though no spectators were in sight. Unusual, he thought; there's always a crowd at the finish line. His pace slowed. A quick glance behind showed no other competitor in sight. Now only yards away, he approached the waiting figure, noting its odd clothing. A tattered, hooded robe stood in stark contrasted to the bright garb normally worn by the race staff.
    "Is this the finish?" 
    An ethereal whisper came from within the hood. "For you—yes."
    Melvin thought the answer curious, but with his mind still consumed by the race, he reached for the tape. As he did, a sharp pain shot through his chest. His arm ached miserably. His legs became heavy, and he fell to his knees. Crimson droplets splashed across the asphalt. Above him, the figure lofted a wooden shaft from which a large, curved blade, now bathed in red, extended. Melvin's eyes began to close, and with a final, stabbing pain, his mind went dark.
    Resting the staff against a shoulder, bony hands pulled a gray stone tablet from within the robe. A skeletal digit scratched a tally upon its surface.
    "Ah," it hissed with breathy satisfaction. "Completed in record time."

 330 words without the title... 

Previous Horror Bites: 
     A Late Dinner
    The Empty Seat
    Reading at the Library
    Unfashionably Late

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Final Tally - Preditors & Editors Poll

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Looks like Death and Decorations took 4th place in the anthology category in the Preditors & Editors Poll. Not bad for a book that came out late in the year and hasn't had an eBook version created yet! I hope my story (A Home for Christmas) wasn't the one that kept them out of first place! I believe there were 60 entries in all.
2016 P&E Anthology Category

This is from the Horrified Press web site:

Congratulations to Thirteen O’Clock Press editors George Wilhite and Dorothy Davies. Horror anthology ‘Death & Decorations’ finished top 10 in the P & E readers poll this year. Also congrats to authors RJ Meldrum, Ken L Jones, Olivia Arieti, Rie Sheridan Rose, Perry McDaid, Dianne Arrelle, Edward Cooke, Anusha VR, John McCallum Swain, Matthew Wilson, Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, Maria Mitchell, C A Kerr, Stanley Webb, Bruce Markuson, James Pyne, DJ Tyrer, Thomas M Malafarina, Rick McQuiston, Nick Manzolillo, Diane Arrelle, John Howe, L L Hill, Shane Ward, David M. Hoenig, John H Dromey, K R Smith, Roy C Booth and William Tucker, and Dorothy Davies.…/death…/paperback/product-22968814.html

© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved