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Win an Amazon Gift Card!

I need your help choosing a book cover for my upcoming novel Coffin Land, a vampire thriller with a steamy romantic subplot, set in Charleston, South Carolina in 1788. Vote for your favorite  cover idea to be entered into a random drawing for a $15 Amazon gift card. Tell me in a comment: Which cover would make you pick up the book?

Enter to win a $15 Amazon gift card by commenting on your favorite cover. Be as wordy as you want! Why do you think that one’s the winner? And which are runner-ups? Feel free to critique, but keep in mind these are rough mock-ups. Drawing date: Monday, August 24, 6 PM central.

Newidea1

Idea 1

Newidea2

Idea 2

Newidea3

Idea 3

Newidea4

Idea 4

ticoffinland7

Idea 5


Lighting Pallas: A Photoshop Trick

I recently altered some photos for a cast-of-characters animation on my site thebaddeath.com (the landing page for The Bad Death, the first in a historical trilogy and the second in the Bloodroom series of vampire novels). This blog post explains some tricks I used in Photoshop to make an image more atmospheric. First of all, meet Pallas, as pictured in the image I got from 123rf.com. Pallas is the best friend of the trilogy’s heroine, Anika. Pallas is either a victim, a predator, or both. To know for sure, read The Bad Death  😉

Once in Adobe Photoshop, I used the Apply Image feature to replace the black backdrop to an image of an outdoor setting. To learn more about this step, read my post called A Photoshop Trick for Book Marketing. After Applying the image to Pallas, I decided to change the lighting on Pallas’ image. You see the image above shows the woman in warm lighting. I wanted Pallas to look moonlit because in The Bad Death, Pallas is almost always sighted at night.

To cast a blueish moonlight glow over Pallas, I selected Image from Photoshop’s top menu, scrolled the dropdown menu to select Adjust, then chose Variations at the bottom of Adjust’s dropdown menu. The Variations pallet visually shows color adjustments. I chose “More Blue” and “More Cyan” to give Pallas a blue cast that would imply moonlight.

I wanted to make the moonlit sky more dramatic, so I copied the layer, cut out Pallas till I had only the sky on the copied layer, then used the blending feature of that layer to alter the sky. The blending feature causes the layer in question to react against the layer beneath it to produce a visual effect. If memory serves, I chose the Hard Light blending option. You can see in the third image how Pallas’ background has more contrast between highlight and shadow, resulting from my choice of blending option.

So, there you have it, boys and girls!


Thomas Jefferson, Single Parent

Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd President may have also been our nation’s 1st hot dad (DILF?). When his young wife died; the grief-stricken man had infant Lucy, four-year old Polly, and 10-year old Patsy to raise. Due to a deathbed promise to never remarry, he remained a single parent. Lucy died in childhood. Jefferson, Polly, and Patsy clung tenaciously to each other and, though more often separated than not, remained in constant contact through letters. Jefferson set standards for his girls in education and deportment that were unusual in his day and appear impossible and unhealthy in ours. I give you a few parenting rules from Thomas Jefferson, with tongue in cheek:

No Casual Friday: Jefferson instructed Patsy in one letter, “Be you from the moment you rise till you go to bed as cleanly and properly dressed as at the hours of dinner or tea. A lady who has been seen as a sloven or slut in the morning, will never efface that impression …” Ouch!

Sources Cited Below Post

No Downtime: Here’s a typical study schedule:

  • From 8. to 10 o’clock practice music.
  • From 10. to 1 dance one day and draw another
  • From 1. to 2. draw on the day you dance, and write a letter the next day.
  • From 3. to 4. read French.
  • From 4. to 5. exercise yourself in music.
  • From 5. till bedtime read English, write & c.

 

Of Course, I’ll Always Love You, If Jefferson’s instructions were at times given as a road map to his heart. In a letter to Patsy, he wrote, “I have placed my happiness on seeing you good and accomplished, and no distress which this world can now bring on me can equal that of your disappointing my hopes …Keep my letters and read them at times that you may always have present in your mind those things which will endear you to me.”

It Ain’t Just a River in Egypt: What illegitimate children? What mistress? When Patsy and Polly lived at Monticello as young adults, it can’t have gone unnoticed that his unmarried slave woman, Sally Hemings, only got pregnant when their father was home from Washington. The illicit relationship was never acknowledged. When it became a national scandal, the Queens of Denial visited Jefferson in Washington to provide a united family front.

As women, each developed her own way of resisting their father’s demands. Patsy blamed kids and a troublesome husband for her lack of free time, and pointed to Lucy as being way more behind than she in keeping the pace. Polly seems to have adopted the slacker role to her advantage, basically throwing up her hands and saying, ‘I know, I’m so lazy!’ But there can be no doubt that the three of them were crazy about each other.

I thought it would be fun to create a similar relationship between The Bad Death’s Julian Mouret and his much younger sister, Charlotte. She was three years old when their father died and left the fifteen year old Julian as man of the house (and therefore, its legal head). Raising a child to be the Ideal requires you to embody that Ideal, yourself. By the time we meet them in The Bad Death, Julian has achieved this. But what happens when the Ideal “parent” falls from grace? We’ll see in the next novel, House of the Apparently Dead.

Sources: The Women Jefferson Loved by Virginia Scharff; The Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson edited by Edwin Betts and James Bear, Jr.; Thomas Jefferson, An Intimate History by Fawn Brodie.


Racial Accuracy in Literature and Genre Fiction

The Bad Death is my historic paranormal novel with interracial romance. The protagonist is Anika, a slave woman. She’s attracted to her master’s brother, Julian. She becomes attracted to Marcus, an enslaved man who is a slave driver. A modern woman’s spirit takes refuge in Anika’s body and influences her mind. In adventure stories the hero prevails through gumption and daring. But how does The Bad Death align with historic reality? As Americans attend and react to 12 Years a Slave, a a new film based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, it seems a good time to examine the treatment of slavery in genre fiction and literature, particularly as it relates to autobiographies written by slaves.

 

 

Consider the critically acclaimed novel, Kindred by Octavia Butler. The heroine, Dana, is a modern African-American. She is repeatedly pulled through time to the antebellum south in order to protect the white boy destined to father the Caucasian side of her family. There (and then) Dana’s treated as a slave. Kindred is a good book. I’m glad I read it. I can’t say I enjoyed it. Why not? It’s grueling. She’s victimized relentlessly. She and her fellow slaves endure terrible conditions. The antebellum interracial liaisons are exploitative and cruel. Kindred isn’t an adventure story. It is a historically accurate novel in the literary tradition.

 

 

Because the slave woman was chattel, she had no power to resist her master’s advances. Even relationships based on affection and mutual attraction exploited her. Also, the environment of slavery varied from benign to brutal. Two autobiographies from that period recount the harshest conditions explicitly: The History of Mary Prince and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Mary Prince and Linda Brent worked on West Indies’ plantations in conditions that injured and sickened them. When this affected their productivity, they were beaten and whipped till they couldn’t stand and then made to somehow continue working. They were hounded sexually by their masters. They were unable to live healthy married lives to the free black men who courted them. Both women learned to read and write. Both escaped and became outspoken abolitionists. Both autobiographies are in The Classic Slave Narratives, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Slaves on South Carolina Lowcountry rice plantations worked under better conditions, as described in Charles Joyner’s history Down by the Riverside: a South Carolina Slave Community. Anika’s story is set in a South Carolina slave community like that documented by Joyner.

 

I wanted to write a paranormal historical with sexy romance and a crossbow-wielding adventuress. I could have written The Bad Death more realistically, but then it would be a book in a different genre. Due to the novel’s setting, even the most benevolent white characters have racist viewpoints. I hope readers understand that these views belong to the characters – not to me. And I hope readers are moved to explore libraries and bookstores. There’s great literature out there and inspiring nonfiction accounts of history’s real heroes and heroines.

 


Winner Announced in Goodreads Giveaway

Martin Turner won an autographed print copy of The Bad Death. When I host a Goodreads Giveaway, I note with interest the distance of  the entrants from my home on the Redneck Riviera. Today, I’m almost ridiculously psyched to send my novel to the quaintly named area of Bexhill on Sea in England.

If you’re not Martin Turner, don’t despair. You can buy an autographed e-book of The Bad Death (and my other books, too) from Authorgraph, for no more $ than you’d pay Amazon for the non-autographed copy. You’re welcome 😉


Win an Autographed Print Edition of The Bad Death

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Bad Death by Naima Haviland

The Bad Death

by Naima Haviland

Giveaway ends September 05, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


Frenemies in The Bad Death

Charlotte, Jane Eliza, Eugénie

Oh, the complicated nature of female friendships. One’s a murderess. One’s using black magic to get pregnant. One’s the product of her big brother’s OCD. They’re besties as long as no one tries to best the others. Each has a unique relationship to Anika, the plat-eye slaying heroine of The Bad Death. Here’s a short bio on each.

Charlotte Mouret – As close to perfect as Julian could make her, Charlotte was educated in a schedule that never left time for idle (or independent) thought and married off at seventeen to the family’s financial manager. Though Julian assures her their field hand is an idiot savant, Charlotte suspects there’s something unnatural in Anika’s sudden talents.

Jane Eliza Farmington – Cherished daughter of a retired slaver. Society beauty. Poisoner. All magic that turns a profit is good magic, and Jane Eliza’s murders are just business. As a witch doctor’s delivery girl, Anika must avoid becoming a toy in Jane Eliza’s deadly games.

Eugénie Mouret – Julian’s sister-in-law knows full well the power of magic. She’ll pay any price for the charms that guarantee a pregnancy. Anika promised her a son destined for power. But if the magic works, who — or what — will live in Eugénie’s womb?


About Gullah

My historical vampire trilogy, starting with The Bad Death, has many Gullah characters (including the heroine) and is set in the Gullah environment. So, what is Gullah? The twin question to that is, who is Gullah? I have been reading as research for The Bad Death for so long that I can explain off-the-cuff. But I include links in this post so you can go straight to the source to learn more.

It isn’t known for sure where the word ‘Gullah’ came from, but many people think the word is derived from ‘Gola’ as in ‘Angola’ (in West Africa) or ‘Gola Jack’ (a legendary Gullah from Angola). Gullah is the term for Americans of West African descent who live in coastal South Carolina and Georgia, and some of coastal North Carolina and Florida. In the strictest terms, Gullah refers to people actually on the waterline or on the sea islands, while Geechee refers to those who live farther inland.

The original Gullahs were slaves specifically chosen by rice plantation owners because they already grew rice in West Africa. Their expertise helped make South Carolina’s Lowcountry the wealthiest region in Colonial and antebellum America. To give you some idea how ubiquitious Gullah rice was, Asian royalty ate “Carolina Gold”. King George ate Carolina Gold. Down by the River: A South Carolina Slave Community by Charles Joyner was an oft-visited reference for me. Here’s an interview with Charles Joyner. After the Civil War, Lincoln deeded the sea islands to the freed Gullah slaves. Over time, developers bought them up and turned them into resorts (Hilton Head’s the most obvious example). But for hundreds of years there were no bridges between the mainland and the sea islands. That is one big reason Gullah culture, language, and cuisine remained distinct.

The language is a mix of African languages with English. Forget understanding Gullah if you hear it in its entirety. You’re best just treating it like music and listening to its rhythm, which sounds Carribean. When writing The Bad Death, my biggest challenge using Gullah in dialogue was keeping it readable. I decided to take a handful of words and leave the rest of the dialogue English. For instance, my Gullah characters say unnah (you) and dayclean (dawn). My best reference was Lorenzo Dow Turner’s book Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. Most of us speak a little Gullah now and then and don’t know it. Ever sing Kumbaya? That’s Gullah for ‘Come by Here’. Ever eat a goober? That’s the Gullah word for peanut. This youtube clip is a little blurry but explains Gullah’s influence on English.

Bread Basket at Gullah Gourmet

The most common receptical/carrier on rice plantations was a basket woven by Gullah slaves. For instance, winnowing rice to separate it from the chaff was done using a fanning basket. In The Bad Death, Anika kills vampires with stakes stored in a specially made basket she wears on her back. They wove the baskets from indiginous plants, most notably sweetgrass. Today, Gullah sweetgrass baskets are a recognized art form. They’re very strong and have beautiful patterns. You can buy a sweetgrass basket in Charleston in such places as the intersection of Meeting and Broad streets, in stores like Gullah Gourmet (example pictured here), or along the seven-mile stretch of US highway 17 known as the Sweetgrass Basket Makers’ Highway.

Gullah food is a reflection on the abundance of fish, game, and plants found in what is known today as the Gullah Geechee Corridor. To make The Bad Death authentic, I wrote the characters cooking and eating Lowcountry and Gullah food such as crab-stuffed flounder, hoppin’ John, and benne wafers. They washed it down with rice wine, scuppernong wine, etc (it’s a wine lover’s paradise there). I referenced cookbooks such as Sallie Ann Robinson’s, Cooking the Gullah Way.

Gullah folklore has some great monsters, which drive the plot in The Bad Death trilogy. An excerpt explains the Gullah’s hag: “A hag was as human as anyone, but she had the ability to slip out of her skin and into yours while you slept. She did this to devil you with nightmares. She left when you woke, donning her skin like a discarded dress to go about her daily business.” A plat-eye is a shapeshifting creature that in its human form has one eye in the middle of its forehead. Here’s a cool plat-eye story via The Moonlit Road. A droll is the uneasy spirit of a child that died an unnatural death. The most famous droll is the Shrieking Droll of Brookgreen Gardens. I added vampire qualities to the plat-eyes and drolls in my books.

In the second book in my trilogy, House of the Apparently Dead (to be published summer 2014), Anika fights plat-eyes in Charleston. Though I exercise a little anachronism to set black businesses and neighborhoods there circa 1789, I found Alphonso Brown’s A Gullah Guide to Charleston an extremely useful reference.

Gullah is a thriving community today. There’s a Gullah festival. There’s a Gullah tour. Gullah’s a recognized nation with a flag and a queen. I’m even drinking Gullah tea right now. It’s all pretty great!


Taking a Year Off to Write

I took a year’s leave from my job to write full time, starting January 3. Since then, I’ve worked on revising The Bad Death to prepare it for beta readers. My goals for the year are:

•Publish The Bad Death
•Launch The Bad Death, following a marketing plan that includes guest blogging, giveaways, and social media contests
•Submit House of the Apparently Dead to beta readers

Supporting goals include shaping my blog according to advice from successful bloggers (and reader input), as well as increasing the reach of my social network. I would really love to publish the 2nd volume of Night at the Demontorium, but that may be more than I can chew.

The “why, how, and what’s-it-like” of taking a creative sabbatical?

Why. I became frustrated with time constraints preventing me from writing more often and writing more volume. In addition to working full time I was writing an hour or two several nights a week and a marathon session on Saturdays, marketing my writing, learning how to market better, working out, keeping house, and doing the occasional community or social event. You know, life. I find it hard always changing focus. I began to feel that the quality of what I wrote suffered from a lack of continuity. I wanted one focus. I wanted to wake up every morning and work on the story. Doing that for a year will help prevent regrets when I’m old and gray(er).

How. I cashed a portion of a retirement plan. This is where Suze Orman takes a moment to bitch slap me into next week. I know, I know. But in addition to having a bigger retirement plan that I left untouched, I had factors in my favor to begin with:

•Debt-free
•No dependents
•Low mortgage
•Good health

Some measures I took to reduce my risk:

•Researched and consulted an accountant
•Saved up an emergency fund
•Saved a separate fund for taxes/penalties on early withdrawal
•Created a budget at the reduced monthly “salary” and tested its feasibility
•Added a Critical Illness policy to my insurance, to the fullest payout in case disaster strikes
•Took a year’s leave of absence from work; I didn’t quit!

What’s-it-Like? From a practical standpoint, I treat it like a day job. I wake with the alarm and get ready for work Monday – Friday. The only steps I leave out are dressing in office clothes and leaving home. I’m at my computer no later than 9. I quit 8 hours later. I get up frequently but I find little breaks refresh me. I don’t leave home, though! After work, I usually go to the gym. Then I come home and do some book-related social networking and marketing. On the weekends, I run errands but mostly I lie on the couch and read. Both fiction and nonfiction books are brain food. The budget is holding up, though I will tell you with 8 more days in the month that it’s getting a little tight. What’s it feel like? Wonderful! Throughout school, the ongoing refrain of my teachers was, “Pay attention! Stop daydreaming!” Sometimes it just blows my mind that for the next year, daydreaming is my job.

Am I crazy? I ‘ll letcha know later how things turn out. For now, reference above statement about regrets in old age. One regret is dying broke under a bridge. I believe with self-discipline and sacrifice I can rebound and prevent it. Dying creatively unfulfilled? I could go to Hell for that.

Have you ever thought of doing something like this? I’d love to hear from you in a comment!


Catching a Lifeline and Just Catching Up

I have been writing The Bad Death like my head’s on fire. That’s why I haven’t been blogging. I had the antebellum, interracial vampire slayer novel slated for publication this summer, but my imagination had other plans, so all I can say is — folks, it’s gonna be great! Not only is the novel taking off, I feel refreshed and excited about the year ahead as a new philosophy and new goals take shape. This sea change went from a ripple to a surfable wave on a recent business trip to Colorado Springs.

At the time I felt my Firm had misfired by sending me. I was unfamiliar with the client’s methods and jargon. I tried hard to contribute but ended each day feeling that I’d failed. I went to bed every night expecting the next day to be worse in unimaginably horrible ways. The Bargain Books Warehouse in downtown Colorado Springs turned out to be a lifeline.

I’ve always believed in the power of cats to bring luck and healing. Sure enough, this little lady named Pages walked across the paperbacks to say hello. After that I found an old hard copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I read the first three chapters that night. Its plain-speaking and practical advice turned the trip around for me.

Near the end of my two-week stay, I’d created the structure our group needed to build the products we intended. Before flying home, I stopped in Bargain Books Warehouse again and met their other resident cat, Booker.

This time I bought: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, and Anderson Cooper’s Dispatches from the Edge. I also bought NPR’s Story Corps collection Listening is an Act of Love; a cool, mature romance by Cheryl Reavis titled Blackberry Winter; and Suzanne Finstad’s Sleeping with the Devil, a true crime with an inspiring heroine. I flew home with heavier luggage but a lighter heart.

I’ll share my insights and opinions of these books in future, but first I’ll be guest-posting on M.R. Gott’s blog Cutis Anserina. More details on that next week.