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When Shifter Woods: Roar came out, it received a complaint from a reviewer that the cover art used models with shaved chests. Since you’re never supposed to respond to a reviewer I bit my tongue, but I did think, “Lady, if you can find a model with chest hair in the right age range, lemme know because I’ve been looking and they’re NOT out there.”
And then I read a comment a few days ago about the awesomely talented artist Jay Aheer and how she painstakingly painted on chest hair for another author’s cover because the character had chest hair. My first thought was, “That Jay, she always goes the distance with her work. Such a professional.”
My second thought was, “Wait, you can do that?” So I did some searching and by gum, it is possible to add chest hair onto a hairless model in Photoshop. After finding a tutorial, I decided to build my own chest hair brush and tried it out with the cover for Shifter Woods: Snarl (it’s coming, people, I promise). The result worked, but it looked like my poor wolf shifter had been manscaped within an inch of his life. So I built another brush, this one with thicker, curlier hair, and tried that.
WOO! As you can see, the result looks damned good. So, keeping that reviewer’s comments in mind, I went back and added a fair amount of curly hair to Mike’s chest for the cover of Shifter Woods: Roar. I’m going to build another thicker brush with straighter hair, just to change things up a bit, but it looks like I’m free of the shaved chest tyranny of stock photography, yay!
As of Friday Lady of Thorns became available for pre-order on Amazon, and I just got the pre-order notice from Kobo a few minutes ago. Release date is 10/31, and I’m currently plowing through edits and getting PR graphics and info lined up. As soon as I have ARCs ready I’ll be sending those out to my sweet, sweet group of volunteer readers.
The picosecond I’m done with this I have to turn around and get back to work on Cross Current because I want that done and off to Evernight before November, which is when I plan on tackling Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2) and Shifter Woods: Snarl. I’m also going into the doctor (yet again) this week because I clearly have a sinus infection now and it’s dragging me down like you would not believe and I do not have TIME for that right now, dammit.
And for some reason 4/5 of the J Crew are being complete pains in the butt right now. I see a lot of coffeeshop time in my near future at this rate.
Oh, and Evernight’s Lawless antho with my short story “Gentleman Jackson” will be out in November, and I’ll be doing promo for that as well. If you want to see a little snippet of the story, read on. In the meantime, back to work for me, tra la (weekend? What means this word, weekend)…
People in our current government can deny climate change as much as they like. Climate change damn well believes in us.
The rains from Harvey are still draining out of Houston and the surrounding areas. Quite apart from the problems of determining what, if anything, in your waterlogged home can be saved, it seems that the flooding has also released an absolutely enormous amount of industrial pollutants from the various petrochemical facilities. The eastern section of the Texan Gulf coast is going to be toxic as hell for quite some time as a result. Sorry, Louisiana.
As of this moment, Irma has pretty much leveled 90% of the structures on the island of Barbuda and rendered 60% of its inhabitants homeless. The pictures from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are horrific. And while there’s still time for Irma to make an abrupt right turn, the various projected tracks are starting to agree that south Florida is about to be bitchslapped hard. I know someone who lives on Palm Beach Island, and I’m hoping like hell that he and his family obeyed the mandatory evac order. The bulk of my Floridian friends tend to live either on the Gulf side or around Orlando, but I’m still worried about them because Irma looks to ratfuck Florida’s infrastructure on a major scale.
Jose is still out in the south Atlantic but is now a Cat 3 hurricane and seems to be following in Irma’s wake. Hopefully the high pressure system over the upper east coast will come down in time to push that back out to sea. And Katia has now organized in the Gulf into a Cat 1 hurricane–it probably doesn’t have enough run-up space to get much bigger so Mexico’s about to get some rain but hopefully nothing more than that. What with pretty much all of the West Coast on fire right now, however, we’re literally between hell and high water.
So why is a romance writer talking about weather disasters? Well, apart from the fact that my Olympic Cove series is pretty much based on climate change (and yeah, I have a really hellacious sinus headache at the moment and it’s making me cranky), it’s pretty freaking obvious by now that the increase in both the strength of hurricanes and the number of deadly hurricanes is tied to warmer ocean waters, which is caused by—say it with me—global warming. And while writers are often told not to be political on their social media platforms because God forbid you should drive away potential readers, at this point I think it’s far more important to drag the topic of climate change into the spotlight again and again. Hopefully with enough repetition from enough sources, enough people may start to accept that 1) climate change is real, and 2) it affects all of us on this big blue marble. We still have time to get our shit together and salvage something for the next generation, who don’t deserve this mess. But Lord, we have got to start now.
So last week I was working with my beta and editor to finish the last polish on Shifter Woods: Roar and get it uploaded to Amazon in time for release on Tuesday. Saturday I vacuumed up a weeks’ worth of dust and cat hair from various surfaces and treated myself to a showing of The Hero (seriously, go see this. No huge explosions or big payoffs, just a perfect portrayal of an aging actor’s quiet desperation by the marvelous Sam Elliott and how a surprise shot in the arm for his acting career has unintended consequences) Yesterday Ramón and I went Tech Wars on the pool pump (more of this below), and I worked on contacting potential reviewers for Roar. Today is all about paying bills, doing promo for Roar, working on Cross Current, and more cleaning because Jesus, these cats shed EVERYWHERE.
So, about the pool pump: gather round, kiddies! Auntie Nic has a tale for you of two techies faced with mechanical engineering problems and how they overcame them like a boss. I call it TECH WARS: REVENGE OF THE POOL PUMP.
Flash back to a few days ago, when our pool pump started making a very high-pitched whine indicating that a bearing was probably going. I turned it off and informed the engineer in the house of this issue, who agreed with my diagnosis. The motor is 4 years old and has been running every day, including during hellishly hot Texas summers, so this is to be expected.
But repair guys are expensive AF and the last time we had the motor replaced it cost $550. We have fifteen million tools and mucho repair know-how between us, so Ramón decided we would strip down the motor and fix it ourselves, because dammit, we’re just that good. Himself promptly hopped on Google, did all the necessary research, purchased the required bearings and gaskets (upgrading them to quality Japanese makes so that they would last longer), then in a long and sweaty process pulled the motor off the pump today.
After he brought it inside, we started to disassemble it on the breakfast nook table (good overhead lighting and easy access to the back door). This required the liberal use of WD40, a rubber mallet, and much cursing. I have seen nuclear vessels that were easier to crack than this bitch. it’s a good thing that I come equipped with Eastern European muscles and lift weights, that’s all I’m gonna say.
We finally got the housing open, pulled off both bearings (and it was clear to see why the motor was making a high-pitched noise — both of them were trashed. The pic at right, BTW, shows three sizes of gear pullers, which is what you use to pull bearing races off a driveshaft), hammered on new ones, and cleaned the housing/armature of schmutz. We were both soaked in sweat by this point, but by God we were getting it done. Got the armature/end cap put back together…and realized we’d left out a thrust washer. Crap. Pulled it apart again, put in the washer, pounded it back together.
I mentioned that this was all being done on the breakfast nook table. This, BTW, is also where the J Crew get their wet food. They were prowling around us, HIGHLY offended that we dared to steal their food space, and where IS dinner, anyway? Huh? HUH? I may have used language unbecoming a lady when instructing them to leave us alone.
Anyhoo, we finished putting the motor back together and got the long bolts screwed down and secure. The driveshaft spins MUCH more easily than it had, and Ramón replaced the capacitors while he had it out (he tried turning it on this morning and it wouldn’t even spin). Sweaty, dirty, and rightfully proud of himself, he stood over the rebuilt motor on the table and commented, “I know we’re technologically sophisticated people, petal, but sometimes it’s nice to just bash kit with a big hammer.”
To which I replied, “The Camerons: Fixing Shit Since 1841.”
“Because we’re too cheap to hire someone to do it,” he adds.
The real proof of the pudding will come tomorrow when we put the motor back in and fire it up. But I suspect it’s gonna work.
Warning: I’m getting political here. If you want to believe that romance writers should be Switzerland, you may want to go somewhere else for the moment.
So I’m trying to work on Cross Current while watching the run-up to the vote in the House of Representatives over the new iteration of the AHCA, and taking breaks to comfort friends who are having panic attacks because this bill passing means that they or their loved ones will lose their health insurance, and wondering how badly this is going to make our own health care costs go up (I have two autoimmune disorders which will be considered pre-existing conditions), and generally being pissed off at the attempts of some very rich people to turn us all into out and out serfs. Because let’s be honest, this country is already an oligarchy.
And man, I really wish there was something powerful and mind-changing that I could say about this, especially since I’m a writer and words are my tools. But I can’t. The Backfire Effect means that people won’t listen to reason and fact if it contradicts their core beliefs, and apparently the core beliefs of those who want to vote YES on this bill can be condensed to, “Screw you, Jack, I got mine.” So instead, I’m gonna tell you a story.
Back in 1998, Ramón and I had just moved to Sweden for his contract job with a major telecoms company that I shall call the Three Blue Sausages. Ramón’s teenaged sister the Generalissima had come with us for various reasons, and was starting school in Stockholm while I started my own new job as a tech writer at TBS.
On the third day of my new job, I went home after work and found our apartment looking like a whirlwind had torn it apart — papers everywhere, the phone book out, just a mess. Grumbling about slob teenagers, I start cleaning the place when the phone rang.
It was the Generalissima. “Nic, I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice. “Your mum’s dead.”
It turned out that the place was a mess because she’d torn it apart trying to find a phone number for TBS so that she could call and tell me (I hadn’t gotten an office phone yet). I remember thanking her, hanging up, and calling my sister to find out what had happened.
As it turned out, my mother, who had been working as a temp secretary without health insurance, had developed a serious case of cellulitis. She couldn’t afford to see a doctor and tried to treat it herself. It went systemically septic over the course of six weeks. My brother, who lived with her, got scared when the pain grew too bad and took her into the local charity hospital for help. After a day of treatment they sent her home, telling him he could nurse her as well as they could. That night she was sitting on the couch, shocky and unable to speak, writing in notes that she could see man-like shapes hovering in the corners of the room. She sent my brother into his bedroom so that she could change out of the adult diapers the hospital had put her in; he asked if she wanted help, and she silently shooed him away. After a half hour, he came back out. He found her slumped over on the couch, her eyes still open, panties in her hand.
Not the image you want to have of your mother’s last moments on earth, by the way. Not at all.
I flew back to the States the next day, and am still grateful to the kind flight attendant who found me a row where I could stretch out and not upset the other passengers with my quiet crying. Mom wound up at the local mortuary, which was run by a former schoolmate of my aunt’s. He told her that Mom’s legs were in such bad condition they probably would have required amputation if she had lived.
Thing is, none of this happened in a war-torn place or a third-world nation. Mom lived in Whiting, Indiana, within spitting distance of Chicago. She worked all of her adult life, a great deal of it at the University of Chicago. She died because she couldn’t afford to go see a doctor and get antibiotics for a bacterial infection before it turned life-threatening. She was 58.
And I look at all of those GOP representatives in Congress preparing to vote on the AHCA, ramming it through even though it’s incomplete and CBO hasn’t even had a chance to put an accurate price tag on it. And I have to wonder — if their mothers are dead, did it happen because they couldn’t afford health insurance? Did they die while hallucinating and struggling to put on a pair of panties? Somehow, I strongly doubt it. So why are they expecting the rest of us to watch the people we love die in such a horrible way?
I say the rest of us because it’s written into the very bill that members of Congress won’t have to use the same kind of health coverage they’re expecting everyone else to live with. Congressional health coverage is great. They’ll be fine. And their owners will be fine, as well. And the super wealthy who are going to get a seriously juicy tax cut from this bill? They’re going to be the happiest of all.
Woohoo — five star review for Degree of Resistance!
Review by KJ Van Houten
A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. An innocent man condemned to cyborg slavery. A brilliant woman determined to set him free.
Freelance tech Evie Contreras belongs to the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose from the ruins of the West Coast. But Evie knows about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that Pacifica has turned her long-lost love Ben into a cyborg slave, she will risk everything to rescue him.
Saving Ben is the first step in a deadly game between Pacifica and a shadowy resistance group known as Rubicon. In return for Rubicon’s help, Evie must retrieve a hidden artificial intelligence that may hold the key to protecting Earth from a deadly new disaster.
Assuming the protectorate doesn’t find Evie first…
Review of Degree…
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So, yeah, Ramón and I were on our much delayed and badly needed vacation last week (that’s a very bleary me at right after sneaking out for an early breakfast while the ship was still stuck in the Galveston port due to fog), hence my absence from the Internet in general and a lack of posts on this blog. Although I’m not sure I can classify it as a vacation seeing as I was editing Intersection every day, but editing a book on a nice Disney cruise ship where a friendly man brings you drinks on request is without a doubt much better than doing it at home with five cats demanding your attention in shifts while the weather tries to blow the top of your head off with a migraine.
Speaking of Intersection, I believe I have renamed it. I was kind of pressed for a working title for the book and came up with Intersection because the two main characters’ lives were crossing each other after a long absence, but after much musing during the vacation I came to realize that it’s not the greatest attention-grabbing title for an SF romance with cyborgs and a post-apocalyptic society. I won’t finalize things until later this week, but I’m torn between–
Aaaand just checked one of the titles and it’s used in at least four other books, so that’s out, and I just saw the resistor graphic on a whiteboard at a local political meeting I just attended. I am not one to ignore signs. So it looks like Intersection will now become Degree of Resistance, which is actually much more apropos for the book’s theme. I love it when the universe sends me signals like this.
As you may remember, Gentle Reader, my beloved Ramón bought me the four-pack of Longmire seasons for Christmas this year, which gladdened my heart and inspired my writing thanks to a certain snarky Louisianan. So today, since it’s cold as Ann Coulter’s heart here in the clavicle of Texas, I settled in after work to finish season 3 of the series. Up to now I’d been enjoying it greatly, mainly due to the great dialog, interesting cases, and the fact that Robert Taylor takes his shirt off at least three times a season. The whole subplot about Walt’s dead wife and who really killed her was starting to wear a bit thin, but I knew that it was going to be resolved in the last ep (thank you, IMDb).
And then I got to said last episode. Now, I know A&E cancelled the series after the third season, whereupon it got picked up unexpectedly by Netflix, so maybe this had something to do with why the plot of this episode makes no damn sense whatsoever. First, Detective Fales’s characterization went straight out of the window; instead of being the crusading cop bent on taking the supposedly crooked sheriff down, he turns into, well, an asshole. He deliberately obfuscated evidence, had the original investigating officer somehow transferred to another division (yeah, no, that’s not how it works) and was going to make sure Henry got a life sentence for the murder of the meth head who killed Walt’s wife because … he felt like it, as far as I could tell. I dunno. That made no sense to me.
Secondly, Walt and Henry have to find evidence in the corpse of said dead meth head that will prove someone else killed him and exonerate Henry. So they traipse out to the graveyard in another jurisdiction, dig it up without any official permission, fast-talk some decidedly slow deputies into letting them take the body back to Absaroka County, and … once again, I’m not sure. Enter it as evidence? And when the Denver DA and Fales show up at Henry’s bar supposedly to take a statement from Henry, they’re presented with evidence of Fales’s deliberate fuckup and the proof in the dead meth head and given an offer — drop all charges against Henry and they won’t sue Denver PD for wrongful prosecution. The DA folds, and a fuming Fales rides into the distance as far as I can tell. Except that the FIRST thing the DA should have said was, “So where’s your permit to dig up this dead meth head? You don’t have one? Wait, you STOLE it from another county? So both of you have just committed a new crime. And Longmire, you’re forbidden from escorting Henry anywhere because you’re too close to the case — that’s breach of parole regulations. Also, have any of you heard about this thing called chain of custody? The judge is going to laugh this straight out of court.” So I may have had some problems with my suspension of disbelief here.
And then we turn our attention to the dysfunctional Connolly clan, where Branch, after being tormented by the White Warrior David Ridges and suspended from duty for generally acting like a psycho with a gun, decides to join the family business (whatever that is). Except that he digs into the company records and finds out that not only did his father pay Jacob Nighthorse $100K to funnel into Branch’s campaign for sheriff, but Barlow also paid Nighthorse $50K for “consulting services.” As it turns out, these consulting services were for David Ridges to head down to Denver, find a meth head to kill Walt’s wife (I can only assume to make Branch’s campaign easier), then kill the meth head to cover up the trail.
Yeah. Slightly baroque, almost Borgia-like in its complexity. But I could kinda maybe buy it, except that when Barlow comes to Branch’s house, he brings a box of business cards listing Branch as a company VP, saying that he had them printed six years ago. Throughout the show Barlow has been portrayed as a ruthless businessman devoted to building his company as his legacy and passing it along to his family. And yet he not only let his only son run off and work as a deputy, he secretly funded Branch’s campaign for sheriff, going so far as to pay a man to kill the wife of Branch’s competitor to make it easier for his son to win.
Yeah, no. Daddy Connolly never wanted Branch to be a cop in the first place; he wanted Branch securely working in the family business, and always seemed annoyed that Branch insisted on working as a deputy. What was far more likely would be him standing back, watching Branch run for sheriff and fail, then say, “Okay, son, you had your chance. Now how about you come work for me like you were supposed to.” But this? And then, after ALL that sturm und drang, for Barlow to announce “I don’t have time to make another fortune, but I still have time to make another son” and give the impression that he just shot Branch is just utterly irrational.
So I had a wee bit of a problem with the end of Season 3. Here’s hoping 4-6 are a little more sensible. In the meantime, I’m reading the Longmire books and enjoying the hell out of them. If you like solid mysteries set in the West with some drop-dead hilarious dialog, I highly recommend this book series.
By now I’m assuming that you’ve heard about All Romance eBooks closing and its extremely dodgy handling of Q4 royalties due to authors and publishers. I’m lucky in that I’m only out about ten bucks, but others have taken a significant financial hit and are wondering how they’ll be paying their bills in 2017. This sort of fiduciary behavior is not only sloppy but cruel to writers who depend on their royalties to survive, and I full support all writers and publishers who are currently investigating their legal options.
In the face of the ARe debacle, I also want to congratulate my publisher Evernight Publishing for demonstrating once again that they are an utterly professional company that stands by their authors. They have informed us that they plan on absorbing the royalty losses from ARe and will pay us, their authors, what we’re owed on ARe sales from Q4 despite the financial hit they’ll have to take on the deal. In this day and age of dubious financial dealing from publishers and distributors, Evernight demonstrates a standard that I really wish other publishing houses would adopt.
Support Evernight and buy books from their website direct! http://www.evernightpublishing.com/