Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Cover - Lion of Kent

Hope it's OK to show this - the cover for Kate Cotoner & my "Lion of Kent" out soon from Carina Press. I think it looks like a movie poster. :)

Who cares, as long as they FUCK, right? (A rant)

Today was a day of WTF. Catching up on my various author loops, one thing is the main theme at the moment. First, "Dear Author" started an interesting discussion on why accuracy matters in m/m historicals. A few of the comments already had me groan.

Then on an author loop, people are talking about how much research is "enough". (Personally, it's enough when nobody can catch me on a mistake, when I live in those people's heads, when I know what they wear, how that feels and what their childhood was like). One example, I've started my research on "Iron Cross" with a series of three books that begin to tell the history on Nazi Germany in 1871. My book's set in 1941-1956ish. But I need to know about my characters' parents and what events would have influenced them in their childhood. Were they hungry often? How bad was the French occupation of Germany's industrial centres and were reparations payments too high or just right? How bad was inflation (pretty fucking bad - Germany has no reason to laugh at Zimbabwe)?

In various forms, shapes and iterations, today I've read these statements/reasonings:

1 - Who cares, it's FICTION after all.
2 - Who cares, it's just ROMANCE.
3 - Who cares, as long as the main characters FUCK, right?

Who cares?

Readers do. Your paying customers.

It's true, readers fall into two camps. The first group - let's call them the "neutrals", won't notice (the style handbook I just read at work calls those "the ignorant/dumb masses" - but hey, the place I work for now is pretty damn elitist. As far as I'm concerned, everybody has the right to not give a fuck, APART FROM THE AUTHOR.) From a commercial viewpoint, these readers will just keep buying the stuff. They don't care. Which is cool. As a writer, you can "bag" those pretty easily. No investment necessary.

The second group is the group of people that do notice. And after a lot of interaction with my readers, I had to completely revise my own expectations what "romance readers are like". Because, surprise, a huge amount of them are have degrees, careers, are widely-read and/or discerning. And while porn/erotica/explicit romance is often a bit of a guilty pleasure, they love stuff that takes them seriously. They have brains. Saying "it's just fiction" is mind-bending arrogance towards fiction readers. Saying "it's just romance" is mind-bending arrogance against YOUR readers.

If I get a complaint about a book (they have happened, I did have my one-star reviews on Amazon), saying "hey, it's just fiction/I made shit up/oy, it's just romance" in defence is like saying "what? I thought you were too FUCKING DUMB TO NOTICE."

Newsflash, readers hate being taken lightly. Me, if I detect that form of arrogance and the lack of trust in my basic intellectual capabilities in a writer, I will never again buy a book from that author.

Worse, I'll review what I've read and call them arrogant, lazy, stupid, and a bad writer. In public, and to my friends.

How do you sell books? People saying "WOW, I loved that book!" It's not the cover, it's not even really your stylistic quality as a writer (or Dan Brown wouldn't sell so many books). It's people that say "wow, this book is awesome" in public.

Who reviews? Hardcore users/readers. People that have read so much they have very strong opinions, a well-honed taste, and aren't shy about expressing both. They are your "multiplicators" - they sell your books to their friends and readers.

Telling those people - who are, in 99% of all cases NOT "neutral readers" - "oy, it's just romance/fiction/hey they fuck, what ELSE could you possibly want?" ... is, in short, a very, very bad mistake.

So, who are these readers?

I've had great conversations with some of my readers. A "military brat" told me my depiction of "the soldier psyche" is spot-on. A woman involved in finances said "yes, your bankers/investors - they are exactly like that, only the guys I go to meetings with aren't as witty, fierce and sexy... but otherwise, they've been taken straight from life!" another reader with a history degree stopped by to chat extensively with me about medieval bathing culture based on ONE paragraph of writing.

These people read romances, too. I'm in awe of every one of them, because, shit, they know their stuff. They know the real thing when they see it. To them, it's not "just fiction/romance."

Sex is great, but many of them want a story, characters, real research and HONESTY. I'm working my ass off for these readers, because I know they'll catch me out if I get lazy or complacent or believe I know my stuff. Because I don't. I'll never know enough to completely trust myself.

And just as I was typing this up, in comes a link where a reviewer calls out a writer on terrible research and the writer practically says "oh, but I'm just a romance writer." Perfect illustration of the points made above.

Those mistakes?

Could be fixed with just using Wikipedia (I'm NOT endorsing Wikipedia as your only resource, but it's a start).

It's funny how writers who don't even put in five minutes of research at the same time expect readers to put in hours of their time to read that drivel.

Who cares?

Readers do. Reviewers do. People that PAY money for that badly-made crap.

Life's too short to do shoddy work. Do I want to be remembered for being a lazy bastard who didn't take his readers seriously, just to save time and make twenty bucks?

Fuck no. I don't give a fuck if they FUCK. Take me seriously as a reader. Take YOURSELF seriously as a writer, a crafter, a maker of reality in people's minds.

What we do is magic, you don't fuck with that.

/Rant out.

ETA: Changed one sentence to apply it to generic "writers", since it might have been mistaken as an attack against one individual.

ETA2: Removed the example & link.

The "fan" and me

In all honesty, I'm still deeply uncomfortable with the term "fan", especially when it comes to me. "My" "fans" - I can't put in enough quote marks to express the raised-eyebow and "are you talking about me???" feeling I get from that.

I'm not humble, I just feel a little awkward. The way I refer to the people reading my stuff is simply - readers. I myself am not "fannish". There are almost no things in the world I'd call myself a fan of. I like stuff, I follow stuff, but "fan" is simply too strong a word.

On a personal level, I'm just somebody who writes and puts stuff out there. Yes, people are involved (it's not creative masturbation), but I see them more as the addressees of my writing than "fans" of me as the author or even my whole body of work. There will always be people who love Special Forces and none of my other things, and always people who want me to write "alone" and people who don't like my writing anything but dark and heart-rending.

The sheer scope and strength of the muse demands I produce a fairly diverse body of work (which will include mainstream books if the inspiration strikes), and the only person who will love everything I do is me. And even that's not a guarantee. After a few years, many texts lose energy and there are passages that I read and go WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING. It's a conscious and serious efford to accept that stories "age" and "fade" - it's hard to keep my hands away and say "that was me, this is me now". Even I am not a fan of myself, or at least not all of it.

Career-wise, I don't have to please everybody and I'm not inoffensive. I get into fights, I can come across as a belligerent, snarky asshole (especially in reviews and when I rant), but I have that freedom because my paycheque is not from (creative) writing. In the truest sense of the word, I'm an amateur and likely always will be one. Also, I've always published in niches, clubby "oh, don't I know you from somewhere" kinda places.

In RPG circles, I was a fairly established creator/writer, and it was all very informal. In RPGs, everybody is creative, I was just one of the guys who wrote it all down and got paid for it (if I was lucky). There has never been any distance between me and the people I'm writing for and that buy my books. It was all on a first-name basis, too. Not literary establishment by a long stretch, and that's exactly how I like it.

Now that I'm gaining what's called "traction" in the gay m/m romance niche, I suddenly face the situation where people send me letters signed with "your devoted/loyal fan". Heartwarming, utterly charming, to feel that outpouring of love from a stranger, somebody who feels they owe me praise based on some words I put down years or months ago.

And then I suddenly realise that emailing them, chatting with them leads to "OMG, the author CHATTED WITH ME" moments. Part of me can't stop grinning, because it's so endearing and cool and nice, some part of me goes "woah, I'm just somebody who puts words down..." and I think I don't "deserve" that kind of affection/love (I mean, for what? I just put down words as good as I can, but my motivation to do so is 90% internal. I do it because I want to and because I feel I owe developing that "gift" as much as I can - and share it. Responsibility and all that.) I'd lie if I denied there's also a moment of smugness that says "hell, I must be doing something right." But the overall feeling is "holy shit, what's just happening???"

I do wonder how people cope with that. Say you get from rags to overnight fame, from total obscurity to being "somebody" and people go crazy not just over the writing but YOU the author, your whole body of work. Everything you do. How do the Big Guns cope?

I'm glad to be in a very small niche - I never want to have to give up the personal contact and feeling "we're all peers here". I want to have the time to engage with my readers and chat to them for an hour or more. That's really what all this is about. People, and getting words out. Touching a life or two. Shortening a commute. Making people laugh and cry.

As a very good writer and writing teacher once said: "Your ego doesn't matter."

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


I'm currently re-learning my job - that is, writing articles. I have to read more Economist and Financial Times to work out how to spin the angles. In the old place, everything was so formulaic it was hardly worth it, but the new place requires actual journalism. What a shocker. (They are also beating the crap out of my old place for quality and circulation.)

It's a challenge, but I'm digging in and trying to make better stories. I'm writing too dense and technical at the moment, for fear of straying too far from the press release, so I tense up and what you get is tensed-up prose. I know the problem, now I have to fix it. More reading.

Tomorrow's hand-over of the old flat, which means one huge thing off my mind.

Did 766 words on "Scorpion & Steel" and will very soon hit 20k. No idea what publisher might want it, but I don't care and don't want to think about it (yet). I'm looking to finish it in August. Ish. Let's see where it goes.

I have covers and banners for "Lion of Kent" and a release month for "Don't Ask Don't Tell," which will soon be out from MLR Press. They say July.

It's almost surreal that a story caught in limbo for what feels like 4 years will finally be released. It's not been the experience it could have been, and that's saying plenty about it. Four years is a lot of time to change your mind about a story. I always want to re-write after about two years. Four years feels like prehistory. It's so far away now. But back then, it was a good story, and I'm glad it is coming out. Closure is important.

I have to update my website with reviews and release dates and excerpts, so that's a project for the weekend. In the meantime, I'll report on financial modelling while knowing next to nothing about it. I feel like an impostor, but I hope I'll be able to catch that professor tomorrow first thing and ask him some half-baked questions. Nothing like borrowing somebody else's brains to look smart as a hack.

Also read the House Style Guide. The fact that we use the Oxford serial comma makes me happy.

Monday, 28 June 2010

First Day

I feel much better equipped to start work here than in about any other place I've ever worked. And I reckon I'll be busy. They are so many things and routines to remember, I'll get some more training (libel and plagiarism, the double-scourges of the digital-age journalist). Will likely write some first news stories today, then will get involved in editing the current month's magazine.

I reckon I must be an awesome person to get his job and that people believe I can do it to their satisfaction. Then again, it's really just stepping up my game (yes, A LOT) from what I've done. May end up doing awesome things here.

Office is very nice, I have a corner desk, back to the filing cabinets, so no more sales people shouting in my back. It's generally much quieter than the old place, so no need to drone out ambient noise/sales people with industrial and heavy metal.

Got my pass key, have some paperwork to fill in, and really get to know the industry as soon as I can. It's huge, it's active, it's so very complex, and "lifelong learning" doesn't begin to cover it. And it's now all mine, MUAHAHAHA.

In terms of writing/creativity, I did answer a lot of writing-related emails yesterday, and did some work for eXcessica, which had been piling up around me. There's only one more of those to do and that's it.

The scorpion story has more than 18k words and looks like it may end up a full novel. Possibly. At least it's not a trilogy, but I keep gauging the depths of that project and get the feeling there's a lot of stuff and plot I don't know yet.
But of course, gauging length only works when you're around 90% done. "This is almost it", the muse says, and then I add around 10% for general tidying up.

Today, I'll look at the old flat, toss some stuff out and that should be all ready for handover on Wednesday. After that I only have to worry about one house, and the garden, of course.

Germany won, and I'm keeping a low profile, only talking about football when somebody else starts on the topic. The whole city is talking about football, from the train to the queue in your usual anonymous coffee chain.

Friday, 25 June 2010

12k and countıng

Rıght, I'm wrıtten out for the scorpıon project at 12k. It has stopped pourıng out and ıs now only trıcklıng. Fırst rush ıs over. I thınk that brıngs the total up to anywhere between 17 and 20k, and I'm not done yet.

It has cooled down somewhat - the cloud are hangıng low over the Babadag mountaıns, mountaıns that make part of me ımagıne crusaders tryıng to get theır carts and horses across. It's a great lıttle place, but I'll never come here agaın ıst June, July or August. I would have lıked to be more actıve and see Ephesus and go to Fetıyeh market. Well, at least I got lots of stuff read and wrıtten...and I slept loads.

Plenty of thıngs pılıng up ın my ınbox. Edıts, emaıls that need a bıt more focus and tıme than I have rıght now. And yeah, Germany's playıng England on Sunday. Let's say, I wouldn't mınd the 'tradıtıon' to be upheld... the 'new' Germany plays pretty good football, and I'd wager England would have struggled agaınst Ghana a lot, too.

Leavıng here tomorrow at 18:30 for one of the more unpleasant aırports I've used ın my lıfe. Dalaman ıs pretty rıdıculous when you try to eat somethıng there, and last tıme our flıght was late and they sent us all over the place but not where we were supposed to be. Dıdn't matter, by the tıme the plane left well late, we were too exhausted to mınd.

Wıll lıkely spend the rest of the day doıng some research for 'Iron Cross'.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Whoot - 8k!

I wrote a total of 8k on the holıday ın the last two days. The story ıtself ıs not goıng as planned, and apparently my Muse's mınd ıs just on sex. Just on sex. When the thıng threatened to get towards plot, ın came a flashback and covered one character's whole sexual hıstory. ı mıght end up takıng that out and breakıng ıt up, but the flashback had one rape, one masochıstıc bottom servıcıng a whole unıt of mercs and sexual ınıtıatıon rıtes as well as an offıcer!crush.

Well. Wıth all the dark ıssues goıng on there, I have no clue who'd take ıt, but ıt's not a 'nıce lıttle story' as I'd thought I'd get - not by a long stretch. Kendras ıs lıterally fındıng hıs feet agaın, and he's easıly ready to carry the whole book. I'm not sure 'Grey Eyes' ıs hıs match enough to make hım hıs partner (ın the m/m romance sense) - they are a good sexual fıt, but Grey Eyes turned out to be pretty ınsecure behınd hıs smugness. Oh dear. Then agaın, who but the offıcer!crush can match Kendras? I don't thınk so. Trouble ıs, the guy mıght be dead.

Ah, yeah, and there's thıs madcap merc unıt whose names are Steel, Puppy, Stıck, and Wıdow. WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, MUSE? And they are a shambles and ın a job much bıgger than they thınk.

Yeah, and there are plenty of thıngs happenıng ın the background, but at least Kendras ıs doıng stuff and tellıng me more about hıs past.

Rıght, England won the game. A face-off versus Germany ıs gettıng more and more lıkely. WE just have to beat Ghana. Please, beat Ghana. Esepcıally sınce people tend to mıstake me for Canadıan these days, so I mıght not get pelted wıth stones on Englısh streets ıf our 'Eleven' demolıshes the 'Lıons'.

Yeah, I can dream.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Quick wave from Turkey

I'm currently ın a two-computer Internet cafe in the hotel that manages the apartment we're renting for this week. The Turkish keyboard is several kinds of weird, wıth some German thrown in (the @ sign is where it is on a German keyboard).

I've spent the last couple days as expected; sleepıng a lot because ıt2s way too hot for me, readıng books for Speak Its Name (ıf a story can pass the stupor of Turkey ın summer, ıt's a good story), sleepıng some more, then, once ıt's cooler, go out foragıng for food. I don't thınk I can brave the clımate to go out and do more than that, but I'm fındıng 'doıng nothıng' quıte relaxıng, so I'm not unhappy. It's more fun doıng excursıons and I'd have lıked to see Ephesus, but there's no doubt ın my mınd that I wouldn't survıve crawlıng across ancıent ruıns ın thıs kınd of weather.

Today, also, was the fırst day of wrıtıng agaın, so I've wrıtten about 2.3k of the scorpıon story, whıch now has a new workıng tıtle, namely 'Scorpıon and Steel'. Those words I wrote were pretty much all sex scene, but the characters are ınterestıng together. The plot ıs startıng to make an appearance, too, so thıs project ıs goıng well.

There are two more books that I need to read, but rıght now the e-reader ıs chargıng off the netbook. I have vıvıd, strong ımages from several projects - Iron Cross, Lıon of Kent, and Scorpıon and Steel, mostly. The muse ıs hoppıng around beatıng wıngs, gettıng all excıted and tellıng me I should wrıte all thıs down before I lose ıt. I don't thınk that could happen, but I have more tıme than I can fıll, so the default actıvıty ıs wrıtıng. Good holıday so far, the equıvalent of roastıng on the beach, only that I am huggıng the aırcon and typıng frantıcally ınto my netbook.

I shall return on Saturday wıth plenty more wrıtıng.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Holiday: I'm gone

Just waiting for the pickup from friend to head off to Gatwick and then Dalaman, Turkey. Should be fun, but I most likely won't have internet or telephone (last time's roaming charges were a bit...much).

I'm taking "Iron Cross" and some vague ideas and not much else. It'll be too hot for me to do anything much else, so I think I'll get a fair bit written/researched.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Two days to go

Two days left at this job, three days until Turkey, eleven days until new job.

Stuff happened yesterday - I got the cover for "Lion of Kent", which is pretty damn impressive (despite the minor niggle that the armour on the picture is more than hundred years 'too young', but it's a minor niggle and mostly due to the fact that I simply cannot switch off the historian in me). I keep looking at it and the more I look at it, the more I like it.

That's the funny thing with covers. Sometimes they hit you in the face with a "WOW" ("Clean Slate" was one of those), sometimes they look great but aren't what you had in mind, but the more you work to get into the head of the cover artist (who tends to not read the story), the closer the two visions move together and eventually overlap. All this is totally independent of whether it's a good cover.

As a rule, I don't publish with publishers who have bad covers. It's my name on there, and I have a pretty strong need for good/appropriate visuals. Cheap Poserware and badly rendered anatomical monstrosities slapped together in 30 minutes aren't worthy to be put on months of bleeding hard work; bad/cheap covers feel like a slap to the face and I'm simply not having it. And with e-readers getting better screens and the all-singing, all-dancing (and pretty frivolous)iPad and all the clones that will follow, e-books will have to be pretty.

So, "Lion of Kent" looks like a movie poster. I really like it, even though it looks nothing like I imagined. But that's OK, because I'm not visually inclined that way. I'm not a visual designer, even though I'm a visual writer, so I'm leaving that aspect to the pros, and they do a great job. Hope to show it to you guys soon.

Then scenes from "Lion of Kent 2" hit me square in the face this morning. Some of that is really painful to "watch", in a way, because we're dealing with death and loss again, and, let's say, I have to open my own scars to get to the blood to write with. In some weird way, every dead major character is my mother. "Lion2" will be historical rather than romance. It's great that Carina supports us that way and allows us to write a series where part 1 and 3 are historical romances and part 2 is a purebred historical. It makes writing this so much easier.

I'm looking forward to getting the edits for "First Blood", too, so we can get that on the way before things get really hairy.

Writing yesterday didn't happen, but I made some progress reading. Tonight I'll do some more work in the old flat, and then that chapter's closed, too. I put a bookshelf up, too, and am now in the process of putting my remaining books on the shelves, which should keep me busy today and tomorrow. Saturday morning we're off to Turkey and I'll be incommunicado for a week (I really can't afford the roaming charges this time round and there's no internet cafe where we're going).

I expect to get a lot of writing/editing/planning done while in Turkey... that's the expressed reason for the trip. Sitting at the pool, reading, sleeping, eating, writing. Just resting up from the stress of the last 6 weeks and getting lots of rest and catch-up before the new job. I think it'll be exactly what I need.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Several things happened today (which otherwise was an unremarkable day of endless slogging and some Sockboy-ness which by now is only bearable because I'm on my last 2 days at that place...and I'm looking forward to shit collapsing behind me... call me vengeful, but I've had it!).

My future boss called "just to catch up" and to make sure I'm keen to join (hell, I'm keen...!), and to give me an idea what to expect. My first feature's deadline, and it's about something I know a fair bit about already. Up to the point where I thought "absolutely, he's making it especially easy for me", but there's no way he can know. So, simple, good luck. And while he said I'll be "very busy", I have 6 weeks to write that feature. How difficult can 4k be? I'm writing that on a good weekend.

I set up the cleaning of the old flat, removed some more crap from there and got a refund from our solicitor, which actually covers a fair bit of the money gap of next month. Whoot. Things are relaxing. Will buy the rest of the furniture once I have a budget for the next 2 months, then look at overall financing for the house, possibly surf mortgages pretty soon as "The Old Lady" is dealing with the UK's 3.4% inflation - the logical reaction if inflation remains high is to increase interest rates, so we'll have to recalculate numbers to make sure we're not paying stupid amounts of money.

The new story feels like a 20-30k affair right now, and people seem to like it. Trademark Aleks, slow and intense and dark. That's what I'll do with this evening - find another 500-1,000 words and then long hot shower and then sleep. Long, tough week.

Countdown is on. Two days. Three days until holiday. Twelve days to new job.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Kill your ego

I'm very nearly done with this place. 3.5 working days left to go. I'm cleaning out my desk, my bookmarks, my inbox, and everything else. Whoever's going to work on this computer, I'll give them the cleanest start possible. They'll need every help they can get with Sock Boy just two desks down. Pretty sure they'll wipe stuff, anyway, but I can make things easy on them.

My level of skintness is actually almost comical. I haven't been counting pennies like that since late 2007, when I started at this company and was missing 2 weeks pay, went to a trade fair in Germany and ended up with a negative zero on my account. Now, I'm going to Turkey for a week (which is thankfully cheap to live at, and I intend to hole up with a manuscript and my e-reader and a book on risk instruments), and I'll have to keep a tight budget, so no Turkish rug for the study.

I was looking forward to getting one for months, but I've done the numbers, but there's no way I can do it, even if I'm not overpaying this time (the rug in the study was more expensive than it strictly had to be, but I still think it's worth every penny. Which is my way of saying "I don't mind having been ripped off by the carpet dealer"). It's a bummer, definitely. The study really needs a rug, it's too damn barren at the moment, and the room *echoes*, which is distracting. It might get better with a few book shelves, but right now, I'm glad I'm facing the window to the garden since behind me is just desolation. Nice, white-walled, hardwood-floored desolation, but the impression remains.

Other things are more important. I need a chest of drawers and a smallish wardrobe (I mean, all we really own is work clothes, so we need a place for hanging some suits and shirts, some leisure clothes - in my case, that's two pairs of jeans and a pile of t-shirts, and then workout clothes - and that's it). Rug is decoration, and hence not strictly necessary. Will also have to find somebody to frame the prints we got in Singapore (pair of carps and a dragon), but that's also pretty secondary at the moment.

I spent yesterday watching Paraguay and Italy and digging around the house for my passport, doing some financial paperwork, and then doing some errata as the errata monkey for a publisher. One story I read made me throw up in my mouth a little. There are some writers I want to hit with their keyboard a lot and then lock the keyboard away, forever. No language should suffer such abuse. Thankfully, I managed to not send them an email offering them a "Style/Creative Writing 101 Course" - the fact they were rhythm-deaf and most likely mildly dyslectic didn't help (I'm not dissing dyslectics, I have several friends who are, and I beta for them, so I recognise the patterns). I've long since learnt to only offer help with writing when I'm being asked for it. It's too much work and offends too many people ("What? You mean I CANNOT WRITE? YOU BASTARD!") for no reward at all. At 35, I've finally learnt that. I've been called an "arrogant asshole" too often, I don't have to go out of my way to get more of those.

This morning, on the train, I had two or three strong scenes from "Iron Cross", both towards the end. The muse is flagging towards the middle, but the ending is fully there, with Dolby Surround, 3D and kick-ass special effects (okay, there are only a few scenes that *need* special effects, but hey). This is the manuscript I'm taking to Turkey, most likely.

Got feedback on ROI which did a cracking job of confirming my deepest fears and insecurities about the text, so I'm kicking that one to the bottom of the "to edit" pile and forget about it for at least another 6-12 months until I've finally found a solution for all its issues and focus on the easy victories in the meantime.

Chances are, I won't have the concentration or focus for it once I've started the new job, which will demand 150% of my brain and that leaves only 10% for writing. Perfect time to edit and fix minor issues, bad timing for reworking a book like ROI. I think maybe the voice is all wrong, so I'll look into that. It may turn into first person, too, and end up more disjointed and "literary" than it's now. Or I go the totally different way and just got out the finance stuff and move it more towards "office romance". I don't know. I might have to do both to see if either of those works. But at 140k, it's a huge project and might need another year until I can tackle it. Growing with your challenges, again, I guess. I'm not sure if the flaws a fatal, I just know I'm not telling the story right. That itches and irritates, but well, that's the life of the writer.

Or as I keep telling newbies and not-so-newbies who can deal with the truth (some are too fragile and can't deal with it, which is fine) - nobody gives a fuck about your ego. Time I put that on the wall and look at it a lot. My ego doesn't matter. I just have to tell the bleeding story, whatever the cost.

Back to the drawing board.

Monday, 14 June 2010

No writing yesterday

Yesterday, I spent the day packing more boxes and starting to throw out what's left in the old flat. I'm amazed how many boxes you can fill with the contents of one flat. Also amazed at the sheer number of books I own. I'm filling two rooms now - the library and the study. And there are more books piled up everywhere. This time round, I'll be clever and kick out all books that I don't need. That will most definitely mean that most fiction will get kicked out - anything below a "desert island keeper" is Oxfam fodder. That's why I like e-books. They don't compete for space with my reference library and I can just delete them when they were bad.

The early evening was, of course, spent watching Germany massacre Australia. After the fourth goal came in, I started to cringe on behalf of the poor Australians, who simply didn't have the momentum in the front. Relying on one striker - who then gets booked/red carded for a yellow card offense - wasn't a winning strategy. Just looking at their faces, you could see the "please make it stop" exasperation, and I really felt for them.

The German side, though... NICE. Having all that youthful exuberance rather than plodding Ballack was so refreshing. I'll never be a fan of the "pig climber", but Lahm, Klose and Oezil were inspired, Mueller the same. Everybody worked hard and showed some pretty nice football. Before the game I thought "okay, we won't have a chance, but give then four years and we'll rock the next world cup" - well, I think there's ample potential to rock THIS world cup now, just keep going on that trajectory, boys.

(And a small voice in my head really wants to see England/Germany - shambolic England with superstar Rooney versus Germany that, by tradition, gets stronger from game to game... a real "tournament team". Okay, granted, that would be war, but how much fun? Of course, I may have to hide the fact I'm German for a few weeks, especially if our boys mop the floor with the "lions" - I'm just glad my accent can be mistaken for Dutch, and, apparently, Canadian, so I'll survive, if I manage to not brag out on the street.)

The mind begins to clear, in any case. The house is coming together. Biggest concern now is that with all the expenses and costs of the last six weeks, I'm skint. Super-skint, in fact. I still have a few reserves squirreled away, but June/July will be very lean months indeed, until I get paid by the new job end of July. I do hope for some royalties payments to help me weather the worst, but I'm not quite sure when they pay. Right now, I only expect a chunk from Dreamspinner - so thanks to everybody who bought "Clean Slate". This month, that money will make a real difference.

Friday, 11 June 2010

I wrote - AGAIN

I wrote another thousand words yesterday, finished the second scene and the first chapter of the fantasy story, which still doesn't have a name. Yes, seems the habit is back. Three days in a row could have been an accident, four is a habit.

This is weird writing, much like I used to do it back in ye olden days. I'm getting only very small images and ideas. This one comes as a mosaic, there's, so far, no "bigger picture" and I don't know how it'll end. So I'm not even sure it's a "romance" or can be sold to a "romance publisher".

(I know, all my romance-reading readers are groaning now at their screens). It sure has explicit gay sex and I know there's a core relationship, but I have no clue how and where it's ending, and anyway, I'm only 3k in and really just in the stage of introducing my main character. It's not even a story yet. It's two scenes and a character. It's growing slowly, tenuously, like reaching around in a dark room. It might not even come to anything. I have several stories with intriguing beginning and no end, plot or resolution in sight. I don't have any idea what to do with them, since the little that I *do* have is too good to just throw it away.

And I have an "AWESOME" moment today after sending out my "I'm leaving" email. Guy asked me which place I'm going to. I told him, and he was all "oh wow, good place, and I know your future boss, and he's AWESOME, he's just so cool, congrats on landing THAT job!" Having worked there for ten years and closely with my new boss, his opinion should be pretty well-founded, but I'm immensely gratified that I made The Right Decision there.

Countdown. Next week at this time, I'll clean out my desk and delete what few personal files I had on this machine.

Tonight is packing and moving a few last remaining boxes. It's going to be mostly kitchen and bathroom stuff at this stage. Then throwing away trash and preparing everything for the cleaners to blitz the place. By Monday, we're finally out, and I hope to make some progress organizing the new house over the weekend.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

More writing

I'm up to 2k of what might become "Scorpion in Amber" - if that wasn't such a cheesy title, but this morning, that symbol showed up in my head and, hey, it's fantasy, and fantasy can be cheesy. Again I'm dealing with a soldier who has PTSD, and it's dark and brooding and pretty intense. So much for writing "lighter" stuff, but since some readers prefer me writing "dark", this is one for them. For others, it might be too much.

I'm slowly uncovering the bones of that project, a curve in the tone here, a guessed shape just under the surface, the mind, it works on where to dig and how and will it be a reptile, a bird or a mammal. I have no clue. Some stories need to be chiselled rather than hewn out, one hundred words at a time, sometimes less. It's likely NOT going to be novel-length, unless I finally find an external plot and the intrigue I want gets more complex. Right now, I have 2,200ish words, so that means, somehow, I wrote 1,300 words yesterday.

Sock Boy is his odious, odious self, taking my ideas, wrapping them up in four hundred words of badly-written blabber and then they go up as top stories on the website to hit a few thousand eyeballs a day. But that's OK, I know whose idea it is, even if I don't get even a byline. The editorial morals/manners/ethics in this place have hit rock-bottom and continue to dig. Hard and fast. I've given up on this place, so I only come here with an ironic/sarcastic smirk glued to my lips, and that's about it.

I told the Awesome Place that I won't be coming to their second interview since I already signed a contract with Other Place. I see in my inbox that there's a response from the guy who was going to interview me. I'm scared to open it. Funny, how I struggle coping with disappointing other people.

Okay, I got my colleague to read it. Urnkg. I could have gotten the job. Then again, that was my gut feeling, too.

I did 1,200 words yesterday. Whoot.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

I wrote

I wrote 665 words yesterday, that's two pages. It's gritty fantasy, and it's still raw and rough, and the beginning is too bleeding self-conscious for words, but I've been writing. (And not having a title drives me mad.)

This week is mostly wrapping up the old flat and removing the last bits and pieces (clothes, some books, crockery), then the Big Clean on the weekend (I think we'll just hire somebody to do it), then sorting through the stuff in the new house and throwing out what we can. That will have been three vettings then, that should give us some breathing space.

Resolved an unpleasant situation with an editor (ah, the little wrestling matches going on in the background that nobody can/will talk about because that's unprofessional and looks bad on both sides), so that project is back on track with, hopefully, no significant damage done and very little collateral damage (mainly the stress and waste of time that could have gone into creating).

Got in touch with an Amazon reviewer, sold a lot of stuff and now need to post it, and wracking my brain to write the best possible "no, thank you, I won't be attending the second interview at Awesome Place because I already signed the contract." It's OK, it's a good decision. In addition, I don't have the headspace to prepare for getting a job I don't really prefer to the one I'll have in 3 weeks.

Starting to plan the holiday in Turkey - what books to bring, which manuscript to edit. I'll only fit one in, I want to travel light, but I will be spending most time in the holiday apartment if the weather's hot (Turkey in JUNE, come on). Just can't cope with big changes in temperature. But I'm also the worst possible sufferer of jetlag.

But I'm writing again. Whoot.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Author interview

Ralph Gallagher of the Dancing Dove Blog has interviewed me. I think most of that even makes sense.

Find the interview here.

Also, friend this guy, he's nice.

Internet is back - and the muse is beating his wings again

Yesterday I returned from meeting a friend in London to find that my partner has fixed the internet. Instead of using the Virgin-supplied parts, I'm now surfing with a "dongle". The irony, it is staggering. But in any case, I'm back online. I'm also back t work, where Sock Boy is doing his damned best to annoy and demoralize the rest of the team. He's leaving me well alone... but I've been using two opportunities to make him look back - all in the guise of "giving advice". Office politics are fun if you have no job to lose. :)

Then I've been called today for a second interview with Biggest Name in the Business (biggest name EVER in financial journalism... the kinda place that I thought would never possibly be interested in hiring a lowly guy like me that doesn't have a prestigious journalism degree with super honours and gold stars) - I'll have to cancel the interview, but godsdamnit, does that feel GREAT.

The muse has been flapping its wings and demands that I write about a down-and-out swordsman, a prostitute-king, and a fortress by the sea that only survives because people there are are incredibly good at politics. I need a couple names, and I have two sex scenes, both pretty kinky and hot. I've started novels on less.

Right, back to work.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Happiness is a house

Gods, I've been working hard, lugging boxes, packing and unpacking, rearranging furniture. See how productive I am with limited access to the Internet. (We hope to sort out the connectivity issues today or tomorrow - might need a new router, so investigating that today).

At the moment I'm typing this in the study on my netbook. The study is the barest room in the house - time it gets some love. I did donate my Turkish rug to the library - where it looks simply stunning - once all the boxes are cleared away. The place just seems so large after the cramped, cluttered condition of the flat. All rooms are a good size and a touch larger than they absolutely have to be,which may just be the perfect size for anything.

But yeah, the study has two bookcases, a desk and the computer set up. And a box of clothes to the side. It needs a rug and the shelves need to be filled. The sounds of the keyboard are simply too loud and distract me. And a square-ish Turkish rug would be perfect to add some colour and character. Will definitely take measurements before we head to Turkey. There are plenty of things in Turkey that would make good additions to the house, it's a good place to buy throws and pillow cases that cost an arm and a leg over here.

Next step will be paintings and stuff to hang on the walls. We have a great 1906ies document framed over the original fireplace, and the result is very impressive. There are some walls that need a painting or piece of art to really make the place come alive. I guess hunting for the perfect piece will be a quest of several years, but that's OK, the house isn't going anywhere.

New definition of bliss: waking up in your own house holding your partner, thinking "yeah, all this is ours." I'm not sure how things could get any better.

Right, doing more work on the house now. We're getting there.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Builders' Crack for Breakfast

English is a fantastic language. It has a word I've never got the chance of using - "builders' crack" - meaning the buttock crack that a builder bares when he works (or just sits). In German: Bauarbeiter-Ritze.

Well, up until this morning I thought "yeah, well, I don't think it's THAT bad." Then my builders arrived. They were very nice and friendly, but they were all cast from the same mold. First guy was no older than 16-18, I call him "wee lad" in my head. Second guy was what I call "strapping young lad", early to mid-twenties. And their middle-aged boss.

All of them had very short hair - we're talking maybe a millimetre left - all of them had those very typical English football hooligan faces. The type of guy that makes me cross the road when they haunt the streets when they are drunk on a Thursday/Friday night, jeering and hollering and sometimes accompanied by skimpily-clad equally drunk bimbos. I'm not making this stuff up.

Strapping Young Lad bent down to remove the heater from the wall - and there it was. The Builder's Crack. Nice ass overall, too. I've seen almost all of it after he was done with the heater.

They covered everything up, then basically told me to leave ("We don't want to keep you..."). Talked to Boss Man about removing the concrete in the front and back, too, I guess he'll write up a proposal (which might or might not cost an arm and a leg, but the concrete is really bugging me and is shit for drainage. That's my excuse and I'm sticking by it).

My biggest accomplishment of the day so far? I oiled the lock in the front door and it's now much smoother going. There were days when it took me five minutes to open the door. I hope the garden door lock agrees to the oil, too. There are days when I can't open that at all. And while I embrace quirks of old houses, my temper then wants to kick down the door and smash the window. NOT HELPFUL.

So, when I left, I heard them begin to hammer off the plaster in the hallway and kitchen (they have to damp-proof a couple walls). The hollow ringing sound of Strapping Young Guy's big hammer (hehe) made me wince a little. I guess I'm like a parent who has to leave the kid at the dentist, trying to ignore the tears of fear in the kid's eyes. It really tugged on my heart there and I realized they told me to leave because it might be a little tough to watch the process.

Gods, I'm getting way too attached to that house, but I just can't help it. I'm a Taurus, so "my house is my castle" squared. I know it's going to be awesome when it's done, and I see it getting there. It'll be all worth it.

And what really occurred to me yesterday was that my mother would have loved the house and especially the garden. I want to plant roses in her honor. Big, old world roses with a fragrance. My mother (who trained as a florist) always complained about beautiful but soulless, fragrance-less roses. She especially loved the English roses, and having lived here, I see why. I'll plant roses in the front and in the back (there's an enormous sprawling rose bush/tree which I'll have to show you guys or you won't believe it) in her memory.