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

    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.
    "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

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

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 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.


    "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."
    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

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

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