Photo shoot for the Sensor Series with a trip to Boston

I apologize ahead of time that this is a long post, but I promise it’s worth reading and there are lots of pics!

This past month has been super busy.  As most of you know I negotiated a contract for my audio rights.  Right after that I had to begin furious planning for a book cover/promo photo shoot I’d scheduled months ago.  With the help of four wonderful fans who make up my design helper team (thanks Heather, Sarah, Rachel, and Kristy) we had to come up with concepts for the covers, choose wardrobes & props, decide on poses, hair styles & make-up, and the list goes on.  We also had to make sure everything was ordered and shipped before the photo shoot.  Because of pushing back the release on Darkness Clashes we had less than two weeks to pull all this off.  We’re also in three different countries/continents, which made correspondence times between us a bit wonky.

Let’s just say it was hectic and I’m so thankful to my team for pulling through to help me get things ready.

Despite our best efforts, though, not everything could go the way we hoped.  For instance, I desperately wanted to use an antique Victorian chair for some of the promo shots.  This was not negotiable.  The problem was the chair I wanted was in Maine and shipping would have been expensive.  Plus we didn’t have a place to store it.  We couldn’t find anywhere that rented them nearby (though I’ve since discovered there is a place close to Boston).  So I was left with how to obtain this chair I wanted so badly and get it to the studio on the shoot date.

I normally don’t attend the photo shoots because they’re in Boston and I’m in Oklahoma.  This time I had to make an exception.  My husband didn’t much care for the idea of me driving 4000 miles roundtrip (once you counted my side trip to Maine), particularly because of this chair, but after a long argument and threats that would have made Kerbasi proud I got my way.  Or rather, he threw his hands up and said he couldn’t stop me.  We have a marriage full of cooperation and understanding that’s lasted more than seven years now.  It’s a beautiful thing 🙂

So I had the wardrobe (shirts, pants, dress, shoes, jewelry, etc) shipped to me and/or bought some things locally so I could bring those items with me.  Plus one other (easier to obtain) piece of furniture I wanted for a different promo shot.  I also convinced my father to come along with me for company since my husband couldn’t get away due to other commitments.  It’s a long drive to try doing by oneself.

The photo shoot was scheduled for the 12th and we headed out on the morning of the 9th.  For two days I drove approximately 14-15 hours a day (with gas and food stops).  My father gave me a break at one point while we passed through New York, but he mostly had to get work done on his website (using our cell phone network for internet).  It was great seeing the countryside, but I’d driven most of this route (minus the Massachusetts portion) once before so it wasn’t entirely new to me.  I did get the chance to scout for potential sensor hideouts, which was great.  Jerome and his gang are out there somewhere, as most of you know, and I’ve got a strong feeling it’s somewhere in the mid-west.  Call it a haunch.

On the late evening of the 10th we checked into the hotel I’d reserved in the Boston area and where we’d be staying for three nights.  It wasn’t long before I passed out cold.  The next morning on Saturday I had to get up for the next leg of my journey to go get the chair in Maine.  This was the day of the OU-Texas game so my father stayed behind to watch that (football is a greater priority for some folks, sigh).  It was cold and raining when I left with less than ideal traffic, but the sun eventually came out as I passed through New Hampshire and it turned out to be a beautiful drive with the trees changing color for autumn.  I made it to the antique shop in Canaan, Maine in about 3 1/2 hours.  They were kind enough to hold the chair for me for the two weeks it took me to get there and helped load it into my SUV.  Thanks Soll’s Antiques!

I’d like to say I went and did some sight-seeing after I got back to Boston around 5pm, but I was too tired.  The thought of driving any more that day was beyond me.  Other than getting dinner, I stayed in to organize the wardrobes for the photo shoot and iron any clothes that had wrinkles/creases in them.  And do a little reading since I rarely have time for that these days.

The next morning (Sunday, October 12th) we headed toward downtown Boston (our hotel was on the outskirts of the city) and made it to the studio by around eight.  The photographer (Teresa), and the hair stylist/make-up artist (Nadya) with her husband were already there.  They got the lights and other equipment ready while I laid out the wardrobe items.  We had a total of four couple’s shots (two for the final book covers of the series) and a couple of solo shots of each model.  All the extra poses will be used for promo and a book trailer later this year, except the one I’m revealing today at the end of this post.

Below is a shot of me getting that extra piece of furniture I mentioned before ready (I hadn’t put the legs on it yet since purchasing it).  Teresa started to help and then grabbed her camera to capture me instead.  Eventually Carl, Nadya’s husband, stepped in with power tools to get the job done.  The little tools that came with the kit left something to be desired.

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Haley (the model for Melena) got there soon after we did.  Nadya got to work on her right away.  Here are some shots of them getting her hair and make-up ready:

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About the time we finished getting one of Haley’s solo shots done, Steve (the model for Lucas) arrived.  We got the models ready for the first set of book cover shots (sorry, no sneak peeks of those).  It was an interesting experience to see in person because it doesn’t look exactly the same as it does when you see the final pics.  Cameras really do capture things differently than the naked eye.

I tried to stay out of the way for the most part because it’s really up to the photographer to guide the models.  Teresa and I had discussed everything ahead of time and she’s really great at capturing the looks I want.  Since I was there, though, she did stop occasionally to ask my opinion on something.  It was nice to have some input and let her know if something was a little off to me or I thought a different position/look would work better.

We weren’t serious all the time, though.  Everyone had a good sense of humor and cracked the occasional joke.  Toward the end of the shoot we only had Steve’s solo shot left.  I don’t want to spoil what that was, but we needed his hair out of the way.  It had grown out considerably since the last photo shoot which doesn’t exactly match Lucas.  With the angle of this particular shot we decided to pull his hair off to the side so it wouldn’t show as much.

Teresa and I were trying really hard to be professional and not laugh, but it was funny to see him that way.  Especially since he had to look very serious and intimidating with his expressions for the pose.  By the end, we couldn’t hold back the laughter anymore.  Luckily, Steve has a good sense of humor and rolled with it.  Here’s a shot of him making light of the situation:




Steve behind the scenes shot



We also got some group shots together of the whole team.  From left to right- Nadya, Haley, me (Susan), Steve, & Teresa.

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And here is another one with the antique chair I traveled all the way to Maine to get:

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We wrapped the shoot up a little after 2pm, which left my father and I some time to explore the Boston harbor.  The studio was right by it so we didn’t have to do any driving and could just wander around the area and downtown.  There may have been a moment where we tossed a bit of tea in the harbor, but I admit to nothing and there’s no evidence to prove it.  For those of you international folks who don’t know the history behind dumping tea in the Boston Harbor, you can check out a link here to get the basic story.

These are a few shots I got while we were out, including some from a tour group behind me on a boat who were tossing large packages of tea into the harbor (with ropes attached so they could pull them back in):


















That night my father and I went out to eat at Legal Seafoods.  I have to say that was one of the best meals I’d had in a long time and highly recommend it.  I’m a total shrimp lover and was in heaven.  Plus they had way better Clam Chowder than I can get here in Oklahoma.  This trip reminded me how much I miss living on the coast where seafood is fresh.

We left the next day, Monday, for our return trip.  The drive back was uneventful for the most part other than passing through a ton of thunderstorms along the way and seeing the car accidents that inevitably come from that.  My father helped me out a couple of times by driving for a few hours each day.  During which time I either napped or read on my iPad.  Our timing sucked when passing through Buffalo, NY so we hit it at rush hour both on the way to Boston and back.  It was made worse by the toll booths we had to pass through, which were backed up for miles.  At least we managed to time it so that most of the other cities we drove through were during more quiet times.

We got back into the Oklahoma City area late Tuesday night (or Wednesday if you count that it was one in the morning).  I dropped my father off at his place and headed home.  The husband was happy to see me, but the cat was angry.  She doesn’t like it when I go away and made her feelings be known by growling at me when I tried petting her.  My cat is extremely anti-social and only lets my husband and I touch her (except in cases like this).  I passed out soon after settling in and later the annoyed feline settled on my legs so I couldn’t move.  It’s her way of saying she’d forgiven me.

I’d busted my laptop just before leaving on the trip.  It took a few days to find a new one and even more time to get it set up the way  I wanted.  It might have been faster, but I was totally drained from the trip and some odd health problems cropped up.  The main one being a slew of bruises on my legs (mostly on the back of them) that I had no explanation for how they got there and didn’t notice them until the drive back when my legs got really tender.  I called the VA hospital and explained the problem to women’s clinic nurse.  After much reassurances that I had not been playing sports…or any other odd activities that I’ll refrain from naming here, my doctor had me come in so she could look at them.

She decided it was a combination of lack of sleep, dehydration (I drank tons of energy drinks to stay awake during the trip), sitting for long hours, and not eating properly (we mostly ate fast food on the drive, but I could barely touch food then because of all the caffeine in me).  My blood tests came back with an elevated white blood cell count and I was feeling rather tired.  She offered to run more tests, but I declined.  For a few days after that I felt a bit feverish at night and think that must have been from a cold I was fighting.  I’m honestly feeling better now and think I may have just pushed myself too hard.  The last few months have been extremely busy and the long trip may have been the final straw.  Getting more rest for the last couple of weeks seems to have helped a lot.

I’m ridiculously behind on emails from fans.  Later this week I promise the set aside a day just to answer them all.  Please know I haven’t forgotten about you guys if you messaged me!  As a treat, I have gotten my designer to do the final touches on one of the promo shots with the chair.  This is it below.  I hope you all like it!

Lucas and Melena promo with chair


For anyone who is wondering where the chair is now.  I left it at my grandfather’s place where he plans to tell everyone I ran up to Maine (like it’s a short trip) to get it for him.  It has been claimed by the culprit below and no one is allowed to sit in it anymore.  Thankfully, considering it’s about 130-140 years old, she has managed to keep her claws out of it.

Delilah in antique chair


Hope everyone is doing well and sorry for the long post!  For those who haven’t seen the previous series art, you can check it all out here.




11 thoughts on “Photo shoot for the Sensor Series with a trip to Boston

  1. Lalo

    I love that picture of your models in the chair! It’s awesome. I cannot wait for the book to come out. 🙂

    Glad you had a great trip.

  2. Rachel

    That’s a pretty awesome story and lifetime memory to have! I’m sure your dad loves telling all his friends how his daughter had a giant photo shoot in the big city and he got to travel cross country with her 🙂

    I’m glad they tested your legs! That’s scary and I thought you were going to say you had a blood clot from all that driving! Even though you don’t want more testing, be sure to follow up bc it could be some weird blood thing or something like that you don’t want to ignore.

    1. Susan Illene Post author

      I’ll keep a watch out for any more problems. The bruises have all gone away, which is a good sign. I think I just need to get back into a better exercise routine. I’ve really been slacking off on that recently and it would help with circulation. In the past I made trips almost as grueling as this one, but I was still in the military and working out regularly. It makes me think I let myself go too much!

  3. Abra

    I saw this picture when you posted it on Facebook and loved it. Thank you so much for posting the background on it and your trip. When a layperson like myself sees such a perfect picture, we don’t realize how much work and thought goes into it. The chair is exactly right – I’ve always thought it pays to be picky! I’m glad your legs turned out to be ok. It’s amazing how many weird symptoms one can have without anything actually being wrong.

    1. Susan Illene Post author

      Hello, Abra. Sorry I’m just now seeing this comment. Somehow it slipped right by me!

      Glad you liked the latest promo pic. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out–even with all the work put into it! My legs are still doing fine so it looks like it was just an unfortunate side effect of a long trip.

  4. anjuli

    They are perfect fit. I definitely see them as Melena and Luke. Awesome to see characters come to life just the way they should be. Thanks!

  5. Angela Wallace

    How exciting! Wow, you are dedicated to drive that much for a chair and photo shoot, but sounds like it was totally worth it. I’m glad you’re feeling better too; you do push yourself quite a bit! I love your series’s artwork!

    1. Susan Illene Post author

      Thanks, Angela. Going to those lengths for a chair might have been a bit much, but it was the journey that made it fun. I hadn’t been on a cross country road trip in years so it was good to get out.


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