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.

crazyflow

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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What’s in a Name? Or: My Battle With Goodreads® Over a Title.

Normally, I keep my personal dramas personal. I know when to push and when to back down for my own sanity’s sake. But in this case, I’m not backing down, because it’s an issue that, if it hasn’t yet, could potentially affect other authors who try to add their books to Goodreads.

Let me begin by saying that this is not a rant against Goodreads. I appreciate it as a social media site where people can meet and discuss books, interact with authors, and deal with everything good and bad that comes along with participating in that sort of venue. I will also say that the “Goodreads Expert” who responded to my concerns was (initially) very polite.

However neither she nor the Goodreads librarian (who was not polite), are correct when interpreting the policies that they continued to quote and provide links for.

Five years ago, I released a book called Spiretown. It was the second novel I had ever completed, and published (not necessarily ever written, because I had notebooks from high school with roughly 700k words of rambling storyline and no endings). It got (surprisingly) good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I did eventually create a paperback version and put it up on CreateSpace for several years.

As with any book, the downloads slowed to an occasional trickle because I had moved onto other things. In that 5 years, I only changed the font on the cover. No real fixes beyond that. I eventually nixed the Kindle version and pulled it from Smashwords in preparation for writing a completely revised edition. I thought it would be quick and simple. It wasn’t.

Regardless, I did the work, had the cover designed, sent out the ARCS, wrote the blurb, and posted Spiretown: Second Edition to Goodreads with an expected publication date of December 10th, 2017.

A couple of people put it on their “to read” lists. When I went in around midnight to see how it looked, Spiretown: Second Edition was nowhere to be found.

I clicked the link for the old Spiretown and sure enough, there it was, buried behind 3 other old editions of the original book. When I reached out to the Goodreads Librarian’s group to tell them it was not merely another edition of an old book, and it was, indeed called “Spiretown: Second Edition”. I was rudely informed that their policy states that they shouldn’t add an edition to the title of the book. I tried to tell them that it WAS the title of the book, I was ignored.

So I reached out to someone higher up at Goodreads. The “Goodreads Expert” was a lot nicer than the librarian, but basically repeated the same thing and gave me links to their librarian policies. I saw the one that they kept referring to—and it says this:

The title field is used for the title of the book and for the subtitle if the book has one. Other information, such as binding, edition number, or language, should be moved out of the title field into fields specific to that information.”

Right. Doesn’t apply, because that IS the title of the book, and this would be a 4th edition—not a second edition—anyway. Further, there is this:

“title 
The title should match the title shown on the cover of the book”

And one more:

“subtitle 
The subtitle should also match the cover of the book. Bear in mind that books are sometimes republished with different subtitles, so a subtitle for one edition should not be assumed to be present on all editions.”

Yet despite pointing this out to them in the policies they keep throwing at me, they decided to ignore me again.

I also pointed out that they have several books with “Edition” in the title field:

The Great Gatsby: Special Edition 2.0

The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again 1st Edition

Animal Farm. Full text edition.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Enhanced Edition

The list goes on forever—and NONE of these books has that “Edition” text anywhere on the book cover.

Their reply?

Nothing.

Silence.

When that happens, nine times out of ten it means that somebody knows they’re wrong. The gracious thing to do would be to quietly fix their mistake and move on. I don’t even need an apology.

But nope.

Goodreads has stubbornly stuck to a policy that doesn’t exist in this case.

I even asked Amazon: if the book had a different title, would it be shoved in under the old print version of a similarly titled book? They told me no, it wouldn’t be. If the title is different–even if it has “Second Edition” in the title, it’s treated like a different book.

So here I am, ready to take it to the streets. If you’re not aware, I am an avid gamer. If somebody shows up with a knife, I have an automatic mini-nuke launcher.

Goodreads has changed the title of my copyrighted work and are misrepresenting it as just another edition of a book that was written five years ago. Apparently, if I had named it anything else, they would have let it stand alone, but because I put the word “Edition” in the title—a title that is ON THE BOOK COVER, they decide that it falls within one piece of their guidelines, but not the others. Apparently, not even the Goodreads Experts know their own policies.

At this point, I am waiting to see what happens when they get the book data from Amazon. That will give them another chance to do the right thing and fix their mistake.

If they don’t—then the fight continues.

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Fidelity has a new cover!

Hopefully, in a few days, Fidelity’s new cover will be visible at Amazon, but here is a sneak-peek of it here:

2017-770 Lia Black b01 smaller

I love the new design, and I can’t wait for it to show up! I’ve decided to use the same team to do the design of the new cover for Spiretown: Second Edition, which will, unfortunately, be a bit delayed, but will be available before Christmas. 🙂

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Mini-update (yoink!)

I pulled the original version of Spiretown (e-book) off of Amazon this week. I’d considered just replacing it with the new version, but the second edition is already much larger than the original, and anyone who purchased the first one might want the chance to see how much it’s changed. Unfortunately, I may not be able to get it out exactly five years to the day because right now the finish line is a moving target. The book originally ended with a grand total of about 72,000 words. I’m a little more than halfway through, and already up to 97k words—that’s after some pretty extensive pruning in places as well. I expect the finished product to be pushing in at over 100k words.

Still, it should be out before Christmas this year.  Hopefully, by the end of November, I’ll be sending out a link to download an advanced copy to the people on my rare and random newsletter  (The Black List) and anyone else who contacts me directly to request one. Because unpublishing the e-book wipes out the reviews, it would be lovely to have some new ones when it goes live. 🙂

I’m also getting the first proofs of the new cover for Fidelity this week. Newsletter folks will get a sneak-peek. The guts of the book haven’t changed, but the blurb and cover will. Too many people thought it was historical fiction…even though it’s a fantasy universe with multiple gods and a demon as one of the MCs. *shrug* Hopefully this will help clear things up a little.

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Spiretown: Second Edition

You might think it’d be easy rewriting a book that was published 5 years ago. The bones are all there and, while not necessarily gristle-free, the structure remains pretty solid. Sure, there are a few cracks, some arthritis that comes with age, but that’s much easier to fix (in a story, anyway). It’s the skin, the eyes, the hair and all the cosmetics that have to work well with that skeleton to give it a good chance at resurrection (cue lightning and maniacal mad scientist laughter).

Spiretown was my very first m/m romance, and the second book I ever wrote. I was pretty sure that it would go exactly nowhere and be read by no one; because I had no idea that there was actually a (remarkably thriving) market for romance stories featuring two male protagonists.

When I wrote it, between the years of 2010-2012, I had no concept of things like “POV”. I didn’t really understand that there were rules and a technique to writing fiction. I like to think I’ve grown at least a little since then, and Spiretown is growing as well. At somewhere around what used to be chapter 16, I have already added nearly 20,000 words. I’ve probably also deleted nearly that many and moved entire sections around.

Spiretown

Original Spiretown Cover

Anyone who has read it, or any of my stuff, knows that it’s got some psychosocial commentary, some historical/political parallels, and a liberal sprinkling of snark and darkness. Spiretown is a story where there is hatred and oppression, how people are sometimes (too often) “punished for the good of society”; how rumors, differences in viewpoint, appearance, and cultural misunderstandings can give birth to the conceptualized “other”.  But I also wanted to explore the mind of a man who is considered to be an active part of the oppression. Collin isn’t a bad person, the men under his command are not bad people either—they’re just people, doing what they feel is right, or at least right for them.

I could go into a long history lesson here, but I specialize in fiction. I’ll just say that some of the aspects of Spiretown are reminiscent of, and inspired by, the Medieval Inquisitions, Salem Witch Trials, Japanese-American internment camps and the Polish Ghettos of WWII.  But Spiretown is fiction, so some of it is much more logical, and has a happier ending, than real life.

Oh yeah, and there’s a romance. ☻

If all goes well, Spiretown, the second edition, will be published exactly five years to the day on December 2nd, 2017. Expect to see a new cover reveal soon!

***I will have some ARCs available for anyone interested in checking out the new version!***

If you’re interested in receiving an ARC—join my mailing list, or drop me an email at info@liablack.com.

As always, thanks for reading! ☠

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