I Know What I Did Last Summer . . .

For those number of you who have inquiring minds and want to know

Smallboobug

This mantis is ready for the creepies and goblins, as it’s already preying on a ghost. (CREDIT: Archive of bad puns.)

(hi, hubby o’ mine!), here’s a round-up of a few things that have been on my mind of late, what I’ve seen, read, or been working on and so forth. Let it henceforth be know as a Smorgasblurb, or daisy-chain of what’s-its, widgets and, quite possibly, the world’s best collection of literary bric-a-brac.

1. Are you nervy, irritable, depressed, tired of life? Don’t keep that up! Here’s a short, down-to-earth post by author Dan Alatorre to help dispel the writer’s imposter syndrome that all some I have been feeling this summer and into the now-autumn.

2. Followed by the not-so-flattering assessment, albeit literary, of the United States’ commander in thief, by the ever-creative Rebecca Solnit (“The Loneliness of Donald Trump”) and available on Literary Hub. My favorite turn of phrase is in the very last graf: “The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego . . . One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall.” And that, folks, is how you bring it on home (whether you agree with the message or not).

3. I’ve had quite a few “close, but no cigar” with my writing this year, so the main thing I’ve got in the pipeline right now is a short story in the Biketopia anthology of feminist speculative fiction. (Yes, that.) But seriously, Publishers Weekly has said it’s “…a deeply moving and powerful anthology. ” Wow! 

P.S. Have you got anything close to publication or recently published? I know for a fact that some of you do. So consider this your pop quiz! Your chance to blast your own horn. Please feel free to comment in the ol’ leave a reply section below. And thanks!

4. A couple weeks ago I was pursuing one of my hobbies by perusing a nearby community’s town-wide yard sales. There was an old truck parked across from a church, and I don’t know why, but I stopped to look at the wares situated among the dust. Nothing there was probably anything anyone would need or want, but the woman tending them kept engaging me, imploring me to take a look at this or that. So, I got to talking with her and, unfortunately, concluded that she most likely has some level of mental illness and lives in her truck (long story) with these two kittens she says she couldn’t bear to leave at home because they got scared. Anyhow, without trying to sound sanctimonious, have you ever looked around you to everyday people and situations? We seem to not see images we are regularly exposed to, with them fading bit-by-by, day-by- day. Perhaps it’s something as simple as misplaced keys or something vastly more important: an invisible person or unjust situation or environmental problem that just keeps persisting in a sad state mostly because of apathy.

In short, have you tried helping anyone or anything in need lately?

Our opportunities to be loving and helpful to our fellow humans abound (and not only during natural disasters): to earthquake victims in Mexico, for Puerto Ricans who might not have potable water or electricity for weeks or months, Rohingya families driven out of Myanmar/Burma, bombed-out Yemeni people starving to death or dying of cholera, or innocent people rotting into the rubble of Syria. It turns out, if we look, I mean really look, we will probably find that there’s a literal neighbor of yours or mine who is silently in need. It can certainly be very depressing and soul-submerging to confront all the violence and hatred in the world; you’re only one person, right?! But . . . Whatever you do, just try. 🙂

5. Now, on to a much more pleasant topic. If you love fantasy, fae, and fairy tales like I do—you’re probably a super-fan, in fact, as I feel like I can never learn enough from all the world’s cultures—you will want to support Enchanted Conversation, a fairy tale magazine. Not only does this publication pay authors, but its editor/creator Kate Wolford helps keep the word percolating about how fairy tales and fabulism resonate and enrich our lives today . . . whenever we see an Emperor with No Clothes or a squirrel digging hundreds of tiny nut-graves all over our yards to prepare for cold weather, a figurative army of furry ants guarding against unprepared grasshoppers. Please chip in to their Fundrazr campaign now (there are rewards beyond just knowing ‘you did good’!) and if you’re a poet or fiction writer, consider submitting to the “Godfather Death” issue now through Sept. 30th or the “Elves and the Shoemaker” taking subs in November.

6. Well, this is rather long, isn’t it? Here’s one more, and just in time for the scary month of October! Stitched Smile Publications is seeking your horror-themed stories for two different paying open calls, one about the Seven Deadly Sins and another about a drive-in pulsing on the warty split-lip of damnation. I’ve not worked with them before, but they’re listed on Duotrope and have a history of in-genre publishing with a stable of many authors. Good luck if ya do construe a boo or two for them, much like the mantis on the ghost above. And, with that, I’m in copywriting mode!

ONE FINAL WORD Hang in there, everyone; help is on its way (with apologies for the crudulous advert at the beginning)!!

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Friday Fictioneers: House-Called

It’s not often these days that I get to participate in Friday Fictioneers, but I love the photos Rochelle chooses, as well as reading what people come up with. And so, this fantasy drabble sprang forth. Hope you like it.

FridayFictioneers_24march2017

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

House-Called

genre: fantasy

Pearl placed the last of the enchantments. Each spike brimmed with unseen poison; every adamantine bar thrummed with mojo enough to keep terrors at bay. Continue reading

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

Open for Business_blog.jpg

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

Monday Markets: The Fantasy Fiction Edition

Aesop photo

Fables and nursery rhymes.

It’s that time again. Approximately every fortnight, a catchall market-conference-author appearance-publishapalooza listing, this one somewhat abbreviated as I’m working on a fiction piece under deadline (wish me luck). Hope you all will find something beneficial in this partly fantasy-based list, with dashes of mystery, paranormal, and even academics among the fables and fairy tales.

 

    1. Deadline March 1!   

      Got any bright bits of poetry or prose concerned with the lighter months of the year, approximately April through June? If so, you might like to consider sending them to this call for submissions for Beltane 2016 courtesy of Three Drops from a Cauldron. They note interest in: “Any myth, fairytale, or bit of folklore with a green, golden and growing feel – or even bright beauty with a dark side too: Persephone, Blodeuwedd.”  Submit up to 6 poems, or three flash fiction pieces, or one prose poem (750 words or fewer), with a short third-person bio. Full guidelines are available at the link. Good luck!


       

    2. Like your mysteries with flares of the paranormal?  If you answered yes, then you might enjoy C. Hope Clark’s Edisto-based series of thriller novels, “flawed heroine” and all. And, what’s more, you might learn from some of Clark’s upcoming writing workshops. Most are in the southern United States, particularly South Carolina, where Clark hails from, but if you’re nearby, you might like to visit. In addition to running a successful Web site, Ms. Clark offers free and paid e-newsletters. The free Funds for Writers newsletter lists some of the upcoming dates for Clark’s appearances, which I have excerpted some of here (many more are available on her Web site):

      Mar 3 – McCormick County Library, SC – Character Development – 6:30 PM
      Mar 10 – Calhoun County Library, SC – Character Development – 6:30 PM
      Mar 14 -21 – Edisto Beach, SC. Signing at Edisto Bookstore
      Mar 24 – Anderson County Library, SC – Character Development – 6:30 PM
      Apr 14 – Calhoun County Library, SC – Successful Editing – 6:30 PM
      Apr 28 – Anderson County Library, SC – Successful Editing – 6:30 PM
      May 5 – McCormick County Library, SC – Getting Published – 6:30 PM
      May 24 – Darlington Library, SC – Getting Published – 6:30 PM
      Jun 23-25 – Midwest Writers Center Conference – Davenport, IA
      Aug 18-21 -Killer Nashville Conference, Franklin, TN


    3. Due March 30. Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine is also looking for your fantastic(al), folkloric, fabulistic fiction; this time, the theme is “rain,” and it must appear as more than just a singular word in the story. The guidelines are fierce, so your fiction should follow and buttress that. If you want to get a good idea of what they’re seeking, read their site (for instance, their soaring Valentine’s Day edition) and/or purchase or borrow their books from the library or a friend, such as Beyond the Glass Slipper (by EC’s own Dr. Kate Wolford) or Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus, to name but a couple.


    4. Due March 31. For those academics among us, or those who still practice the art outside academe, the Writing Between the Lines Symposium invites proposal papers (abstracts) of 300 words or fewer on the intersection of the theory and the practice of creative writing. They note: “We invite papers which examine the lively dynamic between praxis and critical appraisal; explore the nature of creative writing as a research methodology; investigate its position within pedagogy and evaluate how it may be developed in order to elevate approaches to high quality research.” I first read about this call for 20-minute presentations on the Rhys Tranter blog. The proposals must be submitted electronically, and the symposium itself is in Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom.

As always, I’m wishing you a fulfilling week of writing/blogging, art-making, and living!

Day 6 of Thrilling Fiction: The Mutant in Microfiction

DragonEye Supermoon

Once upon a time one cloudy night . . .

Day 6 (Oct. 24 for me, though strangely not according to WordPress) has dawned and almost passed by. Here’s to crepuscular creative writing!

I had the good luck to rescue a huge turtle from the middle of the road today (safely, yay for us both!), as well as accomplish some Samhain shopping with ninja kid #1.

If only I could have invited those of you who enjoy breakfast for dinner to our dinner of homemade banana pancakes, crescent rolls stuffed with either spinach, cheese, tomato, and pepperoni or some variation on that theme, and pomegranate arils. Too bad the bread’s hidey-hole didn’t fool ninja #2 into eating his vegetables.

As to writing, I knew I wanted to do a story featuring neither the “real world” nor science fiction, but rather either something inanimate or something Other, probably in the “monster” realm. So, here you have it: very short and not so creepy today. Oh well. This microfiction story was based on a prompt I did a year or two ago, I think with me needing to use the words flammable, heroic, and caring.

Enjoy the respite from a longer story!

Her Mutant Mate

Caring. Heroic. The words circled three times and flopped down in Zia’s mind.

It was nothing of the sort. Instinctual, yes. Stoic, probably. Possibly even as cold as she imagined the moon’s surface to be.

Nevertheless, it was just what she did. Her chosen lot, for her love and her light: Nils.

He whimpered from his wheelchair. The slobber slid down the stubble-bordered crevices around his mouth, and she moved to blot them, knowing he’d probably twist his neck away—and yet, never be able to articulate exactly why.

She noticed that he wasn’t nearly as alert today. Each day leached more energy from him while also lashing her closer to his side.

Life is both flammable and fickle, she thought as she stroked him to sleep.

Especially when you’re mated—and as good as married—to an aging werewolf.

####THE END####

Day 3 of Thrilling Fiction: A Dark Fantasy Drabble

Well, perhaps only a smidge of a dark smudge, considering what follows is a drabble. This can serve as the 0.66 of the 6.66 days of Thrilling Fiction, can it not?


Of Humming Hearts and the Green Arts

Cow&Silo

I have all these photos of the Midwest, yet not one of a corn stalk. Or a dragon!

I’m surprised by how much they look like rootless extracted teeth. The Delworths gave me a couple handfuls to sow in the backyard, enough for three short, stubby rows in direct sun.

I hope they take.

Continue reading

“Clamp his two hands in strong chains” (speculative flash fiction)

I took this photo from Andree at Scribe's Cave, for a prompt she had in early March (that I missed). Apparently, it is the first photo-documented use of ether, circa 1855-1860. I was so disturbed by the photo, which I felt nefarious (especially in the "surgeon's" smug smirk), that I was compelled to write about it.

I used this photo from Andreé at Scribe’s Cave, who used it for a prompt she had in early March (that I initially missed). More info at end of story.

They caught me unawares, the young one and the two old enough to have hairy faces.

My body, their pelt, their possession. They sneered. I supposed they’d never heard tell of the Tamboti tree.

I could tell the wide blue-eyed one was scared, but he readied the trembling handkerchief anyway. Coerced, no doubt.

“We’ll make a lesson of yew, boy,” was the last sentence my ordinary limited senses lapped.

They were lucky the straps and the medication rivoted me temporarily in place as the haughty side man prepared the bone-saw and hot iron cross for my leg.

Photograph of the leopard from the African Wildlife Foundation. Please consider supporting their conservation efforts, if you can.

Photograph of a leopard, from the African Wildlife Foundation. Please consider supporting their conservation efforts.

The man under a dark drape held the box aloft, and I saw it flash through my eyelids even as I was transforming, screen of skin sliding in on itself.

I felt the color rising as my hide erupted in a riot of bristly hairs.

Soon my only instinct would be shunted toward a decision: do I play with these muslin bags of flesh before I shred them asunder?


First, more on the original photograph. Apparently, it is the first photo-documented use of ether, circa 1855-1860. I was so disturbed by the depiction, which I felt nefarious, that I felt compelled to write (or right, as the case may be) about it. After looking at the man on the table, my indignation sprang from what I interpreted as the “surgeon’s” smug look; admittedly, it’s difficult to see for certain, and I don’t have the “patient’s” backstory, although I seriously doubt informed consent was something practiced in those days, plus given the horrors of slavery, I’m doubtful the black man was either asked or told what they thought might happen during the operation. All that said, I could be incorrect, so please feel free to give me the backstory if you can provide data sources.

Now, as far as the discussion of the writing proper . . .

Please do check out One Starving Activist, where Andreé Robinson-Neal hosts Scribe’s Cave, especially if you’re a fan of speculative fiction (i.e., sci-fi, fantasy, or horror).

If you’re curious as to the partial inspiration/origin of this shape-shifter fantasy story, other than the awful legacy of slavery, particularly in American history, you have to look back to Greco-Roman myth and the character of Proteus.

“Aristaeus [the demi-god who invented beekeeping] wept, when he saw all his bees killed and honeycombs abandoned incomplete. His sea-blue mother [the Naiad Kyrene (Cyrene)] could scarcely console his pain, and attached these final words to her speech: ‘Stop your tears, my boy. Proteus will lighten your loss, and tell you how to regain what is gone. But so he does not baffle you by altering appearance, clamp his two hands in strong chains.’
The youth approaches the seer and binds the limp arms of the sleeping old man of the ocean. Proteus uses his art to shift and feign his looks, but soon resumes shape, mastered by chains.” — from Ovid, Fasti I, translated by Boyle (Fasti is the “Book of Days,” or, specifically, a partial poem in six books that detail the first six months of the Roman calendar)

In a different translation of Ovid from Latin (by James G. Frazer), Proteus is likened to a wizard rather than a seer.

Undelivered Valentines: A Serial Story

As Halloween 2014 drags its bloated, or soon-to-be-bloated, body nearer, of course I thought it appropriate for a love story of a different kind. I’m splitting the skull of this story into three pieces, for your (I hope) ease of reading and enjoyment. Comments and referrals are always appreciated. 🙂


 

_Ghost_ photo

Image from Ghost Study.

Undelivered Valentines: Part I

by Leigh Ward-Smith

An icepick of a shriek rocked me free from my tendrily bedsheets. As I bolted out, almost tripping on their thin cotton arms, I was just able to clap eyes on the garish red numbers: 2:59.

“Em, what’s wrong?” floated out of me before I even felt my toes scuff the frayed, but dense, carpet in the hallway outside her room. It was an inky Indiana night, sticky as a state fair cotton-candy funnel cake.

The hallway light I’d brushed on my way past threw an elongated white triangle onto the dark floor that slunk up the side of the bed.

“Th-th-there,” she pointed toward the closet, her arm board-stiff.

Continue reading

The Bermuda Banishment

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Friday Fictioneers photograph courtesy of Marie Gail Stratford. Be sure to check out her fiction and other works, too.

Flash Fiction by Leigh Ward-Smith

Genre: Modern Fantasy

For Friday Fictioneers, 26 Sept. 2014

 

A swell of laughter pushed through fleshy lips the color of the Calypso Deep.

“The Egyptians got it wrong with all that Isis prattle.” He traced the rough underside of an amber bottle with his thumb.

“Me, I relished washing impertinent man ashore.”

He marveled at his collection, which now filled thirty-three warehouses and the bar in Bermuda.

“Even Zeus’ conquests cannot rival mine. From every ellipse of the Earth and practically every nationality and language!”

His hubris drifted to rage about the banishment. At least I have these glass reminders of measly man, he gestured.

“In the end, I judge all humans’ hearts are the same.”

He picked a bottle at random and hurled it to the stone floor.

“Puny.”

 

Fantasy-Fix Friday

Happy flash fiction Fireday, or Friday, if you prefer, fantasy f(r)iends! This post is brought to you by the Internet: the once- and future dream of Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. But seriously, following is the introduction to a fantasy flash fiction piece that I threw into the ol’ summoning circle at Ksenia Anske’s blog, for her recent “Mad Tutu” writing competition. (For some reason, I’m unable to post a comment on Ksenia’s blog.) It was a blast and an honor to be included among such excellent and admirable hobbits. Erm, I mean writers. It’s not often I get to pepper-pot my prose with magic metaphors, so I was delighted to take part in Ksenia’s cavalcade of aspiring writers.


Mistranslated Magic

by Leigh W. Smith

“Devils of light . . . mend the moon,” Ryu repeated aloud, one long, black nail trailing words, a fleshly sentence-ninja of sorts. The edges of some of the book’s pages crunched like a chip, where others disintegrated or sent up a geyser of dust that made Josie think of dead people’s skin. Cellular confetti.

Josie, Ryu’s friend since first grade, had her doubts. “Are you sure that’s what it says?”

“Positive. Remember, I useta live in Canada.”

“Yeah, but only for a couple years. When you were a little kid.”

He tapped a finger at his left temple and drawled steel trap, whose action reminded them both of a shared bonding experience: dredging up a spliced copy of the “Terminator 2” movie scene where the T-1000 shape-shifts its arm into a steel blade to casually spear the man’s skull.

Both teens erupted, with Josie just managing to croak out “Aluminum, maybe” amid snickers.

“Seriously, Ry, what does that mean? I don’t think it’s French.”

“It’s a magic book, I’m certain of it. Anyway, let’s take it for a spin, shall we?” A black eyebrow quirked. . . .

  • If you’re interested, check out the rest of my story, which is approximately 997 words all told (thanks again, Ksenia!). Two fun-starved teens, some beer lollipops, and darker, ravening things await you.
  • Here’s writer Philip Wardlow’s triumphant story, “The Summoning.” A snarky demon, some wily witches, and one very interesting brick lie therein.
  • Do peruse the other stories submitted. A slew of characters beckon you, from a sloshed granny to a naked Frenchman to an albino Goth-girl born in a basement.
  • Finally, be sure to visit Ksenia’s blog for a hip-pocketful of helpful insights on the writing life; for instance, on successful self-publishing or one of Ksenia’s own books, like Blue Sparrow: Tweets on Writing, Reading, and Other Creative Nonsense.

    Lecter mask-pic

    I’m champing at the bit to read the rest of Leigh’s story. Aren’t you?