Friday, 29 April 2011

Like being left by a lover

Finishing a book is like being left by a lover. Of course, that's where the metaphor falls flat on its ass. You never enter a relationship with the aim to finish it. Or get paid for handing your lover over afterwards.

If anything, writing a book is like traveling. Discovery. Unexpected chaos. And then leaving, feeling like a part of you has been left behind (and not just the toe nails and hair and skin flakes).

Sometimes, finishing a book feels like that old superstition. That you "lose" part of your soul when you get photographed. Writing is forming emotional energy. You have to get the stuff from somewhere. You have to be passionate enough about it to keep it going for anything between six weeks to two years. Then release it. The relief that comes with the release - is also a loss. Your hands are empty. You lose purpose. You don't come home thinking "I Need To Get This Scene Written!" - you come home to laundry and dirty dishes and a carpet that needs hovering. You begin to notice dust specks. Begin to actually see that the garden is overgrown.

You update your blog twice in one day.

I know I'm a workaholic. That trait serves me really well, actually. I do get a lot of shit done, especially in writing. I just wrote a - pretty good - novel in less than three months. Whoot! I must be doing something right.

Finishing the novel - the act of racing towards the ending, knowing it's maybe just 5-10 pages now, is glorious. By that point you know whether it's any good. The quick edit after that is already anti-climactic. You have no idea if it's any good, but you begin to see all the stuff that has piled up in the meantime.

Not writing is misery. At least I know this time there are more novels (it's far worse if there are no others lined up - I've gone through the "oh noes, I'll never write anything like this every again! WOES IS MEHHH!" phase so often that it's become something of a running joke).

I know I should be unpacking my bags and sleep and sort through the photos and memories, but I really cannot wait to be travelling again.

Spit'n polish (or: Counterpunch is done)

I need to keep better track of when I start books. But I'm reasonably sure that I started "Counterpunch" in about February. That's a 55k novel in three months. Writing four novels per year can be done, but I'm personally aiming more for 2-3 plus some small fry, because I don't want to burn out in a year or two.

In the last three days, I've applied a spit'n polish edit to the manuscript, which is the quick read-through and typo-fix and continuity check that I do on my own before things go out to betas. In this case, as it's a story set (mostly) in London, this went out to two Brits.

I'm now in the post-book slump. It's a weirdly calm place (no voices in my head), but also very low energy. I struggle to do more than make coffee or get dressed. Getting catapulted from one "reality" into the other is jarring, and part of me desperately wants to escape back into a different book world. But at the same time, I know that's not good. I need to regather, regroup, and recover. Sleep, rest, read, research. While I'm in the throes of writing, all that feels like wasted time to me, but I really need some rest.

So, I figure I'll finish the three books on boxing that I acquired, to be ready for the rewriting. And after that, I'm off to WWII.

Ironically, "Thor", as weak as it was (especially all the stuff in Asgard), has triggered an idea for a book. Since that idea isn't really mine, I need to get in touch with a friend of mine who has an unsold manuscript. I'm figuring I might be able to convince him to hand the idea over to me. It's suitably "high concept" and generally awesome, but he won't be able to sell it in Germany.

And once I'm done with that time period, I'm returning to the crusades and William Raven. (And that other templar I haven't talked about yet.)

Meanwhile, the taxpayer-sponsored spectacle of two nice young people getting married unfolds. And here I thought the Windsors had enough spare cash to pay for all that themselves. Silly me. I'm assured the influx of a few million tourists makes it all worthwhile, and they may just have saved the London-based camping industry.

Me, I'm haunted by the memories of Diana. The nicest, sanest people have to get damaged under all that public pressure. And Kate, while apparently incredibly nice and sweet, is far removed from a "modern queen-in-waiting", as she's been called. We're looking at a woman who has no other ambitions in her life but her prince and to look good on camera. I've seen that model of womanhood fail so often in both my family and those of my friends that I cringe inwardly when I see women submit like that.

And let's not forget that only her male kids can become kings, whereas even a first-born daughter has no rights to the throne. The whole spectacle is so anachronistic. At least we're having a day off... but I rather suspect that the London infrastructure wouldn't be able to cope with people trying to get to work while the inner city is full of watchers.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

In defense of pseudonyms and a layer of protection

There are possibly a handful of people out there (in the area of 3-5) that both know my so-called "real" name, where I work, and where I live. Everybody else knows these things to varying degrees. My publishers know all this, of course, since it's legally pertinent.

I've recently encountered an attitude where people say they "respect" somebody more if the name they write under is their "real name". Using a pseudonym, is, according to these people, equivalent to cowardice.

There are several writers out there that put their faces on their websites. All power to them, if they are comfortable with it (I imagine some might not be but feel it's the "done thing"). All power also to writers who don't look anything like weavers of dark and majestic sexy novels, and still put their faces out there.

Within the last two weeks, I've acquired a second stalker (a first stalker reared her ugly head about three years ago and I'm pretty sure she's still out there somewhere, and quite possibly reading this), and another stalker/obsessive "fan" (and you guys know how much I hate the term "fan"). And I've also encountered some people that faced negative consequences because they allowed the wall between their "public" and "private" lives to be breached. Or breached it themselves, feeling they don't "need" the protection, or frankly trusting the wrong people.

There's even been a case of a publisher breaching that wall, as some person at a publisher outed the writer's "real persona" in public.

This here is another case of a romance author facing - potential very very serious - damage due to the stuff that she writes/has written.

We are *not* operating in a safe space.

Hence I am *not* going to conventions, don't give out my photo, don't do anything that attaches my face to my books (sorry, big hot shot agent/publisher, that means NO booktours and no signing), don't even give live interviews via radio/phone or anything else. If I meet readers, I meet them on my terms and after several years of personal correspondence, or if I know I can trust them. And even then I got burned.

I hope my colleague Judy Mays makes it out intact. I'm definitely keeping my fingers crossed for her.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The greatest thing ever

Yesterday, late, at night (okay, it was really morning, technically speaking), I finished a book. It's my boxer book, tentatively called "Counterpunch" and it stands as a - very - rough draft at 54k.

And it's a thing of beauty. Of course authors are supposed to say that. Partly because we'd never admit to ourselves (or anybody, for that matter) that some books are better than others or that we have doubts if something works. In a way, admiting to doubts makes stuff real. Denying them is a bit like "if I don't see it, nobody will!" and then reviewers don't pick up on it and we go "whew, s/he missed it", and relax, until a better reviewer or a less polite one points out exactly that and why the king is naked.

But regardless of "what's done" and "not done" as a writer, I think "Counterpunch" is the best thing I've ever done, hands down. In part it's because I'm now a better writer than I was even last year. In part also because "Counterpunch" came out in one piece and it's almost perfect. The structure works, the pacing works, the individual scenes work, and the characters work. It's not what I expected it to be - it's what I hoped it would be.

I pushed Brook and his story away a few times and had a rather unpleasant two weeks where I didn't do anything on the text. I hemmed and hawed and freaked out over things like British stories at American publishers (I struggle hard to rewrite something into "American" that's set in Britain and hence written in British English), then I freaked out over royalty rates and release schedules, which led me to partner up with a new publisher who basically makes a lot of effort to please me. Royalties, cover, editing, and "red carpet treatment" inclusive. Contract terms look very favourable to this writer, and I've signed a fair few contracts by now.

The idea is to try several models, several publishers and then narrow things down to the places I really love (and pay me good royalties). More once I've actually submitted the story and have signed the contract.

Back to the book. Currently I'm mentally and emotionally completely drained (and should have taken the three days between the long weekends off, really, to recover from my 16k-in-four-days writing binge), but I'll look into making the usual changes and begin editing.

That means typos and "line editing" stuff, then a Brit check (because some of my phrasing is pretty American, and that's just wrong for this book) - I already have two volunteers lined up for that), and then a final line edit and style check from a seriously hardcore beta.

Then submission, wait, contract check, signing on the dotted line. I'm looking at a November release, hopefully. But in the meantime I'll bask in what I think is a job well done - and I'll hope you agree with me once you've read it.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Fascinating interview on celebrity, fame, and the media

i'm not a fan of Russell Brand, and it took him a while to get me even in this interview. But this is utterly fascinating.

Click on the Boing Boing video here. And do take the 14-15 minutes to really listen to him. Utterly fascinating, and very true.

I think, in a small sense, all this applies to writers, too. Of course, we are far more in charge of our public persona. Because basically we wouldn't help the Daily Hate Mail to sell copies. However, some of that instrumentalizing can be seen on some of the big blogs. There are people "making" and "breaking" authors' reputation.

The second main point of Brand gels very much with what I've seen, time and again, in author circles. The moment when authors believe their own press, they lose themselves. They turn into caricatures of themselves and begin to chase fame for fame's sake. Wise words, and a great warning for everybody stepping out into the light of public perception.

Friday, 22 April 2011

I blogged

Happy Easter! I've restarted work on my boxer novel and get warmed up to resume work on my historical WWII novel.

And I also blogged about fear over at Slash and Burn here.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The three-day short story

Whenever I'm quiet, it means I'm writing. This week, I've been writing. I've been writing despite being on the ohmygods early shift, which sometimes happens when I get trained to do something. It means getting up at 4:30 and getting picked up at 5:00 by a bank-paid driver, and then starting work at 6. This kind of shift involves large amounts of strong coffee and a complete collapse of all nervous functions at around 13:00, with nothing remaining but the desire to go to sleep and take a week off.

(They do pay me well for it, though, and there's something fascinating and beautiful and dejected about London at dawn.)

So, yeah, on Monday, while I was feeling sorry for myself and my biorhythm, an Idea Happened. Before that, I'd been pointed at Storm Moon Press' gun kink submissions call. I While I've used weapons a fair amount in my previous stories, this was interesting because immediately I tought that this time, the weapon really needs to take center stage. Which was an interesting challenge.

The Muse agreed.

I ended up writing a 9k story in three days. Now, I'm happy with my wordcount if I make 1,000 words/day. 500/day is better than nothing. 1,500/day is what I call a "good day". 2,000 is noteworthy good. 3,000 is more like a weekend output, realistically speaking. Keeping that level up for three days while sleep-lagged is nothing short of miraculous. If Storm Moon Press likes it, it should come out in January 2012, so that's my first potential release for next year.

Downside of writing that hard? I didn't write at all yesterday and my brain is in that weird hazy state where it tries to work out what project to work on now. Or whether it can be bothered at all.

What I did do was help a friend who needed to cut 18k from her manuscript -by cutting the final 2k and wrapping things up on that side. Still a sense of accomplishment, and one item off the big pile of Things to be Done.

But boy, I'm ready for the four-day Easter weekend before me.

Friday, 15 April 2011

"Scorpion" just around the corner

It's real and becomes more and more real now. I have a cover, so the time of denial is over. "Scorpion" is coming out. (Yeah, books are real while being written and then when they are coming on - in between they fall in a state of "not quite real", when I tend to forget all about them.)

Anyway, the amazingly talented Reese Dante has created no less than 8 covers, three of which were totally different drafts and the others were variations on those.

I'm very happy with what she's come up with (go, have a look).

It's spot-on. My cover spec (always an exercise in helpless frustration about trying to translate an emotion into an image... I'm not a very descriptive writer) told Reese that Kendras was black and big and has blue eyes (that's what Jaishani look like in that world). And that he looks like a "mean motherfucker". Yup, exactly the words I used.

So, we can all agree that Kendras on the cover looks like a mean motherfucker. Or, as one reader put it: "Wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley, but happy to meet him in a hotel room."


In my "real life", I've come out to my team in the bank. They were great about it (*waves in case they are reading*). Even offered feedback on the eight version of the "Scorpion" cover. I think that calls for a mini office celebration on release day. :)

Also, my eyes are fine. After LASIK, I have to admit that I didn't like reading and pretty much avoided it where I could. After editing 8 hrs/day in the day job, my eyes felt tired, worn out, and I had lots of blurriness at the short distance which made reading actually hard work - like consciously focusing on words. So I stayed away from reading. Thought and watched and observed during my commute rather than read. (Hence no book reviews and a huge pile of work I need to get through becouse I promised - sorry guys, I literally didn't see this situation coming).

I noticed these issues less and less, though, so I'll go back to reading. It's three weeks after LASIK, and my eyes are doing really well. Sometimes a bit of a dry/blurry feeling early in the mornings, but far less issues with near-vision blurriness. Thanks for bearing with me while I was healing.

Now back to work.

Friday, 1 April 2011

LASIK - one week later

I've had my one-week check-up with the opticians and my eyes are healing "well". The flap (the bit they cut open) has "sealed itself well", I can now rub/touch my eyes and if I get water in the eye (from, you know, showering), it won't be the end of the world.

This means that the most vulnerable time is over. I can relax a bit now (after hearing horror stories of scarred corneas). And I don't have to use any eye drops any more - which leaves me with the stuff against dry eyes, which I'll likely need a little bit longer.

Doc said my vision would continue to become clearer. Long-distance, I'm way better than 20/20 (two lines more). Short-distance, I have moments when my vision is really sharp and crisp, but it's temporary at the moment. However, if that level of quality becomes permanent, I'll be shocked in a very very good way.

May do light sports, no full contact stuff for another three weeks. That's OK. I can hold off on the boxing for another three weeks. :)

The "Great Soul" might have been bisexual - sparks outrage in India

The NY Times has an interesting article on Mahatma Gandhi, arguably one of the key figures of modern history. Specifically, it's about a biography about to be published - and that's already being banned in some parts of India.

According to the biographer, Gandhi was bisexual.

I need to get my hands on the book - not just because I'm more than happy to welcome Gandhi into our family (of sorts), but I'd be curious to simply learn more, and we seem to live in an age where biographies have stopped censoring anything that isn't cisgendered and straight, or marginalise this part of our lives.