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Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Seemed to Disappear from the Earth

My brother and his bride
Greetings, Fire Enthusiasts.

Coffin Hop: I want to thank everyone for participating in the First Annual Coffin Hop this past week. It has been a lot of fun visiting nearly 100 sites and trying to win some of the real great stuff that was given away. I hope you all left with arms full of loot. It ends Halloween night, so you still have time.

After the loot is all put away, I look forward to building up those new relationships, and also, reading some of the writing that was promoted during the week. I still don’t read as often as I would like to, but what I have read has really been top notch. I have been so pleased with the quality. Agents and Publishers should really be fired for letting some of your work slip through their fingers!!

Tybee Island beach house

We had some great views, didn't we?

Where did you go? As some of you might have noticed, I appeared to drop off of the face of the earth there for a while. I would like to take a few moments to explain where I was. I accompanied my parents to Georgia for my brother’s wedding. We were gone a week. Part of the time we stayed in their home near Atlanta, and we spent the other part, five hours away near Savannah. We spent a few days in a beach house on Tybee Island which is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.

James Sr, Eric, Leslie and me
The adventure began as we left on Tuesday the 11th from Fresno, Ca. which is in my back yard, essentially. We flew into Salt Lake City and spent an hour awaiting our next flight to Atlanta. After the week was over, we flew from Atlanta into Dallas/Fort Worth. You should have seen me with my nose pressed against the glass, while I surveyed the ground for Arlington, Texas and the location of God’s football stadium. *grins* Okay, scratch that. We’ll just refer to it as the Jerry Dome. No? Okay, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. In any event, I saw it. How could I not; it’s so large that one could see it from space! We then flew from there back to Fresno, and I was finally home.

We played a round of golf. I took 2nd. Not bad since I hadn't played in forever. It rained on us. Can you tell?
The bummer out of the whole trip was my family was unable to accompany me. Both my kids had school, obviously, and school events, and my wife is a teacher. I never could get comfortable with the Eastern Time Zone. I just kept reaching back to the west with both my heart and mind, waiting to call home or text the kids when they got out of school. And I hated Monday night. If I have to wait until 8:30 to watch the Monday Night Football game, I almost don’t care anymore!! I don’t know how you people do it! *grins*

Now, although I was only gone one week, I had to disengage the week before, in order to get prepared. I had to write and schedule two Monday posts, write a Halloween-themed article for Kings River Life Magazine (it was on black cats). This was on top of getting the house ready, preparing my day job to be left in the hands of others, making arrangements, getting packed, etc., etc. During that week, I did no blogging at all. The only thing that I did was Twitter #WW and #FF. In fact, I barely promoted anything, including my own novel or posts. Then, the week I got back was spent catching up. Once again, I did no blogging.
Why am I telling you all of this? It is because many of us feel compelled to do the same amount of promoting, sharing, encouraging, cheering, posting, Tweeting, reTweeting, etc., but it isn’t always easy or even an option from time to time. We just do what we can. That’s what I did during this period, although I was not happy about it. Thankfully, I am not only back, but all caught up.
Do what you can, my friends. Every little bit helps.

Before I go, I really just want to wish my brother and new sister-in-law the very best. Love you guys!

We’ll talk soon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

1st Annual Coffin Hop

Greetings and salutations, Horror Enthusiasts. Wait! Horror?

Yes, that’s what I said. Since it is the build-up for Halloween, I thought this would be a bit more appropriate than the usual.

First of all, allow me to take a moment to apologize for disappearing off of the face of the planet these past few weeks. Everything was fine. There was nothing to worry about, and I will be explaining it all in another week. In any event, I'm back, and very excited to be participating in the first annual Coffin Hop.

This week we have nearly 100 blog sites, hosting all of your All Hallow's Eve thrills and chills. We've got shorts, book teasers, quizzes, scavenger hunts and so much more. Perhaps most importantly of all, each and every one of the sites is hosting giveaways. I will only be posting Monday, like always, giving everyone plenty of time during the week to visit all of the sites. The hope is that you will feel as if you just got out of Disney's Tower of Terror ride, escaped with your life like George and Kathleen Lutz from 112 Ocean Avenue in The Amityville Horror or are simply the last person standing at the end of any horror film - whatever floats your boat! You should also be walking away with some great stuff, too.

That is, if you actually get away. [Cue Maniacal Laughter]

This week I am sharing a very brief snippet of my debut vampire novel which was published by Vamplit Publishing. The e-book was published in February of 2010. It has been getting very good reviews, both on the web as well as in print, and we're very excited about that. It is currently tied for the highest-rated novel in the horror category in the Smashwords store. I promise you that you will definitely survive the experience.


May 4, 2008
11:59 a.m.
          The great beast paused in the dark and sniffed the cool spring air as if welcoming in the fragrant bouquet from a glass of fine wine held below his nostrils. Hands casually held inside the pockets of a brown leather coat, long single strands of his dark hair leaping and dancing in the light breeze, head held slightly elevated, he breathed deeply so as not to miss a single delectable whiff.
After all of these many years, he was close now. Before, he simply had a sense of it; perhaps one might call it a fool’s hope. Now he could smell it, taste it.
He was very close indeed.
The breath within it now spent, devoid of any flavor; the beast released it and stole another.
Cold, penetrating eyes pierced the moonless night as he was on the move again strolling languidly, almost if in a hypnotic trance eastward through the peach orchard. Had he already become intoxicated by the scent? Perhaps not the blood that led him, but what the blood was speaking to him. His eyes swept across his field of vision obscured as it was by the trees’ thick canopies. With each additional step, more of the approaching town was revealed: multi-colored light, the spectrum of sounds, the differing shapes of buildings. Looking was unnecessary, however. At this moment, he was as finely tuned to the world around him as he had ever been before. Ahead where the small town the clues had led him to met the open country, a coyote prowled cautiously, desperately searching for a morsel. To his far left was laughter. Actually, it was more like giggling: the squeals of drunken hyenas, intoxicated with the blood and flesh of their kill. Although in the case of these young men, much too young to drink, it was Budweisers that they were killing. He could actually detect the faint sound of the beer sloshing within the long-neck bottles held in the hands of these who probably thought themselves safely undetected among the rows of the raisin vineyard. This night, at long last, after much searching, longing, nothing could escape the beast’s notice.
He paused yet again, this time kneeling low to the earth that lay below his heavy riding boots. Though quite minimal, the scent of blood was now sweet and heavy in his flaring nostrils and parched throat, awakening a deeper hunger within him, as if that could be possible. The sensation seemed so new to him. It felt so virginal: like that first bumbling attempt at lovemaking; that first night away from home; that first bloodletting.
Yet, it was none of these. It was the sweet taste of revenge. The beast would have to salve that hunger with something else tonight, he knew, and perhaps tomorrow as well, but not for very much longer.
Claw-like fingers dug slowly and confidently at the ground until a tiny leg emerged. It was followed by another, and then a shriveled face. They stopped digging and wrapped themselves around the tiny head, where nails all too similar had recently gripped and snapped away the last of the cats’ life. Without a thought, the beast pulled the corpse from the shallow grave. He did not need to search for the wound that had drained the last of the creature’s life, but he did. He longed to see the wound. How could he not? Was this not what had been driving him, filling his days? And now, he would do nothing but enjoy it to the fullest.
He bent the pathetic little neck back until there was an awful crack. His expression showed little knowledge of the sound of it. When he found the matted place where cold lips such as his had drank, when he could see the bite that had drawn the blood, he brought it quickly to his mouth and blew away the dirt with a sharp blast of dank air. Now he did the unthinkable. He licked the wound, long and slow like a lover would the breast of his beloved. Then the great beast smiled a horrible thin smile as he looked up from it.
            “At last,” he whispered, nonchalantly dropping the dead cat and gazing up toward the small town before him. He spoke as if to the entire population. “Nathaniel,” he declared, gritting his perfect white teeth as he did. “I have you at last. And when I am through with you the insignificant souls of this place shall gladly hand you over to me!”
The vampire immediately headed off into town, setting events into motion.
Kingsburg, California. It is a rural agricultural community in the heart of the San Joaquin valley, the richest agricultural valley in the world, so states the city’s official website. It was incorporated May 11, 1908. It has a population of over 11,000 and lies twenty miles south of Fresno, and nearly halfway between San Francisco and the city of angels.
It is the home of Sun-Maid: the largest and most well-known raisin plant in the world. The gold medal Olympian Rafer Johnson was raised here. The actor Slim Pickens, who rode a nuclear warhead in the film, “Doctor Strangelove”, was born here.
The Swedish Village, the signs read and the police cars and police badges proudly proclaim. The style of the buildings’ architecture, the baby blue and yellow colors of Sweden, as well as the frequent sighting of the traditional dress from one or another of the downtown business owners further testify to this. Signs at various points along the city limits greet strangers with the Swedish Word: Valkommen. It means exactly as it sounds which is “welcome”.
Every third weekend in May thousands of people converge on Kingsburg for the Swedish Festival. It is a time where nearly the entire town puts on its traditional dress and a show for the weekend, with the highlights being a dance around the May Pole on Friday night and a pancake breakfast and parade on Saturday. This year marks the 43rd annual celebration and the town’s centennial anniversary. The festivities were set to begin in ten days.

The Giveaway:
I am offering a few free copies of the e-book, as well as a couple of autographed copies of the softcover.

How to win:
What one needs to do to win one of these is to comment here and tell me that you'd like to be entered. Secondly, post somewhere about the Coffin Hop so that others will find us. Lastly, please leave your e-mail address so I may contact you. YOU ONLY NEED TO PROMO FOR THIS ONE TIME AND HOWEVER YOU CHOOSE.
If you are on on Twitter: promo the main page and include @danceauthor so I will see it.
If you are on Facebook, Google+ or a blog: paste one of our cool posters on your page and tell me about it. I'll find it. You do not need to visit each site along the tour, but we encourage you to visit as much as you can. You won't be sorry.
If you are one of the sites participating this week, you are eligible to win, and do not need to worry about promoting because you are already doing that. Just remind me.

So that's it. Visit some sites, grab some bling and meet some new people. I'm looking forward to joining you...until the end.

We'll talk soon.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Blog on Fire Award & Embarrassing Questions

Greetings, Fire Enthusiasts. I come before you this week to share with you more embarrassing tales and anecdotes about myself. Well, perhaps not, but that’s what typically happens when I do this.

A couple of weeks ago, my buddy, Kelly Polark, bestowed the Blog on Fire Award to yours truly. Yes, I know. We can take that quite literally on this blog. Now there's lots of fire! Anyway, Kelly's a great lady, and a true rock n’ roll rebel, as Ozzy might suggest. Therefore, I do whatever she tells me to do. Now, when she fulfilled the obligation for this award on her blog, she combined it with another. Since I just recently shared some random things with you good people, I thought I would simply follow Kelly’s lead and do as she did.

So, here goes:

1) Do you think you are hot?

A) Wow! Picture me staring back at you silently, my eyes blinking twice as in a cartoon. Truthfully, I was a late-bloomer. I was a skinny, jeans, rock n roll t-shirt kind of guy. I didn’t date in school until the end of my high school career. I’m comfortable with my looks now, but never really thought much about them and still don’t. I’m more of a personality guy. I’m the guy with the good attitude who will keep you laughing. I’m 42 now. The only women who think I’m hot is the above 50 crowd amongst my employees.

2) Upload a picture or wallpaper that you are using at the moment.

A) Currently, I have two avatars that I am using. The first one is my “official” author picture from nearly two years ago now. Are you getting sick of it yet? God knows I am! I usually grow out the beard during the holidays. Last year, my wife asked whether I was planning on doing that again. I replied that I wasn’t, because seeing the author photo made me feel as if I had worn it all year. The other photo is a shot of flames. I think it’s cool. As much as I might like to change one of both of these, the budding marketing person within me realizes that you have to assist your customers by changing very little, if anything. Doesn’t it drive you crazy in the stores, when you look for the packaging that you are accustomed to, only to realize that nothing is familiar any longer because the packaging has changed?

3) When was the last time that you ate chicken meat?

A) Interesting question. This is easy because I could eat hamburger every day of the week, but with chicken I find myself tired of it after twice a week. At the time that I penned this post, I had last eaten chicken at an event in town. My wife and I went down there. I had ribs while she had the chicken. We shared, of course. The weather was nice and there was a relatively famous jazz band there.

4) The song that you listened to most recently?

A) This one is tough for me to answer because I have a jukebox in my head which plays continually. As you might have gleaned from this blog, I listen to a wide array of tunes, leaning mostly toward hard rock. Although I am currently listening to some Incubus (Thanks, Tara), Chickenfoot and Superheavy (Yeah, I’m surprised, too), what I have playing in my head right now is “Closer to the Edge” by 30 Seconds to Mars. And not the shorter radio single, either. I hate short versions of songs with a deeply-seated passion that burns like a well-fed industrial furnace... *calms self* Sorry. What were we talking about again?

5) What were you thinking of as you were doing this?

A) *laughs* Well, it wasn’t like I was writing this post while at work, hoping against hope that my employees wouldn't come by the office, disturbing me with their needs and questions, and keeping me from finishing this… ;)

6) Do you have nicknames?

A) *laughs again* Yes, I do, but none that I would like to share with you. *sticks out tongue* Okay, okay. I give up. First of all, I write my stories as James Garcia Jr. because that is what it reads upon my birth certificate. I also do it out of respect for my dad. All of my friends, however, call me Jimmy. Now, I couldn’t possibly leave you before giving you something juicy, so I will leave you with the following. Since you only know me from the words that I leave you with each week, or perhaps from my fiction, you most likely have no idea that I can throw a fit. J Some years ago, thanks to some whining that I was doing about who-knows-what, one of the ladies at work began calling me Jimmy-Sue. Some of the other ladies took that and ran with it, and to those great friends of mine (Brenda, Cheryl, Debbie & Liz *waves*), I have been Jimmy-Sue ever since.

Will I come to regret having told you this? Perhaps. As I mentioned above, I may not be “hot”, but I try to be fun.

We’ll talk soon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Greetings, Fire Enthusiasts. How are all of you today. Oh! There's a light knocking on your door. It almost sounded like more of a scratching than actual knocking. Other than me, who would come calling so late at night? Anyway, I'll wait here while you see who it is...

Relax. There isn't really anyone at your door. I was only messing with you. You see, I have come before you this week to tell you about a cool blog hop that is going to take place during the week before All Hallow's Eve from October 24th to the actual thinning of the veil.

Okay, okay. I'll stop. You know, you're not any fun at all. Besides, I'm an author; we're supposed to me demented on one level or another. Come to think of it, most of you are writers, too. Aren't you? If it pleases the court, notice I didn't accuse you of being demented. *whispers* It was implied.

I haven't yet decided what I plan to do for this event. As you know, I usually only post on Monday. I could re-post a bunch of reviews or snippets of my novel. If I post too often I won't have the time to visit the blogs of others, so we'll see. I'm taking a week off from work soon - at the end of the month I'll tell you what that was/is about - so there will be plenty of time to think my plans over. There will definitely be a contest at some point during the week. I will be coming to your house and washing and detailing your car... Are you kidding? I don't even do my own! Of course I'll be giving away copies of my novel. I see you frowning there. My little crossover vampire novel is currently the highest-rated horror novel on Smashwords, so there. *bares fangs* ;)

The point of all of this, just like anything else, is for the exposure. We writers get to meet other like-minded writers and, more importantly, we will use this fun time of year to reach like-minded readers. Each one of the sites will amaze, surprise and perhaps even shock with their content, and there stands to be some very cool giveaways.

Had enough of the hop badges yet? Good. There's more. I like them, too.

You know, I thought she was better looking last night. Must have been that second Crown & Coke. What? It's too cold for beer here in California now. Okay, I don't drink that much, you guys. I kid.

In hopes of whetting your dark appetites for the blog hop, I am leaving you with another, very brief snippet from my novel. In this scene, the heroes have locked themselves in the Kingsburg Police Department. The young distraught dispatcher has been sent home. Or so we hoped. The evil vampire is still hot on the trail for the other vampire Nathaniel, who is inside with the heroes.

4:58 a.m.

At long last, Vincent had located the correct key, turned it in the lock and gained access. Before entering fully; however, he leaned toward the ground with his left hand and retrieved something that he had placed there. Michael could not make out anything yet. While Nathaniel held his ground beside him, Michael glanced nervously from door to door, deliberating and calculating in his head whether or not he believed that the last door between them and the vampire might hold. It seemed too much to hope for.

When Michael tore his eyes away from the what if’s and what might happens of his deliberations, the vampire had reached the other side of the large lobby window.

“What’d he just drag in here?” Michael whispered the question. He waited for the reply, but none came. “Nathaniel?”

“You may wish to turn away.”

With still surprising little effort, Vincent reached up and slammed the object against the glass. In horror, Michael cursed as the lifeless body of Lainie Bishop struck the glass with her back and head. The blow did nothing to the thick bulletproof glass, but it collapsed several of the plates that had once made up her beautiful skull. There was a sickening squashing sound as some of the contents inside were loosed. There was very little blood, however.

For good measure, Vincent pulled her down and slammed her three more times in some sick, twisted rhythm as if she were simply the door knocker of an even larger castle.

“She did not seem pleased that she was being sent away,” Vincent broke the silence between them. “So I decided to invite her back inside.”

My God! Barbara stifled her cry as she entered the room just in time to witness the carnage. “What kind of monster are you?” she screamed, just not able to hold back her outrage at the sight of the dead woman’s hanging limbs. Whatever blood she had remaining stained the glass in dark splattered rivulets.

All three in the room turned to look at her as she did so. Both detectives were wondering just the same thing. Though some had seen some of what the vampire had been capable of, some getting a very close and personal taste of it, it was only Nathaniel who really knew.

“He is the great beast,” Nathaniel said. “There is nothing that he is incapable of.”

I hope you will join my fellow Coffin Hoppers and I this upcoming Halloween for chills, frights, shocks and treats. There's still time to join the hop. You can find it here. If you don't feel like hosting, I hope that you will hop, run or crawl along the different sites. I'll see you there.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Greetings, Fire Enthusiasts. I come before you today to inform you that I have, at long last, finished reading Drood by Dan Simmons. It sounds as if I am complaining, doesn't it? Not at all. I simply bemoan the lack of reading opportunities each day, coupled with my attempting to read a 900+ page novel. The novel was very good. Yet, at only 30 minutes a day, the challenge took forever.

The Novel: Having never before read historical fiction, I really had no idea what to expect; however, having gone on this adventure, I really am ready for the next one.

Drood takes us back to 19th century Victorian England to the real world of the great Charles Dickens. We become immersed in his life and the body of his literary work, as told by his friend, collaborator and rival, Wilkie Collins. I knew about many of Dickens' works, but I had no idea that he left an unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, nor did I know of the train accident that nearly killed him at Staplehurst.

It is at this incident that we are introduced to the diabolical Drood. He is the disfigured and menacing specter that begins to haunt Dickens, get between he and his good friend Collins and ultimately drive the two apart. In the beginning, Collins swears that the character does not exist, but is merely a figment of Dickens' great imagination; however, soon Drood becomes all-too real, making Collins his slave in more ways than one, aided by the author's out of control addictions. Or does he?

I thought the novel was quite good, but very long. Many reviewers that I have seen insist that the novel could have done without half of its mass. Perhaps. It can't be easy to take real people and events and spin a fictional tale between them, especially one filled with murder, intrigue and dark-doings. If you like dark tales in a historical setting, this is your book. Mr. Simmons was masterful, I thought. He didn't show us Dickens' world, he absolutely took us there.

TBR Pile: Now that I have a taste for reading once again, I look forward to the next thing. Many of you, my fellow Indie and small publishing-house authors, have asked me to read your novels. Some have given discount codes in hopes that reviews may spring forth from them. As long as these books of yours are not 900 + pages, I'm ready. *grins; rubs hands together* There are a few on my book shelf as well as many more lining the virtual shelf of my Kindle. I love discovering that your writing is just as good, and often better, as the writing that lines the shelves of the few bookstores remaining in this world. I promise to get on this immediately...

A Word: Before I go, I would like to leave you with some food for thought, and God knows it is as much for me as it might be for you. I found it within the pages of Dan Simmons' novel and it struck me like a well-landed blow to the jaw. Many of us push ourselves extremely hard in this writing endeavor. Rather than prep you any further I invite you to read it for yourself and see how it strikes you.

"When the last autumn of Dickens's life was over, he continued to work through his final winter and into spring. This is how all of us writers give away the days and years and decades of our lives in exchange for stacks of paper with scratches and squiggles on them. And when Death calls, how many of us would trade all those pages, all that squandered lifetime-worth of painfully achieved scratches and squiggles, for just one more day, one more fully lived and experienced day? And what price would we writers pay for that one extra day spent with those we ignored while we were locked away scratching and squiggling in our arrogant years of solipsistic isolation?
"Would we trade all those pages for a single hour? Or all our books for one real minute?"

I thought Mr. Simmons' was brilliant with this. It was a book within a book.

As Wilkie Collins might ask, "How did it strike you, dear reader?"

We'll talk soon.