Monthly Archives: August 2012
Reluctant Medium Free: September 2 & 3, 2012
Yes, it’s true. Reluctant Medium has detected a free weekend ahead. Here’s the quick low-down:
Kindle eBook at Amazon
Paranormal Mystery with Mild Horror Effects–and Humor! Really. Buddy story, two women friends.
Really short synopsis: Don’t bring back the dead. Bad things happen!
If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon has a free program you can download to your computer or other device.
Thanks to all my followers of the Reluctant Medium at Large in Santa Fe. I appreciate you taking a chance on a new blog. Thanks for reading and commenting. There’s more to come. GG
The Reluctant Medium
Reporter Rachel Blackstone is the Reluctant Medium. Her father was an award-winning investigative journalist for the Albuquerque Journal. He died working on a story. Reporting must be in the family blood. Although that doesn’t explain her brother, who went into politics and is the mayor of Santa Fe. Perhaps he had a transfusion or another father—the product of a dalliance? Better not to go there.
Rachel left her husband and her hometown on one really bad night, and bought a, shall we say—pre-owned car. Then fled to Interstate 40, made a left and stopped driving in Tulsa. Here she barely made the rent for her faded bungalow working two jobs in what was the Oil Capital of the World, until most of the oil companies moved to Houston. Between the receptionist job where her duties mostly include pouring coffee and making copies, and the reporting she does for a society rag, she just can’t find her bliss.
She had never been satisfied with Santa Fe Police Department’s report on the death of her father. Rachel believed it could be murder. He had been driving to meet her the night he died. Apparently, he had information that would expose those in high positions in Santa Fe. But the proof died with him.
Wanting desperately to talk with him one last time, Rachel attempted a Hopi ceremony to return the dead. Although she followed the steps carefully, something went wrong. Maybe it was because she carried only a small amount of Native American heritage. You know, kind of a built-in fail-safe for people who have no business performing it. At any rate, her father didn’t come back, but someone did, and this spirit was up to no good. It made threats and disappeared, right through her door.
There was nothing to do but chase the spirit. In the middle of the night and back on Interstate 40, strange things began to happen: apparitions appeared. They included a wolf. At first, she thought it a living wolf, but it was white and filmy. Rachel was afraid of it and drove away from the encounter.
Back in Santa Fe, Rachel spoke with her best friend Chloe Valdez. The two women are suddenly caught up in something they don’t understand, and at least in Rachel’s case, she doesn’t want any part of, but it’s her doing that caused the turn of events in the first place. Rachel turns to the kindly Hopi shaman for help and hopes she can rise to the challenge of this evil spirit.
Her persona is one of impatience and exasperation, but with a dash of self-deprecation. She does her best to interject some humor, however dark—or inappropriate—into most situations. She is unconventional and things that are sacrosanct to others, are fair game to her. Her cynical personality is somewhat balanced by her friend Chloe who is a little more polished. Reluctant Medium is a mystery with paranormal elements; but it’s a buddy story too.
The journalist in Rachel struggles with the other-worldly situation. She is a fact-based person trying to cope with things she doesn’t understand and for which she can’t find an explanation.
This reporter never met a story she didn’t like. They are all challenging in different ways. It’s the boring ones that stretch her patience to the breaking point, but she deals with it by making a show of taking notes. That way, no one can see the perplexed look on her face.
Everyone has a story and Reluctant Medium is the story of Rachel Blackstone.
— G G Collins
A big welcome to our friends in India
Delighted to pass on news from Amazon. It now has a presence in India! You will be able to buy, not only Kindle eBooks, but just about everything else under the sun. Here’s a couple links to get you started:
I’ve been an Amazon customer for years and have found them to have great customer service. I hope you enjoy your shopping experience as much as I have.
We Say We Want a Revolution
by G G Collins
There is a revolution going on and it’s changing the world of book publishing. Indie publishers are uniting and uploading their books to the Amazon machine. The days of a half-dozen huge New York book publishers making all the decisions on what the public will read is coming to an end. What has led us to this threshold? Of course technology is part of it, but traditional publishers are partly to blame. Is it a good change or not? Probably both, but like other revolutions, it is a sea change, a wave that cannot be turned back.
Putting Aside Perceptions
The first day I walked into a book publisher as a new employee, I thought that writers (authors after you write a book) would be revered. I would soon know differently as one after another, my beliefs would topple. There was no reverence for the hard work, sweat, tears and talents of writers.
Your book may be your “baby,” but to a publisher, books are merely widgets, products; they either move out of the warehouse and rack up sales, or accumulate dust until the publisher sends them to remainder land.
It became apparent in an office stacked with manuscripts, that writers were a necessary evil and mostly ignored. When a publisher deigns to accept your work and transforms it into a paper book, the promotions department will most likely send out a handful of galleys (now, more often digital) to review media such as Publishers Weekly, The New York Times, Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist. After publication another few copies would be sent to the author’s local newspaper (if still in operation) and a few appropriate specialty review markets.
Our book house was listed in trade publications as accepting queries and manuscripts. Despite this, there came a time when the reams of paper threatened to push us out of the office, the word would come from on high: “Send them all back. If they haven’t included an SASE, trash it.” We didn’t read or evaluate a single query or manuscript. We did include a much copied “rejection” letter explaining it just wasn’t right for our list. This after the writer paid postage both ways and copy costs.
Today, many publishers accept email queries, but instead of a rejection email, writers are virtually ignored. Once after giving an editor an exclusive submission and waiting three months without a word, I sent a follow-up email asking politely if she had received it (email can be lost forever in cyberspace), I received a blast from her that said in effect: Don’t call me, if I’m interested, I’ll call you! Ouch. While I admit there is a wasteland of discourtesy everywhere (including some writers), can’t we stretch the boundaries of decorum enough to be, if not kind, at least not venomous?
After I entered into a business relationship with a literary agent–her telling me this would be my “breakout” book–I thought I was on the road to publication. But again, a few months passed and I received my manuscript via mail. In it, a note was scratched: “This hasn’t gotten the attention from my office it deserved.” That’s it. At least she was honest.
These are the “good ol’ days” of book publishing. Where writers earned about $2 (USD) on their book, priced at $20 retail. In these days of tree-dependent books, many publishers outsourced the printing of the books to other countries to save greenbacks.
New Kid in Town
So along comes a little start-up called Amazon that dared to discount books while the bricks-and-mortar bookstores continued to sell at suggested retail. The company was established in 1994 and went online as amazon.com a year later. While founder Jeff Bezos didn’t expect an immediate profit, investors were antsy at the lack of return. But in late 2001, Amazon had its first profitable quarter. And the rest is history.
During my tenure with publishers of books, newspapers and magazines there began a faint rumble in the distance skies. People were beginning to talk about a book you would read on a computer. I imagined sitting on a beach, holding a laptop while trying to read through the glare of the sun. But then, Amazon Kindle made its debut. It is now in its fourth incarnation, the Fire. What followed was a surge in tree-free eBooks. Amazon Kindle books out-sell paper and cloth combined.
When Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP, suddenly the doors flew open for those of us who are unconventional to begin with and who really didn’t want to be under the thumb of a conventional book publisher. While the prevailing notion seems to be only bad writers self-publish, perhaps they are good writers whose books were overlooked by mainstream publishing. Honestly, publishers are known far and wide for releasing only the finest literature. Ahem.
Stoking the Revolution
Remember that $2 an author received for her $20 book? At Amazon an indie can receive $2.05 for every $2.99 book she sells. I receive 70% on sales in the US and 35% on sales in other countries. A reader is much more likely to take a chance on a new author with an attractive price such as $ .99 to $3.99.
With this opportunity comes new responsibilities. The writer/publisher does have to design her own cover, or have it designed. Many of us are up to it. We wrote a book, that creativity doesn’t stop at “The End.” And yes, you have to promote and market your book. But remember the handful of review copies the paper publisher would send out? You would be doing this regardless.
Anytime I’ve had a question, which wasn’t often because Amazon’s directions are good, I’ve received a polite and helpful response. This goes double for ordering and returning as a customer. It would benefit businesses, large and small; to approach customer service the way Amazon does it.
Amazon offers a real chance for the indie publisher. It removes the sometimes antagonistic relationship between writer and publisher and allows us the opportunity to control our own destiny. In doing so, we are altering how books are published, marketed and read. The revolution has arrived and we’re turning the book world on its head.
— G G Collins
Building Your Book Cover
The path not taken
When I decided to take the nontraditional path to publication, I relished the idea of creating the cover art for my book. I have an extensive background in art, but I believe it’s not essential to the task. There are so many ways to manipulate photographs and images today that most people can design a cover themselves with a little patience–remember, you’ve written a book. With some experimentation, a book cover is a possibility.
The process began by choosing one of my favorite pots. It was purchased in Santa Fe a couple decades ago and created by C.G. of the Jemez Pueblo. Its motifs are carefully defined and the artist used bright turquoise on one side. I added to this a sage smudge stick from The Ark, a metaphysical store in Santa Fe, a candle and several colors of feathers, one turquoise to repeat that color in the montage.
Putting it all together
For the background, I chose a painting I did years ago. The classroom assignment was to paint an “other worldly” scene. The leafless tree limbs and the skeletal buttes seemed just right for the look I wanted: a supernatural interpretation. What you see is not the entire painting, but just one corner of it. After arranging the objects, I set the painting behind the table and raised it using blocks until it was the best height.
With the tableau set, I began taking photos. At first, I didn’t light the candle. It was observed that without a flame, someone might mistake it for a glass of milk. Okay, point taken. Light the candle.
I took about a dozen photos. Distance was varied, objects positioned and repositioned. You can see the photo I chose before it was enhanced. I imported it to Picasa where I edited it in “Creative Kit.” There I used its effect called “Heat Map 2.0” to warm it in the “Thermal” setting. The second photo shows this warming process (and this photo has the unlighted candle). This one was heated too much and discarded. I tried again and liked that it blurred the photo just a little making it seem mysterious. The background gave it the sinister feel.
Turn some letters
Once I had the appearance I wanted, it was time to choose a typeface for the cover. Because it is a metaphysical story, it seemed better to go with a font that was not clearly defined. Picasa had several which fit the bill and you’ll notice them on the trial cover. Using the “Text” box, I was able to size it perfectly. Eventually, I chose “Angstrom.” I liked the caps and the weather-beaten appearance of the letters.
The font for the author name was easy because I wanted that straightforward and clear. “Georgia” gave that clean, sharp look I wanted. Voila, a book cover!
While building a book cover is intensive work, it’s also creative and great fun.
Ahead of the curve
Self-publishers, begin thinking of your cover long before the manuscript is complete. Pick up clues from your storyline. Would an action, still life or photo be most appropriate? Do you want people in it? Landscape only? Or conceptual work? If you use a photograph or art work other than your own, please make sure it is “public domain” or you have permission from the photographer or artist.
The phrase, “You can’t tell a book by its cover,” dates back to the days when all covers looked the same. Today, you should be able to tell a book by its cover. Traditional publishers work hard to establish a brand for each author’s book. Indie publishers should too. If you’re writing a series, each cover should resemble the other to give you a trademark design.
Building your own book cover is a chance to have some fun, stretch those creative muscles in another direction. Give it some thought. Draw sketches, and set your imagination loose.
— G G Collins
The Plaza: Heart and Soul of Santa Fe
In the Pueblo Tewa language, the word bu-ping-geh, translates to “center-heart-place.” That describes Santa Fe’s central plaza well. Town plazas were the social network of times gone by—no wireless network needed. This public square was designed by Spanish soldiers a decade before Plymouth Rock saw its first Pilgrims. Originally, it was larger, extending all the way to what would be the location of the St. Francis Cathedral. Not surprising, the plaza is on the National Register of Historic Places
Anything and everything important happened at the plaza. Residents gathered there to celebrate when Mexico achieved its independence from Spain. It was also here that the town’s people learned the United States had annexed them and they were now going to be called New Mexico. The citizens of Santa Fe were not amused.
Today, the plaza is home to the famous Indian and Spanish Markets, fiestas, concerts, holiday lights, and the first place visitors want to see. When a Santa Fe newbie stops me and asks, “Where’s the plaza?” I usually think amateur, and smile remembering when I first looked for the plaza years ago.
For our Reluctant Medium, Rachel Blackstone, the plaza is a special place. While some locals avoid it, because of tourism, Rachel adores it because of the mix of residents and international visitors. It draws her as she walks from appointment to appointment passing by the Palace of the Governors with a quick hello to those she knows. She and friend Chloe loved drinks on the Ore House balcony, before the restaurant closed, and Rachel, along with her co-workers at High Desert Country have pick-up meetings at La Fonda. And of course, The Shed restaurant is a short block off the plaza.
West San Francisco is one of the Reluctant Medium’s favorite streets in Santa Fe. The Lensic Theater is here and has been beautifully restored and transformed into the city’s performing arts center. More on it another time. Restaurant Tia Sophia’s is also along the way. Breakfasts are great and affordable–lunch too. As we walk along this narrow street, the St. Francis Cathedral becomes more and more apparent.
Now, we’ve come to the intersection of San Francisco and Lincoln Avenue. We
have arrived. You’ll notice the plaza shows off Pueblo, Territorial and Spanish architecture. If we make a right and go upstairs, there’s a great place to eat called San Francisco Bar and Grill. It has had several incarnations in Santa Fe, but Rachel Blackstone likes this one best. Rachel’s favorites here are the Tuna Niçoise and Mediterranean salads.
Below is the Plaza Bakery-Haagen Dazs. There’s never a bad time for ice cream and fresh-baked goodies. It’s good to announce the Plaza Café on Lincoln has reopened after a long absence to renovate. This is the first meal for many visitors to the City Different. Welcome back.
Throughout the plaza you’ll find a drug store, jewelry, pottery, clothing and culinary stores, a bank, the New Mexico Museum of Art at one corner and La Fonda at another. Dominating the north side is the Palace of the Governors, although it doesn’t look much like a palace as compared to some in Europe. It has an enthralling history which we’ll cover in the future. The tunnels and holes that were dug in the floor are endlessly fascinating. But the main attraction here for visitors is the American Indian artwork that is sold on the portal (porch) of the museum. Most of the artists are more than willing to talk about how they create it.
But let’s soak up the plaza at the moment. There are a few curiosities. The obelisk in the center is a war memorial. Some of the words are shocking. I was appalled when I read it. We can be thankful that reasoning, caring humans no longer think in such terms.
Music is a frequent accompaniment in the plaza. Not just in the bandstand, but musicians come to play their favorite instruments. One man brings his pets: a dog, a cat, and a rat. They all sit quietly one on top the other. We feel a little sorry for them, but they are well trained and you may take a photo, just ask first. These are the things that make the plaza the place to meet people and enjoy local color.
Two things we miss: the Ore House restaurant that had been a resident of the
plaza for decades. At one time they offered nearly 100 different flavored margaritas and the best place to people watch. Sigh. Also on the missing list are the flagstones the plaza used to have. Alas, it was rumored that people kept stealing the stones, so now it has grass which needs irrigation in this dry climate. During the summer, hanging baskets of exploding color brighten it even further.
The plaza is both a starting point and a jumping off point. It is a good place to just be. Grab a bench and enjoy. Mañana will take care of itself.
For more information on Santa Fe: http://www.santafe.org/
— G G Collins
Ghost Story of the Week
La Residencia, located at Palace Avenue and Paseo de Peralta, has been a convent, hospital and nursing home. It was the location of the first St. Vincent’s Hospital prior to the “new” hospital being built south of downtown during the late 1970s.
During its life as a hospital, a boy and his father were brought in for emergency treatment after a car accident. Sadly, both died. It is said the child died from his injuries in room 311. Reported phenomena include the sound of a crying child in this room. It was heard so often the hospital tried not to use the room.
When museum exhibits were stored in the building’s basement, unexplained sounds occurred there. Nurses described a strange phenomenon, which appeared to be blood oozing from a basement wall.
But it is the cries of a frightened young boy who haunt his third-floor room we find most disturbing.
For the answer, check back next Sunday.
Answer to last week’s psychic question: The 7-minute man. Gotcha! No one answered this one correctly.