See a penny

I don’t believe that I am particularly superstitious. On a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being “not in the least” and 100 the score of your average major league baseball player on a hot streak of wins/at-bats, I doubt I crack the low end of the scale. I don’t think twice about walking under ladders. I love black cats—years ago, one crossed my path when I was on my way to take a linear algebra exam, which I aced. Friday the 13th is just another day.

Pick it up

I’ve broken mirrors, spilled salt, and opened umbrellas indoors, all without a second thought. But there’s one superstition that has settled in several years ago, unpacked its bags, and made itself at home. When I see a penny on the ground, I pick it up. Usually.

All daylong

My only condition is that the penny has to be face-up. At one time I heard or read that if it’s tail-side up, all the luck has run out. So if it’s heads, it’s mine. Tails, and I pass it by.

I don’t know why this became my quirk. Rational Me knows that it makes no sense, that the existence and orientation of a stray zinc coin washed with copper can have no influence on my life. I understand that existence is one uncertainty after another, and the need to quell the fear that this can inspire, to seek order in a disordered world, can lead me to find meaning in meaningless events.

You’ll have good luck

From this point on, maybe I’ll start doing what some variations of the story behind the superstition describe, and turn over the pennies that are tails-side up so that someone else to have the luck. I could also dig more deeply into the history of this and other superstitions and use the information in stories.

And I will probably continue to collect pennies I find in the street. As long as they’re face-up.

If you’re curious, here’s an article with short histories of common Western superstitions, and one with more information about the penny legend.

(This post also appeared over at the BookView Café blog)

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Unexpected Art, or Things Seen While Wandering

I’m a walker. At home, I take my dog, Gaby, for long morning jaunts through the neighborhoods or nearby state park. When I travel, I try to make time to wander. I take ghost tours, which are great ways to learn the history of an area as well as local legends and scandals. I window-shop. And sometimes, I stumble upon unexpected art.

A couple of years ago, during a visit to New York, I spotted these images. I’m pretty sure I was walking through the West Village when I came upon Liberty Lou Reed. Phone Guy turned up nearer the Meatpacking District; I also spotted his brother decorating a nearby sidewalk.

Liberty LouPhone Guy

This past May, I took a research trip to Park City, Utah. Originally a mining town, it’s known now as a ski resort and the site of the Sundance Film Festival. One evening, I signed up for a ghost tour, and in addition to locations of long ago murders and mayhem, our small group also visited a few alleyways to see graffiti left by Banksy, the UK artist. These works were set off with frames and protective shielding, but according to our guide, at least one piece was painted over by folks who didn’t want graffiti on their building no matter how famous the artist.

Banksy 1Banksy 2

I don’t expect to find unexpected art close to home, so during a recent walk along a park trail, I was surprised to find these images stuck to a sign. When I got home, I searched for Smallest_Giant online, and found several sites on which folks had posted drawings and photos of images, including the very same daydreaming fox and cat that I had spotted.

daydreaming foxcat

I thought it was neat that the same images that I saw had been viewed and photographed by others, and that there are places online where these bits of whimsy can be displayed.

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Slowly but surely….

I’ve felt pulled in all directions these last few weeks. I start one thing, and three others clamor for attention. So the goals for next few weeks are to settle down, focus on writing, finish dealing with the leaves, add a few more batches of soup/stew/something to the deep freeze…

…and that’s too many things to plan. I know I should focus on work and let the chores fall where they may. It’s the never-ending battle between the immediate sense of accomplishment I feel when I do something around the house and the mix of emotions related to writing: accomplishment, but also aggravation, that feeling of wandering lost in the woods because one word after the other–what’s up with that?

Meatloaf is simpler.

My reissued light fantasy stories, Continuing Education and 8 rms., full bsmt., are now available at Amazon as well as BookView Café.

Upcoming contest! From 7-14 November, you can enter for a chance to win ebooks of GIDEON and over 30 other thrillers AND a Kindle Fire. I will post the link as soon as the contest goes live.

No hard freeze yet in far NE Illinois, which means I still have flowers. The mums have faded and the hibiscus are losing their leaves. But the begonias in the planter are still plugging along despite nights in the 40s and squirrels digging holes in the soft dirt.

Autumn Begonias

Autumn Begonias

It’s nice to see shots of pink and white and leafy greenery amid all the warm shades, the yellow, orange and brown. I’m going to miss them when they’re gone.

‘Tis the season, so pumpkin spice is everywhere. I’m not a fan of the flavor in coffee and tea, but I do like pumpkin pie. So when I found a recipe for baked oatmeal with pumpkin, I decided to give it a shot. I used regular milk instead of almond milk, whole wheat flour instead of white whole wheat, added extra spices, and used pecans instead of walnuts. Imagine not-too-sweet pumpkin pie. A good way to start a chilly day. Definitely a keeper.


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Contests galore (and even more)!

October will be a busy month for contests and sales.

  • GIDEON is one of 25 ebooks you can enter to win at the Ultimate Horror Book and Prize Giveaway. Two lucky winners will get the ebooks, while one Grand Prize winner gets all the ebooks and a collection of classic horror novels along with matching Funko Pop figures. The contest runs through October 30th, with the winner to be chosen on Halloween.
  • CODE OF CONDUCT is one of more than 35 SF ebooks one lucky person can win, along with a Kindle Fire to read them on. Contest runs until 10/10. Enter here.
  • The first four Jani Kilian novels (CODE OF CONDUCT, RULES OF CONFLICT, LAW OF SURVIVAL, CONTACT IMMINENT) are being offered as a $9.99 bundle over at Book View Café. Sale end 10/11.
  • The ebook editions of GIDEON and JERICHO are on sale at all the usual outlets. GIDEON can be had for $3.99, JERICHO for $4.99. I don’t know how long the lower prices will be in effect, so grab them now.
  • And finally, on 10/4, a couple of my light, sweet fantasy short stories go on sale at Book View Café. They will be sold there exclusively through October, after which they’ll be available at Amazon and other outlets that sell short stories.

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Flowers, wild and tame

At the state park, ’tis the season of yellow, mostly. Asters of various types. including a ton of goldenrod. I tried to identify some of the plants , but I tend to photograph the flowers and ignore the leaves and stems, and sometimes the leaves and stems are important.

A type of rosinweed, I think.

A type of rosinweed, I think.

Most of these plants are very tall–5-6 feet or more–and bursting with blooms. I know they’re shedding pollen like mad, but they’re still pretty.

I think this is camphorweed

I think this is camphorweed


These little guys were growing on the beach, in the shelter of some driftwood. Pretty sure they are rough blazing star, which should grow 2-3 feet high…unless they are struggling for purchase on a stretch of rocky sand.

rough blazing star, a type of liatris

rough blazing star, a type of liatris

a close-up of one of the rough blazing stars

a close-up of one of the rough blazing stars








Finally, more asters. Could be frost asters, which sounds lovely. Or fleabane, which, not so much. They’re growing amid a tangle of grapevines, of which we have a lot around here.

frost aster or fleabane

frost aster or fleabane


And that’s the wildflower report for the month. Here at the old homestead, the hardy hibiscus are blooming nicely, and still attracting bees and hummingbirds.

the hummingbirds" fave hibiscus

the hummingbirds’ fave hibiscus

The bees like this one

The bees like this one

this one"s winding down

this one’s winding down














The begonias are giving it a last shot–whites have been blooming for most of the summer, but the magentas and pinks struggle in the planter, which is very well-shaded. So far, a few magentas have bloomed, and one or two pinks look like they still have some life left. Fingers crossed that they have a chance to bloom before the chill sets in.



The hydrangeas in the shady sideyard are still blooming. The Annabelle stays white, while the Limelight starts whitish, then changes to pale lime. IIRC, last year’s flowers faded to pale pink, so I still have some color to look forward to.












The hardy mums that I planted last fall are starting to open. Two bright yellows and a brick red or burnt orange–I won’t know until buds open completely. In the past, I had stuck mums in the planter, then dug them up after the frost killed them. Last year, Julie Czerneda suggested I plant them before the frost, so I did. Three of five plants survived, and look about ready to explode with flowers.

"Get thee to a mummery!"

“Get thee to a mummery!”

And that’s it for flowers for now. I’m surprised that I still have so many plants still going strong. I’m glad–I’ll miss them come the chill.


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Worldcon schedule

I received my final schedule for Midamericon II. No reading or kaffeeklatsch, but some cool-looking panels and a SFWA signing. 

Thursday Aug 18, 2016, 12:00PM
Extreme, but Workable Societies 1 hour | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM, Kansas City Convention Center, 2208
Steven H Silver | Chris Phillips (Flash Fiction Online) | Ms Kristine Smith | Mr. Jared Shurin | Nina Niskanen

Genre Shows You Should Be Watching But Probably Aren’t 1 hour | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Kansas City Convention Center, 2207 , Priscilla Olson | Max Gladstone | Ginjer Buchanan | Don Sakers | Ms Kristine Smith

Saturday Aug 20, 2016, 5:00PM
Science Fiction That Inspired Scientists 1 hour | 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Kansas City Convention Center, 2206
Ms Kristine Smith | Dr. Ronald Taylor | Dr Dominick D’Aunno | Dr Helen Pennington | Mel. White

Sunday Aug 21, 2016, 10:00AM
SFWA Autographing: Kristine Smith 50 minutes | 10:00 AM -10:50 AM, Kansas City Convention Center, SFWA Table

A.K.A Why a Pen Name? 1 hour | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Kansas City Convention Center, 3501H
Toni L. P. Kelner | Ms Kristine Smith | Teddy Harvia

Also, BookView Café will have a Creators Table in the Dealers Room on Saturday. Stop by and pick up a ribbon for your badge (while supplies last) and learn about some great books (we will always have those).

Less than two weeks to go….

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The Littlest Basil

I like basil. I don’t love it–I don’t find it as versatile as thyme or tarragon, frex. But I enjoy the scent of it on my hands, and it’s wonderful when tossed with olive oil and warm tortellini. I haven’t grown it these last few years, though, because the plants always seem to bolt on me. Lotsa flowers, which are edible if a little bitter. Fewer leaves.

When I was in Madison for Wiscon, I visited the Saturday morning Farmers Market with Jen Stevenson, and wound up buying a small flat of mixed basils, opal and a curly green variety I’d never seen before. At the time, I didn’t know why I was bothering even as I forked over the cash. I think part of me just likes growing things I can cook with. Anyway, two months on, the plants are going great guns, thick with fragrant leaves and not a flower to be seen:

Curly and opal basil


For whatever reason, I examined the plants again this morning. Picked a few browned leaves, then looked behind one of the big opals, and found this little guy:


Little Basil


The curly green plants are shorter than the opals, but this plant is definitely lagging behind. Little Basil. I turned the pot around to allow him to get more sun. I don’t think he can catch up to the other plants, but who knows?

Hello, my name is Kristine, and I feel sorry for plants.

(I also just went outside and rubbed my hands over the basil leaves and oh man do they smell good. A sharp cinnamon edge.)

As for the container Black Cherry, nothing is even close to edible. 9-10 bunches of greenies at various stages, and a number of flowers. I picked a ripe loner last week, and that’s going to have to do for a while. Could be well into August before anything is ready to eat.

Black Cherry greenies


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So long, Thrillerfest–

–until next year, maybe. I don’t have all my 2017 cons sorted out yet, and I do not want to travel as much next year as I did/will this year. But I had a good time and I love NYC, so I don’t know….

Last week at this time, I was home, unpacking and making a list of needed groceries. It felt good to be back in my space, with everything I needed to get through the day close at hand, but it was good to get away. I love staying at The Jane. It’s located on Jane Street–duh–in a residential area of the West Village. You leave the hotel and run into folks walking their dogs or pushing strollers. No Midtown-Times Square crowds and craziness. It’s a neighborhood:

IMG_0457West Village/Chelsea








Plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants once you head out to Washington Street, 8th Avenue. And it is on 11th Avenue, which can get busy. But if you cross that, you’re in the Hudson River Greenway. Then there’s the river, and the view (this from one of the terraces at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which is a few minutes’ walk away:

view of Hudson River & NJ from the Whitney

I like it.





I also like Gitane’s, the restaurant off the hotel lobby. Sazeracs are on the menu, and they have an alligator:

A really good sazeracGitane"s alligator








I did not manage to do all the things I wanted to do. Only managed two museums, the Whitney and the 1st floor of the Met–it was too hot and humid to wander, and I didn’t want to wear myself out before the convention. I never made it to the Campbell Apartments for a sazerac, but since I was able to get a good one at the Jane, I wasn’t too disappointed. I did snag a ticket for a fireworks river cruise on the 4th. I took too many videos, and some of the lighting isn’t the best. I also can’t upload any of them because there’s an 8MB limit for video files, so, imagine fireworks. Shopping was confined to a couple of quick runs through the Chelsea Market, and the Met gift shop. Oh, and the FBI gift shop, where I got the best t-shirt ever:

ZTF shirt








The FBI workshop was great–very informative, with presentations about past cases and Q&A sessions. Thrillerfest was fun. I missed some of the events since I didn’t stay at the con hotel, but my panel went well–I wore my ZTF t-shirt:

photo courtesy of Thrillerfest

photo courtesy of Thrillerfest


Heather Graham moderated. From right to left: Me, Kelley Armstrong, Christine Feehan, Mell Corcoran, and Alexandra Ivy. We talked about what scares us, what books or movies inspired us, and whether we had ever had any paranormal experiences. I pushed The Dark Descent, a collection of horror stories that imo every horror fan should have in their library. Also mentioned my love of Constantine the movie. Sorry, purists–I know how you feel, but I don’t have anything invested in the comic, so.



After my panel, which was on Friday morning, I attended panels, and signed some books. Met some great folks–shout outs to Mell Corcoran, Veronica Forand, and Kate Kessler! Made quick passes through parties.

In closing, the 81st Street/Museum of Natural History subway stop is the best:

81st St. subway squawki was herethe bats are big down here






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Two and a half weeks until Thrillerfest, which means not really the doldrums. More like, I should be thinking about what to pack but I can’t face it yet. I have a lot to work to do between now and then, so instead I’m dicking around online in search of bars in NYC that make sazeracs. Taking recs for food trucks and restaurants.

I get a year older during the visit. Born on the 4th, me. Looking forward to an NYC fireworks display. Also, walking the High Line, the Hudson Riverwalk. Puttering. I love New York. I really do.

And then there’s the con itself. I have a cool panel on Friday morning at 1020am:

Panel Master: Heather Graham
Kelley Armstrong
Mell Corcoran
Christine Feehan
Alex Gordon
Donna Grant
Alexandra Ivy

Then I get to go to panels, sign some books, talk to folks, fangirl, etc etc. Hoping for decent weather.

Reading–I am ashamed to admit that I don’t read as much as I used to. I mean, I read a lot online–news and political blogs. Science articles. But as for fiction…I must have well over 200 books in my electronic TBR stack (we won’t even talk about the jammed bookcases). I finished Robin McKinley’s SUNSHINE a few weeks ago, and loved it. Wanted to start something else, but I have research to do and that means nonfiction. That current book is THE EPIGENETICS REVOLUTION by Nessa Carey, and I should be way further along than I am.

I feel…guilty. Writers should read. It’s a major tool in the kit. It’s the primary way to learn what’s out there.

Also, it’s fun.

I have some beta-reads on tap, so I can rebuild the reading muscles that way. Then there are some golden oldies: MR James, Terry Pratchett, Preston & Child. Honestly, if someone stranded me on a desert island with my iPad and a solar charger, I’d be fine for at least a year. Two, possibly.

Oh well, back to something resembling work.

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