Monday, September 17, 2018

A Little Local Art News


Just a quick announcement before my blog begins...

Please consider donating to the Zombies Need Brains Sci-fi/fantasy anthologies Kickstarter! There will be three books! Lots of perks and, if funded, there will be an open submission! If you're a writer, that's a good thing! You can reach the Kickstarter by clicking HERE.



I've been an admirer of Deanna Boling's artwork for some time. She's an accomplished artist (award-winning member of the Pastel Society of America) who really has knack for bringing images of birds and other creatures to life. She can often be found at the Loft Art Gallery in Occoquan, Virginia where she shares studio space with other artists including Teresa T. Brunson, another great master of pastels. You can find samples of their work on the Loft Art Gallery website.

From now until the end of November they are both displaying artwork at the Norma Hoffman Visitor Center at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia. The artwork is for sale, too. While large pieces can be expensive (and rightfully so), there are others priced under $100. Marie and I bought a pastel by Teresa of a cluster of green acorns. As a side note - I couldn't help but think of Lisa Shambrook when we bought it. Another one of Teresa's works was already marked as sold, so you might want to check them out soon!. We already have one of Deanna's owls on our wall.





We were lucky enough to have a little extra time this last weekend to visit them at a reception they set up at the center. Even though the turnout was quite good, we were still able to spend a lot of time conversing with Deanna and Teresa. While the artists aren't usually there, the park staff will be happy to assist you should you wish to purchase one (or more) of the works.

If you're a fan of hawks, owls, and deer, it's well worth the trip to visit this show. And if you're lucky, you can take a walk along the trails right outside and see the artist's models! Here's the info for the location:

Norma Hoffman Visitor Center at Huntley Meadows Park
3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria, Virginia 22306

The visitor center is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm weekdays, closed on Tuesdays. Weekend hours through October 31 are also 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. In November, weekend hours will be noon through 5:00 pm.

LINK TO GOOGLE MAPS FOR PARK

While I don't take pictures of artwork, here are a few photos from the surrounding park!


Snapping Turtle - Huntley Meadows September 2018
Snapping Turtle - Huntley Meadows September 2018

Green Heron - Huntley Meadows September 2018
Green Heron - Huntley Meadows September 2018

Landscape - Huntley Meadows September 2018
Landscape - Huntley Meadows September 2018

Egret - Huntley Meadows September 2018
Egret - Huntley Meadows September 2018



© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 72


Just a quick announcement before my blog begins...

Please consider donating to the Zombies Need Brains Sci-fi/fantasy anthologies Kickstarter! There will be three books! Lots of perks and, if funded, there will be an open submission! If you're a writer, that's a good thing! You can reach the Kickstarter by clicking HERE.

* * *

Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a photo prompt from Miranda Kate's 72nd Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:

This photo was taken by Flemming Beier, a Danish Photographer. He won't say where exactly this was taken, just that it was in Denmark. He has lots of interesting photos on his page at 500px.

Here is a link to the photo prompt for this week's challenge.

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.

I have two stories this time, both a bit dark. They could be considered as parts of one long story or two separate ones. The choice is yours. The first, The New Tenant, has 679 words. The second, The Face of Henri Martel, has 737. They both end with a surprise for the main character, and with the word "now." Let me know if you have a favorite!




The New Tenant


"We won't get into trouble coming here, will we? I don't want to be arrested for trespassing."

"I don't believe that will be a problem. No one comes here anymore, not since the floods. That's why the house was abandoned."

The path to what remained of the wooden cottage wound through a small glade not far off the unpaved road. Once the structure came into full view, Maurice noticed his friend's eyes scanning every rotten eave, broken post, and dangling shutter.

"Why do you do this, Henri, when you have a beautiful woman at home who needs your attention? To me, it hardly seems worthwhile. You work all day making next to nothing, then waste your spare time painting—well, this sort of thing. "

"It's difficult to explain. I know Julia doesn't understand. Most people don't. Burning the candle at both ends has certainly taken a toll on me and my marriage. But I have to. Painting is in my blood, Maurice. I can't help myself. And with the right subject, I know my art will finally begin to sell. Perhaps I'll even become famous. Then I can treat her as she deserves."

Henry paced around the house, carefully stepping on the high spots in the clearing. He held up his hands to frame a scene, then went little farther and repeated his actions. Finally, he backed away to where he could view the house and grounds in its entirety.

"You asked if I knew of an old house, one with character and interesting lines," said Maurice. "Is this what you were looking for?"

"It's absolutely perfect. The house, the light through the trees, everything. I appreciate all you've done to help me, Maurice."

"Not at all, Henri. Not at all."

Both were startled by a sound from within the decaying structure.

"What was that? I heard a noise, but I didn't see anything."

"What was it?" Maurice laughed at Henry's obvious discomfort. "A ghost? The wandering spirit of a past owner? Come now, Henry. You can't possibly believe in such things! Most likely a small animal scurrying about—or a loose roofing tile that fell. Nothing more."

Henri returned a nervous smile then looked back at the house. As he did, he gasped, his eyes opening wide.

A strong hand on Henri's shoulder held him still while a bloody blade was extracted from between his ribs. Still standing, a forceful boot directed his dying body into a deep, stagnant pool. Red ribbons swirled in the water. Chunks of brick and fallen branches were tossed on top of the unfortunate man to secure his place beneath the surface. Eventually, the rising bubbles ceased and the glade was silent.

Maurice was rinsing the knife in a puddle as a car approached, slowly bobbing and dipping over the bumps on the overgrown dirt road that passed one side of the property. It pulled up behind his own vehicle. He heard the engine shut off. He threw the knife as far as he could into the brush. The car door opened. A tall, slender figure got out as he hurried to remove his bloodied shirt.

"Hello, Julia."

"Everything went as planned?"

"Yes. Perfectly."

"I wish I could say the same. I passed the entrance to this stupid road, if you can call it that, three times before I saw it. Your clean clothes are in the trunk. I'll find a place to dispose of those soiled ones. You don't look good in red, anyway."

Maurice stuffed his stained clothing into a bag. "I told you this place would work. No one will ever find him."

She handed him a large business envelope. "This has everything you'll need—your passport and money—until we meet up in Switzerland." She glanced at the house in disgust, the overgrown trees and swamp providing an unpleasant atmosphere in the fading light. "Let's get out of here. This place is ghastly. If ever a house was haunted, this is it."

Maurice looked back at the old cottage and grinned. "You know, that is entirely possible—now."



The Face of Henri Martel


"Monsieur? I am Detective Cloutier. This is Dr. Joubert. She is here to assist in this interview. We would like to discuss your relationship with one Henri Martel."

The man seated across the table gave no reaction, sitting motionless with a blank stare.

"Monsieur?"

For a moment, the man gave no response, then looked directly into the detective's eyes. "I killed him."

"Do you understand you are confessing to the murder of Henri Martel?"

"Without Julia there is nothing left for me. Why shouldn't I confess?"

"To be clear, you are referring to Julia Martel, the wife of the deceased?"

The answer came slowly. "Yes."

"I must warn you that what you tell us may be used as evidence."

The man shrugged. "May I ask what happened—to Julia?"

"Madame Martel had stopped at a trash bin near a factory close to the border. A night watchman at the entrance heard a shriek. When he investigated, he found her holding a bloodied shirt and screaming incoherently. She has nothing intelligible since that time except your name—Maurice. We also found minute traces of blood beneath your fingernails. I am certain we will determine it is that of Henri Martel. Because of these things, I believe the shirt belongs to you."

"I don't understand why a shirt would have that affect, even a bloodied shirt."

"It was not the shirt, per se, monsieur. It was the image on the shirt. An image formed in blood. The blood of Henri Martel. I have with me a photograph of the shirt." The detective pushed the picture across the table and in front of Maurice. "Tell me, monsieur, you knew this man well. Is it a good likeness?"

The color drained from Maurice's face. Staring back at him were another set of eyes, eyes set within a familiar face, the face of Henri Martel. It was a forlorn, pained image, a desperate visage, as if pleading to understand.

Maurice's head bowed. "This is what I have done. No one else is to blame."

"Will you sign a confession to that effect?"

"Yes," Maurice whispered.

"With the evidence and the confession, there is little left for me to do here from a criminal standpoint. Dr. Joubert, however, would like to ask some additional questions to evaluate your condition."

Maurice grinned. "Evaluate my condition? You mean my mental state. She is here to determine if I am mad, a lunatic."

"I'm a doctor, Maurice. Regardless of your involvement is in this matter, I am here to help you."

"What would help me most is Julia. Tell me, doctor, will she recover?"

"Eventually, perhaps, with proper therapy."

"May I see her?"

"I don't think that would be advisable. Not at this time."

Maurice nodded. "I see."

"Can you tell me more about the circumstances during the time when Henri Martel was killed. Was there a fight, an argument? Did passions flair?"

"There was no fight in Henri. He wouldn't hurt a fly." Maurice took a deep breath. "Passion? Yes, there was much passion, but for Henri it was only about his painting. Julia? She was very much different. They were married young, both probably a bit naive. The passion she saw in him as a young artist never transformed into a passion for her. I'm not sure Henri truly knew how to love a person. I believe he thought of Julia more in the way of an admirer than as a lover. As time passed, however, she wanted—needed—more. She grew to hate his indifference to her desires."

"And you stepped in to fill those needs."

Maurice did not respond.

"Did Julia ask you to kill him?"

"It does not matter," he replied, pounding his fist on the table. "I despised him. He had everything I wanted and didn't care. He was easy to kill."

"And what do you make of this?" She pointed to the photograph of the shirt.

"He told me he had painting in his blood. He was right. I didn't understand. This will be his final masterpiece, no? And he will get what he wanted—fame." Maurice sat silently as he stared at the image. "I had no idea he was this good." He looked up at Dr. Joubert. "No, I was not mad when I killed Henri." He pushed the picture aside and laughed. Then he laughed louder, the sound filling the tiny room. "But I am now."


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, September 3, 2018

Another Change By Amazon


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


I just got over Amazon cutting off Novelrank when I see that CreateSpace and KDP are merging. Or something like that.


KDP - CreateSpace Merge from the Amazon site
KDP - CreateSpace Merge from the Amazon site


I haven't had time to go over the details. This may be good, or it may not. If anyone has a heads up or an opinion of this, please let me know. Just when I was about to begin putting a little book together, the rules change. I think I'll be doing a bit of reading on the Amazon site.


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 70


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


Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 70th Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
Here is a link to the photo prompt for this week's challenge.
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.



Link to story:

I went a little Mickey Spillane with this one. I do that from time to time. I don't know why. This story is just under the limit at 742 words. 
It's called Ave Maria. And, no, it isn't religious. The story is posted on my Patreon site (free access).


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, August 27, 2018

You Folks Need To Get In Better Shape


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This last weekend I did something I'd been contemplating for over two years.

I ran a 5K race.

Yes, I know. This blog is supposed to be about writing. I don't get any great inspiration while running. Just perspiration. And while I did write a couple of articles for the Baltimore Road Runners Club newsletter in the distant past, that is about as much of a tie to writing as I can make. My main reason for running is it helps relieve stress and keeps my aging body moving. I sit much of the time these days—at work, while commuting, and while writing. My backside needs an occasional change of pace.

I used to run a lot. That was about twenty years ago, however. I'd occasionally gone jogging since then, but life's events and my work schedule had mostly eliminated any sort of regular exercise. Still, a return to running, especially on the trails, had been creeping into my thoughts for a while now.

It was with the encouragement of a stranger (under unusual circumstances that would add nothing to this story) that the commitment to enter a race was made. I told myself I would train hard and do the best I could.

Except I didn't. Not really. I hardly ran at all. I resigned myself to the thought of finishing dead last and barely dragging my spent body across the finish line. But the commitment had been made. I would not back out. I had signed up early. Even got a senior discount! BTW, that thrill dissipates quickly once you realize it only means you're getting old.

The route was on the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail near Bel Air, Maryland. I'd run a race there many years ago.  Once I checked out the trail map I remembered why I hated this course. The last half is all uphill. Thank you, sir. May I have another?

There aren't many spaces at the trailhead to park and these were taken up by the race staff. The only place close by was next to a funeral home. Was this coincidence or fate? Only time would tell.


The building next to where I parked for the race
The building next to where I parked for the race

Once parked, I made my way to the registration table. I picked up my bib and souvenir t-shirt, and then I checked for the restrooms. They had one spot-a-pot. ONE. I could had tied that up until race time all by myself. Come on, Charm City Run! Get real!


The start finish line at the "Age is but a #" 5K race
The start finish line at the "Age Is But A #" 5K race

I walked around and jogged a little to get warmed up. Not too much, though. I didn't want to wear myself out before the race even started.

Finally, the call was made for the runners to line up. The starter's pistol sounded. I was off. Well, eventually. If you've ever started a race when lined up at the back of the pack, you'll understand.

The first mile came up quicker than I'd expected. I was wondering if I'd gone out too fast. By 'fast' I mean waddled more quickly than I should have. I knew the last half of the race would be tough. Would I be able to finish?

As a side note, why does a 5K race have sections marked in miles? Must be American exceptionalism. We make you learn math in order to run. Just one of the reasons why I love this country.

When I reached the turn-around point, I saw the water cooler. My eyes fixated on the orange plastic barrel. Even though the temperature was in the low sixties, I needed a drink badly. Unfortunately, there was no one manning (or womanning or even beasting) the water stop. No smooth hand-off of a cup of water here. I had to stop, open the plastic bag of cups, find the spigot on the cooler, and get my drink. This was costing me precious seconds (minutes?). Come on, Charm City Run! Get real! Wait. I already said that once.

After disposing of the cup, I looked up the trail. Yes, up. Dang. It didn't seem that steep coming down. I contemplated getting another drink. No, they'll probably hook me right up to an IV in the hospital anyway. My legs were not prepared for this. And yet I managed to pass a few other runners. And a few passed me. For the last mile, I went back and forth with a woman, exchanging places as we crept up the hills. I was finally able to pull away on the last stretch, beating her by about sixteen seconds. And she was eighteen years my junior. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite catch the thirty-six-year-old lady who finished just ahead of me—well, not and live to tell about it. I was exhausted and covered in sweat. She looked like she'd taken a short walk around the block. I'm so out of shape.

When the results were posted, I noticed something odd. Instead of finishing last, I was sixth out of fourteen in my age group (60 to dead). I was in the middle third of all runners on the course. That's about where I used to finish twenty years ago.

That's not too bad, you say? True. I was quite pleased even though my time was abysmal. But it shouldn't have happened. There's no way I should have placed that high. I've never been a great runner, and now I'm terribly out of shape. I'm overweight. In the last three years I've run perhaps five times. That is not a valid training regimen.

All I can think is how many others in the race were in worse shape than me. That's a bit sad. And maybe that's why the funeral home picked its current business location. You folks need to get moving. I know I am. Fear is a great motivator. It appears every time I look in the mirror. Age has not been my friend. I guess what I'm saying is if a wheezy geezer like me can outrun you, perhaps it's time to think about getting a little more active.

Anyway, I'm going to keep running and get in better shape. Maybe do another race. Why? I have more stories to write and being published posthumously doesn't sound all that appealing!


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Zombies Need Your Help


Zombies Need Brains, to be more specific.

Zombies Need Brains LLC logo

Joshua Palmatier has set up a Kickstarter to fund the creation of three new sci-fi / fantasy anthologies based on the following concepts:
  • PORTALS 
  • TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED
  • ALTERNATE PEACE
He's hoping to collect $25,000 to fund the printing, cover the cost of the cover art, and to pay the authors (at a SFWA professional rate - most important!). There will be about 14 stories in each anthology. Approximately half the authors are already chosen from people Joshua has worked with in the past, but if the Kickstarter is funded then there will be an open call for stories to fill them out. He is always eager to read from outside his pre-selected group and has mentioned that the best stories often come from unknown or lesser-known authors.

Joshua has a track record for creating these anthologies, so don't be concerned about the   disappear with the money. He has done this for several years now, and the books have done quite well. I've already contributed for this project, and I contributed to the last round of anthologies, too. And maybe I'll have time to write a suitable short tale should everything go as planned. And please consider submitting (or preparing) a story yourself if you have something that might work.

As of this posting (August 23, 2018) the Kickstarter is nearly a quarter of the way funded and less than two days have passed. This gives you the heads-up that he has serious support for his anthologies. That doesn't mean you shouldn't contribute, however. There are some great perks for those who do!

You can read more about here: Zombies Need Brains Developing Projects

This is a direct link to the ZNB Kickstarter: Kickstarter





© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Do You Remember That Old Joke



...about hockey?

"I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out."
                                       -- Rodney Dangerfield

I had a similar experience Saturday. No, I wasn't at a hockey game. Or a fight. I went to a slumber party the other night and an opera broke out. Okay, my opening here is a stretch, but that's what happened.

It was on the Saturday in question when I attended a performance of the HMS Pinafore by the Chicago-based theatre company The Hypocrites in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at the Olney Theatre. This is not quite your standard version of the Pinafore. If you didn't pick up on that by noticing the stage is mainly made of beds (like a slumber party) and has a big pillow pit in the center (with a sliding board leading down into it), then it will surely become apparent when the song I'm Called Little Buttercup is sung by the biggest, burliest fellow there. Having the cast all wear pajamas was another clue, just in case you still weren't sure.


Pre-show staging for the HMS Pinafore at the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at the Olney
Pre-show staging for the HMS Pinafore
in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at Olney

Even before the play begins, the cast gets everyone in the mood by doing several pop/rock numbers while explaining the rules of the stage. Depending upon the type of ticket you purchased, you can have a seat (as I did) or mingle with the players on the stage. If you do the latter, you must be prepared to move around as the play progresses.

The actors and actresses provide their own music for this play. There are guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, a flute, an accordion, and a toy piano. Oh, yes, and a banjo. It is possible I missed something.

This presentation is very kid-friendly (the pillow pit and general stage set-up), but that doesn't mean adults will be bored. The story is still there, the songs (mostly), too, and though the gender rolls are reversed it doesn't make a difference. It's still the Pinafore. You can even buy a beer any time during the play - assuming you are of legal age. And I do mean anytime. You don't have to wait until intermission. There actors specifically mention this while going over how the show works. That's especially good since the intermission is only one minute long. Yes, one minute.

And the play does work for both kids and adults. Not many children would want to set through a British opera from the 1800s, but here they were having pillow fights with the cast while the action was going on. And it went swimmingly. Thankfully, the adults never got too rowdy. I'm surprised.

Best of all, the cast is very good. They played the instruments well and the singing was great. They didn't play anything too fancy (mostly strumming), but the fact that they were doing so while jumping on platforms, stomping through the pillow pit, and going both up and down the sliding board would have made that nearly impossible anyway! The sound in the Lab was reasonably good, and the timing (jokes, music, singing) was spot-on.

Of the cast, my favorite was Dana Saleh Omar who plays Ralphina (formerly known as Ralph Rackshaw). It's easy to believe the Captain's son, Joseph (Mario Aivazian), would fall in love with her. Any young man who heard her sing would surely do so. The two make their scenes quite believable.

Don't feel you have to make a comparison between this version of the HMS Pinafore and a more traditional presentation. They can both be funny, interesting, and entertaining. They are just different. If you have a chance to see this troupe perform, however, give it a try. And bring along a kid, no matter how old they are.


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Shore Leave 40 - Saturday


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Saturday is always the busy day at a Shore Leave convention. There are too many panels and talks to attend every one you'd like, especially when they are scheduled at the same time. There are difficult decisions to make! Plus, I was helping some friends with taking pictures and getting autographs, so that came into play, too.

The first stop is always the restaurant where the Cinnamon Tree cooks up a nice buffet with made-to-order omelets, eggs, and waffles. Notice that was an "and" and not an "or." I did try to keep the calories under control, however. That being said, everyone eats a good-sized breakfast because there is never time for lunch—too much is going on. And dinner is usually late. After fueling up, we dove right into the action.

During the middle of the day the actor/actress guests were either talking, posing in the photo area for pictures with the fans, or signing autographs. Some in my party were getting multiple pictures taken with the actors/actresses, so I was left holding the bag ( or bags ) while they were busy. I also helped hold the autographed pictures while the signatures dried. They move the lines quickly there, so there are usually multiple photos in everyone's hands who are waving them in the air until the ink has set. Even though it doesn't take long, you still have to let them dry before putting them into their protective sleeves. The whole process can be quite awkward. I did get a picture with William Shatner, and his autograph, plus an additional one ( with an image from one of his Twilight Zone shows ) for a relative.

I didn't get to any of the writing panels on Saturday. The ones I could have attended were panels I'd been to 2 or 3 times over the years, often with the same panel members. A couple of others conflicted with scheduled talks, autograph lines, or photograph sessions. That's the way it is at these conventions; there are too many activities to get to all the ones you want to attend. Still, you do get to talk with writers all day long and at just about any time. With some authors, if you ask them about their book you have a hard time getting them to stop! They will discuss what is popular and what isn't doing as well, and most important, what might be coming up next. And there is always the opportunity to make or refresh connections with authors, some of whom are small press publishers. There isn't much free or wasted time at Shore Leave!

After getting the pictures and autographs, we caught part of the talks by Shawn Ashmore and Ming-Na Wen. I know the photographs from Shore Leave are not the best, but when the guests are on stage they always shine these yellow lights on them and this really messes with the images, especially from my little camera.


Ming-Na Wen at Shore Leave 40
Ming-Na Wen at Shore Leave 40

Shawn Ashmore at Shore Leave 40
Shawn Ashmore at Shore Leave 40

Around 4:00 pm, the second William Shatner talk / Q & A session started. Mr. Shatner does have some interesting responses to the questions people ask, but he seldom gets directly to the answer. "It will all be clear in a minute," he says, much to the amusement of the audience. Eventually he does get to the point, but it always took more than a minute. I had heard he was often a bit gruff, but he was very warm and engaging whenever I saw him.


William Shatner at Shore Leave 40
William Shatner at Shore Leave 40

About 7:00 pm I stopped by the room where the art auction was supposed to take place and found it was already over. Not many pieces went to auction ( none of mine where in the auction ), so it hadn't lasted long. It was at this time I discovered my painting ( Alien Dawn #1 ) had a bid but had not been picked up by the purchaser. That was when I became concerned they might not come back! I did spend time talking to the art show staff and got a lot of pointers on what to do for next year. They also discussed some of the changes coming to the art show rules to prevent items being offered for sale that might violate copyrights.

After this, we stopped by the pub ( The Paddock Bar, which is within the hotel ) for a light meal and refreshments, talked about what we'd seen during the day, and planned Sunday's activities.

As the others in our group decided to turn in for the night, Marie and I headed outside to where the stargazing activities were set up. There were several telescopes, and for once, clear skies. This is the first time in the last three (four?) years the weather has cooperated. We got to see Venus and Saturn, and yes, Saturn's rings were clearly visible! No UFOs or aliens, though. Not even a shuttlecraft.

That was all we could do for Saturday—it was time for bed!


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Shore Leave 40 Art Show Results


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As I'd posted here and on Patreon, I entered a few pieces of my artwork in the Shore Leave art show this year. And it worked out better than I'd hoped! I sold a print and a painting!

The first one that sold, Hyacinths, was a print of a computer-generated image based on a photograph of my mother's hyacinths.

A low-res sample image of Hyacinths
Hyacinths
(print)

I was surprised this was the first to go. I didn't think a flower picture would draw much interest at a sci-fi convention.

The second picture that sold was Alien Dawn #1. It didn't get picked up until late Sunday, so I spent most of the weekend wondering if the person who bid on it would come back.

A low-res sample of Alien Dawn #1
Alien Dawn #1
(acrylic on canvas board)

Well, they did!

Best of all, I got my first check as an artist.


Woo-hoo! Check and letter from the Shore Leave 40 art show.
Check and letter from the Shore Leave 40 art show

To be honest, that's not true. The best part was finding out that someone liked my artwork enough to buy it. But the check is nice—even though Shore Leave took a cut.

The third picture I brought, Gear Girl, generated a lot of interest, but no one bought it. I thought it would be the first to go. I guess I'll bring it back next year with a bunch more artwork! At least that's the plan.

Speaking of which, I have to come up with some ideas. I know I want to do an Alien Dawn #2. And Lisa Shambrook has me thinking about dragons. And trees. I need to do a few sketches.

I know, I'm supposed to be writing, too. There's not enough time!

BTW, I'll have more on Shore Leave in coming blog posts.


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, July 19, 2018

My Cocky Blog Post


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Just when you thought you knew how weird and shady the publishing business is, you find an article like this one on The Verge (Bad Romance) website. It's about how self-publishing romance novels is done and how some people game the system. And it's about Amazon's Kindle Unlimited service. And court fights. Even deaths threats. Nothing brings romance to mind faster than death threats. I'm being facetious, of course, unless you're in a really bad relationship.

Just a token image of a pen and quill to make the blog prettier

Some of the things I'd heard about before—stuffing the books with junk to make them longer and ways to make Amazon think the whole book was read when it wasn't—but I didn't know about copywriting words used in a book series and the how some of the best-seller lists work. There's a lot in the story that's more than a little scary. There are serious amounts of money being tossed around for influence.

I can't explain it any better than the article, so go read it instead. Click on the link at the beginning of my post and it will take you there. Or, if you're a self-published author, maybe you shouldn't! You might change your mind about writing and go into a field that's a little more sane—like politics.

I just hope I don't get sued for my blog title!


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Fairy Tale


Once upon a time, a handsome (so we're told) prince* in the land of Amazon had an idea.

"I'll create a platform to help beginning and lesser-known authors write and publish stories based on established fictional universes!" the prince exclaimed in his odd, though native, Princeton tongue.

image of quill and parchment

He waved his magic wand and created Kindle Worlds where a famous author would allow others to add to the body of work he or she had created. There were guidelines in place, of course, to protect the original author from damage, but it allowed those not-so-famous writers to join the party. It seemed like a good deal for everyone. The famous authors get publicity for their work and the struggling authors get the benefit of writing stories for a world with which the reader would be familiar. The readers of those worlds would benefit by having more stories than ever to chose from and enjoy. The Prince would take a cut of the profits.

Then one day, a greedy ogre (who had been disguised as the aforementioned handsome prince) decided it wasn't worth the time and expense to do all this. The payoff wasn't enough. The ogre took out a sword—or pen, as the case may be—and slew Kindle Worlds. Darkness spread over the land.

End of story.

Not much of a tale, I suppose, but that's the way it looks to many writers. No hero to save the day here. Was the prince really an ogre or was Kindle Worlds an empty, deteriorating wing of his publishing palace? I don't know. What I do know is that closing it down threw a bucket of cold water onto the plans of some aspiring writers.

The effect of all this became apparent when I checked on the author page of a writer I'm familiar with: Terri Deno.

A short while ago, Terri had a nice collection of works to display.

Terri Deno's book before Kindle Worlds went away

Now, not so much...


Even if you had the book's URL (Melody of Love used as an example here), all you got was this:

Even when the books still were on Amazon, the links went nowhere...

No offense to Barney, but that's not what I was looking for.

Terri had done the work and played by the rules, but that didn't matter somehow. Three of her five books were for Kindle Worlds. Now the books are gone. Can they be rewritten and published in a format that won't violate the rules Amazon and the original author have put in place? Sure, but it's hard enough to write a book once. Writing it twice seems like punishment.

Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps it's take charge of your own destiny. Easier said than done when you're a writer. Or be patient; the most beautiful flowers are often the last to bloom. Or those who seem most eager to help aren't always your friend. Pick one. Or three. Best of all—write your own.


* He graduated from Princeton, so I'm assuming he was a prince. I could be wrong.


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Shore Leave 40 - Friday Part II



Note: This post was updated July 19, 2018 to correct a typo.

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Although there wasn't as many workgroups that dealt directly with writing this year, I did attend the Anthologies: Share the Love panel on Friday. There was a lot of joking going on as it was starting about how the panelists outnumbered the attendees. Eventually it did fill up until the number was almost equal, but interest seems to have faded from past conventions.

A few members of the anthology panel waiting for attendees to arrive.
A few members of the anthology panel
waiting for attendees to arrive.

The panelist for this group were Greg Cox ( Moderator ), Phil Giunta, Jenifer Rosenberg, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, Joshua Palmatier, and Richard C. White. The discussion points for this panels were:
  1. What attracts readers to short story collections? 
  2. Do you prefer themed collections, single author collections, or a Whitman’s Sampler of stories? 
  3. What draws authors to write for anthologies?
The discussion started with the moderator mentioning that conventional wisdom says that short story collections/anthologies don't sell. It was agreed that print versions don't sell as well as novel, and many larger publishing houses do not want to deal with them. It was mentioned that they do sell in electronic format, but are often not marketed ans anthologies or collections (subscriptions or similar formats are used). One reason anthologies don't sell is they do not have the power of a single author (with a strong reputation) to sell them. It was mentioned that small presses often do better with anthologies.

One problem with anthologies can be that several authors may write similar stories and that can make an anthology boring (or make the editors work harder). As some of the panelists had edited anthologies, there were a number of horror stories passed on about this scenario.

They asked writers who wish to write for anthologies to come up with a number of ideas and eliminate the most obvious and the most outlandish ideas to come up with a story that has the greatest chance for success.

When answering why anthologies (or collections) were popular, many said they could read a complete story each night or whenever they had a small amount of time. Others mentioned that if they didn't like a particular author or story they could skip past it and start a new story. Some just liked having a variety of stories on a theme. It was noted, however, many people prefer novels to short stories and will avoid anthologies, sometimes complaining to publishers that they did not understand that the book they purchased was an anthology. Some even demanded their money back (even though it was clearly marked on the cover as an anthology or collection).

Those who had edited anthologies said that the hardest part of putting together an anthology is picking the story order. The two best should go in the front and the back, but it isn't always easy to chose!

Finally, they asked why would someone write a short story or an anthology? Here were the answers provided:

  1. The challenge of the writing prompt or theme (Can I write a story for this?)
  2. To test an idea for a longer story
  3. To have a place for an idea that won't support a long story
  4. Nostalgia, even if it won't pay off economically
  5. To expand the breadth and the writer's ideas/works
  6. To challenge yourself as a writer (Can I write this idea as a short story?)

All in all, it was a good panel with many real-life experiences and tips passed on to the writers who did attend!

After the panel I made my way down to the Hunt Valley rooms to listen to the end of the Okudas talk about graphics. Michael and Denise Okuda did a lot of the graphics for Star Trek.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I attended the Meet the Pros party in the main hall. Lots of sci-fi authors gather to display and sell their books. Talked to Joshua Palmatier again - hoping to someday have a story in one of his anthologies.

Meet the pros - Shore Leave 40 - Friday night
Meet the Pros - authors selling their books

It was getting late, so we headed up to our rooms. On the way I glanced into the art show room and noticed that on of my pieces had sold. Of the three I brought, I figured "Hyacinths" would be a tough sell since it is hardly the right venue for flower art, but that's the one that went first. I hope whoever got it enjoys it!

You can see (watch the video!) more about my art (for sale) and the books I brought to give away HERE.


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Shore Leave 40 - Friday


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I had to get to Shore Leave early on Friday as I had to get photo op tickets for a friend. Sign in is always easy at Delta Hotels Hunt Valley, and once that was done I went right over to the registration table to pick up my badge and related materials.

The next stop was the art show. My first time here, so I wasn't sure what to do. The staff helped me out with instructions on the paperwork and hanging the pictures. If you want to know more about what I brought you can read (and watch the video) that is posted on my Patreon site.

Once my companions arrived, we took a quick look around to check the set-up. Not all the vendors were there and no actors or actresses were in sight, so we decided to have lunch and plan our afternoon activities.

My first stop after eating was the autograph tables. A few celebrities had arrived, so we talked with Peter Williams, Peter Kelamis, Chase Masterson, and Aron Eisenberg. Chase Masterson has founded an anti-bullying foundation called the Pop Culture Hero Coalition. I brought out the anti-bullying book Tales from the Bully Box (with my story One Above Zero) and asked if she would sign it. I now have a copy with a very nice message from her on the inside cover. I had brought it to give away, but I'll be keeping it now.

I also attended a panel on anthologies called Anthologies: Share the Love. I'll have more on that later. Since all of my works have been in anthologies, I thought that was appropriate.

During the evening, I attended the Meet the Pros party in the main hall. Lots of sci-fi authors gather to display and sell their books. Talked to Joshua Palmatier again - hoping to someday have a story in one of his anthologies.

Meet the pros - Shore Leave 40 - Friday night
Meet the Pros - authors selling their books
And as a final pleasant surprise, some kind soul bought one of my pictures: Hyacinths. It's the one I thought wouldn't sell!

You can see (watch the video!) more about my art and books I brought to give away HERE.


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Shore Leave 40 Books And Art


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Thumbnail of video on Patreon site about Shore Leave 40 book giveaways
Thumbnail of video on Patreon site
about Shore Leave 40 book giveaways

I'm going to be giving away a number of books at the Shore Leave 40 Sci-fi convention this year (July 6-8) that takes place in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

I'm also going to have a few pieces of art on display (and for sale) if all goes as planned.

You can read about it here on my PATREON site (free access). Click on the big picture on that site and you'll see a video of me talking about all the books I'll be giving out! Warning: I am not a professional actor. If you don't want to go there, just click HERE for the video. But then you won't see the thumbnail shots of the artwork I'll have in the show.

Best of all, come join in the fun at Shore Leave!


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 59


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Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 59th Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
Here is a link to the photo prompt for this week's challenge.
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.



Link to story:

I've written sort of a horror/sci-fi/steampunk piece this time. It's called Serendipity. The story is posted on my Patreon site (free access).


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Friday, May 25, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 56


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Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 56th Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
Here is a link to the photo prompt for this week's challenge.
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.



Link to story:

I've written a very short horror piece this time. It's called Out of Kindness. The story is posted on my Patreon site (free access).


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Amazing Shrinking Kindle Universe


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Write On

Kindle Scout

Amazon's platforms for authors keep shrinking

And if you haven't heard, Amazon is shutting down Kindle Worlds. In Amazon's words:

"Kindle Worlds is a publication platform where you choose a licensed World, read the Content Guidelines for that World, write your story, upload that story, create a cover, and click through a publishing agreement with Amazon Publishing. Once published, every Kindle Worlds story will be featured on Amazon.com, as well as on Kindle devices and apps. Follow the steps below to publish your story today!"

Except that submissions are now closed.


This is a real problem for authors who have written for Kindle Worlds. It's up to each world owner to determine how, or if, authors can keep selling their work. A few owners I've looked at have mentioned nothing.

Let me know if you've written for Kindle Worlds and if you've heard what your options are. You can read the thoughts on this subject by Kindle Worlds author Terri Deno here: The Death of Kindle Worlds.

What alternatives are you looking into for writing fan fiction? Let me know!


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Shore Leave 40 Is Coming Soon!


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Yes, the annual Shore Leave Sci-fi convention is only a couple of months away. It sneaks up on me every year. I go to meet WRITERS and CELEBRITIES, and try to keep up with what's going on in the sci-fi world. This has been a difficult year at best, and I'm not sure how much of the convention I'll be able to attend, but I hope to spend some time there.

If you want to get an idea of what the convention is about, here's a short video! (This may not show well on mobile devices.)



Video courtesy of BCPL Online (Baltimore County Public Library)

BTW, I'll be giving away a few books from authors I know and maybe have a couple of works in the art show. The don't have a direct link for the art show yet (they aren't the best at getting information out...), but it should be coming soon. Until then, click HERE.


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Friday, May 4, 2018

Old Book, New Sales


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Sometimes a book surprises you.



Here's a link to my post on Patreon telling how.

BTW, I'll be giving away a copy of Dead Men's Tales at Shore Leave 40 this year!


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Brief Update On Current Projects


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Image of quill and parchment

 

As you may have noticed, I haven't been doing much blogging or writing or had anything of interest to post here for the last couple of months. My day job and family issues have been keeping me busy. Work has always been crazy during this part of the year, but this time it's worse than usual. I did find a few extra minutes today, however, so I thought I'd update anyone who might still be following this blog on what my plans are for the future.

Here's what I'm hoping to do in the coming months:

  1. I have a few short stories almost ready for submission. They've been almost ready for about three months now. It's time finish up and get some new stories out there. A few of these will go to Horrified Press / Thirteen O'clock Press. I have a few thousand more in the wings—I'd like to get to them before I expire...
  2. I had approached Terri Deno about working together on a small series of traditional haiku books. She indicated she might be interested, so I started on a mock-up of what I was considering. Then I lost the files. Well, I found them again. Soon I want to have enough to give her an idea of how the books will appear.
  3. I have a few digital art pictures in process, including one for Terri Deno. Some of the others will be shown at Shore Leave 40 if they ever provide the necessary details about the art show. There's nothing on the web site yet. "Soon," they say. I also hope to have some traditional art there, but time is running short.
  4. Speaking of which, I need to start preparing for Shore Leave 40. It sort of sneaks up on me every year.
  5. Start compiling the poems to be included in a book titled Dark Rhythms, a collection of rhyming poetry on the dark side. I'll bet you can figure out complex mental process I used to select the title.
  6. Finish the Beth Rhodes novels I started reading. They're getting better with each one.
  7. Write a couple of flash fiction stories or short poems for Miranda Kate's Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

That's all I have time for now. Check back soon, though, as I'm really trying to get back to posting regularly!


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, March 26, 2018

Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated


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No, I'm not pushing up daisies...

Yes, I stole the title of this blog post, even though it is a misquote.

I haven't been on here for about a month. I'm not sure what the next month will bring, but I do hope to have a real post at some point.

I wanted to let any followers I have know that I am still alive and will continue once the duties of my day job ease. Too much overtime and falling asleep at the computer at home has reduced my creative time to this.

I will post again, however, I promise.

I shall return! (Yeah, I stole that, too...)


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another One Bites The Dust


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I don't often visit the site for Salon magazine as they seldom post anything of interest (to me), but the other day I clicked on a link that took me to their page. That's when I got this pop-up:



I get these sort of warnings a lot. This one was slightly different, though. They gave me an option. I could allow them to use my "spare" computing power to mine for cryptocurrency. Apparently they don't make enough money with ads or subscriptions, so they want me to allow them to use my computer and electricity so they can grab some digital currency to help keep them going. They talk about how the money could be used for what they consider valid social causes. Yes, I suppose it could, but I really think it's to help their bottom line.

While I give them kudos for being upfront about it, they didn't say anything about sharing.

If Salon wants to mine cryptocurrency, that's fine by me. But don't ask to use my resources and slow down / overheat my PC to do it.

What's also interesting is that back in December 2017 Salon posted an article saying this sort of thing was bad as it would require more value in energy than it would get in currency. This extra load would slow the acceptance of "green" energy sources. So it's bad if you do this but good if they do it. Got it.

You may ask why I use an ad blocker when so many sites rely on ads for revenue. I don't block all ads. I don't even mind having a few ads on the screen since I don't click on them. But things have gotten to the point where many web sites are so full of ads and pop-ups as to become unusable. Or they are painful to use. In addition, you never know where the ads originate. More and more have embedded malware or render poorly.

So, in an effort to keep my sanity, I use AdBlocker to block many of them. And since Salon seldom has anything truly unique I can't live without, I just have to say good-bye. I know Salon will disagree, but most of what they have (that I would consider reading) is 10% news and 90% opinion. That's not worth a subscription or having them use my PC to make them richer.

I've also stopped going to Business Insider as they insist I get rid of my ad blocker. Again, there is nothing on that site that isn't on a bunch of other sites.

I do pay for some content on the Internet, and have a few subscriptions that are free. But I get to chose which ones.

So, so long, Salon (and Business Insider).

Note: AdBlocker now has an option to filter out at least some of the sites using your PC to mine for money. And, yes, I have turned that filter on.



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


© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 41


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Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a prompt from Miranda Kate's 41st Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:
This picture was created by Ana Prazeres or Aegils, a Portugese artist. You can find her work on Deviant Art and also on 500px. She has some incredible creations. She calls this one 'The Craft' - which offers a story in itself.
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.




I've written short horror piece this time. It's called Chain of Dreams. The story is posted on my Patreon site (free access). I wanted to put a mention here for anyone following my blog especially since so few know about my Patreon site. You can access my story by clicking the title below (and I've put a little preview below).



Preview: 
Of course it was a dream. It had to have been. The ocean was hundreds of miles away. The house didn't even look like hers.
Miriam sat up in bed. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and waited for her heart to slow. She was certainly awake now—might as well get up and get ready for her appointment.

It's only 312 words long, so I can't give to much of a sample! To continue reading, go to my Patreon site (free access for all on this story).


© 2017 K. R. Smith All rights reserved