AnLab Award Winner for Best Short Story: Snapshots

WMG Publishing is pleased to present “Snapshots” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which won the AnLab Award from Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine for Best Short Story. The story is also available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and other online retailers.

Snapshots ebook cover web

 

Let the people see. Open [the coffin] up. Let the people see what happened to my boy.
—Mamie R. Bradley, mother of Emmett Till, quoted in “Mother receives the body of her slain son,” The Atlanta Daily World, September 7, 1955

 

SNAPSHOT: 1955

 

The church was hot. Last of summer in Chicago. Cleavon didn’t hold his mama’s hand. At ten, he was too big to cling, but he sure wanted to. He ain’t never seen so many people all in one place, and they was cryin and moanin and carryin on, even though the preacher ain’t started yet.

Mama didn’t want him sayin “ain’t,” but he could think it, at least today.

Mama was draggin him here, not Papa, not his older brother Roy. Roy was the same age as Emmett Till. They been friends, and Papa said it just be cruel to make him go, but Mama said she would anyways.

Roy ain’t been home since. He probably wouldn’t come back till the funeral was over.

Cleavon never knowed anybody who been on the news, and Emmett’d been on the news for days now. And in the Chicago Defender, too. Papa kept staring at the headlines, but the only one Cleavon kept looking at was “Mother Waits in Van for Her ‘Bo.’” Ain’t no one outside of the South Side knowed that Emmett wasn’t Emmett to the folks what knowed him. Emmett was Bobo, and he hated it.

Cleavon didn’t talk to him much, couldn’t call him a friend. He was too big a kid for that—nearly grow’d—which was why, Mama said, them Southern white boys thought he was whistling at that stupid white woman. The idea of it all made Cleavon shiver whenever he seen white folk, and there was a lotta white folks near Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ today. They was all reporters, Mama said, and ain’t none of them gonna beat up little black boys.

“Not with all these people watching,” Mama said.

Cleavon wanted to correct Mama. Emmett wasn’t beat up. The papers said he was pistol-whipped, then shot in the head. Cleavon had a whipping before, more than one, with his Papa’s belt, but never at the hands of white boys. Whippings didn’t scare him so much as guns. It was hard to run away from guns.

He’d said that to Papa, and Papa’d given him a sad look. You ain’t never had a true whipping, son, Papa’d said, and I hope you never get one.

It was after Cleavon said that that Papa stopped arguing with Mama. Papa said it’d be good for the boys to know what them whiteys was capable of. ’Cept Roy was too scared to look.

Cleavon come’d here in his best Sunday clothes, the collar of his starched shirt too tight on his neck, and stood in line near to an hour now, right beside Mama, so they could pay their respects to Emmett. That’s what Mama said to the pastor, but that’s not what she said to Cleavon. To Cleavon, she said he was gonna see something he wouldn’t never forget.

They finally made it past the pews up front, and Cleavon could see the open coffin a few yards ahead. Grownups looked in, then covered their mouths or looked away. Next to it all, Emmett’s mama sat on the steps, tears on her cheeks, men Cleavon didn’t know holding her shoulders like they was holding her up.

Last night, Mama said to Papa after she thought Cleavon was asleep that she didn’t know if she could live without her boys, and he said, You go on, Janet. You just go on.

So Cleavon was watching Emmett’s mama, not the casket, as he come up. Papa told him ’fore they left, he said, What you’re gonna see, son, it’s not pretty. But it’s the way life is. It’s what death can be, if you’re not careful.

Mama yelled then. She said there wasn’t any proof that Emmett wasn’t careful, that whiteys killed us anyway just for breathing funny, and especially down south. Papa said, Now Janet, bad things happen in Chicago too, and she stood taller like she did when she had a mad on, and she said, Not as many bad things, and Papa said soft like he did when he didn’t want no one to hear him, You’re dreaming, honey. You’re just dreaming.

Mama stopped in front of the coffin. She made a sound Cleavon ain’t never heard before. She grabbed Cleavon’s shoulders tight with her black-gloved hands and said, “Never mind, Cleavon. You don’t have to look. We’ve paid our respects,” but now he was determined. She’d dragged him here, and he was gonna see what Emmett’s mama wanted the whole world to see.

He yanked himself outta his mama’s grasp and faced that coffin. Something was in there, dressed like him. Black suit, white shirt. But he didn’t recognize the rest of it. It had a chin and sorta mouth and some black hair what might’ve been Emmett’s. But there weren’t no eyes at all, and the skin was peeled back in places. Plus there was holes in his head.

Cleavon stared at them holes. Gunshot holes.

“Come on, Cleavon,” Mama said, but he wouldn’t move.

That was someone he knowed. That was someone he talked to. That was someone he liked.

“Holy Gods, Bobo,” he said real soft, like his Papa done just that afternoon. “This ain’t right. This ain’t right at all.”

 

***

 

“There are more senseless, irrational killings,” First Deputy Police Superintendent Michael Spiotto told the Tribune for [a 1975] series [on Chicago’s high murder rate]. “There are more cases of murder for which we can’t determine any motive.”
—Stephan Benzkofer, “1974 was a deadly year in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, July 8, 2012

 

SNAPSHOT: 1974

 

The traffic light turned red half a block ahead. Cleavon Branigan’s shoulders tensed. Kids—reedy, thin, maybe ten-twelve years younger than him—ran into alleys, away from the glass-strewn sidewalks. He was on a cross-street heading toward 65th, and if he didn’t stop, he’d probably get hit.

If he did, he wasn’t sure what the hell would happen.

It was his own damn fault, really. He’d been the one to take this route home after shopping down on East 71st. He wasn’t sure why he’d left the Near West Side anyway. The idea of good fried chicken for lunch and a black birthday card for his roommate, not one of those Hallmark pieces-o-crap, had seemed like a good idea.

Not good enough to stop here, right in the middle of the gang wars.

He slowed, foot braced over the brake, hoping the light would change before he got there. He scanned, left, right, back again, but there was oncoming traffic. He swallowed hard, deciding he’d punch it after the last car left.

He eased to a rolling stop—a California stop, his roommate called it—and all hell broke loose. Gunshots ricocheting, exploding at impact, those kids shooting at each other, not caring about him.

He eased down in the seat, peering over the dash, and slammed his foot on the accelerator. Oncoming traffic could fucking avoid him.

Someone swerved, brakes squealed, and then he was through the intersection, still driving like a crazy man. He didn’t stop until he was halfway up Martin Luther King Boulevard, almost out of the South Side, as far from the projects as he could safely get.

He pulled over into a vacant lot, his heart racing.

Then he saw the bullet holes in the side windows, rear window shattered, glass on the backseat. He hadn’t heard that. He’d thought all the explosions were outside the car.

He started shaking.

Enough. That was enough.

He was done with this Godforsaken town.

He was done, and he was never coming back.

 

***

 

I love Chicago because it made me who I am….But it’s the city I hate to love, and I won’t go back—especially now that I’m raising a son. I don’t want to lose him to the streets of Chicago.
—Tenisha Taylor Bell
CNN.com, February 15, 2013

 

 

SNAPSHOT: 1994

 

“You don’t get a say, Dad.” Lakisha Branigan grabbed her book bag, the beaded ends of her cornrows clicking as she moved. “What part of ‘I got a scholarship’ do you not understand?”

Her dad put his big hand against the big oak door, blocking her way out of the house. “The part that ends with ‘to the University of Chicago,’” he snapped. “You’re not going.”

She flung the bag over her shoulder. He was getting in her way, getting in the way of her opportunities, opportunities he had said he wanted for her.

“Do you know how hard it is to get a full scholarship to the University of Chicago?” she asked.

“I’m proud of you, baby, I am,” he said, moving in front of the door, nearly knocking over her mother’s prize antique occasional table as he did. “But you haven’t been to Chicago. I grew up there—”

“And left when gangs were shooting at you, I know,” she said. She’d heard that story a million times. Her dad hadn’t done anything, he hadn’t gotten out of the car, he hadn’t shot back, he just fled. Reggie, her boyfriend, said that made her dad a coward.

She didn’t like the word, but the sentiment made her uncomfortable. It always nagged her that her dad ran away.

“It’s not like that any more,” she said. “The crime rate is going down. You want to see the statistics?”

“I want you to go somewhere else,” he said. “Dartmouth is in the middle of nowhere—”

“And my scholarship there is tuition only,” she said. “Do you know how much that’ll cost?”

“We’ll get loans—”

“I’m not going in debt,” she said. “University of Chicago or nothing.”

That threat always worked. Except this time.

Her dad sighed and shook his head. “Then it’s nothing,” he said.

She stared at him, shocked. All her life, the lectures: education lifts you up; education is the only way our people can compete; education will make you equal when nothing else will.

“Baby,” he said, “the school is on the South Side.”

“No, it’s not,” she said. “It’s in Hyde Park.”

“Bullets don’t acknowledge neighborhood boundaries,” he said.

“And you’re paranoid.” She flounced away from him, threaded her way through the heavy living room furniture and hurried into the kitchen. She’d wasted fifteen minutes she didn’t have fighting with her dad. She’d take his car, then, and drive herself to school.

She was an adult now, whether he liked it or not.

 

***

 

Hadiya Pendleton, who performed at President Obama’s inauguration with her high school’s band and drill team Jan. 21, was shot in the back Tuesday afternoon as she and other King College Prep students took shelter from a driving rain under a canopy in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park on the city’s South Side.
—Judy Keen
“Chicago teen who performed at inauguration fatally shot,” USA Today, January 31, 2013

 

SNAPSHOT: 2013

 

Five black SUVs stopped in the alley beside Greater Harvest Baptist Church. Thin, serious men in somber suits got out, cleared the snow away from the tires, nodded at other black-clad agents holding back the crowd. Not that anyone was cheering, like the last time Lakisha Branigan had seen the First Lady.

Only Michelle Obama hadn’t been First Lady then. Just First-Lady-elect, if there was such a thing. That cool night under the klieg lights in Grant Park, the Obama family tiny on a tiny stage, a quarter of a mile from where Lakisha and her nine-year-old son Ty stood. She couldn’t even get her father to visit that night, the night the first African-American got elected President of the United States.

An African-American from Chicago. So there, Daddy, she’d said that night. And he’d said from his suburban Southern Illinois home, only three hours away, I don’t want you near Grant Park, baby. And I don’t want my grandson in downtown, ever. You hear me?

She’d heard. She never listened.

She helped Ty out of their own SUV. He was taller than she was now and had already outgrown the suit she’d bought him for the science fairs he specialized in. He’d been the only kid from his school to ever qualify for the First Robotics Competition and he’d been busy with his team for weeks now.

Normally, he complained when Lakisha wanted him to do something extra. His time was short these days. But coming to Hadiya’s funeral had been Ty’s idea. He’d known her all his life.

One of the Secret Service agents bent over, picking something off the ground. His sports coat moved slightly to reveal his gun.

“No,” Ty said, stopping beside the SUV’s open door.

Lakisha almost slid on the ice. She was wearing the wrong shoes for standing in the cold. And nylons. Her legs were freezing.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

He shook his head. “I can’t go in.”

He looked at the weapon, then at the side doors. Someone had set up metal detectors. Security protocols, because the First Lady was here. Lakisha’s stomach turned. Normally there weren’t security protocols at this church—at any church.

“You go through that stuff every day at school,” she said.

Ty held onto the open door like it was a shield. “I changed my mind.”

“Why?” Lakisha asked.

“No reason.” His voice shifted from its new tenor range to soprano. He didn’t even blush. He usually blushed when his voice cracked.

He slipped back into the SUV, and started to pull the door closed. She caught it.

“What aren’t you telling me?” she asked.

He threaded his fingers together. “Those men have guns.”

“To protect the First Lady,” she said. “You’ve seen that before too. It’s okay, Ty.”

“No,” he said. “It’s not. I want to go home.”

She sighed. Hadiya had been his friend. It was his right to mourn how he wanted.

She rounded the front of the SUV, and climbed into the driver’s side. She shut the door, and was about to turn the key in the ignition, when she hesitated.

“What else, Ty?”

He bowed his head.

“Ty,” she said in the voice she always used to get his cooperation, the voice that still worked, even though he was getting bigger than she was.

“I was in that park, Mama,” he whispered. “And I am not going near anyone with a gun ever again.”

 

***

 

Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, we at Slate have been wondering how many people are dying from guns in America every day…. That information is surprisingly hard to come by…. [For example] suicides, which are estimated to make up as much as 60 percent of gun deaths, typically go unreported…
—Chris Kirk and Dan Kois
Slate, February 21, 2013

 

 

SNAPSHOT: 2019

 

His grandfather smelled of mothballs. He hunched in the passenger seat of Ty’s car, clinging to the seatbelt like it was a lifeline. In the past year, his grandfather had become frail. Ty hadn’t expected it. His grandfather had always been so big, so powerful, so alive.

“Your mama said I’m bothering you.” His grandfather stared out the window at the neat houses on the old side street. Half the lawns were overgrown, but the others were meticulously cared for. “You’re too important to bother.”

“But she wouldn’t come,” Ty said.

“I didn’t call her. I just called you.” His grandfather shifted slightly, then looked at him sideways. “This is man-stuff. She’d yell at me for saying that.”

Ty nodded. Man-stuff. No one talked like that any more. But his grandfather was from a different generation, and in that generation, each gender had a role. His mother hated it, but sometimes Ty thought such strict definitions made life easier.

“Besides, she thinks I’m worrying too much,” his grandfather said.

Ty did too, but he didn’t say that. He’d made his first argument on the phone. Gramps, everyone’s entitled to go dark now and then.

But his grandfather had insisted: his friend Leon never failed to answer his phone. The police wouldn’t check and Leon hadn’t set up any health services, so no one was authorized “to bust into his house,” as his grandfather so colorfully said.

I’m worried, his grandfather had said. When Laverne went, she took part of him with her.

Leon, his grandfather’s best friend for as long as Ty could remember. Both men laughing, teaching him cards, giving him his first beer, teaching him to be a man, because, they said, his mother never would.

It was only a three-hour drive to his grandfather’s house. Ty hadn’t seen him enough anyway.

Ty pulled into Leon’s driveway, thinking about all those marathon movie sessions on Leon’s big TV in the basement, Laverne bringing popcorn, then pizza, and then grabbing the remote so they would get some sleep. Her funeral had been one of the saddest Ty had ever been to.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he said. “Leon’ll be mad at us.”

“I hope you’re right.” His grandfather opened the car door and got out, fumbling in the pocket of his plaid coat for keys. He found them, and grabbed the one marked with blue dye.

Then he walked to the garage door, and unlocked it. He’d already let himself in by the time Ty got out of the car.

The garage smelled of gasoline, even though Leon hadn’t had a car with a gasoline engine in five years. The door to the kitchen stood open.

Ty frowned. It was too quiet. There should’ve been shouting or laughing or some kind of ruckus. That was what he always thought of when he thought of his grandfather and Leon. Ruckus.

He climbed the two stairs into the kitchen and the stink hit him first. Something ripe mixed with an undertone of sewer. But the kitchen was spotless like usual. The table clean, no dishes in the sink.

Ty rounded the corner into the living room, stopped when he saw his grandfather crouching. At his feet, some kind of gun.

Ty took one more step, saw Leon on his back, eyes open, half his face gone.

“Fucking son of a bitch listened to me,” his grandfather said.

Ty’s breath caught. “Excuse me?”

“I used to say, you don’t use a gun to kill yourself. What if the shot goes wrong? What if it only wounds you? He used the right bullets, made sure there was no risk of living.”

His grandfather stood, knees cracking. “Shoulda known when I seen Bobo. It don’t always happen in Chicago.”

Ty didn’t understand him, but he didn’t have to. “Let’s get you out of here, Gramps. I’ll call the police.”

“Because,” his grandfather said bitterly, “calling the police always does so much good.”

 

***

 

Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.
—President Barack Obama,
January 16, 2013

 

 

SNAPSHOT: 2025

 

“I don’t see how this could work,” Deputy Chief of Police Hannah Fehey said, holding a small tablet in her left hand. She rested against the windowsill in her office, the skyline of Chicago behind, blocking all but a bit of blue from Lake Michigan. “Guns are still mechanical. No virus will shut off every single gun in the city.”

Ty smiled. His lawyer, Robert Locke, stood beside him, arms crossed, trying not to look nervous. Everyone expected Ty to be arrested by the end of the meeting.

He didn’t care. He had spent years thinking about this—ever since Hadiya and those bullets whizzing over his head in that park. Ever since his grandfather telling the same kind of stories. And Leon. Ty still didn’t want to think about Leon.

Ty had found a way to stop the violence. It would be slow, but it would work.

“I didn’t send a virus to the guns,” he said. “I sent it to the phones.”

She looked up from the tablet. “Phones?”

“Cell phones,” he said, trying not to treat her as if she was dumb. “And that tablet. And watches, glasses, clothing, and anything else computerized with a wireless or cell connection within a fifty-mile radius.”

If he had any hope of staying out of jail, he would need her on his side. Because he had already done it. He had hacked every possible personal system in the Greater Chicago area.

But she didn’t seem to notice that he had broken the law. She was still frowning at him, as if she couldn’t quite understand his point.

“So what?” she said. “You still can’t shut off a gun.”

“No,” he said. “I can’t. But if one fires, the phones nearby automatically upload everything to the nearest data node. Numbers called, texts sent, fingerprints from the screen, retinal prints, voice prints. The phone closest to the shot fired sends the information first. If you can’t identify someone from all of that and arrest them before the gunshot residue leaves their skin, then the Chicago Police Department isn’t as good as it says it is.”

Her mouth opened.

He didn’t tell her the rest of the details. All he had done was tweak already-existing technology to make it work for him. His little virus, which he sent through all the major carriers, turned personal devices on, and made them record everything in the immediate area—sound, video, location—everything. All of that data went to a series of dedicated servers, rather like those every major police department had now to scan all the traffic cameras and other security devices littering city streets.

Only those public security cameras didn’t activate when a shot rang out. They ran all the time, collecting too much useless data. These phones activated inside a house or a car, showing everything nearby. His servers instructed the personal devices to contact the police, all in a nanosecond.

It was the servers and data storage, his lawyers had told him when he came up with the idea, that made this action so very illegal.

So he wasn’t going to admit to all of his illegal acts. Just some of them.

“Check the tablet,” he said. “I’m sure someone has fired a gun in the last fifteen minutes.”

She glanced down at the tablet he had handed her at the beginning of the meeting. Her frown deepened. Then she set the tablet on the desk, leaned forward, and tapped the screen on the desk’s edge. Ty heard the chirrup as someone answered the Deputy Chief’s page.

“Any report of shots fired near the Art Institute?” she asked

“Yes, ma’am,” said the male voice, sounding perplexed. “How did you know?”

“Anyone injured?”

“We’re dispatching someone to the scene now.” Now the male voice sounded businesslike.

“Thank you,” she said, and tapped the screen again.

Ty nodded toward the tablet. “You have the information you need. You know who fired the first shot. If they have a criminal record, you already have their name and address.”

She picked up the tablet. Its light reflected in her eyes. “There’s more than one name here. Two of them belong to me.”

It took Ty a moment to understand. Police officers. “Everyone carries a personal device, ma’am,” he said. “You get reports of every shot.”

She clutched the tablet to her chest, like a child hugging a stuffed dog. “Criminals will stop carrying devices.”

“We don’t broadcast this,” he said. “We don’t tell anyone. We just arrest whoever takes a shot.”

“It’s not legal,” she said. “It won’t hold up in court.”

“Forgive me, ma’am.” Ty’s lawyer spoke up. Ty gave him a warning glance. Robert wasn’t supposed to speak unless Ty was arrested. “But under the revised FISA laws, you only need to notify the Federal Court that you’ll be doing this. You’ll have to do it under seal, but it should work.”

Ty let out a small breath. They didn’t know that for certain. The damn laws changed all the time, generally in favor of the government. But of course, he was talking to the government.

“My God,” she said.

For a moment, Ty had hope. She was going to try this.

Then she shook her head. “It’s one gun at a time.”

“One gun user at a time,” Ty said.

“We’d have to exclude firing ranges,” she muttered. “And weapons training facilities.”

“You can do that by location, ma’am,” Ty said. “Any guns fired in a sanctioned area wouldn’t trigger the alerts.”

The Deputy Chief blinked at him. “You’re giving this to us?” she asked.

“I want it tested here,” he said. “But it’s mine.”

She nodded once. “This might work,” she said. “My God. This just might work.”

 

***

 

“The data is dirty; it is not valid or reliable, there is all sorts of missing information,” says David Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer who is now an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “When I and other researchers compare what is there with what is in local police internal files, it just doesn’t add up. So we don’t have a national system for recording deaths at the hands of police. And we don’t have information about police who shoot people who survive or who shoot at people and miss.”
—Pat Schneider,
The Capitol Times,
February 19, 2013

 

SNAPSHOT: 2025

 

“You did what?” Cleavon asked.

Ty was sitting in his grandfather’s kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee. “I gave it to the police.”

“You gave it…” Cleavon sat down heavily. His body hurt. His head hurt. He could barely catch his breath. “And you think they’ll use this technology to make the world better?”

“Of course they will,” Ty said. “You know that.”

Cleavon thought of his own grandfather, clutching a rifle on the rooftops of his South Chicago home in that hot hellish summer of 1919, fending off the police as they tried to destroy anyone with black skin, in the middle of the worst race riots of that horrible century.

He thought of the white police officers, who shot first and asked questions later in the gang-ridden Chicago neighborhoods where he grew up.

He thought of Emmett Till’s mother, sitting beside her son’s coffin, tears running down her cheeks. Of the bullet holes in Emmett’s head, done by two white men who would never have been arrested by the police of their day.

Of the bullet holes in Leon’s head, and of the arrest that would never happen, because it would have been too late.

Cleavon had no idea how to tell Ty that. How to convey all he’d seen, all he knew.

“Science won’t save the world, son,” Cleavon said.

Ty’s cheeks flushed, like they always did when he was angry and tried to hide it. He wanted his grandfather to praise him, not to criticize him.

“Mama said you would be negative,” Ty said. “She said I shouldn’t tell you anything I’ve done well because you always take the pride out of it.”

Cleavon looked at him. “It’s not about you.”

Ty raised his chin. “Then what’s it about?”

Cleavon started to answer, maybe quote some Martin Luther King, some Ghandi, words about changing men’s hearts. And then he stopped, smiled, leaned back.

His grandson believed that people were inherently good. Black, white, purple. His grandson didn’t care.

Yeah, the boy was naïve, but he was a new kind of naïve, one that didn’t even exist in Cleavon’s day.

“Never mind,” Cleavon said, getting up to pour himself another cup of coffee. “You done good, Ty. You done real good.”

 

Copyright © 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
First published in Analog, May, 2014
Published by WMG Publishing
Cover and Layout copyright © 2014 by WMG Publishing
Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing
Cover art copyright © Patrikeevna/Dreamstime, fstockfoto/Dreamstime

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Snapshots

Browse more Books Search for: The WMG Newsletter Get advanced notice of new releases, bonus content, and so much more. Subscribe Now Science Fiction Available in: ebook, $2.99 Amazon Kobo and others Snapshots Kristine Kathryn Rusch Cleavon saw his first murder victim...

Publisher’s Note: Don’t Rob Yourself of This Opportunity


Our Crimes Collide Kickstarter ends this week, and it’s really going gangbusters. We funded in record time and hit our first stretch goal in record time, too. Kickstarter named it a “Project We Love” almost immediately, too.

We can’t thank you enough for the support!

If you missed my blog last week and don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick summary:

Kris and Dean are collecting 100 of their mystery short stories together into a five-volume set called Crimes Collide. Fifty stories from each author in the series; ten stories from each author in every volume.

In addition to such fantastic rewards as the five Crimes Collide volumes in ebook, trade paperback and signed/limited hardcover, we have some amazing rewards for writers, and a special workshop series for writers is included in the stretch goals.

Speaking of stretch goals, we’ve already hit five, which means everyone who backs the Kickstarter gets not only the ebook editions of the five volumes of Crimes Collide, but also the following list of kickass items:

Books:
Death Takes a Diamond: A Mary Jo Assassin Novel by Dean Wesley Smith
Fiction River: Pulse Pounders, edited by Kevin J. Anderson
An Easy Shot: A Golf Thriller by Dean Wesley Smith
Fiction River: Pulse Pounders: Adrenaline, edited by Kevin J. Anderson
Bleed Through by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Fiction River: Pulse Pounders: Countdown, edited by Kevin J. Anderson

Writing Pop-Ups ($150 value each):
Pop-Up #60: WHO, WHAT, and HOW to Study Mystery Openings
Pop-Up #61: WHO, WHAT, and HOW to Study Mystery Cliffhangers
Pop-Up #62: WHO, WHAT, and HOW to Study Mystery Main Characters

That’s about $650 worth of books and classes on top of whatever reward you choose.

That’s a hell of a steal!

You can check out the Kickstarter here.

The Kickstarter ends at 7:01 p.m. PST on Thursday, so don’t wait too long! It would be criminal to miss it.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: Missing This Kickstarter Would Be a Crime


My daughter loves crime stories. Maybe more than she should at 11.

It’s all Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s fault, really. Not because Kris is a fantastic crime writer, which, of course, she is. But because when the pandemic shut down the schools in 2020, Kris sent me a link to The Mob Museum’s virtual summer camp. It was fabulous! Nola learned all about forensic science. And she became hooked on solving crimes, especially murders.

It’s safe to say that now crime is Nola’s favorite genre. True crime, fictional crime, all is fair game. We even recently watched a documentary on Ted Bundy.

I’d worry more if she wasn’t so interested in catching the criminals <grin>.

Kris likes catching criminals, too. In her fiction, at least. And so does Dean Wesley Smith.

In fact, they are both such accomplished crime writers that when we decided to do a Make 100 Kickstarter this year (like we did last year with sf stories in Colliding Worlds), we decided to focus on mysteries. And the Crimes Collide Kickstarter catapulted itself into being.

Kris and Dean have been writing professional mystery short stories for four decades that have won awards and sold millions of copies, plus they have been acclaimed and enjoyed by fans over the entire world.

Now, for the first time, Kris and Dean are collecting 100 of their mystery short stories together into a five-volume set called Crimes Collide. Fifty stories from each author in the series; ten stories from each author in every volume.

In addition to such fantastic rewards as the five Crimes Collide volumes in ebook, trade paperback and signed/limited hardcover, we have some amazing rewards for writers, and a special workshop series for writers is included in the stretch goals.

Check out the Kickstarter here, and be sure to watch Kris and Dean’s fun video about the project.

Because not doing so would be a real crime.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again when we’re supposed to be full-on into our New Year’s resolutions. And we’re totally on that, right?

Well, maybe not. Thanks to Omicron, the gym’s out. We can still try to improve our eating habits, although I just got the annual call to order Girl Scout cookies, so….

And given everything that’s going on in the world, you can take your Dry January and, well, you know. (I mean, if you want to commit to that, go for it. I’m proud of you. But I will not be joining you.)

But there’s one aspect of life that I think is primed for resolutions: taking charge of your work life.

I mean, the pandemic has caused all sorts of unpleasant disruptions, but it has also caused a much-needed revolution in the working world.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to take charge of your career and start your own business—or find a way to turn that side-hustle you actually enjoy into a full-time gig—you need to read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Freelancer’s Survival Guide. And we’ve just made that even easier.

For the first time, the Freelancer’s Survival Guide bundles—A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business, A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Reaching Your Goals, and A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Maximizing Your Success—are available in trade paperback (of course, they’re still available in ebook, too).

Here are the synopses of the three books:

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business
This insightful bundle includes three books from the Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Getting Started
Everyone says they want to be their own boss, but very few people know how. This book will help you learn how to think properly about owning a business. It gives you guidelines in setting up your office (in or out of the house), setting your schedule, and establishing your priorities.  Getting started properly will put your business on the road to success.

When to Quit Your Day Job
The biggest dream all freelancers have is to work for themselves. They want to ditch the day job. Many freelancers quit their day job too early. Some wait too long. Some never do quit. And some should return to a day job for a few years while they fine-tune their business.

A step-by-step survival guide to the decisions you need to make to become and stay a freelancer in any business.

Networking in Person & Online
Networking sounds hard—and it is, if you’re trying to do it “right.” Instead, do it your way. International bestseller Kristine Kathryn Rusch offers her tips on networking in person. She solicited the help of great online networkers like bestsellers Neil Gaiman and Michael A. Stackpole to give online networking tips. This short book teaches you everything you need to know about networking—and more!

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Reaching Your Goals
This essential bundle includes three books from the Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Time Management
Being your own boss means setting your own schedule.  Sounds easy, right? Instead, it’s one of the toughest parts of freelancing.  In this short book, international bestselling writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch shows you how to create a schedule, meet deadlines, take time for vacation, and cope with illness.  The perfect guide for freelancers who can’t find enough time in the day.

Goals and Dreams
Everyone has dreams, but most people don’t know how to achieve them. Goals help people achieve their dreams, but how do you know if you’ve set the right goals?

In this book-length excerpt from the massive Freelancer’s Survival Guide, international bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch will help you set the right goals to achieve your dreams. She also has tips for staying positive and remaining patient while you’re on the road to success.

Turning Setbacks into Opportunity
Setbacks happen to everyone. Surviving them is hard. Surviving failure is even harder. But every successful person survives at least three failures before finding that success.  So how do you turn failure to success?

The answers lie in this book-length excerpt from the massive Freelancer’s Survival Guide by international bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who will show you how to turn those inevitable setbacks into opportunity.

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Maximizing Your Success
This fabulous bundle includes three books from the Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

How To Make Money
Celebrities like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson prove that you can always spend more money than you earn.  Want to know how to make money while self-employed? Learn how to manage the money you do earn.  In this short book, international bestselling writer, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, shows you how.

The Secrets of Success
Once you’ve become successful, you never have to work again—or so many people believe. But becoming a success is just the start.  Staying a success is the hard part.  This short book will help you both become a success and remain one.  International bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch will show you the secrets to success that will change your life.

How To Negotiate Anything
Most people hate negotiating. Instead of learning it themselves, they hire someone—an agent, a lawyer, a manager—to negotiate for them. But negotiators often do not have their clients’ best interests at heart. In this short book, international bestselling writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch shows you how to negotiate anything from buying a car to buying a house, from handling a book contract to handling a negotiator. If you have ever negotiated anything—and who hasn’t?—then this book is for you.

You can find buy links to each of these books (including the Big Book) here:

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Reaching Your Goals

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Maximizing Your Success

The Freelancer’s Survival Guide: Third Edition

So, go on. Get resolute!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: The 2021 Year in Review


Is it just me, or did this year feel like, well, a lot?

The pandemic didn’t help that, of course. We’re still wearing masks, still weighing the risk of every outing and human interaction, and I’ve gotten more shots in the arm this year than I have since I was a kid.

I’ve also lost two of my furry family members this year. I have two left, but at 17½ years and 16 years, it’s about appreciating each day with them at this point.

Emotionally, this year has been difficult. But I’ve had plenty of work to distract me, thank goodness.

We’re a small but resourceful staff here at WMG. As of the end of 2021, we have three full-time employees. We do contract out some work, but the three of us (me, Gwyneth and Josh) make up the core team.

And the feat this team pulled off this year is nothing short of…I’m searching for the right word here, because insane is what keeps coming to mind.

As I was pulling this blog together, I tallied the number of new titles we released this year (as I do every year for my Year in Review blog).

But this year, just like Santa, I had to check my list twice.

You see, WMG Publishing released 208 new titles in 2021. Two hundred and eight new titles!

Our busiest months were February (28 new titles, or the equivalent of one per day), June (27 new titles), October (27 new titles) and December (39 new titles, more than one per day).

Honestly, if I’d actually added all that up before now, I think I would have collapsed.

To give you a comparison to other publishers, consider these statistics:

  • Baen Books publishes three to four new titles a month, or 36 to 48 a year. It has 22 employees.
  • Soho Press publishes 90 new titles a year. It has 5 employees.
  • Sourcebooks publishes more than 350 new titles a year. It has more than 130 employees.
  • Scholastic publishes more than 600 new titles a year. It has 8,900 employees.
  • Hachette publishes about 1,400 adult titles a year. It has 7,500 employees.
  • Penguin Random House publishes more than 70,000 digital and 15,000 print books each year. It has more than 10,000 employees.

Mind you, these bigger publishers have a lot more infrastructure and sales staff to account for some of those employee discrepancies. And Baen also mines its backlist quite effectively, so they release more books than that number of new titles reflects (but still not as many as we did this year).

Soho Press is our closest equivalent, and in a normal year, we publish about 100 new titles. Still impressive, but considering we more than doubled our normal productivity… Yes, we are very tired <grin>.

So, why did we publish such an insane number of books?

Part of the reason is the pandemic. As you might recall, in 2020, we wound up putting a number of projects on hold (like the rest of the world). We also conceived of several new projects during Kickstarters we launched that year that needed to be fulfilled in 2021.

And then, there was Dean Wesley Smith and his 70@70 Challenge. As the name suggests, he accounted for 70 of those new titles himself! (Also insane, and he’s also tired <grin>.)

Speaking of Kickstarters, we successfully funded six of those this year, too. And participated in nine StoryBundles.

Will we try to top these numbers next year? Not on your life. But am I proud of what we’ve accomplished? You bet I am!

So, take a look at the master list of every new title we released in 2021. And if you see a title (or several) that you missed (who could blame you?), click on the title to go to the WMG store page and add it to your cart.

As for me and the staff, we’re going to take some time off for a much-needed long winter’s nap.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

The List

JANUARY
Smith’s Monthly #45

FEBRUARY
Aliens Among Us
WMG Holiday Spectacular Valentine’s Day Calendar of Stories (11 new short stories)
Fiction River: Chances
Thieves: A Diving Novel
“Black Coffee: A Marble Grant Story”
“Blind Poet”
“Cat in Waiting: A Pakhet Jones Story”
“The Portal of Wrong Love: A Poker Boy Story”
Smith’s Monthly #46
“Death Stopped for Miss Dickinson”
The Year of the Cat: A Cat of Artistic Sensibilities
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue #10
“A Menu of Memory: A Bryant Street Story”
“Cat in the Air: A Pakhet Jones Story”
“Lost Robot: A Sky Tate Story”
“Mystery Cat: A Poker Boy Story”
“Profile Gap: A Thunder Mountain Story”
“Under Glass: A Cold Poker Gang Story”

MARCH
Smith’s Monthly #47
The Year of the Cat: A Cat of Fantastic Whims
Maelstrom: A Diving Universe Novella
Fiction River: Dark & Deadly Passions

APRIL
“Puckish Behavior”
“Cat in a Different Place: A Pakhet Jones Story”
“Lost Time: A Marble Grant Story”
“Penny Dead: A Sky Tate Story”
“The Remarkable Way She Died: A Cold Poker Gang Story”
“Wrong Turn: A Bryant Street Story”
Smith’s Monthly #48
The Year of the Cat: A Cat of Feral Instincts
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue #11
“Funhouse Mirrors”
Colliding Worlds, Vol. 1
Colliding Worlds, Vol. 2
Colliding Worlds, Vol. 3
Colliding Worlds, Vol. 4
Colliding Worlds, Vol. 5
Colliding Worlds, Vol. 6

MAY
Bitter Mountain Moonlight: A Cave Creek Anthology
Open Ended Threat: A Cave Creek Anthology
Promise in the Gold: A Cave Creek Anthology
Card Sharp Silver: A Cave Creek Novel
“Cat in a Hole: A Pakhet Jones Story”
“Half a Clue: A Cold Poker Gang Story”
“Pleasing Pearl: A Sky Tate Story”
“Remembering the Last Laugh: A Bryant Street Story”
“Whistle for Help: A Marble Grant Story”
Smith’s Monthly #49
“The Watch”
The Year of the Cat: A Cat of Romantic Soul

JUNE
Tips about the Film/TV Industry for Novelists
How to Write a Novel in Half a Month
Diving Pairs, Vol. 1 (City of Ruins & Becalmed)
Diving Pairs, Vol. 2 (Boneyards & Squishy’s Teams)
Diving Pairs, Vol. 3 (Skirmishes & Strangers at the Room of Lost Souls)
Diving Pairs, Vol. 4 (The Runabout & The Falls)
Diving Pairs, Vol. 5 (The Spires of Denon & The Renegat & Escaping Amnthra)
Diving Pairs, Vol. 6 (Searching for the Fleet & Thieves)
Bottom Pair: A Cold Poker Gang Novel
Cattitude
The Year of the Cat: The Complete Collection
Kill Game (hardcover)
Cold Call (hardcover)
Calling Dead (hardcover)
Bad Beat (hardcover)
Dead Hand (hardcover)
Freezeout (hardcover)
Ace High (hardcover)
Burn Card (hardcover)
Heads Up (hardcover)
Ring Game
(hardcover)
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue #12
“Cat in Love: A Pakhet Jones Story”
“Center Drives: A Sky Tate Story”
“Let’s Dance: An Earth Protection League Story”
“Under the Skin of Death: A Cold Poker Gang Story”
Smith’s Monthly #50

JULY
Stories from Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine
Stories from the Original Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine
That’s Really Messed Up
“Paperwork to Come”
The Holiday Spectacular #2
The First Year: A Marble Grant Novel
“Cat Leading the Way: A Pakhet Jones Story”
“Mule Creek Landslide: A Thunder Mountain Story”
“Something in My Darling: A Bryant Street Story”
“That Human Fear: A Cold Poker Gang Story”
“The Story of Jean: A Sky Tate Story”
Smith’s Monthly #51

AUGUST
The Big Tom: A Pakhet Jones Short Novel
“A Missing Sister Dream: A Marble Grant Story”
“Dannie Finds a Home”
“Playing Scared: A Poker Boy Story”
“She Lost a Period: A Sky Tate Story”
“The Man Who Tasted the Other Side: A Bryant Street Story”
Smith’s Monthly #52
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue #13

SEPTEMBER
“A Matter for God”
Ball of Confusion: An Earth Protection League Novella
“A Beautiful History: A Poker Boy Story”
“Crystal Blue Attraction”
“Obvious Creeper: A Marble Grant Story”
“Rescue Two: A Seeders Universe Story”
“Stranger in the Shadows: A Bryant Street Story”
Smith’s Monthly #53
The Chase: A Diving Novel
“Cat Running Wild:  A Pakhet Jones Story”
“Cherry Jones:  A Sky Tate Story”
“Reluctant with Intent: A Marble Grant Story”
“The Woman Who Knew the Time: A Bryant Street Story”

OCTOBER
Hot Springs Meadow: A Thunder Mountain Novella
Mysterious Christmas
Fantastic Christmas
Sweet Holidays
Stories for the Cold of Winter
Don’t Touch My Magic
Ghosts Among Us
Run! Creatures, Critters, and Pulphousers…
There’ll Be Blue Popcorn Without You!
Twisted Robots
“The Demise of Snot Rocket”
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue #14
WMG Holiday Spectacular Halloween Calendar of Stories (9 new short stories)
A Case for Aliens
Fantasy Love
A Time for Cool Madness
Weird Crime
Holiday Insanity
Smith’s Monthly #54

NOVEMBER
Sweet Valentines
Halloween Harvest
“Unity Con: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum”
A Poker Boy Christmas: A Poker Boy Collection
Ghosts are Weird
The End Might Be Interesting After All
Too Strange for the Name
“A Brush with Intent: A Bryant Street Story”
“Cat Caught in the Art: A Pakhet Jones Story”
“Models Four: A Marble Grant Story”
“Patty Bluff: A Sky Tate Story”
Ten Little Fen: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum
Smith’s Monthly #55
WMG Holiday Spectacular 2021 Calendar of Stories (38 new short stories)

DECEMBER
“Ghost Diet: A Marble Grant Story”
“Hidden Box Inn and Casino: A Poker Boy Story”
“I’ll See You: A Bryant Street Story”
“Viewing Susan: A Sky Tate Story”
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue #15
Smith’s Monthly #56
“And a Cup of Good Cheer”

Publisher’s Note: I’m Dreaming…of Better Days Ahead


I’d be lying if I said I was dreaming of a white Christmas this year. Not because I don’t absolutely love white Christmases. I very much do. They are magical.

But living on the Oregon Coast, where you’re far more likely to see a rainbow than a snowflake, I gave up on the idea of a white Christmas at my house years ago. I mean, we might see snow a time or two some years. But the chances of seeing a white Christmas in Portland (where it actually does snow) are only 1 to 3 percent. Here, almost zero.

But this year, a Christmas miracle. About 9 p.m. on Christmas Day, snow started to fall. Big, fluffy, wet flakes. The kind of snow that’s perfect for snowballs and snowpeople.

In fact, my husband and daughter had a snowball fight right then and there in the driveway. Such opportunities are not to be missed.

The snow continued through the weekend and more is expected to fall later today, maybe even through the week. 

In all of my time living here (almost 16 year), I’ve never seen it snow like this. And stay.

Maybe I’m just being wistful, but this Christmas snow gives me hope. Maybe the impossible is possible. If ever there was a time we needed hope, it’s now.

There’s still beauty in the world, and joy to be found. Even if we must take it moment by moment.

And so, even though we’re staring down the uncertainty of Omicron and another winter surge, we can find comfort in such rare events as a white Christmas or even just some of the simple things that make our lives a little easier and our burdens a little lighter.

It’s why we have continued offering our workshop sales, even though we kept hoping the need for them would pass. We can help writers improve their craft and ease the burden on their wallets.

Which is why now through January 4th, everything currently available on the WMG Teachable site is 50% off.

That includes…

    • All Workshops
    • All Classes
    • All Lectures
    • All Challenges
    • All Collection Classes
    • All Study-Along Classes
    • All Pop-Up Classes
    • All Subscriptions (including Lifetime to Workshops and to Study Along)

Just hit purchase on the class you would like to take, then at the top of the next page put in this sale code:

YearEnd

Click here for more information.

A workshop sale might not be a Christmas miracle, but it offers us a chance to spread a little good cheer.

From the entire staff here at WMG, we wish you and yours a very Happy New Year! Here’s to better days ahead!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: We Wish You a Merry Christmas


Christmas week has come at last, and with it some much-needed joyful celebration.

The WMG offices will be closed Dec. 22-26 and Dec. 29-Jan. 2 so our staff can spend time with their families (safely, of course). And in my household, we have plans!

We have cookies to bake and presents to wrap and holiday movies to watch!

But before I do all that, I have an annual tradition to fulfill. A gift to you, dear readers.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Free Fiction story this week, “And a Cup of Good Cheer,” is a story I originally bought for a volume of Fiction River that I was going to edit called Unlikely Heroines. Because of the pandemic, we were unable to publish that volume (although Leah Cutter so kindly rescued it and published all of my beloved stories in Unexpected Heroines). But now we have published it as a standalone short story, so I’m so pleased to be able to share it with you.

This story is delightfully weird. And definitely unexpected. And a refreshing twist on a holiday tradition.

Here’s the synopsis:

Gail looks forward to her annual Christmas shopping trip to the high-end specialty foods store. Until her phone keeps interrupting with news alerts and a barrage of texts from her husband, Ron.

Ron never texts her, and the messages grow increasingly weird. He wants a figgy pudding and he wants one right now!

Gail soon realizes her family needs her—and her Christmas spirit—to save the day.

I love Gail. I think we’d be friends.

For the next week, you can read this story on Kris’ website by clicking here, or you can download it to your device here.

So, good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.