Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Another year draws to a close (Happy Solstice)

Considering the fact that the Solstice is over, I'll consider the year over - as we enter into the Winter season and the days get longer, it's been a pretty introspective time for me. Mostly, I've been making plans for 2016 and said good-bye to 2015, which was part unholy mess and clearly part threshold year for me.

That said, I did achieve a lot of good things even in a year that wasn't very productive creatively.

- I signed with a Japanese and an Italian publisher for translations of some of my favourite stories.

- I got my "dream job" - where "dream job" can be defined as as job in an awesome team, for an ethically "good" company, doing something interesting and varied that I'm good at and for which I'm appreciated and paid very well.  I'm building towards my actual Dream, of course, which will involve coaching and training creatives, but for the moment and the next few years, I have it basically made. This was the kind of job I really really wanted and didn't think I could have. It was a massive improvement on my previously favourite job at a different bank, for less money. I wish I had the option to pull fewer hours, but the long days are a small price to pay.

- I knocked a significant amount off my mortgage. If things continue the way they've been going, I'm on track to own my house outright in 5-6 years. Though the actual goal is much shorter than that.

- I got to meet awesome people - fellow writers, but also new publishers, editors, translators, cover artists, audio narrators, and students. Few things are as energising for me as working with a fellow creative towards a common goal. I'm grateful for all of them and look forward to the projects that will come from this.

- I got qualified in NLP (Practitioner level) and did a lot of work on my negative emotions (fear, sadness, but mostly anger). That had interesting results and was tested seriously a few months later, but generally, I've become a better person. Also I know more about myself now, and some of that was completely eye-opening.

- I self-published Nightingale after five years. That was one of those "finally do it in 2015" goals. It's good to let a project go which has made me grow tremendously as a writer. The demons I've wrestled with that book are all sorted now, I think. Of course, there's a book after that that I'm even more scared of, but we'll get there in 2016. I hope to never again drag a book along with me for that long.

- I held my first writers' workshop and loved doing it. It's pointing to the future I want to create for myself - especially when combined with hypnosis and various alternative healing techniques.

- I had my first audiobooks produced (Incursion, Skybound, Deliverance, Gold Digger) and ended up loving audio as a format. Also I learned that my words translate really well into that medium.

- I had my first Italian translations made (Incursion, Deliverance) and apparently the Italian readers appreciate the kind of stories I have to tell, so I'm very excited about doing more of those.

- I had more German translations done - that's unfinished business I'm dragging into 2016, but I'm looking forward to getting several stories out tightly together.

- I terms of my "writing career", there's been a major re-alignment. After learning this the hard way, I much prefer running my own projects and my own career over handing this responsibility and power over to a publisher, so I expect to self-publish circa 90% of my future books.

It's not the money, it's the control. I'm no longer willing to work around a publisher's schedule or subject my books to an editor I haven't chosen and therefore don't trust. At this stage in my career, I actually need that power to be at peace with the whole thing. I'm not good at delegating (and have never been good at that), but mostly, I'm not okay with giving power over the stuff I was born to create to strangers. Not happening - unless somebody pays me a significant amount for a work-for-hire piece (significant amount = making a substantial contribution to paying off the mortgage).

Secondly, I've decided to not "write to market". The only reason I can see why anybody would write to market is the money. But money's taken care off. I make more editing for the bank than I need, so there's no need for maximising that income stream.

Obviously I want to get paid for my work, but there's a difference in writing a book well that "my readers" will appreciate and writing a book that ticks the boxes of current trends. With my writing time now so limited, I'm making a commitment only to write books that must be written - and those tend to be the weird ones, the historicals, fantasy, sci-fi novels. More books like Nightingale, or Dark Soul, and more Scorpion novels.

Overall, with these irritants taken care of, I'm looking forward to writing a lot more in 2016 than I have been in 2014-2015, and self-publishing the vast majority of it. (The main reason why I'm keeping a back door open for 10% of my work is that I might get inspired by a call put out by a publisher or contribute to a charity anthology).

So, for 2016: 

- I won't be taking on any more editing work (my brain is booked out with the day job, and I only have a few creative hours left in the day, so those will go towards writing my own stuff). I'm still around for coaching.

- This time next year, I'll be fully qualified as an NLP Master Practitioner. I've been a little nervous, but then various puzzle pieces fell together in the right way and I think it's time to tackle that. That should also make me a much better coach. I like to think of it as "levelling up". NLP Trainer and possibly Trainer's Trainer will follow in due course when I'm ready. I'll pick up some other therapies along the way - whatever could help a stuck writer.

- I'll get control back over several of my old books, so I'll be writing sequels that people are waiting for or that have been dinging around in my skull. Specifically, that should be the sequels to Incursion, Gold Digger, and Dark Soul. I'll also write some more Scorpion novels, but I don't foresee them coming out before late 2018.

- I've cancelled Suckerpunch - there are contractual reasons for that. Also, Counterpunch will eventually fall out of print and won't return. That said, I have an idea to use the characters for something else. It just won't be set in that alternative universe. But that's still a long way away.

- I'll keep paying off the mortgage and work towards a future where the financial stuff is taken care of and that means one step closer to the Big Dream.

- I'm also going to push a number of health goals - move more, eat better (though I'm doing pretty well on that second count).

- I want to travel more. Huge number of destinations and to-be-visited friends are on the list. I'll see how they all fit into my calendar.

- In terms of production, I'm planning for (English) audiobooks of Return on Investment and Nightingale; German translations for Skybound, Incursion, Gold Digger, Return on Investment, and Nightingale; Italian translations for Nightingale and Return on Investment.

In terms of writing, I'm planning to release in 2016:

- Risk Return (Return on Investment sequel)
- Unnamed Return on Investment prequel
- Broken Blades (with LA Witt)
- The "whale book" (historical novel)
- The first book in an urban fantasy mini-series (kind of a series - the format is a bit weirder)
- Exile (Incursion sequel)
- Pure Gold (Gold Digger sequel)
- Dark Heart (Dark Soul spin-off), Silvio & Battista (no real title yet), and the story of the third brother.

So that's 9 new projects and most of those are novels, with a few novellas thrown in - so I can't actually promise I'll deliver all of those. In an ideal world, they'll all happen, and a few projects I'm not even aware of yet (like co-writes).

I've chosen them because only two of them contain major (read: months of) research efforts, and all of them have at least a core already that I can build around. But of course, editing, proofreading, layout and checking translations and doing quality checks of audiobooks will also take time.

At the very least, I'm aiming for a new book release every quarter, so that's four. Generally, I feel much more positive about writing and publishing than I have felt in years, so 2016 should rock. I definitely look forward to getting all those ideas out on paper.