August Round-Up

August Round-Up.

Experiments in Marketing

Following the advice that “Twitter sells books” I have been concentrating on developing marketing campaigns to advertise my short story collections available on Amazon Kindle.

There’s something for everyone: horror & dark fantasy and erotica (okay…smut! smutty smut!)

I’ve been trying to create enticing blurbs that highlight either the collection (as a whole) or individual stories within the collections to pull readers in. It has been working – to a degree. I’ve been making some money, but it’s still just pizza and beer money.

Therefore, I’d be interested in any feedback my readers care to offer as to whether you think my blurbs are interesting. Do they at least make you click on the links to look?

For example, to advertise my horror/dark fantasy collection, “Skin and Bones” I’ve tweeted the following pertaining to individual stories:

1) Ancient taboos collide in “Bones in the Fire”

2) Zombie insects? Find out in “Zombitos”

3) The buzzing sound died; maybe the bugs had busted his eardrum. Then he heard chewing noises inside his brain. (From “Zombitos”)

4) She did not stop the cat as it ran past, an eye clamped in its teeth. (From “Third”)

5) And then her husband melted away…a stream trickling, then rushing, toward the sea from whence he came. (From “The Fisherman’s Wife”)

From my horror/comedy/political satire “Zombies and Aliens” (note: may offend you depending on your political affiliation):

1) “A Congressional Zombie Love Story”

2) Republicans v Democrats: whose brains taste better? (From “Prop Z”)

From one of my erotica collections (“The Box Quadrilogy”) (Adults only!)

The “Box Lunch Cafe” smelled not of burgers or fries, but of women.

Of course, I try not to bombard my twitter followers with constant “buy my books!” tweets. That’s a huge turn off. I also tweet about my other interests: cats, more cats, travel, zombie fiction, animal rights, environmental protections, space exploration, and even more cats, etc.

If you’d like, you can also follow me on Twitter @TheFarPlaces

Reasons for Walking the Camino de Santiago

Only reason necessary: because it’s there!

Most people I have told about my intention to walk the Camino de Santiago have the same reaction.

First, there’s the silence. Stunned silence, followed by a piercing gaze, an: “Are you serious?” sort of look. Then, when they see that I am, indeed, not kidding, they take a moment, processing, and say something like, “I see. Why do you want to do this?”

I’m pretty good at dealing with the initial shocked reaction. I get it; it seems to have come out of the blue to most of my friends and family. They don’t know that I first learned about the Camino years ago, while studying history. They don’t know that I’ve been thinking about it since then, because to be honest, I haven’t said anything about it. It’s one of those desires that has lived in my heart in a cocooned state, because of its outrageous nature. Taking…

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Pin the Tail on the Migraine

ImageA few weeks ago I wrote about my experiences as a chronic migraine sufferer, and how I decided to turn to alternative medicine – acupuncture – for relief. Fellow migraine sufferers will understand when I say I simply couldn’t live that way anymore, alternately beat down by pain or zombified by pain killers. December and January, for me, were pretty much a blur. I accomplished few, if any, of my goals as a writer or a photographer.  Change had to be made.

I’m happy to report that my acupuncture treatments are making quite a difference in my life. Thanks to Dr. W. Jumbe Allen of the Acupuncture and Health Center I am feeling more like myself again. I feel like I have a brain! (One that isn’t betraying me.) The ratio of days filled with the all too familiar pain, and those without, has reversed.

No, I’m not quite yet the old me. The imaginative side of my mind hasn’t fully returned. Those little sparks of ideas which should be growing into short stories or scripts still smolder, but won’t yet ignite the creative action I need in order to regain the writerly momentum I had a year ago.

But I’m not complaining. I feel so much better, both mentally and physically. I’m exercising again. I’m more productive at my day job. I can concentrate. And my mood has certainly improved. If I do need to take my prescription medication, I only need one pill, not the full dose of four (which left me pretty much useless the next day). I no longer curl up in front of the t.v. at the end of the day, defeated by my inability to get a real night’s sleep. For several weeks, I’d been unable to fall asleep in my own bed and instead slept in a chair. No more.

So I look forward to more acupuncture sessions…well, not necessarily those first seconds when the needles are being inserted. Yes, that hurts. But you get used to it, and to the new sensations running through your head every time. Like last week, when it felt as if the pain had turned into rain (a dry rain) running down the right side of my face. ImageOr, during a previous session, when I could feel the pain worming its way along my right eyebrow and down the side of my nose, seeking a refuge from the needles chasing it away. Or the strange swirling pressure around my right ear which reminded me somehow of the maelstrom scene near the end of Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End. I wonder if Dr. Allen could hear me humming the theme music?

Skin and Bones

Cover photo for the new e-book anthology “Skin and Bones” featuring the novelette “The Fisherman’s Wife” and other stories in the horror, dark fantasy, magical realism and science-fiction genres.

SkinAndBones

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/337955
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Skin-and-Bones-ebook/dp/B00E19DQHA/

Healing Through Horror

She was running after me as fast as her little legs would carry her. She ran and she ran, but she was old and tired. She couldn’t keep up with me as the airplane carried me away. She faded into the distance, a tiny animal swallowed by the blackness of my mind.

I don’t know if she couldn’t catch up, or simply gave up, but I think it was the latter. I had abandoned her, betrayed her, when she needed me most.

Turtle 4x4

She was Turtle, an opinionated and stubborn 16 year old calico cat. Feral born, I found her in the parking lot of a liquor store, and over the years formed a closer bond with her than any other pet, or any human.

So why was I on an airplane, traveling further than ever before – literally to the ends of the earth?

Because I had a dream, a goal, for which I’d been striving for years, to set foot on Antarctica. I can’t explain my need to travel to the most remote locations I can, nor is this the time or place.

This is about Turtle, or rather my guilt at leaving her to die without me. I’d been with every previous pet when he or she passed away, and now I was going to miss seeing the one I loved the most off to her next journey.

Granted, this was a colossal case of bad timing on my part, nor did I believe it would come to this. When she was diagnosed with kidney failure in August, I thought she would go quickly within a month or so like Indy ten years earlier. But kidneys are unpredictable, and cats with little kidney function can stabilize for months. She did. So I set aside my fear and prepared for my dream trip of a lifetime. After all, she would be in the good hands of neighbors Chris & Myssi, both of whom work as veterinary technicians.

Then came November 7th, around 1 a.m. I needed to leave the house no later than 5 a.m., and was scrambling to get ready, and maybe catch a couple hours of sleep. But Turtle – probably stressed at the sight of me packing a suitcase yet again – started vomiting and showing signs of distress. There was not enough time to take her to the emergency vet and, admittedly, I did not want her to die in a strange place. So I did the only thing I could think of. I zipped the suitcases shut, and held her for the last four hours. And then I said goodbye to her (3 or 4 or 5 times) before rushing to the airport in tears.

When I saw her in that mind’s eye image, chasing after me, I knew I would never see her again. I cried in the airport; I cried on the airplane; I cried in my cabin every night aboard the boat.

I’d left instructions with the vet and neighbors as to what to do should Turtle die, so I knew her ashes would be awaiting me when I returned. But that didn’t make my emotional pain any more bearable. That didn’t lessen my guilt nor make my selfishness any less real. Non-pet owners probably don’t understand this, and maybe even some pet owners. But I take seriously my commitment – my promise – to any pet I bring into my home. It is life long. I owe them a good life. I owe them a peaceful death. A death with their human at their side to say goodbye one last time. With Turtle, I had failed. I’d broken my promise and that was probably the most painful realization.

So I did the only thing I could. I’m a writer. I decided to work through my guilt, to “heal through horror,” as I decided to label it.

I’d taken a notebook and an idea with me on the trip, not knowing exactly what I would do with it. A dark fantasy/horror piece I titled “The Fisherman’s Wife” about a woman named Kima and her revenge against the men who murdered her magician husband. In their culture, magic is found in the hands, so his murderers had cut off his fingers and divided them amongst themselves. Kima’s mission was to recover her husband’s fingers, thus to restore his magic and kill his enemies.

I decided to give Kima a dog. A big dog named Oolee who, despite having been injured and left for dead in the original attack, will follow Kima on her mission. (A cat would have been impractical.) I decided to give Kima a similar gut-wrenching decision. Stay or go?

The fate of Kima and Oolee is found in their story.

My fate: still to be written.

Turtle’s fate: she sits beside me now…in an urn with a beautiful plaque reading “In Loving Memory.”

I am happy to report that she survived my month-long absence. I can’t express enough gratitude to Chris & Myssi for nursing her back to stabilization, praying for her survival. Even as a writer, I can’t find words to describe my astonishment at finding her curled up underneath the desk where I now sit. She growled at me for a moment, then melted into my arms, purring. We had another month together. And then, in a bookend image to that early morning back in November, I sat, holding her, telling her it was okay to let go, as she slipped away to heaven.

How will Kima and Oolee say goodbye?

Discover the answer in “The Fisherman’s Wife” (part of the “Skin and Bones” anthology e-book for sale at Smashwords.com and at Amazon Kindle):

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/337955
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Skin-and-Bones-ebook/dp/B00E19DQHA/