Saturday, 3 August 2013


In the last two days, I've edited the next Market Garden book with Lori Witt, so that's off to proofers now.

I'm now picking up the reins again on the Memory of Scorpions series; I have the edits of Lying with Scorpions in the other window and am now going through 306 editing comments from my editor that require a small or large fix. I fully expect to spend the whole weekend doing nothing else. I'm also inspired to write a blog post after having had a good idea for a topic while staring into my cereals this morning. The brain is clearly recharged and raring to go.

This week, I'll be starting on Scorpion 3, mostly because after editing Scorpion 2, the whole thing is fresh again in my head. I'm expecting to write that book in 4-8 weeks, roughly, making allowances for real life catastrophes and other distractions - but it can be done. The plot and characters are gathering momentum, and I'll enjoy seeing it all blow up get resolved.

Putting a four-year project to rest is pretty much its own reward. When I started Scorpion, I was between two journalist jobs, moving from a "reporter" job to an "editor" job. They worked me so hard for those £5k/year more that it's a miracle that Scorpion got ever finished. I call it the book that I wrote despite being in journalism. It was also the book that taught me that I can't be a full-time journalist and a productive novellist. That career damn near took everything I had.

And of course Scorpion was heavily influenced by where I was when I started it. It came to me in Turkey, in June, so in the worst heat, which accounts for the Mediterranean mood/atmosphere/climate of the book. It's a hot and dusty place very much inspired by the landscapes I saw in Turkey and Southern Italy.

So, it's great to wrap that one up. I like completing things. I like series, but I like finishing them even more. A series is like this ueber-novel - it just requires so much more effort and work than a novel and is many times as complex and mistakes can sneak in. I'm not a great record-keeper (ironic for a historian), so I have to be really careful to not contradict myself. My editor already caught a few. Ooops.

* * *

Just spending 2.5 weeks in the same space as Lori Witt has refuelled my confidence and overall energy.

Normally, spending so much time in the company of people has a fuzzying effect on me - sometimes it's exhaustion from being unable to just be and think quietly, removing myself from the overall energy of people. I can be too tuned into a group - until all I process is other people's thoughts and emotions and none of mine.

I've learned more about grounding in the last couple years, but I still prefer to get out of a random group of strangers. (Attending conventions is different - what's exhausting there is the "high pitch" of the overall energy, for want of a better expression. It's like all the copper wires are running hot with all the energy being run - I love it and I'm running on just a couple hours of sleep myself while I do it, but it IS pretty strenuous activity.)

Being with a fellow writer has the opposite effect - it generates a force field that's leading to some interesting effects, such as recharging the battery much faster than I could do on my own. Being among my own kind reinforces very much who I am. No energy is spent on "fitting in" or "functioning in normal-people/non-book-people context". It's goofing off, it's wild, purely association-driven conversation, and every five minutes, some idea hits with force, until that part of my brain looks like a comet-pocked moon surface. Bang - there goes another!

So, getting out of it all was good for Ye Olde Muse and my sanity.

Leaves me with housekeeping. Since coming back, I've done those novel edits, I've edited an op-ed again that'll be run in Publishers' Weekly (yay!), I'm in the clean-up of another novel, and I've written the series blurb for Country Mouse/City Mouse (which will be released in paper and as a bundle at a nice discount soon). I'm now working on the series blurbs for Memory of Scorpions, and Market Garden. (Blurb-writing is an odd kind of torture - I kinda like it, but it's still hard.)

Then I'll have to completely re-think my website. I'm publishing more books than the current format allows to showcase, and I'm not going to stop anytime soon. So I was going to re-do the whole thing anyway, and hence haven't been updating (apart from taking a couple short stories down whose rights have reverted to me). Now it's been more than a year that I've updated the site. Considering that some of the most exciting things for me happened last year, I'm so out of date that people start mentioning it. Ooops. I guess I was just busy. And indecisive.

And then there's a half-written WWII novel with LA Witt that wants to be finished (and the research that goes into it needs some more time, too). I'm also expecting the edits of a 100k contemporary in the next few weeks. And then there's my mainstream-y historical WWII novel that I'd planned to write by 1 May. Well, the MoS series got in the way of that. With the low sales of my historical romance fiction overall, I'm not even sure how many more I want to write of those. Historicals aren't furthering the "quit the day job" plan very much, which is currently an absolute priority for me (it's that, burn-out or the "starving artist" gig, and the latter sucks - I've given that a try ten years ago and was underwhelmed by the glory of it).

It means I might have to push the historicals out further and consider them an expensive hobby. It's killing me a little inside to think of them that way - I have THINGS to show you, STORIES I'm dying to tell. Crusades, WWII, American Civil War, historical urban fantasy. I have stories in my head that don't let me sleep at night. Quips from my smart-ass Russian shaman that make me laugh on a train. I go into any project with the intention that there's ONE reader out there who NEEDS to hear that story I have rampaging inside me. Somebody who's only waiting for it. Triaging my books into "won't sell" and "will sell" kills me. It seems so counter-intuitive - I wrote my best stuff with "fuck sales, this thing is coming through me and there's NOTHING I can do to stop it". Special Forces was written to entertain me. Never meant to be read by anybody. Just a game to pass the time.

I guess that triage is the price I pay for trying to make a living. But once I've quit or part-quit my day job, I can afford time-consuming hobbies like writing arty novels and stuff only five people care about.

I'm looking forward to that.


  1. Was it really to entertain you, Special Forces? wow strange to hear.. After I finished Soldiers, I was wondering- as a begginer wannabe writer- if it was even so shocking to read it, it caused me phisycal heartache, depression, made me sick and cry and laugh my head off the next minute... How hard it could be to write it then? I really felt sorry for you imagining how depressed you must have felt..
    Anyhow it would be a great loss of the world, if it hadn't been published, I'm telling you ;)
    ps. sorry my English sucks :/

  2. Your English is fine. :)

    Yep, I wrote SF only to entertain myself - that's how co-projects usually start. Granted, I wasn't in the most positive headspace (certainly not compared to nowadays, where life is going pretty well), but I don't remember actively suffering more than would be expected in a crappy job/career at that stage. :)

  3. You've put it so well. That's exactly how I feel being around other writers. There's nothing quite like being with someone that 'gets' you. :)
    (and I enjoy conventions, but they're exhausting.)