Do you miss summer already, too? (A ramble and a flash fiction piece)

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A small mantis watches me & vice versa.

Let’s see. In summary, my summer’s been about parenting, copywriting, parenting, parenting some more, mowing grass, seeing a few critters here and there, working at weeding, parenting again, a too-short vacation and time with my husband, and, (unfortunately) a car wreck (bright spot is that no one was injured beyond minor aches).

I hope your hot or dry or windy or wet season has been much more fruitful or at least enjoyable. How’d you spend it?

Here’s today’s vignette, followed by a flash fiction piece . . .

As tides of laughter and shrill screams cascade over LEGOs and reverberate off walls into my writing room (a.k.a., the couch; tomorrow, it might be the kitchen table), I realize, with some mush of sadness and trepidation, that yet another summer is ending.

But I’m ready. It was a busy season; not necessarily a creative writing-productive summer, although I did do a bit of copywriting for the dough.

In a few days, I hope to have a few fascinatin’ features and facts about my friends’ endeavors (like this one) the last few months, as I (I hope) fall into a more regular pattern of blogging about all things literary, spec-fic, ghosty, dystopian, horror-ific, and whatever fancy strikes me in the head that day. [Also, in short, I’ve missed reading & commenting on your blogs! What can I say; full-time, full-on summertime parenting takes precedence.]

Anyway, less rambling and more story-ilization, right? Here’s an odd little throw-away that I hope you’ll enjoy; coincidentally, it has both fire and fury in it (but was written months ago for a 100-word challenge I couldn’t cut enough for).

*****++++*****

Hot Fur

GENRE: Weird, futuristic, dystopian

By Leigh Ward-Smith

“As you know, we’re here to commemorate the crumbling of 21st century institutions. To a man, you each had a role in slaying the dragon that is—or should I say was?—the prevailing mentality.”

The crowd bellows a series of whoops and howls, but fidgety coughs, footshuffles, and unholstered AugReal guns give them away.

Rich, you’re losing ’em. Do something dramatic.

I pull out the cannister hidden behind the flag-strewn lectern. “You all know what this is!” I waggle the can to massive cheers.

“And this.” The realization of the clear tub’s contents spread like our accustomed rolling blackouts.

The chant went up: “Pour it, pour it!” From there, the spark was mere formality.

BLOG_anarchy bear by Gerry Lauzon

Image by Gerry Lauzon, Creative Commons license 4.0 (CC By 4.0).

“Gentlemen, witness the death rasp of the 21st century and all her attendant scum!”

As flames lick the air, I pull a fast-disintegrating specimen out with tongs. I shake a clump loose, and the pallid throng wriggle onto its fallen char.

“It’s Burn-a-Bear Workshop now, ain’t it, boys?!”

END

Terrific Tuesday to You: Writing Updates, Shout-Outs, and Some Markets

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And to think: I actually dimmed this somewhat to take down the brightness.

Well, hello there! I shall have been returning and I have returned. (?)

But seriously, welcome (back)! I’m glad to have you visiting me.

On top of the busted ankle, so to speak, I’ve been doing copywriting out of my ears. Not titillating writing, but it certainly helps with the bills. And the Randys, Adams, Jakes, Simons, etc. (Or should I say with the GEs, Maytags, and fine furniture everywhere on the Internetz and on this great little dot we call a planet?)

Anyway, since I love doing the writing market posts, I figured what the heck. I’m behind in weekly posting once again. This is a good way to go, methinks.

Perhaps these will help you? I do hope so. Continue reading

Feminism + Bicycles + Fiction — How You Can Help Support One or All

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My Feminist Family on the Prairie (yes, men can be feminists, too)

Believe it or not, there is a connection between feminism, bicycles, and fiction. Witness the fiction anthology Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures from Microcosm Publishing, an anthology now in its fourth incarnation. I am proud to be an author in the fourth Biketopia, and I’ve got a favor to ask on behalf of all the authors and the publisher.

But first, a little bit about the latter. Microcosm Publishing, whom you can find on Duotrope, on their Web site, and all around the social media sphere, occupies a subversive publishing space—if feminism, LGBT rights, veganism, mental health, and a punk attitude qualify as such. Book titles upcoming or already published by this Portland, Ore., company include: Trump: A Graphic Biography; Cats I’ve Known; Out of the Basement: From Cheap Trick to DIY Punk in Rockford, IL, 1973-2005; Bikequity: Money & Class; and The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. For myself, I was drawn to a publishing company that’s been around more than 20 years and supports women who write while making a statement of engagement with our environment, politics, music, feminism, do-it yourself, relationships, and so much more.

Support a Feminist Fiction Endeavor (That I Happen to be Included In)

But there’s a small hitch to Biketopia four. It’s not completely funded. Not yet.

This is where you come in!

There’s a crowdfunding campaign at this very moment to ensure it makes its way into the world. Featuring 11 stories and a batch of reviews that are dystopian or sometimes even utopian,  Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures awaits full funding.

I cannot speak for the authors in this anthology, but as a writer among their number, I can say that my story focuses on a dystopian future in arid, desolate Colorado. Inspired possibly by subliminal crossflow from too many “Twilight Zone” marathons, I wrote about a protagonist who owns and runs a dusty diner alone but for two canine sidekicks. Then, she meets someone, and everything changes from there. So, pretty simple plot, without giving too much away.

Looking at the other story synopses, I am stoked to read Biketopia four, which includes a few comics within as well. Here are a few story blurbs from the Kickstarter fundraising page:

  • In the solarpunk future, will robots have rights, too?
  • What is the secret behind some people’s seemingly random plague immunity, and is it okay for them to take your bike?
  • When your health is closely monitored during a pregnancy, who gets to decide if bicycling is healthy or dangerous for your unborn child? (text by Microcosm Publishing)

May the Fourth Be With Us, and How You, Too, Can Submit

Please consider supporting Biketopia four via the Kickstarter drive; with a minimum of $10 you get the latest anthology. With a donation of $25 or above, you get all four Biketopia anthologies. The goodies abound, with a variety of levels from which to chose.

I’d be ever so pleased, not just for myself but for the mission of Microcosm, if you’d consider donating to the campaign and checking out Microcosm’s site. In addition to the previous book titles mentioned in the intro, you’ll see that MP offers up ezines to coloring books to stickers for your bike and all kinds of books including self-help and vegan recipes inspired by Morrissey (whose band, The Smiths, are no relation to me, sadly).

Finally, Biketopia five is, ahem, gearing up for action, too. Through March 1, you can submit your feminist-inspired science fiction (though you need not be female or identify as such) stories of 2-6K words, to Biketopia five, with a theme of “Intersections.” In fact, they say “We especially welcome submissions from writers of color and transgender and nonbinary writers, and seek stories that portray more diverse perspectives than are classically found in sci fi.”

So, get on that seat and ride your creativity into worlds unimagined!

The Arrival—and, Yes, I’m Still Alive

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Election results got you down, Leigh?

Reports of my demise have been exaggerated, I’m afraid. In fact, there I am over at the right, looking pensive, as opposed to looking Pence-ive, which is just gross.

Over the last five weeks or so that I’ve not blogged, I’ve been both working hard and hardly working. A new job—copywriting—is occupying a lot of my time so I haven’t gotten to do much creative writing (or responding to your blogs) of late. In fact, in terms of fiction, I submitted only five pieces for publication in January.

But amid the flus and allergies and product descriptions and torn knee-parts (husband, not me) and holidays, I’ve managed to get my second horror fiction piece published in a free ezine newly rechristened as Shotgun! Strange Stories, a publication of DeadLights Horror Fiction Magazine. I’d call the story, Volume 2, Issue 2 (27 January 2017; cover depicts two skeletons at a door and says “Featuring ISOLATED written by Kyle Lybeck”) a radical departure from my typical protagonist: this character is a right bastard, I think my British friends would say. Possibly with no redeeming qualities, but I hope the story manages to convey . . .  something. I’ll leave that something up to the individual, however!

I received several book-gifts for the holidays (the very best kind of gift), from poetry to short story collections to biography (Phil Collins, I’m looking at you, against all odds).

So-so-sodio (you have to sing it), I just wanted to give a brief update and a swift kick in my own tuchus. I am hereby making a half-way commitment to blogging two times a week. I’m sure you’re all thrilled, yes? 🙂 Two, yes two. These posts could be anything. Fence posts. Post offices. Post cereal.

Moving along . . .  I’ve been trying to save my dollars and pounds to support indie authors like some of you (I wish it were more; I truly do). Hence, the latest arrival.

Let’s all celebrate some good fiction-writing  . . .  c’mon!

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Congratulate, cajole, coax, consult, or converse with Hugh at his blog, Hugh’s Views and News, where you can also get this book (a short story collection chock-full of horror, science fiction, weirdness, and drama galore).

Way to go, Hugh, as to all of you living the creativity dream. I’ll see you around.

~Leigh~

If I Were a Defiant Animal . . . (Palinode)

I’ve been busy writing and promoting. My ‘soft’ horror story, “Muzzling the Monster,” is out in book form with some other excellent hobbits’ people’s stories.

But in the meantime, a sort of narrative manifesto in the form of a palinode.

Palinode: According to the Poetry Foundation, a palinode is “an ode or song that retracts or recants what the poet wrote in a previous poem.”

And now, in response to the world today and in homage to WordPresser and poet Robert Okaji, whose much more deft and studied poetical works you can find here . . .

If I Were a . . . (defiant animal/goddess/dolphin/force)

for Robert Okaji

If I were another kind of defiant animal than me, I think I’d choose to be a well-kept black cat. I’d be haughty about my rich, luxuriant fur and take every opportunity to let the sun follow my lead, basking in its admiration like the goddess I clearly am. Continue reading

Winning and the winsome winner who won it; or, the giveaway has ended

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From the Department of Redundancy Department. Nevertheless, thank you for reading!

Hello, fellow humans or any visitors from beyond (or from beneath the depths).

You might remember that last week (actually, from about Oct. 29 through the wee morning hours of 4 Nov.), I was doing a giveaway. It was in conjunction with the release of the new #steampunk and #horror anthology Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires, in which my story “Muzzling the Monster” was published along with those from 15 other sterling folks. If anything, my story tips more toward historical, horror, and ghostliness, but that’s my opinion. In chatting with some of the authors, who are from around the world, I’ve discovered stories within are historical fiction, Western steampunk, and a mix of subgenres within the genre. See what you think of our creation and be the first to leave a review!

Now comes another exciting part. The announcement of the winner, of the graphic novel Monstress. I hope everyone who wanted to participate, got his/her entries logged on my Rafflecopter giveaway. [It’s entirely possible I’ll do more of these in the future, and with different prizes, too! Maybe something for the December holidays, wherein several different cultures have days of special significance.]

Continue reading

Electageddon 2016: I was going to, but then I didn’t . . .

. . . Write a literary Q & A with both presidential candidates, here in the U.S., but I’ve decided to succumb to election fatigue or, as I’ve termed it, Electageddon. (I’m not saying I coined it; most probably John Oliver said something very similar.)

Simply put, most of the humor has gone out of U.S. politics. Other than the angry brand.

Now, I don’t think the dialogues should cease—except for the two political ads I receive every stinking day(!), as well as all those commercials between newscasts—but at this time, I choose to look to other matters, to move on. As well as to strive, to seek, and not to yield. The jury’s still out on the “finding” part, Tennyson fans. [Tennysonites? Tennysonians?]

Of course, I will vote (I haven’t yet) and do my part [for I have a vagenda of manicide; there, I finally said it]. Heck, my family even attempted to get yard signs for local candidates (but were unsuccessful, two times).

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From Shakespeare: The Bard’s Guide to Abuses and Affronts

But I’m done with arguing. I’m also done with racism. I’m sickened by those who shame the disabled. I’m done with the immigrant-bashing. I’m fed up with those who attack Islam. And finally, I’m done with Republicans [who stump for Trump] tweeting that Drumpf is leading “the cunt.”

The best way that Trump can make America great again? If I were mean, I’d say shuffle off your mortal coils, ASAP. (The case could be made that they’re mostly useless because of all the heavy rust anyway.) But since I’m not: Get out. Just get out. We don’t want you here. Let’s not make America hate again.

That said, I’d not want to be back in the newspaper biz come Nov. 8th or 9th. I predict a farked-up election (remember the hanging chads?) and possibly some violence. It would be a pity if it devolves to that. But wait, it already has. See that point way up there in the clouds—way, way up; past the thermosphere now and into the exosphere—that used to be us. The good us. And it’s getting farther away, not closer. (Hat tip to John Oliver for this idea.)

So, what else can a rational person from the 99% do? I’ve tuned in and turned on (television and radio, phone and computer).

But, for now, I think the best choice for my sanity is to drop out, to kill my television and other media tools. Perhaps you’ll join me in boycotting election news?

 

 

Hallo-ween Lite: A Twictional Experiment

Is everyone excited for Halloween? I know I am, and probably more than when I was a kid. And, for my friends in India or who have celebrated elsewhere, here’s wishing you a joyous, if belated, Diwali. 🙂

Anyway, as most people are probably reaching for the blood, guts, and gore in their fiction today, I’m going to switch it up. BGG I can do anyday; in fact, I do it pretty often here on the blog and in writing submissions. I’m going to treat you today, however. Free fiction, and, it is my hope, some smiles or laughter.

So, if you can follow this . . . I hope the formatting’s not too bad . . . here’s a(nother) merger of Twitter and fiction (Twiction) that I worked on for a recent submission cycle and which was (sniff, sniff) rejected.

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Our little paladin. And Artoo. (Pre-Halloween, at a con)

I’m biased of course, but I think the ending’s worth at least scrolling through to.

Thank you, sit back, and enjoy.

Oh, and go buy my latest work!

Continue reading

Want to read good stuff and enter to win more? Then I’ve got your giveaway right here

. . . to have a larger perception of surrounding facts, and to care for knowledge that was tinged with the unfamiliar.—Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Well, friends and new visitors to The Wordsmithery, the time has come for me to do some self-promoting and I’d like to offer you something in return for reading my latest work (beyond my continual wellspring of gratitude, which you already have access to). If I could offer this small token to each of you, I would.

That said, in conjunction with the launch of the Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires #steampunk

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You can buy me NOW!

#horror anthology that I have a story in now, I’m taking part in an author tea party on Sunday, 30 October, from 2 to 6 p.m. CST.

If you have a spare moment, I and the other Continue reading

The Wordsmith’s Weekly Wramble in Words and Pictures

It’s been awhile, but as I love October, the time seems ripely right. So, another catch-all post. I’m considering doing the 6.66 days of horror fiction at the end of the month as well—and maybe even NaNoWriMo—but we shall see.

Think of this as a kind of Monday Markets, although it isn’t. Hope you enjoy what could be the beginning of a more consistent and beautiful blogging and reading relationship . . .

The Wordsmith’s Weekly Wramble

Publications & Awards (you, me, and any every-body*)

  1. MY SHORT STORY “MUZZLING THE MONSTER” IS BEING PUBLISHED at the end of this month, in a steampunk and horror anthology called Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires (by Mocha Memoirs Press), and I’m thrilled and honored to be included. I literally cannot wait to see what the ghost-gears-grimoiresother storytellers have concocted for the book. And, in a first in my writing career, there’s even a creepy, cool trailer for this anthology, designed by the talented Terry Phillips. I’ll let you know as soon as I know acquisition details (sounds like something a Ferengi would be interested in, eh?).
  2. THERE’S ALREADY A TON of books out there, right? But you don’t want to waste your time with poorly edited or conceived works either. Thankfully, that is far from the case here. Although I am biased in the sense of having been a beta reader of this book (and her previous one), I am once again happy to champion Sarah Potter’s speculative fiction offering, this one christened Noah Padgett and the Dog-People. (I also hope to have Sarah over to the blog very soon, as her schedule allows!) Although NPATDP is aimed squarely at middle-grade readers (or accelerated 7-10 year olds), there’s every chance as an adult you will enjoy this romp through the world of Canis sapiens, in a dimension something like ours but curiously tipped. Will the human boy, Noah, make it out of Zyx alive? Do tell! . . .  I’ve done a review over at Amazon, and you lucky folks & blokes in the UK can get a deal on the book right now, with free delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books. So, whatever are you waiting for?
  3. HAVE YOU READ? Resident WordPress poet Robert Okaji has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, for his poem “Two Cranes on a Snowy Pine”! Even though Bob might profess to be an ordinary person—and they, too, can be nominated for and win a Pushcart!—his diction, structure, and nimble enjambment techniques boggle the brain. Do check out his latest offerings at his blog, “O at the Edges.”
  4. PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR! WordPress humorist and author Hugh Roberts is releasing a book in early December 2016. If you’re a reader of Hugh’s blog, you know that some speculative fiction and otherwise wacky, wild, and wee-urd jellybabies (I mean, stories) await! More on all that Welsh Winter Wonderfulness at Hugh’s post, and you’ll find a slew of other books to add to your lists (chosen by Hugh).

 

Markets & Other Interesting Things

Depending on your time, desired compensation, experience, genre, word count, and so on, markets are your bread and butter. Your mead and meat. Your nectar and ambrosia. Your cake and icing. Your chutney and naan. Your Dornish wine and saltfish. I really shouldn’t blog while I’m hungry, should I?

  1. DeadLights magazine. This is a new market. They have hatched a nonpaying weekly short fiction market, called “Shotgun Horror Clips,” as well as a paying short-story one for the DL magazine. Citing influences from King and Straub to Barker, Jackson, et al, they clawed their way high up my horror-writing market list. The specifics about submitting paying short fiction, flash, art, and CNF for the magazine can be found here. For the Shotgun Horror Clips, check this link.
  2. More horror: Pseudopod, dubbed “the sound of horror,” is seeking your first-form, A-level, Big League, Premier League speculative fiction in the weird, gory, dark, violent, thrilling/unsettling vein. Got a time-traveling Jack the Ripper? Oh, wait. That’s been done already. But give them your absolute best, with emphasis on the dark and macabre (less comedy, more tragedy), and see if you can hit the really high notes with this HWA and soon-to-be SFWA approved market (professional rates, mind you!). Before you do submit, do get a really good feel for what they like. One of the writers I enjoy and follow, fictionist Aeryn Rudel, recently had a piece called “Night Games” converted to audio and featured on Pseudopod here. Think vampires and the desolation of the pitcher’s mound in baseball and you might harness a scintilla of this story.
  3. Interesting things:
  • Eavesdrop on F/SF writer Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn series et al) as he instructs on topics ranging from the business of writing to plotting to world-building and more. It’s as if you’re taking a master class but you can be introverted at the same time!
  • #HoldontotheLight: Did you know that 100+ authors of SF/F are blogging about mental illness and wellness this month? The matters touched on range from PTSD to anxiety to suicide. I can attest that these issues surface time and again in the science fiction and fantasy communities. If you’d like to join the movement, as a reader, commenter, contributor, or otherwise, one fitting place to start is writer Gail Z. Martin’s link round-up.
  • You might not know it, but there’s a campaign to create an exhibit and anthology of women’s science fiction writing, with confirmed participants as illustrious as Jane Yolen, N.K. Jemisin, Seanan McGuire, and a bevy of others thus far. As I write this, the “Catalysts, Explorers & Secret Keepers: Women of SF” project is raising funds and in the process of kicking off a call for submissions by or featuring strong female protagonists, including those from the stellar authors mentioned above. Now here’s a campaign to fund, if ever there was one!

It is time, or far past it, for me to close this post. *If you’d like to plug your own latest publication in the comments, please feel free.* Just don’t try to sell Russian watches, Cialis, or other male enhancement paraphernalia there.

See you in the funny papers . . .

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For those times when you want to look like Freddie Mercury with a sore shoulder. Maybe it’s under pressure?

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Remember these console record-players? You never know what you’ll find at Goodwill.