I’m still alive!

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. At my “day job” I’ve been handed another massive project that needs a lot of help. Not sure why when you do well your “reward” is crappier, more borked-up work, but whatever.  I’ve acquired a “secretary”, however, who’s helped me clean up some pesky backlog work, and an engineer who bakes so at least I won’t starve to death. halloween-2553914_640

But the extra stress (plus a teenager) has made it a lot more difficult to get up in the morning, and I’m ready for bed by 6pm, so progress on my next book (or books) has been a lot slower than I’d like (it’s always a lot slower than I’d like, anyway). My plan going forward is to ask for healthier cookies at work and finally get that caffeine drip set up at home.

But!!!!!! I am actually working out that series that you guys have been asking for! It’ll be a new world with new characters, and I intend to get all of the books drafted at the same time. If all goes well, they will come out within a month or two of each other (fingers crossed), but probably closer to the fall/winter.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience, support, and kind words! You guys really help keep me going through the stuff that life throws my way!

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Mercury’s Orbit Has a New Cover!

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An it harm none, write what you know.

Those of you who have somehow managed to find me know I’m really not very active online. I’m an outsider because it’s a place where I feel the most comfortable. But in light of recent events in, but not limited to, the M/M romance genre, I hope something I say here (and I have a lot to say) might be helpful for somebody, anyway.  🙂

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As authors, we get our inspiration from the strangest places: a picture, an out-of-context snippet of a stranger’s conversation, the way the clouds form with a sunrise… We even put pieces of ourselves into our stories; it’s difficult not to when writing is such an intimate act.

We want readers to know us through our books and the characters who populate our worlds. But when an author gets close to someone and steals their very personal story for their own benefit, it goes beyond inspiration and into something a lot more sinister.

There’s that old adage: write what you know. Unfortunately—and it’s come up a few times in different genres more than once—there are some authors that will write “who they know”.

Have you ever read something so resonating that you wonder if you wrote it? Or if the person who did is someone you know? Sometimes it’s coincidence. It’s a sign that you have found somebody who’s a lot like you and friendships are made. But when you read about specific events in a book written by an author you’ve come to know as a friend, and recognize situations word-for-word that resemble details of intimate discussions, that’s more than coincidence, and it should be a crime.

Imagine now that your most vulnerable moments are being made available to millions of people; it’s being discussed in reading groups, being praised or ravaged in reviews…maybe even by people you know. It feels like a violation, because it is, and speaking up—owning it—is not an option. Someone you trusted has taken the deepest, darkest parts of you and made a profit. Someone you thought of as a friend has betrayed you in ways that your worst enemy couldn’t dream up, and now they’re done with you and moving onto the next bestseller about someone else’s life.

I’ve seen authors ask in forums if it’s okay to use real-life situations from people they know in their fiction. I’ve had people ask me if I write about anyone I know, and I’ve jokingly responded with things like: “Yeah, you remember that no-name dude who got killed in the opening scene? That was totally you.” I even have an author friend who (sheepishly) admitted I was the inspiration for one of his brash, hard-ass female characters. But there is a distinction: he is not taking pieces of my life and publishing them in a book.

Inspiration and infiltration are completely different animals.

Is it okay to base a character on someone you know? Sure, as long as it’s something arbitrary like little personality traits, an attitude, maybe quirky habits that can’t be traced back to an individual—and it’s also a good idea to ask the person if it’s okay when they are someone in your world. People who read my friend’s stuff and know me ask if I was the model for this particular character of his. In that case, it’s kind of cool. The character isn’t so much like me that it’s me, but people can see the rough outlines.

That is completely different from taking the life of a person you know, changing the name, rearranging a few random details, and publicly sharing the stories they shared with you in private. An author with such a limited imagination and empty life is not an artist. They aren’t crafting, they’re tracing someone else’s hard work on a light table. They’re using someone else’s photograph, applying a filter, and selling it as their own. It’s wrong and it’s hurtful, and the worst thing is the guilty party will never feel guilty.

Being an author has given me a lot thicker skin than I would’ve ever thought possible. Still, I’m a master at slipping into my shell and hiding from the world.  I do so because I’m an introvert by nature, not because someone has forced me through fear. I use a pen name, by the way, not to hide, but because any of the last names I’ve had are hard to spell, easy to forget, and ridiculous to pronounce.

But this isn’t about me.

It takes a lot of courage to create that deep of a bond with another human being. Finding out that someone you trusted is a manipulator is really hard to process. The same goes for people who have been victimized by crime, especially in an environment where they once felt safe. Often, people who have been hurt by someone they thought was a friend will stop trusting anyone enough to ever open themselves up again. It’s important not to shut down and lock yourself away from ever feeling close to anyone again… it’s also a lot more difficult.

So, for what it’s worth, if you have been a victim of a manipulator of any kind, here are some thoughts that I hope will be helpful, if even in a small way:

  • Don’t diminish what happened to you. Accept that it was and is a crime and that you did nothing wrong. You were a victim of circumstance—in the wrong place at the wrong time with a predator lurking in the shadows.
  • You have scars now, remember how they got there, but don’t view them as defeat. They’re battle-scars that prove you’re a survivor.
  • Find true allies, find a professional, find a place you feel safe with people who make you feel that way.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you to “get over it”. This is grief; you have lost a piece of yourself, you have lost your ability to trust, and you have lost someone you valued as a friend.
  • Learn how to trust again, but DO IT SLOWLY.

I am saying this as a person who is far too wise (old) and experienced with unstable sociopaths and narcissists (far, far too experienced). I used to think I had a flashing “sucker” sign on my head that drew them to me. Sometimes, I still feel that they can see me; what’s important is now I can see them too.  But again, this isn’t about me.

While I’ve seen several people reaching out for support via the friendships they have made through social media, for what it’s worth, I also want to offer some things to think about, especially when re-connecting with those who were part of the group that hurt you:

  • One person had the power to turn someone you thought was a friend against you—to the point where that friend joined the fray and kicked you when you were down. If it’s that easy to change a friend’s opinion of you, then you might want to reconsider letting this person back in.
  • If you want to forgive, mend those bridges carefully and reinforce them with barriers.
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. If it’s happened once with this person, it can happen again.
  • People who hurt you need to do a lot more than offer empty apologies. If they are true friends, they will be patient and remorseful. They will be willing to let you be angry for as long as you need to be. They will be silent and listen to you when you tell them about how much they hurt you, and when they apologize, they will say they are sorry without any “buts”.
  • It’s okay not to forgive, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Knowing when and where to draw the line means you’re taking care of you.

For anyone who has unwittingly rallied around an abuser that cried victim (and encouraged you to fight their battles):

  • Take a step back and examine your motives.
  • Were you protecting a friend whom you knew so well that you trusted they would do the same for you?
  • Was it the fear of becoming a victim yourself that made you an attacker?
  • Why would a friend demand such allegiance?
  • Why would a friend demand anything at all?
  • You also need to learn how to recognize manipulators and mob-mentality. I know, easier said than done, but once you spot the behavior, it’s easier to see unless you choose to ignore it.
  • If you know what it’s like to be a victim–remember that feeling.
  • Siding with a manipulator doesn’t protect you from becoming their victim.
  • If you’re unsure which side to take, take a step back and try to examine the evidence on all sides.
  • If you can’t discern the facts from the lies, don’t pick a side. There is a difference between cowardice and being a “conscientious objector”.

For me, at least, it’s much easier to trust someone who asks forgiveness for not being able to get involved because they were uncertain, than it is to forgive someone who fought against me for someone else’s cause.

For everybody, and in general:

  • Question negativity directed at other people when it asks you to form an opinion of someone without really knowing them, or worse yet–when it is directed at someone you know.
  • Look for clues, don’t dismiss anything that even raises an eyebrow.
  • If you feel something isn’t right, don’t let anyone convince you that you’re imagining things or that you have a faulty perception. We’ve retained our lizard-brains and have memories for a very good reason: because human beings have no natural predators except other human beings.
  • Trust your instincts over intellect and emotion, and offer your vulnerability to those who have, over time, proven themselves worthy of that gift. To do any less, does you a disservice and puts you at greater risk.

Just my thoughts, and now I’ll go crawl back under my rock and try to make some (fictional) words happen. 🙂

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Crazy quilt writing or just a little crazy…

crazyquilt.jpgMy schizophrenic writing style is slowly dragging me forward. I’ve got a lock on two stories right now—both completely different, that keep wrestling for my time. I think the winner might be another sci-fi because the blurb dropped out of my head almost fully formed and it’s delightfully damaged. (What? You were expecting warm and fluffy, maybe?)

Here’s what hit the page (subject to change as I write it, of course):


Roman Speers is a simple man, with a simple goal in life: get through it the best way you can without causing trouble. An army brat, he developed a sense of wanderlust; but instead of joining the military like his dad, he makes his living as a “trucker” transporting goods across galaxies.

Unfortunately, with his guilt over his ex-wife and a having growing child to support, it’s gotten harder to make ends meet. After a run-in with pirates leaves him injured, his ship damaged beyond repair, and his pockets empty, a stranger comes to his aid, looking for someone to fly his ship full of contraband through space. As much as Roman hates the idea, he feels he can’t say no.

Things start to spiral out of control when he’s boarded by the customs authorities. He confesses to the illegal haul, hoping they’ll go easy on him, however it turns out the stranger wasn’t shipping drugs, but bodies.

Xian was once a Tylletian Death Priest. They have a reputation among most species as executioners: taking the life of those lucky enough to choose their own deaths. Roughly three years ago, Xian broke his vow of celibacy and fell in love with another man, a crime to his people punishable by a dishonorable death. He ran, was picked up by a slave ship, and has become the property of a criminal syndicate boss.

He’s now the ringmaster and famous face of Cirque de la Mort, a popular traveling stage show where the participants meet their final end amid flashing lights and murderous props. It’s Xian’s job to make the bad people who come to die for entertainment look really bad, and the show’s popularity has never been higher. But something about one of their latest contestants feels wrong. Roman Speers just doesn’t fit the profile of a killer.

When Xian learns they may be about to execute an innocent man to a sold-out crowd, he has to decide if it’s worth losing everything again to give Roman back his life.


I’m still a couple month’s away from having it ready for release, but I’m hoping for sometime around June. I’ll be reaching out to people who have volunteered to be betas as the time gets closer and my regular editor and new proofreader are already on notice and re-inking their murderous red pens.

Let me know what you think!

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Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s day again; that one day a year where corporations band together to either drain your wallet out of guilt (“you’re an asshole the other 364 days a year—heart-shaped chocolates will excuse that”), or remind you—in no uncertain terms—that you are lonely and unlovable.

I had a friend ask me how St. Valentine’s day actually started…because it’s named after a saint and I’m a recovering Catholic, so I should know these things. I made an educated guess: either the saint was born on that day or that’s the day he was martyred (a religious word for “gruesomely murdered”. Actually, I found out that there were two guys with the same name killed on February 14th a few years apart by Emperor Claudius II. One guy was a saint—the other guy was probably a terrible case of mistaken identity. I’m not sure what kind of grudge the emperor had against guys named Valentine. Probably a good thing that it wasn’t such a common name back then.

As is usually the case, the martyred saint (and that other guy), was a good way to cover up the more pagan origins of the holiday. The Romans had this “Feast of Lupercalia”, that took place every year around this time, where people got naked, sacrificed a goat and a dog, then beat the hell out of some lucky ladies with the hides…because nothing says “I love you” quite like beating somebody with a dead dog. Since I’m pretty sure that’s illegal now, the makers of cards, candies, and lingerie decided to band together with florists to bleed wallets dry in the name of love.

I’m not part of the “Yay Valentine’s day!” group. I’m the “listen to old married guys at work panic because they haven’t been paying attention to the date” person. I’m the one they start conversations—soliciting my aid—with words like: “If you were a woman…”

It’s been a long time since I’ve even dated, and I really don’t miss it (I don’t even get presents from my stalkers anymore). I suppose it turns people off when I tell them the truth about where they will fall on my priority list:

  1. My kid
  2. My writing
  3. Me
  4. My friends
  5. Pizza
  6. You

(to be fair, after I’ve known somebody for a while they might be able to move to the “Pizza” spot, but nobody ever sticks around that long).

If you’re in love today—good for you, just don’t be or stay with anyone who is a dick the rest of the year. True love is an every day thing, not just those days where something horrible and pink explodes and bleeds chocolate and jewelry (or your SO beats you with a dead dog).

If you’re not in love—also good for you because it means when you pick up all the leftover candy tomorrow at half-off, you don’t have to share it.

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Writer’s block.

I can’t tell you how many “cures” I have sought for this particular condition. I think it has to do with the way an author’s brain is wired. I can literally feel the gunk in there. It’s a pressure, like something in the center of my brain is expanding, trying to push its way of my skull.

Some people call it “creative constipation”; while I know a few people who seem to have shit for brains, it has nothing to do with their creativity.

It’s not a lack of ideas. It’s a lack of focus for those ideas. Ideas are somewhere it that gooey center. Getting at them and cleaning off the sticky mess is the problem.

Although I’ve yet to find anything that works, here is my list of strategies:

  1. Take my medication. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m on seizure-level doses of anti-depressants. Sometimes I miss a dose…or five. Of course, just taking one pill doesn’t bring me back to “normal”, but at least when my doctor asks if I am taking my meds I can say “yes”.
  2. Take a shower. The best ideas usually come to us in the shower….kind of like the pizza delivery guy always shows up when you’re on the can (or in the shower). Unfortunately, as far as the shower is concerned, I can only be so wet for so long, and my hair takes for-evah to dry.
  3. Listen to music. My problem is I am always looking for that particular sound that doesn’t exist and I end up wasting an afternoon discovering this. I’ve gone as far as to download music mixing software to try and make it before remembering that I am too impatient to follow the tutorials and not very musically inclined.
  4. Read. I’m ashamed to admit that since I’ve become an author, reading has become less of a pleasure to me. It’s hard to find the time or a subject that keeps me riveted, isn’t a beta I’m doing for another author, or isn’t strictly for research. Also, when I read I remind myself that I should be writing.
  5. Burn smelly (scented) candles, which may or may not set off my allergies. If the allergy thing happens, I’m down for the next 3 days and can’t stop sneezing long enough to write.
  6. Play video games. Twenty minutes can quickly become ten hours. Sometimes a game will give me the seed of an idea, but a seed needs a lot more stuff to grow into a flowering banana tree. More often, it’s a game I play a lot, and my levels and equipment are so maxed out, that I’m one-shotting über-bosses and tossing aside the super ultra-rare whose-a-muh-jiggit because I already have ten of them.
  7. Call other authors and whine. This goes about as well as you’d expect.
  8. Cook. Since I don’t really like cooking, I spend the time thinking that I should be writing.
  9. Do other artsy things. Like video games, this can take up a lot of time before you know it. I mostly do digital art these days or find new ways to crash my film-editing software. Of course, I’m thinking about producing book trailers—for the book I should be writing—or covers—once again, for the book I should be writing.
  10. Write. Sometimes, strangely enough, this actually works. But when it doesn’t, it involves extensive tweaking of something I’ve already been trying to write and I end up showing a negative word count. Any author whose has ever gotten a one-star review knows that nothing’s quite as motivational as negative feedback (yeah, right).

Like everything else, I know it’ll pass eventually (no, sometimes I really don’t). And when (if) it does, my kid will want to show me her meme collection, my neighbor will come to my door, or I’ll hear that unmistakable retching of my bulimic cat about to barf all over the carpet. But it’s okay. That stuff has a limit—kid runs out of new memes, neighbor has stuff to do, and a cat can only hold so much volume. It would just be great if I could get all of that to happen when writing isn’t, but when writing is, those are temporary bumps in the road.

I don’t have any fixes for writer’s block, and I doubt if I did, they would work for anybody else. That’s the cool thing about writers and our (sometimes faulty) wiring. We’re all different, which ultimately makes our stories what they are: blood, sweat, and brain-poo… er, something like that, anyway.

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Resolutions and their fated demise…or not.

Happy (almost) new year!

This year, my “resolution” is finally to write a series.

Just putting this down into words makes my heart race and my guts churn, and I want to drive a stake through my forehead because my brain itches (yes, I completely understand the concept of trepanning now, but ew). We never overcome irrational fears that we don’t face head-on (or so I’ve been told). I figured out, however, after about a week of stone-dead stillness and rising panic whenever I sat down to start writing, that this issue I have with writing a series is planning.

pollockWhen I do a search on the internet for the best way to craft a series, the very first thing mentioned is “planning”…which to a “pantser” (I need to come up with a better word for that, makes me think of getting a wedgie) is like a Jackson Pollock paint-by-number.

To meet me, or know me on any personal level, the dilemma seems obvious. I appear to be a pretty unorganized person. My brain goes off on grand adventures without me, and I do ridiculous things like go to work without brushing my hair (seriously, last week I still had the elastic tie in that I use when I scrub my face), and sometimes wondering if I’ve remembered to put all of my clothes on. I won’t lock my house or car without having the key in my hand and my eyeballs staring at said key. Not because I have locked myself out before (knock on wood), but because I know I can be so absent-minded that it’s highly likely I will.

However, my “day job” (the one paying the bills right now ((ohgodohgodohgod)) is one that depends on quite a bit of organization. I need to know what version of software, which designs, what parts and documentation are in which train running in certain areas of the world at any given time. It’s a lot of hours spent chained to a desk and in meetings trying to make sure other people are doing their jobs and have the proof to back it up. Having to remain several steps ahead, it seems that I should be a natural at writing outlines, and that’s the problem: outlines are planning, planning is structure, and structure is what I do at work. My job is the opposite of creative.

So when I tried to map out the series for Spiretown: Second Edition, I found that what I was doing was over-planning. I had a series beginning, middle, and end, then several stories I wanted to develop: each with their own beginnings, middles, and ends that all worked together under the umbrella of the main arc. I tried using the Hero’s Journey Template (because it seems to be the most detailed, and apparently when I torture myself, I want to do it as thoroughly as possible). I was planning to a level of such quantum proportions, that I was trying to see everything at the same time, yet seeing nothing but static. It was this giant structure mirrored in each little interior structure that somehow all fit together in a seamless way. It was like trying to rebuild a window from slivers of broken glass.

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One thing I love about writing is the element of “what happens next?” I rarely have a clue, because the moment I get a clue, it seems too obvious and I need to surprise myself with something more complex. Usually, that’s the characters themselves running off with their own agendas and me trying to keep up. (Sometimes they run so far that they end up in a different story completely).

So having failed to outline, I fired up the PS4, killed some monsters, and tried not to hate myself for pissing away even more of my limited writing time (I’ve found the worst way to do this is while suffering from PMS and gorging oneself on leftover Christmas cookies… I did manage to score a pretty rare pet in Diablo III—ROS, however, so it wasn’t a total waste). I also realized that planning is just not for me. I can write the stories, and still make sure they all converge into a satisfying resolution, without having to know precisely what that resolution might be.

After coming to this very obvious conclusion, I managed to put down about 4k words in one day, and I’m already halfway there again today. My Scrivener file looks like something Mercury Fie would put together—it’s a patchwork of crazy. There are folders where each document within is actually a chapter of a story for several sets of characters (who keep building and wanting their own plots) and I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between them, making new ones, and basically just letting them carry me off as they normally do. My goal is that the stories themselves will be my guide.

Maybe when I’m done they’ll be rubbish, or maybe not. Like Jackson Pollock, sometimes you have to make a huge mess to create something cool (I do promise, however, for those of you taking trains and riding subways, I’ll keep planning at work).

And by the way, thank you all for reading my books and keeping in touch. I love sharing my words and worlds with you and nothing makes me happier than being invited into your lives for a little while. 🙂

Happy 2018! I hope this year brings many wonderful things to all of you (and a few new stories from me)!

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