Off to StokerCon!

Slide01In the morning, I’m off to my first StokerCon.  This year it’s taking place on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

On Friday, April 28, I’ll be reading in the Wedding Chapel at 1PM. Joining me will be Sumiko Saulsen. I going to read a bloody bit from the middle of Kill By Numbers.

On Saturday, April 29, I’ll be debuting a brand-new lecture called “Whistling Past the Graveyard.” It’s scheduled for 11 am to noon in the Board Room of the Queen Mary. I’ll be talking about ghosts, graveyards, and things that go bump in the night.

My books will be for sale in the Dealers Room, thanks to Mysterious Galaxy.

I’m looking forward to catching up with the Ladies of Horror, the SF Bay chapter of the Horror Writers Association, and a whole lot of good people that I see much too infrequently.

And I hope to take a ghost tour or two…

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Rhoads_floatFirst things first: I did not turn into a monkey, although I may now be able to talk to dolphins. I also didn’t hallucinate, beyond the throbbing shadow images you see when you close your eyes in pitch blackness. I am, however, going to give it another shot.

Monday I treated myself to my first adventure in a sensory deprivation tank.  I got a 10 am appointment, so I could go first thing. I made myself a good solid breakfast and drove across town. I was pretty nervous, but determined to give it a try.

I’ve written about my claustrophobia before. It’s better these days, but I wasn’t sure how I would react to being shut into what is basically a bed-sized coffin. It helped to know that there was a light switch inside the pod, so I could turn the lights on when I needed to.  I could even leave them on. Just having that control helped.

The room itself had a door that locked from the inside, so that eased my worry that someone would sneak up on me.  I showered, put vaseline on the paper-cut on my hand, dried my face off as directed, and stepped into the water.

I like my bathwater to be warm enough to raise goosebumps. This water wasn’t as hot as that, but it was a noticeably warm. The air in my private room was fairly tropical.  I sat down and discovered the water reached only up to my waist.  It was silky to the touch. The video I watched beforehand said that they used 1200 pounds of epsom salts in each tank.

I pulled the lid closed.  The pod was big enough that I could sit up inside it comfortably.  Its domed lid made it seem almost spacious.  The light seemed bright, though, so I reached over and switched it off, ready to turn it back on as soon as I freaked out.  To my surprise, that wasn’t necessary. I lay back in the water, floating with no effort at all, and reached out to touch the sides of the tank to check where they were.

It took a while to find a comfortable position.  Once my ponytail got saturated with salt, it was heavy and tugged my head back in a way that put pressure on my neck. The parts of me floating above the water felt slightly chilled. I thought about getting out to ask the attendant to warm the water for me, but I didn’t have a robe and I didn’t want to shower to dress.

Time flowed differently with no way to measure it.  My breathing was harsh and loud in the humid darkness. My stomach gurgled.  Every now and then, I heard a splash that didn’t seem connected to anything I did — and I remembered my Facebook friend who said he could never use a floatation tank because he worried about the critters coming up from the darkness below him.

I thought about the story I’m working on. I thought about life. I thought about lying still for an hour and found I couldn’t do it. I thought about not touching my face because I didn’t want to get salt in my springtime allergy-sensitized eyes.

Whenever I changed position, I would drift around the pod, gently bumping into the walls. It didn’t matter if my eyes were open or closed. I saw gently pulsing shadows, blacker than the blackness, that changed shape like amoebas. If they’d reached for me, I would have screamed. They kept a polite distance.

Eventually, I decided I would do as the video instructed and count my breaths. They recommended you count to 300.  I made it into the 30s before I decided it didn’t matter any longer.

And then the magic happened.  I stopped worrying. I stopped thinking. I stopped feeling the temperature difference. I stopped hearing my breathing and my heartbeat and my digestion. I didn’t go to sleep — I was still aware on some level — but I stopped being consciously involved in what was going on. I wanted to stay in that state. I was happy.

Before I was ready, the music kicked in to signal the session was ending.  I stretched gently, finding my edges again.  The lights came up.  I sat up in the pod.

I’m not sure if I can describe how relaxed I felt. This year has been rough:  I worked every single day from December 26 to March 1, grinding out and revising the 199 Cemeteries book. In the weeks since I turned it in, I’ve dealt with the editor’s notes, the copyediting, and tried to pick up all the other pieces of my life.  My dad’s been in and out of the hospital since Christmas. My daughter’s been sick for weeks at a time. She’s off on a school language trip to Italy now, her first plane flight without me, so I’ve been having anxious dreams about that. I’ve been working with a nutritionist for months, but completely unable to lose any weight — and I have to lose weight, if I want to cut back on my meds. I have been a ball of stress for months on end.  All of that was gone.

I felt lighter than I had in months.  I felt like I could breathe.  It was a religious experience to feel the way I felt: a rare and special blessing.

As I walked over to get myself fish tacos for lunch, I wondered how long the euphoria would last.

The answer:  not long.  When I checked my email while I waited for lunch, my editor wrote to say as they added page numbers to 199 Cemeteries, they discovered there were only 198 cemeteries.

All the feelings of inadequacy and failure and my impostor syndrome came rushing back.

But I was out for lunch.  It was a spectacular spring day in San Francisco: warm sun, cool breeze off the bay, not a cloud in the sky. The jasmine was blooming, scenting the air. I didn’t rush my lunch. There would be time to fix things later.

For the moment, I was going to take care of myself.

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Reading at Rebound Books


SECOND Sci-fi Writers’ Nite
At: Rebound Bookstore
1611 4th St. San Rafael

Wednesday, MARCH 29 7:00 PM

-With- Loren Rhoads & S. G. Browne


This is a free event. Refreshments served. 415-482-0550

The amazing S.G. Browne is author of Less than Hero, Fated, Breathers: A Love Story, and Lucky Bastard. He was threatening to read Scattered Showers with a Chance of Daikaiju.

I think I’m going to read from No More Heroes. I’m in the mood for some space opera.

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FogCon 2017

FogCon RFR poster2The first con of my year is this weekend in Walnut Creek, California. I’m very much looking forward to going back to FogCon.

Friday, March 10:

3 p.m. in Salon A/B: I’ll be moderating a panel called Social Media for Writers and Authors.  Joining me will be Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Valerie Frankel, Phyllis Holliday, and Heather Rose Jones.

Join our panelists for a nuts and bolts discussion from personal experiences in the brave new world of Social Media as Writer and/or Author. What platforms work for what? How do you get followers/fans? What is the most effective way to reach people who will buy books? How do you keep those people engaged and interacting on your networks?

4:30 in the Santa Rosa Room: Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, with Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Sarah Grey, and LS Johnson.  We’re each going to do two short pieces. I think I’ll reading something from No More Heroes — and maybe an excerpt from the upcoming Strange California book.

Saturday, March 11:

4:30 in Salon C: I’m participating in a panel called Pitches, Presentations and Proposals: making your point without resorting to kidnapping your boss. The other panelists are Karen Brenchley, Marie Metivier-DeMasters, and Alfred Nash,.

Having to get a complicated point across in a brief “elevator pitch” — or even in an actual presentation — can be very intimidating, whether you have five minutes or fifty. The legal system and basic moral sense mean you can’t really kidnap your audience for appropriate brainwashing: let’s talk about tips for pitches, presentations and proposals that won’t end in your humiliating arrest — and that might get other people excited about your idea. Whether for work or passion, being effective often depends on communicating your idea compellingly. Learn the common — and a few uncommon! — mistakes, and how to avoid them.

It should be a good time. If you’ll be at the Walnut Creek Marriott next weekend, please say hi.

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A Dark Valentine

heart-images-vintage-graphicsfairy1Years ago, I wrote an Alondra story about the lengths she would go to for love called “Valentine.”  The story was podcasted on Wily Writers.  You can read it or listen to it here.

An excerpt:

Alondra had never done this kind of magic before. It felt awful, dirty. Her head ached from the concentration it took. Still, she sat in the quaint café, drinking peppermint tea. Teeth gritted, she traced sigils for summoning in the moisture her glass left on the birch tabletop.

She’d never been to Oslo before, spoke almost no Norwegian, but that hadn’t posed a problem. Scandinavians all spoke lovely English. It shamed her to not have more vocabulary. She’d scarcely prepared for the trip and didn’t know how long before her quarry moved on.

And he traveled a lot. Alondra wasn’t sure if he fled something or searched for something. Not that it mattered. She didn’t want to know more about him than his regular habits in this place. She needed to know enough to find him. Meet him. Get him alone and kill him.

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