The Shutterbug

Detective Ben Waterhouse sat on the lumpy futon in the living room reviewing his notes while the coroner finished photographing the man’s body. There wasn’t much to go on. The name on the mailbox in the lobby said the occupant of apartment seven was George Wheeler, but there was no record of a George Wheeler in any database.

The super said the man kept to himself. Twenty-two of his neighbors interviewed so far claimed they didn’t know him or his name. Most of the interviewees volunteered the man in apartment seven was ugly and that he had burn scars on the right side of his face.

The coroner left and the detective studied the body on the bed. His left hand looked like it was reaching for the cell phone. Waterhouse picked up the phone and pressed the home button. There was no passcode. He checked the man’s phone contacts. None. He checked his text messages. None. He studied the apps on the phone. The Weather Channel, Google, and a flashlight. No email. No Facebook. No Instagram. The detective tapped the photo app and let out a low whistle. Nine thousand photos. He started swiping the photos with his index finger. Hundreds of photos of women; all appeared to be strangers. He’d photographed them in the subway, in café’s, at bus stops, in museums; all public places and the majority of women were not looking at his camera. Next he tapped “Memories” and started swiping the photos again. He didn’t whistle this time.

The first woman was drinking a cup of coffee at an outdoor café. The awning said, “Get Wired.” The detective knew the place; it was on 57th Street. He swiped the next picture. It was of the same woman except she was dead. There were ‘before and after’ photos of twenty-five women. First photo alive. Second photo dead. All twenty-five had severe burns on the right side of their faces.

Photograph number twenty-six showed a young girl, he estimated she was between eighteen and twenty. Upturned nose, blue eyes, shoulder-length red hair. Pretty smile. There was no after photograph.

Back at the station house, the detective went to his superior’s office and updated him.

“There is no after picture of the last girl,” Waterhouse said. “I don’t know if he died before he could kill her, or before he could photograph her, or if she is still alive somewhere. And I don’t know where he killed the others. No record of him at DMV, no property records, no voting record. Don’t see how he could have killed them in the apartment and gotten them out without anyone seeing him.”

“Let me see,” Commander Hanson said.

He stared at the photograph and looked up ashen-faced.

“That’s my daughter,” he said.

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Win a Writing Contest This Year

pile of manuscripts

As any writer will confess, with the first day of a new year comes new resolutions to “write more,” “write daily,” “write at least five pages a day,” or “get published this year.”

You’ll never get published if you don’t submit your work. So instead of watching endless episodes of “Breaking Bad,” or all three seasons of Seinfeld’s new Internet series about comedians in cars, try submitting your work on a regular basis.

One way to get published, and to get noticed, is to win or place in a writing contest. There are hundreds of contests every year, and many of them have no entry fee.

Make a resolution to enter one writing contest a month. You might not win, but you will have honed your writing skills. With luck, you may even get some feedback on your story or your writing style.

First things first. Find websites that list writing contests, and create your own writing submission calendar. Be sure to note the pertinent details, such as the deadline and word count.

Read all of the contest guidelines; there could be a theme or keyword you must write. Pay special attention to the submission guidelines. If you don’t follow the guidelines to the letter, your story may be tossed out immediately.

Here is one website that has detailed listings of writing contests coming up in 2014:

(http://writersviews.com/writing-contests.php).

Writer’s View.com compiles and posts an up-to-date listing of writing contests all over the world. The listing is free of charge; the site encourages winners of these contests to notify them so that they can feature the author’s work on their website.

***Bonus: Writer’s Views lists only writing contests that are FREE to enter!

Sneak preview of some of their listings:

Poetry Writing Contest
Springfield Film Festival and Springfield Art Institute have united their prize budgets to offer a writing competition for all levels and all ages to submit their own original poetry about Climate Change for a two round contest … more >>
Satirist Comedy Writing Contest
looking for the next George Carlin, the man referred to as, “a major force in comedy since 1960s and there will be no substitute for his insight, nor his tireless and hilarious attacks on the enfranchised …”, more >>
Love Story Writing Contest
is a contest for romance novelists and new writers who want to try writing about the magic of love and the everlasting love between a couple and their journey into deepest emotional bond that can be experienced … more >>

What are you waiting for? Pick a contest, any contest and enter. There is no fee; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Photo credit: Huffington Post

Coffee, Tea or Kindle?

Power on or crack the spine? Turn off or put down? Slide right or turn the page? This is the battle for the hearts and minds of book lovers.

kindle and books
Photo credit: afantasyreader.com

Does the Kindle Spell the End of Books in Print?

The Kindle, so named because the developers likened it to “lighting a fire,” heralded a revolution in the world’s reading habits and changed the face of publishing forever. Sales of in print books peaked in 2007, the same year the Kindle was introduced to the public. Prior to the Kindle, e-books were barely a blip on the radar in the publishing industry. Today, almost 30% of Americans own an e-reader device. What combination of factors could ultimately spell the end of books in print as we know it?

 The change in people’s reading habits. The increasing fondness for e-reading has impacted the books in print business, but it has by no means gutted it. What remains to be seen is how the Kindle effect will play out with new generations of readers; those who have been weaned on computers and prefer getting all of their information on a monitor, even a small monitor.

 The dearth of retail outlets. Also worrisome is the demise of nearly 2,000 independent book stores since the Internet and electronic publishing took a foothold. Again, each new generation is experiencing an e-world, not a world of bricks and mortar stores. For some children, reading a book on a Kindle is the norm. Going to a real book store and buying a bound, printed book is an oddity. The more people that buy books online and read e-books exclusively; the greater the chance that retail book stores will go the way of the dinosaur.

 The cost of publishing. One doe as have to consider the exorbitant costs of print publishing versus electronic publishing. Not to mention the trees. Although both e-books and print books undergo type style, page layout, graphics and similar necessary book design procedures, there’s no getting around the fact that a printed book costs significantly more to produce and ship. Printed books also incur the cost of unsold returns and warehousing.

The Good News for Bound Book Bibliophiles

Some books will never lend themselves to e-readers. The Griffin & Sabine trilogy is a good example; they were tactile art books that required readers to remove letters and postcards in order to read the book; that cannot be replicated electronically. Over sized, glorious art books will never translate well into small e-readers. And, the bound, printed book still holds certain advantages:

 They won’t break when dropped.
 They don’t need batteries.
 They won’t malfunction.
 They don’t cost $100 or more to replace.
 They will always smell like books.

How do you feel? Would it matter to you if books were no longer available in print? As for me, I still want to curl up in bed with a cup of tea and a real book.

Paulette Zander’s short stories have been published in Crack the Spine, Everyday Fiction, 62nd Stories, Pearce Publications and Flash Fiction World. She is a guest blogger for Evo Cleaning, AV4 Home, Coblands and many other websites. Follow her blog, Ink to You.