The Beast Within – Lure of the Wolf
There’s something primally awful yet fascinating about werewolves, isn’t there? Academics may suggest that the werewolf represents our true Id, the dark part of the human psyche that is bloodthirsty and violent, blah, blah, blah. I just think they’re kinda cool and scary. When Graveside Tales was looking for werewolf stories, I sent them “Lure of the Wolf” and it’s published in The Beast Within.
A four-step footbridge rose over the tiny stream that trickled through the property. Vivian plopped down on it with a sigh, then tugged off her shoes, her knees creaking. She rubbed her callused heels.
IвЂ™m getting old. Lugging those realpaper books around and being on my feet all day is killing me.
She dangled her toes in the foot-deep stream. The icy water helped soothe the ache in her pudgy feet. A soft breeze from the north pushed her gray hair off her forehead.
She counted the smooth stones at the bottom of the streambed. SheвЂ™d learned it from a yoga teacher ten years before, back when she was still willing to get on the floor and do stretches in front of other people. Clear your mind, count something universal and eternal, let it all goвЂ¦. At two hundred and thirty three, the dirty smell of rot made her look around.
The werewolf stood ten yards away from her, upwind, its nose buried deep in salmon-colored azaleas. It faced away from her, golden pelt looking rich and oily. Its shoulders were broad, the deep chest and wide back looking enormous. Nearly two meters tall, its clawed hands drew up a flower-loaded branch to its face. Vivian thought she heard it inhale deeply.
He likes the flowers, too.
The werewolf stood on broad wolf-paws, claws curled into the oak leaf mulch, its legs shifting a little to balance its enormous torso. Those long legs could run up to thirty miles per hour, according to the Xenospecies book sheвЂ™d read long ago.
VivianвЂ™s heart lurched like a jumping frog. She gasped.
The werewolf whirled around to face her. Shredded leaves and azalea flowers drifted to the ground. VivianвЂ™s face and chest flushedвЂ”yes, clearly a male werewolfвЂ”and its large ears swiveled towards her. His mouth opened, long white canines gleaming in the moonвЂ™s light. He had orange eyes that stood out from his golden fur like volcanoes.
He can hear my heartbeat. He knows IвЂ™m scared.
Vivian heard his snuffle, saw his wet nose twitch. His red tongue lolled out of one side of his mouthвЂ”why Grandma what big teeth you haveвЂ”then slurped to the other side. He gave a snarl, so low and vicious that VivianвЂ™s entrails cramped.
She took a deep breath, torso shaking. вЂњDo you like the flowers?вЂќ she asked.
The werewolf reared back as if sheвЂ™d wielded a whip, bounded over a six-foot-high shrub with a graceful leap and was gone. Torn leaves drifted to the ground.
Vivian stayed on the footbridge for a bit. She pulled her numb feet from the cold water, grimacing as she stood up. She was halfway home before she realized that her pants were damp, warm with urine. She showered, changed into her flowered nightshirt and tugged her bed socks on, smiling to herself.
Mitchell Tanner, an ex-convict struggling to get his life back on track hasn’t faced his family in year. Not since his conviction, not since his move to Indiana, not since moving in with his half-sister. When he attends an uncles’ funeral in Tampa, old hurts come back to slap him in the face. Take a journey to a tropical paradise … where sometimes paradise is just an illusion.
This story was a finalist for the 2010 Florida Review’s Editor Choice Award and an Honorable Mention at the 2007 Writers in Paradise competition. It appears in the author’s print collection, Out of Joint and Other Stories.
Mitchell Tanner steered his twelve-year-old Altima into the funeral home parking lot, found a spot beneath a dying magnolia tree, and lit a joint. His frayed shirt sleeves pulled back to reveal barbed wire tattoos curled around each wrist. He left the lugging engine on and ran the AC against a Tampa October that pressed down solid as a slab.
In his rearview mirror, groups of people quick-stepped over steaming asphalt. The rain had made his final miles down from Indiana a maddening octopus of slow traffic, back-tracking, three fender-benders, and one street closed because of a sinkhole. TampaвЂ™s northern outskirts had mutated into a clean, shiny exitworld suburbia of Wal-Marts and Starbucks and McDonaldвЂ™s. But the cityвЂ™s inner core along Florida Avenue was the same. Peeling paint in vivid shades of turquoise, mustard, and tangerine flaked off shotgun bungalows. Black burglar bars guarded every window; a half dozen kids screamed in yards; old men on front porches smoked home-grown.
On the street corners lurked the young men: black, Hispanic, mixed, not a blond in sight. Bandanas on their heads, gold grills on their teeth, and cell phones in their hands. Tanner let his gaze drift over them, their chests puffed in their muscle tees. They glared at him as he drove through his old neighborhood, and Tanner wondered if he knew any of them from before.
Probably not. Five years in Raiford and three years in Indiana had wiped away TannerвЂ™s Tampa. These guys were in elementary school when he was last arrested.
Tanner crushed out the joint. He grabbed a pack of Big Red gum from the eight in the center console and stepped into wet air. Sweat popped on his neck and chest. He spent a few seconds struggling with the three-sizes-too-small sports jacket his sister had lent him. вЂњTim wonвЂ™t care. He left it here so itвЂ™s mine now.вЂќ The navy polyester was darker than his best-kept khakis; it was no suit but it would have to do.
He tugged down his shirt sleeves, trying to cover the prison-blue tattoos. Tanner wasnвЂ™t sure about his shirt collar; should he leave it open or button it all the way up even though he had no tie? He glanced at the people filing into the funeral home. All the other men wore ties.
The shirt collar was too tight around his neck; his hours on the weight bench had sculpted his body. He unbuttoned the collar and walked inside
My short story collection is now available at:
Selling Your Books at a Booth, Part Two
As part of your marketing plan for your book(s), you may have the chance to do some hands-on selling at a festival or event with a booth vendor slot. In the last issue, we discussed how to locate appropriate festivals, make contact, and arrange to set up a book booth. Now that you’ve done that, what next?
Having sold books at dozens of events over the past decade, I’ve developed a recipe for success and working a booth to your advantage. With some basic ingredients and a generous dash of high spirits, try mixing up these tactics at your next event and see your sales go up.
1: Make eye contact and break the ice.
Your first goal is to simply get people to stop walking and look at your booth and your books. A simple “good morning or hello, how are you?” is one way to start. If you’re at festival of some sort, ask how they’re enjoying it. Say it with a smile and try to be genuine. Vary your greeting — you’ll get sick of saying the same thing all day long, so try variations. When you do get someone to stop, ask an open-ended question that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”. “What do you like to read?” is much better than “Do you like to read?”
Selling Your Books at a Booth, Part One
Selling books directly to readers via an event booth is a very personal, hands-on approach to marketing your titles. It can give you instant feedback on what readers are looking for, like, and buy. It can earn you some cash sales. And it lets potential readers meet and feel invested in you as a person as well as an author. After several years of selling books at a variety of events, I’ve developed some tips for making booth sales work for you:
1 – Evaluate your genre and market, then decide which events will be right for you and your book. For example, if you write Westerns, consider rodeos, Western horse shows, cattle drives, and cowboy reunions. If you’ve written a historical, think about Civil War festivals and re-enactments, meetings of the local historical society, and the like. If you written a nonfiction title, find out where people interested in your topic gather. A book about beekeeping could be sold at a beekeepers conference, gardening festivals, and home shows. In short, think outside the narrow box of I-must-sell-my-book-at-a-book-festival. That’s not necessarily true.
Also, at a book festival you’re competing with dozens of other authors. Sure, the attendees are readers, but do they necessarily read about your book topic? Consider the novelty factor when selling at niche market events. A book about cats may do better at a cat show than at a book festival. A romance about a dressage rider and thoroughbred racing owner may do better at a dressage show. Sometimes a narrowed, rifle approach to your audience works better than a general, shotgun method of targeting buyers.
- Turn off the damn television! You canвЂ™t feed the muse if your mind is cluttered with the Meaningless Acquisitive Crap that is most television. Develop the inner resources to entertain yourself without the outside stimulus of someone talking at you, preaching to you, or trying to sell you something. ThereвЂ™s nothing wrong with contemplative introspection in moderation.
- Learn the basics: grammar, spelling, mechanics, POV, correct dialogue tags. If you screw these up on the first page of your story, editors wonвЂ™t even get to page twoвЂ”I mean it.
- Study the writers you admire, really analyze how their stories work. Is it an immediate grab-for-the-throat action scene? Is it the proportion of dialogue to narrative (think James Patterson and Jonathan Kellerman vs. Annie Proulx and Jane Smiley). All four can write compelling stories but they hook the reader in a different way. Learn how Thomas Harris is different from Stephen King (both doing suspense/horror), who is different from Maggie Estep who is different from Sara Gruen (both doing first-person horsey tales).
- ItвЂ™s worthwhile to join a critique group, a writerвЂ™s organization and attend conferences and workshops. Just rememberвЂ”writers write. Over the last decade IвЂ™ve met scads of folks who love to talk about writing and publishing and selling fiction but not all of them actuallyВ Do The Writing. If youвЂ™re serious about publishing professionally, at a certain point in time, youвЂ™ve got to shit or get off the pot. Either finish something and submit it or shut up.
- Once youвЂ™re happy with what youвЂ™ve written and are ready to sub, study the market. This can mean buying a copy ofВ Cemetery Dance, reviewingВ The PedestalВ online, and perusing the many market listings available online (Ralan.com,В ERWA.com), and in print. DonвЂ™t waste your time subbing something wrong for the market: Alyson Publications ainвЂ™t gonna take a traditional heterosexual romance, and Carnifex Press isnвЂ™t remotely interested in Westerns. Do your homework!
- Once you do complete a work, honor it by celebrating in whatever way makes you feel as though youвЂ™ve accomplished something. Whether itвЂ™s a bottle of champagne, a box of Fannie May turtles (just speaking for myself), or a massage, take the time to acknowledge your hard work. Done celebrating? Okay, sit your ass back down in the chair and write something else.
- The books IвЂ™ve used most in writing and revising:
a.В В The Weekend NovelistВ by Robert Jay Ray. I cannot recommend this book enough. It really focuses on the nitty-gritty details of background material, plot, structure and character development. And all developed with the idea that you have that pesky full-time job to eat and limited time to write. When my first novel is published, RayвЂ™s getting a copy with a note of sincere thanks from meb.В В Self-Editing for Fiction WritersВ by Renni Browne and Dave King. The bible, truly. Chapters to help you with cleaning up the mechanics, POV, narrative vs. scene, etc. Terrific stuff.c.В В Fiction First AidВ by Raymond Obstfeld. Another fixer-upper style book that has chapters on punching up settings, twisting off plotlines and growing rounded characters.d.В В The ArtistвЂ™s WayВ by Julia Cameron and herВ Right to Write. IвЂ™m not much for touchy-feely writing books but these two are the exception. Focuses on the process of creativity and treating yourself well in order to nurture the muse.
e.В В The First Five PagesВ by Noah Lukeman. Stellar. He explains how little time you have as a writer to get an agent or editorвЂ™s attention and that you must have your writing shit together to impress these folks. Based on his premise, they are looking for reasons (a typo, pink paper, a coffee stain) to get your story off their desk and into the trash.
8В -В Turn off the damn television!