Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Dickens You Say!


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It's getting close to Christmas which means all those traditional Christmas stories are starting to make the rounds. My favorite is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I try to see a version of it every year.

This year was special. Marie (my better half) and I were fortunate enough to get tickets to see Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens, perform the story live. The one-man-show took place in the old Ebenezer Baptist Church in the little town of Occoquan, Virginia (not the current EBC facility in Woodbridge, Virginia).

Historic marker for Ebenezer Baptist Church, Occoquan, VA.
Historic marker for Ebenezer Baptist Church, Occoquan, VA.

The church is not large, but Gerald does two shows the same day to accommodate as many people as possible. The shows are sold out months ahead of time.

The performance lasts nearly 90 minutes, and the audience is encouraged to participate. Many of those in attendance had seen the show several times and knew when to pipe in. Gerald changes voices and demeanor for each character, so even those not entirely familiar with the story would have little difficulty following along. Once the show was over, Gerald waited at the exit to the church to shake hands with the audience and wish them a 'Merry Christmas.'

Afterwards, many walk up the street to The Golden Goose where autographs and pictures may be had (for free). The Golden Goose is a Christmas shop with every sort of decoration imaginable on display. I had a small copy of A Christmas Carol and the flyer for the play which Gerald signed.


Autographed flyer for Gerald Charles Dickens one-man version of A Christmas Carol
Autographed flyer for A Christmas Carol

Marie had an illustrated version of the story and a flyer to be signed. And we took several pictures, of course. While no pictures or other recordings are allowed during the show, he more than makes up for it afterward! He was very accommodating and never rushed anyone, often signing multiple copies of books and allowing many pictures by each person or group to be taken during the autograph session.


Gerald Charles Dickens signing Marie's book
Gerald Charles Dickens signing Marie's book

Mr. Dickens posing with us for a picture
Mr. Dickens posing with us for a picture

We thought the show was great and are hoping to attend again next year. We must remind ourselves to mark the calendar, however, as the tickets sell out so quickly! Please note that Gerald does shows around the country (and also in England) so you don't have to be in Virginia to see him. If you enjoy the story and happen to be near where one Gerald's performances take place, consider seeing it for yourself. I think you'll find it enjoyable!

In addition to his web sites, you can find Gerald Charles Dickens on Twitter at @DickensShows.



P.S. It would be great if you could check out Terri Deno's Patreon site and, perhaps, consider supporting her writing efforts! Struggling authors need all the help they can get!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I Think I'm Being Taled


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Yes, the title of this blog post is so bad, and yet so true.

I noticed the other day I have stories in three anthologies with the word TALES in the title. Coincidence? Perhaps. It wouldn't seem so odd if I had stories in fifty or a hundred anthologies, but I only have entries in eleven published collections. Must be a statistical anomaly.

The latest is Tales by the Tree from BHC Press. If you're looking for an entertaining bunch of short stories for the holidays, this is the book! My story is The Last Snowfall. It's about a young girl trying to deliver a special Christmas gift for her mother—only she hasn't much time!

BHC Press was good enough to Tweet a link to an excerpt from my story, The Last Snowfall, published in the holiday-themed anthology Tales by the Tree! Thanks!


The next anthology is Dead Men's Tales from Fringeworks Press. My contribution is called Skarett's Treasure. This is a ghost/pirate story concerning a young man, Thomas, who becomes a pirate—somewhat unwillingly—to win the heart of a beautiful woman. You might find this story a bit hard to swallow. Then again, so does Thomas...


The final anthology is called Tales from the Bully Box published by Elephant Bookshelf Press. My story, One Above Zero, is about a girl who is the target of a bunch of bullies until one of the bullies sees the real problem. It's a good book for middle grade children.


That's all the tales I have for the moment. But check back from time to time—you never know when I might grow another tale!

(OK - I started with a bad pun, so I had to end with one.)



P.S. It would be great if you could check out Terri Deno's Patreon site and, perhaps, consider supporting her writing efforts! Struggling authors need all the help they can get!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tales by the Tree


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BHC Press was good enough to Tweet a link to an excerpt from my story, The Last Snowfall, published in the holiday-themed anthology Tales by the Tree! Thanks!


Of course, there are a lot of other stories in this anthology. Here's a list:

Grandma's Christmas Sweater by Marissa Ames
Falling by Ruth Long
Winter Hope by Lisa Shambrook
The Long Night Moon by Jean Booth
In the Outside by Raymond Henri

Merry Mythmas by Ailsa Abraham
Day's End by Mona Bliss
A Hell of a Thing by Lisa V. Tomecek
Christmas Preparations by Lizzie Koch
Merry and Bright by Judy Carpenter

Not as They Are by Eric Martell
Hollywood North by Leslie Fulton
Spell Spinner Christmas by Lisa T Cresswell
'Twas the Fight Before by Christmas Nick Johns
The Wild Hunters by S. R. Betler

A Christmas Change by Jennifer Garrett
The Town Beneath the Lake by Beth Avery
The Talisman by Lara Hays
I'll Be Home for Christmas by Mary MacFarlane
Wally, the Penguin Who Could Fly by Eric Martell

Rebirth in Bethlehem
Snowed In by Sara Daniell
The Last Snowfall by K. R. Smith
Jack Frost Stops by for a Chat by Beth Avery
Naughty or Nice by Laura Jamez

A Christmas Dance by Rebecca Fyfe
To the Top of the Tree by Marjie Myers
One Magical Night by Terry Crouse
What Is This Christmas?
The Yuletide Exchange by Rebecca Fyfe

Scarred by Tom Mohan
The Gift by Glen Damien Campbell
Christmas 1916 by Eric Sprolls
Scratch by J. S. Bailey
The Giving Gift by Raymond Henri

What's Good for the Goose by Mona Bliss
The Little Mouse by Lisa Shambrook
Thomas's New Coat by Marissa Ames
Unexpected Encounter by Ailsa Abraham
Picture Perfect by Alex Brightsmith

The Christmas Letter by Leslie Fulton
The Angel Who Didn't Like Christmas by Sarah Nicholson
The Star Shone Brightly by Lisa Shambrook
Claustrophobia By Michael Wombat
All the Christmassy Things LaDonna Cole

With all these stories there has to be something in there you'll like!

Also, this is a charity anthology. I don't get any money from the sales. BHC Press donates $1 for every print book sale and $0.50 for every eBook sale for this anthology to RIF (Reading is Fundamental) for the first year. So, even if you don't like the holidays, you can help people learn to read just by buying a copy!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 29


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Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 29th Mid-Week Flash challenge, you're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
This week's photo prompt came from someone taking part in a Sunday hashtag twitter photo theme called #SundayPix hosted by Michael Wombat. This one was #SundayPixBlue. I asked the owner Lou Armer‏ if he minded me using it, and he was happy to lend it as a prompt.
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 I preseent my entry for this round of the Mid-Week Flash Challenge.





Last Laugh




    The old man was finally dead. Murder wasn't one of Bertram's usual activities, but he had grown tired of waiting, of being disparaged, of wondering how long he would remain in his father's good favor—and his will. Bertram was his only child; it was fitting that the old man's landholdings should go to him alone. There had been too many threats to divide the property among cousins, friends—even charities. Action needed to be taken.
    To set up his ruse, Bertram had mentioned in casual conversations how his father had taken a trip overseas for business. A steamship ticket had been purchased in his father's name and given to a man whose silence was easily bought. The chance meeting with a person needing to avoid the authorities had proven fortuitous. When his father never returned, inquiries would be made, of course, but nothing would be found. People would assume he'd fallen overboard or disappeared in the dark streets of some exotic port. Eventually he'd be declared dead. Until that time, Bertram would run the plantation as if he expected him to return at any moment. Once his father was officially deceased, the property would be his.
    Then there was the problem of the body to deal with. It had to be disposed of in a manner that would leave no trace. Bertram placed the corpse on a bed of straw in the barn. This would absorb any blood. The straw could be burned later on. He dismembered the body, cutting it into parts of appropriate size for an old potter's oven. He made the fire hot enough to destroy the soft tissue leaving only ash. Any bones remaining would be ground into unrecognizable dust. Even the clothing and luggage he might have taken along on the voyage were reduced to a gray powder.
    The old man's head was last. Bertram had set it in front of the oven as if to force him to watch his own destruction. He held it up by the hair, recalling the way he'd looked into his eyes and snarled, "It'll all be mine now!" He thought it odd how the old man cursed him, then laughed, just before he plunged the blade into his chest. With his dying breath, he'd said, "So be it." Bertram grinned and tossed the head into the oven. He smiled a little wider with each satisfying pop and crackle.

    Once it was all finished, Bertram placed the cooled ashes into a cloth sack. All he needed now was the proper time to dispose of the vile remains.
    He did not have to wait long. Within a few days, a summer storm passed through during the night. He surmised anyone nearby would either be asleep or sheltering from the rain and unlikely to witness his movements. As it approached, he climbed a hill in the middle of the orchard—the highest point on his father's lands. When the winds rose, he opened the bag. As he turned it to dump the ashes, a strong gust swirled around him taking them far in all directions.
    "Perfect," he muttered as he shook out the bag.
    Bertram's exuberance was short-lived, however. An early frost destroyed most of the fruit in the orchard. Horses and cows refused to foal. Hay spoiled.
    When the spring came, few trees in the orchard sprouted new growth. Of those that did, the branches grew gnarled and twisted, mimicking the dying forests that surrounded them. None bore fruit.
    Bertram sat on the hill where he had spread his father's ashes. Even the sunlight passing between the bare branches seemed weak. The trees in the orchard were mostly dead, the grass between them sparse. Even the weeds failed to thrive.
    He recalled his father's words as he sat alone contemplating his options. He smiled a little when he finally understood. He whispered the words, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." He closed his eyes for a moment, then said, "So be it," before plunging the knife into his own chest.
     


 674 words without the title... 


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Is Four Pennies A Day Too Much To Ask?



For those who don't know, Terri Deno is a full-time writer. She does fiction, poetry, and more.

Making a living as a writer isn't easy. Most have a regular job to pay the bills and do writing on the side (as I do). Terri is doing it the hard way—writing is how she pays the bills. In an attempt to provide a steadier flow of income, she has set up a Patreon page.


A screen-shot of Terri's Patreon page


Patreon allows writers, artists, musicians, and other creative types to present their work and receive a payment for access to specific items. While some posts are available to everyone, the creator of the site may designate certain works (a story or a piece of music) as being available only to those who are willing to provide a small payment. This way, the creator can use the money to enhance their efforts and the "patron" gets access to some of their best and most unique creations.

The level of payment can vary from creator to creator. Terri's starts at only $1.00 per month. That's less than four cents per day. It isn't a lot, but even that level of support can make a big difference. Terri is just starting up so their isn't a lot out there yet, but in the long run, rest assured, you will get your money's worth. Please take a few minutes to check out her Patreon site - only four cents per day (or maybe a little more) can make a big difference.

Here is a link to Terri's Patreon site: TERRI DENO'S PATREON SITE

And, yes, I do plan to support Terri. I'm working on setting up a payment method that works best for me. Patreon accepts either credit card or PayPal.


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, November 6, 2017

PSA: NaNoWriMo And The Flu


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Picture this scenario: You're right in the middle of NaNoWriMo, you're typing up a storm, and then you get sick. Your feel like crap. Your daily word count goes from 2,000 down to 2. The doctor says it's the flu. Yes, you'll probably be better in a couple of weeks. The fame you might have achieved by writing the next Great (fill in country name) Novel, however, may have to wait until next year.

So why take the chance? Get a flu shot.

True, NaNoWriMo has already started, so you should have done this by now, but when the awards for your story start coming in you don't want to be sniffling and hacking your way through the televised interviews. That means you should still get one unless there are contraindications to getting the vaccine.

To help you out, I've provided a few pictures and links...


CDC Blog-a-thon





Here's a link to the CDC: CDC INFLUENZA SITE and a link to the Verywell Flu site.



And, yes, I already have mine. I'm an old geezer, so a flu shot is strongly recommended even though I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo.


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NaNoWriMo Is Officially Underway



Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Yes, NaNoWriMo is now underway!

If you don't have a few hundred words down already you're probably behind...

NaNoWriMo counts early November 1, 2017
NaNoWriMo counts early November 1, 2017

Don't give up, though! There's still time to get that word count up to where it should be.

Fortunately for me, I'm not competing. I think I'll sit back, have another cup of coffee, and nibble on a piece of leftover Halloween candy. Have fun, folks!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It's Almost Time for Nanowrimo


Just a quick reminder for all you masochists out there...

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Yes, it's almost time for NaNoWriMo again!

I've noticed that Terri Deno wants to give it a try, as does Sara Lundberg. I wish you both the best. I hardly have time to write these blog posts. Perhaps I will once I've retired from my day job. Then again, it would be nice to take a real vacation.

If anyone is interested, there's still time to sign up. Here's a map the NaNoWriMo folks provide to give you an idea where the writers are located.

Location of NaNoWriMo writers

If you don't want to write, you can volunteer to help out.

Also, many libraries are having events for NaNoWriMo writers like these listed from the Baltimore County Public Library:


Anyway, this is just to let everyone know NaNoWriMo is coming! Me? I've buying futures in coffee beans. The amount of caffeine consumed is bound to go up in the next month. So, to all you participants, good luck!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 26


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


Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 26th Mid-Week Flash challenge, you're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
I tracked this week's photo prompt down to being taken by Niki Feijen, a male Dutch photographer. The Internet says it is an abandoned chateau in Belgium, but I can't confirm that, or, if it was, which chateau it was taken in. Such a shame.

As soon as I looked at this picture I saw these two characters sitting in the chairs, but what were they saying? And what was their story? So I wrote it to find out. What will you see?
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 I preseent my entry for this round of the Mid-Week Flash Challenge.





Musical Chairs



Image by http://www.nikifeijen.com/artworks


    A grey-haired man, testing each step with his cane, shuffled deliberately along the main hall of the old mansion. A woman held his arm, steadying him as she guided him through the debris on the floor. He stopped when he came to a small sunroom at the end. In the center were two dust-covered chairs. A tremor-ridden hand covered his mouth as he whispered, "Dear God..."
    "This? This is what you came thousands of miles to see, father?"
    "Yes. I'd heard the chateau was still standing. I can't believe how little has changed. Even the chairs are here."
    "What's so important about a couple of dirty chairs?"
    "Only one of them is important." He raised his cane and shakily pointed it towards the chair to his right. "That one," he said. 
    "They look the same to me."
    "Perhaps so, but they're not." He took a deep breath before continuing. "That's where I sat."
    "I don't understand."
    "It was January of forty-five. I'd been wounded in the Ardennes—my arm and leg. You know the story. They had made this place into a makeshift hospital being it was so close to the front. I'd been here a little over a week and was recovering quickly. There were all kinds of people running about in here—doctors, nurses, wounded coming in and being sent out. They sat a few of us that were doing better in this room to get some sun. It was cold day. Lots of snow. But we were quite warm sitting in the bright light coming through the windows. Somebody brought in a phonograph and put on a few scratchy old records. I swear I can still hear it playing. The staff were all dashing around trying to care for us and asking everyone to quiet down. A couple of the guys started joking about how we should play musical chairs. That would have been a laugh—most of us couldn't even walk. I guess we were getting pretty rowdy."
    The old man stopped talking, his eyes slowly scanning the room.
    "Are you all right, father? Perhaps we should go. You're tired."
    "There was this girl—pretty—young, though not much younger than me. I never knew her name. She wasn't a nurse—just a local girl helping out. The music was playing when she walked by. I reached out and put my good arm around her waist. That knocked her off balance and she fell over the arm of the chair into my lap. I tried to explain about musical chairs, but I didn't know enough French and she didn't know enough English. Whatever she said to me, I could tell she was plenty mad. She raised her hand to slap me. That's when we heard the window glass break. I saw her expression change.
    "We were miles behind the Allied lines. We thought we were safe. A German sniper changed all that. The bullet buried itself in her chest. If she hadn't been in front of me, it would have been my chest. She died before her body hit the floor. They told me she was only seventeen. It was supposed to be me. Soldiers die, you know. That's what we do. Not seventeen year-old girls."
    "That must have been horrible, father. Is that why you were always so protective of me?"
    "I did what I could prevent anything from happening to you, but it doesn't make up for what I did that day. She might still be alive if it wasn't for me."
    The old man grabbed his chest. His knees buckled.
    "Father!"
    "Let me sit," he said, stumbling over to the chair.
    "I'll get help!"
    He just shook his head. "This is how it's supposed to be, isn't it? I'm just a little late."
    "Please, father! Don't try to talk. I'll find someone to help."
    He shook his head again, then stopped. His hand lost its grip on the cane. His shoulders slumped.
    Then all was quiet in the room with the two chairs. The music had finally stopped.
     



 675 words without the title... 


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, October 16, 2017

Making (No) Sense Of Sales


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Most writers like to have their stories read, and we hope the readers like our stories. When you write for anthologies, however, tracking the results of your efforts can be difficult. Reviews that mention particular stories within an anthology (especially if it's your own story) would help a lot, but reviews for books published by small presses are few and far between. This situation often leaves the writer scrambling to get any feedback.

There are a couple of free tools available to authors: Novelrank and Amazon's Author Central. These are tools I generally use and are the source of the information presented here.

Amazon Author Sales Rank on October 9, 2017

This graph shows my Amazon author ranking on October 9, 2017. Considering I've never been published in anything other than an anthology, I think it's pretty good. It's been in this range for most of the last year. You can be listed as a contributor to a book and it counts toward your ranking. Unless people start posting reviews, however, there's no way of knowing if my stories had anything to do with the ranking.

Amazon author ranking by individual books on October 9, 2017

This image shows what's driving my ranking at the current time—Tales from the Bully Box. For a long time, In Creeps the Night was pushing my ranking upwards, especially the audiobook version. And there were a few sales from other books, but not enough to make a lasting difference. When sales for In Creeps the Night slowed, my ranking stayed up. I found sales of Tales from the Bully Box were picking up. I had started a small Goodreads ad in April of 2017, but I didn't expect a lot from it. The book had been out for years already with disappointing sales. Still, the numbers speak for themselves. 


Sales for the paperback version of Tales from the Bully Box

You can see Tales from the Bully Box is doing (relatively) well from the ranking on Amazon.


Novelrank's yearly sales for the paperback version of Tales from the Bully Box as of October 9, 2017

The Novelrank graph above shows the yearly sales for Tales from the Bully Box. Even with another 3 months to go in 2017, the sales for the paperback version have handily surpassed the previous three years combined. The problem I've found with using Novelrank and Author Central is that the numbers don't always match from site to site. Even the numbers within Amazon Author Central often leave me scratching my head trying to make sense of them.

Novelrank book ranking over a period of time for Tales From the Bully Box paperback edition

As I stated previously, I started a Goodreads ad campaign back in April. The increased sales is evident around that time. Sales really picked up, however, when it was named one of the top twenty picture books dealing with bullying by Teacher.org. This is what the post says about Tales from the Bully Box:
Tales from the Bully Box is an example of real life stories that can make an impact as well. The book is really a collection of short stories about bullying from students of all walks of life. The subject matter is diverse and the book also includes discussion questions for students to walk through with their parents and/or teachers. The stories also don't just give examples of bullying but also give examples of how to deal with bullying in impactful ways. There is something about the fact that these stories are from real students that help them really hit home and in many ways, the stories can help students understand the impact of their words and their actions.
While I appreciate the plug, it's not accurate. First of all, it's not a picture book. Secondly, it wasn't written by students. Well, I guess we were all students once, but that was a long time ago (especially for me). And although the stories may have taken inspiration from real-life events, some are clearly not real-life. Still, sales got quite a boost after this was posted. I can't say for certain this post was the cause, but I don't know of any other reason for the sales increase.

Amazon listing for the paperback version

Amazon listing for the Kindle version


As you can see, the book has done reasonably well for one put out by a small (tiny) press with little promotion by the authors (I've done some, but I haven't seen much from the other authors). I wish I knew if my story helped or hurt sales. Perhaps it's had no effect at all. Without reviews, I'll never know. That's a subtle hint to any readers out there. The best that I can take away from this is it's great that more folks will have a chance to read my story. This may cause them to look at (or avoid!) other stories I've written.

Tales from the Bully Box was a charity book, so I didn't (and won't) get any money from the sales, but I should get exposure. For a beginning author, I suppose that's a step in the right direction!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 24


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


Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 24th Mid-Week Flash challenge, you're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
I think I might have unraveled a world of images I want to write for when I sourced this week's image. Sarolta Ban is a Hungarian photographer and artist, and her work is just amazing. I have always loved surreal art, but these really speak to me.

I also have a thing for keys. I don't know what it is, but they just represent so many things to me - in some ways you could say they 'unlock my mind'!
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... I had a little fun with this one.





Keyhole







    "It has to be some sort of sculpture, Greg. Nobody could possibly use a key that big."
    "Obviously. But why have it all the way out here in the desert? Who would see it except for a couple of lost hikers like us?"
    Susan circled the metal shaft then leaned against it. "We'll have to take a 'selfie'—you know, with both of us—so we can show our friends."
    "You're assuming we'll be able to find the campsite again."
    "Don't be such a worrywart. We've left word. If we don't return by evening, they'll come looking for us. And we have plenty of water."
    The wind kicked up blowing sand across the flat, featureless landscape and exposing more of the curious object.
    "This thing must go pretty deep," Greg said.
    "Do you think we can dig it out?"
    "And do what with it? It's too big to lift let alone carry back to camp."
    "Maybe there's a base with the name of the artist on it. Or a description of some sort."
    "So?"
    Susan rolled her eyes. "Aren't you just the tiniest bit curious?"
    Greg reluctantly admitted as much.
    "So we can dig it out?"
    "By 'we' I'm assuming you mean me?"
    Susan avoided eye contact. "Well—your arms are longer. It would probably be easier for you."
    Greg grumbled as he began pulling sand away from the key. He continued until he was lying flat on the ground and reaching as far as he could into the hole.
    "There's something down here."
    "What is it?"
    Greg backed out of the hole and leaned on one elbow. "I don't know, Susan. They're like leather bags of some sort. It's hard to tell without a flashlight."
    "Leather bags?"
    "Yeah. Sort of round in shape."
    Susan looked at Greg, her eyes unblinking. "Do you think—maybe—they hold treasure—or money?"
    Greg never replied. He dove back into the hole to pull out more sand. He tried to lift one of the bags, but it wouldn't budge. He grabbed one to tear it open, but couldn't. "Whatever they are, they're tough. Do you have something sharp I can use to cut them?"
    Susan searched her backpack. She brought out a small, slender piece of metal. The excavated hole was now wide enough that she could lean in next to Greg. "This is all I have."
    "A nail file? It might work."
    Greg grasped the file in his fist and plunged it as hard as he could into the round, leathery surface. The ground shifted as the file found its mark.
    Susan looked at Greg. "Oh my God! Was that an earthquake?"
    "I—I don't think so."
    Greg pulled the file out of the bag. When he did, the bags wiggled. There were five in all. A small stream of red fluid oozed from the hole where the file had penetrated.
    The two stared at each other. Susan whispered in disbelief, "No!"
    As the ground shook again, a larger voice rumbled, "Yes!"



 500 words without the title... 


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dick Blick Art Contest


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


Many artists in the US are familiar with the Dick Blick art supply business. I buy stuff there myself from time to time. Unlike Amazon, what I purchase from them usually arrives undamaged. I consider that a plus.

As a promotion, they are holding a contest (or "challenge" as they call it, probably for legal reasons) for US citizens through October for pen and ink drawings.


Dick Blick Pen & Ink challenge


You can submit a new one each day. If yours is selected, you could win art supplies. Sounds like a way to get your work noticed (without a lot of effort or expense) and you might even get something for it. There is a gallery if you just want to browse the submissions.

You can get the details here: DICK BLICK PEN & INK CHALLENGE

I don't receive anything for promoting this, but I might see if I can dig up a picture to send in!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, October 2, 2017

Wording Is Important


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With all the bad things happening in the world today, I thought I would post a little humor to help get us through these dark times...

Still, this is a writing blog, so I wanted to keep on subject as much as possible. I was having trouble coming up with an idea until I looked over a flyer I got at McDonald's. Yes, my better half and I stopped at McDonald's. It's not one of our normal bistros, but everything else had a line out the door. The food was—well, we ate it. Isn't that enough?

This particular establishment was one of those remodeled McDonald's where you order your food on this big electronic menu. It couldn't have taken more than three times as long as actually talking to a cashier. That's progress for you. Once you paid (all at the big menu board), you take a plastic number to put on your table. One of the young workers brings the food right to you. Eventually.

On the tray with our food were a couple of flyers. It seems they are going to have a Family Fun Night.

McDonald's Family Fun Night Flyer


Sounds great, huh? Crafts, cookie decorating, and more, more, more! They're even having a raffle! What are the prizes, you ask?

Okay, here's were things start to get a little delicate. I don't know who created these flyers, but the wording on parts of it left a something to be desired. I doubt you can read them on the picture above, so I scanned the bottom at a higher resolution. Here it is:

A boy toy?

Personally, I think a "boy toy" might be inappropriate for a child. It might be inappropriate for your wife or girlfriend, too, but at least it makes some kind of sense. A girl toy? That could get me into all kinds of trouble. I'm not even touching that one.

Hello, McDonald's? Maybe you could hire a proofreader for these things. Just a thought...


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ZNB Kickstarter Wrap-Up


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ZNB (Zombies Need Brains) Logo



The Zombies Need Brains anthologies are funded!

It went over $20,000 with 15 hours to spare. That's a lot of money... but it is for three books! And now it's an open call, so other writers have a chance to join in!




Yes, I have story in mind. Now all I have to do is finish writing it. Easy-peasy. 


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 21


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Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 21st Mid-Week Flash challenge, you're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
This week's photo was taken by an online friend of mine, Stuart Hancock while he was travelling in America. It shows legs of the pier on Pismo Beach, California. I asked him if I could use it because it is begging to be written for. So many tales are glimpsed between those posts. What will yours be?
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...





Four




    By all outward appearances, Vanessa was her best friend. She always smiled when they met, always had something flattering to say. Catherine also noticed how friendly she was with Robert, her boyfriend. It seemed innocent enough at first, but soon grew to the point of open flirtation. Although there was no indication Robert took it seriously, Catherine watched his eyes when she was around, concerned things might go further. Eventually, the situation became more than she could bear. Vanessa needed to learn her place.
    Catherine invited her for a walk along the water to have a talk and enjoy the day. The early morning air had a chill. Few people were on the beach. When Vanessa turned to look out over the ocean, the thin piece of driftwood Catherine had used for a walking stick came crashing down on her skull. It was enough to knock her down, enough to leave her helpless. Catherine dragged her to one of the pilings near the waterline. She took a length of strong twine from her pocket and looped it around the piling and Vanessa's neck, tying it tightly. The sharp edges of the barnacles cut into Vanessa's face. All the better, Catherine thought. Vanessa looked up, struggling with consciousness.
    "Robert's my boyfriend, Vanessa. I want you to think about that while the crabs chew on your toes. I'll be back once you've learned you're lesson—maybe."
    Time can get away from you when you're having a nice day on the shore. When Catherine returned, the water was several feet higher. She waded into the surf and searched around the piling, but Vanessa was gone. She looked up and down the beach. There was no Vanessa, no body—nothing. She hadn't meant to kill her—just frighten her a bit. She thought the tide was already in.

~~~

    Catherine sat upright in her bed, breathing heavily. Her hair was damp with sweat, her head throbbing. It was that nightmare again. It was always the same. She would fall asleep and her dreams would take her to the beach by the pier. Just before waking, the faceless form of a woman would appear, dripping wet and covered in green tendrils. It had to be Vanessa.
    Catherine got up to take something for her headache. She noticed how tired she looked in the bathroom mirror and turned on the hot water. The rising steam felt good. When she looked up, the words 'beware water' appeared on the mirror as if drawn by a finger. Catherine backed out of the bathroom, her heart pounding. She took a few steps when her foot touched something cold. She jumped back, then reached out with her toes to feel it again. The carpet was wet. Catherine turned on the light. Glistening footprints appeared at the foot of her bed. There was something green on the carpet. It looked like—seaweed.
    The phone rang startling her badly. It was her boyfriend, Robert. A woman's body, it seems, had been found on the beach, badly decomposed. There were no clues as to her identity or how she had died. He wanted to know if she was all right.
    Catherine broke down weeping. "I didn't mean to kill her."
    "Kill who?"
    "Vanessa!"
    "You're not making any sense, Cathy. You couldn't hurt anyone."
    "I tied her to the pier, Robert, and she drowned. She wasn't supposed to die!"
    "It'll be okay, Cathy, but we need to discuss this. Meet me by the pier around nine o'clock. And try not to panic."
    "Okay, Robert. I love you."

~~~

    Catherine was pacing and visibly upset when Robert arrived.
    "Okay, Cathy—take a deep breath and tell me what happened."
    "I tied Vanessa to the piling."
    "Here?"
    "Yes."
    "Show me exactly what you did. Where was Vanessa?"
    Catherine sat on the wet sand and leaned against the shell-encrusted wood. A cord pulled tight against her throat. She tried to scream, but couldn't. A pair of hands grabbed Catherine's wrists, pulling her arms back.
    "Cathy, I'd like you to meet Cheryl. Sorry we don't have time to chat, but—what is there to say?"
    "Oh, and nobody blames you for Vanessa, honey," Cheryl added while checking the knots. "Things like that can happen when a girl messes with your guy. I hope you understand."
    Robert looked at Cathy, then shrugged. "Well, I guess this is goodbye. You know, they say two's company and three's a crowd, but four—that's just crazy."




 742 words without the title and tildes... 


 I wonder what Vanessa's spirit will do now...if it was Vanessa.



© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Seattle Mystery Bookshop To Close


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I just saw this headline from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (SeattlePI):





It's not a good thing for authors to see book stores close. They've been trying to keep things going, but not enough people are buying books. Well, mysteries, anyway.

I once stood right where this store is located (back in 1995?), but I don't remember seeing it. I must have been looking for a coffee shop. They're sooo hard to find in Seattle...

Since their website will probably go away when they close, I took the liberty of copying some advice for writers to my site. I hope they don't mind... (if they do, please let me know).

Advice for New Authors New To Signings 
Over the decades, we’ve hosted many premiere author events. There are a few things that you, as a first-time author, can do help make your first author signing a success:

First off, understand that what for you is a moment of triumph and happiness of getting published doesn’t mean your work is over. Now you have to sell your book and yourself to the readers, who aren’t familiar with you yet! You will need to be able to tell people in a few sentences why they should take a chance on you. Be willing to put yourself forward, to explain why they will enjoy your book and what they’ll get out of it: laughs, fun, education, new views on topics, etc.

As a new author, friends and family are your natural pool of buyers. Siblings, aunts, college roommates may assume you’ll give them a copy. However much you’d like to, Don’t.

Why? After your signing event, your publisher will call us to ask how the signing went and how many copies were sold. If you’ve given away the free copies that your publisher sent, you may not sell many copies at the formal event. If you give away 20 copies and sell 4 at the signing, that unfortunately indicates to them a poor event. On the other hand, if you give only your parents and grandparents 1 copy each and sell 22 copies at the signing, the publisher will see it differently. We once had a first-time author complain about how he didn’t sell many at the signing but then allowed as how he’d given all of his author copies away. That explained why there were no sales – his natural pool of buyers was very shallow.

Plus when you give away copies, we lose those sales as well. While we – your hosts – may have a good time at your first author event, we need to sell copies to stay in business.

In the weeks leading up to your event, do all you can to promote it to those friends and family members. Use all of your resources – Facebook, Twitter, your Christmas list of e-mail addresses – anything that you use to keep in touch with friends and family. Don’t be shy and don’t think you can’t send out a first announcement and then a reminder as the event approaches.

Recommend that they call or e-mail us to reserve a copy. Little can crimp a signing as quickly as Aunt Mimi coming in at the start of the signing and asking for a dozen copies, thereby taking a third of our stock. A couple of these customers can quickly wipe out our stock, thus people who come in later have nothing to purchase. All Aunt Mimi needs to do is call ahead, we can have her dozen covered without running low on stock. Similarly, you may hear from people who love to come but they just can’t make it (Uncle Hugo is in a bass fishing tournament that weekend, or your niece Becky has a piano recital or they live in Outer Mongolia and coming to Seattle is out of the question). Explain to them that they can still get a signed copy. Just call or e-mail in advance (again, doing it just as the signing begins is a bit too late) and we can ship them a copy!

Sometimes life does get in the way of the best intentions. If you hear in the days and weeks after the signing from folks who are apologetic that they missed it and they’re sorry they couldn’t get a copy, tell no problem. All they have to do is call us and we’ll make arrangements, letting you know if we need you to come back to sign more stock.

At your premiere signing, pay attention to strangers who may be at the margins of your crowd. It is easy to spend the entire time with friends and family, if you arrange to meet them after the event you are able to focus on those in the shop who could become your readers with a little extra effort.
Back to your author copies. We’ve heard from many successful authors that they wish they still had a copy of their first book – they gave them all way and now the book has become collectable and they no longer have a copy. Keep them safe and secure, away from the possibility of water or moisture of any sort, away from dirt and spiders and sunlight. When you get them, sign and date them all on the title page and put ‘em in a safe place. In the years to come you’ll be glad you kept them.

If life does get in the way of your scheduled signing, for heaven’s sake give us as much warning as possible. We once had an author cancel the day of the signing because he just couldn’t make it. Should that happen we can reschedule, our customers are very understanding. Do as much as you can to spread the word of the change (again, Facebook, Twitter, e-mails). These things happen and we can work to make the change relatively painless if we know as soon as possible.
The most important thing to keep in mind is this: you’ve spent months or years writing your first book and it is gratifying to have friends and family gathering around you to help celebrate – that’s wonderful and we like to see it. But what is a successful signing for us is measure in book sales. So the day must be good for both sides. We want you to remember the event as a high point in your life and for everyone who attends to have a great time – but we also must sell books for it to be a success for us. If we do, we’ll all be smiling! 

It's sad to see these little book shops have a hard time surviving. That's the way it is, though. Come to think of it, I've never written a mystery. Maybe I should give it a try!

P. S.

Please consider donating to the Zombie Need Brains sci-fi / fantasy anthology Kickstarter!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Did You Ever Wonder...


...how a story gets picked for an anthology?


Lots of writers do, especially when they've put so much had work into their story. While it won't answer all you questions, here's a link to what Joshua Palmatier looks for when he picks a story.


Joshua Palmatier
Joshua Palmatier

Please pass the word about the latest Zombies Need Brains science fiction / fantasy anthology Kickstarter! It it goes over $20,000 (it's about half-way there as of this posting) it becomes an open submissions call!


So, check it out! Maybe you'll want to donate and get some new reading material—or perhaps you'll get published in a quality anthology! (And, yes, I've already made my contribution—and I have an idea for a story to submit if—or when, I should say—it gets funded!)

And although I've changed the message at the beginning of my post this time, comments are still welcome!

P.S. Yes, I know I've used a lot of exclamation points in this post, but I'm trying to stir up some excitement. I'll try to calm things down in the future.


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Monsters In The Night


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It seems we're being attacked by monsters here...

Last night we had two groups of visitors in the dark. First, these beasts dropped by:

Raccoon family dropping by at night
Alien creatures attacking!

While I know a lot of folks will be saying how cute this raccoon family is—and they are—they can transmit some serious parasites to humans, especially when they use your deck or yard as a latrine. See this page from the Centers for Disease Control for more information. This morning, Marie had the unenviable job of washing things down with boiling water. Chemicals, including chlorine bleach, do not reliably destroy the parasites, but heat does. We'll have to do something to deter them. Poop decks belong on ships, not houses.

Eventually, they ambled off into the darkness.

Then, while I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—only this and nothing more.”

And I was right. But it wasn't a raven.

It was this horrible creature... and a few of his friends.

European hornet
European Hornet

This is the European hornet. They fly at night and they're attracted to light. And they're big (like up to 35 mm big). They make a noise when the bang against your windows and glass doors trying to get to the lights inside. Maybe it's just me, but I don't really want them inside. I guess we'll be calling the pest control folks soon.

I like my monsters in stories, not trying to get into the house. If you don't hear from me in a few days, ask someone to check up on me... You know, just in case more monsters show up.


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Friday, September 1, 2017

ZNB Anthology Kickstarter Follow-Up


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ZNB (Zombies Need Brains) Logo


This is just a quick update Joshua Palmatier posted on the ZNB SFF anthology Kickstarter page...

Two Days in, Nearly $8K!

So, we've neared $8K after 48 hours, which is spectacular!  Can we reach $10K by the end of day 3?  I think we can!  I'll be pushing the Kickstarter tomorrow and hopefully we'll make it to the halfway point.  Keep up the good work on spreading the word!

I'm in the midst of setting up blog posts, AMAs, etc myself.  However, if any of you have contacts at specific SF&F blogs that you can put me in touch with, message me with the information and I'll get in touch.  Also, contacts at writer groups and such as well.

Basically, send me any suggestions you have about places where we can get the word out to people that might be interested.

Thank you all for backing this project early!  I won't relax until we're funded, so anything you can do to help out is appreciated.  Thanks again and I'll be back with more posts shortly!

Joshua

Please pass the word along to any SSF fans who might be interested. This is a good start, but there's a long way to go! 


So, check it out! Maybe you'll want to donate and get some new reading material—or perhaps you'll get published in a quality anthology! (And, yes, I've already made my contribution—and I have an idea for a story to submit if—or when, I should say—it gets funded!)


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Kickstarter - Zombies Need Brains SFF Anthologies


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While at Shore Leave 39 this year, I talked with author/editor/publisher Joshua Palmatier for a while. Eventually the discussion got around to future projects. He mentioned he was going to do a Kickstarter for three new anthologies, but he hadn't come up with any solid ideas yet. He said to watch his website for a notice in August.

So I did.

He now has the Kickstarter up and running. Here are the subjects for the books!

This project will fund THREE science fiction and fantasy anthologies, titled THE RAZOR'S EDGE, GUILDS AND GLAIVES, and SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR, containing approximately 14 all-original (no reprint) short stories each from established SF&F authors in the field. The books will be edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier (SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR), S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier (GUILDS AND GLAIVES), and Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier (THE RAZOR'S EDGE).


Joshua has a number of quality books out already, and if you'd like to help out with the next round of anthologies you can donate here (there are a lot of different levels and rewards!):


You can do more than just give money to the effort. If all goes as planned, you can submit your stories, too!

As we did in our previous anthologies, we plan to include the very best stories we can find, spanning the gamut from bestselling authors to new, previously unpublished voices, including an open submission window if the Kickstarter is successful, where anyone can submit their stories featuring the current themes for a chance to be part of the anthologies. And new this year, Zombies Need Brains is officially a "qualifying market" for the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA)!

So, check it out! Maybe you'll want to donate and get some new reading material—or perhaps you'll get published in a quality anthology!


"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams, Varia Studios
"The Razor's Edge" by Justin Adams, Varia Studios


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved