Monday 15 July 2024

Mid-2024 Update (Books Are Happening)

All the things I've written about in the previous blog entry are still ongoing. I'm going to the gym, lifting weight, getting healthier, my contract with Awesome Company was renewed for several more months, and I'm still writing books. 

In fact, I've just typed "The End" under book #2. Over the weekend, I've plotted book #3, so we're looking at a trilogy. All of  them are m/m, but book #3 also features a trans* character. I'll freely admit that writing that book scares me somewhat, but the characters are loud in my head, so I'll leave my comfort zone and write it. I'll consider it a giant FU to TERFs.

So, for scheduling. 

Book #1 needs some rewrites, then I'll do another fine-tooth-comb self-edit, also involving some beta readers. It currently has about 75,000 words and is in pretty decent shape already. At the very least, that one will hit the pre-orders this year.

Book #2 is currently at 92,000 words and I'm at the stage where I need to fill in all the square brackets and do that first self-edit where I begin cutting the empty words, repetitions and info dumps that I needed to get through the book, but they've served their purpose now. So I expect that one will end up somewhere around 80,000-90,000 words. I think I can beat it into shape before the end of the year, too. 

Book #3 is plotted out, and I don't know how long it'll be. I thought both books #1 and #2 would be no more than 50-60k, so if the pattern repeats, it might end up being 75-90k too. I have lovely characters and I look forward to spending more time with them - always a good sign. Since that needs to be written, I feel it might be more of a 2025 thing.

After this, things are much more up in the air. There's a mostly written book in the Witches of London series that just needs some scenes and a deep editorial scrub. Basically, I could get this ready to publish if I can find 2-3 weeks of mostly uninterrupted good brain time. Maybe another (early) 2025 thing.

The day job is the main reason I can't plan past December. I'm happy at the company, they're happy with me, and I've had some great "getting to know you/when is your contract over" chats with other team heads who might soon be looking to fill positions. Nothing fixed yet, but I  might end up rejoining the "rat race" (though I really don't feel like a rat there). There's also the option that they'll renew the contract by another few months - apparently that company likes to keep contractors they like around until something permanent opens up. Apparently contractors staying 2-3 years and then joining properly is a thing.

If I leave, these timelines will shift, of course. Other things I want to finish up:

Book #4 (paranormal historical) stands at 45k right now and needs to re-written before I can finish it off. I made some real rookie mistakes there that I need to fix and that affect the very structure of the book. Live and learn. I think it'll be awesome when it's fixed. 

Book #5 (historical) is currently just a 20-year-old idea but I feel like it's time to get it written. I know I have at least half an outline and a strong elevator pitch. I've made large books with less.

Books #6-#9 (epic fantasy), all of them are half-plotted and I have strong main characters driving the action. It feels like this series will be pretty long and take probably 1-2 years to write in total. 

Anything beyond that is just a twinkle in the back of my brain right now, so probably not worth talking about yet. 

TL;DR: 2 books coming this year, 2 more in 2025, pipeline after that's looking good.

Saturday 23 December 2023

Ending 2023, starting 2024 (Still here)

Happy Solstice, everyone. I just re-read my preview blog post and ... well, life can change a lot in 6 months.


2023 was a year of career transition. Trying out various paths after the old one ended abruptly, seeing what makes me happy, what gives me satisfaction (outside writing). I tried translator, I tried a new start in a new industry (media) ... and then "fate" intervened.

Backing up. In June, I was contacted by a headhunter for a great full-time job at a market-leading company with a fearsome reputation. The money was so good (and the headhunter made a convincing case that the, ahem, "cultural factors" I was worried about had changed) that I went into the process. This would then drag on for two months (and multiple interviews/tests) as the recruiting manager/s couldn't make up their mind which one of the two final applicants they wanted. In the end, I lost out against somebody with more experience.

Fast forward a few months. Same company, different team needs to urgently replace an editor who's going off on parental leave for 7 months. Apparently I'd impressed some people enough that they referred their colleagues to me. Two 20-minute phone calls with a colleague and my future manager later, and I got the job. Being asked on Wednesday, "So can you come to work on Monday?" was ... something. My then-employer was nice and released me earlier, so the whole thing took 10 days and everything changed.

Pay. Schedule. Industry. Team. Job.

At that point, I'd resolved I'm just going to be a sword for hire - take short gigs for whoever pays me the most as I make my way toward retirement. I thought I had all sense of loyalty or connection beaten out of me during my career.

That worked for a like 2 weeks, but the company is so impressive - and the management and team so refreshingly non-toxic - I wouldn't mind going permanent with them if they want me. They certainly can use the help, even after the parent comes back from leave. Anyway, I'm now in a place where I'd be fine with both outcomes: getting made permanent would have a very large impact on my finances, but if I leave after serving out my contract, I'll walk away with a smile and many good memories. Plus, that name on my CV means I'll find some other well-paid mercenary gig easily.

So what else did I do in 2023? I travelled to Germany and France. Made new friends and reconnected with old ones. Finished a book and wrote another one. Improved my health, lowered my stress levels. I'm back to lifting weights and generally more active than I was. I donated a ton of clutter to charity shops. I trimmed down my book collection to the point where there are actual gaps on the shelves. More needs to go. I reorganized my study/office - got rid of some furniture and now have a lot more space. I set pretty healthy boundaries in my personal life (painful, but necessary). I quit my RPG group because of incompatible styles (it's always important to work out what people want out of their games, and if you don't have enough common ground, it's easier for everybody if the group dissolves or switches out the incompatible player/s). I reached a major financial milestone thanks to the mercenary gig. I translated books. Joined a local RPG club. I generally had a great time at interviews and jobs and in a professional environment. This was the year I learned that a day job can actually be 100% fun and engaging. I had some good weeks in journalism way back when, but this is a whole 'nother level.

For 2024, the job situation is wide open. I'm also working on some health and well-being stuff that will take a few months to sort out.


I started edits on the book I wrote in 2022, and I'm 95% done with the sequel that also needs editing. I'd hoped to finish the book while in France, but turned out it was longer than expected. Both these books are pretty chunky m/m novels (romances, sure), and I originally planned to have them out before the end of the year. That's not going to happen, so I'm now aiming for mid-2024.

I did plot out the fantasy novels, I have a world, and several important characters. Beating all of that into shape is definitely a 2024 task.

I'm also pondering my overall strategy - and might go "wide" again next year. I've always had issues with Kindle Unlimited, so being exclusive with them doesn't sit right with me. 

I have plenty of ideas for books and characters and hope to get something into publishable shape soon. I mean, stuff I write in the day job is (theoretically) being read by hundreds of thousands of people who pay a lot of money for that content, so my ego got a little boost from that. I also think those two novels are pretty good. I recently met Jordan in London and we've been talking about plans for the Witches series. There are at least two more books there. 

At some point I'll also have to do the layouts and do print versions. Forgive me, it's a really tedious job and relatively low priority, but I do hope to get to it in 2024. I prefer print books too, after all.

I also want to translate most of my English books into German. I will translate the books of some friends. And I think that's plenty on my plate right now.

TL; DNR: The promised m/m books are late, but will be out in 2024, plus likely a fantasy novel or two. 

Saturday 1 July 2023

Update (it's 2023 and I'm still here)

 It's July 2023 and apparently - apart from one post about Pride - I haven't blogged here in two years. I'm not sure people still read blogs, but in case anybody does, maybe a general life and writing update.


In August 2022, I benefited from a general staff cut across the whole company and took voluntary redundancy, which involved getting a chunk of money and four months' paid holiday. Also, I knew it was coming, so I was prepared for it.

Over the years, it had got increasingly difficult to stay in that particular industry (shift work, for example, really wrecks my sleep patterns), so that was a really good exit for me. I made the most of the "gardening leave", travelled a bit, tried out a full-time gig as a freelance translator, wrote a book, started another, then in March 2023 started to get a bit restless and applied for a few jobs again, this time only those with good work/life balance. Received multiple offers within two weeks or so, then decided to go work for a gigantic media company, dealing with general data quality stuff. The money isn't the same as in financial services, but it's enough for me, mostly because I paid down the mortgage aggressively during those years with the large paycheck.

I also spend some time getting therapy and worked through some childhood and teenage issues, as well as the death of my mother. I'm not sure I feel "better" - that was my first course of therapy, and I didn't like the snotty crying every damn week at 10:00 on Tuesdays. I'm more aware of some patterns now and know why some stuff hits me in the heart and other stuff I just shrug off.

Job-wise, things remain in flux, though - I've applied for an internal job at my current employer and an external company recruiter has approached me for the kind of opportunity I'd be silly not to go for. I'm already past the first interview stage and expecting further assessment. Job stuff seems to come in waves - I had multiples nibbles and about fifteen interviews in November/December, and always made it to "second place" - somebody had more experience, usually, or in one case the job just vanished. Anyway, I'm happy where I am and could easily stay here and do a few more years working for corporates. If that other opportunity happens, I'll take it and work there for 4-6 more years before I ride into the sunset.

Otherwise, not a huge amount happened. I still live where I lived, live with the same person I've lived with, write with the same writing group (though happily I've met a great fellow writer from Germany who's smart and driven and really brightens my days). I'm back to the gym, lift some weights, walk a lot, and declutter stuff I bought mostly as some kind of stress therapy during the banking years. I also bought a fountain pen I've been wanting for many years as a "getting fired" present to myself. I'm playing a bit on the X-Box, got pretty good at Call of Duty multiplayer ("pretty good" means I'm no longer just target practice for more experienced players) and looking forward to Phantom Liberty. 


I still can't believe Burn this City came out in 2021. I guess time flies when you're working hard. 2022 up to August wasn't a very creative time for me, especially after returning to the office in the first seven months of it. There's something about open-plan offices, shift work and stress that kills my writing mojo.

When I got out, I threw myself full bore into translating - seemed like a great way of doing something creative without actually having to be all that creative (after all, the plot, characters and scenes are already there). For a while, the concept of "travelling around with my laptop, translating" held a lot of appeal, but I still returned to corporate work for several reasons. I'm a good translator and reasonably fast, but I'm not sure I was born for it. What this period did was allow my characters to talk to me again.

I became a member of several libraries (British Library, London Library) so I can access them as places to work/study/look up things, and started working on the concept of my fantasy novel/s. I had only a vague idea in 2022, but fleshed out the conflict/world in early 2023 while travelling.

My old problem  remains - I can't write commercial work fast enough to have a viable career in m/m romance ("viable career" meaning replacing my paycheck), so I'm looking at spending most of my time/energy on fantasy novels, where consistency seems more important than huge volume. It's daunting to start from nothing, but over the past few years, I haven't been able to find any m/m romance I enjoy reading (a few exceptions prove the rule), and I feel alienated from the current trends - or the trends that were current when I looked last. I am a member of various Discord and Facebook groups focused on m/m and the books that seem popular don't do anything for me - and the tropes that are popular don't align with what I like to write. Like, at all.

That said, the book I've finished in 2022 is an m/m romance, and I'm currently working on the sequel. There will probably be a sequel after that, because the characters talk and plan their little plans in my head, and it'll be fun to give some old characters closure, and tell the story of the new characters that cropped up while I was writing about the old characters. I'm ostensibly editing the first book, and there are some re-writes I need to make it really work. The idea is to publish that book and the second book pretty close together and then I'll see if the third book has any legs (it might be just a novella, in the end). I'm aiming to get both out by the end of the year.

This  week, after lots of planning and plotting, I've also started on the fantasy novel/s, and I think those are 2024 releases (we only have six months left, after all, and fantasy wordcounts are usually higher).  I'm curious where this thing will go - I do plot, but the characters usually end up doing something else entirely. I'm also still doing translations, but only occasionally and mostly my own books. 

TL;DNR: expect new m/m releases this year, and fantasy novels in 2024. 

Thoughts on Pride 2023 ("And those who identify as attack helicopters")

My new employer is rated among the top companies for LGBTQ+ inclusivity. That's why I chose them out of multiple offers, all of which actually paid more money. People here are openly queer. We have our pronouns in our work profiles. Everybody uses the "singular they" naturally, even with gendered first names. Nobody assumes because you're a Sarah, you're a "she", or a "he" because you happen to be called Tom.

After two months there, I still have mental whiplash.

See, I've worked in cis-normative and hetero-assuming workplaces so long, I basically can't cope yet. I tread carefully, and I'm almost a little intimidated, fearing that my behaviour, which has been modulated to fit into a cis/hetero workplace, will end up offending people, or I trip up or make a mistake. At the same time, it's liberating. I haven't realised how relaxing it is. It's not just the industry (media) versus banking/finance, it's everything. Everything and everybody is more colourful, open, human and genuine. Possibly the rose-coloured glasses will come off and I find something that annoys me about the new place, or maybe I have some kind of employment-related PTSD that some part of me is waiting for the downside.

So, my employer put on a Pride party (it was organised and run by the LGBTQ+ network), and I went. I didn't originally want to - I'm not much for parties, or alcohol, and the combination of both I find really unpleasant - but a friend (who also now works at the same company) went so I decided to go too. First lesson: queer people getting drunk is much more chilled and fun than cisstraights getting drunk. No unpleasant experiences, in fact, it all felt silly and joyful, as we sat on the comfy chairs on the lawn in front of the main building, I had a virgin margarita, and we watched and listened to the live drag acts. I was honestly surprised how much this heavy introvert liked it. (Plus, it gave me an idea for the book I'm writing, so thank you, Yshee Black and the others!)

But, as the organisers said, "let's not forget that Pride isn't just a party, it's also a protest." The same drag acts we were enjoying are under pressure from threats and closures and cancellations because of the UK's atrocious policies, which are very clearly coming from the very top - the Tories have decided to go full "culture war", and they're persecuting the LGBTQ+ community, and singling out the "T", and in that dragnet they also catch the non-binary folks and everybody who doesn't do "gender" in the way that the narrow-minded among the cis people like.

In the fun (hanging with a friend, sitting chilling on a lawn, laughing about a drag queen's jokes), I couldn't help feeling sad and angry (and a host of other feelings I can't yet verbalise in public, as it were, but it has to do with regret and pain and self-compassion and tenderness).

I mean, these kids make me hopeful. I'm quite optimistic that the arch of human history bends towards justice, not dystopia (and not even species extinction), but the UK, its socio-political climate scares the fuck out of me. I'm historian enough to be hopeful in the long run, and too much historian to not be scared in the short term. 

Healthcare provision for queer people is already a joke. Even 10+ years back when I went to a trans* folk meeting, the way to access care was to "go private", and addresses of places to get top/bottom surgery were traded like some City folks would trade the contact details of their drug dealer (I assume - my life in the City didn't involve drugs). Since then, clinics have closed and accessing gender-affirming care is harder than ever. Astonishingly, my employer offers two years' healthcare support for trans* folks (assessment and accessing care), after which point, you might be able to switch over to private options or other.

On an even darker note, mental health support is possibly a worse issue. If you happen to come out of an abusive environment, or maybe a global health emergency, or maybe just life with any kind of need for support, you're basically screwed. I looked into getting some mental health care, and the waiting list at a charity-supported place was 3-4 months. I didn't even bother trying to go through the normal NHS. If you pay privately, you're seen the same week, of course. If you're poor, or your disposable income has been eaten up by sky-rocketing energy and food bills, or your mortgage just doubled or tripled because of the Tories' irresponsible and social-darwinist policies, you're shit out of luck (I'm glad I got 5 months' of therapy to deal with some stuff that happened in my late teens/early twenties, and the total fuck-up that my family was - and I didn't even scratch the surface of some issues I have buried really deep inside, but I know they're there and for the moment I can deal).

But the thing is, being non-cis (being trans*, or non-binary or just not performing gender as expected) is a huge emotional and mental burden. It's like running the same marathon everybody else is running, but at some point on the first few kilometers or so, the crowd on the sidelines (or maybe one or multiple of your fellow runners) take a metal bar to your ankles and thighs and knees, and you get up again, in pain, and a few kilometers later, it happens again. And behind that curve, on the steep climb, it happens again, and some are lucky and don't get hit hard and complete the race, and others have their bones broken and get beaten to death (look up stats for domestic partner violence against trans* folk if you think this metaphor is hysterical/overblown).

I guess we'd be okay if all runners were like us, or everybody in the crowd, but no, we have to function and perform in a hostile environment at all times, while dealing with the same shit every other person has to deal with: money and career, family, housing, maybe kids, maybe frail parents, except trans* folks struggle accessing support, mental health, even normal healthcare, and public discourse is intensely hostile, further amped up by TERF wizard lady and her cohorts. Trans* folk have fewer resources to deal with (on average) much tougher lives.

It's no wonder most of us are resilient as hell. We gotta be. But we have the bruises and broken bones, and we remember the ones that didn't make it.

We exist in a super hostile environment, and frankly I think cisstraights would rather we just "go away" and "shut up", and belittle our actual needs (toilets, anyone?). It's where the jokes come from: "Oh yeah, and those who identify as attack helicopters" or "litter boxes for those who identify as cats". Those are "jokes" brought into circulation by conservatives - and isn't it striking how humans are either turned into machines or animals - two ways of taking away our humanity (I mean, sure, I wouldn't mind being an Apache - but don't ask me what I'd do with my turrets and rockets, chances are, some bigots would get blown up, and I wouldn't feel pain and I could have a mechanic replace the parts that are beginning to creak/not function as well as they did). 

It's not about "choice", it's identity. The very core part of your being, that secret small part of you that often only speaks while you lie awake at night in your bed and you know is TRUE, when everything else isn't, or is to a much lesser degree.

It's not about litter boxes. It's about seeing - and respecting - the humanity in somebody who is different. I'm still hopeful. I start to believe that the next generations will get this shit sorted. They already know that the cat litter and attack helicopter jokes are transphobic dogwhistles, and not funny at all.

Sunday 5 September 2021

Quo vadis?

With Burn this City done, where will I go now?

I've spent some time working on concepts for a couple mainstream trilogies (non-M/M) I'd describe as historical fantasy - the leads will mostly be female, but minor characters will most certainly be drawn from diverse backgrounds and sexualities, because the last thing the world needs is more fantasy with straight white cismale leads set in heteronormative worlds. I'll now spend some time reading in the new genre to see what's going on and to make sure that my ideas can stand up.

The first new project will be that WWII novel I've had in my head for years and where the leads (one apparently asexual and the other gay) wouldn't have worked out as lovers, which stalled me for a long time. I'm still pondering whether there's a way I can turn that book into a trilogy or series because the concept is huge and might simply not work out as one book.

The second project will revisit concepts and ideas I had in the Memory of Scorpions trilogy and which I never really fully developed to their full potential.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm still trying to find a way to weasel my way out of the genre switch. It goes like this: "But my readers will be disappointed, and I shouldn't disappoint people who've supported me for that long", "What if you throw away a career that didn't work out for another career that also won't work out?", "Maybe you could make it all work out okay if you managed to write a book a month, too, can't be that hard because so many people are doing it", and the classic, "But what happens if you get another M/M bunny?" and "But what about those fragments of M/M books you have on the hard drive and that you've kind of been promising people?" (There's pages and pages and PAGES of that stuff in my journal.)

And yeah, I have a beautiful M/M concept I've been itching to write. There's also Franco's story and Julian's story and both guys deserve some kind of closure. I have another Witches of London romance plotted out completely. I have a 20k fragment of an enemies to lovers/secret baby romance with a decidedly lighter tone that would only need a couple months to make work. That's five M/M books that are in various stages from concept to 30-50% written, and I'm not even talking about that really painful WWII romance that has 50k written and that I promised a friend (who didn't live to see completion - I'm sorry, R). Six novels in total. Hundreds of hours of work already done, thousands of hours of work still to do.

Basically, I have no idea what to do. I might reactivate my Patreon (asleep for lack of time for the time being) to share the fragments, or even to complete the books just to get them out of my head. Any funds raised on Patreon would go towards paying for editing and covers. Not sure a Kickstarter for those funds would work - nothing is more embarrassing than asking for money, and it takes significant energy to promote a Kickstarter.

I could publish those books on AO3 as original fiction - at least that would be a completely free - since it's non-commercial work, my standards regarding editing are lower, so I could just clean them up as best as I can and put them there for free.

What I definitely can't afford is to go on the way I have - burning money on books that just won't earn the money back. I already face pretty large investments on getting those fantasy books edited and covered. I have to have a trilogy ready before I can even make a start in that market, which is very much driven by trilogies and series. It's very likely I'll need two or three trilogies before I even get anywhere there.

So, yeah, I don't know. The rational mind tells me to write off all the work I've already put into the M/M books and not hurt myself by putting out subpar, unedited work or spending thousands of hours on a mission to get those books out there at a financial loss. My rational mind knows what the sunk cost fallacy is. My heart is still in love with those concepts and ideas and characters and wants to give those characters a happy ending.

Nobody said writing was easy. 

Sunday 29 August 2021

Burn this City - ARC stage

I've spent the past few weeks working through the various drafts of Burn this City - all thanks go to the beta crew and my editors who've really done most of the heavy lifting. Rhis book is now as good as I can make it. I hope to fit in a final proofreading pass reading it on a tablet on a ereader, just so that the text appears "new" to my eyes, but ultimately, we're there.

I'd call this the ARC stage, except I'm not organized enough to do ARCs. This is roughly the stage I feel comfortable with handing out if people want to read review copies; except I don't really do review copies - we're two weeks from release, so it's way too late for those anyway.

At 104k words, it's a beast, and, from a writer's point of view, I never again want to write something his long because the editing hurts. But the boys wanted and deserved that much - enemies to lovers needs space - they spend 50% of the book being enemies and the rest of the book they become lovers. So yes, it's slow burn, probably he slowest burn I've ever written. Basically, you'll need to trust me a lot that I'm going to fulfil the various promises - this isn't a fast book or even a very simple one. It'll take work to read.

Below the cover, I'm going to talk about the "warnings" ("content words"), so stop reading before the cover if you don't to see the "warnings".

First though, if you liked Silvio Spadaro from Dark Soul, he's making an appearance, killing people, having fun and looking great doing it.

I consider this my m/m swansong, so that's the standards I've applied - I've worked through themes and characters and dynamics that attracted me to the genre in the first place. There's lots of plot and back story, there's a few nods to other books (a couple Easter eggs). I feel it's a great closing bracket to Dark Soul, which kind of started my journey in the genre in earnest. 

I've deleted some rambling about what I plan to do next, but that should really be its own entry, so I'll publish that next week. For the moment, I'm happy it's done, and I'm exhausted, too. 

The content words are: suicidal ideation, organized crime, threats of sexual violence, dubcon, mental health (depression), minor character death (past, off-page), murder (mostly off-page), grief, bereaved spouse, drug use (voluntary and involuntary), corruption, domestic violence (off-page), bisexual rep, demisexual/graysexual rep

If you react strongly to any of those, chances are, this won't be for you. Personally, I think it's one of the lighter "dark romances" out there. It starts kind of dark but lightens up a lot as the guys find their stride with each other. 

But then, my perception might be completely skewed. What's mild for me, might be triggering to others, so fair warning, all of that plays that role and I'm not adding these lightly. I think that's the first time I have actually provided content words like that - one of my friends in the space recently suffered the loss of a spouse and since Sal in the book is lingering quite a bit on his grief, the last I wanted to do was to toss people into emotions that they can't or don't want to deal right now. But again, it's a HEA in my head and at the very least a HFN on the page. 

Friday 6 August 2021

Burn this City - cover reveal

 Just popping in to reveal the cover for Burn this City - as usual by the amazing Tiferet Design.

The book can be pre-ordered here and will be released on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited on 13 September. I'm still working on some edits to polish the text. This is most likely going to be my final M/M book (I might wrap up some manuscripts that are half-written, but there are no deadlines attached to that and I might just publish them on my A03 account when the time comes) before I embark on a new journey in historical fantasy. I'm really quite proud of it and think it'll be a great swansong. In any case, I hope you'll enjoy it.