New Project, Alabasq

As announced on my Facebook page about…  Two minutes ago, work on my newest project has begun.

Alabasq: the planet of alwayswinter.  Where convicts and traitors to the empire are sent to die, and where “screamers” and “malamute men” reign supreme.  A warzone for some, and a never-ending hell for the rest.

In truth, I’d begun writing Alabasq in 2015.  This was going to be the next thing I attempted to get for-real-published.  Except for the fact that by 2015, I was really getting sick and tired of all the rejection.  Also, five chapters in, I really wasn’t liking the direction it was taking.

I initially gave up on the project, and left it on my harddrive to rot.  Two years later, I’m waiting sorta-patiently for cover art, waiting for something to do with my free time, and one of those things included looking over old projects to see if any of them could be salvaged.  Alabasq, weirdly enough, was the only one in the incomplete folder I still ended up kind of liking.  How I didn’t delete everything else, I’ll never know, but that one, I kept for sure.

Admittedly, I’m writing the entirety of the story from scratch.  The original version focused on two characters on opposite sides of the conflict.  I feel that, in hindsight, it’s a wiser idea to focus on just one.  One coin toss later, the story is still set on Alabasq.  It’s just that it’s going to STAY on Alabasq, and the perspective of the story is less War is hell, and nobody wins”, and more “we must overcome tyranny by casting aside the endless bickering of tribalism.”

I have no idea when this book will be finished.  Ideally, sometime in 2018, but I can’t guarantee anything.  At this point, I’ve only kept one chapter of the original project, and even THAT might be heavily revised to fit the new direction.

I’m also going to be on the hunt for a lot of documentaries and research material regarding wildlife and surviving in the tundra.  Probably going to find a lot of documentaries arguing that climate change is real, and that the Antarctic is suffering the worst…  And I won’t disagree with you guys on that one, but honestly, that’s not what I’m looking for.  All suggestions are welcome.  Leave them in the comment box if you have any.

Till then, I’ll keep you posted on what the progress is like over on my Facebook page as always.  I look forward to seeing where this adventure takes us all.

 

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The Hood and the Heroine is Now Available!

 

THATH

 

Roisin O’Malley, better known as Gael, has been released from prison, and joins the army of copycat vigilantes she unintentionally inspired.  Meanwhile, the killer known simply as The Blue Hood continues his killing spree across Sapphire City, leaving an ever growing mountain of dead criminals in his wake.  Dan Adelson: the criminal kingpin the media has since dubbed “The Teal Tyrant”, has joined forces with a cult of assassins known simply as The Diamond Club.  And as if all of this weren’t bad enough, CharKendrick Parks: the serial killer better known throughout Sapphire City and YouTube alike as The Subway Spook, has resumed his murder spree throughout the subways of Sapphire City.  With so many high-profile threats to the city, Gael and The Blue Hood find themselves with quite a bit of common ground, and try their best to build an alliance despite their wildly different outlooks on the true definition of justice.

This is the third, and until further notice, the final chapter of The Gael Saga.  The possibility of sequels aren’t outside the realm of possibility, but without giving too much away, this is DEFINITELY the last book that’ll feature Roisin O’Malley in any way shape or form.

I have had ideas for a possible book 4, and from there, who knows?  Unfortunately, a lot of the ideas I have for book 4 are, at best, scribbles.  I haven’t ruled out the possibility of doing a book 4 further down the line, but for now, everything has been wrapped up in a nice little bundle of completion.  I’m done, I’m done, I’m fucking done!

Not going to lie, this book was an ordeal.  Not an UNPLEASANT ordeal, but this one was the hardest one to write.  Book 1 just oozed out of my head and onto the proverbial paper.  Book 2 was pretty similar in that regard.  Book 3…  Was a lot more complicated.

There were minor inconveniences along the way, like my cover artist unfortunately not being able to meet the deadline I set due to real life and other things happening on their side of the state, and my usual horrible tendency to get distracted by anything shiny.  However, the biggest complication of all was probably actually making it to the finish line.

The Gael Saga is literally the first time in forever that I’ve seen something through from start to finish.  I have several book 1s of this series or that series on my harddrive, but Those books were originally for the for-real publishers.  After months of trying to sell these things to literary agents and publishers alike, I shrugged, said “fuck it”, and went to KDP, but rather than publish all those stories to KDP, I just moved on to the next project.

The Jad Blade Legacy is the first series I’ve written for that’s seen a book 2, and even that one is currently up in limbo due to my parting with Outskirts Press.  I started writing book 3 in 2013, and while I made some degree of progress, I never did get finished with it.

The Gael Saga started in 2016, and ended as of…  Well technically two days ago, but but yeah, it’s officially finished.  End of an era, man.  I’m not sure how to feel about it.  There’s that sense of accomplishment, sure, but there’s a lot of other thoughts in my head as well.  Specifically, where the fuck do I go from here?

All questions will be answered when I get around to it.  In the meantime, enjoy the final chapter of The Gael Saga!

You can get your copy here.

 

So Yeah… No Gael Novel.

So…  Yeah…  Unfortunately, there are some last minute complications.  I alluded to them very briefly on my Facebook, and I don’t plan on going any further into depth than that, but for those who don’t get their Thomas J. Black fix on Facebook…  Yeah, there have been some problems.

For starters, the cover art.  It’s not here yet.  I, nor my artist, anticipated real life getting in the way of things.

Secondly, I’m having…  Words, with KDP currently.

The story has less to do with anything going on with book 3, and more to do with attempting to make repairs to book 2.  A reader on Reader’s Favorite let me know of some minor spelling errors I didn’t catch.  I also wanted to fix a very minor continuity error, and I wanted to switch the interior from color to black and white.  Having a color interior so that the title page can have one word written in orange seems kind of stupid in hindsight.  Plus, it’s already like that on the cover.  Also, I have to sell the book for a minimum price in order to cover printing costs, and when you publish a book with a color interior, that minimum price goes WAY up.  Call me crazy, but $22 for a 170 page book sounds ridiculous.

Furthermore, after uploading the revised manuscript to KDP, I noticed the minimum price actually went from $20 to fucking $30.75!  Now that’s definitely not worth charging for a 170 page book in my opinion.

I’m currently in talks with KDP on how to fix this dilemma, and…  In all honesty, KDP seems stumped.  They gave me an idea or two to try, but there’s no guarantee it’ll work.  Also, They insisted my conversation with them was going to get sent up to corporate.  Apparently, wanting to switch your interior from color to black-and-white, and vise versa, is a possibility the board of directors didn’t anticipate.  Leave it to the blind guy to stumble across something nobody ever thought of, right?  It’s iPhone1 all fucking over again.

So yeah.  complications with all things Gael have made it impossible for me to put up The Hood and the Heroine on time.  Believe me, I cannot apologize enough for the inconvenience.  I do hope to get this all fixed before October.

For the foreseeable future, though, I’m thinking of putting up an ad for a new cover artist.  My current artist does great work, and I’d totally recommend him for a gig if you’re looking for somebody, but from what he’s told me, things are getting a bit hectic on his end of the net, and I may want to consider other options in the future as a result.  Life happens.  I get it.

I can’t guarantee when the book will be out for sure.  I do hope to have it up by October, and if I have to upload a coverless version, then so be it.

Stay tuned to this blog for further news regarding this matter.  I’ll try to keep you posted if any developments occur.

A Taste of Things to Come: The Hood and The Heroine Sample Chapter!

With the release of The Hood and the Heroine mere weeks away, I figured I would further tease the shit out of my audience, and give you guys a bit of a taste of what’s to come.  Enjoy your sample chapter.  Fragment.  Thing.

NOTE: this is the third draft version of the chapter.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors in the text, please keep in mind that this is still being worked on.  Although knowing my process, the third draft is where all the blatantly obvious spelling errors are fixed.  Still, try to keep in mind this might not be the final version of the chapter.

 

 

THE HOOD AND THE HEROINE: BOOK 3 OF THE GAEL SAGA

COPYRIGHT 2017 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

5: ROISIN

Our first mission was that night. I was legitimately surprised how quickly I was able to assemble a group. I thought for sure there were only going to be about two other people. Instead, I ended up with ten people who wanted to take part! Technically nine other people, since it was a guarantee Jennifer was going to come along.

In hindsight, I probably would’ve given them something a little lower profile than an arms deal on the docks. Sure, these were girls who were taking down muggers, and maybe the occasional independent crack dealer in Aventurine Cove. And I suppose even those gigs had all the potential in the world to go south. According to Jennifer, a few of them did.

It was the first time I had to lead an entire team. I wasn’t used to leading anything. I was on teams before, but the only reason gymnasts are on teams is because they represent a school, or a town, or a country. The only time it’s actually a team sport is if you have some sort of two-woman synchronized routine or something. And I’m pretty sure that sort of thing is reserved for swimming, or cheerleading. It’s basically just you throwing shapes on the balance beam, the uneven bars, or even just on the floor.

We got there before the deal took place, and I pointed out the places I used to hide when this was just a solo act. Before Adelson started making this more complicated, and had people meet with other people, who’d then meet with more people, and so on. We hid, and we cast our glamours to blend in with the scenery.

The dealer and his clients showed up a few minutes later. We watched as the dealer (a Russian guy) talked business with a group of men. I counted about five. We had the numbers advantage for sure… But I was having doubts ten girls on their first mission could beat six guys who’d probably done this a bunch of times before, and knew how to deal with trespassers.

The plan was going smoothly… Right up until Jennifer’s phone went off. It was set on vibrate, but even vibrating cell phones make noise. And the sound of the vibrating was enough to shatter her glamour. Worse than that, the damn eejit thought she could sneak up on the guy, and… Well, who knows? Guess we never will now.

Somehow, she avoided becoming a casualty. Hell, the worst she got was a black eye! We all dispelled our glamours, and went into action. I don’t like to throw shapes outside of gymnastics, but at the same time, this wasn’t my first fight. I knew how to dodge, I knew how to disarm, and I knew how to work in an occasional vault, or side flip in between. The other girls, meanwhile, stuck to weaving and dodging the old fashioned way, and for the most part, it worked.

At the end of the melee, all six of the men involved were disarmed, and secured for police pickup. Unfortunately, three of the Gaels were injured. I was no doctor, but I was pretty sure one of them was going to need a miracle, or a day and a half with the Earth to recover from those bullet wounds. All and all, it wasn’t quite how I wanted to end the first mission of the night, but I suppose someone more military minded than I would say the important thing is that the mission was a success.

And then he showed up. Right in the middle of our interrogation, I heard something. A couple of the girls panicked… And I can’t blame them too much. Again, it’s their first mission. Also, my plans for the mission hadn’t counted on him showing up.

I looked over, and saw one of the six men we’ve apprehended was now dead. A ninja star was lodged into his throat, and blood was fountaining out of him as he lay there on the ground.

Just as I was calming the girls down, I saw another ninja star come out of the shadows! I dodged… Only to realize the star wasn’t intended for me in the first place. The dealer I was interrogating got hit right between the eyes, and fell to the ground screaming in agony.

“Show yourself!” I shouted.

“Get out while you can!” a voice shouted back. It was clear he was using some sort of voice changer to hide his identity, but it was a little unsettling how deep he’d set it. It sounded like feckin’ Satan had just told me to get out.

To my annoyance, a few of the girls decided to take his advice, and bail. Before I could convince them to get back here, another ninja star came out of the shadows, and killed another of the dealers. Then another. And another. By the time I could get some semblance of order, only one guy was left standing. Before he could throw one more star, I got in front of the last target.

“This one lives!” I shouted.

“Why?” the demon voice demanded.

I thought it over for a second, and replied, “This is clearly an Adelson operation. If we can’t figure out where Adelson is hiding, he can at least forward a message for me.”

There was silence for a moment. Most likely, he was contemplating a possibility that hadn’t occurred to him. Then, he responded.

“You won’t get anything out of these guys,” he said. “But if you really want to advertise yourself to Dan Adelson that badly…”

Rather than finish his sentence, I guess he decided to take his exit.

The police eventually came, and apprehended the surviving dealer. I made it a point to glamour myself and go into hiding, letting Jennifer and The Gael Army take all the credit for it. And to be honest, they deserved it. Cell phone mishap notwithstanding, they handled themselves a lot better than I was expecting, and were able to improv just fine when our cover was blown. Considering ole Starman was another little variable we hadn’t counted on, they could’ve done a lot worse.

The man was apprehended, and taken to jail (I assume). The rest of the girls were also taken down to the station, but compared to the survivor, it was more for testimony than for any counts of vigilante justice.

I was able to sneak my way past the officers as they put up the tape, and began their investigation. The next morning, the details would be made public to the masses. And it wasn’t till I saw the reports that I realized what just happened.

The Gael Army did get a couple mentions, but as far as the media was concerned, we were just bystanders. They made it sound like we’d shown up too late, and tried to talk him out of killing all of them. It was annoying, but only slightly. Especially when it occurred to me right then and there that I had just come face to face with none other than The Blue Hood himself.

9/1/2017: The Hood and The Heroine Semi-Official Release Date!

I’d gotten word from my cover artist that he’ll most likely have the cover art for The Hood and the Heroine finished around September the first.  At least, that’s how I interpreted the text message he sent me during our last exchange of texts.

The fact I’m not entirely certain is why I have this down as a SEMI-official release date.  It’s subject to change, but barring another fucking power outage, I have a feeling everything on my end will be ready and available for sure.

Indeed, the blackout this past weekend that left me without electricity for two straight days has set me back a bit.  Admittedly, book 3 of this whole series has probably been the most challenging.  According to my original plan, I was hoping to be done with this series a month ago.  Between family emergencies, writer’s block, and the fact I get distracted by shiny things, it wasn’t to be.

I’m not even sure Sept. 1 will be the day you see this book.  However, that seems to be the most likely date for sure.

For sure, the book is done.  I’m in the process of spellchecking it.  A task that, considering the character of CharKendrick parks is one of the narrators, is a real fucking chore.  I should be done with the spellchecking real soon, and I’ll be reading through it for continuity errors I missed the first couple read-throughs just in case.  Rest assured, the hard parts are pretty much done.

If you don’t see The Hood and the Heroine on Amazon.com by Sept. 2, and I don’t say anything, assume that there were complications.  I try my best to meet deadlines, but let’s face it, fate is a fan of Murphy’s Law.  And I don’t mean MILO Murphy’s Law.  Although as far as Disney cartoons go, Milo Murphy isn’t terrible.

Till then, mark your calendars, and tune in again for further news as it becomes available.  Also, whatever other insane babble I have lined up.

Regarding Jade Blade Legacy

In 2012, I began the epic experiment in self-publishing. A coin toss ultimately decided on whether I published Jade Blade Legacy, or another book whose main character eventually found her way into HikikoMorey. As of the publication of HikikoMorey, I have reservations about that story EVER seeing the light of day, but I digress.
If I’d known KDP was cheaper, I’d have gone with KDP in the early going. True, paperback versions wouldn’t be available, but the importan thing is I wouldn’t have wasted an insane amount of money on Mahinder’s Grand Tournament and The Scarlet-Ruby War like I had. Probably would’ve been able to pay off my credit cards a lot sooner, too. Oh well, live and learn.
Because I’m in penny-pinching mode at the moment, I’ve opted to sever my ties with Outskirts Press altogether. I haven’t heard back on whether or not my account has been shut down as of this posting. Apparently, you have to email their marketing department and explain why you’re closing your account. Here, in a day and age when even OKcupid has a button in the MY ACCOUNT section, and a multiple choice question that you technically don’t even have to answer if none of the choices express how disappointed you are with the human race… But I’m getting distracted again.
Once my account is closed, I have to wait a minimum of ninety days before I reupload my books to KDP. So unless you have a paperback version, it’ll probably be 2018 before you can access these books again.
Although in honesty, I have reservations about reuploading the books at all, really. The Jade Blade Legacy books were books I was a lot more proud of in 2012 and 2013. They’ve both received positive reviews (Mahinder’s Grand Tournament moreso than Scarlet-Ruby War), but I don’t know. I do tend to be my own worst critic when it comes to my writing, and it was made very clear to me that I had made a couple typos in book 1 I unfortunately couldn’t fix like I can with KDP. Well technically I could, but it’d cost fifty bucks. Fifty bucks I wasn’t able to part with because I’d already spent a shit ton getting the fucking things published in the first place, and promoting it with some services Outskirts Press provides in the meantime.
For sure, I’ll reupload the first two books once the ninety-day waiting period is up. Barring that, I’ll upload them some time around 2018. For now, though, understand that these things happen, and I’ll try to get them back up as soon as possible. Hel, I might even revise them! Fix those errors that drive me crazy.

GRRM Syndrome?

There have been moments lately where I find myself wondering if I may be afflicted with GRRM syndrome.  GRRM syndrome, for the record, is what I call it when someone gets so bogged down by side projects that the stuff they’ve been promising for fucking ever never shows up, and eventually, everybody gives up.  In the case of George R. R. Martin, the condition’s namesake, it’s The Winds of Winter.  For The Kovenant, it’s “Aria Galactica”.  For me…  I was about to say The Hood and the Heroine, but honestly, it’s looking more and more like World War Jade: book 3 of The Jade Blade Legacy is my GRRM syndrome.

In 2011, I wrote the first book in The Jade Blade Legacy: Mahinder’s Grand Tournament.  I also wrote another story…  And in hindsight, I’d have donated THAT story to the self-publishing experiment.  It was a one-shot, and I’d only have to pay half of what I was paying before now.  But I went with Jade Blade.  The damage is done, and all I can do is learn from my mistakes.  And eventually republish what I have under KDP when the 90-day no-republishing clause runs its course.

I wrote book 1 not expecting much.  I wrote book 2 the very next year.  Then I started writing book 3.  I’m sitting on twenty-plus chapters of unspellchecked, unproofread book that isn’t finished, and probably never WILL be finished at the rate I’m going.

In large part, it was due to some side projects in 2014.  I’d written something for NaNoWriMo in 2014, and had ambitions of seeing it get for-real-published in 2015.  Those ambitions were never met, for the record.  2015, and 2016 (especially 2016) were dedicated to playing with KDP, and at the time, Createspace.

I published HikikoMorey: a novella(?) that forever stands as the single most pretentious thingI’ve ever written.  It’s undergone its share of changes (mostly in the area of book covers), but it’s still there, and I guess people like it.  I’ve heard nothing about people hating it on Amazon.  Then again, I’m not exactly scanning my Amazon page like a hawk.

As 2016 progressed, I put up other stories.  I wrote and published both Novellas of Highfill, Kansas.  I also put up Charlie’s Chocolate Factory of Unspeakable Horrors, which is probably the one I’m the most proud of.  And of course, there’s The Gael Saga.  It’s still in progress, and I do plan on finishing it as quickly as possible.  So far, so good.

Then I started a podcast.

 

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What started as something to occupy my free time while I waited for cover art.  Lately, though, I find I’ve been having fun with it.  Even if a grand total of 6 people are listening, and I actually know who 2 of them are in real life.  HINT: 2 of them share an account.  Honestly, 6 followers was about 4 more than I was expecting.

And just in case that wasn’t enough to occupy the down time I could’ve spent on books, I began streaming recently as well.

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRnAU1061TYhHLhpotkbjtA

 

The fact I haven’t been trying to stream a lot sooner than now…  Well, there’s actually a couple reasons for that.

First of all, I only just recently gotten a hold of a PS4 headset that actually fucking works.  Either the PS3 headset isn’t compadible, or my PS3 headset was a piece of crap.  Really, I’ll believe either one.  Also, while I may be confident enough to put out a story like The Gael Saga, knowing all well there’s references to the counterintuitivity of superheroes in real life, foot fetishism, and a general disdain for corporate billionaires…  Being on a mic and playing a video game at the same time is a different story.  I honestly didn’t know how The Game Grumps do it, but considering it’s a one man show, I decided that maybe The Spoony Experiment’s Livewire series might be more appropriate research material.

Four videos later, I’ve blown it at Texas Holdem, sent my favorite characters from Darkest Dungeon I’ve been building up and protecting since January to their horrifying gruesome deaths in a quest to find and kill The Shuffling Horror, played some Feist, and celebrated Stone Cold Steve Austin day (3/16).  Not everything was particularly successful, but I still had fun doing it, and I still have ideas for how for other possible stream ideas.

So between The Gael Saga, a podcast, and a stream series, I’ve really had no time to work on Jade Blade Legacy lately.  I joke around, and say I’m ultimately holding book 3 of that series hostage.  Until GRRM finishes The Winds of Winter, you’re never going to see book 3 of Jade Blade.  That idea, however, is kind of flawed.

For starters, I don’t have NEARLY the following GRRM does.  I really can’t afford to piss a couple people off, even if it’s a joke.

Also, it’s very likely we’ll never see The Winds of Winter.  I suppose GRRM’s estate could hand the project over to Brandon Sanderson: the human printing press, and we’d get both The Winds of Winter AND A Dream of Spring in the same year.  More than likely, though, I need to quit making the joke, and just get that shit written down when I’m done with Gael.

I have a really bad feeling that these might not end up being the only side projects I do.  Whatever the other ones are, who can say?  I just know they’re lurking in the horizon.

And yeah, first chance I get, I’m updating the ABOUT ME page with those links.

Book 3 Under Way!

Technically, I began work on book 3 of The Gael Saga yesterday, but I’m only just now getting around to announcing it here on the blog.  Never the less, here’s some details to keep in mind.

Book 3’s current working title is The Hood and The Heroine.  On one hand, don’t expect that title to stick.  On the other hand, don’t be surprised if, despite my recommendation, the title ends up sticking.

I have a bit of a habit of coming up with a working title, looking over my completed manuscript, and deciding that in the end, the working title is good enough to stay.  Lifers Wear Orange was originally a placeholder title till I came up with something better.  I was reluctant to keep the title at first, because it sounded too much like Orange is the New Black: a pretty good autobiographical book about what it was like to spend a year in a women’s prison that eventually got adapted into a Netflix show I gave up on the very moment I saw the “I miss the misery” angle coming down the hall.  After some time, though, it ended up sticking.

Some of the titles I have for book 3 are as follows:

 

A. The Hood and the Heroine.

B. The Diamond Club.

C. The Gael Army.

D. Diamond is Forever.

E. The War of Five Kings.

 

SPOILER: The Diamond Club is a new faction that’ll be making its debut in book 3 of The Gael Saga .  The Gael Army was introduced in book 2, but will ultimately play more of a role in book 3.  Apparently, here in the notepad in my head, Diamond is Forever is a sort of catchphrase the leader of The Diamond Club has for herself, but I’ve already dismissed this as a title.  Frankly, I’m thinking of not using that, period.

Naming the book after either The Diamond Club, or The Gael Army seems like the wrong way to go.  I like The Hood and the Heroine thus far, because a large portion of the book deals with the interactions/fights between Gael and The Blue Hood.  Also, while The War of Five Kings is based on a quote Dan Adelson makes in his first chapter, I have a feeling George R. R. Martin is probably going to sue me over it.  Though none of HIS books are called that, that’s ultimately what the war throughout A Song of Ice and Fire is called.  I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking too hard about all that.  I’ve only got about a chapter and a half down as of this blog post, so it’s possible I won’t use ANY of these titles.

I look forward to getting this book done with.  I was originally planning on ending this series on book 3…  Although at the time I’m writing this, I’m really liking the concepts going into The Diamond Club.  If I end up deciding on a book 4, try not to be too surprised.  Don’t count on it, but don’t be too surprised.

That’s all the news I really have for now.  Stay tuned for more TJB flavored goodness!

After months of writing, proofreading, waiting for cover art, getting distracted by Darkest` Dungeon, and still more proofreading, Book 2 of The Gael Saga (formerly known simply as Gael) is now available!

Roisin O’Malley: the masked vigilante known by many as Gael, has been arrested, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Dan Adelson, the criminal kingpin the media has since dubbed “The Teal Tyrant”, has SOMEHOW been cleared of all charges, and finds himself engaged in corporate warfare with the man who’d be his successor.  The police force, now reduced to a third of their original manpower thanks to Adelson’s previous efforts, find themselves barely capable of contending with an ever increasing crime rate, as well as a group of copycat vigilantes calling themselves The Gael Army.  And as if all of this weren’t bad enough, a masked killer has emerged, leaving a trail of dead bikers, gangsters, and even corporate assassins in his wake.  What will become of Sapphire City now that all out bedlam has broken out?  And what will happen to Roisin, now that she must spend the rest of her life in a cage with her arch enemy?

The Gael Saga has been one of my favorite things to write lately, and I’m really happy this one is FINALLY available for purchase.  Admittedly, this one didn’t come spilling out onto the page quite like book 1 did, but I’m still very proud of how this one turned out.

Fair warning: this book, like many in a series, operates under the assumption you’ve read book 1 first.  I’m not saying you’ll be lost, or confused, or anything if you decide to start here…  Although I do seem to be thinking it pretty loudly.  It seems idiotic that I have to say this out loud, but if my mom has proven anything, it’s that people have an uncanny habit of picking up a series right in the middle on the assumption you can start anywhere.  Believe me, the days of episodic tales are long over.  That’s just the way it is.

You can get your copies right here.

 

 

 

Christmas Present: Lifers Wear Orange Sample Chapter!

As the old song goes: “If I ain’t drunk, it ain’t Christmas.”  I guess it’s Christmas, because despite how much Baha’i god hates it, I got liquored up on Pie Hole (pecan pie flavored whiskey), and had me a merry-ass Christober.  Or whatever.  Yeah, I’m still wobbly, and my back aches just like it did in July.  Strangely, not as badly as it did in July.

After hanging out with my family, and playing a drunken game of Exploding Kittens with everybody (BTW, I highly recommend that game), I’m back, I’m at a bit of a roadblock in Darkest Dungeon (more to come on that), and The Chiefs don’t play for another hour or so, so I figured now would be the perfect time to give you little imps your Christmas present.

The wrapping paper comes off, and to your amazement/disappointment/perplexity, it’s the official sample chapter for Lifers Wear Orange!  ENJOY!

NOTE: Lifers Wear Orange’s speculated release date is some time in late January, or early February.  More on that as it gets to me.  I might also note that this version of the chapter is the second draft.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors or what not, try to keep in mind this is still being proofread.

 

 

 

LIFERS WEAR ORANGE: BOOK 2 OF GAEL

 

COPYRIGHT 2016 THOMAS J. BLACK

 

4: ROISIN

 

I arrived at Camelbrook penatentury the day after my trial. It was a step up from the county jail. At least, up until I got past the front offices. Once I was escorted into the prison proper… Well… It’s honestly very amazing how one side of the building can look so nice, and the rest of the building look like hell on Earth. And Earthcrafters don’t even believe in hell.

The floors were filthy, say for a fresh white line of paint that separated various bits of the facility from other parts. The guard, a large man with a bleach blonde mullet, handlebar moustache, and biceps the size of bowling balls, immediately assured me I wouldn’t have to worry about that line.

“That line only applies to inmates assigned to tempblock,” he told me. “You’re going into liferblock.”

He took me to an empty room, and handed me over to another guard. This one wasn’t nearly as tall, but she was just as bored with her job as Muscle Man over there was. She looked over her clipboard, then looked directly at me.

“Ro-ee-sin O’Malley?” she said, not sure how to pronounce my name.

“ROW-SHEEN,” I corrected, trying really hard to hide my annoyance at that point.

“Whatever,” she replied, apathetically. “Take it off.”

As I stripped, I could hear the sound of a rubber glove being pulled on. Her gloved hand searched my body from neck to arse, she asking me to “squat and cough” somewhere toward the end of it. When she was finally convinced I wasn’t smuggling anything in, she pulled off the glove, and threw it in the trash.

“You’re clean,” she said, apathetic as before. She walked over to a table, and pulled out a bundle of orange clothes. “Put these on.”

I did as I was told. Included in the bundle of clothing was a white sports bra, an orange sweater, orange sweatpants, and a white pair of panties so bulky that they could’ve easily been Y-fronts. The orange clothes smelled like they’d just come from the laundry, but somehow managed to look dirty despite it. She then handed me a pair of gray socks, then a pair of black crocks.

Campbell will escort you next door for your prison ID,” she explained, as bored as anything else. “Make any stupid faces, and it’ll count as a strike.”

Campbell, the man I’d called “muscle man” in my head, came into the room, and escorted me into the next place I needed to be. I stood in front of a blue wall, and a black man who had to be in his seventies at absolute youngest snapped my picture with some contraption attached to his computer. A few minutes later, I was handed a warm laminated card with my picture, my name (the accent mark over the second I in ROISIN missing), and the number 70259 printed underneath it.

“Orientation is down the hall,” the elderly man told me. “Campbell will escort you there.”

Campbell took me out of the room, and escorted me down the hall. As we walked, I couldn’t help but notice a chubby little brunette mopping the floor up ahead. I guessed she was one of the inmates at first, considering she was wearing a jumpsuit with a number on the front and back. Strangely, though, her jumpsuit was powder blue.

“Stay in bounce, inmate,” Campbell warned.

“I’m on janitorial,” she replied.

“All the same,” said Campbell.

He must’ve noticed the look I was giving the inmate then, because I didn’t even have time to ask the question. “She’s a temp,” he explained. “Temps wear blue.   Lifers wear orange.”

“Ooph, a lifer,” said the inmate. “I do not envy you. No sir, I do not…”

“That’s enough, inmate,” said Campbell, a hint of warning in his tone.

He walked me past her, and eventually, after a couple turns this way and that, we arrived in what appeared to be an office. There was definitely a desk, a couple filing cabinets, a phone, a walky-talky, and a couple chairs. Behind the desk sat a man who looked like he was expecting me.

This new man was a black fella with a bald head, and a tan suit with a black tie. He was about the same height I was, but a lot pudgier. His face was clean shaven, but his suit looked like it could use a wash.

“Ah, Ms. O’Malley, I presume,” he greeted. His voice had a very thick Jamaican accent. Not what I was expecting, in all honesty. “Welcome to your new home. My name is Jeremy Young, and I will be the one looking after you from now on.”

“Uh… Okay,” was all I could say.

“Normally,” he continued, “we hold orientation in the movie room, but since you’re the only new inmate we’ve had in three months, I might as well just tell you everything you need to know here. Saves me a trip.”

He picked up a couple papers from his desk, and began to read their contents out loud.

“You are here because you’ve broken the law,” he said, mechanically and hurredly. “You are now, and until the end of your sentence, state property. You will do everything the guards tell you to do. Failure to comply will result in a strike. Three strikes will result in you spending any amount of time we see fit in solitary. Depending on the severity of your offense, you might not even receive strikes prior to confinement in solitary. Consecutive solitary confinements, or the severity of the offense that results in said solitary confinements will result in you being transferred to a medium, maximum, or even a supermaximum security facility if necessary. Good behavior, meanwhile, will result in privileges ranging from longer phone calls, specialty items, and any other privileges we deem worthy of your behavior. You will be sharing living space with many other women. Yes, some of them are lesbians. No, you will not be forced into having lesbian sex with any of…”

He paused then, looking over his paperwork. It was then that I realized he actually wasn’t reading from a paper, but reciting this whole routine from memory! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little impressed, although I immediately figured it was because he’d done this so many times before I came here. I wasn’t sure what was on his paperwork until he spoke up again.

“Oh dear,” he said. “You appear to be rooming with her.”

“Who’s her?” I asked.

“You’ll meet her soon enough,” he told me. “We’ll be checking her for forks or knives, but you may want to be on your best behavior around her just in case we missed something. She’s been a bit of a problem case.”

That really didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. He was in no hurry to tell me everything would be fine, either. Probably because he wasn’t obligated. Or maybe because it really wasn’t. Either way, he finished his speech, and before I knew it, we were on the move once again.

I was taken down a flight of stairs. There, I saw cell after cell along both walls. Most cells had two women in them, but occasionally, I’d see a cell with only one woman in it. I kept thinking for sure I was going to get crammed in there with the enormous black woman. Or maybe I’d end up with the Indian woman with the weird tattoo on her forehead (it wasn’t your usual red dot mark you usually see on Hindu women’s foreheads). Or maybe even the woman with the shoulder sling. It turned out neither of them were going to be my cellmate.

He took me down to the very end of the hall. Another guard, an equally large man with a black buzzcut, took one look at me, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a massive ring of keys, and after a moment or two of looking through them all, he found the one he was looking for, used it to unlock the barred door, and pulled the cell door aside.

Campbell moved me forward… And that’s when I saw who I’d be rooming with for the rest of my life. My eyes locked on to hers as she just sat there on the bottom bunk. She didn’t seem to recognize me right away, but I recognized her immediately. A horrified gasp escaped me as I backed up a step.

“Meet your new roomy,” said Campbell, oblivious… Or more likely, uninterested in my state of shock.

“Try not to stab this one, Mahoney,” said the other guard.

Campbell nudged me forward. Left with no options, I did as he instructed, and went into the cell. The other guard slammed the door, locked the lock, and went on his way. Campbell, meanwhile, peaked in through the bars.

“Dinner’s at eighteen-hundred hours,” he told me. “In the meantime, I suggest you two get to know each other a little better.”

I didn’t have to get acquainted with her a little better: we’d already met a couple weeks ago back at Ron Swanson National Park. I wasn’t sure what her real name was, although I remembered that other guard called her Mahoney. But I knew what she went by. And now, I was locked in a cell with her. Badb: the woman who tried to kill me in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who tried to hit on me while I was in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who stabbed me in the arse in my Gael persona. Oh yeah, we were acquainted.

Or that’s what I thought, anyway. She was still looking me over when the guard left, but after a couple moments of incredibly uncomfortable silence, she went back to staring at her shoes.

“Hi,” I greeted anxiously.

“Hey,” she replied, apathetically.

I slowly, cautiously took a seat next to her on the bottom bunk. Seeing how she was way more interested in her feet than me, I took in the scenery. Or lack there of. The floor of the cell was the same greenish-gray as the rest of the prison, and the walls were the same dull grayish color. The only things in our cell were the bunk bed we were sitting on, and a toilet off in the corner. A week ago, that probably would’ve revolted me, but now, having been left with no alternative to watching four other women take turns on the bog, it wasn’t so shocking. At least this one had paper.

“So,” said Badb. Or I guess she was Mahoney now. “What’s your name?”

I cleared my throat. “Roisin,” I said.

There was a moment of silence between us as I feared that’d be what she needed to put two and two together. Once again, she didn’t seem to figure anything out.

“Roisin what?” she asked.

“Roison O’Malley,” I answered.

Again I feared, and again, she didn’t figure it out.

“Barbara Mahoney,” she said. “Call me Mahoney. Girls who don’t have nicknames around here generally go by last names. From what I’ve observed, they only go by first names if they both have the same last name, and nothing about them deserves a nickname.”

“Oh. Okay. So… I should go by O’Malley then?”

“Pff, with an accent like that, you’re probably going to end up with something Irish as a nickname. Or maybe just Irish.”

There was more silence between us. Then…

“Okay, let’s get this much straight,” said Mahoney, immediately shifting from bored to authoritative. “I get the top bunk, you get the bottom. You keep your back to me when I’m on the shitter. When we’re out in the cafeteria, or in the showers, or the recreation room, you stay near me at all times.”

“Do I need to put my finger in your belt loop?” I asked.

“Nah, nothing like that. Unless you really want to.” She shot me a sly grin that disappeared as quickly as it arrived. “Good news is you don’t have to worry about dropping the soap around here. First off, because they give us body wash. Second, because women usually aren’t like that. You aren’t interested, they’ll take the hint. Eventually.”

“Um, okay. What’s the bad news, then?”

“Other than a few of these women are really persuasive on top of being lonely, horny, and decided to be gay for the stay? Not much. Either way, if one of them decides not to take the hint, you tell me, and I’ll make sure they get the hint. Trust me, they’ll take the hint then. The two or three who won’t got stuffed in the box yesterday, and word has it they aren’t coming back, so…”

“The box?”

“Solitary. You get three strikes, and…”

“Oh, okay, I know what that is. The Jamaican guy explained that part.”

“Oh. Right. Well anyway, the point of all this is if you don’t want to get into a fight, or you don’t want someone trying to flirt with you, you stick with me, got it?”

“Got it.”

She didn’t say anything for a while. This seemed to be the pattern we’d established: long silences, and short question and answer sessions in between.

“So,” I asked, carefully, “What are you in for?”

Babs snorted. “Where do I start?” she replied. “Well, I guess trying to stab someone to death a couple weeks ago was what got me here. Really, though, this isn’t even my first time in prison. But it’ll definitely be the last.”

“What got you here the first time?”

“I wasn’t here the first time I went to prison. Technically, I’d gone to juvi the first time. Spent most of my high school years in juvi.”

“Oh. Uh, for what?”

She shot me a dirty look then. “Never you mind.”

“Well… Uh… I mean, we’re going to be here for life, and…”

“And how is knowing what I went to juvi for going to benefit you?”

I didn’t answer.

“Exactly. Never mind how we got here, because you’re here, and you’re never getting out.” She stood up then, and jumped up to the top bunk. “I’m taking a nap. A little hint: nap frequently. It helps pass the time when you’re in the cell.”

I didn’t say anything. What would be the point? Mahoney was pretty sure that was the end of the conversation, and there was no changing her mind.

I flopped down on my own bed underneath hers, and tried to take her advice. I don’t know if it was nerves, or just not being all that shattered, but I just couldn’t go to sleep. I was very thankful she didn’t realize Roisin O’Malley and Gael were the same person, but I had a feeling there was a lot more to worry about in here than that. I was not looking forward to my time here, but it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been all in vein.