The Title for Special Delivery Book Three, a Tentative Blurb, and an Epic Poem of Thanks

funny-pictures-beowulf-bill-catThis post really does contain an epic poem. Here’s why.

Last week Samhain officially bought the third book in the Special Delivery series, but marketing wanted a different title than the one I’d given it (Better Than Love) because they thought the tone was a little off. Damon Suede was thrilled, because he’s hated it this whole time, and the more I thought about it, I didn’t like that the pattern for books one and two were ADJECTIVE NOUN and this one was a phrase. I also really, really hate arguing with marketing, as their entire job is to sell my book and make us all money.

Unfortunately I suck at retitling. I mean, I well and truly am worthless as all hell at it. Once it’s in my head, I can’t get it out. Yet sometimes it’s important. Loose Id made me change Dance With Me‘s original title (Two to Tango) because another book had a similar title not long before it. At the time I was bummed but now I’m so glad. I was hoping for some of that here, but I could NOT think of another title. We tried everything, I swear to God. I enlisted a whole new troop of betas over it too. We had a hell of a lot of close, but the only one we felt halfway good about, marketing didn’t like either.

Marie offered to try and read on the plane, but I could tell she was already tired of me rejecting everything she suggested. Everyone was, I’m sure. Nothing felt right, though, and I was getting hella frustrated.

Then Marie gave the manuscript to Rowan, who had offered to try. She stayed up really, really late reading it, but even before she was done she came up with, ironically, something Marie had already said but we’d dismissed and forgotten.


The more I sat with it, the more I liked it, and so did almost all the betas. Sasha and Saritza liked it too, and today we heard that marketing concurred. So the third Special Delivery book, formerly referred to as Better Than Love, is officially titled TOUGH LOVE.

There’s already a book page at Goodreads, and because my review notes were flooded with questions, I put up a blurb draft and answered some questions. I will answer some here too if you like.

Blurb draft:

Crescencio Ortiz doesn’t need anyone or anything to live out his dreams, but when Steve Vance steps into his life, a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal. When Steve reconnects Chenco to his half-brother Mitch Tedsoe and his tribe of influential friends, Chenco goes from homeless to living out every dream he’s ever had, including performing his drag act on the Las Vegas stage. Every dream, that is, except getting Steve Vance to see him as more than just a helpless boy he needs to save.

Steve has too many demons of his own to get involved with Chenco, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose Jennifer Lopez-inspired drag act redefines fabulous and fierce, whose budding inner masochist makes Steve’s sadist tremble with need, Steve begins to realize Chenco’s relentless tough love might be the only thing that can set him free.

Warning: This story contains fabulous drag queens, exhibitionist secondary characters, and steaming-hot BDSM play.

I’m not giving the tagline I sent, because I think it sucks. I’ll let marketing fix that too.

However. In the meantime, in a rash moment on twitter I promised Rowan an epic poem if she titled my book for me. Since she did in fact do that, I had a poem to pen. Here it is, after the cut.

Seamus Heaney, I’m so sorry.


Abuse of Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf Translation by Heidi Cullinan


So.  The Cullinan in days gone by had titled her own works

And the betas read them with courage and greatness.

We have heard of those readers’ heroic campaigns.

There was Jo, scourge of many scribes,

A wrecker of weak manuscripts, rampaging among passive voice.

With her was Brandt, terror of the accidental entendre.

As always the husband Dan waxed and his worth was proved.

Forget not the boy-child named Jason,

A comfort sent who caught accidental name-switches.

The glorious Almighty Suede, this man renowned

Told Cullinan to stop letting Steve off so easily

And scrounge deeper for his character.

Cullinan heard this all and paid tribute in the acknowledgments.

So times were pleasant for the people there

Until one department began to work their havoc in the world.

Marketing was the name of this grim guardian

Haunting the marches, marauding round Samhain

And the desolate email clients.

They said Better Than Love sounds like a sweet Harlequin

And pointed out this story had flogging and needle play.

The Eternal Lords exacted a task: Rename this book.

And out of the repose of armchairs there sprang

Betas and editors and sickly agents

And the Geoff too who strove with Suede.

Sexton took pity on the maddened author

And as she crossed over into the UK Meet

She promised to read it on the plane.

Lara took up her pen as well, as did Max of the Field.

They shouldered the tome and brainstormed titles

Delivering them lo these many emails and Skype chats.

But no title could serve the high standards of Marketing.

One attempt was sent into their harbour,

Tentative, desperate, a shot in the dark.

The said no and sent back suggestions,

And said chew on it over the holiday.

The heroes did. Endless attempts

Were piled upon the author, but to no avail.

I never heard before of friends so well armed

With thesauri, lists of oxymorons.  The massed treasure

Was loaded on top of Cullinan.

The second wave of betas decked her no less bountifully

With offerings than those first ones did

But she cast them all away, and swore she’d call it SON OF A BITCH

If she didn’t find a title soon.

Reow’s name was known through the north.

Rowan Speedwell by trade,

Traveling also with Sexton to the UK Meet.

Sexton, tired of brainstorming

Gave her steadfast companion the manuscript

When she offered to give titling a try.

Doing someone else’s work for them

Is the path to power among people everywhere.

Cullinan said “Please, read on,”

And Reow set out alone over the kindle

Reading late into the night

Even though she had to get up at 5AM.

No man can tell

No wise woman on twitter or weathered veteran

Knew for certain who would find the title

Just that they were tired of Cullinan saying “that’s not it.”

All else had given up.

It fell to Reow to keep the forts.

She was well regarded and read much

For a long time after Sexton went to bed.

The great Speedwell held sway snug in her bed

While the strange landlord scribbled passive aggressive notes in the hallway.

The fortunes of war favored Reowulf.

She said, “What about TOUGH LOVE?”

And soon it stood there, the perfect title

Finished and ready, in full view,

The work complete.

Sexton had said this lo these many days ago

But dismissed it out of hand

And Cullinan could not yet see its brilliance.

But Reow knew.

She had settled on it, and her utterance was law.

Through Reow Cullinan thought it sounded perfect

Certainly better than SON OF A BITCH

She sent it to her Knight and Hernandez

Who thought it was pretty good too.

So the title went to Marketing at the table.

This time no doom abided,

The killer instinct of those who know how to sell books

Unleashed their wisdom.

And the clear song of Reow, a skilled poet,

Moved them to say “Yes, this works.”

So, via email, Knight sent out the news

And told Cullinan to fill out her tipsheets forthwith.

So as promised Cullinan wrote an epic poem for Reowulf,

Copying and pasting from the original until it served,

Working from the Seamus Heaney translation as Reow had requested.

Then the Geat people of Goodreads began to construct

To-read lists of the work even before the blurb was up,

Asking if the original characters would be returning.

Cullinan assured them they would

And gave them a draft blurb to ease the pain of waiting.

We must now all praise Reow’s heroic exploits

And give thanks for her greatness; which is the proper thing,

For really an author should come up with her own titles

But sometimes it takes a village.

So the Geat people, the beta readers,

The fans who’d been waiting three fricking years for a sequel

Happy to have the end of their languishing in sight,

They raised great thanks to Rewoulf

Kindest to the people and keenest at finding titles.

Three cheers for Rowan Speedwell

Without whom I would still be gnashing my teeth

And still without a title for book three.

I hope this humble offering has amused thee

Offering some small recompense for your troubles.

13 Comments on “The Title for Special Delivery Book Three, a Tentative Blurb, and an Epic Poem of Thanks

  1. That blog post took more effort than I have put into my job in a week. Not sure if that says more about you than about me, but whatever. I eagerly await Special Delivery’s re-release and Tough Love. I jumped in with Double Blind before the whole… situation… and can’t wait to go backwards, and forwards.

    • I’ve actually written epic poem parodies before, butchering Milton and Wordsworth. It’s freakishly easy once you get into it. Plus I’ve done nothing but website and tip sheets for days. My brain was desperate to make something.

      Yes, I know, this pesky little hold over. Not long now. Well, relatively.

  2. I’m so excited to read this one! Can’t wait!! (I know, I’m trying to be patient.) 🙂 Tough Love sounds PERFECT! Bless you Rowan Speedwell!

  3. I’ll have to tease Rowan the next time I see her. She’s a brilliant and kind woman, slayer of titles. Congratulations on the third installment of Special Delivery. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Well … that’s depressing | Jaye Em Edgecliff

  5. What a great post. And I agree with others Perfect Title and can’t wait to read it. And Rowan I think I would insist on Reowulf forever too.

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