The Writer’s Block Presents: Plinkety-Plink

This month, a bit of wistful fiction to whet your appetite for the new year.


by Rob Smales

“I can’t believe she’s gone.”

“Hon, I … look, I don’t mean to sound insensitive here, but she was nearly eighty. And living in a home.”

“I know.”

“It’s not like it came from left field or anything. I’m sad—you know I am. I loved her, too. But it’s not like it’s a surprise.”

“I know.”

Angie looked about the good-sized room. The units at Greenlawn Elder Care were designed like hospital rooms, making things easier for both the residents and the staff, but each resident put in their own little touches. Pictures, knickknacks, furniture … every person living in the facility had done what they could to make their rooms their own. Her mother included.

So here Angie was, come to clean out all the personal things she might want before the room was prepared for its next tenant. She set the box on the foot of the bed, and continued to look about the room, helpless confusion settling on her. This should’ve been simple—just pick her way along, taking anything she wanted, anything that had been her mother’s—but she couldn’t figure out where to start. Pictures hung on all the walls: grandkids, her dad, even Angie herself. Her parents’ wedding photo hung over the bed, where some might have expected a crucifix; that wasn’t Mom’s way. There were pictures on nearly every surface, even the vanity she’d been allowed to bring from home. The dresser had drawers, as did the night table, and then there was the closet … Angie just counted herself lucky there was only the room, and not a whole house.

“You might want to try the vanity,” suggested a voice. The nurse who’d accompanied them from the front entrance still stood in the doorway, sorrow in her eyes. “Everything in there is hers, so you don’t have to worry about taking the wrong thing, and it’ll give you a place to start.”

Angie nodded. “Thank you.”

“Marilyn was a great woman.” The nurse shook her head. “So full of life. We’re all sorry to see her go.”

Angie sat wordless as the woman nodded once, respectfully, before backing out of the room.

“I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings, hon,” said Don as soon as they were alone. “I didn’t mean to. I just wanted to … to point out the realities of the situation.”

“It’s fine,” Angie said, but they both knew it wasn’t. She scooped up the box, trying not to snatch it angrily but not quite succeeding, and sat before her mother’s old vanity. She watched in the mirror as Don came up behind her, his hands on her shoulders as he looked into her reflected eyes.

“I’m sorry. I’ll tell you what: you get started here. No hurry. I’ll head down to the kitchen area, see if I can scrounge us a couple cups of coffee. When I get back I’ll help you, if you like. Okay?”

music boxShe nodded. His hands slipped from her shoulders, and she was alone. She looked around the room again, seeing all her mother’s old things, and the room began to blur around her as tears rolled, unchecked, down her cheeks, spotting her blouse-front as they fell.

“It’s not fair,” she whispered. “That nurse was right, Mom—you were so full of life. I don’t care what Don says—this took me by surprise. If you’d been sick, or frail, maybe I would’ve been prepared. But this? I never got to say goodbye. I didn’t think I had to.”

She sat in the chair, avoiding eye contact with her reflection as she wept.

Eventually, she pulled the box to her, yanked it hard, angered that the cleaning of the room needed to be done, and that she was the only one to do it. She pulled open one of the vanity’s side drawers and stopped with a gasp, fingertips covering her mouth. Reaching into the drawer with both hands, she lifted something out.

Mom’s jewelry box, she thought, breath hitching in her chest. Oh, she loved this thing! I wonder if it still …

She caught the edge of the lid with finger, lifting it easily, exposing her mother’s collection of rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces. Immediately the room filled with the plinkity-plink sound of music box music, and her breath caught again. Angie didn’t know the name of the tune, though she’d heard it all her life. It had always been “Mom’s jewelry box song” to her, and it always, always brought back happy memories.

Young Angie watching her mother dressing to go out, music playing as Mom held up earrings, checking herself in the mirror …

Angie smiled at the thought. Mom had always been such a beautiful woman. Then—

Angie, seventeen and dressed for her prom, sitting at Mom’s vanity, Mom now holding earrings up to Angie’s ears as the jewelry box plinked away. “Don’t tell your father I told you this,” Mom smiles over Angie’s shoulder, into the mirror. “But if you really want to get a boy’s attention, try …”

Angie laughed out loud at the thought.

“I’d forgotten about that,” she whispered. “And she was right: Dad would have—”

Angie, twenty-seven, sitting at the vanity again, listening to the little tune as Mom fastens a necklace for her, the one she’d chosen as her “something borrowed” for the way it lay across the neckline of her wedding dress. “Don’s a good man,” Mom whispers in her ear. “He’ll make you very—”

“What did you do?”

Angie jumped, snapping the lid shut, cutting off the song mid-plink.

“I didn’t do anything,” she said, turning toward the nurse who was standing once more in the doorway.

“You did something,” the woman said, striding forward. “That old jewelry box was one of Marilyn’s favorites, but it’s been broken for months. She couldn’t find anyone to fix it. How did you get it to play?”

“I just—” Angie began, but the woman reached out to flip back the box lid.

Nothing but silence.

“You see here?”

The nurse turned the winding key that stuck out of the side of the box, but there was no clicking, not a sound of winding, the key spinning freely in its socket.

“See there? The mainspring is broken—this thing won’t make a sound. What did you do?”

“I just opened it,” Angie whispered, eyes starting to flow once more.

“What’s going on?” Don was in the doorway, hands full of coffee cups.

“It was just Mom,” said Angie, smiling through her tears, “saying goodbye.”


Rob Smales is the author of Dead of Winter, winner of the Superior Achievement in Dark Fiction Award from Firbolg Publishing’s Gothic Library in 2014. His short stories have been published in over two dozen anthologies and magazines. His latest book, Echoes of Darkness, was released in 2016 by Books & Boos Press.

For more about Rob, including links to his published works, upcoming events, and a series of very short—but free—stories, please visit him at This piece originally appeared on his website.

Happy Holidays


From The Cast and Crew Of

Sci Fi Saturday Night

Have A Safe And Happy Holiday Season

See You All In The New Year

TalkCast 369 – Jay Mooers Returns

Jay Mooers

Jay Mooers

In this episode, we welcome back Jay Mooers. Jay is here to talk about volume 6 of his serialized comic Autumn Grey and where the second half of this episodic adventure is going to go. Jay also introduces two new projects he is currently working on: HUSH with Jason Moulton and Gang of Two with Steve Offord. We talk about the new normal in conventioneering that is currently evolving and how is it affecting not only artists and content providers but also the affect on the public and what they have come to expect. Additionally, Jay talks about … Dragons.

Enjoy the chaos. 

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5 timers club FINAL

Autumn Grey #6

         Autumn Grey #6

TalkCast 368 – Author Brian James

Brian James

Brian James

Author Brian James joins the show to talk about his newest book Mjolnir. The Viking gods have been banished from Asgard by Odin. Today they make the best of life on Earth. Thor is a professional athlete, Freya a prostitute, and Loki sells cheap products on QVC. Lurking in the background of their lives is a prophecy; one that declares that their time is at an end. Ragnarok is about to throw the gods into a state of civil war and the one who controls the hammer of Thor may be able to change the arc of destiny.

The book is a quirky mix of Viking Lore and Alternate Universe Sci Fi mixed together into a wonderfully intense world story.

Brian talks about how this worldview came to be and how his high school years formed a direct line to this book. It’s an interesting story, an interesting author and fun interview.

Enjoy the chaos.


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TalkCast 367 – The Other Shakespeare

Nick Shakespeare

Nick Shakespeare

Nick Shakespeare joins the show to talk about the difference between a storyboard artist and a comic creator. We met Nick at Keene Comic Con earlier this year and had a wonderful discussion about his latest creation, The Siren’s Song as well as his work in television and film as a storyboard artist. Surprisingly (perhaps only to me) there are many more similarities than differences. Nick also talks about the way storyboards look depend on the director you’re working with as well as the genre. All in all, its an interesting discussion about a not so well know artistic endeavor and Nick proves to be both eloquent and knowledgeable.


In The News:

Peter Capaldi’s last (and Jodie Whittaker’s first) appearance as the Doctor teased in official Doctor Who Christmas Special synopsis

Captain Marvel Casts Jude Law As Dr Lawson Opposite Brie Larson

Fantastic Beasts 2: Cast Photo And A New Title

‘Avengers 4’ Promises To Be A Finale For The Heroes That Built Marvel Studios

Scooby-Doo’s Daphne and Velma Starring in Live-Action Origin Movie

Studio Ghibli Promises Future Projects After Appointing New President

Enjoy The Chaos………


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Sirens Song

TalkCast 366 – Silent Knight

George O'ConnorIn this episode, we talk with our old friend and multi-talented bon vivant, George O’Connor whose latest invention is a new comic based on what Santa does the other 364 days of the year. In a venture whose inception was the result of a conversation in 2016, this story came alive with the help of DaFu Yu doing ink and penciling, Lesley Atlansky as colorist and Beth Scorzato as editor. We talked in some depth about the process of this particular project and how it is significantly different from anything George has done before. Join us as we explore some of the subtlety and nuance of this amazing new series. Download your own copy here.


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Silent Knight

A 5 Timers Club Inductee

An Official 5 Timers Club Inductee

TalkCast 365 – Andrew Stanleigh

The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2

The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2

In this episode we are joined by Andy Stanleigh to discuss his new Kickstarter, SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2. It’s a more than interesting process as to where and when this series began, where it is today and the product that his small press publishing house AH Press has been producing since 2011.

AH stands for Alternate History, a themology that carry’s thru, to some extent, in all of their publications. The inception of AH, in some ways, is rather dependent upon Andy’s own personal background and history as well as the amazing serendipity of reconnection with old friends and ideas to begin and continue this wonderfully inventive process and productions. Join Andy and the cast as we discuss what Alternate History Comics has done, is doing and has coming up. It’s an engaging interview with a fresh voice in comic invention and publishing.

Enjoy the chaos. 

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AH Comics



The Writer’s Block Presents: One Lunatic’s Dream

There are two types of people in this world. One is the sensible, rational type. They set realistic, achievable goals: grow up, get a job you like and are good at, meet someone awesome, get married and have two awesome children. My sister is one of these people. So is my sister-in-law.

The other type knows maybe what they want, which may or may not be sensible and/or achievable, and comes up with wild, perhaps unrealistic, ways to achieve those dreams. That’s probably me.

When I was a kid, I read a lot, played with the farm cats a lot, and I had the obnoxious tendency to correct other people’s grammar. But I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer.

That’s not entirely accurate. I wanted to be a writer and Wonder Woman. But when I found out that the job of Wonder Woman was already taken by Lynda Carter, I settled for just writer. So how did I decide to go about attaining that goal? Let’s take a look:

Idea #1:  Move to an isolated island where I could write at my leisure.

Hahahaha! The naiveté dripping off of that sentence still cracks me up. After college, I moved to Block Island in an effort to be one of those reclusive writers who sits on the beach all day and writes about the waves and crap. Did it work? Ha! Here’s the thing: it is expensive to live on a resort island year-round. Bills need to be paid. I indulged my dreams of writing by churning out a weekly column for the local paper, but I worked full time for the town, took on bookkeeping jobs to keep the lights on, and was surprised when the publisher of the newspaper asked me if I’d moonlight as a proofreader. Hmm. That obnoxious “let me correct your grammar” thing had gotten me a side job. But none of these things really gave me time to write. It was time to move back to the mainland.

Idea #2: Open a bookstore so I could read and write all day.

Sounds perfect, right? In an era where independent and chain bookstores were failing every day, why not open a bookstore? I loved it. And I hated it. I was writing sporadically, reading even less, and I was doing things like reconciling accounts payable and receivable, doing taxes, and talking to customers all day. And, of course, correcting their grammar in my head. The business, and my writing, suffered.

Idea #3: Get a day job I like and am good at to support my writing habit.

Those sensible people of the world with realistic goals might be on to something. I’d worked in human resources in the past, but although I was good at it, I didn’t enjoy it. So what to do? What was I qualified to do that I could stand doing? And then one little line jumped out on my résumé—Proofreader, The Block Island Times.

Could I parlay that into a job I liked? Was it possible that someone would actually pay me to correct their grammar? The answer, I am happy to report, is yes.

To all of you aspiring authors out there, I recommend this: Sure, you can try the crazy stuff, like moving to an island or opening a bookstore. But if you want to write, find a day job you love. Mostly because it makes it a lot easier at night when you sit down at your computer if the power is still on, plus, you won’t be ready to jump off a bridge due to said day job. Maybe that career path is in customer service, because you like people. Maybe it’s as a medical billing specialist, because you don’t like people. Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can take one of your most obnoxious personality quirks and turn it into a paycheck. Because I can tell you this: I am a writer and I am a copyeditor.  No matter if I’m working as one or the other, I love what I’m doing.

And sometimes, I even wear my Wonder Woman tiara while doing it.wonder woman

This post originally appeared on

TalkCast 364 – Cameron J. Quinn

Cameron J. QuinnOn this episode we have a wonderful; conversation with Cameron J. Quinn and explore the many sides of her artistic career. Cameron writes in many genres including Paranormal Romance, Horror, Urban Fantasy, and Thrillers. We talk about the beginning of her new series She explains how and why she delves into each genre as well as how the writing addiction first came to her (at the age of 6). We also talk about her work as the Marketing Director at Amphibian Press and her longtime friendship and partnership with V.S. Holmes. One of the biggest themes in the interview was how to traverse the complex and intricate work of independent publishing. All in all, it was enlightening and great conversation.



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 How To Get Arrested

The Statesboro Chronicles

TalkCast 363 – The Worldbuilding of Mag Na Mell


Mag Na Mell BannerIn this episode we talk about the web-comic Mag Na Mell with its creators Emily Rhain Andrews and Christian Konczal, co-creators of a new Worldbuilding community based on an alternate world filled with Gods and monsters and war. We discuss how it began and why it came to light. We also got insight into what “Worldbuilding” in gaming means for participants in that specific universe. If it sounds complex it is. It is also quite wonderful and it’s in large part based on their web comic. Trust me, its better to let them explain such things as  transmedia storytelling, and how copyright plays into it all.

Ladies and Gent’s, Sci-Fi Looks At The News:

Enjoy the chaos:


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Bonus Content:

Amazing artwork from Emily



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