Sunday, 27 September 2015

Skybound in audio (update on Nightingale and translations)

So, the audio version of Skybound is live (Amazon, Audible, iTunes) - and some of you have already found it and bought it (thank you!).

Skybound remains my favourite piece ever, so this is a bit of a special project. (Though, wait until Nightingale, which is also in top spot.) Matthew Lloyd Davies did a great job, and the cover is from a debut artist, Nova (who's done some beautiful Unhinge the Universe art). Jordan Taylor did the fonting (the design of the actual letters). As they say, it takes a village to write a book.

I still really like the old grey cover (Jordan Taylor), but I was intrigued by the possibility to put Felix on the cover, and the planes coming out of the sun is a small touch of genius. The rivets in the title harken back to the print/e-book cover. I really like it.

I'm enjoying doing e-books so much that I'll be aiming to get all of my catalogue into audio over the next few years. As I'm paying all narrators up front and Audible is taking a huge chunk of the money (and also does 40% off sales I cannot control and sets the price how it wants... I have literally zero power over the sales or price or even when the audiobook becomes available for sale), it's a bit of a financial consideration - we all know I went back to a day job not to finance audiobooks but to pay off the mortgage... :)

I do hope to make the money back eventually and so far what I'm seeing is encouraging on that front.

So, with Skybound wrapped, I'm waiting for Deliverance to go up (we submitted it last week) - also by Matthew Lloyd Davies, who's looking like he's becoming my "default British" voice. For American voices, obviously Gomez Pugh (Incursion) is great, and I'm really curious what you guys think of Alexander Master's version of Gold Digger (we're almost done, just cleaning up a few rough spots now). Alexander is brilliant for lots and lots of accent - hugely versatile on that front, so he's great for the Russian, Hungarian, Canadian cast of Gold Digger.

So, both Deliverance and Gold Digger should be ready very soon.

The next books I'll do in audio are Return on Investment and Nightingale. RoI should be Alexander Masters (I can practically hear him do those bankers), and I've offered Nightingale to Matthew Lloyd Davies - I'd expect he'll do a brilliant Yves. Hiring two (or three) narrators at the same time means things get completed faster, too.

And once the rights situation is clear, all the other books will follow, with the Memory of Scorpion series and Dark Soul leading the pack - but there's going to be good news about Dark Soul towards the end of 2016, so that's a good time to launch the audios. (Yes, I said that in plural :) ) I'm expecting Alexander to do the Scorpions.

And both in Munich and Bristol, some of you have been asking about Nightingale, which was originally promised for 5 October. I was doing my damned best to keep the date intact, but fate intervened - the proof-reader/copy-editor working on it has a very small baby (I didn't know this when I hired her), so the edit is taking a bit more time than I'd planned (three weeks instead one one). I should get it back on the 30th, but that's in the middle of a work week for me, and I'll be having a house guest for 10-12 days, so I was planning to not spend every second hunting down the very last typos when I'd rather look after my guest. Neither of those is a job you can easily outsource. :)

I'm still hoping to wrap everything in October, even though I also have to file my taxes in that month too (cue stress, digging up paperwork and spending lots of time with spreadsheets). So it's all a bit crazy, and that's just the stuff I can talk about.

In terms of translations, I have two rough German translations on my plate (Skybound and Deliverance) and have hired two Italian translators to do Deliverance, Incursion, Return on Investment and Nightingale - so all of those things should happen in 2016, too. 2016 will be a huge transition year for me, as I roll out my backlist into audio, German, and Italian and some books and series will see a relaunch, too. That's basically where all my royalties are going, while the day job finances paying off the mortgage and general life. It'll all be good. (Also, I'll need a French translator at some point.)

So, for the future, I'm fully expecting to continue on with some sequels and prequels of "old" stories (I have more to tell about the Scorpions, for example), while also putting out completely new, unrelated work. My horoscope says it's because of the solar/lunar eclipse (which happen at very interesting points in my horoscope - career and creativity), but I'm in a pretty good place now with my work and my overall energy levels. Saturn's going to stick around in my first house, so this is two years where I do a lot of "growing up" and "taking responsibility". It also means slow, steady growth through hard work and discipline and I'm good with that.

Not sure what's been holding things back - I'm getting regular acupuncture for stress and "yang imbalance" (you don't say), and I'm on a much better track now, mentally.

I don't think I enjoyed the break from writing, but the mind is clear, the purpose is out there and I'll take small steps along my path. I've spent the last six months just thinking and watching and re-evaluating (things, people, goals), and yeah, I've come to some conclusions and I've removed things that stressed me from my life, but mostly I got rid of them in my head (big victory). I'm not sure how much of that makes sense if you're not inside of it, but I've done a very good job at making things hard for myself.

I've decided that that's unnecessary. I am a great deal stronger and more resourceful than I've given myself credit for, and things will play out just fine for me, regardless of which path I'm taking. The most important thing is to keep walking, staying true to my inner self, and the stories that are given to me, and to overall be kinder to myself (and others). And the writing will follow. It always does. It's always been there and will always be.

Friday, 25 September 2015

We're all made from star stuff

Here's a random thought I shared on Twitter and Facebook, but I think it's worth to put it on the blog as well. So I've been thinking, and this is the best I have. Now, bear in mind I've now done years of personal development, "magick"/"healing"/therapy/energy work/NLP on my own issues, so this is my current state of development. 

No writer writes a book with their sexual organs. I don't. In any "test" on the internet I come out as 70% male and 30% female, and that's a ratio I'm comfortable with. I also confuse lots of people in real life. Many a waiter/server/barista/etc has called me "sir" and then got flustered when my voice didn't quite match up to expectations, let's put it this way. Mental note: need to learn to shift my voice deeper.

Now, I've "studied" both sides (dated both, observed both, I know trans* people and genderfluid people and even bi-gendered people, and call them my friends) and there's one thing I can say with absolute certainty - gender is very much overrated. I actually fully believe we're all human.

And as regards my personal faith, I believe very much in reincarnation (hard not to with all the past life memories), so yeah, we've done everything. We were spewed forth by as inanimate matter in the Big Bang, going from perfect unity and potential and energy to matter, formed molecules, then became cells, those cells formed bigger organisms, and then plants, and primitive animals, and all the way up to where we currently stand (and I firmly believe we're heading somewhere very different from this) - so, over those millions of years, we've done it all. All genders, all races, all cultures. 

I am human. So's everybody else. Namaste.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The two brains of the writer (or really any person/artist)

Here's a thought I woke up with today, and it relates to all the recent blog posts and comments and private conversations I've had with m/m writers (and other writers, too). From the looks of it, there's something of a burn-out epidemic in the writing space and among my writer friends.

In some ways, I think I was just one of the first ones to fold under that strain. Granted, other factors contributed heavily to my burn-out, and I'm fixing these one by one, so it's all good and I expect 2016 to kick serious ass. For the first time in many months, I get excited when I think about writing. It seems I had to put in the work, make some hard decisions, rid my life of things that were cluttering it up and detach myself from some ideas/concepts/inner contracts that are no longer good for me (or my writing, which is basically the same thing).

So, let's talk about that beautiful machine that evolution has gifted us with over millions of years and that has got us here, sitting in front of illuminated squares of LEDs, talking to ghosts on the other end of the world, and that enables us to make stories, tell them, and torture ourselves with it really much more than anybody deserves.

You all know the whole right brain/left brain thing, right?

This one:

(image stolen off Goggle)

(While I've read that the most recent brain science doesn't really divide the brain up like this - there's a part in the middle that makes sure those sides "talk", too, I think it's useful in the same way that the model of the atom is useful but not "how it truly is". Also, left-handers can be swapped around - except for me, my brain sides are like a right-hander's - although I'm a bit of a weak left-hander, I'm really leaning towards left-dominant ambidextrous - confused yet?).

Looking at the image myself, it's clear that creative writing is in the right brain - I don't verbalise my writing before I put it down. I "see" and "imagine" the whole scene and then just type, often surprised by what shows up on the screen.

I don't get the left side involved - it's all in the right. It's all feeling, "dreaming". It also explains why I can't listen to music with words (at least not words I don't know yet) - it puts the focus into the wrong side of the brain, while the music itself (and the rhythm) really gets the right side going.

Good writing - fun writing - easy writing happens when I let it flow - it comes from somewhere and goes through me - to go somewhere else. I have about as much say in it as a wire has about the kind or amount of electricity that flows through it. Yeah, it's hell on the ego.

It's an old writing truth that writing and editing are two different processes. For a damn good reason - the right brain writes, the left side edits. The right brain is shit at editing - and the left side couldn't write to save its life (well, it can write, but it's the tough kind of writing that means you work HARD all fucking day and have 200 words to show for it).

Many writers start entirely right-brained. We write because WE HEAR VOICES AND SEE COOL STUFF AND OMG ISN'T IT ALL FANTASTIC!

Then we grow up - as painfully as really growing up in real life. Suddenly, life isn't all play. We have to go to school, get a job, start worrying about bills and rent and employment rates. It's hard to play when you have to think that way. And we end up like James Joyce, who one day struggled and struggled and ended up having only 7 words to show for, but, when his friend said, "That's not too bad - for you," said: "Yes, but I don't know in which order they go!"

Wow, that's a very left-brain thing to say. Left-brain cares about order.

So how does this relate to the epidemic of writers blogging and writing and admitting in whispers in cafes and hotel bars, emails and Facebook how burned out and disenchanted and tired they are?

Basically, all this bullshit about "brand" and "marketing" and sales numbers - that's what did it. It's the left brain, and over the last two years or so, we have collectively fed the left brain steroids (does brain tissue do steroids?) - we've worried about strategies and pricing and yield per book, and blog tours, and whether people on Twitter think we are asshats.

We've done the numbers and realised (rightly) that we need to release 4 novels per year, every year, to make our dream true ("Quitting The Evil Day Job" - QTEDJ), and then we ended up nearly killing ourselves to try to make it happen.

(And then something happens that throws that whole concept under a burning, out-of-control train full of raving cannibal zombies - like Amazon changing its terms, or publishers blowing up, or yet another in-fight in the genre, or a plagiarism scandal or whatever.)

And all of this isn't even too bad - honestly, I have a good business head on my shoulder, I like finances and strategy and such things - but the problem happens when we listen to the left brain that's computing all these things for us while we should be running the right brain.

As an example, I was blocked to hell. Sitting down at the computer, all "yay, writing!" feelings went away when the thoughts crept in. When I wondered about word counts, about editing, about production schedules. When the right brain wants to write - and I'm ready to flow whatever the Gods are giving me - just worrying about cover art, blog tours or having to wait 8-10 months for a release slot - took the urgency right out.

In fact, I trained my brain to associate writing with pain and punishment.

Remember my quips that "editing is the punishment for writing"? - It was meant as a joke, but oh so true - it was what was going on inside of me.

The Muse doesn't like punishment - and if writing = punishment, then why do it? After all, I'm innocent, I don't deserve punishment. Punishment isn't fun. Why not do something that's fun instead?

In any case, once those two are linked, there's no wonder that the subconsciousness - that wants your best and is looking for pleasure, not pain - learns to shut this thing right down. You basically told it to, and all it did was oblige.

So, yeah, I brought that burn-out on myself by going about it all wrong. But I'm learning. I can be slow (Churchill's "The Americans can be trusted to do the right thing - after they've exhausted all other options" comes to mind), but I'm learning.

Fairly recently, I've made decisions that were mostly right brain; intuitive. I really wanted audiobooks, and while left brain freaked out over the costs and the number of copies I need to sell to not make those audios fairly expensive Xmas presents to myself - I hired the narrators anyway.

The audios give me joy.

Joy is fucking priceless.

I believe as artists, we need to learn to switch back to the right brain. We need to stop thinking with the left brain, at least while we create or deep in the thralls of a project. We're wires - vessels of something pretty fucking amazing - and our job is to get ourselves out of the way so it can run and flow and express itself.

We are dreamers who dream aloud, on the page, giving the gift of dreams to people who might be too exhausted or down to dream anything for themselves. Our job is to give them that, not think about sales numbers. We need to make our souls sing, because there's that urge, that gift, that electricity that needs to flow, and we have the capacity to do it. If we don't do it, who will tell that one story that keeps us up at night? That one novel/story/poem we were born to write?

The money may or may not come - or whatever we're in it for; praise, exorcising demons, escaping the office, it doesn't really matter. (Yeah, I do love money, but gods, I make so much more money at my day job than I make writing.) Let's step away from focusing on numbers and orders and strategies while we try to write.

We need to step away from all the left-brain stuff and go back to where we started - the right brain. The dreams, images, the feelings that sit in our gut and make us jump out of bed at 7 on a Sunday. The little voice in your head that advises you what your characters will do - that glorious, full-surround view of your characters doing whatever your characters do.

We need to play again, on the page, and give ourselves to our stories - it's a mutual thing. If we give ourselves to the Muse like that, like trusting children, with no numbers in our heads, without strategies or self-consciousness, if we just show up to play and trust our intuition, that feeling, that charge, the Muse will give, and give plenty.

(And when the work is done, let the left brain off the leash to take care of edits - but only then, and for a limited time only, and then lock that creativity-destroying monster back where it can't escape from until you need it again.)

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Deliverance close to completed

This week was fully dedicated to audiobooks (well, and the day job, but we're not talking about this here - at least no more than necessary).

The two short stories Skybound and Deliverance have both been recorded. I'm just waiting for the Skybound cover to wrap up - I've listened to the final version and it's good, I'm really enjoying listening to what the narrator does to my words.

Then Audible will run its quality check on the files and Skybound should go up soon.

I'm currently listening to Deliverance (I forgot how much I tortured poor William there) and will do a second pass on the whole text, then submit edits. The cover gets tweaked a little bit but should soon be ready to (after the narrator has re-recorded whatever went wrong). Then get the narrator paid and submit this one to Audible to.

And lastly, Gold Digger is fully recorded and I need to listen to it all in this version (I've listened to the raw files already). That cover's ready, too. Again, I'll submit change requests to the narrator and once all that is fixed, the audio gets approved.

But I'm excited. I was really lucky to find three narrators whose voices I really like and the process itself has been a lot more intuitive and smoother than I thought.

I originally planned to do the two short stories as "feelers", but well, that's not how it worked out in the end, and by now I'm thoroughly addicted to audiobooks. I mean, it's like a fresh book release I don't have to work for or worry about. Bleeding awesome! Especially if you struggle to write or finish anything. And listening to them really does make the Muse flutter a bit.

So, yeah, I'll be adding audios to my work spreadsheet so I can keep track of them.

Largely, I feel that my "author voice" translates pretty well to audio. That sparseness/efficiency really works because audio is slowed down so much. So the idea is really to forge full speed ahead with the audios and hopefully, over time, get my whole backlist into audio (in English first).

Hopefully I'll be able to put the frontlist (the current release) out in audio roughly at the same time as the e-book or the print version, but that's a bit of juggling, so it might not be completely simultaneously. If things stay as they are (read, I keep working at the bank and have the money to do this), I'm pretty confident I can put 2-3 books into audio per year.

So the project list is:

Incursion (done)
Skybound (95% done)
Deliverance (90% done)
Gold Digger (60% done)

[all these should make it onto Audible in September]

Return on Investment (hiring narrator)

And yeah, I'm hoping to listen to the Memory of Scorpions series eventually, too. And Dark Soul.

I'm even playing with the idea to write a book specifically for audio - play around a bit, really crystallise the voice/tone.

It's a great experience so far.