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Writer In Progress

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.

~E.L. Doctorow

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Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Posted by Rob Smales on June 19, 2017 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (1)


Image result for surprise public domain clip art

Hey, happy June! Thanks for stopping by.

They say things come in threes. They also say three’s company, third time’s the charm, and go on three! I think I’ve said all those things, but the one that applies today is that things come in threes: specifically, surprises.

There’s a local dark fiction-focused public reading that happens every couple of months, at Koto Japanese bar and grill in Salem MA. It’s called Wyrd, and I tend to go sit in the audience even if I’m not going to read; it’s good to get out and see some of my peers once in a while.

At about 11:30 pm a couple of Tuesdays ago, my Facebook Messenger dinged. Loudly. I was practically lying on the phone, so it actually scared the shit out of me. It was Curtis, the man behind the Wyrd, saying he’d had a cancellation about a day and a half before the event, and asking if I could fill in.

Could I? Sure! I broke out my stopwatch and got together a reading that would fit the slot, went to Wyrd and had a great time. I even sold a few books! So that was surprise number one; a good surprise: I got to go hang with some of my writerly peeps, and we all had a good time.

Moving on. The Storyside (a writers’ collaborative I’ve worked with for three years now) had an appearance scheduled for this past Saturday: we were slated to give a panel discussion to a bunch of library patrons about being in a writers’ collaborative, and what we were doing to try to make a success of it. It was even going to be taped for local television! The appearance had been scheduled for about a year and a half, which was plenty of notice to prepare, but here’s the thing: I work for the postal service, and over the years they’ve gotten a little wyrd . . . excuse me, weird about giving time off. Though the event had been scheduled for eighteen months, I could only put in for the day off forty-five days in advance, and even then there was no way to force some hustle on the answer. Sadly, I’d told the rest of The Storyside to simply assume I wouldn’t be there and plan accordingly—which they did. I acted brave when they could see me, saved my sad face when they couldn’t, and planned to just watch the thing when it hit the local network.

Then, one week before the event, my slip came back approved. I could go! So I did, and that was surprise number two: I got to hang with some of my writerly peeps, and we all had a good time. On television. Manly squee (Is there such a thing? Is there really?)!

Moving on. Again. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I write a monthly column over at Cinema Knife Fight, called Monster Movie Madness. Just last night I sent in my column for Tuesday. Sadly, it was the last one I had. I try to have one or two in the works at all times—maybe not finished, but with the bulk of the work done, so that if I forget and am in the middle of something big the next time a column is due, I’m not caught completely flat-footed.

Knowing my little buffer bank was empty, I sat down while I was over at my son’s house last night to watch a movie to review, making notes as the plot progressed. I’m not going to tell you what film it was (you’ll have to read my column to find out! Muhahahahahaaa . . . ), but quite a few of my notes concerned the way the film was shot: the whole thing was very dark and shadowy—it was a ghost story, I’ll tell you that much—and they seemed to be trying to set a spooky tone. But for Christ’s sake, this was a film I’d heard some good things about, and there were scenes that were so dark I couldn’t see what was going on. I rewatched several scenes, sometimes multiple times, just to try to figure out what the hell was happening. It was a ninety-minute movie I’d been watching for almost two hours, and I still had about a half hour to go when it was time to give my son’s girlfriend a ride home and head for home myself.

I dashed to my room when I got home, notes in hand, determined to power through that last 30 minutes in 30 minutes, and get this damned nightmare of wondering what the hell is going on? over with. I’d even stopped the film in the middle of one of those dark scenes, where I couldn’t see anyone’s faces, and sure it was spooky, but it was also annoying as hell. I powered up the TV, logged into NetFlix, scrolled to the correct film, clicked Resume, watched as that annoyingly black scene began rolling across the screen and . . . could see the whole scene, clear as day.

Wait—what?

I rewound a bit, hit Play. There was the same conversation I’d been listening to before I’d had to stop, but rather than squinting at the screen and cursing, I could now see everything quite well. I backed up to another one of those dark scenes, then another, and could see everything quite well: backgrounds I hadn’t known were there, on-screen actions I’d not seen before—it looks like a completely different film. A well shot, well-lighted film.

Sonofabitch!

It occurred to me, as I was throwing the angry I can’t see a #@$%ing thing! notes away, that the last one to use the television over at my son’s house was my son. Might he not have fiddled with the brightness for some reason? It wouldn’t even have to be a good reason; he’s fourteen, and if I ask him why, he’ll most likely shrug and say I dunno.

So I have to watch that film again, hopefully tonight, if I can fit it in, and that was my third surprise: I wasted two hours of my life—was actually pretty annoyed for two hours of my life—because I dunno.

So there, I’ve had my three surprises. Two were good, but the third was not. The third actually kind of sucked. A lot. Can I be done now, Universe? Can I go back to the whole daily grind thing?

Please?

Talk to you later!


Moving Day (Welcome Back!)

Posted by Rob Smales on May 22, 2017 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)


Welcome to Writer in Progress—or, if you’ve been here before, welcome back!


I know I haven’t been here in a while, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting on my ass eating bon-bons—and if you’re a WYMOP reader, yeah, I’m about to run through the What I’ve Been Doing list again. Please bear with me.


Since starting this website back in 2011, I’ve had more than two dozen short stories published, written for a couple of short fiction websites, won some small writing contests, written and had published a short story collection (and it’s good) and a novella in an anthology (ditto!), won two readers’ choice awards (one from Preditors and Editors, the other from the Gothic Readers Book Club), been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, joined a writers’ collaborative called The Storyside, edited an anthology (and I’ll be piloting another one shortly), written and am currently shopping around a short book titled Friends in High Places, formed one half of S&L Editing (two editors for the price of one!), for the past two years I’ve written the monthly Monster Movie Madness column over at Cinema Knife Fight, and for six years (off and on, mostly on) I’ve been blogging over at While You’re Making Other Plans (WYMOP).


This is not to mention the stuff I’ve written the public has never seen: more than another dozen short stories, two novellas, two and a half novels, and the collaboration I’ve been working on for the past several months (which is nearing first draft completion, and we’re super excited!) I’ve barely had time to scratch my ass, never mind sitting on it to wrestle the lid from the bon-bons!


Okay, that’s the old stuff, and hopefully the last time I’ll be boring over here. I’m transitioning my blog over here from WYMOP for a couple of reasons, both outlined in my last post over there, but the short of it is this: I need to work on and maintain my pitiful website. The home page says it’s under construction right now, and it’s not kidding. There have been some major changes here already, and there are many to follow—including maybe a name change? Make things less confusing? How’s The Official Rob Smales Website sound? Yes? No? Seriously, I’m asking and any comments left below will be looked at with all kinds of consideration.


So, if you’re someone who was directed to my site via the blurb in the back of a book (either one of mine or an anthology containing my work), from seeing/hearing an interview or review, or even one of my own business cards, and found the place lacking any current information about me, my apologies. I’m working on fixing that now, and I’ll be blogging over here at least once a month from now on—hopefully some entertaining shit from time to time. And if you’re someone who’s followed me over from WYMOP looking for that entertaining shit, I hope you won’t be disappointed.


To that end, on with the entertaining shit! The Storyside has a new book coming out June 6, Insanity Tales III: Seasons of Shadow, and I have a couple of stories in there. One of them, “A Bee,” is a little tale of foster placement gone a little awry. For your reading pleasure, the following is an excerpt from that story.





A BEE 


Rob Smales


“Nervous?”


“Of course.” Judy turned to look at him, but Pete continued staring through the window overlooking the playground, where a dozen or so children ran about in the sunshine. A game of tag was in progress, and he smiled, watching them play.
“Well, don’t be. We’ll do fine.”


She pushed his shoulder playfully. “Oh, don’t even pretend you’re not nervous.”


He continued to smile, ignoring the butterflies holding a rugby scrum in his stomach. “We’ll do fine.”


“Yes, you will.”


They turned toward this new voice, Judy’s hand slipping into Pete’s, gripping it with nervous strength. Elizabeth Davis closed the thick manila case folder on her desk, pushed it aside, and folded her hands on the blotter, dark eyes serious beneath salt-and-pepper bangs.


“You’ve completed all the training and paperwork. I’ve got copies of your CPR certifications, individual evaluations, and results of the home inspection. Everything in here”—she tapped the folder—“looks just fine. I must officially commend you on your preparation for becoming foster parents, and personally thank you for immediately joining the emergency foster home list. There are children out there who need more people like you.”


The little woman’s serious demeanor broke, her teeth flashing a grin. “Let’s stop beating about the bush and introduce you to your new foster child, shall we?”


Judy’s grip relaxed as she sagged with relief. Somewhere inside Pete a whistle blew, and the scrumming butterflies halted the play and took a timeout, milling about the field.


“I’ve been trying to pick her out from the photos,” he said, indicating the playground, “but I can’t seem to find her.”


“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. McCormack." Mrs. Davis strode to the door. “You won’t find Abby out there.” She held the door, directing them into the hallway. “Come this way, please.”


She led them down the hall to the elevator, where, rather than pushing the 1 for the ground floor, Pete saw she pressed the button marked B. Judy got the question out just a fraction faster than Pete.


“She’s in the basement?”


“It’s where she feels safest. It’s that bee allergy mentioned in her file—remember? That’s why we asked so many questions about your area.”


The elevator bumped to a halt, the door sliding open to reveal a cinderblock corridor painted an industrial gray. Mrs. Davis took a half-step forward, keeping the door open with an outstretched hand as she faced them, her expression troubled.
“I’m sorry, I know you’ve answered this—and a hundred other questions—but you don’t have any bees where you live, do you?”


Pete and Judy exchanged a look. “No, ma’am,” he said. “Like we said, we live on the coast, on a road that dead-ends at a salt marsh. Not a lot of flowers, I’m afraid, but there never were many bees. What with scientists claiming that bees are disappearing, I don’t think I’ve seen any lately.” 

He looked at Judy, who shook her head, then back to Mrs. Davis. “Nope. Still no bees.”


Mrs. Davis looked at her shoes, out into the corridor, and then back up to not quite meet Pete’s eyes: the very picture of uncomfortable and defensive.


“I know you read about Abby’s allergy, and I’ve mentioned it, and I did note your certificate in the use of an EpiPen. But I still feel compelled to mention it again—can’t stress it enough, in fact. It is severe. Severe. Bees are a serious threat to her life, even with the EpiPens. Am I being clear?”
They nodded, and Mrs. Davis led them off the elevator and down the corridor. “The safest thing, we’ve found, is to simply keep her away from any place bees might come. That’s what we’d officially advise. Indoor activities. She goes along with this much better than you’d think. She’s aware of her condition, and takes it very seriously for a six-year-old. She’s terrified of bees, and—well, like I said, down here is where she feels the most comfortable.”


She ushered them through a door into a large chamber filled with all the accouterments of a child’s playroom: shelves of toys, a long chalkboard, even a plastic indoor play set complete with two tiny swings, a see-saw, and a slide.


Sitting on a checkerboard carpet amid a splash of wooden alphabet blocks sat a small girl, all pale skin, blond hair, and huge blue eyes. As they walked in, the tiny thing put down the block she’d been holding and stood uncertainly. Pete surveyed the room, disbelief and anger washing through him.


I don’t care how nicely it’s set up, he thought, or how bad her allergy is. What the hell is a six-year old girl doing left in a basement room all alone?


He turned to Mrs. Davis, that very question on his lips, when Judy strode past so fast it startled him, dropping to her knees just a step or two away from where Abby shifted from foot to foot.


“Hi, Abby. I’m Judy, and that”—she pointed—“is Pete. We would really like it if you’d come stay with us for a while.” She gestured about the playroom. “We don’t have any rooms like this in the house, but I can promise you won’t be left all alone again. Not unless you want to, that is.” She held out a hand. “What do you say? Will you give us a chance?”


The girl had gone still as Judy spoke. Now she looked at the outstretched palm as if not sure what to do, then reached out a small hand to grasp Judy’s fingers. Abby took a single step forward, and the smile that spread across her face was enough to bring tears to Pete’s eyes as she nodded, throwing her arms about a surprised Judy’s neck.


“I know I go on about the allergy,” Mrs. Davis murmured behind Pete, “because her safety is my primary concern, but it’s her lack of speech that makes her an emergency placement. She can speak—at least, she says her name—but doesn’t. Dr. Skasi, our staff psychologist, believes it’s stress related, and a stable, less clinical environment, one with more one-on-one attention than she can get in a facility like this, will help her regain her speech naturally. We’ll be looking for a permanent placement for her, but if she would talk to us we might even be able to locate her biological parents.”


Pete turned to the door, again with the intent of asking a question—this time about permanent placement—but it slipped from his head when he saw Mrs. Davis: she stood in the doorway watching the tableaux in the middle of the room, file folder hugged to her chest, wearing a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes; they still looked as they had when she’d been unable to meet his gaze on the elevator: uncertain and maybe even . . . afraid?


What the hell?


**********


That’s all of the story I can give you here; to post the whole thing would be unfair to the other writers in the book with me, plus there’s this little thing called a contract. If you want to read the rest, though—and for no more than I was charging you here—all you have to do is go over to The Storyside and sign up for the newsletter to receive a free PDF copy of the whole story, “A Bee,” as a gift (unless you’re already subscribed—then just keep an eye on your email, we’ve not forgotten you). Or you could simply wait until June 6 and buy the book when it comes out, and get my other short, “Tracks in the Snow,” as well as “A Bee.”


Wow, I’m starting to sound like a commercial. I think that means it’s time to go.


Talk to you later, and welcome (back) to Writer in Progress.



Instant Review

Posted by Rob Smales on March 31, 2016 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I was in Portsmouth New Hampshire the other night, at the Author's Night by the Sea, when an older woman came by our table and was fascinated by my Carol of the Bells chapbook.

"Well," she said, "my name is Carol."

"Oh," I replied with a smile. "So is the main character in this story. That's where the title comes from."

"It's only four dollars?"

"Well," I said, "it's very short—just forty pages."

"I'll take it!"

I did warn her that, though the book cover was designed to resemble a Christmas card, it's not a happy Christmas story. I even pointed out the skulls worked into the cover art. Nevertheless she bought the book . . . then walked to a nearby refreshment table where she took a seat and proceeded to read it not fifteen feet away from me.

Yikes?

I couldn't help but glance over from time to time, wondering if she'd gotten to the bad part yet. She was a rather sweet-looking woman, and the temptation to slip on over there and tell her whether the Carol in the book makes it or not was huge, but I resisted. It is, as I said, NOT a happy Christmas story.

Eventually she closed the book, slipped it into her handbag, stood, and, leaning on her granddaughter, started for the door—by way of our table.

Oh, terrific, I thought. Is she coming by to express disappointment that it wasn't what she was expecting? Perhaps ask me why I write this kind of stuff? Wave a grandmotherly finger in admonishment?

She walked right over to take my forearm in a gentle grip, much as she held onto her granddaughter with her other hand, and give it a gentle shake.

"This is good!"

I melted.

November - Ending With a Surprise

Posted by Rob Smales on December 8, 2012 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Okay people, this should actually be a short one. For those of you with attention deficit disorder, it should be -- hey! Where the hell are you going? Get back here! Even your attention span isn't that short!

Narration:

Episode 19 of the podcast Protecting Project Pulp stars the work of author Thomas Thursday in the form of the story Ten Dollars - No Sense. The story is voiced, however, by yours truely. It's free, and if you can get by the poor voice work the story's pretty good. Every show put on by The District of Wonders has some of the very best short fictionout there. Do yourself a favor and give one of the shows a listen. Just to make it easy on you, here's a link to my episode -> http/protectingprojectpulp.com/protecting-project-pulp-no-19-tom-thursday/

Writing:

One Buck Horror has yet to reply to me about the story I submitted last month, Saying Goodbye. I still have my fingers crossed.

While waiting, I've written two more stories: a sci-fi short called You've Got Mail (where a man figures out how to avoid any and all junk mail, with surprising results) and a sci-fi/horror crossover called It's In The Blood. It's In The Blood was written for submission to the Blood Type anthology, a collection of science fiction vampire stories. Both stories are in the editing phase, one of them being out with a couple of test readers at the moment.

Other than that I've been working on getting my small collection, The Dead of Winter edited so I can send it out for publishers to look at. I think I'd really like to try to have a book out there with my name on the cover rather than in the Table of Contents as a 'contributing author'. I'm working on it.

Sales:

I went down to Fiskdale Massachusetts back on December 1st and threw some of my stuff down on the New England Horror Writers sale table at the Tantasqua High School Holiday Craft Fair. I'd never even been to a Craft Fair before, never mind working at one. How did I do? I already wrote a blog entry about it over at WYMOP, so I won't do it all again here. I'll just put a link right here and you can click on it to read the story whenever you like --> Click HERE for WYMOP

In Future:

Something I'm looking forward to is being on The Roundtable Podcast sometime in the future. Roundtable is a show where two writers invite in a third, someone considered to be a successful writer, as a Guest Host. Then the three of them have a fourth writer on the show, a newer writer who comes to the show with a story idea, and the four of them workshop the idea for about an hour, trying to shape it into a full novel idea. It's a terrific show if you're interested in the way people create stories from nothing, and I'm just waiting for then to get a hold of a Guest Host in the field of Horror so they can slide me into the show schedule. I love the show, and it should be a lot of fun.

...and the Surprise:

Do you remember that little story I wrote called Photo Finish? The one in the anthology The Ghost IS The Machine? The one my friend Paul out in California was such a help with, reading it and helping me edit when I got stuck? I was just notified the other day that back in the last days of November Eric Beebe, the man who runs Post Mortem Press, the publisher of the book The Ghost IS The Machine, nominated Photo Finish for a Pushcart Prize for excellence in fiction. For those of you who may not know, here's a short blurb from the Pushcart Press website:

 

The Pushcart Prize - Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in the pages of our annual collections.

Writers who were first noticed here include:Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, Jayne Anne Phillips, Charles Baxter, Andre Dubus, Susan Minot, Mona Simpson, John Irving, Rick Moody, and many more. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series.

 

Have I won? No. Could I win? Eric Beebe seems to think so. Am I happy about this? You bet your ass.

I guess I have to thank Paul again for the assistance he gave me with that particular project.

Dude, you are officially my bestest friend.

 

Okay, that's all I have for this month's update. Y'all go read something, I'll go write something, and I'll meet you back here in a month.

Deal?

 

Talk to you later!

October - Reading, Writing, and... well, more Reading.

Posted by Rob Smales on November 14, 2012 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

 

 

Happy November! I'll jump right into this one.

 

The Coffin Hop: Some Reading

October was a busy month, but mainly due to the Coffin Hop and my lack of preparation for it. For those of you who might not know, the Coffin Hop is a virtual shop-hop with better than 100 horror writers linking their blogs and websites together for a huge, week-long event. There are contests and games and drawings, all with prizes, and it's a lot of fun.

Usually.

I, having been doing narration recordings for the District of Wonders podcasts for the past few months had decided a long time ago that my special thing for the Coffin Hop was to be a small podcast of my own. The original idea was to do the show every day for a month, but that got cut down pretty quickly.  With everything that went on a couple of months ago I actually forgot all about it until the beginning of the month. That's when I found out that all the pre-work I had done on it - choosing and editing the intro and outro music, doing the voice-over for the intro, a couple of stories already recorded for it, stuff like that - had gone missing. I thought I burned it all onto a CD but apparently I had a little glitch, and what my computer said was a CD filled with data I needed was really still blank.

The week before the Coffin Hop was due to begin was NOT the time to be finding this out, let me tell you.

 

I did pull it together a little and managed to get out seven days of shows, one to be released each day of the Hop. You can find them on The Storyteller on my "Ten Minute Tales" page. Each has a little bit of a talk-up from me and then you can hear one of my Friday Fright flash pieces read aloud for your enjoyment. You may have already read them, they're all on my "Friday Flash" page, but if you haven't, or if you're just curious as to what my stories sound like, then stop on by for a Ten Minute Tale, close your eyes, put your feet up, and let me tell you a story.

The rest of the Coffin Hop was okay, and I even managed to give away a few e-books containing my work.

The District of Wonders: More Reading

The District of Wonders is a podcast network where you can find four different podcast shows -- think of them like old radio shows, and you're pretty much on the money. Each show deals with a different genre of fiction and gives you a different story from that genre each week. Some are new, some are classics, and there is something for everyone there at The District of WondersTales to Terrify covers the Horror angle, Starship Sofa hands out weekly gems of Science Fiction, Crime City Central opens their files each week for tales of cops and robbers (or even robbers and robbers if the fancy strikes them) and Protecting Project Pulp doles out old-fashioned Adventure stories, occasionally starring guys who make Indiana Jones look like a bit of a sissy.

I while ago I started working for the District (for free, of course) doing story narrations for them to play on the air. Someday I'd like to make some money at it, but for now I'm trying to learn the ropes from working with a few professionals who also donate their time to the District. I've read a few stories for them, but I've yet to make it on the air --  so far I'm just helping them fill up the story bank they use to put the shows together.

I've yet to make it on the air, that is, until now.

I've been working for a while with Dave Robison, the voice behind Protecting Project Pulp, trying to get a particularly tricky narration (snappy patter from the 1920's... you try reading that stuff cold and getting the rhythm right!) ready for the show, and I think I have it. By the time any of you are reading this we have the show in the can (so to speak) and I'll be the voices for the fiction portion of the show this Monday, 11-20-2012. Stop on by any time next week after Monday morning when the new show uploads and give it a listen. Hell, download it and take it with you -- it's free, and Dave puts on a really good show.

One Buck Horror - Again: The Writing

Yeah, I told you all last month that One Buck Horror would be hearing from me again. I've read an issue or two of their magazine, and I just know my stuff would be a good fit in their books. I just have to hit the right tone for them. I've submitted a quirky little tale I call Saying Goodbye with them, and now I'm stuck waiting for a letter of acceptance or rejection.

Terrific. I just love waiting.

The good news is they seem to have a pretty fast turnaround time with regard to acceptance/rejection, so I won't have to wait long. I'm sure I'll be able to let you all know by next month just how gently they let me down.

Waitaminute... Heartwarming Tales?: Yup - More reading, but for YOU this time!

Latter Day Saints Publishing has finally gotten out that Christmas anthology I've been waiting for! It's titled Checkin' It Twice & Other Heartwarming Holiday Tales, and includes a story I wrote a couple of years ago (when I was just starting this writing ride) called Fishing Buddy. You can find it over on Amazon.

This is my first published story not in the Horror genre, so I finally have a book I can give to my grandparents to read without having to provide any kind of warning or disclaimer. Huzzah!

A Reading: Okay, yes, this is the last of the Reading

...And last but not least, last month I attended a Reading/Signing event where writers/authors stand up before a crowd and read a sample of their work in an effort to get the aforementioned crowd to buy it. It was the first of these events for me, and since I already wrote about it over at my weekly blog, While You're Making Other Plans..., I'll just send you over there for the full story with this link to my post called A Reading? Check it out, if you haven't already. You'll probably laugh... I know I did...

 

And that's about all I have to say about last month. I have a few more short stories pounding their fists on the inside of my skull at the moment, all trying to get out and be heard, plus something a little larger, maybe novella-sized that's lurking in the background and making occasional surges for the door. That larger idea, the bigger story, is something that had me sitting by the roadside while I was supposed to be delivering my route laughing with pleasure at the thought of a story idea like that coming out of my head. You'll be hearing a little about that soon, trust me.

 


Talk to you later!

September: Editing, Reviews and Lists, Oh My!

Posted by Rob Smales on October 14, 2012 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy October!

For those of you who like quick reads, I think I'm offering you another one this month as last month not a lot happened with me as a writer. Not compared with SOME of the months I've had.

New Business: 

I did write a couple of short stories last month, one titled It's a Kind of Magic, the other (working title) Host. neither was for a specific submission call, so they don't have any intended homes as yet. Indeed, I don't even have any pressure to streamline them and get them ship-shape, though I think I'll be trying to edit Host soon. It's the creepier of the stories, and at 10,000 words it's the larger task to tackle than the 4,000 word Magic. These stories were just things I had clunking around in my head for a while, and they did get me writing again after more than a month off.

Oh... and another little thing. Okay, not so little, I'm actually quite happy about it: I was accepted into the Horror Writers Association as an Associate Member. This means I can claim to be a writer with the HWA in good standing, and I have a few more resources that I lacked before. Some terrific resources, actually. I'm on the waiting list for their Mentor Program, so hopefully sometime in the (not too distant?) future I'll have someone much more experienced than me that I can go to with all my questions... like 'Did Adam and Eve even have belly buttons?' ...okay, maybe not that specific question, but they can help me out ar an aspiring writer...


Old Business:

I am currently working on editing a collection of mine that I have mentioned previously called The Dead of Winter. Two (somewhat lengthy) short ghost stories and a novella all set in the months of winter. I am hoping to start shopping that around to certain publishers I have in mind next month. I'll have to let you know how that turns out...


Submissions

Last month, if you recall, I submitted a short titled The Gardener to One Buck Horror. They got back to me recently with a polite rejection, so I turned around and immediately submitted it with an E-zine called Lamplight. These are both professional paying markets, so I'm hoping Lamplight finds my story more to their liking than One Buck did. Fingers crossed. And One Buck will be hearing from me again. Soon.

In my August posting I mentioned that back in July I had submitted my story Playmate Wanted (originally published in Dark Moon Digest more than a year ago) to Scarlett River Press for their Zombies vs. Werewolves anthology. I recently received an email saying it has been accepted for publication by them as a reprint, so you can keep your eye out for me to be promoting that little collection in future!

Oh! And if you're looking for a Christmas book to read this year, or maybe one to give away as a gift, be on the lookout for Checking it Twice&Other Heartwarming Holiday Tales from LDS Publishing. It's my first foray into non-horror publishing, just a straight-up heartwarming Christmas anthology, and I've gotten word that it will be hitting the virtual shelves at Barnes&Noble and Amazon within the next few weeks. Possibly very few. I'll definitely be keeping you posted about that next month!


Reviews:

Dangers Untold, the most recent anthology to feature my work, has been receiving some good reviews, and not just Reader Reviews on Amazon. There are three different reviews, one on Goodreads, one on https://tothebonereviews.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/dangers-untold-anthology-review/" target="_blank">To The Bone Reviews, and the last (that I know of) in Dark Media Online, that give quite favorable reviews of the book -- and all three specifically mention my story, Mutes as one of the standouts inthe collection. You can click on the publication names to see the actual reviews. If you like. I know I did!


Lists:

The Ghost IS The Machine has been out for a while now, and I'm still quite proud of it and the story I have in there, Photo Finish. Last month I found out that the HWA has a 'Recommended Reading List', that the members spend the year getting together for the judges for the Bram Stoker Awards. Just things they point out to the judges over time for them to keep an eye on when they start putting the nomination lists together for the Awards. Ghost  is on the list.

The list is made public every year, so you can follow that link up there right to it if you like. Just in case you don't, however, I'll quote some of the page to you here:

"This list of Bram Stoker Award Recommendations is compiled during the year by members of the Horror Writers Association. We make it available to the public as something of a 'reading list' for horror readers and fans. These works are all new horror published during the year that our members feel worthy of recommending for Bram Stoker Award consideration. They are not 'Bram Stoker Award nominees', nor are they part of any ballot process at this stage, but it is likely they represent some of the best new horror fiction, poetry and non-fiction published during the year.

Please note that if your work appears on this list that the Association's Bram Stoker Award etiquette specifically precludes advertising that fact: "You may not promote your work as "Bram Stoker Award Recommended", nor as appearing on the Bram Stoker Award Reading List. Receiving one, or a handful of Bram Stoker Award recommendations (which is how a work appears on the Bram Stoker Award Reading List) is a far cry from winning the Award or even from being listed on the preliminary ballot. It devalues the Bram Stoker Awards to have their name attached to works whose only defining characteristic may be that one or two HWA members liked them. Authors or publishers who promote their work in this manner run the risk of offending our voting members."

-Please also note, if there are any voting members out there who actually read this: my intention is not to publicly promote my work with this information, nor is it intended to offend any of you. I am, however, still new at this, and just the thought that someone out there who ostensibly knows what they are talking about really likes a book that features some of my work makes me very, very proud.


Closing:

Well, I think that's it for last month's news... and yeah, I guess I had a little more to say that I thought when I started this thing. Sorry about that...


...Talk to you later!

Not a Lot in August...

Posted by Rob Smales on September 10, 2012 at 6:20 AM Comments comments (0)

 

Hello, it's me again.

Due to what I've been referring to as a 'personal crisis', I actually didn't manage to write anything for just about the entire month of August, so there's not a lot to report right now.  I even suspended my narration work with The District of Wonders, figuring that would be better and look a little more professional than failing on any assignments. Well... let's see what I can come up with for News.

The Ghost IS The Machine is now out on Amazon and Barnes&Noble. There was a bit of a drive to get reader reviews for the book on Amazon, as there is apparently some evidence that reader reviews can actually effect sales. As of this writing the book has 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 6 reader reviews. One of the reviews actually mentions me by name, and makes me look really good - you can see that review by clicking HERE. It's the one titled "Nice Collection of Stories".  Hey, while you're there, why don't you leave a review for the book, if you've read it. Or even some of it? Just a star rating and a couple of lines, that's all... 

Zombies Need Love Too - I finally got to see the cover art for this book, and I have to say I love it. Just judging from the title I was expecting something somewhat terrible and horrific, but I was pleasantly surprised and I am looking forward to adding it to my little (but growing) shelf of contributor’s copies.

Although I couldn't concentrate on anything enough to write for a while, I was trying to keep my hand in. I did manage to edit a short story I wrote over a year ago called The Gardener, then submit it to One Buck Horror.One Buck Horror is the first professional-rate-paying publication I have submitted to, so I'm sitting here waiting with my fingers tightly crossed. Which would also explain why I'm getting this update out so late in the month -- have you ever tried to type with crossed fingers? It ain't easy.

So, that's all I have to say about last month. Short, but sweet.

Well, short anyway. Hopefully I'll get back on the ball and start getting things out there again; out of my head and into the real world where they belong.

 

Talk to you later!

 


And that was July... Can you Hear Me Now?

Posted by Rob Smales on August 7, 2012 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello, it's me again.

Just a quick rundown of what's been happening over here in my little corner of the world ... which is to say, my bedroom, mostly, though I write pretty much wherever I can.

The Ghost IS The Machine from Post Mortem Press will be available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble on August 14th, 2012. I just received my contributer's copy in the mail yesterday, and I'm thrilled with the thing. 

Following on the heels of that news I recently received word about the Horror Society's Dangers Untold, which features my story, Mutes. I got to see the cover art and found that the release is scheduled for October 1st, 2012 - just in time for Halloween!

My story The Colossal Monster was finally accepted for the Coffin Hop's Death by Drive-In anthology, but as of this writing I'm still waiting to hear a release date for the project. I do know people were asking if it was going to be available for them to give away during his year's Coffin Hop, so I have my fingers crossed and am eagerly awaiting my first view of the cover art.

Speaking of the Coffin Hop anthologies, the collection from last year, the working title of the project was Zombies Need Love Too, seemed to have stalled out, but there's recent news. The people behind the book have started their own small publishing company, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. They've picked up a cover artist and I might have some cover-art to promote in a couple of weeks. Yay!

Scarlett River Press did accept my story Bedtime Story for their book Rigorous Mortis, and once again I wrote a story that was way too long and had to cut it down. Thank you again to Paul out in California for giving it a read and helping focus my editing a little. That's three! 

Also from Scarlett River is the new anthology they put out a submission call for, Werewolves vs Zombies. They said they would accept a very few reprints (stories that have been published before) from well-established authors. I'm not exactly well-established (not even close) but I asked about sending in a reprint and they said to go ahead. I sent in Playmate Wanted, a werewolf story, and the first thing I ever had published. Again, fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I managed to win the Reader's Choice contest over at DarkMedia Ezine two weeks in a row. That means sometime soon a pair of my Flash Fictions will be published in their online magazine. When they do, I'll be putting links to them on my "Where to Find Me" page. Of course, if you don't feel like waiting you can find them on my Friday Flash page - they were Tribe, and Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

To show off all these things, I've created a new page at The Storyteller called "Where to Find Me". It's a list, with cover art when available, of every place you can find my published work. You'll see the new button in the navigation bar at the top of the page, and there are links on the page to places to buy the work if it's for sale or for you to read it if it's free. Enjoy!

In my downtime I've also managed to almost finish the first draft of Home Grown, my first real attempt at a novel. It's closing on 150,000 words, and needs some serious editing and streamlining before anyone sees it, but the rough cut is almost there. Huzzah!


...And now for something completely different.

I've been reading bedtime stories for years. I've always had fun with them, doing the voices, maybe a semi-dramatic reading, stuff like that. Well, I'm branching out in the storytelling business a bit, and I've joined the new District of Wonders as a narrator for some of their podcasts. Basically, the District of Wonders is the umbrella website or meeting place for four different genre storytelling podcast shows (imagine the old radio show Lights Out, or  Suspense. They're like that.). If you click on the link and go to the actual website, scroll to the bottom of their page and click the "Watch the Video" button. They explain the whole project and each website better then I ever could on my own. I've started narrating stories for them already (I'm working on my fourth one as I write this), though I'm just one of many narrators they have working for them.

And by 'working', I mean donating their time. 

No, I'm not making any money at this, but I'm having fun and learning how to do it. I have a fairly good microphone, some decent sound editing software, and there are some professional narrators and voice-over artists associated with the District that I can actually go to with questions. So I guess I'd haved to say 'No, I'm not making any money at this... yet.' But I'm learning. And in the meantime if you listen to the stories put out by the District of Wonders you may occasionally hear me.

Well, that's it for this month...except for one thing. Something happened while I was actually trying to write this post during my lunch.

Okay, here's the story:

I have a few FaceBook pages on which I publish links to my weekly Flash Fiction Horror stories. On these pages I've noticed I get 'Likes" and sometimes even comments from some people, and I see the same names popping up again and again -- it seems I have a few regular readers out there. 

Fantastic!

I posted links and the cover art for the new book, The Ghost IS the Machine on these same pages. Today, when I clicked over to FaceBook to look up the information on the Coffin Hop anthology I saw that one of the 'regulars' had commented on my Ghost IS post. She was asking if I had ordered any extra copies for myself to send out autographed. 

I hadn't even thought of that, and said so. She got back to me... and to make a long story short (yes, I know, 'too late') I'm ordering another copy to sign and send out to her at her request. 

Apparently I've picked up a fan.

I feel like a real writer!

Talk to you later!

June - Productive? Hmm... not so much...

Posted by Rob Smales on July 4, 2012 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Independence Day!

Don't worry folks, this should be much quicker than last month.

...wow, I can hear the sighs of relief from here...

Anyway, I have good news and bad news.

First, the good news: 

Do you remember that submission I made last month to the Post Mortem Press anthology called The Ghost IS The Machine? The one where I seem to have done everything wrong, that was practically an example of how not to submit a story for publication? I was just sitting here waiting to receive my rejection letter?

I got in.

I did an embarrassing happy-dance when I got the notice, but I got in, receiving a contract for royalties (as well as some proposed edits) instead.

Huzzah! Thanks again to my friend Paul out in California who acted as a reader for the story and helped me focus on which parts needed the most help in rewrites.

Good news part II... Scarlett River Press, a new publisher who's very first book I managed to place a story in, has become a paying market. They've put out calls for a couple more anthologies, and I have some lovely ideas for stories, one of which I'm working on right now. I still have to finish it up and get it submitted, and then accepted, but at least I have a slight working relationship with the publisher.

Good news part III - The creators of the Coffin Hop Blog Tour that I was involved in last Halloween, which is now becoming an annual event, are putting together an anthology called Death by Drive-In, the proceeds from which will be donated to charities to promote literacy. I submitted the story The Colossal Monster, have already received edit suggestions and resubmitted my rewrite. I haven't heard the final verdict yet, but I feel pretty good about it.

So, the focus of the good news seems to be that I'm moving upward through the ranks toward more professional markets. Yay me!


Now for the bad news:

Not a lot actually got written in June. I seem to work in cycles; I run from 'hey, this guy's really productive' all the way down to 'look at this clown, he can't seem to get out of his own way' . During June I cycled down to where by the end of the month I couldn't get out of my own way, and that's where I seem to be at the moment. I'm still struggling to finish editing Bedtime Story, so I can get it submitted to Scarlett River Press.

So, unless I somehow get on the stick I'll have even less to report next month.

...wow, I can hear even more sighs of relief from here...


Well, that's it for now. You should be able to find The Ghost IS The Machine available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble both in ebook and hard copy, by the end of this month. Even if my story turns out to be crap, you'll still have something to read from the award-winning author, Joe Hill, the big-name contributor to the book.

My thanks to the people at Post Mortem Press for giving my work a chance... and possibly paying me for it! (gleeful chortle!)


Talk to you later!

May - A Wild Month of Success and Failure

Posted by Rob Smales on June 3, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Hi everyone.

I know I skipped posting here last month, but I didn't get any complaints, so I figure it was alright with you folks. One month without my babbling - probably a pretty good thing. But here's what's been happening since that last post. It's been busy here.

Vamplit - The Friday Flash has continued to be written, though it's now going to a different place. All the Vamplit writers moved to a site called Dark Media City, which is the closed social network behind the monthly E-zine, Dark Media. Whereas on Vamplit the site was open, and anyone could go see our work, Dark Media City  requires membership to read our posts. I was a little bummed out about that, but then they told us about their contest. Every week our work would be voted on by Dark Media members, and the winner would be published in the next issue of Dark Media, a fairly popular free E-zine. Four winners per month, four flash pieces published from our group. 

Guess who won the first week? 

Here's a link to my story, Let Them Eat Cake, in the June issue of Dark Media. A few people have shared it to Twitter and Facebook already, and I'm pretty happy about it.

Scarlett River Press - The people at Scarlett River put out an anthology of horse stories to help support the Hilltop Haven Equine Rescue - every dime not going to cover the printing costs is earmarked for helping those horses, many of whom have been rescued from abuse and neglect. I am very proud to have had my story, Justice have been a part of this project, and have to thank my friend Laura for helping me with so much of the technical info about horses. Thank God I know someone who actually runs a farm!

Thank you Laura.

The anthology, Scarlet Whispers, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats, and I was beyond pleased to discover that we made it to #5 on Amazon's 'Hot New Releases: Best Anthologies' list. 

This just in - I just checked the list as I was writing this, and we've moved up to #2! I'll continue this post after I change my shorts - this is a fantastic showing for a brand new publisher with their first book!

Dangers Untold - Mutes  was accepted into the Dangers Untold anthology. Jennifer Brozek, the woman in charge of the project required some serious editing, but she loved the story. The editing was due to my inexperience and the fact that rather than taking any writing courses I'm learning by the 'trial by fire' method, and she was very helpful with it. I'm quite pleased that the story was accepted - the rate being paid for stories in this book will allow me to join the Horror Writers Association as an Affiliate Member, allowing me to claim to be a writer for the HWA. There are many benefits to being an HWA member, and I'm looking forward to being able to add my affiliation to my story submissions with pride.

Dark Moon Books - My story It's Not What You Think was in issue #11 of Dark Eclipse in the month of May, and Finders Keepers is in issue #12 this month. This month, though, I got a special treat. My story is in one of the anchor positions - the first story in the book. This means it's the first one people will see, and if you go to Amazon and check the book out, Finders Keepers forms the sample they use to hook in new readers.

Can you say proud?  I can.


Okay-- all that was the good news. Now...

Post Mortem Press - These fine people, a publisher with quite a good reputation, had put out a call for work for a new anthology of theirs called The Ghost Is The Machine, a collection of stories about haunted machines and technology. I'd been holding onto an idea for a story for better than a year that matched this perfectly, so I got right to work. It went downhill from there.

I had the whole month, and it took me three weeks just to get the 1st draft completed. They requested stories from 2,000 to 7,000 words in length, but my story, Photo Finish, came out to just over 10,000! I started to edit it down, but a 30% story reduction is a daunting thing, and I was in a panic about editing the story right out of the damn thing.  

I had one quick blessing in the middle of all this - my friend Paul out in California offered to give it a read and help point out weak spots in the story and places where I had edited it to death. This was terrific - I had been beating my head against the thing so hard and for so long I really couldn't even see it any more. He was a great help, and with his help I believe I was able to turn out a decent story of 7,500 words.

Thank you Paul.

Now it goes downhill again. I had until 11:59 pm on the 31st to submit the story, and during that last few days I wound up with some health issues that just slowed me down. It wound up being a sprint to the finish, like something you'd see in a movie: me feverishly pounding on the keys as fast as I could while keeping one eye on the clock, trying to turn out the story edits, get them all formatted, snap out a cover letterand get it all in the email before midnight. Due to some technical glitches, the story went out at 12:03 am. One day late.

I sent a note the next day to check on it, and to apologize, but lo and behold, magic had hapened! I was apparently sending it to the West Coast, and their receipt showed a 9:03 pm  time stamp! It was like the story went back in time and actually arrived before I sent it!

Amazing! Terrific! Wonderful!

And then, last night, I actually opened my copy if the file I sent to them.

Disaster.

I had been in such a rush to send it off I never checked the saved file. If I had, then I would have fixed all the auto-formatting I have my Scrivener program do while I work in it, and the story would have matched Post Mortem's submission guidelines. I thought it did, when I sent it. But I forgot to check.

Headers where they wanted none. Page counts where they had wanted none. A lack of indenting where they specifically requested a 1/4 inch indent. And the damn thing was still 500 words over their stated maximum.

So here I sit, calmly awaiting my rejection letter, drafting an apology note for the entire mess. I would still love to work with Post Mortem Press in the future, and I'd rather they knew I was just in a gigantic hurry than simply assume I'm incapable of following their stated directions.  I think I'll sit down and write up an article I can try to send to some writer's blogs, one aimed at newer writers explaining the real need to take your time and pay attention to detail. And follow Submission Guidelines.

I have a couple of back-up places to send Photo Finish, so hopefully it's not a total loss.

Paul, thanks again for your help. I'll most likely be tapping you again for some proof reading. Still up for it?


Well, that's it for this month's update. Last month was a bit of a wild ride, and a lot of fun. I have more fun planned for this month, more anthologies and magazines I plan to submit to... I just think I need to take it a little more carefully.

If you've read this far, congratulations! You have some serious stick-to-it-iveness!


Talk to you later!


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