Sunday, 17 February 2019

Progress on the writing front - Moonstruck

I've just wrapped up my editing pass for "Moonstruck", which is an old book but had all its names and title changed, so I needed to make sure that it works and that I take out a few lines I didn't like. The fun effect is I ended up liking the new names a lot more than the originals.

I re-read and proofread the bulk of it yesterday, though I don't recommend proofing 60k in one day. In its defense, it was fairly clean. I'm still waiting for beta feedback from a second pair of eyes, but I've scheduled the release for 12 April (I'm just trying to space out books so I have the next one ready or near-ready when a book releases - I've found it's better for troop morale). Below is the amazing cover from Tiferet Design.


Anthony Rawson is screwed. Fans, producers, and his agent are all chomping at the bit for the next book in his wildly popular Triple Moon series, but he’s got epic writer’s block and is way behind deadline. Then he reads Axis Mundi, a fanfic novel by his online friend “SirMarrok.” It isn’t just a great story—it’s exactly what the series needs.

Samir Daoud is thrilled when “Ulfhedinn” wants to meet up after reading Axis Mundi. When Ulfhedinn turns out to be Anthony Rawson himself, Samir is starstruck. When Anthony tells him he wants to add Axis Mundi to the Triple Moon series, Samir is sure he’s being pranked. And when their online chemistry carries over—big-time—into real life, Samir is convinced it’s all too good to be true.

The problem is … it might be. The book deal, the sex, the money—everything is amazing. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Samir is left wondering if Anthony really loves him, or just loves his book.

(This 95,000-word novel has been previously published under a different title.)

For the rest of the month, I'll be expanding another old book, which needs about 20-30k new words, for a release towards the middle of the year, and work on both my "category romance" (which is already not very category at all, but I'll worry about that stuff later), my paranormal historical, and my half-written Witches book - that means I have four books on the go at the same time, but the trick is to pursue all of them at the same time until one elbows the others out of the race. That usually works out. That is why I'm up at 8 on a Sunday with a large coffee in front the computer. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

And peace to all

Happy festive season, Yule, Sol Invictus and Mithras day, and Christmas (and whichever "turning of the astronomical year" festivities you celebrate). Peace on earth, and blessings to all.

This is a last little retrospective before we head into 2019.

I started January with big intentions to write every day and wrap up a few books, I did a writing workshop, contacted a writer for coaching, and then February already sent it all down the drain when my partner got pretty ill for 2-3 weeks and that messed up my routine. I climbed back on top in March, only to surprisingly get back a whole host of books from a publisher that I never expected to see again (let alone take control of). And it was certainly pleasant to see karma at work for the righteous and unjust both. March and April saw quite a few balances restored, and it was just great to see that. In addition, I settled a rights issue with a co-writer, whereby she got full control over the books that were her original idea, and I got control over the books that were mine, and we ended up with a nice clean divorce after a couple false starts.

Getting back a total of 18 books or so in pretty much one go between March and June (when Carina also returned Dark Edge of Honor) meant a radical change in direction - instead of plugging away at my 500-1,000 words per day, I decided I wanted to re-read and re-edit the books I'd just got back; some of them had mistakes, typos, or style issues that I really wanted to get rid of and that had annoyed me in some cases for years. That's the great thing about self-publishing - if I find such an issue, I can just fix it and upload a new version and it goes online within hours. I love that part!

So, instead of writing, I edited. I edited a lot. I came home from a stressful editing job and sat down and edited some more. It was true "Wheel of Pain" stuff from Conan the Barbarian. Editing does require keeping the whole book in mind at the same time (I did find some inconsistencies), and for the historicals I cross-checked some facts that I just wanted to be sure about. I did most of the groundwork for the biggest of those projects, the Memory of Scorpions trilogy at ca 170,000 words, mostly on a veranda on Lanzarote, highlighting the bits that I needed to change and writing in the bits I was going to add or use instead - so most of the heavy lifting in books 1 and 2 were done in May, and I tackled the actual re-writes in November.

In addition, of course, I commissioned new covers for all those books, which were all done by the amazing Lady Tiferet, and sometimes on short order. That also meant replacing some of the "old" covers to stay within one style for the whole line.

In June, I noticed that my knees were hurting when I was climbing stairs. I'd reached my highest weight ever and decided that if I wanted to avoid blowing out joints and dealing with assorted health issues (my maternal family tends to acquire diabetes via overweight and alcohol abuse, so I've seen what could happen), something had to change, so I did. Over the next couple months, I a) did the research and b) hacked my thinking about food. I was able to do the latter largely thanks to my coaching skills. Consequently, I dropped more than 10kgs (more than 22 pounds), and my knees stopped that hurting business. I set "weightloss" as my personal ordeal, and it's ongoing (after a break for Christmas gingerbread and establishing a new "plateau").

I then got involved in the relaunch of Manifold Press, which, instead of closing, decided to just change the guard. My motivation here is largely to "give back to the community" - there are authors who want to publish with a publisher, and I believe they should have a "safe haven" in a landscape that can be quite scary and overwhelming for authors who "just want to write". Personally, I love my freedom, and I'm also friendly with a number of publishers, and happy to work with them, namely Manifold, Dreamspinner, and Less Than Three Press. Manifold's focus and strength in historical fiction does fill a gap in a market where historicals are often a) of poor quality, b) pure "wallpaper", or c) dismissed as financially unattractive. As a historian and a fellow historical writer, I want to support my historical writer peers and help maintain that "safe haven", and my relevant experience sure doesn't hurt.

Also in publishing, I'm glad to see that quite a few tremendous writers have made the jump to self-publishing, putting out their returned backlist and projects that had been rejected and encountering a lot of success. That was one of the lessons from attending EuroPrideCon in Amsterdam and UK Meet in June and September, which for me marked a kind of social "rebirth", after not really meeting anybody for a couple years. It's lovely to hear hard-working writers say that they make so much more money self-publishing than they used to make with their previous publisher/s - knowing that they have families to feed and used to work themselves to the bone to put out a lot of novels to maintain cash flow.

Sometimes, self-publishing makes all the difference - if you make twice the money, you can work 50% - ie write 2 books a year instead of 4 and still get the same money. Some authors were making three times the money. To support self-publishers, I kept moderating the GLBTQ self-publishers group on Facebook and finally got a co-moderator on board (as we hit more than 1,000 members). Also kept sharing knowledge outside of that and had a number of fantastic chats at both EPC and UK Meet - the standout was probably with Lynn West from Dreamspinner - we just vanished into a corner of the bar and talked for hours.

November saw things beginning to slow down again, so I managed to take some time out to help a German roleplaying firm with translating their grimdark fantasy rulebook; I translated something like 10,000 words of mainly technical rules text, and there's another 16,000 or so to do for this project. They were very happy and told me that my text reads better than the one translated by the "professional translator" they'd hired for the rest of it - so the combination of living abroad and being a writer certainly helped. I don't think I'll ever want to be a full-time translator (few people are willing to to pay what I have to charge for my time), but that was nice validation, and surprisingly easy. Certainly a change of tack after doing all that editing.

What else? The day job is going strong, but the mid-term goal is still very much to free up more time for writing again, so that's a quandary I still haven't resolved. Maybe it's just a matter of being more disciplined, forcing myself to put out words before I do anything else. I think I'll try that this year because quite frankly the perks are very good, and there are no similar full-time jobs out there at the moment, plus with a looming recession, even if I get an equivalent job, I'm not guaranteed to keep it when the layoffs roll around (as they will). At least my company has got its layoffs already out of the way in anticipation of the recession (and Brexit, but I'm not even going to start on that). In happy news, I sold the rights to quite a few books to Italian and French and Hungarian publishers.

So, in many ways, 2018 was me finding my feet again and establishing a firm base on which to stand. I explored some new things, dealt with some past stuff. What I didn't do was publish a new book (I did publish the audiobook of Witches of London - Lars, though, as well as the German edition of Gold Digger).

That's... the first year without new English-language releases in quite a while, and I can't say I like it. I'd have hoped the re-launch would have gone faster so I could have cleared the desk and work very seriously on new books, and maybe squeeze one out of the door before 2018 closes. But that didn't work out, I guess because even my day only has 24 hours, and I'm asleep or at work for quite a few of those.

So what's on the cards for 2019?

I'm actually writing (as my Patreon folks know). There are three books I have on the desk to get written and published as soon as possible.

1) Witches of London - Julian: That's about 36k in first draft so far, so I'd say I have 50% of the book. I've written myself into a place where I need to face a few demons, but I hope that with some distance, I'll get through that "dark night of the soul" moment pretty much unscathed. The book is, I think, a bit too close to my bones for comfort or to write freely, but I'll get through it. After all, it already has a cover and it's gorgeous, and I know people are waiting for it.

2) Paranormal historical novel: I'm tackling WWII from a "new" angle; I have 24k or so of this story and I'm barely out of the starting blocks, so this could be big (ie more than 100,000 words). It also feels very much like it's the beginning of a new "verse" - with the general idea that magick was "real" and was being used by all sides to further their own ends. This is taking a LOT of research, because of course I'm looking at occultism in real life history. But I'm also switching up some stuff about the world by introducing a second human species that has developed in parallel with (and interbred with) humans as we know them. It's great fun, but those two big variables - evolution and magick - make things quite complex. In addition, I'm not sure it's going to be a romance by any stretch - it might be just the world's grimmest buddy road movie with two characters who happen to be queer in their own ways. This is a bunny I've carried around since 2012 (when I told friends about it at GRL in Albuquerque), and which kept getting postponed by other, more romancy books, so it's time to put it on paper.

3) A tropey author romance:  This one is a fun project, and I'm covering some of my favourite tropes (enemies to lovers, second chance). It's meant for Dreamspinner because their open call inspired it. It's very much a light-hearted book that should be relatively easy compared to the others.

4) Misc: I want to focus on those three for 2019, and I'm not going to rush any of them, but I have a ton of other ideas and half-written projects that I want to get to. Last count, that list was in the region of 30-35, and some of those could be potentially big. Among the books I very much want to do are further Scorpion books, and Franco's story to wrap up Dark Soul. I also have a heavy rewrite in mind for Clean Slate and First Blood, and heavily re-write Counterpunch. The latter will be a much larger book as I'll combine it with the half-written Suckerpunch, but some major plot elements will need to be replaced, and I need to decide what kind of dystopian world I'll set it in - though frankly I'm kind of reluctant to write dystopian in the current climate, so it's not a huge priority right now.

There are other books - like the one about a whaler circa 1820s, and I've been giving that some thought, especially how to write it ("narrative stance"), but I think I got that one hacked now. There are some fragments and half-written books and full manuscripts that I'll likely cannibalise and re-work over the next couple years, but nothing is truly decided yet. I'm also very much in love with the whole 1700-1750 period of European history, so something might come from that, and I definitely have a crusader novel to write. A few people are also waiting for more Return on Investment, Gold Digger and Doctrine Wars books. Which is where we get back to the thought that I'd really like to cut my day job hours so I can write more books faster, but right now I'm doing the best I can.

Other stuff I want to achieve:

1) Weightloss: After the initial successes, I'll be shedding the remaining weight that's "extra" and stop once I feel completely fine in my skin in terms of weight. I'm not married to a number or specific shape - I'll know it when I get there.

2) Brexit-readiness: It's a real concern that the UK could "crash out" of the European Union, at which point I need to sort out my paperwork. This might mean anything from hiring an immigration lawyer to deal with the process, to selling up here and moving back to the continent and re-building my life. I spent quite a bit of time and energy on running a number of scenarios and have done a fair amount of self-coaching around the issue, and I'll be fine with the full range of outcomes - from "going on as usual" to "being deported in handcuffs".

3) Much depends on 2) there, so I'm not making very detailed plans, but there's a wish list. I'd like to establish more of a coaching practice. I'd like to write a book on writing and develop writing workshops to hold locally, or, heck, online. I'd like to increase my daily output to 500-1,000 words. I'd like to go back to LARPing - few things refresh the brain as much as checking out of reality for a long weekend or week. I'd like to travel more (Paris is on the cards for 2019), and cut my hours at the day job so I can write more. So yeah, re-establishing a sustainable writing routine will be top of the list here. Meanwhile, I want to launch my books in print, and get a few more audiobooks and translations launched. I'd also like to establish regular video chats with my readers and I'm looking at the best options for that (the idea is to be accessible to readers who can't travel all the way to Europe to meet me while I'm not attending cons in the US for time and money reasons).

And despite Brexit, I'm still looking forward to 2019. We are living in interesting times, but boy, it's informing so much of how I look at certain historical periods now. I feel the more alienated I'm getting from contemporary society and the rise of nationalists and fascists, the happier I'll be to be exclusively a non-contemporary author (ie focus on historicals and SF/F). That's certainly worth something. I'm quite happy to escape from all that. And that's going to be my main bit of self-care next year - spend less time following the news, learn to spend more time in the present, and work every day towards my long-term goals.

Hope you're having a great time "between the years" (as we say in German) and here's to a successful 2019 - whatever "success" may mean to you.

Friday, 7 December 2018

The last of the three (and the dozen or so)


This is the last cover for the new Memory of Scorpions edition. This is a pretty big moment - it's the last of the trilogy and the last of more than a dozen re-releases this year. I've focused all year on getting my backlist edited and re-released and re-covered and getting them all back out was basically my "big annual 2018 goal" and now it's done and there's so much relief. It's definitely taken away from my time for writing - there are only so many hours in the day - but all of these never versions feel like a really solid base for everything that'll come in the next year or two.

So, I'm now back to WRITING (if I remember how to do that - kidding!) and hopefully catch up on my 30+ strong list of works in progress and bunnies and all the other things.

I am working on three books that are in various stages (Julian, a historical road movie with magic, and a tropey book I was going to pitch to Dreamspinner), and I want to wrap all of them in 2019.

Thank you for your patience during the intermission. I'm most certainly back now. 

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The last three...

I'm just putting the finishing touches on the three Memory of Scorpions books, which I'll re-release on 23 December.

Here are the new covers:






I just love the "proper military fantasy" vibe of the new covers, and can't wait for what Tif comes up with for the third book! There are a few changes in this edition - the biggest change is that I've done away completely with Blood (the character and his whole subplot never worked), and I've developed some side characters a little more. Plus, Runner gets a little more screen time - including her betrothal. So I'm excited. 

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Relaunch almost done

I spent the past months working on re-launching my backlist. That meant re-reading and re-editing something like 15-20 books after spending the whole day editing for the day job, so that was slower than I wanted. I commissioned Tif to do the whole set of covers, and I don't think I've shown them here.



The good news is, after Unhinge the Universe re-releases at the end of this month, the only books I have to re-release are the edited Scorpion novels, and I'm already working on those; I already took a wallet of highlighters to them in May, and now it's time to get them completely ready and formatted  (including a map I've commissioned). 


And once all that is done, I'll switch back to writing - I haven't actually produced much new stuff in the past six months, so I think NanNoWriMo should be a great way to start. The timing is also good as I'll be travelling to Germany on Thursday, and come back about ten days later.


I definitely look forward to getting back into the groove.


Thursday, 24 May 2018

Re-launch underway

Just a quick note that both Country Mouse and City Mouse are back out and available at all major ebook dealers.

And the Market Garden series is now also officially in re-launch: Quid Pro Quo and Take it Off are both out and will soon be joined by If It Flies and If It Fornicates (20 June), and Capture and Surrender and Payoff on 19 July.

Meanwhile, I'm working hard on two new books (one Witches of London and the other a very old passion project), and also editing and re-jigging the Scorpions trilogy.

The rule is usually - if I'm really quiet, I'm working. :)


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Market Garden re-launch and full set of new covers

So, ever getting back the last few Market Garden books, I've been busy working on re-editing them and getting rid of typos or changing some words to my preferred spelling. I'm also looking at minimising my most annoying stylistic tics, of which there are many and several variants.

But I'm happy to say that I'm track to re-release all books new and improved before the end of the year. The pre-orders are going up as fast as I can manage. And here are all the new Market Garden covers - all done by Tiferet.