Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taking Research to an Extreme

I've always done extensive research for my stories. I've traveled to Rome, Egypt and Greece, hired private guides, spent hours in museums. But this time I've outdone myself!

Hestia, the protagonist in the novel I'm working on, Agathon's Daughter, has a bad foot. In ancient Greece, unwanted babies (especially girls) were left to die by exposure, and sometimes their ankles were chained to a rock. That's what happened to Hestia.

So, yesterday, I managed to mess up my foot quite badly. How? At work, when several of us were pulling an extremely heavy jet stairway away from a plane, the wheel ran over my toes. Yes, it was excrutiating, and I almost severed a toe, which would have put a damper on my future dancing. I got rushed to the hospital, and they did surgery on my foot. So, now I've got pins in my toes for four weeks, and I can't work. I have to wear this uncomfortable boot for three months. Sigh...

The good news: I have four solid weeks to write. Hopefully, I won't be too doped up to concentrate. Also: this is making me closer to Hestia. We both hobble around. :)

I don't recommend this type of research! But, if a stairway runs over your foot, try to make the best of it. Here's a photo:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Naked Vestal Virgins on a Ghost Plane--Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

Today I'm featured on Mark William's and Saffina DesForges Blog Mark Williams International -- Please drop by and leave a comment. Information about my checkered past is revealed! Yes, for a short time I was a part of the notorious Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York--dreamchild of the brilliant, Charles Ludlam. I played the role of Freia, the goddess of youth and beauty, (long time ago) in Der Ring Gott Farblonjet--an adaptation of Wagner's Ring Cycle. My costume: two scarves and silver sandals that I borrowed from my mother. LOL. I'm not in this photo (it's a later version of the show), but it will give you an idea of the company.

Please stop by Mark's blog today. Mark and Saffina have had stellar success--especially in the UK--with their novel, Sugar and Spice, a psycho-sexual thriller. Amazingly, you can buy it for just .99 cents, so check it out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My 7 Tips for Making Airline Travel an Adventure

I stopped by A Moose Walked Into a Bar yesterday--the fun blog of Barbara Silkstone, L.C. Evans and Karen Cantwell--and they invited me to post. I decided to share some travel tips that I've developed over the past ten years while working for an airline. These tips went over so well, that (as a public service) I'm reposting them here.

Warning: These tips aren't for everyone. Follow my suggestions only if you want to elevate your next airline experience and make it an adventure.

Please feel free to contribute your own in the comments.

                  Seven Tips for Making Airline Travel an Adventure

            I live in a small tourist town, and I work for an airline. Durango, Colorado, is a popular destination, and people from all over the world come through our small airport. But travelling in the Rocky Mountains isn’t easy; things frequently go wrong—blizzards in the winter, summer thunderstorms, the plane hits a coyote on the runway—events like these are common. In many ways, it’s still the Wild West out here. Plus, Durango is hundreds of miles from any city, and, when things go wrong, there aren’t a lot of options. So travelling can be a challenge.  

            Plenty of articles have been written about how to make traveling easier: arrive before your flight leaves, know where you’re going, pack liquids separately, and travel light. But some people want more out of travel. Some people want a challenge. With insights accumulated over ten years as an airline industry insider, I have developed a list of travel tips guaranteed to elevate your airline experience into a challenging adventure.

1)  Arrival: Get to the airport as close to flight time as possible. This may enable you to miss your flight altogether, which immediately intensifies the travel experience. If you’re unlucky, the airline will book you on the next flight—kind of an easy fix. Or they may charge you additional money to fly standby. Days of sold-out flights provide the ultimate adventure, allowing you to be stranded for longer lengths of time.

2) Entertainment: If you are lucky enough to miss your flight, because you arrived too late, be sure to blame the ticket counter agent. Causing a scene not only entertains fellow passengers and airline personnel, it will ensure prompt service. When you yell, or even curse, the agent will be motivated to get you to your destination as quickly as possible—preferably in a middle seat between a fat guy and a screaming child. Or you might even get a tour to the local jail.

3) Checking baggage: Make sure your bag weighs over 50 pounds. This will give you the option to pay an exorbitant fee or experience the joys of repacking your luggage in front of everyone. Repacking is especially fun if you’re carrying personal toys. For added excitement, make sure your toys go off in security; that buzzing sound is sure to cause an alarm—a “code pink” in industry parlance. 

4) Free Accommodations: If you’re carrying a firearm, don’t declare it. Attempt to take your (preferably loaded) weapon with you through security. This will win you free accommodation and three squares per day—plus your own personal, uniformed, driver. 

5) Fun with the TSA: Going through security is an opportunity for fun and games. Here are some real-life examples: If you haven’t made it through security, and you’re about to miss your flight, remove your shoe—spike heels are recommended—and hurl it at the TSA agent. And, if an agent asks you to remove your jacket, lift up your shirt as you go through the screening, and show everyone your brassiere. This is highly recommended for women over fifty. Where else can you get this kind of thrill without being thrown out or arrested?

6) Express Yourself: What should you do if you checked in on time, you have your boarding pass, but you still miss the flight? Okay, you were in the bar, but is that your fault? Of course not! Flying can be stressful. Relax. This is a good time to let it all hang out. Let go and enjoy yourself. Maybe it’s the last flight of the day and you can’t get to your intended destination. Take a tip from a traveler I met: fall down on the floor in the middle of the terminal and kick your arms and legs like a three-year-old. Make a lot of noise. Get in touch with your inner child. Expressing your emotions will make you feel much better. People pay a lot of money for this kind of therapy.  

7) Delays and Cancelled Flights: Things go wrong. Weather, mechanicals, the crew gets sick. At least that’s what the airline employees tell you. But, of course, they’re liars. They enjoy making your life difficult—and that’s what you want. Isn’t it? A challenge? So when things go wrong, demand more. Yell. Be insulting—those dummies can take it. They’re getting paid big-bucks (less than McDonald’s, true, but plenty), so make those agents earn their money. For the best results, stride up to the counter, look down your nose and shout: “Do you know who I am?” Use your most intimidating voice and stance. Then wait for the results. Don’t be surprised if the agent picks up the intercom and says, “Does anyone recognize this person? He seems to have amnesia.” It’s all in good fun.

I hope these tips help you to get more out of your summer travel. They have been tested by many passengers and the results are tried-and-true. Remember: travel is an adventure.

If you’re passing through the airport in Durango, Colorado, be sure to say hi. But remember, you could end up in one of my books. Several of the stories in my new collection, Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales, were inspired by my job. Check it out—just .99 cents in all eformats.        

Airport Road, Durango


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Debora Geary--5 Questions

Today I'm delighted to welcome Debora Geary to my blog. Her debut novel, A Modern Witch has sold thousands since its release, only a few months ago. While I have the modern witch here, I thought I'd ask a few questions.

1) You’ve had quite a stellar rise, over the past few months, as an indie author. To what do you attribute your success?
My book found its audience. A combination of giveaways, an author friend who most generously shared his readers, and some sheer luck caught my book a ride on the amazon algorithms. People got to see my book (visibility is a huge challenge for all of us!), and some of them chose to give it a chance.

Sounds simple, but it isn't. Not every good book takes off like mine did, and I'm eternally grateful to every single one of my readers. Even the ones threatening to duct tape me to my chair so I'll write faster...

2) Okay, I have to ask, are you a witch? If so, how do your beliefs influence your stories? If not, what drew you to the topic?

I believe we all have a little witch in us (or a little magic, if you like), but I don't have a bigger share than anyone else :-). I'm not a practicing witch, but several of my readers are - and I'm delighted they embrace the spirit of the very fictional witches I've created.

What drew me to the topic? The seeds of A Modern Witch sprouted one night while I was sleeping. I'm a bit of a geek, and I've always loved books about witches, so it's probably not a surprise my dreams headed that direction.

3) What advice can you give to other writers?

I've been a writer for less than nine months. I don't think I'm qualified to be handing out advice yet!

The most important lesson I've learned in this short time? Find your readers. Talk with them, hang out with them, treasure them.

4) Please talk about the Pink Snowbunnies from Hell Flash-Fiction anthology: What inspired the idea? What are your hopes for the collection?

I was on Kindleboards, in a thread on grammar and taxes. Isn't that how all great anthologies are born :-)? I responded to some point made in the thread with a "fat chance" reply - only I'd had no sleep for a couple of days, and my exhausted mind melded pink pigs flying and snowballs in hell and who knows what else, and my response came out as "pink snowbunnies will ski in hell, first". Two hours later, one of our resident pranksters posted the graphic that will be the anthology's cover. I take no responsibility for what happened after that...

The stories in the anthology are a wonderful showcase of Kindleboards and indie talent, and the really oddball stuff writers can come up with given a silly enough story prompt. I hope readers will laugh, roll their eyes a time or two, and discover some new authors to explore.

5) What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Sleep. It used to be that only my kids and my cat disrupted my sleep on a regular basis. Now my characters do, too.

Thanks, Debora! Only nine months as a writer--and she doesn't claim to be a witch. Check out Debora Geary's Amazon Page. Aside from her novel, A Modern Witch, Debora also offers "nibbles," her shorter work.
And be sure to watch for The Pink Snowbunnies from Hell -- Flash Fiction Anthology!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ghost Plane Featured on Fiction for Dessert

Fiction for Dessert , Karen Cantwell's cool blog, is featuring my new collection of short stories today, Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales. Karen gave the stories a great review, and that means a lot, because she's a terrific writer.

Check out Karen's books at her Amazon Page. She has a great collection of short stories out, The Chronicles of Marr-nia.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rabbit's Eulogy Accepted for Pink Snowbunnies in Hell Flash-Fiction Anthology

I'm happy to announce that Rabbit's Eulogy will be appearing in a new flash-fiction anthology, Pink Snowbunnies in Hell.

 Debora Geary, who's made a stellar rise as an indie writer with her nibbles and her novel, A Modern Witch, dreamed up the anthology, and all proceeds will benefit a worthy cause. I'll let you know which one soon, but I believe it will benefit animals, and, perhaps rabbits specifically.

Pink Snowbunnies in Hell is bound to be a lot of fun. Forty writers from Kindleboards will have stories included in the collection. I'll keep you posted!

Here's a list of the writers who will be included:

Stories to be included in the anthology (alphabetical by author first name for now, I'll figure out the order shortly):

* Wedding Heaven, Ltd - A.J.. Braithwaite
* One Wrong Turn Deserves Another - Asher MacDonald
* Careful What You Wish For - Barbra Annino
* Revenge of the Peeps - Camille LaGuire (oy, sorry about the previous misspelling, Camille!)
Love in a Time of Bunnies - Coral Moore
* A Gift for a Very Special Girl - Debora Geary
* It Finally Happens... - Heather Marie Adkins
Pink Snowbunnies are the New Pink Ribbon - Jimi Ripley-Black
* No Title (need to fix that, Julie!) - Julie Christensen
Untitled Poem (need to fix that, Molly!) - Molly Black
* Wingman - Nathan Lowell
* Of Demons and Bunnies - Nichole Chase
The Bunni and the Bird - Penelope Cunningham
The Recession is Hell - Randi M. Kosiewska-Short
Don't Mess with the Meadow - Rex Jameson
When - Robin Reed
Marissa's Tattoo - Steve Silkin
The Taste of Pink Snow - Susan Helene Gottfried
Eulogy - Suzanne Tyrpak
* Domestic Disturbance - T.L. Haddix

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blue Angel--a short story from Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales

I just brought out a new collection of short stories, Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales. Several of the stories were inspired by my job at an airline. And Blue Angel was inspired by a particularly bad boss. The stories range from Flash Fiction to Gothic. And, of course, all of them were inspired by my own insanity.

Blue Angel

            There are a lot of ways to die at the airport.
            I don’t mean in a crash or at the hands of terrorists. Other ways.
            I work at this small airport in the Rocky Mountains. Been working here for years. I liked my job just fine, till the new boss showed up.
            She’s got her favorites. Not me—newbies who do her bidding without question, even when it’s all screwed up or against airline policy—eighteen-year-olds who’ve never worked a job before and have no clue what’s what. She makes them supervisors, gives them weekends off, never writes them up for sleeping through a shift or pretending to be sick.
            Meanwhile, she writes me up for nothing.
            Maybe I didn’t smile right. Maybe I have an opinion. She tells me she wants, “cookie-cutter-agents.” That could only work for me, if I were the prototype.
            I try to keep my mouth shut, but she’s always on me.
            “Just because you’ve been here ten years doesn’t mean you know anything,” she announces in front of everyone at our station meeting. “You have no more authority than someone who’s been working here two weeks.”
            So people who got the job yesterday don’t listen to a word I say.
            I see them loading suitcases wheels-down, so the bags are rolling off the cart, sliding around the cargo pit. I tell them to stack the big bags on the bottom, on their sides, handles facing out, then lay the smaller bags on top. But they don’t listen. When bags are jumbled in the pit, when the count is off and the Load Sheet doesn’t add up—when we get a hit with a delay—the boss yells at me. Suddenly, I’m a senior agent: responsible. 
            “I don’t like your attitude,” she says.
            “What attitude?”
            “Your tone of voice.”
            I shut my mouth, don’t say a word.
            But I’m always thinking. 
            They fly turbo-props into this airport, Dash-8s. Prop planes do well at this altitude, better than jets. Those propellers are powerful. They spin so fast that you can’t see them. It’s easy to forget they’re there.
            Say you’re tired—which you always are, getting up at 3am and working a sixteen hour split-shift. Say the flight is running late and the pressure’s on. You’ve got to do a quick turn, get those passengers back to Denver in time for their connections. You’re in a rush. The captain hands you the release—the paperwork the FAA audits—the flight attendant closes the door, the engines rev, and the propellers start to spin, move so fast you see right through them. They kick out a lot of wind, rip the release out of your hand. You need those papers. So, without thinking, you chase them down and run right into the props.
            Body parts and blood all over the ramp. 
            It happens.
            I’ve almost done it once or twice.
            Maybe you’ve never noticed me, working out on the ramp loading bags. We all wear uniforms and these florescent orange vests, so everybody looks the same. Sometimes, when I’m out here humping bags, breaking my back for less than I could make at McDonald’s, I get these thoughts.
            About my boss.
            When we’re short-handed and just the two of us are working—like tonight, for example—how hard would it be to push her into the propellers?
            Accidents happen.
            This guy I know fell out of the bucket when he was deicing. That glycol we spray the plane with is slick. And you’re spraying it in bad conditions, wind and snow blasting your face, trying to beat the clock and get the plane out before the holdover time expires. So there he was in a blizzard, way up in the bucket, spraying. No harness. Who has time to put on that straight-jacket? When you’re deicing, the person in the bucket is dependent on the driver of the truck. Ideally, the person in the bucket radios the driver, tells the driver where to go: along the fuselage, above the wing, around the tail. But things go wrong. Say the radio is broken. Say it’s snowing so hard the driver can barely see. Say the bucket slams into the wing. Maybe the driver hits the brakes too hard, and the bucket sways, tilts crazily. The person in the bucket slips in the glycol, can’t get a grip, slides out. If you’re wearing a harness you’ll hang there, dangling in the air. No harness, and you’re falling twenty feet or more onto the tarmac. This guy bashed his head. Never been the same.
            Maybe he’s lucky. He got out before the new boss arrived.
            She’s a piece of work. Mandoed me on my day off, even though she knew I had plans tonight. We’re short-staffed, and no wonder. Who in their right mind would work here? Tonight, it’s just the two of us.
             There’s always electrocution.
            The Ground Power Unit supplies power to the aircraft. We hook it up whenever a plane pulls into the gate. At night we leave the GPU running, so we have light for cleaning the cabin. One ramper brings in the plane, signaling with lighted wands, while the other ramper drives the tug attached to the GPU—this big silver generator. The driver hops out of the tug, unwinds the GPU’s electrical cord, unclips the panel in the aircraft and plugs the GPU into the prongs. Meanwhile, the other ramper waits until the plug is secure before switching on the power. Switch the power on too soon, and the jolt could kill the person plugging in the cord. Especially if the connection is faulty.
            I’m here in ops, sitting by the radio, waiting for the captain to call in range. The weather’s going down tonight, a slow-moving storm. My boss is in her office, pretending to push papers, but I know she’s on Facebook monitoring her friends. She sent me a friend request, but I ignored it. That pissed her off.
            But everything I do annoys her.
            She needs to chill.
            I imagine her floating, face-down in a vat of blue juice.
            Peaceful. Finally at rest.
            Blue juice is what we call the lavatory fluid. It’s bright blue, more turquoise than the Caribbean. Chances are you haven’t given much thought to the toilets on a plane. Most people don’t. Maybe you think all that crap just gets magically flushed into some other universe. Well, someone has to dump it, and that someone is me. Every night I drag this cart up to the plane, unclip a panel, unscrew a cap, and attach the hose. Sounds easy, but it’s tricky. If the hose isn’t snug, or if some bozo up in Denver didn’t latch the cap right, the contents of the lav dumps all over the ramp, all over you: blue juice, clumps of toilet paper, all kinds of nastiness.
            Happened to me twice one night. Instead of hooking up the hose, I got soaked in a shit-shower. Hazmat all over the tarmac, all over me.
            I took it as a message from the universe.
            My boss thinks it’s hilarious, started calling me The Blue Angel.
            That got me thinking.
            It doesn’t take much liquid to drown a person. People drown in bathtubs. They even drown in their own vomit.
            She says I have an attitude, but I don’t think it’s bad. I think my attitude is great.
            Gotta go. The plane is calling in.
            You know what?
            Tonight I really like this job.

Durango Airport at Night