As you can probably surmise, there’s not a whole lot of difference in the costume. Nor the author. You see, for most people Halloween is the one day they get to dress up and be someone else. For me, every day I get to be someone else on paper (or my computer’s screen, more likely).
Authors live in a perpetual Halloween state.
This past month I’ve been (mostly) Captain Chaz Bergren. She’s a gutsy gal, late thirties, dealing with being court-martialed for a crime she didn’t commit, and dealing with the love of her life being someone—and something—she never expected. She’s making a return appearance in my 2008 release from Bantam, SHADES OF DARK. Those of you who’ve read GABRIEL’S GHOST (my 2006 RITA award winner) met her and Sully as they sliced through the neverwhen in stolen starships. Chaz and Sully are back with a vengeance. So are the bad guys.
When I’m Chaz, I’m wearing soft but solid work boots (the kind that you can run down starship corridors wearing without falling flat on your face. Hence, no heels). Black fatigue pants (need those pockets) and a dark green pullover shirt. Enviro on a ship can be spotty. Space is cold. Forget those skimpy, off-the-shoulder outfits you see on television space shows. You need something comfortable, something you can work in and sleep in, if necessary.
But because I have a book coming out November 27th (Blatant Self Promotion! Check out The Down Home Zombie Blues!) I occasionally have to doff Chaz and become Commander Jorie Mikkalah. She has her own wardrobe and her own set of problems.
For one thing, she’s stuck here on Earth. Florida, actually. Not so oddly, that’s exactly where I am: Florida. So Jorie’s a little less concerned about starship enviro systems (what you and I might call air-conditioning or central heat) and a lot more concerned about blending in with the local nil-techs. Nils, she calls us for short. See, we’re a bit behind her civilization. More than a few centuries behind. Jorie would give anything for a four-seater gravripper in which to zip around our planet. She’s stuck with an aging Ford SUV that couldn’t hit hyperspace speeds if her life depended on it.
Unfortunately for Jorie, it does.
So the costume I don when being Jorie is not just her outfit, complete with technosleeve and attendant gizmos, but her attitude. She’s tough, capable, competent—and totally lost.
Jorie took the book, tapped on her wristbeam, and scanned the first few pages. It would be too much to ask, she supposed, that the entire universe be civilized enough—and considerate enough—to speak Alarsh. “Operating instructions for the vehicle’s pilot.” As the engine chugged quietly, she found a page depicting the gauges and read in silence for a few moments. “I think I have the basics.” She tapped off her wristbeam, then caught Trenat’s smile in the rectangular mirror over her head. “Never met a ship I couldn’t fly, Ensign. That’s what six years in the marines will teach you.”
The vehicle’s control stick was between the two front seats. She depressed the small button, eased it until it clicked once.
The vehicle lurched backwards, crashing into one parked behind it.
“Damn!” She shoved the stick again and missed a head-on impact with another parked vehicle only because she grabbed the wheel and yanked it to the left.
Herryck bounced against the door. “Sir!”
“I have it, I have it. It’s okay.” Damn, damn. Give her a nice antigrav hopper any day.
Her feet played with the two pedals, the vehicle seesawing as it jerked toward the open gate.
“I think,” Herryck said, bracing herself with her right hand against the front control panel, “those are some kind of throttle and braking system. Sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I know that. I’m just trying to determine their sensitivity ranges.”
“Of course, sir.” Herryck’s head jerked back and forth, but whether she was nodding or reacting to the vehicle’s movement, Jorie didn’t know. “Good idea.”
By the time they exited onto the street, Jorie felt she had the nil-tech land vehicle under control. “Which direction?”
“We need to take a heading of 240.8, sir.” Herryck glanced from her scanner over at the gauges in front of Jorie, none of which functioned as guidance or directional. “Oh.” She pulled her palm off the control panel and pointed out the window. “That way.”
Fortunately, she has Theo to help her. Florida homicide detective Theo Petrakos. Which meant when writing ZOMBIE, I got to dress up as a cop, too.
Theo pushed the traffic gates shut, then set the Park Closed sign in place. Jorie had told him to go home once the park was clear. But he was not going home until this batch of zombies was dead and that PMaT thing was spewing Rordan’s unworthy molecules all the way back up to the ship.
He turned the lumbering vehicle back toward the ball field, parked it just behind the row of low bleachers, and got out. Jorie trotted toward him, frowning. He leaned on the front of his SUV, arms folded across his tac vest.
She glared at him. He glared back. When she flung her arms wide in exasperation and let out a now familiar sounding string of Alarsh curses, he knew he’d succeeded. A mixture of elation and relief washed over him.
Which ended a split second later when a discordant wail erupted from the scanner in Jorie’s hand—and echoed out of one dangling off Tammy Herryck’s hip.
Jorie favored him with one last hard glare—partially obscured by her eyepiece—as if to let Theo know he was now edging his way to the top of her shit list, then she thrust one of her small laser pistols into his outstretched hand.
“Opticals, remember?” she asked, teeth gritted. She swung her rifle around. “And legs. Stay with me.”
Opticals. Eyes. And legs. And writhing energyworms and long, flailing, razor-sharp extenders. He sprinted after her to where red-haired Tammy stood, rifle in one hand, scanner in the other, then stopped. Both women’s heads were bent over their scanners but, damn it, no one was looking around. Someone should be. He remembered the green glowing circle, the thing oozing out—impossibly—from its center. He turned, squinting through his sunglasses into the late afternoon light.
Something slammed him from behind, crushing him to the ground. Grass, dirt, and gravel were pushed into his face, and he heard his sunglasses crack. Then, with sickening clarity, Theo realized he could no longer breathe.
Okay, so maybe sometimes that particular costume is a bit scary. But that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it? Something that makes your heart race a little faster. Something that makes your palms a bit sweaty. Even though you know the set-up is a romance. There will be that promised HEA: Happily Ever After. That’s the sweet treat. The extra-crispy dark chocolate crunch bar—a big one—you find when you get to the bottom of your Halloween bag. The one you really savor.
Then you put on your Halloween costume—oops! I mean start writing another character, and go back on the streets (or chapters) for more.
Trick or Treat!
And my latest treat: a 4-1/2 star, Top Pick review from Romantic Times BOOK reviews magazine for THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES:
Quirky, offbeat and packed with gritty action, this blistering novel explodes out of the gate and never looks back. Counting on Sinclair to provide top-notch science fiction elaborately spiced with romance and adventure is a given, but she really aces this one! A must-read, by an author who never disappoints.
Now that’s even better than chocolate.