Thursday, December 27, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 87

Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a photo prompt from Miranda Kate's 87th Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:

This week's photo prompt was taken by Carlos M Almagro, a Tenerife based photographer. This was taken there. He has some incredible pictures on his website, definitely worth checking out. He calls this one Calm and Joy

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.

A romantic drama this time. Exactly 750 words. I like to live on the edge...


The cool morning air off the water blew down Fred's collar. He zipped his jacket higher and continued to walk along the shore.

This was supposed to be a vacation. Spending time together ended up being anything but relaxing. It was bad enough that his in-laws were living with them. With his own kids beginning to exert their influence on events, it was like dealing with two sets of quarreling children. Even here he couldn't escape. There was always another job, another decision made beyond his control, another day of pandering to everyone else's needs and desires. This was supposed to be a time to unwind, to regenerate while listening to the splash of gentle waves and haunting call of seabirds.

The morning had not been peaceful. He'd slammed the door when he left, telling them all to figure it out on their own. The beach, only a short walk from the rental, was good a place as any to go. The sunrise was beautiful, though his eyes only looked down. In his mind, an endless loop of the morning's events replayed.

He walked until he came across an old chair left on the beach. It was probably not worth saving and thoughtlessly left behind. He gave it a shake. It seemed sturdy enough to support his weight. He sat and stared out over the water, occasionally kicking one of the stones near his feet. He contemplated them for a moment, then stood up. He chose a few of the larger ones and placed them in an arc in front of the chair. Feeling oddly satisfied, he continued until there was a small area encircled by rocks. Once complete, he stepped inside the circle and placed his hands on his hips.

"I name this land Fredonia. I am its sole occupant and ruler. I declare my independence from all other lands, governments, people, authorities, foreign obligations, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."

He flopped back into the chair.

The sun peeked through the clouds near the horizon. He could feel its warmth on his legs. The rhythm of the small waves calmed him, his mind slowly drifting from the chaos of the morning.


It took a moment for the voice to register in his mind. It was Cathy, his wife. He turned and looked, but didn't respond.

"Are you still angry?"

Fred took a breath and rubbed his hand over his jaw. "I don't know. Maybe." He looked back over the ocean. "I'm just so frustrated with the world, my life, with everything and everybody."

"Even with me?"

Fred turned towards Cathy. She was standing back away from where he sat. Was she afraid to come closer, afraid of him? The magnitude of her words, her distance, tore at him. How could he be mad at her? She had it no better.

"What can I do, Fred? Tell me and I'll try."

He stood and shoved his hands into his pockets. "I don't know, Cathy. What can anyone do? It's just the way things are. I don't know what to do myself."

"Would you hold me?"

The idea that Cathy would ever wonder if that was acceptable, as if needing permission to be held, was more than he could stand. He held out his arm invitingly. When just a few feet away, however, Fred raised his hand and said, "Stop."

Cathy's eyes opened wide. She brought her hands up to her face, unsure what to do or say.

"I have declared this good place to be Fredonia," Fred said loudly while waving his hands over the stone ring. "It is a land unto itself, free of all worldly obligations. None may enter without the permission of the, uh, king? Yes, king would be appropriate. Which is I. Or me, I think." He looked at Cathy. "Do you have business with the king?"

Cathy stared at Fred, then repeated her request. "I would like a hug?" She waited for a reply, but none came. "Your majesty?" she added.

"I see." Fred nodded. "You may enter."

They held each other for a long while. He kissed her. She turned within his arms so the two of them could look out over the water.

"This is all I really want, Cathy. Just some time for myself, for us."

She nestled against him. "Can we stay here forever?"

Fred sighed. "Well, at least until breakfast need to be made—or high tide—whichever comes first."

She held his arms tightly against her. "That would be perfect."

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Updates And News For December 2018

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

You may have noticed, or even visited, my Patreon site as I have placed some of my recent flash fiction postings there. I'm in the (glacial) process of doing more there and moving away from Blogger. That's a hint that you may want to check there more often that here in the future. I'll probably set up another true web site on different platform at some point, but that's only in the planning stage right now.

Image of quill and pen

Postings of my work have been slow in coming this year. I've complained enough about that already, so I won't go into the reasons again. I have noticed an uptick in viewings on Patreon. Although I don't have any patrons so far (I haven't posted enough stuff to make it worthwhile), this is a good sign.

Image of Patreon use
Patreon viewership has increased lately

As you can see, I've even had some interaction with new readers! Woo-hoo!

In other news, I believe I've had a short story accepted for inclusion in an anthology, but I'm waiting to get that confirmed. It's a Southern Gothic horror story call Momma Knows Best. More later - I hope!

Some of the authors I follow have been making progress, too!

Terri Deno has a poem, Our Conversation in the Garden, published in America's Emerging Poets 2018: Midwest Region from Z Publishing House. It's available on Amazon and should eventually be available directly from Z Publishing House.

Cover of America's Emerging Poets 2018 from Z Publishing House

It's right there on page 163!

Miranda Kate has announced a sequel is coming to The Game, the novella in her book, Slipping Through. The title is to be Pool of Players. No firm date yet (other than spring of 2019), but if you subscribe to her newsletter, you'll probably be the first to know!

That's all for now. Thanks for stopping by!

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 82

Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a photo prompt from Miranda Kate's 82nd Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:

This week's photo prompt is of white Tulips taken by Olay Seven, a Turkish photograph from Istanbul. He has taken these from a few angles. You can check out his instagram page here. 

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.

A sci-fi shorty for this challenge. Only 472 words.

Mission Accomplished

Willard never dreamed there could be a world like this. He'd explored many planets during his career with the Unity Space Corps. Most were barren and rocky, either too hot or cold, or had a noxious atmosphere. Of all the places even close to being Earth-like, nothing compared to Silanius.

The air, slightly richer in oxygen that Earth, seemed to be blessed by the sweet perfume emanating from the flowering plants covering its surface. They were everywhere, yet it was never overpowering, just a faint, relaxing bouquet that made one wish to inhale deeply and long, to enjoy every breath, to savor the wonderful aromas of each blossom. And what plants they were! Marvelous, immense versions similar to those he knew, though they towered so far over him only the occasional glimpse of the system's central star was visible.

He leaned back against one of the huge stems and turned on his utility device to take notes. There was so much to learn here, so much to be excited about, yet Willard was in no hurry to start work. Surrounded by such beauty, how could he be? The plant he was using as a backrest swayed gently in the warm breeze. There were no known large animals to be wary of, only a few flying creatures and the soothing hum of what would be Silanius' equivalent of bees darting between the flowers. This was paradise, or as close as anything his mind could envision. Silanius overwhelmed his senses with wonder, rendering his brain into a state of rapture. Like an addicting drug, Willard willingly abused it; he couldn't get enough.

In a moment of clarity, he wondered how these plants could grow so large. He observed a handful of soil as he let it fall through the fingers of his glove. There didn't appear to be the amount of organic material one might expect. It was one of the mysteries he'd been sent to investigate. Willard, however, was going to take his time doing research here—he was in no hurry to leave. This was the first time in months he'd been able to unwind, to rest, and he was going to take full advantage of his situation.

Willard woke to a discomfort in his leg. He must have fallen asleep in an odd position, he thought. He tried to reach down to rub his calf, but his arm wouldn't move. Opening his eyes, he saw the tendrils wrapped around his limbs. The one on his leg had pierced the skin. Struggling against them only seemed to make their grip tighter. The utility device was too far away to reach. He called to it, hoping voice commands would work. The front panel shattered as a green shoot pushed through. He'd found the missing fertilizer, but no one was ever going to know.

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Friday, November 9, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 80

Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a photo prompt from Miranda Kate's 80th Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:

This week's picture prompt was taken by a friend of mine, Michael Sands, when he was in Oxford. This building is called The Radcliffe's Camera and it's part of Oxford University. It houses the Science Library.

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 wrote this in a hurry tonight, so if you see any missing words or other errors please let me know. It's a bit of fantasy this week, 631 words worth (no pun intended). But you have to read Miranda's tale first!

On the Flip Side

The damp stones of the old building exuded a chill as he huddled in its shadow. A shiver went down his back. As uncomfortable as Fenton was, the shadows were his friends now. What he'd stolen was worth quite a bit. He expected the owners would want it back. Surely the police had been notified by now.

He glanced each way, half expecting to find them on his trail. He took a deep breath. Only a couple of people passing by—no one to worry about. It was then something caught his eye.

Though the morning rains had stopped, the street was still wet. There was movement in a puddle not far in front of him. He couldn't make out what might be causing it, but it appeared to be a shoe. Whatever the object was, it quickly disappeared. A moment later, a finger, then a hand, briefly appeared.

Fenton cussed. This was not good. "Some fool must have fallen into an open manhole," he said. "Probably flooded and didn't see it. Now he's drowning. I don't need murder added to theft if I'm caught."

Before he could figure out which way to run, two feet sprouted up out of the hole. Within seconds, an entire person had popped out of the puddle and was standing upright not ten metres away. The man seemed confused, though not as much as Fenton. Oddly enough, he wasn't the slightest bit wet.

He fought the urge to approach the man, still concerned about possible pursuers. Fenton ducked behind the corner of the building as the man turned towards him. When he peeked out again, he saw him running down the street. There was no trail of wet footprints to mark his path.

Despite his circumstances, Fenton's curiosity drew him to the puddle. It looked no different from the others along the street. He reached out to touch it. There was no ripple, no visible disturbance. He rubbed his fingers together. They weren't wet.

"Bloody..." he muttered under his breath. He reached in further, staring into the puddle trying to see what was within. He leaned closer and felt himself being pulled deeper. Whatever force was drawing him in was stronger than his efforts to resist.

He found himself sitting on the street—the same street as before—though in a world around him that was in ruin. The cold rain hitting his face brought him back to the moment.

Reaching into his coat pocket, the clandestine prize which had driven him to desperation was still there. The police were no longer his concern, but he felt an uneasiness as to what, or who, might be here instead. It was time to move. He would have to figure what had happened to him later.

He didn't go far until his path was blocked by debris. He worried about damaging the precious item in him pocket climbing over the twisted metal and stone. Fenton pulled it out of his pocket, still wrapped in an old cloth. He would set it up on some stones, then climb up to it, repeating this until safely over the top. He had just raised it above his head when he heard a familiar voice,

"So, what have we here?"

Before Fenton could turn, something hard and sharp went into his back. He couldn't breathe. As it all went black, a hand reached around him and took the package from his hand.

"Must be something mighty special," the man said. "What do you say we have a look?"

He started to unwrap his prize when Fenton's body fell over. Though life oozed from his mouth and the eyes were closed, the face was one he'd seen before—in the mirror.

"Bloody..." the man muttered under his breath as he backed away.

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 79

Everyone likes a little flash fiction, right? Thanks to a photo prompt from Miranda Kate's 79th Mid-Week Flash challengeyou're going to get some! This is from Miranda's post:

This week's prompt picture is again all over the net and various pinterest accounts globally. A lot comes up in Arabic so it could be from someone in the Middle East, but sadly can't be tracked.

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.

No horror this week. Only mushy stuff. 684 words.

Searching for Flowers

It had been years since Jason last walked down the beach. It was where he'd met Alicia. That was all so long ago, it seemed. She was gone forever now, taken from life too soon. The shore was still beautiful, though not as inviting as he remembered. The once-invigorating fragrance of salt air now only induced shadowy, melancholy visions.

At his feet, lodged in the sandy soil next to a half-buried piece of driftwood, a flower sprouted. How many times had he picked these for Alicia? How many silly little bouquets had he made? He reached down and pulled the stem free of the tough roots. It was only a weed, though an attractive one.

"That's pretty."

It was a tiny voice he heard, so small he wasn't sure it was real. He turned slightly in its direction to find a girl, a very young child, in truth, standing next to him. She had a wide smile on her face.

Jason attempted a smile, though with little enthusiasm. "Yes, I suppose it is, isn't it?"

The girl remained quiet, alternately grinning and biting her lip, shyly avoiding eye contact. Jason held the flower out and said, "Here." She snatched it from his hand, then ran off giggling.

He quickly disappeared back into his thoughts, his mind entranced by the rhythmic waves and gentle breezes. What, if anything, was left for him here?

"That was very kind of you."

The sound startled him. A young woman stood only a few feet away. He'd been so engrossed in his thoughts he hadn't noticed. Her long, dark hair drifted across her face from the sea breeze, though her eyes seemed to pierce through its gossamer veil as if they had a light of their own. She was smiling, though she eventually looked away. He realized he'd been staring at her for an uncomfortably long time.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to surprise you like that," she said.

"I—I didn't know anyone was there."

"I know. I was trying to catch up with Sarah. She ran off ahead of me. I hope she didn't bother you."

"Oh, uh, no, not at all. Your daughter?"

"Yes. She can be a handful at times. The two of us moved here last week from back east. Thought we go exploring today. By the way, I'm Kristen."

"I'm..." His voice drifted away as he studied the soft contours of her face. "Jason," he finally exclaimed, as if shocked by some great revelation. "My name—it's Jason."

She tried not to laugh, craning her neck to check on her daughter as a cover. "Do you live nearby?"

He took a deep breath. "No, not anymore. I came by to—well, I'm not really sure. Just to see it again, I guess."

"Is this place special to you?"

Jason wasn't sure how to answer the question. It used to be. Was it still? Did he really want to bother someone else with his past? He hadn't talked much to anyone about Alicia, let alone to a woman. He didn't know what to say, even what he should say, but he did want talk about something, anything. He hadn’t felt that way in ages. There was life in the way her eyes seemed to dance, glancing at him only briefly before looking away.

"There's a cove not far past the point here." He knew he was staring again. "I used to go there a lot. It's really beautiful."


"If you'd like to see I could..."

She turned away, grinning, he noticed, exactly like her daughter.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to presume."

"That's alright." She looked directly at him this time. "I'd love to see it."

They walked along the beach together as Sarah scampered from shell to stone, the tiny flower firmly clenched in her fist. When he could divert his attention from Kristen he scanned the beach, inspecting every rock, clump of grass, and piece of wood that might provide a shelter for life. What a shame it would be, he thought, if there were no more flowers to be found.

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, October 8, 2018

Looks Like Google+ Is Going Away

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

Looks like the security breach in Google's sort-of-equivalent to Facebook was the last straw for Google+. I know it isn't that popular. Even Google says so. This is from their blog:
This review crystallized what we’ve known for a while: that while our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.
I'm not sure what Google thought my expectations were; they never asked me. It was, I'd hoped,  another way to get info out about stories I've written though I seldom got any feedback via Google+. I wonder if Blogger is next. Guess I'd better do a backup...

RIP G+ (in 2019)

And, no, I still won't get on Facebook.

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Sunday, September 30, 2018

ZNB Anthologies Funded - Call For Submissions

For the last few weeks you've seen this at the top of my blog posts:
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.
Well, I can stop posting that now!

The three anthologies ( Portals, Temporally Deactivated, and Alternate Peace ) have been funded (and exceeded their target) with $25,854 pledged towards $25,000 goal as of 11:30 pm EST on September 30, 2018!

Now comes the fun part. There is an open submission call to fill out the anthologies in addition to the tales from the pre-selected authors. You can find the submission guidelines here:  Submission Guidelines: Portals, Temporally Deactivated, and Alternate Peace. So get writing and pass the word!

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Health, Fitness, And Dieting?

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.

Today I logged onto Amazon's Author Central to see how things were going. You know, have any books been selling, what's my author rank, etc. I'm not sure why, but there is a new category on my ranking page describing the category of books I've been published in: Health, Dieting, and Fitness.

Now, I have to say up front that I haven't written any books or stories that would offer useful information in these categories. Well, none that I'm aware of. If I had you surely wouldn't want to take advice from them. I did write a story where a dad ate some of his kid's Halloween candy that had little monsters in it. And in another anthology, a girl was bullied because of the effect of a thyroid problem. Wait—maybe it's Haiku of the Dead because zombies, of course, eat brains! No, I guess that would be a bit of a stretch. I don't really think any of these qualify, though I may be mistaken. Yet, somehow, I have an author ranking of 213,799 in this category. The category just started, so the graph is only for today.

Health, fitness, and dieting category? How?

Apparently I'm doing better than I thought, branching out into new literary frontiers without even trying! Maybe next week it will be erotic romance. Say, that might be interesting! Or, at my age, really disgusting. To tell the truth, for me it would probably just be confusing. And I'm already half-way there!

© 2018 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

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.


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.


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

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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

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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:
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

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