Monday, March 2, 2015

Author Headshot Tips

I had the opportunity to get headshots at a recent Pikes Peak Writers event, which sent me into a fear spiral of sheer anxiety. As someone who avoids looking in the mirror, let alone having photos taken, I had no idea what to do. What I did know was that I've read over and over that you must have professional headshots taken or risk everyone knowing you took it yourself and not taking you seriously. Gasp, the horror! Take me seriously!

Up to now I've been coasting along using the selfie that currently resides as my profile picture here on the blog. That selfie was taken because I needed a photo for the blog. No makeup, but hey, at least my hair was done. It's gotten me this far, so I won't abandon it entirely, but it's not a professional photo, and it doesn't even pretend to be.

During my panic, I posted for tips on Facebook and spent way too much time reading headshot tips online. I even did a search on "author headshots" in images and studied them. I was a little freaked out when I discovered curly hair wasn't a thing in headshots. See, I have naturally curly hair. When I asked a friend of mine, who also happens to be a hairdresser at a salon, she said it's because curly hair can tend to look messy in professional shots.

Sad face.

Happily, there were plenty of tips out there, and I figured I'd compile them and pass them along in case any of you are in a position to spazz out over getting your photos taken.

In no particular order:

1. Get lots of sleep the night before. (Easy for them to say). Set it for a time where you are at your most awake/energetic. (Again, easy for them to say. That time starts at about 9 PM for me.)

2. Ladies, wear makeup. Fella's, sometimes you need to, as well. Consider going in to get your hair and makeup professionally done. (I had my hair done that morning by Christine at Total New You Salon, but did my own makeup, which was not my first choice, but there wouldn't have been time for me to get my makeup done since I was also working at the event.) Make sure the professional doing your hair and/or makeup is familiar with makeup for photo shoots, as there might be differences between those and every day wear.

3. Stay hydrated. (I can drink water!)

4. Know what colors work well with your skin tone. (I have no idea, but blue seems to work.)

5. Do not wear any strong patterns, such as stripes, polka dots, or florals. In addition, don't wear jewelry that will overpower your face. You want them looking at you, not your clothing, not your jewelry. It's a headshot, not a fashion shot.

6. Take an alternate outfit (or a couple) to change into to see what works best. I did have a different option, but stuck with the one I went in with. One of my fellow writers getting headshots kept the same outfit on, but added a scarf for some of the photos. Try some photos with a blazer/jacket on and some with it off. Mix it up.

7. Be mindful of your particular genre. Headshots for a romance author might be different from headshots for a horror author. A good photographer will take your genre into consideration.

8. Be comfortable. Be yourself. If you're comfortable, you're confident. If you're uncomfortable, it will show.

9. Don't look sexy. Surprising? A lot of tips I found said no cleavage and no looking sexy. Even for romance writers. They said it can turn off a number of readers, which is really the opposite of what you're going for in every way possible, right?

10. Go with a photographer you're comfortable with. Look at their websites/photos. Talk to people. Get recommendations. Chat with the photographer. Look at their website. I really, really, hate having my photo taken. I don't even like looking at photos of myself. But the photographer who did my headshots is someone I know, someone whose work I already knew of and respected, and someone who is excellent at chatting with folks and putting them at ease. That's the full package right there. (My photographer was Jared Hagan, who will be doing headshots at Pikes Peak Writers Conference this April, as well.)

11. Don't let the photographer over-edit. Editing some blemishes is fine, but you don't want to look like a weird plastic version of yourself, do you?

I'll leave you with a couple of my favorite shots from the photo shoot. The first two are the serious professional ones (and are the same photo), and the third one is aimed directly toward my writing horror.

I'll see you guys as a co-host for this month's IWSG on Wednesday!

What do you think? Which photo should I go with? Any tips I missed? What has your experience with headshots been like?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Having a snow day confused me, and I almost forgot today was Wednesday! So directly to the links I go.

Also, there is a really good chance that my horror list book review will be next week instead of this week, because of limited reading time and having trouble getting into the next book I was going to review. We'll see.

Accepting Submissions:

Evil Girlfriend Media is putting together an anthology of strong females in fantasy: Women in Practical Armor. 2000-5000 words. Advance of $.06/word. Deadline April 1.

Hidden Clearing Books is accepting submissions for Shorties. Short story up to 1500 words or a poem up to 100 lines. Literary or speculative. Deadline March 31. Pays $15, plus a contributor copy.

Explicit Books is accepting erotic short story submission for an anthology. 3500 to 7500 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline March 19. 

Darkhouse Books is seeking submissions for the anthology Destination: Mystery. These should be cozy mysteries set in vacation destinations. 2500 to 7500 words. Pay unknown. Deadline March 31. 

Crossed Genres Magazine has a monthly theme for submissions. This month's is Novelettes. Typically, they do short stories, so this is a one-time theme. Any speculative fiction. 6000-12,000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline March 31. You also still have a few days for the Success theme. Deadline February 28.

eSpec Books is seeking Weird Wild West stories for an anthology. 3000-9000 words. Royalty share and contributor copies, plus discounts on additional copies. Deadline March 31. 

Broken Eye Books wants your stories for Tomorrow's Cthulhu. 4000 words or less. Pays $.06/words. Deadline April 1.

Maxim Jakubowski and Constable Robinson need Jack the Ripper stories for The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Tales. 4000-7500 words. Pays $215. Deadline April 1.

Imaginate posts a photo prompt every quarter. The current prompt is up. Flash fiction up to 100 words, short stories up to 2500 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline April 1.


Brilliant Flash Fiction does photo prompt contests every few months. The current photo prompt is up with a deadline of March 15. Up to 1000 words. Prize is 100 euro.

Any of these of interest? Anything to share? How are you doing with submissions? Got anything out there? Any publishing news?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Scariest Women Around

Did you know February is Women in Horror Month? I didn't either! Here it is, more than halfway through the month, and I've only just discovered this. Even worse, it's the SIXTH annual WIHM. What?

In celebration of Women in Horror Month, I'm passing along The Top 25 Women Horror Writers You Haven't Heard of But Probably Should Have, by Hellnotes that M.B. Partlow told me about, and adding one book by each of these women to the Best Horror list I'm doing, wherein I read a book that has been claimed to be one of the best and do a review every other Friday.

Now, technically WIHM is all about supporting females in horror films, but I'm choosing to see it as supporting all women involved in horror, be it film, writing, or other visual arts. After all, there are those who still don't take women in horror seriously. We don't know about blood and horror? Have you BEEN in a delivery room? How do girls know they've become women? Blood, that's how. We've got it down pat.

And, as addressed in my Psycho Horror Lovers Unite post, most of the horror fans I know are female. Comments on the post bore this out, as well. If that's so, shouldn't there be more women writing horror or producing/directing/writing horror films?

In all fairness, there are already books by women on the best horror list I'm reading. In fact, I've read the Kathe Koja book mentioned in the Hellnotes list and even done my review on it already. It wasn't really my cup of tea, but neither were a couple of the other books, whether by men or women. The women from this list who are already featured in the best horror lists I'm reading through are Caitlin R. Kiernan, Tananarive Due, and Kathe Koja. That leaves 22 women for me to read in addition to the rest of the list.

Have you read books by any of these 25 women? Did you know about WIHM? Do you think women are seen as scary as much as men are?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Geeky Dice & Debauchery Tour & Links

Today is Christine Rains' day to stop by on her Geeky Dice & Debauchery Tour to celebrate the release of Loose Corset (D&D #1). Welcome, Christine!

Loose Corset (D&D #1)

Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Genre: erotic romance
Release date: January 9, 2015

Geek girl Morgan Reid has been to many conventions, but none that had her wishing it would never end.

Dressed as their characters from the online game Steampunk Quest, Morgan and her best friend meet the other players for the first time in real life. Morgan's attraction to the gorgeous Dean Bradley is immediate, making it difficult to breathe in her tight corset. Even after a few dice shattering orgasms, she doesn't believe this can be anything more than a con fling. But Dean is making her feel things she's only read about in books. Can Morgan let go of her cool-headed logic and allow herself to fall completely for the perfect geek guy?

Keep an eye out for her next two books in the D&D series: Layers of Lace and A Masked Kiss.

Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Ellora's Cave

Check out the excerpt below:

Geek girl problem #77: When things are going your way, you always suspect a boss fight around the next corner.

Stomping out of the bathroom, I froze upon seeing Russell standing in the alcove between the drinking fountains across from me. Dressed as Snidely Whiplash, he had the perfect sneer for the character.

“Come to kidnap me and tie me to the train tracks?” I folded my arms and stepped out of the way of a group of girls going into the bathroom.

“Don’t tempt me. It would save us all a lot of trouble.” Russell’s sharp and bitter tone carried a phantom slap.

I hesitated, weighing the situation. He obviously didn’t like me, but why? I hadn’t felt such hate when we first met, no matter that we were playing enemies. Did something so horrible happen between him and Emily, he was taking it out on me? But why did it feel more personal than that?

“Okay.” I took in a deep, slow breath and let it out. “Clearly you wanted to talk to me since you’re waiting here. What did you want to say?”

“End this thing between you and Dean now. Today at least. Don’t drag it out. You’ll only cause more damage if you do.”

Not what I expected in the least. What did he have against me and Dean? Did he not think I was good enough for his cousin?

“What’s between Dean and I is our own business.” There. A mature and reasonable reply. I wasn’t going to resort to growling back at him.

“And what is between you, hm?” Russell raised his comical eyebrows. It looked silly and somehow foreboding. “Girlfriend and boyfriend? Or just a con fling?”

About the Author: Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She's married to her best friend and fellow geek living in south-central Indiana. They have one son who is too smart for his parents' own good and loves to pretend he's Batman. Christine has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she's not reading or writing, she's going on adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She's a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. (South Central Indiana Fiction Interface). She has several short stories and novellas published. The Dice & Debauchery series is her first contemporary erotic romance.

You can find her at:

Christine is holding a giveaway! First prize: Zombie Dice and a Christine Rains die; second prize: (3 winners) Christine Rains die and swag. Enter using the Rafflectoper at the bottom of this post.

Now, since it's Wednesday, it's time for some links!

Accepting Submissions:

Children's Brains Are Yummy (or CBAY) Books is accepting submissions for the anthology A Thousand Words for War. These should be stories on "different kinds of conflict and how they impact us." Fantasy or science fiction, appropriate for 13-18 years. Flash fiction up to 1000 words, short stories up to 5000 words. $10-$20. Deadline March 18.

Timeless Tales Magazine is seeking fairy tale retellings. Current theme is Perseus and Medusa. Up to 2000 words. Should be PG-13. Pays a flat rate of $15. Deadline for this themed issue is March 23.

World Weaver Press is open for science fiction adventure stories for the anthology Far Orbit: Apogee. Up to 10,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline March 31.

Another Dimension Magazine is looking for dark twisty stories like those found in Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. 1000-3000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline for the next issue is March 31.

Whortleberry Press is open for submissions of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror lite for the sixth issue of Strange Mysteries. They want strange, unusual, and mysterious. Up to 4000 words. Pays $10. Deadline March 31.

Kaleidotrope (write that three times fast) is accepting submissions of speculative fiction. Preferably between 250 and 10,000 words. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and artwork. Pays $.01/word. Deadline March 31.

Phantom Drift is open for submissions of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art. They want fabulist style. Pays $5/page, plus a contributor copy. Deadline March 31.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications wants sci-fi stories for their Unbound anthology. The theme is Lost Friends. 3000-20,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline March 31.

Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly is taking stories for Souls & Saints: A Day of the Dead Anthology. 2000-10,000 words. Also accept poetry. Pay unknown. Deadline March 31.

Ladylit Publishing is seeking submissions for Summer Love: Lesbian Stories of Holiday Romance. Romance should be the focus. 3000-6000 words. Pays $45, plus 1 copy of the paperback, 1 copy of the ebook. Deadline March 31.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Any of these of interest? Anything to share? How fun is a personalized die as swag? What do you think of the Loose Corset cover?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Horror List Book Review: Berserk

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends, posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) So far, I've reviewed Poppy Z. Brite's Drawing Blood, Robert McCammon's The Wolf's HourLaird Barron's The Imago Sequence, Neil Gaiman's CoralineMargaret Atwood's The Handmaid's TaleKathe Koja's The Cipher, Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night, and Best New Horror, Volume 1, edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell. This week I'm reviewing Berserk, by Tim Lebbon.

Berserk is kind of a vampire novel, but they're berserkers, not vampires. They change form before they feed, kind of like a werewolf, but not really. Jaws elongate, hands become claws. They don't just tap a vein, either. Instead, they gorge themselves, sort of like zombies. 

What I'm saying here is that this is a whole new monster that appears to be a combination of other monsters. Great strength, vicious, deadly. I admit that I mostly saw them as vampires, but I'm not sure that's accurate.

This story follows two POV characters. Tom is a man who lost his son to a supposed training exercise while serving in the British military. He and his wife have a strong marriage, but neither has been able to get past their son's death, though it's been years. He just happens to overhear a couple veterans speaking in a bar about Porton Down, the place Tom's son was supposed to have died. 

After convincing one of those men to tell him more (with the other man warning him not to), Tom discovers that there was no accident. Instead, a monster was unleashed, and his son was a casualty. The man gives him a map so he can try to find the mass grave his son and several other soldiers are buried in.

The other man, in the meantime, turns out to be our other POV character, Cole. See, he knows all about what went down, and he has made it his life's mission to keep it quiet and insure the evil doesn't spread.

Cole is our villain. Tom is our protagonist. I found myself frustrated with each of them sometimes, for poor decision making skills. Cole is convinced throughout that his is a righteous mission. Not in a religious sense, but in the sense that he's saving the citizenry, that he knows better than the rest of the military, and that it's up to him to insure there's no repeat of Porton Down. And as he begins to rack up a body count, he justifies it. It's what he must do.

Tom frustrated me because he lied to his wife and endangered her in doing so. He heads out to Porton Down, leaving her sick and alone in their rental. He doesn't tell her that he has news about their son, or what he's off to do. The map leads him to the base, where he's able to scoot under the fence and find the mass grave. As he digs, he comes across body after body, checking the dog tags for his son's name. At the bottom of the grave, he comes across disfigured skeletons and one small corpse that is mummified for some reason, not like the other bodies. 

The tiny corpse shifts, and is able to speak to him mentally. She, Natasha, is alive. Here's where the chase begins. Cole has found out that the other man told Tom about the mass grave. Now, he must kill Tom to keep it from getting out. Even worse, when he finds that Natasha's body is missing, he knows he has to get her back and finish what he started all those years ago, when he ordered her buried alive with her dead family in order to punish her.

The chase is not quite cat and mouse, because there's a greater predator at play, and she's on the mouse's side. She may know where Tom's son is, and he may be alive. He certainly wasn't in the mass grave. Now Tom has a reason to help her, to drag her corpse to a new destination and meet up with the free berserkers that might know of his whereabouts. 

Now we have a reason for him not to just ditch this little mummy girl.

The pacing was good, the characters okay. Tom was a little fickle for me, Cole a little crazy. But we knew them. We knew what they were thinking and why, as we get a lot of insight into their thoughts. Situations stacked up in ways that were engineered to draw the story out and force one decision or the other, which felt a bit forced to me. 

I was conflicted on how I wanted the story to end, but when it ended, I was sure that wasn't how I wanted it to end. It's not an awful ending, but it wasn't satisfying. It did wrap up the story somewhat, but there's a hope held out throughout the story that gets dashed. I don't know how else to discuss the ending without giving anything away, so I have to leave it at that. I just felt deflated at the end. It didn't seem to be the right place to end it, nor the right circumstance. Basically, it elicited a mental shrug from me.

The story did keep me engaged, and I found these creatures interesting, especially their origins. It's fun when there's a new monster, not just a rebuilding of one that's been done time and again. These monsters are savages, but ones you can feel for, at least some of the time. If you're interested in stories about government conspiracies and genetic modification (creating the perfect weapon), you get a little taste of that in Berserk. But you don't actually get to hear the details. How it was done, what they're based on, etc.

There are a lot of secrets in this book. Secrets, lies, misinformation. It's a theme throughout. Innocents die because of these secrets and lies, and it's not just the bad guys who lie. The good guys lie, thinking they're saving someone trouble or giving them hope. But their lies are just as damaging in the end.

Berserk wasn't scary. The girl had creepy promise, but was too sympathetic a character to continue being creepy. It was an original idea with some suspense to it, though. When I look through reviews on Amazon, it appears this isn't Lebbon's best, not even close, so I wonder why this one was chosen for the list. Even so, I enjoyed reading it overall.

Current ranking of the books I've reviewed for this:

1. The Handmaid's Tale
2. Coraline
3. Those Who Hunt the Night
4. The Wolf's Hour
5. Berserk
6. Best New Horror, Volume 1
7. The Imago Sequence
8. The Cipher
9. Drawing Blood

The next one I'm going to read is Hotel Transylvania: A Timeless Novel of Love and Peril, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.

Ever read Tim Lebbon? Berserk? If so, what creature came to mind when reading about the berserkers? What did you think of the end?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pink for Hope & Links

Before I share links today, I'd like to give my aunt a shout-out. She's been undergoing chemo for Stage IV breast cancer. She's finished with the chemo, but it was only the first step in her fight. Today she goes in for a mastectomy, then will be doing radiation.

A. Thornton,
Thinking of my Aunt Rosi and family today.

Now for some links.

Accepting Submissions:

John Joseph Adams is looking for submissions of work published this year for The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. Pay is not mentioned, nor did I find a deadline, so if you were published in 2014 I'd recommend submitting soon.

Pulp Literature is looking for novellas, short stories, poetry, comics, and illustrations in most genres and mixed genres. Pays $.035/word for works above 10,000 words, $.05/word for 7000-10,000 words, $.07/word for below 7000 words.

One Ink Magazine is looking for stories that can be serialized on a quarterly basis. Pays a small fee (no specifics mentioned.)

Issues in Earth Science is currently open to fiction and non-fiction articles. 1000-3000 words. Current deadline is February 28. Pays $.06/word.

Bastion is looking for science fiction stories. 1000-5000 words. Pays a maximum of $50 per story.

Nightmare Magazine is open to submissions of horror and dark fantasy. 1500-7500 words. Pays $.06/word.


Trainless Magazine is holding a Letter Writing Contest. First prize is $20. Deadline March 6.

Meryton Press is holding the Summer Lovin' Anthology Contest. Short stories from any genre, as long as they involve romance. First prize is $150, with prizes for runners up. Constructive criticism will go out to top 8. Deadline March 15.

Criminal Element is holding the M.O. Short Fiction Contest. Current theme is "Long Gone." Length must be 1000-1500 words. The winning short story gets posted with original art.

Blog Hops:

Holly's Horrorland is holding the 4th Annual Vampire's Day Soiree this Saturday, February 14. All she asks is that you post something vampire related on V-Day.

Do you have anything to add? Anything of interest among the links? Any publication news?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Of Mist and Magic Release

Of Mist and Magic, the product of another collaborative music and words project put together by the Divine Miss Sam (Samantha Redstreake Geary), is now available through Amazon! You can find my flash story, Awakening, in its digital pages. This collection is a re-imagining of various fairy tales told for a YA audience. Awakening is a re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, set to the song Life After Life from the Of Mist and Magic album by Really Slow Motion.

Enter the world Of Mist And Magic, where fairy tales are reimagined under the influence of Really Slow Motion‘s inspiring music, in this enchanting anthology of short stories. Proceeds of the Amazon exclusive ebook will be donated to Elevate Life and Art studios, an amazing youth organization in Asheville, NC.

Cover design and images by artist Daniel Pennystone.

Of Mist and Magic contributing authors:

FIRE by Amy Willoughby-Burle
THE FOURTH WISH by Crystal Collier
PIPER by Loni Townsend
AWAKENING by Shannon Kenoyer Lawrence
ROOTED by Ruth Long
BY THE LIGHT OF STARS by Lisa Shambrook
HOOD by Sarah Aisling
OF DREAMS AND DARING by Samantha Redstreake Geary

Of Mist and Magic Writing Contest Winners:
THE RETURN by Djinnia

Elevate Life and Art Epic Writing Students:

CINDERS & SMOKE by Jenni Camhi
MAGIC TOWER by Carter Lundgren
CELESTIAL GATE by Jeremiah Mimken
STARCHILD by Josiah Mimken
AEORIEN by James Mimken

COLLAPSING UNIVERSE by Caroline Sprenger

E-book only, exclusively available from Amazon for $.99.

So how was your weekend? Have you ever written a different version of an existing fairy tale? How about writing a new fairy tale? Have you ever written a story to go along with an instrumental song?

May you find your Muse.