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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rest Stop

It was hot; Texas-hot, hot like she’d never known. It relieved her to gush forth from the car, to leave the non-air-conditioned enclosure for the open heat, heat that seemed more natural, less oppressive and confining somehow. She looked ruefully down at her body: tank top soaked with great splashes of sweat, denim cutoffs sticking rudely to her skinny thighs. Embarrassing.

Her windshield stood splattered, smashed with insects, unfamiliar enough in their unwrecked form and unrecognizable at all now, their gooey guts of green and yellow speckled and crushed all over everything, everywhere. Resisting the full force of her forearm and the gas-station window-washer, they clung tight to the tempered glass, insistent stowaways for the remainder of her journey.

“Where you headed?” a voice called out.

She glanced up and saw him, an affable-looking man in his late thirties, perhaps early forties, bearing a bit of an accent but no cowboy hat; maybe a local, and maybe not one. There were only two of them there; he had to be speaking to her. She supposed there was no harm in answering.

“California,” she said, bending her elbow again to the window.

“That’s a long way off,” he replied, whistling softly.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed.

He approached her, thumbs tucked into the pockets of his own full-length dungarees, evidently immune to the heat.

“Say, that’s an expensive trip,” he observed. “You, uh — you got enough money to get there?”

Instantly she was on her guard. She circled casually around to the other side of the car, in the direction of the shop and its sleepy attendant. Was he going to rob her? Find out if she had any cash and then knock her down and take it? Instinctively she felt for it with the muscles of her behind, the wallet tucked tightly into her back pocket, crammed into a space too small for its contents, and plastered there now with sweat and fear.

“I think I’ve got enough,” she equivocated, ears burning with the lie.

“You sure?” he prodded encouragingly, penetrating her with moist periwinkle-blue eyes. “Because I, uh, know where you could make some — you know — some extra money. If you needed it.”

So he wasn’t going to rob her; he was offering her a job. The windshield was nearly clean now but she continued scrubbing, pondering the proposal. She wondered what kind of work it would be. Day labor, no doubt. But didn’t people usually want young men for that kind of thing?

He stood smiling kindly, warmly down at her, almost fatherly in aspect. She really could use the money. It had already been two days since she’d eaten. Was saving the rest of it for fuel.

“Thanks,” she said finally, deciding. “But I’m in a hurry; better get going.”

“You’re sure you won’t change your mind?” he replied, a hint of pleading in his voice.

“No,” she asserted. “But thank you for the offer.”

What a nice fellow, she thought as she headed back towards the highway. People sure were friendly down here in Texas. They sure were friendly.


“Rest Stop” is the true story of something that happened to me when I was seventeen. I had run away from my home in Massachusetts shortly after graduation, and now found myself baking in the scorching heat of July in rural Texas. I was supposed to start school at U.C. Berkeley that fall, but since I was still underage and therefore subject to recall if caught, I was understandably anxious about conserving the little money I had, as I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for a kid with no parents, no home, and no local references to find a job. Being mathematically minded, I quite naturally spent the long miles driving in calculating a fairly precise budget, which, once I’d paid for necessities like gas and oil, had little room in it for luxuries like food. And then I stopped at this gas station and here was this wonderful man asking me earnestly if I had enough money to get where I was going or whether I wanted to earn a little extra to tide me over until I arrived safely at my intended destination.

I’m embarrassed to admit now that I was just as naive as the girl in the story. I spent a lot of time traveling alone in the years that followed, and was propositioned numerous times by other equally friendly fellows seeking the company of a young woman for an afternoon or an hour. But this was the first such occasion, and I was so utterly confounded by this man’s incomprehensible behavior that I spent many miles pondering it in my head. Why had this stranger been so inexplicably nice? Who offers money to a girl he doesn’t even know, in exchange for services he isn’t sure she’s qualified to perform? I’d probably driven a good half hour before comprehension finally came roaring into my addled teenaged brain and I understood that I’d come unbelievably close to becoming an unwitting body for hire. At length amusement over the incident replaced my horror, and at least the next time it happened, I was prepared with a polite, “No, thank you, sir.”

* * *

“Rest Stop” is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past. You can learn more about it by visiting the book's webpage or by clicking the image below to be taken to the Amazon details page:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Help an Indie Author in Her Bid to Reach #1 in Amazon's Kindle Store!

And no, it isn't me. I'm afraid I'd need a truly massive amount of help to make that happen!

But Lilo Abernathy certainly has a shot. Her urban fantasy/paranormal romance/mystery The Light Who Shines (Bluebell Kildare Series Book 1) currently stands at about #6,800 in the Kindle Store - which as those of you who have released books on Amazon know, is pretty dang high. Well, Lilo's book has performed so well in the ten months since its release that Amazon has selected it as a Kindle Daily Deal and will be offering at the reduced price of $1.99 this Thursday, November 20th, for one day only.

Now Lilo has it on good authority that it is possible for a Kindle Daily Deal to result in up to 3,000 downloads in a day - and that it may take as few as 3,500 copies sold in a day to reach that precious #1 spot. So she's enlisting the aid of all of her author friends in a cooperative attempt to make that happen.

"Great!" I hear you thinking. "What can I do to help?"

Thanks for asking! The simple answer - share, share, share! Like me, Lilo is very active on Twitter (@Lilo_Abernathy) and also on Facebook (she's created an events page here), so on Thursday, if you could share her tweets or her posts in the venue of your choice, that would be tremendously helpful. She will also be updating her Blogger blog with a post to share if you prefer to do that instead. And if you're really feeling ambitious, you can start a couple of days ahead of time and recruit others to help out, too - hence this post! As Lilo is not on Wordpress, feel free to re-blog my post if you like - whatever it takes to get the word out.

Not much of a social sharer? No problem! Click the image below to check out her book - for only $1.99, you might just want to buy it! ;)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Your book is available for sale in Kindle Store! ‏

That’s the email you get when your pre-order goes live. It happens at midnight, all around the globe, at a different time in every market in which your book is being sold. It’s four o’clock right now where I live. This one was for the UK. 

My book has been available in Australia for roughly ten hours. It will hit here in five or in eight – I don’t know what time zone Amazon uses in figuring twelve o’clock, here in the United States.

Only five to eight hours. I confess I’m not ready – not close to ready. Not only because I still have guest blog posts to write, not only because I have yet to make trailers or even my tweets, not only because I haven’t yet chosen what sites I am going to use for promotion. I’m simply not ready to know.

I’m not ready to know whether my book’s going to sell. I’m not ready to learn whether the months of pre-release preparation will have been worth it or a complete waste of my time; I’m not ready to see my book flop, flounder, or fail, or what is most likely, get lost in the shuffle of millions of others that no one will find.

It’s a great book, if you don’t mind my saying. Although, as always, there will probably be some who won’t like it, I expect, in general, that it will be well-read, well-received, and well-reviewed. That is, if anyone finds it, if anyone buys it, and if it gets any reviews.
There’s a hollow in the pit of my stomach that visits me rarely; I have few occasions in my life that prompt this response that most people call nerves. My body is tired and my brain is exhausted but there’s still so much to do, so much to prepare, so much to research, so much to write. 

I wish that so much of my future wasn’t dependent upon this. I wish that I could write books and not have to sell them; I wish more than anything not to have to rely upon selling them. I wish I were sitting on the beach in Oxnard and that it was warm and that there was sun and that I was writing a book and not trying to sell one.

If wishes were horses…

… I’d grab hold of the nearest stallion and let him run me all the way to Utah.

This ought to be fun, I think, not a day filled with dread, but it’s still better, still better than what tomorrow may bring, or the day after that, or the following week, or the month after next. Still better than knowing what I don’t want to know, still better than facing the fact that countless authors have faced in the opening moments of their potential careers – that it makes no difference if your work is good, if no one ever reads it.

But I’ve still got my rooftop: I’ve still got my greenhouse; I’ve still got my sunshine. And if I still have far too many blog posts to write, that’s all right, too, because at least I am writing. It feels good to be writing. Not good enough to de-tangle my nerves or de-jiggle my jitters or fill the hole in my heart where there ought not to be one. But close. Close enough to keep trying.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I'm Sick of the Sound of My Own Voice - But I Hope You're Not!

Well, I've finally done it! I've finished editing the audiobook of On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened. I confess it was a much more laborious process than I had originally anticipated, and even now I'm not sure I'm quite going to meet ACX's specifications. I suspect that I may have to do a bit more digital manipulation and possibly even some re-recording before they give it the go-ahead, but with only three days remaining until my book release, I'm thrilled just to move it to one of my two dozen back burners for a while.

I'll admit that I was surprised to learn that my book cover would have to be reformatted for the audiobook. I mean, I understand why they want a square cover - presumably to mimic the look of a CD, laserdisc, or vinyl record - but in the current digital age, it doesn't really seem as if it should matter, particularly when the cover is for browsing purposes only and no one is actually going to receive a physical product. Evidently technology moves faster than consumer preferences over what their book covers, whether audio or eBook, ought to look like. Anyway, here is the adjusted cover. As you can see, although the execution differs, the "empty chair" theme remains:

Mother's Death Audiobook

But more on the audiobook production and publishing process later. For now, here's the five-minute sample recording I submitted along with the rest of my files. I would really appreciate any feedback you could give me on this, because I've just noticed something very strange - when I play it back on the desktop computer on which I did the editing, it sounds pretty clean, but on my laptop there are quite a few annoying clicks and pops, and it also seems a lot quieter. I thought you weren't even supposed to get degradation on a transfer of a digital recording, so maybe it's my crappy laptop speakers or my even crappier internet connection.  

So what do you think? Could you listen to me read for two and a half hours? At this point, believe me - better you than me!