Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Goodreads Crackdown

I spent a bit of time today reading a number of websites on L'affaire Goodreads and how it's changed its TOS. It used to be very much that in any author-reviewer/reader clash, Goodreads sided 110% with the reader and reviewer. And I can see why--there's a huge perceived power imbalance. This has now changed.

My personal disenchantment with Goodreads is not so much because of the bullying--of which I've seen too much to discount it as "author hysteria" or "reviewer hysteria", respectively.

I've severely cut my exposure to social media in general, cutting 90% of my "followed" people on Twitter and enforcing time limits of how long per day I can stay on certain sites. Right now, it's set at 30 minutes per 12 hrs--if I go over, those websites are shut down and I can't access them or override the mechanism. (I might work out how, but can't be bothered trying to break my own rules, so it's a huge success.) Those websites are: Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Since then, my stress level is way down and my productivity is up (I also read a lot more than I have recently). Which, we can agree, is a good thing for a writer who's basically resigned himself to having to keep that day job going and having come too close to burnout recently. Essentially, I'm not watching the drama, nor do I follow links people post to a variety of posts on the "STGRB" website. I understand they have documented the "crackdown" extensively.

I came across the whole issue on Passive Guy's website, who quotes a post on Dear Author and adds his own comment. As usual, the comment and visitor comments are well worth a read.

Overall, I engage on Goodreads in a much more selective manner. I liberally friend people, and after a couple unpleasant interactions, I tend to block people, thus filtering them out of what I want to see per day. Considering the impact that "negativity" has on my motivation and desire to write, that's a method of self-preservation. Mostly, I'm trying to protect my books and my productivity. I call it my "Ostrich Method". It works for me. Sometimes, ignorance is not only the best but the only way forward.

That said, while I left pretty much all Goodreads groups, I did it because checking them was helping me procrastinate and turned into OCD-like patterns. It wasn't that I hate readers or reviewers and want nothing to do with them. It's just I don't have the time or energy. I remain open and accessible via email and my own group and comments on my status updates or blog posts.

I know authors who are really badly shaken up by interactions they've had on Goodreads, and I know several who warn other authors off the site, citing it's "toxic". Personally, 99% of my interactions have been pleasant. (So pleasant that my wordcount THERE went up, but my wordcount in actual fiction terms went down). Finding a balance is obviously the best way forward, but I'll fight that fight with myself at a point when I'm not getting strangled by two novel deadlines. (One at 20k, one unwritten. Both to be done WAY TOO SOON.)

In any case, I've met so many great people on Goodreads and built some amazing friendships and relationships. I hope the place settles down and everybody feels safe, and maybe we can even talk about some books (though I'm off reviewing books in the genre, but it would be nice to talk about the others I read) and recommend some, too.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What kills creativity

Pretty interesting article on what kills creativity. I've seen several stories murdered by those.

The 7 Biggest Creativity Killers.

Monday, 16 September 2013

A second lease on life

Another update on Lying with Scorpions - it's now on to editor 2, who'll likely rip its guts out again once she gets book 3. But for the moment, it's off my desk and I'm focusing (as much as I'm able to focus, anyway) on Scorpion 3, which is about to hit 20k.

After doing a pretty solid 2,000 words yesterday, I was a little distracted. See, I was re-organizing old contracts, including stuff I'd done ages and ages ago, and I realised I actually own the "individual release" and English-language rights of a story that made me a not inconsiderable amount of money, oh, about 10+ years ago. Actually, it was my second commercial release after selling a horror story when I was 16 or so, and allowed me to bullshit my way into a book contract. It's a little sci-fi story, that, I swear, I thought was a novella of about 20k, but it turned out it's less than 7k. (Talk about memory and time distorting everything.)

And, it's not cringeworthily bad. While I prefer that the little horror story (which is derivative of just about every "haunted house" plot you've ever seen) sinks into the Moors of Forgetfuless, I think this little story is worth salvaging.

And I can justify putting in the work anyway. First, it's what I call an "easy victory" - short stories are usually beautifully manageable. A couple days' writing, a day's editing, an hour to read, if that. And any victory makes you feel good and motivated to tackle the bigger issues/pieces of work.

That brings the number of "unavailable short work" up to 3 (Deliverance and Burn being the other two).

And I know that Deliverance and Burn have novella potential at least, but looking at my workload, there's no way those will happen anytime soon. I expect to tackle most of my crusader bunnies in 2015, after I'll devote 2014 to my WWII bunnies. (Conversely, 2013 was the year of Scorpion.)

There are still people who want to get their hands on (legal) copies of those.

So what's an author to do? I've been looking at possibly self-publishing a number of pieces that are either a) off the beaten path/different, b) uncommercial/not commercial enough or c) mainstreamy without a market). I may add books to that that come out of copyright, or books that are rejected for whatever reasons (including "not commercial enough") or where a publisher offers me a bad deal and I can't get a better one.

After much deliberation, I've decided to put both Burn and Deliverance and that third story back out into the market. Burn and Deliverance are currently with an editor, and I have a cover artist friend working on some simple covers. The one for the German sci-fi story is done, and re-reading it, I decided to translate it into English and launch both the German and English versions. The German ur-text, as it were, is with a couple writer friends at the moment who'll hopefully pull it apart, and the English text will go through edits, too.

However, I'm doing this on a shoe-string budget; relaunching stories that likely will sell less than 50 copies each at $.99 makes no sense and wouldn't happen if I ended up having to spend $300 a piece for the relaunch (the cost includes editor, cover artist, stock photos - I'm forgoing ISBN numbers and really expensive stock - all images so far are <$10).

Considering that the "accepted" price for short stories is about $.99 (which I think is about fair for re-released and mainstream material), and that, at that price point I'd be making $.25-20 per sale (pre-tax), I just don't see the thousands of sales that would make it all worthwhile. So I'm essentially exploiting friends to get the necessary quality (and thank you, guys, for your help!).

This coincides with the relaunch of my German SpecFic pseudonym; I don't think it makes sense to sell (sex-less, straight) mainstreamy stories under a name that's now basically synonymous with m/m & gay writing. It's a pure branding decision - I'm still proud of the work, I still think it has merit (or I'd stomp it into the bin), but I also don't want to "mislead" my readers. I'll be happy when people pick the stories up for my voice or my weird ideas, or whatever else, but there'll be very little romance or sex, so I'm trying to keep the "glommers" happy.

I'm also not going to make it a big secret. Too many people have told me they'd buy even my mainstream stuff, so I'll let people know who I was and will again be. Will that pseudonym blog? I don't think so. I don't have the time to engage as two different people, and this will be my primary identity (as an ex-gamer, I have no issues with having multiple identities, or keeping them apart). No point hiding/misleading.

However, I enjoy the freedom of that other pseudonym in some ways. There's less expectation, maybe, or it's just less defined, or maybe it's more a playground. It's unlikely to amount to much more than that - I haven't written straight mainstream stuff for many, many years, and I'm not sure how prolific that other guy's going to be.

I'm not even sure which future projects will be shunted off to that name - non-romance? What about my hetero romance? The mainstream historicals with gay/bisexual main characters?

I'm not sure where to draw the line at present, and it's been a thought that's been running around in my head for months now. Can I do literary works with the same name as a specfic writer who happily writes about cyborgs? Or maybe put everything under that name that "dilutes" my main brand? (A brand that can almost be summed up with "expect the unexpected"?)

I guess it's going to be a case-by-case decision, but it's good to have the option wide open. The main break line seems to be romance/non-romance (which makes sense). I kind of refuse to consider sexy/non-sexy - while it would be nice to have more books to hand out to unsuspecting relatives/acquaintances, I refuse to be ashamed of writing sex, and there are quite a few mainstream books that contain as much, if not more sex than novels I've written. And then there's hetero/queer, which is way too easy as it implies that m/m and gay stuff are the same thing (and that's a hotly contested field anyway). On the other hand, I don't want to piss off m/m readers who click "buy" without reading the blurb when I get around to writing the hetero book(s). One way to "warn" them is by using a different name entirely. (Which is still in the cards as a possibility.)

In any case, I'm excited to get the three stories back out on the corner in the next few weeks, and looking for suitable cover images is fun. I did enjoy finding covers for my magazine when I was still running one, and I'm still proud of all the covers where I found the stock or had the idea for the concept. So, I actually enjoy this part. Let's see what happens.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Update on 2013 projects (Memory of Scorpions, Market Garden, Counterpunch 2)

I've just wrapped an editing pass on Scorpion 2 - aka Lying with Scorpions (LwS). There might be another pass with this editor, but it feels about 98% done. So that's good news.

I've made good progress on Scorpion 3. Right now, Kendras's story feels like three novels, so I'm 2/3 done telling it. I'll keep that in mind (almost done! almost done!) when it feels like a project that'll never end.

Editing LwS, I re-read the whole thing and feel a lot more positive about its internal tension and the level of writing. While gay fantasy isn't a huge seller, Scorpion as a solo novel has been rock steady for two years in terms of sales, and I'm hopeful for books 2 and 3. More importantly, I'm quite happy with how the second part has turned out. Now all I have to do is not fuck up book 3.

My deadline for book 3 (Taste for Poison - or TfP) is mid-October. If I'm really good and manage to focus, I might yet pull that off.

There'll also be a novella about Widowmaker (likely titled Widowmaker). I'll write that after TfP, because the character demands it, though I'm still wrestling with the form and shape. No deadline yet on it, but should be a solid month's work. I might do that for NaNoWriMo.

I'm tempted to write a book about Adrastes, eventually. That'll be a short novel, I think (45-60k), but that's quite possibly a little ways off. It's not necessary for the Memory of Scorpions series, and I can feel a slight fatigue for fantasy setting in. I think I'll have to switch genres after Widowmaker.

That's all solo work.

In terms of co-written books, Lori and I have several things going. One is a novel for Samhain that's now 90% done and we're currently negotiating contracts.

Since some people have asked, yes, Market Garden will go on. It's fun to write, and it's the only of my stuff that hits any bestseller lists, but more importantly, we have quite a few more stories to tell and they'll run the gamut from light and short and sexy to somewhat meatier and heavier-going novels. Basically, whatever fits the characters. Right now, If It Drives is in edits, which is a short novel about Red Tie and his driver, as introduced in If It Fornicates.

There'll also be a story wrapping up Tristan and Jared's arch, and Raoul gets a book, too. We might even write a straight romance about Emily (I love her) and another book about Geoff and Mike (who already hinted that they had a "rocky start", so we're intrigued to check that out, though they aren't really directly connected to Market Garden). I'd love to write Frank and Andrew's story, but since it's quite depressing, we probably won't, regardless of how intrigued I am by the whole "civilising through love" angle in there.

We're also about 60% or so done with another WWII historical, which needs a bit more research.

Those bolded projects should carry me into about January/February, at which point I'll switch my attention to a couple literary historical gay novels, while co-writing more Market Garden, which should continue at least into 2014, if not longer.

All that assumes I manage to write at least 1,000 words a day, and the last week has been extremely patchy on that level. Sometimes I hit the goal, sometimes I don't, and last week was basically a complete wash. So, yeah, we have 3.5 months left in the year. I better go and make some words happen.

Monday, 9 September 2013


I'm writing a little bit, mostly on Scorpion 3, while fixing some aspects of Scorpion 2. Never again do I want to write a series with so many months in between. I'm mostly pretty good at holding one novel in my head at any given time, but three is a totally different matter. I'm also looking at the next Market Garden book, which is a short novel. Lori's been a hero and did the first passes on this while I'm still trying to sort out my head.

My internet detox is going pretty well. My anxiety and stress levels are way, way down, and I'm re-connecting more with other stuff in my life. Essentially, I've given myself permission to not always be "on" and to not respond to emails that require more than a two-minute action from me. I enjoy talking to readers and other friends, but right now, I don't have the energy, focus or time. The trade-off is - I can either write or respond to emails.

The old fix for the problem was to quit my day job so I can do both. Well, that plan is currently on ice, so I need to be economic with that time, energy and focus I have. Of course that'll have an impact on my sales, but with a day job, I can absorb that. I'll have to break into an entirely new market next year anyway, so selling books is always an uphill battle (anybody ever thought about going AROUND that fucking hill and flank'em?).

I've almost entirely killed the compulsion to check reviews. I still look at things like sales ranks and reviews on (via authorcentral), but maybe only once a day. Some days I don't. Once Capture & Surrender is out of the bestseller list, that'll go down to normal, with me not checking at all. I'm finding Amazon a much less toxic place for me than anywhere else where books are sold and/or reviewed. Of course, I'm staying away from the forums.

I'm not even entirely sure what's so toxic about social media for me right now. Maybe it's information overload, maybe it gives me too many excuses to piss away my time. Maybe it's the drama (I'll never write a YA book. Ever.). Maybe at times it's disgust with the mix of power play/pressuring tactics/bullying/stupidity that get whipped up to a fever pitch seemingly every week. Maybe it's the inability to change any of those dynamics. Maybe I'm too empathetic, maybe I just absorb all that negativity and then have no clue what to do with it, apart from spiralling into a cycle of despair and self-defeating behaviour and obsession.

I've spent some time now thinking about energy and writing. I think books have energy - every written communication does. Writing is a speech equivalent, though the spoken word I think, carries more subtleties. In writing, obviously, body language is missing, and in fiction, it's all filtered through the tonality of the characters. For example, a text can be "whiny" if written by a non-whiny author who channels his/her inner potential for whiny-ness to write a whiny character. The author doesn't become whiny, but "merely" taps a potential for whinyness to write it authentically and hopefully without judgement. (Or rather, let me backtrack a bit and say that the "method actor" school of writing, to which I kind of belong, does that. To write a scene where somebody dies, I tap my mother's death, and to write Frank, I tapped the person he's based on. I get as close as possible to that person or that memory or event and then let it echo through me. The resonance of that I put into the book/scene.) It's kinda esoteric, but I think it's the reason why people experience those emotions when they read my stories. There's 2.5 years of crazyness and darkness in Special Forces, and that story seemsd to rock people like a cannon ball flying right over their heads. It's this vast, condensed ball of rage and screaming energy, so I'm not surprised when it rocks people down their bones. It absolutely rocked me the same way. Hey, I was the cannon that fired it.

This method acting school of writing can get really weird when you're writing an evil or deluded character. One of the most powerful scenes I've ever written is an interrogation/intimidation scene between a Frenchman and a German SS officer (who's a true believer). Writing the SS guy's ideological rant required of me to morph into him. I didn't want to write the usual, well-worn cliches, but had to dig into him and tap into that energy he embodies. I wrote from him, through him, as him.

Afterwards, I felt like I needed a shower.

(I believe that's the reason why some readers can't tell the difference between that energy and the reality behind the writing. There's at least one person out there who believes I condone rape, war and violence because of the filter-less way that Special Forces is written. And they firmly believe that the author is the message. No--to me that's just damn good writing, and "unsafe" writing. No hand-holding, no filter. Take it or leave it, but if you take it, take it raw.)

Sometimes, those energies linger. I'm not quite Daniel Day-Lewis, who basically never breaks character while filming, but there's a residue in my everyday life. Right now, I'm approaching almost everything a bit more like Kendras than I normally would. (He's socially more acceptable than Widowmaker, though being him would be so much fun--at least until they lock me away forever.)

Based on that, I think energetic mimickry is a skill I've acquired throughout my life. I tune into stuff like nobody's business. If I believe my astrologer friends, my Moon and Mars in Pisces just ramps that up to the nth degree.

What protective layers I had were worn so thin that everything was throwing me out of balance. A negative review on a friend's book would do it. A depressed/negative comment somewhere. Jup, another downer. I got to the point where I didn't even follow the news anymore. (Right now, I don't--sweet, blessed ignorance.) I've unsubscribed from all review blogs--I was at the point where a negative review on anything would somehow go deep. I used to read a lot of reviews to see what's going on in the market, what books sound good, what authors I should try.

Couldn't do it anymore.

I've also left all but three or so groups on Goodreads. I very rarely spend time of Facebook, so FB isn't a big problem. I've unfollowed about 1,000 people on Twitter and stopped following all review sites. I've selected "don't show re-tweets" on most of my remaining Twitter peeps. I can't deal with all the retweeted reviews or industry-related rants. I still follow Passive Guy/The Passive Voice, but mostly because it's not romance-specific, and Katherine Rusch, because her posts on indie publishing makes me think and fills in the big picture.

Obviously, the problem is not the review system, which works. It's not even the five or ten trolls in the industry, or people who just run on negativity, feed it and spread it, to make everybody feel as miserable as, I think, they are feeling deep down. (I recognize their behaviour because I've been there.)

The problem is my own responses, ingrained from years of dark spaces and enough family baggage to employ a whole association of psychotherapists (I think I've made big strides and I'm collapsing a lot of that stuff while I work through it, mostly in writing).

I think it's pattern recognition--when you see a situation/event/person who triggers a trauma, anxiety goes WAY up, whether you're directly involved or not. Situations like that can quite literally push the right (wrong) person into in extremis. I think it's that anxiety that kills creativity. It's like the body/brain is so busy surviving stress that it can't really be bothered to come up with one worthwhile interesting sentence.

I'm exploring energy work at the moment, and I do think that negative intention or negative energy load (as transmitted through writing - all writing) has a huge impact, especially to people who are really tuned into stuff. (And most writers I know are. Most writers I know are also highly suggestible and can be easily hypnotised, and I wonder if those traits are connected. For example, I can go into a trance if somebody just looks at me with intent.)

Essentially, I think "detox" is the right expression for what I'm doing to get back on my feet. I've removed myself as far as possible from the places on the internet that trigger that anxiety/stress response. I've given myself permission to not read reviews or respond to emails or be there all the time. I read all emails (unless the first sentences make it clear it's from a troll). I'm deeply grateful for readers reaching out. I can't always respond. It's that or writing.

I used to think that the two rules "don't read reviews" and "don't talk about an unfinished book" are myths.
But I have noticed that the more I talk about an unfinished book, the less I'm motivated to actually finish it. It's like I'm repeating the message. First time you say something, it's fresh. Second time, not so much. Fifty times, you're bored and "meh" about it yourself. So I'll break myself out of that particular habit, too.

I thought that good reviews motivate me and I can somehow deal with the one negative review. At the very least, I could connect with a reader and maybe answer questions ("When will the sequel come out?"). Customer service, if you will. But I've observed that one nasty/ignorant/ad-hominem sentence in a good review can drop my motivation through the floor. Fifty great reviews, and then one "meh" review, and my neurotic anxiety response is right back. I'm suddenly the worst writer who ever wasted electrons. Certainly, the writing won't happen that evening.

And I can't afford to lose so much time simply on recovery.

There are two ways of dealing with all that stress. Grow a thicker skin ("go numb or go home"), which I'm not sure is practical for somebody who makes half a living out of being a seismograph to characters and ideas and energy load.

I've done some grounding exercises, which help, and hypnosis, which helps me get back to a positive state, and over the weekend I've learned a breathing exercise that'll I'll teach every willing author and anxious person I can get my hands on because it'a a fucking miracle. It's like a suit of energetic armour. Fucking amazing.

Even though I'm pretty sure those will help me manage, I just don't want to get back into that state where I was, so I'm going with the armor and the detox. Two lines of defense are better than one or even none.

Generally, I think I'm on the right track. I'm feeling better, and I'm writing, just a bit, like 1,000 words here and there, but I no longer feel overwhelmed and incoherent with stress.

I'm even starting to look forward to GRL.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Better than nothing

It's funny how my body knows so much better how much I can cope with. I spent the weekend pretty much just sleeping and reading, and sleeping, and reading, and eating, and then sleeping. Grand total words written: 1,313.

Needless to say, that's not enough to deliver Scorpion 3 by mid-October, and that's what I promised I'll do. Again, people depend on it, money rides on it, people expect it, some readers might want it. To hit 80k (and that number is solely based on the outline, which means it can fall either side by a ten thousand words or more), I have to write 1,700 words per day at least. I'd planned to write 5,000 over the weekend. Normally, that's entirely doable.

I found myself doing everything else.

My partner eventually caught on. For about 2-3 weeks, I've done a pretty good job pretending that everything is fine. While staring at the screen for many hours and getting very little to nothing done. It's hard effort, trying. Harder effort to pretend something's actually happening, and even harder effort to mask it from those nearest and dearest.

I've been feeling miserable and have managed largely to keep it off the internet. But something isn't quite right. I look at, I don't know, 35 outstanding Facebook messages and knot myself into a macramee of anxiety. I look at about 1,500 emails in my inbox and feel nothing but dread. There's almost 300 messages on Goodreads I should respond to, but the thought of actually tackling any of those fills me with utter horror.

Then comes the guilt when I don't.

And when the other person sends a reminder.

I'm petrified. Beat myself up over the fact I don't have the time, that I got so far behind, how important it is for an author to respond to reader email. Or finally do all the beta-reading I've promised, or the pile of books I have to read for the Rainbow Awards, or to maintain my networks and stay in touch with friends and contacts and could-be-friends. I've been unable for a week now to book my flights to Atlanta. I don't seem to have the focus to do it.

When, a few days ago, I received edits on a story of less than 55k words, and there were 1,100 comments on it, I damn near lost my shit and broke into tears.

I'm working on an edit with just 100 comments on 84k words, and it takes every ounce of willpower I have to tackle those - one after the other. I'm convinced the book is shit. I'm terrified to cost my publisher money rather than earn some, because it's one of those books that won't sell in any meaningful quantity. But hat latter part is just normal author anxiety.

The other shit is far more serious.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to call the "age of the micro-celebrity", and in its current form, it's not working for me. So I need to re-think everything, from the ground up.

In the last three years, I've basically never stopped working. In the last roughly 12 months, I've ramped that up - significantly. I've massively increased my wordcount and productivity. What time I didn't spend writing, I spent on putting myself out there. Twitter. Goodreads. Facebook. Hundreds and hundreds of emails.

I've had that shining vision in my head that's at the core of all capitalist systems: "I shall work HARDER."

Yeah, because that's the answer.

I got to the point where even a snide review prefaced with "I didn't actually buy this book, I borrowed it, and, BTW, this really sucks because . . ." stressed me like fuck. So here I am, working HARDER and ...

. . . and nothing.

That's people's right. Go for it. None of my business.

I got to the point where a whole swarm of reviewers descending like the harpies from hell onto a debut author for no other reason than spite, sexism and to pay back on an imagined slight ruined my day. And . . .

and nothing.

That's how the game is played.

Go tough or go home.

With every tiny nuisance ("MOM, SOMEBODY IS BEING AN ASSHOLE ON THE INTERNET! CALL THE WAAAAAAMBULANCE!") penetrating right to the bone - every snide comment, every "counted coup" against an author or a book, I got more stressed. Any time spent on social media turned into exposing myself to more stress. The actual events/words/comments? Totally harmless - that's what I want to believe. I want to think that, as the camel was already so heavily loaded, all I encountered were straws, not the tree trunks they felt like.

I ended up spending a huge amount more time being stressed and freaked out and on social media than writing. I knew it was getting too much. I felt it coming.

But that's how sales happen. Be a brand, be EVERYWHERE, and people will buy your stuff - that's what the marketing people tell authors all day.

Well, I'm not Coca-Cola. Not even Gilette. Really.

I don't have a marketing team. I don't want to be a brand. I'm a writer, and I've almost, 99%, unlocked the burnout achievement.

Go me.

When the nasty voices on Twitter and Goodreads are louder than my inner voices, I know I'm in trouble. When I lie awake at night in my partner's arms, quite literally fighting tears of exhaustion and anxiety, I know my WRITING is in trouble.

So, yeah, it's not worth it. (Which is what my partner said. The Dude Speaks Wisdom.)

I'm scaling back. I've already left pretty much all Goodreads group. Unfollowed just about everybody on Twitter. Facebook is less of a problem, apparently. I'm so, so tempted to just delete those 1,835 messages that all want my attention. It's that or not writing.

I honestly thought I could do it. I've done the numbers, things were moving in the right direction, and they still are. Hell, I have an bestseller as we speak. Best rank, best sales in my English-language writing life.

I'll just work HARDER, I thought. Can be done. You got a talent, this is your one shot to do the one thing you're burning for in life. Your ONE ability. Your ONE talent. You owe it to the world.

Don't waste it.

And . . .


I got nothing left. I just know I don't want to kill myself being "on" 24/7. I can't deal with all the toxic waste. Most days, and definitely recently, I can't deal with humanity. I'm too stressed to even write a fucking birthday greeting to a reviewer I appreciate. I'm too stressed to answer questions for the most basic of interviews.

The financial situation being what it is, I cannot dream to go part-time, let alone full-time.

Royalties will be money to shorten my mortgage term, and buy a suit every couple years. I gave it a shot, and I ended damn near destroying my will to write.

Moving on . . .

I have some joy left for Scorpion3, which won't sell, and I know it, as well as the Market Garden series, because that's just a ball of fun. (And Lori's been a champion throughout.)

My Muse, really, really, desperately, wants to write literary historicals. (Which won't sell, not inside the genre.)

So, to finally accept reality (and I got the numbers to back it up), I'm going to finish the MoS series by year-end, while scaling back all social media interaction. Anybody want to talk to me, find me in my Goodreads group or send me an email.

I accept I cannot write the kind (and number) of books that sell enough to have any hope of going full-time. That's not a guilt-trip - that's how the Muse is structured. My stuff is dark, weird, mostly weird, and doesn't sell. If I write enough of it over the next ten or twenty years or so, maybe something will happen. I might even have paid off my house faster.

I'm no longer trying to force it. I'm no longer killing myself trying.

I'll continue working on Market Garden with Lori, because it's fun and not stressful at all. That'll continue for as long as we're enjoying it. Some books that were written are coming through the pipeline, too.

2014 will be pretty much a total write-off in terms of m/m romance, because that's when I'll be writing my moody gay historicals (which won't sell), and maybe a heterosexual romance, because I have an idea I love (but I don't expect it to sell).

The situation being what it is, I'll be looking at developing an alternative real-life career (I have some ideas, but they are expensive and take 3-4 years of training), which means a LOT less time for writing. I'll have to study for that career, too, and the fail rate is a solid 50% on one of the main exams. I'm not going to be one of the guys who fail.

In the interest of my own sanity, I'll limit the amount of time I'm spending in front of the computer. I plan to sit in the garden more, take my time cooking, take more time for my long-suffering partner, and finally, look after my health, which means more time doing something other than sitting. I'll be going to the gym and try to shed those 40lbs or so I put on over the last three years, because I cut down on everything to be able to work HARDER. (Yeah, screw that.)

I gave this whole thing the best shot I had. I apologise to everybody who feels let down. I'll continue writing stuff, it'll just happen as slowly as a mere hobby-with-benefits allows. Most of my energy, time and attention will be re-directed to the real life. I'm returning to meatspace most of the time. I think that's the sanest thing I can do. I gotta protect what I have left.

And if I don't respond to your email or message, I'm truly, deeply sorry.

Now I'm going down to the kitchen, cook something nice (Thai and noodles), and then I'll spend 90 minutes or so trying to hit my 1,700 wordcount on a book that won't sell in any meaningful quantities.

But that's okay. It's better than


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Historical novelist's dilemma (or: Permission to Fail)

Found this and it made me chuckle and roll my eyes and then chuckle a bit more. And yep, while the Fall/Rape of Nanking is probably much worse than anything I'll ever dare touch in my WWII books, this sound exceedingly familiar, only that one of those historians is heavily internalised and gets in the way of the writing.

The historical novelist's dilemma.

In other news, I'm giving serious consideration to spinning out one or maybe two additional pseudonyms - if anything, as a matter of "branding". The Muse demands I shall write a number of literary historical books. Still queer characters, but with romance as a sub-plot and a different weighting to all the elements. (Are there "hot" literary novels? I always got the sense it was somehow dirty to turn a reader on in literary fiction and it was certainly frowned upon in the circles of the literati... because those procreate through parthenogenesis.)

I'm tempted by a new pen name to get rid of expectations and for more freedom, overall. Several of the things I want to write won't sell. They're straight-up historicals with literary pretensions. For me, they'll be about growth, about flexing muscles that I know can grow stronger, though they'll never carry me financially.

They are all follies, indulgences, and they are likely to crash and burn, just like pretty much all literary novels out there (many literary novels sell no more than 500-2,500 copies, and I expect those books to be at the lower end of that - if that much).

By acknowledging that, I give myself permission to fail.

Which I think is exactly what I need right now to find my joy again: do my jolly best to fail spectacularly, burning myself up like a comet pulled to earth. No fear. Death is inevitable.