How much does it cost? $9.95
Tell us a little about your book. Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks. I’m an Edgar Allan Poe fanatic, and these stories work on the basis of his “triggers”—extreme guilt, oppression, passion, or circumstance can lead to haunting, whether supernatural or physical.
Do you have any upcoming projects? Loads! My first novel, Bad Apple, is due out from Vagabondage Press Books in early 2012; I’m working on a collection of ghost stories set exclusively in the state of Connecticut; and there’s a second book in the Disney series, Hairless Girl Does the Hula, planned for 2013. I’m working on those stories now. In addition, I’m always writing and revising new short stories not connected with any collections. On the non-writing front, I’m starting a podcast, Scary Scribes, in January. The half-hour show will feature a brief scary read followed by an interview.
Why did you choose to self publish? I felt that this particular collection—ghost stories set in Disney Parks—would appeal to two very specific audiences with whom I interact on a regular basis, and I wanted to be able to invest the time in reaching them. I also wanted total control over this project—it’s my baby. I would absolutely do it again—and, in fact, I plan on it.
Please share some advice to help future authors. I always hear from writers don’t want to spend the time or money on their book or to promote themselves—quite frankly, I don’t understand that. It’s your work; why would you cheap out on it? I made a heavy investment. I hired professionals to do things. I spend money to promote myself, to go places, to make sure I’m getting the best that I can afford. And the books sell well because of that—I’m bringing in a consistent income on Amazon alone. In fact, I’ve made back my full initial investment already. But I work, work, work and spend, spend, spend to reap that reward. If you’re not willing or prepared to invest time and money in yourself or your project, don’t get into this—in the end, your lack of that investment will show.
What drives you to write? I’ve always written—from the time I could hold a pen I was writing stories, so to be fair, I don’t know where the “drive” to do it comes from—it just sort of happens. I can tell you, though, that for me, writing is about processing: something has happened in my life and I sort it out through my stories. I don’t do this on purpose, it just seems that things I can’t resolve seem to get resolved little by little through my work. I know I’m done when whatever it is—a certain character who represents someone with whom I’m fascinated or who hurt me, for example—stops showing up.
How do you juggle life around your writing? Writing for me has always come first. Unlike many writers who block time for themselves to write, I’m very much an inspiration-only writer as far as the creation of fiction goes; this means that when something wants to come out, everything I’m doing gets dropped. The good news about that, though, is that it never takes me very long to get out a draft: it’s all or nothing and no interruptions until it’s finished. There are years in which I’m very prolific, and years in which I’m not. But I’ve learned to roll with that. I’m getting back into a prolific period now, which I’m very excited about—it seems the ideas are coming so fast I can barely keep up with them. The only thing that really does is force me to schedule all the other activities in which I’m involved when I’m not creating—marketing, blogging, events, critiquing, revising, judging and just about everything else a writer does these days to keep a career afloat—those are the activities for which I block out specific time, usually in the evenings and on the weekends. It’s not a bad thing to be a writer and NOT write every day. I think the most important thing is to figure out how you work best and go for it.
Here’s a peek at “Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole”—the book’s title story:
Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole
“He did it,” my husband says.
It’s so dark I can’t see his eyes—we’re at the Polynesian Resort’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, and they’re about to dance with fire so the lights are off—but I know there’s no expression in them anyway. He’s in a trance. “Ohhhhh.”
David channels the last thoughts of dead things. Back home in Baltimore, the ability’s onset has forced him to end his taxidermy practice. Recently, though, he’s seemed to get better.
I heave a sigh and reach for the carved coconut monkey head that holds my Pele’s Fire Punch, put the straw in my mouth, and drain the drink.
He finishes reading the air and sets his hand on top of mine. “I’m sorry, Cora. I know this is a vacation.”
“I just didn’t think there’d be any dead things in Disney World, that’s all. You were clean for almost a month. I was hoping—”
“I know.” He puts a square of pineapple bread on his plate next to a pile of chicken bones.
The drums begin, and a limber man in a grass skirt twirls a flaming baton.
The flashes started on David’s fortieth birthday.
We were celebrating at the Annabel Lee Tavern, and the waitress had just set a quarter duckling in front of him. He looked at me as though he was going to say something, but then his expression went blank. He turned his gaze upward.
“What?” I twisted to look and noticed writing painted high on the wall: Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust. There was more to it, but it wrapped around a corner where I couldn’t read the rest. “That’s from a Poe poem. I don’t think that line’s from ‘Annabel Lee.’ I want to say it’s from ‘Ulalume.’”
But he didn’t answer.
His eyes moved as though he were reading from a page in the air. “Why did she leave me alone? Why?”
I leaned closer to the table. “David? I didn’t leave you alone. I’m right here.”
“She left me!”
He hadn’t mentioned his ex-wife, Helena—who had left him for another man—since just before our wedding two years ago, but that was the only ‘she’ I could think of. I reached out and gripped his wrist. “Helena left you, David. I didn’t.”
Everyone in the tiny place went quiet; there was only the mournful Firebird Suite Berceuse floating from a speaker in the ceiling.
My face burned under the stares. The flame from our table’s candle snuffed out.
“I can’t get out!” David shouted.
I released his wrist and turned to the pair of women at the next table. “I’m sorry…my husband is…I…”
The waitress, panic in her eyes, approached. “Everything okay?”
I shook my head. “I’m…I’m so, so, sorry, I don’t know what’s going on, just bring us some take-out containers and the check. Fast.”
She nodded and rushed off.
“I can’t get out!”
“Yes, David, you can. We’re going out. Right now.”
Outside, the rain had turned to sleet. “Where is she?” David yelled. A couple walking across the street stopped, and then ran. “Where is she?”
“Stop it!” I screamed. “You’re scaring me!”
“She left me here!”
“I did not! Helena did!” Sleet stung my cheeks.
He was quiet for a moment; in the distance, I heard sirens. Then he blinked, marveling as though he had no idea how he’d gotten outside. “Cora?”
“I’m right here.” I was relieved. “I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere, and what Helena did to you will never, never happen again.”
He reached out with trembling fingers to touch my cheek. Then he fell against my shoulder and cried.