Deadline approaching for the 2022 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest & a chance for inclusion in the Visions Anthology

Visions

Just a reminder:

The deadline to enter the 2022 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, May 31st. There’s still time to get your submission in for a chance to have your story included in the Visions anthology alongside other esteemed authors, but don’t delay. You can find the full submission guidelines and entry here.

The deadline is fast approaching and will be here before you know it. The winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card in addition to being featured in the anthology, but you can’t win if you don’t enter. If you write fantasy, science fiction, horror or paranormal short fiction, I want to read your story!


BOWLESIAN! – Tumbleweeds and Little Girls

Tumbleweeds and Little Girls

They had the tumbleweed ambassador on the news a month before the big battle. The news guy and news girl said he was intelligent, and then a local representative of the Plains and Wildlife Service translated for him because tumbleweeds can’t talk and must sign everything by rolling and hopping and what not.
“We mean your people no harm,” said the Plains and Wildlife Service guy. He spoke kind of slow and choppy. I guessed he wasn’t actually, what do you call it? Fluent in tumbleweed?
He said, “The war has started, whether you realize it or not. The Prairie Queen has an army of deer, antelope and coyotes. She’s got the power of fire. She murdered our Wizard Father and made her castle from our dead tumbleweed brothers and sisters. The crazy bitch!”
I winced at this last word. I’m only twelve years old, after all. My dad used to talk real rough like that. He used to cuss and laugh and say to me, “Don’t repeat that to your mother, Amie Masterson. I don’t want to fight no little girl.” Then we’d roughhouse a bit. My dad died last year, though. Some kind of cancer. Mom never told me which.
I don’t usually watch the late news. I’m supposed to be in bed. But Mom passed out on the sofa early. I laid a blanket over her and picked the empty wine bottle off its side so it wouldn’t drip on the carpet.
The Plains and Wildlife Service guy said, “Have you not noticed her spot-fires outside your city? We want to kill your precious girls!”
The tumbleweed popped up into the air and spun angrily.
Plains and Wildlife Guy said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. We want to utilize your precious girls. We have no defenses. We need soldiers. The Prairie Queen cannot stand against the wealth of your girls. Or so we believe.”
There was some more talking. I was getting sleepy.
The news guy said, “And of course we know the city has been expanding into the Queen’s prairieland at an exponential rate.”
And the news girl said, “Right you are, Tom. In retrospect, that may have been a huge mistake. Oops.”
And then a commercial for local heating and cooling repair came on. I went to kiss Mom on the forehead. She moaned softly, smiled for a second, and then settled into a noisy, listless snore. Mom is a good mother, but I think Dad dying did some stuff to her. I guess that’s normal. She never used to drink wine.
There was a knock at the door. I was scared for a second, but only because Mom said never to open the door to strangers at such a late hour.
There was another knock.
“Mom,” I said, “someone at the door.”
Mom didn’t wake up. I nudged her, shook her, but still nothing, all snores, drool dribbling from the corner of her mouth. I went to the door, looked through the peephole.
There was nobody there.
“The heck?” I said. I slid back the deadbolt and opened the door.
A tumbleweed sat on our welcome mat. It had a leather glove duct-taped to its scrawny, scratchy limbs. It was kind of a big tumbleweed. The color of autumn wild grass. It leaned in to, like, look in our house.
“Is this because I’m a precious girl?” I said.
The tumbleweed shook.
“And you’re recruiting all the girls and that means me, right?”
It shook again.
“Only thing is I can’t leave. Mom’ll be super pissed. Oops. Mom’ll be super angry.”
The tumbleweed rolled, over and over, until the glove and duct tape came undone and stuck and sat limp and kind of sad on our porch. The tumbleweed wiggled and bent toward the glove.
I shrugged and picked it up. There was a big rock inside. There was also some red dirt. I brought the dirt to my nose to sniff it. It smelled salty, briny, kind of like how I imagine the ocean smells, like vast rotting shipwrecks beneath the waves where porpoises and turtles swim and play.
“What’s this stuff?” I said.
The tumbleweed smashed into my leg. My hand jerked, the dirt flew, a bunch of it went up my nose.
I sneezed.
Someone said, Me entiendes?
I sneezed again. A big cloud of red flew from my nostrils.
Someone said, Ne me comprenez-vous?
“Huh?” I snorted. “S’that even English?”
Oh, English, English! Oh, of course! Yes, how sally of me.
“What? Sally?” I wriggled my nose and wiped allergy tears from my eyes.
Silly! Silly! Of course! Stupid Dumb-Dust. I’m dumb, you know? All tumbleweeds are dumb. Call me Aaron. Aaron Sisymbrium Altissimum. Don’t worry about that last part. That’s my family name. Are you ready to be a soldier, girl?
“Soldier?” I said. “You mean to fight the Prairie Queen?”
That’s precisely what I mean. Time is short. Matters are barbiturate.
“Barbiturate?”
Aaron twitched. Desperate! Desperate! If we don’t stop her now, she’ll kill all the tumbleweeds, and then, girl, she’ll kill all the humans, too.
I looked over my shoulder. Mom was still snoring away on the couch. Wine makes adults snore. That’s something I learned.
Come on, soldier, said Aaron, no more dilly dallying. Don’t you want to make your fellow humans proud?


I learned a lot of things in Tumbleweed Army. I learned how to march, how to roll up into a little ball to protect myself. Learned how to say, “Yes, ma’am!” like I meant it. Most of all, I learned coyotes and deer and antelope were really scary because they could eat the tumbleweeds and break the wizard’s spell and use their shoulder-mounted flamethrowers to burn everything. The Prairie Queen had the power of fire. She wanted to burn it all, burn the world, which I guess included my home and my mom, which is why I stayed.
There was a girl there called Jade. She was an older girl. Really pretty, with deep almond skin and bright green eyes. We’d be in the middle of flamethrower-dodging exercises, and she’d come up to me and look at the way I was darting and dodging around, and she’d say, “Looking real good, Masterson. Looking real sharp.”
The tumbleweeds didn’t do any of the teaching or drilling themselves. They only knew tumbling. They left it to all the thirteen and fourteen-year-olds to teach us everything we needed to know. Maybe they should have asked for the real army, the adult army. Even they seemed weirded out by a little girl army, and sometimes they acted like they didn’t know how they’d ended up with us at all.
If the adult army was looking for us, they never found us, secret and hidden away on the outskirts of the city like we were. Also the tumbleweeds had this special concealing magic. The last thing they had left of their Wizard Father.
Aaron told me, Our Wizard Father was a great man. He granted us intelligence and the freedom we so cherish. But the concealing magic’s fading. We can’t stay hidden from the Queen forever.
I was like, okay, you’re fine, the older girls know everything. They’ve designed this whole thing and know everything there is to know. That’s probably why our uniforms were pink and sparkly, and why our flags carried pictures of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, and why even though the cutoff age was fourteen, you could tell they were serious and skilled and were girls on a mission, girls ready to kill.
I missed my mom. I’m not going to lie about that. I missed her so bad it didn’t matter to me she didn’t listen anymore when I talked to her about school, or that I always saw her crying first thing in the morning, or that everything Dad made her promise when he was in the hospital sort of, well, just went forgotten and we didn’t talk about it. I was in that army for four weeks, then we had the big battle, but I never forgot Mom, and I guess she never forgot me, but I couldn’t say goodbye to her just in case I might die, because the tumbleweeds were real, real strict about enemy code breakers and antelope misinformation squads.


One night as I was laying down to sleep in my tent, Jade came and undid the tent flap and she and a few girls brought in a little white cupcake with a single candle flickering and hopping kind of like a tumbleweed.
“What’s this?” I said sleepily.
“It’s your birthday, Masterson,” said Jade.
“My birthday?”
She nodded and said, “Make a wish.”
I wished to kiss a boy, but knew it probably wouldn’t come true because there were no boys for miles and miles. Me and the girls shared the cupcake, but the cupcake was made out of mashed potatoes, because the tumbleweed galley only had potatoes because Aaron told us all you eat is potatoes in the army and we didn’t argue.
“Jade,” I said, choking down my last bite. “Do you think things will go back to normal after this? I mean, after we kill the Prairie Queen and all? Do you think all us girls can go back to how we were?”
Jade thought about this. She nodded. “Yes, I think we can. At least I hope we can. Wizards and Queens and Dumb-Dust, all that stuff shouldn’t exist. I think it only exists because the world needs stuff to make you wonder. You know what I mean? My Dad always says, ‘Boy it really makes you wonder’. I think that sort of thing is really important.”
“Why?” I said.
One of the other girls chimed in. “Because everything would be so boring otherwise.”
“Boring’s not bad,” said Jade. “Boring’s only bad if you get used to it. There’s always people stepping on other people. Trying to take things that don’t belong to them, you know? Because people get used to that, too. Like that spot where our city and their world meet up….”


So there was this spot where our city and their world met up. For miles and miles, our buildings rose high, and interstates ran, and traffic lights blinked red, yellow, green, red, yellow, green.
But on this spot, there were a few loose suburban fingers of little houses that looked nice but that also all looked the same, and those fingers kind of stretched out, and then they ended, and their world was beyond, the prairie world, high grass and rolling hills, pretty wildflowers and peaceful vistas.
The wind could rustle through, and it could carry a dry, dusty scent, and maybe there’d be pollen on the wind, but there were no honking car horns or televisions blaring. People didn’t shout at each other. There were no people. The city wasn’t there yet. Maybe it would be someday. Of course it would be. The city just kept growing and growing and growing, and nobody bothered to ask the Queen if it was okay. Nobody stopped to think it might be a bad thing if the prairie world got swallowed up, got paved over, with houses and restaurants and, you know, post offices and stuff built all over it.
We had the battle on that spot. It was time. No more hiding. Me and all the girls—thousands of girls—we lined up at the fence line of that last wandering suburban finger. The hot mid-afternoon sun beat down on us. Smell in the air like columbines. We came in our pink sparkly uniforms, with our flags waving. The grenade girls all had purple caps. Girls with rifles had big red badges on their chests. There were also film-crew girls, who’d appointed themselves to the rank, who held up smartphones and snapped selfies with the battlefield-to-be in the background.
I was light infantry, just like Jade, and that meant we had no weapons, only pig-tails and three-ring binders, because the tumbleweeds had chosen girls for a reason, and we all figured we’d be even scarier all dressed up for school.
Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls. Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls.
We kind of told each other that over and over again, sort of like a, what do you call it? A mantra?
Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls.
Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls.
And we said it again and again, and it made us less afraid, even though we knew we might die that day.
The ground beneath our feet trembled. Far off across the field, over the rise and fall of grassy hills, we saw the first ranks of animals and their flamethrowers. The coyotes were the fastest and lightest, and they ran ahead of the herd, belching fire, scorching earth, I guess to scare us. They howled and yipped at the antelope and deer. You kind of figure antelope and deer don’t make noises, but they do. This strained, desperate, sharp kind of screaming noise. And when there are thousands of them—and there were thousands—it comes off like a banshee wail, like a great roaring throat sound loud as jet engines.
I don’t know why, but the sound made us cry. It was so loud. The screaming, the yipping, the flames and flames and flames. I cried like I knew a soldier should never cry. But it was okay, because Jade cried, too. Maybe I felt like running home to my mom, and maybe Jade did also, but she didn’t, she stood there like she was the bravest crying girl in the world, and she called back to us through her tears, “Steady, now! Wait until you see the whites of their eyes!”
And I didn’t know what that meant, because animals don’t have white eyes, but I stood my ground all the same, even though my legs trembled, even though the tears drenched my uniform and my tongue felt stuck to the roof of my mouth.
The tumbleweed commanders came rolling out to marshal our forces. I saw Aaron there with Commander Johnston Salsola Kali.
Commander Johnston waved a scraggly little twig-limb and said through the Dumb-Dust, Today you do your species proud! Today you are not girls, but women! Human women of distinction, finery, and absolute quality. We have no idea how it is you came to defend us, but be not afraid, dear human beings! For though you may die—yes, you may die, yes, yes!—for though that may be so, remember, one and all, that the Queen may take your lives, but she shall never take your Sweden!
In unison, the thousands-girl army said, “Huh?”
Commander Johnston said, Bother! Freedom! Freedom! Freeeeeeedom!
The army roared. Girls fired rifles in the air. They said, “Freeeeeeedom!” Even though freedom wasn’t really the thing, but getting trampled and burned up, but a cry of freedom was enough, and I said it, too.
Jade told us to stand at the ready. We did. She told us to march ahead at the quick step. We did that, too. I think the older girls had watched old war movies before the battle, so everything they were telling us to do was really smart and accurate for what soldiers are supposed to do in battle.
We marched at the quick step. The rifle girls and grenade girls were right behind us. The rifle girls fired rounds over our heads. This was smart because the animals kind of flinched and froze at the noise.
Bang! Bang! Bang, bang, bang!
And anyway, it wasn’t the animals we were after, but the Queen, who, tumbleweed intelligence told us, would be in the middle of her formations, in the mobile command station made of dead tumbleweed bodies all stuck together.
“Double-time, march!” said Jade.
We picked up the pace.
Coyotes snapped and howled at us. The deer and the antelope shot steady burning jets of fire. We began our dodging maneuvers, still in ranks, still in line, but dodging that fire like crazy.
A girl beside me—Kirsten—went down screaming. Our standard bearer went up in flames, but the next girl in line—a film-crew girl—picked up the smoldering flag and soldiered on, still bravely snapping selfies and snagging footage of the whole bloody mess.
And it occurred to me that the world was a crazy place. It made you wonder. Really made you wonder, you know? Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers. Were they? Were girls supposed to be soldiers? I bent over Kirsten. Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers, were they? Little girls? Kids and teenagers? I froze to the spot. I tried to touch her. Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers. She was too hot, too bubbling, too much melted Kirsten. Girls weren’t supposed to be soldiers. They weren’t, were—
Jade slapped me.
“Snap out of it, Masterson!” she said. “The command station! Look, it’s right there!”
And it was right there. It looked like a castle on wheels. Made of tumbleweeds. Thousands upon thousands of poor dead tumbleweeds.
Burn the world! Burn it all!
Nobody else would die! Nobody!
Jade and I and the remnants of our unit—all told, seven girls—we darted in and out of flames and animals. Grenades exploded all around us. Dying things, dying from bullet wounds, dying from the burn.
We mounted the ramp of that mobile command station. We tried to punch through the tumbleweed walls, but the Queen had cast a spell, and the walls were solid as steel.
Jade told us to begin the chant, the mantra. We began it.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls! Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls! Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls!”
The mobile command station rolled to a stop.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid! Prairie Queen’s afraid!”
The animals stopped. Their roaring streams and jets and flames. They stopped their screaming. The coyotes stopped howling and yipping and yapping.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls!”
And our army stopped, too. Nobody told them what to do if the animals quit fighting. Nobody expected that. The battlefield went silent, all but the wind, and the flickering and popping of little grass fires here and there, and us seven girls, and our chanting, our mantra.
“Prairie Queen’s afraid of school girls! Prairie Queen’s afraid—”
“The Prairie Queen fears nothing!”
The voice boomed and echoed across the field. It was low, brassy, not human at all.
The command station exploded.
I went flying. I hit the ground. The air rushed from my lungs.
Tumbleweed shrapnel bit at me, scratched me up. I felt the pain of it, but I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t breathe at all.
The voice came again. With a kind of wispy whipcrack to each syllable.
“The Prairie Queen fears nothing! Nothing!”
Like the blast of a shotgun, my breath came back to me. I sucked in air like it was a thick milkshake, like the best chocolate milkshake I’d ever tasted.
Hands took hold of me, lifted me, jerked me up. My feet didn’t touch the ground.
“You, girl! Do you think I fear you?”
It wasn’t hands that had a hold of me. And it wasn’t a nasty old Queen hovering inches from my face. I expected a scary old lady. The Prairie Queen was a blade of wild grass. Just a single, tall, stout blade of wild grass, with no face, no mouth, no eyes. Split from her body, willowy grass arms, with little willowy grass hands. She shook me. She said, “What stupidity! What inane musings! To think I could fear this dull creature! This girl. You people. You take so much. I will take from you!”
And then she threw me to the ground and started whipping me with her green grassy hands.
It stung. It slivered and sliced. I started bleeding. The girls just watched. The animals watched. Stunned.
“Help!” I said. “Help!”
“You will not take from me,” screeched the Queen. “You will not take from me.”
She whipped me. Welts and cuts and lacerations and ripping, tearing skin. I curled into a ball, like the older girls had taught us, but the whipping kept coming and kept coming and kept coming.
A little ball of fire started circling her wild grass head. The Queen said, “Burn the wizard. Burn the weeds. Burn your city to the ground!”
The ball grew and grew, and it circled faster and faster and—
Movement in the field.
A tumbleweed rolled and hopped over me and smashed into the Queen. The ball of fire circling her head exploded. The tumbleweed ignited. The Queen ignited, too.
“Masterson!” Jade was moving now. She tossed me a grenade. I pulled the pin and flicked it at the Queen.
The burning tumbleweed was in the way. I rolled behind an antelope carcass.


Mom found me bleeding on the sofa the next morning. There was a collection of wine bottles in our living room. And also a bunch of notebooks and pens and candy wrappers. And also pizza boxes because adults like whole pizzas and whole bottles of wine. That’s something I learned.
Mom was drinking from a fresh bottle, sort of stumbling down the hall. She spotted me and said, “Oh my God, Amie?”
“Hi, Mom.”
She dropped the bottle. Wine splashed our white carpet. She flung herself at me and started kissing me all over and crushing me.
“Ow!” I said. “Ow, Mom! I’m hurt. I’m bleeding.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re bleeding!”
“I know.”
“Band-Aids! Hydrogen Peroxide!”
Mom patched me up as best she could. We both agreed I should go to the hospital, though. War’s like that I guess. Sometimes people die. Sometimes they have to go to the hospital.
I watched the television as she fawned over me and poured peroxide over all my wounds. It bubbled and itched and burned. I still watched TV.
The Plains and Wildlife Service guy translated for Tumbleweed Commander Johnston. I didn’t need him to, though.
Commander Johnston said, This day, this VQ day, this victory over the Queen, we shall remember it always, just as we shall remember and honor anew a bond of brotherhood between weed kind and humankind. Let it never be said your people backed down when all free folk everywhere fell under the flaming, fiery yoke of prairie oppression.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” said my mom. “It’s crazy you girls had to do this.”
Commander Johnston said, Your girls are our heroes. We don’t know why you sent them to us. All we know is we’re glad you did.
At this, Plains and Wildlife Guy paused, and, loud enough for the studio microphones to pick him up, he said, “What do you mean? You specifically said girls. Precious girls. You took them from us before we even—”
Commander Johnston quivered. No, the girls were your idea. You’re the ones who kept saying girls, girls. We asked for pearls. Thousands of precious pearls. As a means of currency. You know, to buy the aid of Southeast Asian mercenaries.
Plains and Wildlife Service Guy looked into the camera. He shook his head. He sighed and rubbed his temples.
Regardless, said Commander Johnston, it was the bravery of two—one weed, one girl—who gave us our victory, who stopped the wicked Queen and her lust for death and destruction. Aaron Sisymbrium Altissimum. Amie Masterson.
My mom paused.
We owe our lives to you.
And then they showed the moment. The moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Aaron went rolling and hopping. It was Aaron. It was his death all over again. He smashed into the Queen. They both ignited. Jade threw me the grenade. I flicked it, rolled away. The screen went white for a moment. Big boom. And that was the end of the war.
“Dear God, Amie.” My mom’s voice was soft, barely above a whisper. “You did that?”
I nodded, staring at the screen, watching the replay, feeling all those grassy whip lashes again and again, feeling that impact, the way it hit the antelope carcass. Smell of gunpowder. Shrapnel in my leg. Antelope meat in my hair and in my mouth.
“You did that?” my mom said again.
“I did. I did do that.”
“But you’re just a little girl.”
I put my hand on hers. Squeezed it.
“Mom?” I said.
“Yeah?”
“Too many wine bottles. Less wine, okay Mom?”
Mom hesitated. She nodded and said, “Okay, less wine.”
“And Mom?”
“Yes, honey?”
“It was my birthday last week.”
“I know.”
“Can I have a cake? A real cake? Not a potato cake.”
“What’s a potato cake?”
“It’s what you eat on your birthday when you’re in the army. Don’t you know anything about the army?”
Mom stared at me. She glanced at the TV, the footage, the whipping, the fire, the explosion. She shook her head.
“No,” she said, “I guess I haven’t the slightest clue.”

THE END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


A Challenge and a Review: Dead of Winter

“Winter Comes”

The Challenge

This post is a response to a challenge issued on Teagan Riordain Geneviene’s blog, where she challenges readers to create a piece of art in the medium of your choice, inspired by her book, Dead of Winter: Journey 1: Forlorn Peak.

Recently, I’ve been dabbling in Japanese and English syllabic poetry, and I knew that I wanted to create a poem for this challenge. The image and poetry above is my response to Teagan’s challenge. It is a Shadorma poem, an form of syllabic poetry which may have originated in Spain, comprised of a sestet, or six-line poem with a syllabic count of 3-5-3-3-7-5 (Word Craft: Prose & Poetry, by Sally Cronin). Although no where have I found that Shadorma can appear with images to add meaning, like the Japanese Haiga poetry, I’ve found nothing that says it can’t, so I have featured mine with the image above.

They both create a feeling like what I felt after reading Dead of Winter, so might actually serve as a different type of book review. I think the poem could easily stand alone, so maybe that’s okay.

Dead of Winter

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RBBVRGX?tag=relinks-20

My Review

Dead of Winter: Journey 1: Forlorn Peak, by Teagan Riordain Geneviene is a brief little tale that sets the stage in a world where strict control prevents the protagonist, Emlyn, from revealing her gift of seeing and communicating with the dead. In this short tale, Emlyn receives a warning of what’s to come in the rest of the series. “Winter is coming…”

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Anthology Release, Winner Announcement and Pre-Call for Short Fiction Submissions

Last week saw the release of the 2021 WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Where Spirits Linger. I was pleased with he stories that are featured in this anthology. I had worked with three of the contributing authors in past anthologies, but two were new to me, including the winner of the 2021 Short Fiction Contest, Christa Planko, who sent in a wonderfully eerie piece of flash fiction, “Olde-Tyme Village”, which gives me goosebumps.

For the release, we ran a book blog tour and giveaway, which I feel was a success, resulting in a few more book sales. The winner of the WordCrafter “Where Spirits Linger” Book Blog Tour giveaway was Cindy Georgakas, who commented on Miriam Hurdle’s blog stop The Many Showers of Blessings. Cindy, if you will contact me at KLBWordCrafter@gmail.com to let me know your format preference, (epub, mobi, or pdf), I’ll be pleased to send you your free digital copy of Where Spirits Linger. Congratulations!

If you didn’t win this time, I hope you’ll drop in on our next WordCrafter Book Blog Tour. For now, you can purchase your copy of this original anthology here:

https://www.amazon.com/Where-Spirits-Linger-Lynne-Booth-ebook/dp/B09GNZJVJ5

I want your Visions

Now that Where Spirits Linger has been released, it’s time to gear up for next year’s contest. There were only six contributing authors in this year’s anthology, but next year I’m hoping to be able to include more, so I am planning to broaden the scope of the theme for 2022. In the past, WordCrafter anthologies have had paranormal themes because I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, but for 2022, I plan to broaden that out to include the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres. For Visions, your story can still have a ghost if you like, but it won’t be required. I’m announcing this ahead of time because I want you to have time to limber up your fingers and your minds, and send me your very best stories. What I’m looking for in the 2022 WordCrafter anthology are thought provoking stories that will stay with readers long after they close the book.

WordCrafter will be open for submissions beginning on January 1 through the submission deadline of May 31, 2022. The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon gift card and their story will be featured in Visions. All finalists will also receive an invitation to be included in the anthology, which offers a small royalty share for your story contribution. My submission guidelines are pretty simple, but they are different from last year, so be sure to read and follow them carefully. Submit your story with a cover letter to KLBWordCrafter@gmail.com with “Submission: [Your Title] in the subject line and pay the $5 entry fee in the PayPal box on the submissions page, which will go up January 1st, 2022, when submissions open.

Visions: Submission Guidelines

Submission Dates: January 1st, 2022 to May 31st, 2022

Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror

Word Count: up to 10,000 words

Rights: First Anthology Rights and audio rights as part of the anthology; rights revert to author one month after publication; publisher retains non-exclusive right to include in the anthology as a whole. 

Multiple Submissions: Yes

Simultaneous Submissions: No

Submit: MS Word doc or RTF file

If you don’t know what standard manuscript format is, review, for example, https://www.shunn.net/format/classic/

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Day #5 of “The Click of a Pebble” Book Blog Tour: My Review

The Click of a Pebble Book Blog Tour

What they are saying on Amazon:

“This was a great coming of age fantasy story. I really enjoyed seeing these young characters struggle to survive in the aftermath of the massacre that leaves them only each other to depend on. Their journey drew me in and had me reading this entire book in one sitting, I’m looking forward to reading more books set in this fascinating world.”

The Click of a Pebble

In her Day #3 post for this tour on Robbie’s Inspiration, author Barbara Spencer talks about magical realism. I really loved her definition. She describes it, “Magical realism takes place in our world and follows its rules, except occasionally those rules are skewed.” I haven’t read a lot of magical realism, but what I have read have mostly were silly stories that were just kind of fun to read, with no real buy in because they were so ridiculous.

Not so with this skillfully crafted tale, which begins to lay a solid basis for the magical elements of the story. The Click of a Pebble had my buy in from the first pages and maintained it throughout the story. It was sweet and tragic, but there was nothing silly about it.

The Click of a Pebble is the tale of three children, Yost, Zande and TaTa, the only survivors of a massacre of their people. Ripped away from all they have ever known, they must stand together and go on, holding on to who they are in a place where things are new and different and try to fit in. They quickly learn that they dare not reveal their true origins, or risk falling prey to the same bigoted thinking that brought on the demise of their clan, because they are different, gifted. As they grow to know the family which welcomes them into their home, they begin to develop attachments with those around them and feel as if they belong. But, they are carinatae, children of Zues and what lies ahead for them is very different from the futures imagined by those who take them in.

The Click of a Pebble

Barbara Spencer has done a marvelous job of drawing the reader in and making her care about the characters, masterfully weaving historical detail into this wonderful coming of age fantasy. It touches on issues that ring true for many of us, at the same time portraying a time and culture in detail, with well developed characters readers will relate to. As the first book in her The Children of Zeus trilogy, Spencer does not tie everything up with a nice bow, but instead chooses the perfect point in the story to close off this chapter and leave the reader with a need to learn how all the loose ends will be resolved. I give it five quills.

Five Quills

In case you missed a blog stop along the way on The Click of a Pebble Book Blog Tour:

Day #1: Writing to be Read

Day #2: Patty’s World

Day #3: Robbie’s Inspiration

Day #4: This is my Truth Now

The Click of a Pebble

Get your copy of The Click of a Pebble today.

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Book you WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Inspirational Visions: A Very Special Review

When I received the Inspirational Visions Oracle Cards, created by Judy Mastrangelo, I was delighted. My previous experience with Tarot cards and the like is minimal, with an understanding of them that relates more to the archetypes found in storytelling more than anything else. However, these cards are not a deck of Tarot cards, used to tell you what your future will be, but a deck designed to reveal what you can make of your future through inspiration and interpretation.

The deck comes with a booklet which explains the meaning of each card and instructions in how to use them to guide your own destiny. Each card comes with an inspirational message attached and the use and interpretation of the cards is up to you. The intent is for each individual to find their own personal meanings in the cards.

The Inspirational Visions cards are designed to inspire creativity and encourage soul searching, with uplifting positive measages. There is no hangman lurking in the deck, no death or destuction images ushering in ill fate. Even the menacing dragon carries connotation here.

Even if you don’t believe in fortune telling, you’ll want to own a deck of these colorful and inspirational cards of your very own. I could sit for hours, just looking at the delightful illustrations on each one. I am particularly drawn to the Bunny Gardner card, which the book describes in part as, “Tending your beautiful flower beds is so healing, as you contact Mother Earth.” I have some gorgeous flower beds this summer, as I planted sixty-five gladiola bulbs in the spring, and my garden is bursting with color, and it is healing to go out and work amoung them. Perhaps this card represents a validation for who I am?

These lovely oracle cards are wonderful for personal enjoyment, spiritual enhancement, creative inspiration, or as a gift for someone special who is dear to your heart, the bright, colorful illustations and inspirational messages are sure to delight. I give the Inspirational Visions Oracle Cards five quills.

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Keeper of the Winds”: A Classic Hero’s Journey

Keeper of the Winds
Keeper of the Winds

Keeper of the Winds, by Jenna Solitaire with Russell Davis, is not your typical story written by an author under a psuedonym. Davis writes this hero’s journey as Jenna Solitaire, in first person, present tense and nails the teenaged heroine’s persona. If you are an author yourself, you may realize that this is not an easy feat to pull off. Davis has created a character that young adult readers can relate to, making this powerful magical fantasy journey sure to be a hit with YA audiences everywhere.

Jenna lost her parents and grandmother early in life and knows little of her family history. Now she is burying the grandfather who raised her and he last living relative. When she finds a strange board hidden in her grandmother’s things and tries to use it, she awakens forces of power long dormant, setting off a chain of events that will lead her to her ultimate destiny. But, there are those who would steal the board and the power that it holds, and they will stop at nothing to eliminate all obstacles in their way. Can Jenna discover who she really is and master her newly discovered abilities before they can gain control of the board, and either take her captive or eliminate her?

A classic hero’s journey written with a compelling voice that makes Keeper of the Winds a young adult fantasy journey to remember. I give it five quills.

Five Quills

Keeper of the Winds is available on Amazon.

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Shadow Blade: Audio book brings characters to life

Shadow Blade Audio

Audiobooks. They are the latest digital form of literature, quickly rising in popularity with readers on the go. And why not? What a great way to multitask. Instead of having to find a quiet time to sit and read the printed word, you can listen to the story while getting multiple things accomplished. I listened to Shadowblade, by Chris Barili, narrated by Marc Swezczyk while ironing, while cleaning the bathroom, while driving, and while sitting at the campfire. It was kind of cool to do chores when I’d rather be reading, and actually be able to do both.

As my first experience with audio books, I found it to be a convenient form of literature. I received my copy via my Kindle Fire, through Amazon. Like digital books through Amazon, it downloaded to my Fire automatically. It was time saving, in that I could listen to it at times that normally would be uproductive to my writing. It reminded me of the old radio serials, but you can start and stop whenever it is convenient, and don’t have to wait a week to find out what happens next. I think I could have gotten through the book a lot quicker in overall time spent reading, had I read it myself, just because I read faster than the pace of narration, but by allowing me to listen at times when I normally wouldn’t be able to read, it was helpful with my very busy schedule.

Marc Swezczyk was a good choice for a narrator on this story, in that his dialects and difficult name pronunciations sounded quite natural. His voice changed slightly for each character switch, making dialog easy to follow, as well. However, outside of the dialog, his narration falters with an unvaried pace and lack of inflection. This causes the some of the pain stakingly crafted action scenes to fall flat and the narrative seems to drone on in places. Having previously reviewed Shadowblade, I honestly didn’t feel as though Swezcyyk made this story shine as brightly as it could have.

Shadowblade is a great fantasy story, and Marc Swezczyk’s narration brings the interesting and diverse characters to life in the audio version, however he was unable to draw me into the scenes, which does not do this superbly written story justice. I give Shadowblade audio four quills.

Four Quills

I see the audio book being the future of literature, so I wonder how it is from the author’s side of things. If you are an author who has tested the waters in the audio realm, please comment to share your experiences with audio books. Is it easy to publish audio? Was it difficult to find a narrator? Is it expensive? We here at Writing to be Read want to know.


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Mind Fields”: The Big Grief or Computer Wipeout

Mind Fields

Mind Fields

May 2020

“Enter Password”.  Okay.  I type in that which I remember as my password.

“Password Incorrect”.  That’s what it says. Small wonder.  I may have used a hundred different passwords this week, just to log into Google. I had a computer wipeout, a big one, and now my browsers have forgotten my cookies: they’ve forgotten my cakes, my donuts, and my fritters.  I have to re-up the whole password thing.

“FORGOTTEN PASSWORD?” Click here. OK.…it says it will send a link to my email account.

R..uh R..oh.  I need a password to get into my email account. I can’t recover my password until I recover the password to my email account.  Is that a Catch-22? Yep, A classic!

I try guessing some of my go-to passwords, things that contained my year of birth.  Sometimes I base a password on the Hebrew year.  What year is this for Jews? It’s the twenty second of the month of Iyar, in the year 5780.

Yep. I think my password is Jew!5780.  I’m a Jew. This is private humor, not chauvinism. Click. Wait a moment. Then: “Password Incorrect”. Passwords used to be simpler.  That was before paranoia became normalnoia online.

Without the right password, I can’t do shit. I can’t even get into my email to collect my reset password. I’m screwed.  The logical conclusion is that I need to invest in some password management software.

I buy Password Manager.

Enter Password, it says. I know, I’m supposed to invent one.  My “master password” it’s called. When I click “enter Master Password” I am asked to fill out three pages of “Profile Information”.  Remember when Profile was a bad word? Now you’ve got to have a profile.

I have a lot of folders on my outboard USB drives labeled “Bathwater”.  I can’t name password list files as “Password List Files”. I call them “Bathwater1” or “Samurai9”  “Let me see what I’ve got here.  I’ve learned the hard way to date my entries into this file.  I began this file eleven years ago and it’s gotten grotesque.  Shit. Two hundred pages of passwords.

I have backup drives.  I have USB devices containing mountains of data: tens of thousands of pictures, files of my writing work going back twenty years. I thought that getting a terabyte USB drive would give me space for a long time.  Hah! How naïve! I’m looking right now at three USB drives containing ten terabytes of space.  Yeah, available storage space, filling up fast.

If you’ve ever had a massive computer wipeout, I hope you’ve got a backup.  The struggle you’re about to endure will drive you nuts! It is almost better not to have a backup.  Almost.

My computer wouldn’t boot unless I did nutty things.  Go into BIOS, re-arrange boot drives, that kind of stuff. This is a sure indication that my computer is a mess.  The C: drive needs to be restored.

The backup software I use is called Acronis True Image. But today Acronis doesn’t see my backups. It isn’t True and it has no Image. I have other backups.  I take no chances  Maybe Windows can see the Windows Image Backup (that is, the WIB) that I made a few months ago.  Oh, look!  Windows sees it, there it is.  The backup to the backup, thank god.

I’m a compulsive ‘backer-upper’.  I back up everything to USB drives, discs, the Clouds, I back it up! In theory, I should be able to do a System Restore or recovery without much effort.  I suspect that our entire universe is a backup!

I have six Acronis backups spread all across my drives.  I found the most recent backup, clicked “Yes” on Acronis and then waited an hour and a half.  I left my office for a while.  When I returned I saw this message, which I now paraphrase: “Acronis worked its ass off to restore your backup but it couldn’t find ‘such and such’ a file and is unable to complete the restoration.”

It took me six hours of trial and error to reach this point.  I wanted Acronis to work; mostly because it cost me seventy dollars when I bought it in 2011. Do I have an assumption? To whit: Windows products aren’t as good as outsourced software.  The Windows defraggers, searchers, keepers, sleepers and beepers aren’t as good as software that costs a hundred bucks.  Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Windows can get the job done.  My “WIB” was waving at me.  “Press OK and I’ll do it, FREE!” Windows 10 is waving at me and I’m too much of a snob to let it do its Thing.

I went to sleep without a functioning computer.  I am seriously co-dependent with this machine. My sleep was interrupted by binges on chocolate bars.  These candies shoved themselves into my mouth.  They muted my frustration.  In the morning I’ll punish their wrappers.

Here it is: another morning.  I’m going to try my WIB, my Windows Image Backup.  I think the folders are stored on USB drives “N”, “F” and “K”.  I’m going into my files to do a search.  “WIB BACKUP”.  I enter the terms. Hoping, hoping. Not expecting anything.  I’ve had so much failure this week that I’ve become apathetic.  Jaded. But…..

Omigod. The search program sees my wib.  My WIB!  All right. Let’s see if this will do the job that Acronis failed to do.  Let’s see.

“Do you want Windows Backup to restore your files?”

Hell yes!  I’m desperate.  I click “Restore Files” and watch as the dialogue window indicates that some mysterious work is being done.  My WIB has been seen and has been pressed into service.

Fifteen minutes later: “Oh my fucking god!” It’s done.  My computer has been restored with the humble Windows Image Back The Fuck Up from Windows Ten 64 bit Home Pro Edition and I am so thrilled and surprised.  Why should I be surprised? It was that assumption, to whit: Windows software is no good.  It’s got to be some hundred dollar hookah from which I puff.

Not so. Not so.  Windows Ten took good care of me. If there’s a Windows Eleven or a Windows Twelve, I’ll be there, first in line to buy the damned software.

There’s no escape.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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“Indomitable”: A Drastic Shift in Reality

Indomitable-Generic

What’s a girl to do when her boyfriend shifts the world into a comic book reality where half the population has super powers, and transforms himself into a superhero? Find out in J.B. Garner’s Indomitable.

Dr. Irene Roman finds herself in just such a situation when her boyfriend and fellow scientist, Dr. Eric Flynn decides to shape reality to his own liking with his research, (and hers). The rational Irene that she has always been knows that Eric must be stopped and she’s the only one who can stop him, but there is something pulling at another part of her that makes her want to embrace the new Irene and the new world. In fact, many around her seem to be accepting this new world blindly, and some who are “Pushed” even have newfound abilities and superhuman powers, but not all are using them for the greater good. It seems the world has gone crazy in this new reality, and Irene must find a way to put things back the way they were.

Skillfully crafted to suspend disbelief and draw readers in, sprinkled with comic book humor to lighten up this tale of world salvation gone awry. I give Indomitable five quills.

Five Quills

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Indomitable-Push-Chronicles-Book-1-ebook/dp/B076G9JS93/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Indomitable+Garner&qid=1586050754&s=books&sr=1-1


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.