Posted in General

Supporting Authors

The holiday season is in full swing. For some of us, that means a lot of gift giving, gift wrapping and general chaos. For a lot of us, it also means wondering how to best support the authors, writers and artists we admire. While some of the ways you can help your favorite creators are obvious, others might not be.

Put them on your wish lists. This is actually a double-bonus here. If someone is following your wish list, not only do you get the book you want, you’re also letting other people know about them and giving a low-key recommendation that you enjoy their works.

Review their stuff. Getting reviews is hard. Leaving one lets an author know what you liked and again, recommends their work to others.

Give them a shout-out. Social media makes it easier than ever to connect, turn some of those connections to the authors you admire. Retweet their announcement about their latest release or share their Facebook page.

Buy their books. This is an obvious one. Book sales mean authors have more money to spend on the people they need to shop for. And there’s nothing wrong with getting yourself a small gift or two.

Gift their books. Already have a copy? Books are good gifts, be it the traditional paper or a digital copy. This is another double-bonus. Not only does buying the book help, but gifting it is another way to recommend a good book, not just to your recipient, but also to anyone there to witness the unwrapping.


Posted in Stories, writing

Small Heroes

Adam wasn’t sure he liked preschool. He was one of the smallest kids in the class, even compared to the rest of the children.

And, on top of that, there was Lowry.

Lowry was several months older, and he knew he was big for his age. On top of that, he came from a house of big, loud older siblings who pushed and demanded. Those habits had been passed down to Lowry.

Now that he was one of the bigger kids in preschool, the big, pushy demeanor carried over to bullying. If he saw something he wanted, he was going to get it.

Adam, smallest kid in the class, had been his favorite target for the better part of a month and a half. Hard as he tried to stay away from Lowry, Lowry made it a point to hunt him down.

Today’s tactic was to sit inside instead of going outside at recess and color. He’d gotten most of the way through his coloring page when a shadow shifted. Fully expecting Lowry, Adam looked up, hoping he looked meek and pathetic enough that maybe Lowry would go away in a few minutes.

Instead, her brunette hair in pigtails and a bright pink jacket on over her bunny-rabbit shirt, was a girl he didn’t think belonged in his class. She certainly hadn’t been in it this morning. Or yesterday.

“Hi! I’m Sadie. Can I sit here?”

“Sure,” he said and Sadie grinned as she sat down.

“What’s your name?”


“That’s a nice name. What are you coloring?”

Meekly, he showed her, expecting her to mock it, or take his crayons. Instead, Sadie grinned. “That’s really neat. I have hard time staying in the lines.”

“Oh that’s easy, see, I just start my drawing on the lines and go inside.” He showed her and Sadie watched.

“I should try that!”

Delighted as she selected her own coloring page and contemplating the available crayons, Adam returned to his picture. She might be noisy like Lowry, but that was about it.

“Are you new?”

“Yep! Daddy and I just moved here from Arizona.”

“Where’s Arizona?”

“It’s a long way away. We drove for hours with Uncle Marshall to get here. I fell asleep though. Driving for that long is too boring.”

“Sometimes when we have to be in the car for a while my Mom plays the license plate game with me,” Adam said.

“What’s that?”

“Hey. Adam’s got friend.”

Quizzical, Sadie turned around and Adam shrank back as Lowry approached. He was missing one of his lower right teeth, having fallen out two days ago.  Adam remembered because Lowry had shoved the tiny treasure box with its bloody contents in his face when it had happened.

“Oh! I’m Sadie.” She waved at Lowry. “Who are you?”

Lowry only laughed. “I’m the kid you’re going to share your snack with.”

That bright smile faded, replaced instead by a wrinkled nose and a frown. “But I don’t want to share it with you.”

“But I want you too. Since Adam didn’t have a good snack yesterday. Just plain crackers.”

His favorite crackers, actually, but Lowry hadn’t cared.

Sadie however, stood up. “Do you not get snack from home?”

“Of course I get snack,” Lowry said. “But I want yours.”

“I can trade you.”

“No. I want your snack.”

Sadie contemplated it. “You’re not very nice,” she said. “And I’m not giving you my snack. Daddy got me green grapes especially because those are my favorite.”

“Then Daddy can pack you extra tomorrow,” Lowry said and pushed Sadie.

It wasn’t a hard push, but it startled her enough into falling over. Adam shrank back, certain Lowry would turn his attention to his favorite target now.

Instead, an ear-piercing scream and the sound of crying drew the attention of the teacher and one of the aides.

“What happened?”

Through the massive tears falling down Sadie’s face she pointed at Lowry. “He pushed me! I don’t want to share my snack with him.”

“I did not,” Lowry denied.

“Adam?” The teacher knelt while Sadie used her sleeves to scrub at her face. “What happened?”

His heart nearly stopped and he glanced at Lowry. “He…He told Sadie to give him his snack and when she said she didn’t want to he pushed her down.”

“He’s a liar! Miss Bridgette, they’re both liars!”

“I think we’re going to have to check the camera. Come on, Sadie. Thank you, Adam.”

Adam watched in mute horror while Sadie stood up, still sniffing a little. Miss Bridgette, their teacher, handed her a tissue and Sadie used that to wipe her nose while Lowry glowered. Adam kept watching as they went to the teacher’s desk. He knew when the tape had been pulled up because Lowry started shouting he was going to tell his dad.

Two slips were drawn up—Pink, for Lowry for a misbehavior and blue for Sadie, for an incident. Both slips were put up and Lowry was sent to the timeout chair while Sadie was allowed to come back over.

“You’re not hurt, are you?” Adam asked when she plopped down. Sadie shook her head.

“No, but I don’t like him.” She considered it and grinned as she looked at Adam. “Do you like grapes?”

“Yeah. I love grapes. I have crackers again today though.”

“I’ll trade you some of my grapes for some of your crackers!”


Loud, Adam decided, wasn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it meant a bully coming to steal his crackers.

And other times, it meant he had a pig-tailed hero to come help him.

by A.J. Helms

Posted in blogging

November Recap

There’s less than a week left in November, and here in the US, the preparations for our Thanksgiving are underway. This year, it falls on the twenty-eighth, which makes things a little more hectic.

As a recap on how my November went: Although I won NaNo, I didn’t end up writing as much as I would have liked. I’m hoping I get a better answer for how to tackle the dual problem of less time and too many ideas for the Camps during 2020. Given how things keep changing, there’s also a possibility I won’t need to worry about it.

Once I switched over to projects that had some basis behind them already, things went smoother. I’ve written several new shorts and I have one more short story to post here. At the moment I’m making finishing edits on it and getting an image together.

Popping over to long-term projects, Crimson and Gold has gone through one last round of grammar and spell checks and I’ve got the cover about 75% done. Check back a little later in December for more news on the launch and a cover reveal.

On a more blog-related note: I’m in the process of making some other updates to go along with the update to my prompts launching in December. Some of the smaller things include updating my about page, some of the layout and a few other tweaks. All of those should be live and rolled out by the thirtieth.

There’s already a lot to do for December, so I’m trying not to stress too much about picking a main project.

How was your November? Any plans for the next month?

Posted in Stories

A Trial For the Ocean

“Given her history, throwing her in a bottomless hole should come as a blessing. All of her offenses are not only jailable, they’re grounds for execution.”

Stuck as she was in the chair where she’d been placed for the ‘trial’, Coral had to consider her options. Behind her, the harbor called to her. She knew her ship wasn’t there, but she wanted to turn, to look for the familiar sight of the smoothed bow and the patchy sails.

Patchy, mostly because she had a bad habit of ‘borrowing’ sails from the ships she sank.

The judge leaned over his chair. “Will you say nothing in your defense, Miss Coralie?”

She hated when they called her that. Why couldn’t humans get it right? It was Coral—and technically, it was Captain Coral.

Technical, mostly because she only really had any command when they were engaging with slavers or mermaids.

“No,” she answered. Her tone remained impassive.

“Then you will make no attempts to deny the charges of frequent piracy, maiming sailors and evading justice?”

She contemplated it for only a moment. She had done most of those things. “I’d like to offer an amendment to the charges,” she replied.

“Oh?” That came from the prosecutor. “What would that be?”

“Maiming sailors. I don’t maim sailors. I do however, maim slavers and all of the ships I sank are ones that engage in enslaving and capturing mermaids.”

It brought an uproar from the men around her and Coral smiled only a little more while the judge banged his gavel against his stand to beat down the level of sound in the courtroom. Just once she looked out the window towards the harbor while the judge tried to restore order.

“Enough!” The judge thundered.  “We are holding trial today in a court of justice. Miss Coralie. How will you plead to the charges?”

“What will my sentence be for pleading guilty?”

“You’ll be executed,” he answered.

“Then may I request my execution to be drowning in the ocean?”

Another murmur from the crowd, but hushed. She heard it all the same—this was a trick. There had to be something up her sleeve.

“I will…allow it,” he said. “How will you plead?”

“Guilty on all counts.”

More rumbling, but the judge only inclined his head and brought his gavel down. “Then we are agreed,” he said. “At dusk you will be tied to a rock and thrown into the ocean.”


“Until then, you will be placed in a holding cell,” he said. “Bailiff?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

The bailiff came around to loop an arm under her legs and lift her out of the chair. Coral smiled a little as he carried her out, humming softly to herself as he continued to move her through the courthouse and to the holding cell.

“I can set you facing the window,” he said.

“Please. I want to watch the sunset.”

“What would you like for your last meal?” he asked as he set her down. “I can have something nice brought in. Perhaps some cake?”

Coral laughed and used her arms to push herself upright. “Actually, I hear about ham and pork all the time. Could I bother you for some? I’ve never had any.”

He nodded, somewhat sadly, but stood there for a moment. “You don’t seem upset at all.”

“I’m returning to the ocean, of course I’m not.”

“But you’re to be executed. You’ll die.”

“All things die. That’s an inevitable part of life. That execution won’t be what kills me.”

He studied her and nodded. “I’ll bring in some nice, sliced ham for you a little later, Miss Coralie.”

“Thank you.”

He left, shutting the door behind him. Coral inhaled and settled back. The sun would be setting soon, and she would be going back to the ocean.

Idly, she slid her sleeve up to scratch at the scales there. The rock might slow her down, but she wasn’t concerned. Once in the water, her scales and her fins would reappear. She’d just swim back to her ship.

Back to her ship, and to whatever other mermaids needed her help.

by A.J. Helms