To Go Boldly …

Eric Lahti, a fellow author, blogger and member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group on Facebook issued a challenge.

Produce a short story of 1,000 words or less inspired from a choice of supplied graphics.

My response is ‘To Go Boldly …‘, a story of desire and duty.

A 1000 word - for Eric

New York City, New York
1982AD

“Jim darling,” Penny Kirk said, her eyes misting. “Please be careful out there.”

“Don’t worry love, her husband said. “I’m equal to the challenge, and you know I must push myself or I can’t get through the day.”

“I think 25 years with the New York Police Department proved what you’re capable of, so you need to learn to take it easy.”

He leaned forward and kissed his wife. “I’m not with the NYPD anymore, so I can’t understand why you worry so much.”

“You might not be, but you’re one of the only independent Extra-Terrestrial Investigators in the country, so I wish you’d join a government team.”

“I’m onto something this time Penny,” he said, his eyes gazing into those of his loving wife. “I promise if nothing comes from this theory tonight, I’ll apply to join the government team out in Phoenix, okay?”

“Okay darling, but I’ll still worry until you come home.”

“Remember your promise.”

“I know, I know,” she said, and the promise always lifted her from her morbid mood about her husband’s obsession.

“If you ever disappear I have to ask James Jnr to swear to carry on your full names in the family line.”

He nodded. “That’s my girl,” he said and reached out to touch a framed scroll near the door. He winked at his wife, lifted his overnight bag and was gone.

*

Penny sat at the breakfast bar next morning drinking a black coffee. She stared at the scroll her husband had fitted on the wall beside the main door the day their son was born, and dimples appeared in her cheeks.

James Jnr had already left for school. Before leaving, he’d kissed his mother, and then as he’d left the house he’d touched the framed scroll and looked back at his mother with a broad smile. “I’m real proud of Dad, and I’m gonna be just like him.”

Penny lifted the remote control and flicked to the news channel.

‘This is Cathy Soames from NYRTV reporting from Central Park.’ The young blonde stepped back to allow the cameraman to pan around the area, and the broadcast continued.

‘It was on this bridge in the early hours of the morning when a bolt of lightning struck the bridge. There had been no rain, thunder, or lightning previous to the unprecedented broad flash of bluish-white light. Two eye-witnesses were sleeping rough in the park, and both said they recognised a man who’d been standing on the bridge prior to the flash.’

A photograph of Penny’s husband in NYPD uniform took up half of the screen, and alongside it, a recent newspaper article showing him with a large telescope.

Penny Kirk was unaware of the coffee dripping over the breakfast bar until it spilled onto her bare legs. As she listened to the reporter, the words became a mumbling message, and the TV screen blurred as tears filled Penny’s blue eyes.

“No,” Penny whispered. “Please don’t let it be-,”

The doorbell disturbed her plea to whosoever or whatever controlled these things. She went to the door in a daze, not bothering to deal with the damp front of her coffee-stained dressing gown. She opened the door and stared at the two uniformed officers.

“Hello ma’am, I’m Patrolman O’Brien, and this is Patrolman Jefferson ….”

*

Phoenix, Arizona
2255AD

Jim looked around his sparse but comfortable accommodation, and before leaving looked out across the vast complex of the Space Academy to the new ship. It was built near the academy so it would serve as an inspiration.

The magnificent craft was completed and awaited the crew – a select bunch of highly trained people who were prepared to tackle a five-year long mission into the unknown. They would be led by the youngest captain in Earth’s fleet.

Jim stopped at the door and gazed at the glass-framed scroll which had been handed down through generations. For the first time, he read it aloud.

“James means supplanter – the one who replaces. Tiberius was the strong Roman Emperor who ruled for over 20 years. Kirk, a family name derived from the ancient Church of Scotland, and earlier from the Greek for Lord’s House.”

“I will make you proud,” The captain said, as he gently placed a fingertip on the frame in the way he did every day. “I’ll strive to make you as proud of us, as we’ve all been of you.”

Jim placed his hand over his heart as he read the request at the bottom of the 280-year-old scroll, ‘Please bear this name with pride, remember the full meaning of your inherited name, and be prepared to go boldly toward the future.’

It was signed James Tiberius Kirk, New York City, USA – 1975.

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Anthologies – Theme or Genre?

Okay, so you want to compile an anthology of short stories, but there are many things to consider, quite apart from the decision about whether to go ahead with the idea.   Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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What are the main considerations?

– Will it be theme-based, or genre-based?
– Will it be one person’s work, or a variety of authors?
– How many titles should there be?
– What length should the average story be?
– What price range do you aim for?
Yes, there are many more questions, but we now have a flavour of what is involved in compiling a collection of stories.

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Theme versus genre?

Themes – and this is a mere handful of examples.

– Retribution
– Goodness
– Family
– Natural History
– Day and Night
– Environment
– Imprisoned
Anybody can come up with a theme. Your chosen theme can be as tightly controlled, or as wide-ranging as you choose.

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Genre – and once again, a handful of examples.

– Thriller
– Horror
– Supernatural/Paranormal
– Erotica
– Young Adult
– Romance
– Science-Fiction
– Adventure
– Children’s
– Fantasy

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It should be easy to see now that with regard to genre, they are well-established and they each have sub-genres which are easy to identify.
For example, ‘Erotica’ leads to: Straight, Gay, Bi, BDSM, TV, TS, and a few more besides.912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_

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The difference with theme-based work is that it is an even wider spectrum than genre. I’ll choose one theme at random from my previous spontaneous short list, and then I’ll explore it mentally for no more than two minutes. I will set a stopwatch for this exercise.

We’ll say for example that I’m entering a short story competition and the guidelines are:

Genre: Open,
Theme: Imprisoned,
Word count: 2000 min to 2500 max,
Line spacing: Double-spacing in Times New Roman – pt 12.
Closing Date: 34th Zonkemper 2095

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Are you ready for this?

My theme is ‘Imprisoned’? The stopwatch is on …

1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside …
2. – a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle …
3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor …
4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim …
5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior …
6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash …

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I’ve been given a definite theme – imprisoned.
I’ve created a rapid list of ideas and any one of them could work with that theme, but are they the same genre?

No they are not the same genre. To see why; let’s look closer at how my mind works.

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1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside … the boy is the son of a werewolf and his anguish brings about his first ever experience of transformation.

2. -a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle … the soldier looks down at his scarlet tunic and body armour as he slips his feet from his Roman sandals. He wonders what happened to the other centurions in the explosion.

3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor … there is a longbow, a quiver of arrows and a barrel of dynamite in the corner.

4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim … the dog has taken the gun that the female owner used to shoot her husband only a short while before.

5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior … the young man is the woman’s long lost brother. He knows; she doesn’t.

6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash … the man in the car is dressed in women’s clothing and on his way to his first ever transvestite meeting in a remote village.

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What have we established?

An anthology is a supremely flexible production.
– it can be a mixture of stories by one author.
– it can be a mixture of stories by various authors.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated theme.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of themes.
– it can be a mixture of any of the aforementioned.

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Here I feature, Not What You Thought’, which is an example of mixed genre, mixed theme and mixed authors. The main author is Paul Ruddock who has compiled a selection of his own stories, and complemented them with work by guest authors.

Not What You ThoughtPlease find below, links to this newly published anthology. Paul Ruddock is a blogger, reviewer, author of short stories, and founder of the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. He also created and maintains the Indie Author Review Exchange blog.

The proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to a British military veteran’s charity.

Amazon UK   £1.99    Amazon US   $2.99

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What’s my experience with anthologies so far?

I have short stories traditionally published in four separate anthologies which are all theme-based and have a variety of authors.

I have one short story published on an audio CD, which is theme-based and has a variety of authors.

I have self-published two anthologies of short stories.

I have a series of five genre-based anthologies of poetry.

Smoke & Mirrors; and other stories, is a theme-based collection.
Twist-in-the-tale, but using a range of genre.

Coming Around; and other erotic stories, is a genre-based collection.
Erotica, but using a range of sub-genre.

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I believe that for general reader satisfaction either can work.
– A genre-based collection will appeal to lovers of the particular genre.
– A theme-based collection will appeal to lovers of short stories.
If compiled well, an anthology can produce a selection of completely different stories.

My personal preference is that an anthology should have around 12 stories.

If you’re new to the idea of anthologies, or have up until now wondered what all the fuss was about, I hope I’ve cleared away some of the mystery. These have been my own thoughts, gained from experience, and are not ideas influenced by any text book information.

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As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

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