Monday, February 28, 2011

Author Pics, or Straight Eye for the Queer Gal

All photos by Christy Mayo McMillen
The time has come for the all-important author portrait. You know, the one that goes in the back of the book with the author's bio. I wrote the bio, but I called in professionals for the photo.

Straight women.

First was Nancy, my hairdresser. I scheduled my haircut on the same day as the photo shoot, which was by accident - but a fortunate one. Nancy did her usual great job, but suspected that her good intentions might go awry before that evening. My hair isn't known for its good behavior. She made me cover my eyes and hold my breath while she sprayed the hell out of it. It worked; the 'do set up and stayed put, even through the clothing changes.

That evening, the tag team arrived. One was Gwen's daughter, a fantastic photographer with a huge honking camera that she normally reserves for the grandsons' sports events. She took Gwen's author photos and graciously agreed to take mine. On Saturday, she came to Lexington with her friend, a former Miss West Virginia. High-powered help, indeed!

I showed them the wardrobe and jewelry options. Once they'd decided how to dress me, they draped a towel around my neck and began their work.

Strange substances, some very expensive, were sponged and brushed over every square inch of my face. The smell of cosmetics, a scent I am normally unfamiliar with, filled the air. I sat there clutching my seat, trying not to act nervous. When they reached the eyes, though, I let out a high-pitched whine and they got tickled. Gwen's mother said I sounded like a puppy whimpering.

Naturally, I was not allowed to wear my glasses until after I was through having pictures taken. Gwen sat in the front of her daughter's car to give directions. First stop: the cemetery. No, I am not kidding. My novel has vampires, doesn't it?

The vampire novelist requires night photography.
Christy had great fun telling me to turn this way and that. It was like being a model, but dressed much more sensibly. We moved to indoor locations when we got cold. The shot at the top of this post was taken in front of a fountain at Lexington Green. I was much happier there because we visited Joseph-Beth's. Lack of glasses didn't stop me from peering at books! They had to tell me to move along, we weren't there to shop.

Christy knew which book I should hold.
The only confusion came when she asked me to do the 'cheerleader' pose. I'm afraid I had no notion of what that was. They had to move me into the proper position, which is a bit like an iliotibial band stretch without the pain. I am not posting a pic here because I have suboptimal talents in the cheerleader department. I should have paid more attention at those football games when I was in band.

Once the ladies were tired of posing me, we went home. I was happy to get my glasses back and, with the magic of cold cream, return to my secret identity as a woman in comfortable shoes! If the book sells well, though, I may have to become more familiar with feminine skills.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Novel Has a Cover!

Every day, my dream is becoming more and more solid. Soon, it will be a reality I can hold in my hands.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

State of Horror: My Lovecraft Tribute

I am pleased to report that Rymfire's latest release, State of Horror: Louisiana, contains one of my stories. "Voter Base" is a little tribute I wrote to H.P. Lovecraft's body of work. I have read most of HPL's stories and played Call of Cthulhu for several years.

On the fifth anniversary of our civil union, I even took my wife to Providence and did the Lovecraft's College Hill Walking Tour. I viewed this as proof of her true devotion, especially since everything was uphill. Lovecraft's notions of non-Euclidean geometry were definitely spawned in his home town.

I have a few other Lovecraftian notions bouncing around in my head, just looking for opportunity and a promising outlet. It was a lot of fun to write.

UPDATE: This book is also available on Kindle!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Ice Cold

Ice Cold (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #8)Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read several of Tess Gerritsen's novels, but I've never been able to get into her Rizzoli and Isles books. I'm a sucker for a survival story, though, and was intrigued enough by the description on the flyleaf to give it a try. It did not disappoint in that area. Maura's struggle to live through the punishing cold early in the book and, later, eluding would-be killers with the boy Rat were both compelling to me.

I also found myself connecting with Maura on a deeper level than my previous experiences. She begins the book at an impasse with her current lover (Isles seems to have a bad track record in choosing lovers). Her impulse to do something, anything to break out of her life's pattern is very understandable and, naturally, leads to trouble. Her experiences help her clarify what she wants to do with the relationship - mostly by blasting her out of her love-angst.

I don't want to give any spoilers, but the book starts with a 'garden variety' polygamous cult with a charismatic prophet. You think you know what happened to his followers... but you don't. You also think that the boys raised in this patriarchal cult would be greatly valued and groomed to rule... but they're not. The ending holds a final twist that truly did surprise me... but made sense at the same time.

This was a great read. I plowed through it within 24 hours - it was that enjoyable. I think other non-Rizzoli and Isles readers might enjoy it, too.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Snow Blind

Snow Blind (PI Julie Collins series)Snow Blind by Lori G. Armstrong

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was my first experience with Lori Armstrong's work, but it is the last in the series with Julie Collins. I don't know what the other books were like, but I would describe this one as bipolar.

The situation Julie and her partner Kevin are hired to investigate isn't an uncommon one for a novel by a woman writer with a female detective: find out if an old man is being exploited by the nursing home he lives in. We meet the various characters at the home, everyone from paid 'volunteers' to the requisite spunky old lady. The investigation begins...

...and then Julie is called out to her father's ranch. She battles a blizzard and painful memories while trying to save her father from a murder charge. Dark family secrets surface, some from her family, some from other families. The difference between this and the first part of the book is night and day. I was going "uh-huh, uh-huh" up till the trip to the ranch, after which things got interesting.

Eventually Armstrong takes Julie back to her assigned case, which is now only a pale distraction in comparison to the dark drama we were plunged into. Julie gets to the bottom of the case, but for me the good part of the book had already ended.

I hope the author will do more novels that focus on stories as dark and gripping as the subplot in this novel. I found it much more interesting than the more predictable 'real case'.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Bio. NOW what do I say?

Everyone who read last week's post will be glad to learn that I finished the edits in good time. Once I got into them, I remembered how much I liked the characters and it really wasn't that scary.

I'm almost ready to ship the edits back to Pill Hill Press, but I'm lacking something important: an author bio. I'm at a loss for words.

Now, let me make it clear that I've done bios for short stories. They're brief and often have pop culture references. I'd like to stick with brief, but I don't think I should make my usual confession that I wanted to grow up to be Kolchak, except smarter (the idiot hunted vampires alone at night). Wouldn't the Kolchak people try to sue me for that?

My bios are usually tailored to fit the story. For example, in my bio for Fish Tales, the SinC Guppies' first anthology, I mentioned that I had been born in Asheville, NC and had deep family roots there because my story was set in Asheville. I worked an NCIC terminal at my local police department for seven years, so I mention that in stories with central characters that work for the police.

My novel is about a lesbian vampire that moves into a gated community. What the hell do I do with that? I'm a lesbian who played Vampire: the Masquerade about ten years ago. Not quite the same thing. If I'd planned ahead for my writing career, I would have been born about ten years later with a higher metabolism. Then, I would have been young and thin enough to join one of the vampire cults. Instead, I was an old, boring nerd when that became the rage.

Sadly, I am more qualified to write about the New Ager the vampire dates for a while. I know quite a bit about astrology, crystals, and Tarot. When you meet my vampire, Cynthia, you will know why this is not a compliment. I am more qualified to write the science geeks she interacts with, after living in the engineering dorm at OSU and dating the people I gamed with. I'm also better equipped to write about the pettiness of bureaucrats, after years of working for the city, the University, and volunteering for my political party.

None of this boils down to the thumbnail sketch I'm hoping to create. I probably should mention the degree in journalism. It makes me sound like I've been trained in writing, at least. The rest is going to require more thought.

Any suggestions for useful things to include in a bio for someone who's written a vampire novel? And please, no 'blood bank employee' suggestions. I've studied dead languages... does that count?


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Thrill of Victory... The Agony of Delete

A short time ago, I discovered that I could look up the stats for this blog. Among the information listed, I discovered that someone found my site by asking, "Is Pill Hill Press a vanity press?" I can attest that, having recently received their edits for my novel, that they are nothing of the sort. What little vanity I have took a serious blow.

Comments in red, blue, and purple ink fill the margins throughout the book. I overuse certain words, and they're longer than four letters. Entire paragraphs have been flagged as 'wordy' or 'unclear', so it's probably time to STFU about James Joyce. I've also been asked to delete a few blocks of writing as unnecessary to the story. Ouch!

These are common errors, though. Em dashes and new word choices just need to be 'fixed'. It gets worse. My editor found contradictions of logic and inconsistencies in my vampire physics. I've had a couple of real "Oh, s--t!" moments. This stuff will require serious thought and rewriting.

I feel like an utter idiot. How could I have managed to leave so much stuff screwed up after four drafts? I have to remind myself that my editor, who is also my publisher, saw these same pages, errors included, when she decided to offer me a contract. Despite the amount of ink decorating the margins, she must have thought that these problems were surmountable.

I must also remind myself that I can get my characters and plot to do the things needed because, in the words of Donald Maass, they are "a work of fiction". This is made up stuff, and I am a writer. I can do this.

So, I picked up my yelping, whimpering manuscript, and began revisions. I'm proceeding one step at a time, untangling its words, making it stand up straight, and putting its shoes on the correct feet. Solutions have already begun coming to me. I will get this done... and the book will be better for it.