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:

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

And one more:

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?



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.


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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RELEASE: Mercury’s Orbit

Sometimes, falling in love means falling apart.

Mercury Fie is a freak of many natures, created in a lab. Driven by desires and the imaginary fairies in his brain, he is directed by a moral compass set in the land of make-believe.  Feared by criminals, hated by cops, and adored by the public, Mercury rules his illegal empire with a velvet fist and violent temper.

Sean Argeneau is a good cop.  Coming from a less-than-perfect childhood, he’s the poster boy for overachievement and quiet humility.  Although he makes little mention of his part in capturing the notorious Mercury Fie, he’s tasked with transporting  the mob boss to trial.  As a former Federation pilot, Sean is no stranger to space travel, but the sickness he gets from jump-gates has kept him grounded.

Sean’s cynicism turns out to be his saving grace when everything that could possibly go wrong, does. He wakes up bound by police-issue handcuffs, and staring down the barrel of his own gun. Being a good cop hasn’t prepared him for surviving this insanely bad situation, and Mercury goes beyond any brand of crazy Sean has ever met.

When survival clashes with duty, both men must abandon their agendas to stay alive.  But to make it work, Sean must succumb to a little bit of crazy, while Mercury struggles to understand what it’s like to be sane.

Mercury's Orbit Cover

It’s finally here! Mercury’s Orbit should be available world-wide through Amazon and Kindle Unlimited by this Monday, September 4th, 2017!

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Finished! (almost)

Mercury’s Orbit has finished first-round betas, and it’s partially out for second-round. The story is definitely a lot more fully realized than my initial excerpt (as it should be), and—knock on wood—it looks like I am still on track for publication sometime in September. Mercury’s Orbit has taken me roughly five years and several false-starts to complete because it’s not quite as easy as my other “enemies to lovers” progressions. Instead of growing together to become a couple, I actually had to break one of the characters down. Putting the “fun” back into dysfunctional…er, something like that. I hesitate to use the “romance” tag because there are no hearts-and-flowers of any sort here. If bullets were a Valentine, then I’d say their love is true. But we’ll see where it gets sorted once people start to check it out.

In other news, Their Precious Own is heading to Smashwords today, so it will be available in different downloadable formats through a wider set of retailers very soon!

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First Chapter Teaser (What I’m working on)

Looks like my hopes of having this out in July were wishful thinking (like: “I wish I had enough time to get this out in July”). But I’d rather have it right than fast, so I’m hoping more late August/early September time frame. In the meantime, I thought that maybe offering the first chapter as a teaser might make up for the wait. Thanks for bearing with me!



 It should have been perfect.

The event had been planned for months, each minor detail taken into account, leaving nothing to chance. The invited guests had all arrived and were gathering near the sparkling champagne fountains, and admiring the flower-shaped canapés. Expensive artwork, vintage pieces depicting grapevines, hunting dogs—whatever sort of crap impressed the unimpressable—hung between tall columns and statues of stylized Greek gods. Everyone was ready for the party of a lifetime, and for most of the guests, that lifetime would end here, tonight.

Mercury Fie clutched his champagne flute with one gloved hand, fingering the stem with the other. His heart was fluttering against his ribs, beating with a similar anticipation to that of first love. He gazed out over the grand ballroom from his darkened glass suite, hanging high above the center floor, as each guest arrived. Every man appeared identical in black tuxedos, every woman tried to outdo the others with a ball gown that set her apart. Meeting his own gaze through the smoky composite, he reached up to smooth a stray lock of silver hair from his glitter-dusted face. He’d purchased a new outfit for tonight: a shimmering white satin bodysuit. The garment fit like a second skin over his fashionably svelte figure; embellished with crystals in the shape of his namesake’s symbol. It was really quite clever, though most of his minions were not smart enough to appreciate it; they thought it was some kind of crudely-drawn bull. He hadn’t hired them for their looks or their brains, so it was unfair of him to expect much of either. His tall boots were made of same satiny material as his bodysuit; his six-inch heels with toes tapering to a spike made him nearly seven-feet tall. But his favorite part of the ensemble was the jewel-encrusted codpiece. Glistening silver chains held it in place and dangled down, creating a short skirting that ended in crystal teardrops. Normally he’d be a bit more subdued, but his birthday was in a few days and he’d decided to splurge on an early present.

Behind him, a man cleared his throat.


Mercury’s violet gaze shifted to the reflection of his current general standing just inside the door from the catwalk. His tuxedo blended into the darkness, obscuring most of his muscled bulk and leaving his head floating in mid-air.

“Princess,” Mercury answered, without turning. His breathy voice sounded mechanical when echoed back from the glass. “Have you seen? It’s so lovely. It’s all going to be wonderful tonight. I can feel it.”

Princess wasn’t a handsome man, but with his face normally buried between Mercury’s thighs, he rarely noticed. He was the man who had the honor of sharing his bed now; his most trusted adviser, the general of his army in his little empire. “Close the door, would you?”

Princess did as he was told, then returned to his previous spot, standing a few feet away. “Sir, Sec Ops has reported a possible breach near the north tower.”

“Are they handling it?” Mercury glanced over his shoulder, looking down his nose at the beefier man, as he took a sip of his champagne. It slid down his throat with a little bite, like a kiss from a golden razor. Expensive stuff, not the toilet water he had splashing in the fountains below. Security had been accounted for. He’d paid overtime to the mercenary crew he had scouting the grounds. They would not disappoint him because they had families, and he knew where they lived.

It wasn’t the first time he’d dealt with “law enforcement”, or the media, or jealous cartel bosses trying to ruin his plans. He used to be bothered by what was said about him: that he was a criminal, a murderer, and any number of things that seemed true, but only when taken out of context. Sometimes one had to carve away the rot in order to enjoy the sweetness of the fruit.

In the ballroom below, one of his most important guests, Doctor Tamak Lin, came down the staircase with his wife du jour on his arm.

Princess cleared his throat again, finally getting around to answering his question. “Yes, sir, but—”

Mercury didn’t hear the rest because his ears were squealing with blood. Dr. Lin’s trophy-wife appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing a crimson ballgown, as though tonight were her special event.

“That bitch!” Mercury threw his glass down. It shattered like a small explosion, sending champagne and crystal shards skittering across the shiny black floor. “I told them! I told them all! No one was to wear red!” The deliberate insult turned the champagne to gasoline in his stomach and fire roared up his spine.


Princess flinched as Mercury pulled a jeweled pistol from his garter belt and pointed it at his face, his muscles so tense that he nearly pulled the trigger. Force of habit. Mercury fought the screaming static in his head, reminded himself that it was not Princess who’d precipitated this anger. He turned back to the dark window, pushing it open, and yelled down at the true culprit. “You stupid cow!”

The murmurs of music and conversation stopped as though someone had flipped off a switch, and all eyes moved skyward. Now he was the most important person in the room.

As it should be.

Mercury brandished the gun, found a target below, and shot. Blood blossomed like a rose across the crisp fabric of a waiter’s white tux as the projectile hit his ribcage. The waiter fell, his tray of drinks and hors d’oeuvres crashing down.

“If you wear red, how am I supposed to see the blood?”

Screams filled the ballroom, that shearing, splitting sound that only served to make the pain in his head worse. Well-dressed doctors and dignitaries surged against one another in a sea of cashmere and tulle, every one of them trying to save their own worthless lives. They’d been foolish enough to believe the invitations they’d received were legitimately from the corporation in which they were all stakeholders, even though he’d deliberately tipped his hand: Mercury Division. Did they not make the connection? People were like that. They would ignore the obvious if it appeared to benefit them. They were the true criminals, the real murderers, but because they did not soak their hands in blood they feigned innocence. But Mercury knew. He was judgment, and ignorance was not a defense. They would know the error of their ways. It would slowly sink in what selfish fools they’d been as they struggled to take their last, worthless breaths.

Mercury emptied his pistol randomly into the crowd below, oblivious of whether or not he’d hit a target. When he ran out of ammo he threw the useless weapon down and watched it shatter into sparkling bits when it hit the floor.

“Princess, give me your gun,” he reached back, keeping his eyes trained on that bitch in the red designer gown. So much easier to see, like a bloated tick struggling through the shifting currents of black and white. Princess didn’t immediately comply, and Mercury felt cold foreboding tingling at the base of his spine. Ah. This again. When he turned, Princess was leveling his gun at him, speaking into a small, black microphone that was not standard issue. Mercury gave his employees ear-buds shaped like little purple hearts.

“Affirmative. East elevator. I’ve got him covered until you get here.”

“Crashing my party?” Mercury raised an eyebrow, maintaining a haughty smirk while his stomach devoured his heart. Betrayed, once again, by someone claiming to love him.

“Don’t move, Mercury. You can’t outrun us this time.” The way Princess said it almost sounded like an apology, but there were some cases where sorry wasn’t enough.

“Princess. I’m so disappointed.” Disappointed, but not entirely surprised. He’d thought that Princess might be different. He’d been lulled by the man’s kindness, seduced by love letters and precious little gifts, even after Princess had won his way into his bed. For three months he’d taken control of the things Mercury didn’t like doing while never seeking to control him. He should have realized; any man trying so hard to please him had to be a fucking cop. Mercury felt dizzy and the darkness began to seep through his brain. He glanced over his shoulder as movement in the ballroom indicated a large evacuation was underway. The special ops units of the Civilian Security Department moved into the white hall like black insects; ants stealing the sugar at his picnic. A few of his guards stationed there tried to do their jobs, pulling their guns on the intruders, but they were outnumbered, picked off by snipers hiding, like shadows, behind pillars and statues.

Mercury sighed, fighting to keep control, to keep his intelligence working over his boiling emotional core. “Looks like you’ve got me surrounded.”

Princess pulled a pair of handcuffs out of his suit coat. So that’s what that unsightly bulge had been.

His voice remained soft, like it did when he whispered to him from his pillow, except now it sounded condescending rather than coddling. “Let’s just do this nice and easy.”

Mercury saw him shaking. Princess was not a fool; he’d seen the bloody rages, and knew what could happen if he let his guard slip, even the slightest. Maybe he felt guilty, because he wouldn’t look Mercury in the eye, or maybe he was just afraid. The gun he pointed at Mercury was not steady. If it’d had a laser sight, the beam would be zinging across his chest like a gnat. Mercury ran his pink tongue slowly across his gelée-glossed upper lip, tasting the sweet, greasy flavor of artificial strawberry. He watched Princess’s eyes follow the movement, saw the expansion of his throat, the muscles rigid, as he swallowed. Slowly, Mercury raised his hands near his head in mock-surrender.

Princess began to approach him, each step measured as he came closer so he could cuff him; stalking a wild animal. It was amusing and tragic to watch, like bringing a butterfly net to a tiger hunt. Mercury waited until Princess was nearly upon him before making a move. Once Princess got close enough, Mercury kicked him, catching Princess on the chin with the pointed steel toe of his boot.

Princess’s head snapped back with a crack and an explosion of blood. He hit the floor with a heavy thud that made the sky-suite shudder.

This vermin had infiltrated the sanctity of his empire, crawling all over his special things. Mercury longed to grind him into the floor like a cockroach, feel the wet flesh and crunch of bone beneath his boots. He grabbed the gun, aiming it at the ugly face of his former lover as Princess sputtered blood through a broken jaw.

He would have shot him, but for some reason tears were blurring his vision. The clamoring of heavily armored men racing across the catwalk meant it was time to go. He threw the gun, bouncing it off Princess’s barrel chest and climbed out the window. Teetering on the railing in his high heeled boots, he surveyed the scene below. Tears and glitter blurred into shifting rainbows, making the room a spinning kaleidoscope. The floor was empty except for the uniformed men and women raising their guns in his direction. Mercury considered his limited options, narrowed in on the metal rafters across from him, then leapt.

Weapons followed his path from below as he soared like an acrobat over their heads. His teeth clacked together when metal met the hard soles of his boots as he landed in a crouch on a crossbeam. A few crystals fell from his codpiece, drifting towards the ballroom like fairy tears.

There was a moment of such complete stillness, that he thought all of this might just be a dream.

And then they started shooting.

Electrified projectiles ricocheted, exploding in sparks around him as they struck the metal supports. One shattered near his cheek, the burn of the charged metal shards disrupted his vision as another carved a burning trail along his right thigh, just above his boot. Mercury sprang through the girders, heading towards a narrow ventilation shaft on a nearby wall. He ripped open the grate, wincing as his manicured nails broke off, and flung it down to the ballroom floor before pulling himself inside. Although he was thin enough to fit into the narrow space, the low ceiling forced him to crawl along on his elbows, slowing him down. Had he known things would go so horribly wrong, he might not have worn these boots. While they’d done a lovely little dance across Princess’s face, the buckles that ran up the sides were making an awful racket against the metal walls of the ventilation shaft. He could hear the voices of police below as they tracked his location, shouting as they followed him from room to room.

Damn it. He’d worked so hard for this— to have everyone right where he wanted them. But that bitch had literally made him see red, and instead of consoling him, Princess had pulled a gun.

Something exploded though the vent, making his ears ring and head ache from the bang. Sharpness and sparks tore through his belly, and electricity shot up his spine, zapping his brain. A burst of white pain slammed through the back of his eyes.

A teddy bear, strapped to a table. Doctors in white masks. A spinning blade. White fluff billowing as they cut into its soft, brown head.

Nausea burned greasy in his stomach, bringing up the bitter taste of blood and strawberry lip-gloss. He shuddered and swallowed it down. Taking a few deep breaths, he struggled onto his back, his knees and elbows clanging against the sides of the rectangular conduit. Mascara had run down with the tears from his eyes, drying sticky over his cheeks.

Better. It would be okay.

Anyone else being hit by those charged projectiles would have been dead or comatose from the nerves being fried. But not him. No, no, lucky him. They’d done their homework, cheating off the information that Princess had been feeding them for months. Apparently, they wanted him alive.

“Goddamn it! I said hold fire!” an angry female voice bellowed, echoing through the vent like a voice from the grave. She sounded somehow closer, had they found a way up?

Mercury took one of the fingers of his white satin opera gloves between his teeth, pulling it off. He moved that hand down, hissing as his trembling fingers felt the slick blood and found the rips in his expensive outfit. Never mind the stains, holes that size in such delicate fabric could never be mended. Fresh tears created a film over his eyes and he squinted, trying to clear them enough to assess the damage from the light filtering up though the holes in the vent. His lower half glittered like black crude oil from the stomach wound.

He began to try and push himself along with his legs, but his heels slipped through the slimy coating of his blood. He had to resort to wriggling along now on his back, using his hands on the walls to push himself through.

It would be okay.

Tomorrow he’d wake up and watch the Flutterby Fairies on TV, just as he did every morning. This morning’s episode had been about friendship. Thinking about it made his throat tighten. Really, if all it took was sharing a flower cupcake to make a true friend then how come it was so difficult for him? He started to giggle, then cry as his mind became muddled. “I would have given you a cupcake, Princess…” he murmured. “I would have…but you made me hurt you…why does everyone make me hurt them?”

More shouts from below, getting farther away now as the vent split in two directions. He took a sharp turn to the right. Maybe they’d lost him. He could smell the silvery burn of the atmosphere outside and his breath turned to fog in the cooling air. A little further and he’d hear the wind, moaning through the grate. Almost. Almost. Reaching further down, he touched the ornamentation at his crotch. It was more than just a lovely bejeweled cup meant to protect his precious assets; there was a little clasp that opened a small compartment, which housed the trigger for his bombs. That had been the plan—get them all in one place and blow it to oblivion. Let them negotiate with their god for forgiveness, for Mercury had none.

Maybe if he timed it just right, he could be shot out of the ventilation system when the explosions went off inside the atrium. Maybe he’d burst through the dome and become a comet, burning up in outer space…a fiery phoenix, beautiful, but never again to rise. He flicked at the latch on his codpiece, but it was stuck tight. Such a fragile thing couldn’t handle being crushed or shot at. Just like with his pretty pistol, he’d succumbed to the lure of form over function.

“Flutterby, flutter by my window…f-flutter by and m-make me…smile…” He began to sing the song looping in his head, the song that always made him feel better. He would forgive them for that last episode. Even the Flutterby Fairies were allowed to have an off-day, weren’t they?

Kind of like the day he was having right now.

“…Fffflutterby, flut-and-butter b-by m-me…” His teeth were chattering now as the cold became more intense, though he was uncertain how much was the air outside and how much was his body protesting his loss of blood.

“…Stay and p-play j-just a little while…”

The blood that had seeped through his clothing felt like icy syrup, while the rest continued to pump hot from the wound in his gut. The voices were gone; all he heard now was his own heartbeat stuttering and hammering in his ears. He continued fingering the clasp, trying to open that secret compartment so he could go out in a blaze of glory, but the metal was slippery and wet, and he was having a difficult time controlling his hands. He hurt. He was afraid and alone. It wasn’t fair.

“Fire in the hole!”

Mercury heard the shout from somewhere up ahead then a loud thunk as something came bouncing into the shaft above his head. There was a flash, enough to blind him, then the hiss as the chemical bomb filled the ventilation shaft with gas.

With his last shred of consciousness, Mercury managed to flip the latch and the little door popped open. His numb finger slipped across the raised ruby button, then everything went black.


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What I’m working on…

These sorts of updates don’t happen very often, mostly because my vicious plot-a-corn will decide to go running off into the trees, and whatever story I thought I was writing goes riding off with him. That could still happen, but considering that this story has been causing me various kinds of trouble for 3+ years, and that I’ve already got over 80k words churned, I’m hoping it doesn’t.

This is probably the toughest enemies to lovers relationship I have ever done. I like to challenge myself, and it’s certainly a challenge to get a sociopathic crime boss (Mercury) and his police escort (Sean) to fall in love. I was (am) hoping to have it out in July, but it could be August (betas have to get hold of it first!) because this is certainly not the kind of relationship that can be rushed. There will be no magic pill to fix Mercury, and he’s pretty broken.

It’s a science fiction story this time as well, so it’s going to be a little darker all the way around. Hopefully there will be enough snarky banter to make up for it. 🙂

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Methods to Madness

The other day while driving, I saw a sign at the local library for creative writing course, and it got me thinking about how every author teaches his or her own techniques

Take outlining, for instance; it’s not like putting on your pants (pardon the overused abstraction). When putting on your pants, there are really only a couple of ways to do it in order to reach the end goal, and not be arrested in public (“…but officer, I’m a bunny-rabbit!”). If writing a book had a recipe, everybody would be using it and we’d all be reading meatloaf and mashed potatoes for the rest of our lives.

Allow me to lead you now down my paths of digression:

My “outlining” method has its own madness. Once, or twice (okay, about 800 times according to my story folder), I have yearned for the right road map that would give me direction and maximize the short time I have to get more stories done. The way outlining has always been presented to me, you do all the work up front, then you just follow the map, allowing the occasional side trip and potty break. I get this, because my day job involves hardware and software. You build something without requirements and you end up with six hoses and a wagon that bends time when the customer only wanted a blue rubber ball. Desperate for this map, I followed a guide a fellow author had recommended and ended up with a beginning, middle, and an end that was all very satisfying.

However… when I sat down to write it all out, my brain became a rock. I was bored already, and I hadn’t even gotten to chapter two.

I mentioned it to a friend who had been listening to my excitement build as I put the thing together. I know now she was behaving like a good parent–listening kindly to a child’s delusions of grandeur without throwing logic at me. These were lessons I had to learn for myself. So when I asked why I felt the way I did, she said, “you’re bored with your story because you’ve already written it.”

Oh. Duh.

I have always had a weird relationship with planning vs. pantsing. Even as an artist, I never understood preliminary sketches. I draw what’s in my head until it’s not there anymore, and that’s all there is. Pretty it up with ink, erase the sketchy pencil marks, shade it with some watercolor and I’m done. With writing, I often only have a rough idea of where the story will end (often it comes out quite differently) and once I have a first draft, I go back and clean it up. I like to think of it as constructing a body, starting with the skeleton, and ending with its fashion-sense. Of course, the skeleton may begin with a thighbone protruding from its eye-socket, but it all works itself out before jewelry.

My initial way of getting to that point, where others will use an outline, I use what I call the Crazy Quilt method (or just plain crazy). If you’ve never seen a crazy quilt before, it’s basically a whole bunch of scraps of material, from velvet to burlap, stitched together to make a final product. There is no clear pattern, yet by the end you have a solid piece fitting within a geometrically pleasing shape.

My “technique” starts with a cup of strong coffee, exploited by an overuse of non-dairy creamer (not because I’m lactose intolerant or a vegan, I just think it’s amazing that they can make chemicals resemble a dairy product).

>>Please allow me a stumble off-track: would somebody please invent a coffee-filter that has measuring lines drawn in? I can’t believe I am the only person who has trouble with math in the morning (okay, always–plus I am so easily distracted that the sound of the furnace coming on can make me lose count…it’s 8 stinking scoops fergodssakes!<<

Anyway, coffee, and–probably–pants.

Then I fire up my laptop, put on the fan (white noise–I live on a busy street and have crappy windows that I haven’t gotten around to replacing yet), and start putting down words. Sometimes I start with what I think will be chapter one, though by the time I reach the end, it’s become chapter two or three. I keep going until the words run out. It could be 30 words or 3,000 in one sitting. Words is words.

And then I have an idea, which may or may not actually fit into the story, that gets jotted down and set somewhere. Maybe it’s an entire chapter, but it could just be a sentence hanging out on its own page (Scrivener is perfect for my style of writing, by the way, and it’s affordable. No, I’m not being paid to endorse it but hey, if they want to throw some money my way, I wouldn’t complain).

After I have a bunch of these pieces, I begin rearranging and stitching them together. One of the other cool things about a crazy quilt is the final decorative stitching. For anybody who understands sewing machine lingo, it can be done without a pressure-foot, so you can make random meandering stitches that circle and cross however, you like. When that is all done, it gets trimmed into a four-cornered shape and hemmed.

One of the most important lessons I learned from my outlining experiment was that there is no right way to write a story. It’s about self- acceptance, forgiving yourself for “flaws”, and silencing the “shoulds”. If it works for you, it works, and while it’s always a good idea to experiment, don’t assume that if it doesn’t work, there is something wrong with you.


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“The stench of loneliness” and “sweet sorrow”

I try to put sensory descriptions in my writing, and one I like to use a lot is the sense of smell. This morning I was researching autopsy rooms (what do you do with your Fridays?). I came across an older blog post, written by forensic pathologist and author, Jonathan Hayes, which imparted some interesting information from his perspective, but still no real answers.

I have been around a few dead bodies in my time. Fortunately, most of them were very recently deceased, in a bag, embalmed, or in the process of being embalmed. The scents I remember are from early “removals” when I was about 12 years old, and the smell remained part of my memory as I worked (for a very brief stint) at a nursing home. Death there smells like old milk, urine, and powdered eggs. A co-worker of mine worked with formaldehyde, which he called a smell of “sweet sorrow” (I’d probably call it burning sugar, acetone, and mud).

But a nursing home death and the bodies already prepped for embalming are “clean”. You get to them quickly, before putrefaction sets in. Death outside of these relatively controlled environments has a very different smell, something Hayes had heard described as “the stench of loneliness”. It’s the smell that a neighbor notices after someone hasn’t been seen around in a while, something the cops refer to as NCFO: Neighbor Complains of Foul Odor.

Some of that can be considered poetic. Beautiful words wrapped around a dark subject, but those words do little to put the reader there—in the harsh, white lights of a cold room—staring down at something that until a few hours or days ago was a living person.

To try and convey any sort of smell requires exposure to, at the very least, its byproducts, with the awareness and ability to make a comparison. While there were powdered eggs in the nursing home, I don’t remember any spoiled milk, but something triggered that comparison in my brain. It’s this awareness and identification of similar things that can take description beyond pretty metaphors. Skin that tastes like coffee, salt, and smoke is a lot more evocative than skin that “tastes like a man.”

If you want to impart a sensory knowledge on the part of your reader, it’s important to take the time to get your comparisons believable. We all like to think our kisses taste like honey, and for a mainstream romance novel, that might very well work (I knew someone whose kisses always tasted like garlic). But a coming from a jaded detective, “honey” sounds out of character or at least cynical (which could also work). Writers who want to give the full effect of the suspension of disbelief have to be able to impart information to readers through the character who is experiencing the sensory stimulation.

So the next time you’re tempted to put in something poetic and flowery to describe a smell or a taste, you may want to sit back and think about how you—how your character—would experience it. Try to conjure up those comparisons, and see if you can put your reader there. It takes a little more time but can be very worth the effort.

Comment and let me know what kinds of descriptions put you “there”. ☺️

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