Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to make narcissistic small talk interesting

So one of my Facebook friends posted this cafe.com article today, "What to Talk about When we Don't Know What to Talk about," by Amanda Stern. It lists "14 topics which no one will find interesting. Ever." I read through them and had a "Golly gee!" moment because I talk about nine of those 14 topics somewhat regularly.

Anyway, it got me thinking about breast pumping and when I used to do it daily. After I had my first son, I started working at the Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkeley, CA, and because he was only a few months old I was trying to maintain my milk supply by pumping at work. It was frustrating, grueling work, because you know the milk doesn't release that easily when you don't have a baby sucking at the nipple to trigger the let-down. So I used to spend half my lunch break milking myself in my massage room, frantically pumping, watching the trickle of translucent white liquid collecting in the bottle and every so often dabbing the clamminess from my brow with towels from the hot towel cabbie.

The massage rooms at the Claremont are arranged in a U shape downstairs, in the basement floor. There are eighteen rooms, and everybody knows that room #17 at the end of the U is haunted. Therapists have reported strange caresses on their own bodies as they're massaging their clients, things dropping from the walls, the doors slamming shut when no one has pushed them closed. A strange coolness in the room that never quite goes away, no matter how high the heat is turned on.

One day I was assigned to work in room #17. I was late for work that day and thought nothing of it at the time, rushing to get things ready for my first client. "It's a bit chilly today," my client said as I worked, but that was all. I turned up the table warmer and hoped I'd still get a decent tip.

While I worked on my second client, things started to get a little strange. I was more relaxed by then, no longer hurried, and I had drifted into that altered state of matching my client's energy, mirroring her muscles with my hands and my mind as an extension of my hands, allowing the session to become an alpha-wave dance, an exercise of maintaining a porous, translucent sense of self through which my client's energy could flow.

As I moved, in my altered state I seemed to notice another presence in the room. It felt like a coolness, a vibration of curiosity in the room, almost a hunger. I did not feel threatened, perhaps because I didn't have the space to do so--I had to maintain a bubble of safety for my client. So I told it that it was welcome to observe, but not to participate. It seemed to acquiesce, although the hairs on the back of my neck lifted as I thought I felt--or was it my imagination?--the brush of fingers over the tip of my right ear.

"You can turn over now," I told my client, lifting the sheet so she could roll over onto her back. I sat behind her to work on her neck.

This time there was no doubt that I was being touched. Something cold poked at my own neck, in a caricature of what I was doing to my client. Those fingers--or were they teeth? tickled along my collarbone, over the hard knots of my trapezius, and then in an impossible march down my spine--for it felt as if the fingers were touching me inside my skin, burning me with cold to the bone. I stood and began to work on my client's arms, and I felt the cold stroking my arms, lingering about my fingers even as I pulled the warm human ones in my grasp.

I was nervous by the time I got to the legs--but then the fingers stopped, and the cold seemed to go away. I finished the session feeling confused, but somewhat reassured that whatever had been with me, it had lost interest.

My client left, and I cleaned up the linens before my lunch break. I sat down on the table and pulled out my breast pump. My breasts were already engorged, almost hard to the touch, so full of milk that even as I removed my bra I saw drops of milk well up on the tips of my nipples.

I placed the suction cup on my right breast and squeezed, the milk letting go almost right away, squirting in a thin stream into the bottle. I sighed in relief.

And then, I felt a sudden cold grip my hand and the pump squeezed on its own.

Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze! It pumped inexorably. I tried to stop it--but the suction had grabbed onto my breast and was stuck. I pulled, I tugged at the thing, but it seemed to be frozen onto my breast, ectoplasm a surer glue than I ever would have guessed. "Stop it! Stop it!" I yelled, panic tinging my voice, not wanting to disturb the massage rooms on either side of me but hoping desperately, at the same time, for intervention. The suction was so strong my breast was resembling a pointy cone, and it was really starting to hurt.

The milk had stopped releasing...but then I felt something else, it was like teeth latching onto my nipple, except this was no baby. And I saw fluid flow into the bottle in a wet stream of red.

Blood.

I screamed. I stumbled to my feet and somehow tripped over the hydraulic mechanism of the table and I saw the ground shooting toward my face.

Then I knew no more.

And that was how I became...THE SECOND GHOST IN ROOM #17 AT THE CLAREMONT. MUAHAHAHAHAHHA!

***
Heh. Heh heh. Okay, so that was pretty bad. But if you actually read to the end, then it means I kept your interest, right? And so that's how you make stories about breast pumping interesting. It can be done with any of those 14 subjects, baby's fontanelles included.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review of KJ Kabza's Under Stars

KJ Kabza sent me a copy of his second story collection, Under Stars, which will be released on Oct. 27. He sent it because I'd positively reviewed a couple of his stories in Tangent Online (The Color of Sand and The Soul in the Bell Jar). I hadn't actually realized that the same person had written these two stories, as I don't usually pay attention to the author's name. Anyway, in one of my reviews I said that I'd read anything this author wrote (I did have a caveat that I would prefer his endings be slightly happier), and with this anthology I wholeheartedly second that first impression.

This collection is long--thirteen fantasy stories and ten science fiction, plus the addition of 69 sf/fantasy erotic limericks and author notes on inspirations for the stories. Still, I was entirely engaged throughout (with the exception, I admit, of during the limericks) and it added a special level of enjoyment to my nightly visits to my basement sauna, during which I like to catch up on reading.

Kabza's voice is clear and unfiltered throughout the work--coming through not only in the story notes but in the stories themselves. A few of the stories feel like vignettes--"what if" moments developed into scenes--uncut gems not evolved into full story, but worthy of appreciation as they are. There are no weak links to this anthology. And with such a quantity and variety of material from a condensed period of the author's life, arranged and probably mostly edited by himself, it's like getting an opportunity to read a person's soul--or at least his journal, a sketchbook of his thoughts and his creative process. As a writer, I loved this--it reflected my own joy in self-expression through writing, in the making of art through linearizing reality. You can feel that joy, that connection, through these pages.

Some of the stories elicit the same reaction I had upon reading "The Soul in the Bell Jar"--feeling upset about his choice of poetic justice over the happy ending. Kabza is ruthless with his characters for the sake of story--all the more painful because he has a knack for making characters who are intensely likable--and the writing often has a dark edge to it. But much of it is also whimsical, as I found "The Color of Sand." (Both of those stories are included in this collection, by the way.) The prose itself is lush and lyrical, yet down to earth, accessible. It's brain-candy for the linguaphile.

A few of my favorites, aside from those two mentioned above:

"The Idiot" is about a girl whose mind and intelligence is trapped in a body that can't speak or move properly, and her meeting with a special animal in an oddly similar predicament. This story made me cry. A lot of Mary Sue-ing goes on in fantasy writing, but here is a heroine who truly faces challenges, and who overcomes them wholly within her limitations.

"Neighbors: A Definitive Odyssey" is funny and unique--it's a story about neighbors in a dictionary turned literal, and Joystick's attempts to save his new but unstable neighbor, J/psi particle. Joystick is creative and resourceful in dragging his friend around the dictionary, and his final solution does not disappoint.

"Heaventide" has a young woman in a tribal setting whose culture demands that she marry and settle down, when all she wants is to Travel--which is something reserved only for men. Her need to express this urge in her is stronger than anything, even love. The romantic aspect of this story, although admittedly not the happiest, makes this story worth it.

"Gnarly Times at Nana'ite Beach" stars a guy who, failing miserably to impress the girls on the beach, manages to get a hold of a revolutionary surfboard that interfaces with the sand and water. This story is just ridiculously funny.

In "Something to Be Tamed," a man who's been captured by aliens actually doesn't mind being a pet, and then he meets a man who really does mind. This story details their interactions and is both amusing and oddly touching.

I wasn't that into the limericks, honestly, but I did enjoy the story of the making of them, and I suspect they're best shared when one is in a group and in a juvenile mood.

Overall, a truly enjoyable, professional collection. It's here on Amazon and here on Smashwords.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

To do lists aren't evil


My dog has gained some serious weight since I got her a year ago. I tried to put her on diet food, but it tripled the amount of poop she was producing and I thought that must mean she was eating a lot of indigestible fiber instead of nutrients. Anyway, I finally have decided that I have to do something about this. So I'm going to order her some expensive grain-free dog food, and we're going to go for dog runs instead of dog walks daily, spending the same amount of time outside but going for longer distances.

I read this article about time management and productivity. It says that to-do lists are evil and that you need to schedule everything so you can be realistic about what you can do. I disagree.

I keep extensive to-do lists--one for today, one for tomorrow, one for the week, and one for eventually. I also keep a list of goals (separated into personal/career/spiritual, and sometimes brainstormed in graphic formats), things coming in the mail, things I need to buy, and expanded list of writing project elements. And I have evernote folders for everything else. I find that if I don't write something down and put it in some list, I won't remember to do it at all. Amazingly, even though the disorganized state of my organizing seems like it wouldn't help me at all, the lists are fluid and shift about on my Excel spreadsheet like things in a messy room where only the owner knows their location. 

The way I organize my lists and go about doing things on them is the same way as I mow my lawn. I begin in neat rows, overlapping exactly 1.5 inches every time I turn around for the next sweep...but then I realize that it's more convenient if I mow the edges of the lawn so it makes it easier to turn at the ends. Then, because I've lost the symmetry of my mowing experience, I start going in circles around the lawn...and then I start criss-crossing diagonally, just going for the longest-looking patches. In the end, it looks pretty well mowed.

Whenever I try to do what that article says and schedule my activities, I end up falling behind within the first couple hours, and then I feel bad about that. The problem is not that I'm realistic about what I can accomplish. The problem is that I need a lot of dreaming time, and the more intensely I work for a period, the longer I need to dream.

Anyway. So, fat dog on diet. Running with her kicked my ass today. But I felt good about doing that and deleting it from my list. When I'm ready, I move to another item. Maybe it's not super efficient, but we have to find the ways to achieve things that suit our own personalities. I believe in setting loose goals, breaking them down into units of concentrated activity from which I can withdraw and dream for a little while, or be present with the kids, or get up and take care of dinner, before picking another one to do.

Other ways to organize time...?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Control freakishness is based in insecurity


This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I think it's an anniversary of some sort for the group, so cheers to all my fellow insecure writers!

So the past month I've been kind of depressed. I realized that it's in large part because I keep trying to control my universe, out of a fear that I'm wrong to trust it. I cheer up whenever I let go and imagine that I'm taking a step off of a cliff into warm and beautiful blue waters. Trust my higher self to take care of me, stop having expectations of outcome, put out my desires to the universe and let them return to me in whatever form is in affinity with the higher good...

But wait a second. I did that jumping off a cliff into beautiful blue waters once, fifteen years ago when I went to Hawaii, and for a horrible few seconds I wondered if I had made myself a paraplegic all for the sake of a momentary rush. It turned out that I'd just sprained a muscle in my low back, but I spent the rest of my trip in agony.

I guess that's what happens if you jump off a cliff and you still don't quite trust that you'll be okay. It's like saying, "Universe, I'm letting go, show me what you will," all the while expecting or fearing that you'll be shown shit. The letting go has to be an experiencing of the feelings one wants to feel...

So I like this self-publishing thing. I have four 20k stories and three 8k stories I ghostwrote and wasn't paid for; I found three of the 20ks and one of the 8ks so far published by my non-payer and got Amazon to take them all down. I self-published five of them in the last three days and it's so easy, it's addictive! I love it! I keep looking through my computer for more things to self-publish, but unfortunately nothing's ready. Anyway, I'm thrilled with the whole deal, that I can slap a cover on something and upload it and in twelve hours, someone from halfway across the world can buy it and read it.

The royalties are just pocket change at this point, but still--it's so much fun and I think I'm glad I didn't get paid for these stories. I have to admit I'm a little embarrassed about them because they're kind of smutty, which is why I'm not putting links to them all over my page, but as you can tell I'm not embarrassed enough to hide behind a pseudonym, or I could just be really lazy.

Anyway, it's nice to focus on enthusiasm...it's a big help to letting go of control.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Glum dream

Dream from this morning:
I had three kids and had gotten accidentally pregnant with a fourth. Each child was from a different man. I felt sort of alarmed, like I had been stupid and unthinking, and knew I wouldn't be able to give each baby (because at least one of them was still a baby) the attention it needed.

In the next dream, some vampires moved into the master bedroom of my parents' house, where I was staying. They were planning to build their base from that place and were catching rats which would be transformed into vampires. One of the rats was injured, and this rat was staying with us; I knew later that when he turned into a vampire he'd have a hole in his face and the head vampire would kill him for his disfigurement. But because I saw this murder ahead of time, we had a chance to save the rat-vampire's life.

I was very nervous about spending the night in the same house, although I suspected that they wouldn't attack that first night--they thrived just as much on dragging out the chase, building up their victims' fear, as on the kill itself. I kept prodding my parents to leave--we could make several trips back and forth from the house before nightfall, and remove at least most of the valuables.

We were going to leave the house at least for the day--my parents were still planning to come back and stay for the night again, though--and I realized that I was fully dressed except I wore no pants. I pulled on the first pants I could find and they were gray sweatpants and matched my indigo-colored t-shirt surprisingly well. Then I demanded that we leave.

My parents started locking up the house so more vampires would have a harder time entering (even though some of them were already asleep in the master bedroom) and then my mom looked in the backyard where everything was covered with dew and she realized that the alternator needed to be fixed, and she said we'd need to spend several more hours at home. I wanted to scream.

An interview with author Chrys Fey about her new release, 30 Seconds!

I'm happy to announce that Chrys Fey's newest novella release. 30 Seconds, a romantic suspense e-book about a woman who finds herself in the middle of a war between a police force and a Mob, has just come out from The Wild Rose Press. 


First check out this excerpt:
She panted with fear. What if they see the chest? What if we get caught? What if my breath stinks and I'm breathing right into Officer Hottie’s face? She shut her mouth and let oxygen flow through her nose.
Her eyesight slowly adjusted to the darkness and she could see Officer Herro’silhouette. His head was turned and he was listening to the thuds of heavy boots getting louder; the intruders were coming their way.
Then the thunder of footsteps sounded right next to them. “There’s no one here, Red,” someone announced.
“Look for documents,” a man ordered, who Dani could only assume was Red. “I want the name of the person I’m going to kill.”
A moment later, there was a reply. “All the mail is addressed to a Dr. Hart.”
Hearing her name said aloud by one of the men who had ransacked her place made her want to gasp. Her mouth fell open and her breath was reversing into her lungs, but before she could make a sound, Officer Herro lowered his lips to hers, silencing her. Stunned, she could only lie beneath him with her eyes wide and her body tense. She couldn’t believe he was kissing her. She wanted to push him back, but knew if she did he might hit the inside of the chest, giving away their hiding place. That was when she realized he was kissing her so she wouldn’t gasp.
She let her body relax. After her initial shock faded, she was able to feel his lips. They were comforting and caused a reaction deep inside her. She couldn’t stop her lips from reacting to his. It was an innocent connection, a soft touch of lips. Until his hand slid from her shoulder to her neck and the kiss deepened into something else.
 
And here she is with an interview.

First, a few questions about 30 Seconds. What is special about your main character? What makes her tick?

Dani Hart is a doctor. She has tattoos, loves rock music, reads comic books, and enjoys horror movies. It was a lot of fun to write about a heroine with her likes, and her personality. She’s a tough cookie, but she also shows her sensitivity. When she was a teen, she went through a traumatic event that changed her life, and it motivated her to become the woman she is today, saving lives daily.

Are the experiences in 30 Seconds based on events in your own life, or the life of someone you know, or is it completely imagined?

Everything about 30 Seconds is completely imagined. Considering there’s a Mob that kills police officers, and my heroine is fighting for her life, that’s a good thing! I definitely would not want to be in her place.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

My goal was to write an exciting story about a doctor who finds herself in the middle of a war between a police force and a deadly Mob, and I believe I did that. There are so many intense moments, which is why I named it 30 Seconds, because every moment could be the last for my characters. I also wanted to write an entertaining story with equal parts of romance and suspense. I believe I did that, too.

Why did you choose to write in the romantic-suspense genre?
Because romantic-suspense has two things that I love the most: romance and action. All of my stories have both, so writing romantic-suspense was a no-brainer.

• What did you enjoy most about writing 30 Seconds?

The action! I got to write exciting chases, shootouts, and other moments where I put my characters in extreme danger. 30 Seconds would be nothing without those scenes.

Let's talk about you and your writing. What are you working on presently?

I am currently working on the sequel to Hurricane Crimes, which will serve as book two in the Disaster Crime series. I hope to publish a short paranormal-suspense story about witches and detectives next year. I also have a little surprise for my readers who enjoy 30 Seconds, but I won’t be spilling that secret just yet.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I guess it would be my descriptions. I always work extra hard on the details so readers will feel as though they are in the thick of the action with my characters.

• What inspires you?

Music helps me to get in the mood when I need to write certain scenes, my dreams inspire story ideas, and people have occasionally sparked ideas for characters. Even people I see in Wal-Mart!

• What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

To name a few, I was an AVON lady, I sold FLORIDA TODAY newspapers, and I worked in a gift shop inside my local library. Sadly, none of those jobs impacted my writing. What’s funny is that the career I wanted in high school, and never had, has influenced my writing the most. I always wanted to be a police officer, but when I had spine surgery my hopes of doing that were dashed, so now a lot of my characters tend to be cops and detectives.

• What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I enjoy drawing fashion designs, writing songs, and reading. I am also a huge fan of the shows “Scandal” and “Once Upon a Time”. Whenever those shows are on TV, you can bet I’ll be watching.




Blurb:

When Officer Blake Herro agreed to go undercover in the Mob, he thought he understood the risks. But he's made mistakes and now an innocent woman has become their target. He's determined to protect her at all costs.

The Mob's death threat turns Dr. Dani Hart's life upside down, but there is one danger she doesn’t anticipate. As she's dodging bullets, she's falling in love with Blake. With danger all around them, will she and Blake survive and have a happy ending, or will the Mob make good on their threat?

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22591698-30-seconds
Chrys Fey is a lover of rock music just like Dani Hart in 30 Seconds. Whenever she's writing at her desk, headphones are always emitting the sounds of her musical muses -especially that of her favorite band, 30 Seconds to Mars, the inspiration behind the title.

30 Seconds is her second eBook with The Wild Rose Press. Her debut, Hurricane Crimes, is also available on Amazon.

Discover her writing tips on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook. She loves to get to know her readers!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chrysfey
Blog: www.writewithfey.blogspot.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ChrysFey

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Small successes



A couple months ago a friend and I were talking about our happiness levels. I determined that I was at about 75%. Sometime between August and now, I've dropped to about a 55%. I can identify some of the causes for this discontent that isn't going away, and unfortunately I don't see those causes shifting anytime soon. Anyway, I'm trying to focus on some of the small positives that are happening for me now:
  • I got the three stories taken down from Amazon that I ghostwrote and wasn't paid for. The last few days I've copy-edited them, changed the names of the characters, and re-titled them. Today I formatted one of them, picked out a simple cover, and uploaded it to Amazon for its KDP Select program. I'll do three more of them this coming week, if all looks good with the first. My first self-publishing venture! I decided against using a pseudonym...too much work making yet another website, etc...
  • I'm on the 7th day of a regimen I put together for addressing my adrenal fatigue. The main part of it is a diet with no sugars, grains, alcohol, caffeine, starches, or fruits except for lemons. I'm also drinking turmeric and maca root powder morning and night. I took out my daily extra cardio (leaving in just my daily dog walk) and halved my daily ten minutes of inverting. The only extra exercise I've been doing has been a kundalini yoga set for the adrenals and kidneys. Anyway, I've been feeling much better--my energy levels are almost back to normal, even though I can't fool myself into thinking I can stop yet--today I ate a hamburger (without the bun) and the bad oils it was cooked in knocked me out for hours of extreme fatigue.
  • I finished my final edits for my novel, Dysmorphic Kingdom. I can't believe how many times I've read through that thing. I'm now putting together acknowledgments and thinking about the cover, front and back. I found my first blurb-er! Some people say blurbs aren't important, but at this point all I'm thinking of is what a lovely feeling it is to encounter someone who's willing to do this for me.
  • I got a part-time job doing bodywork outside of my house. Although I'm tentatively pleased about this, I have some ambivalence and a little fear...it's been years since I've actually worked for someone, and I tend to get bored easily and chafe under rules. But this is a place where I can do Rolfing as well as massage, and I'll have considerable freedom to play with modalities, and honestly I really long for colleagues and a place away from home that I can feel safe to work, experiment, learn, and then go home and leave it all behind me for the day.
  • I'm writing a blog post right now which is good for me