Wednesday 27 October 2010

It's time for thinky time

It's that time again - when I switch from extrovert to introvert. We've been through this before. Every now and then, I need to pull back and gather my forces. It's usually not a rout, but more taking stock of what I've done, what I'm doing now and with what priorities, and what I want to do, or where I'm going.

I'm moving through that cycle several times a year, so it's nothing new and I'm upfront about it because it can be worrying for outsiders (outsiders = everybody not living in my head).

Looking back over the last ten months, I've achieved what I set out to do. I've had a solid number of releases, I've seen publications go into print, I've published with a large publisher, I have found some important closure and even made peace with some issues.

I upgraded my job, my financial situation and my living arrangements. I have, generally, written my little black heart out, got to a new level in terms of writing, learnt some very important things in terms of writing. I got better at plotting. As a writer, I put my name on the map.

Now it's time to retrench and look at some other big issues, and I'll end up doing those on my own. There is a kind of thinking I can't do in public, so some of that thinking will happen on my closed, private blog, and some of that thinking will happen exclusively in my head and discussing matters with close friends, face to face or by email.

There are some big issues hanging over me, some are about what kind of writing I'll do from now on, and what part of my life writing will take. That includes "marketing" or "promo", so for the moment, I'm going on an online diet. Less social networking, less blogging, less emails, less forums, less internet. A lot more time spent in the gym, and in the library minus internet access. A lot more time spent reading and writing by myself.

What kind of writing is up in the air. I don't know yet. I'll listen to what the muse has to say and in what language and take it from there.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Too narrow for me

Let's face it. I'll always write books that are not romances - not in the narrow sense, anyway.

I have three choices - redefine a genre (m/m or gay fiction I thought was broad enough to allow the occasional maverick); conform; do something else.

Now, I can stretch the envelope, and I likely will, hoping to find enough readers that are tired of the same old formulaic stuff and are happy to take a risk. Which means a lot less sales, but hey, I'm hardly in it for the money.

Conforming is not an option. The day I write a book the way it's expected from me - and that's an art form and I respect anybody who can do that - is the day I go into ghostwriting (tried it, and it's sheer and pure horror).

Doing something else is tempting. If there's really only a 15 degree gap where everybody has to pass through to try and make a living writing - we're talking lowest common denominator stuff here - then I'll do something else. Then I'll focus my energy on making a writing career elsewhere. I might even go back to German. I might grow another "me" and publish "mainstream" novels as somebody else. It's just more work.

Whatever I do, the stories will keep coming. The muse keeps on singing.

Only a handful stories to tell

A friend of mine emailed me to tell me she wasn't interested in reading "Scorpion".

(No, that's everybody's right - while I hope that people take chances on my writing, I understand those that rate a book badly because it's a menage and they hate menages, or people who don't buy books that deal with certain elements... writing romance, and especially selling romance, we make erotic fantasies. If it fails to turn on, it's not worth it for a huge amount of readers. People have a certain amount of things that gets them going - so they look for that. And ignore the stuff that doesn't... that's the deal with erotic romance. Like porn, people look for something specific and can't, usually, be brought round.... "look, you really want to try $kink" - no, they don't.).

So on the bus, I spent some time thinking about what it is that turns her off with "Scorpion". I analysed its deep structure. The underlying story. I wrote this by the seat of my pants, so I can only do the literary analysis now. I tend to discover the mythological structure (the "mythos") behind it much, much later. I'm not aware of it while I do this... I'm not sure I *want* to be aware of the structure, either. To re-create a myth, you have to firmly, deeply, passionately believe in it. Magic happens when you believe. I believe with my emotions and not my frontal lobes.

And I had this "oh wow" moment when I finally understood what the story is that I'm telling. Over the last two years, I've written a lot of stories that are about a younger/more immature guy maturing and proving himself "worthy" of an older, charismatic, even, in certain ways super-human man. Young alpha learns how to howl with the big guys. Young man becomes worthy of his idol.

It's in "Lion of Kent", "Return on Investment", "Blood Run Cold" (where the super-human is a vampire and the younger guy's a psychopath and craving to be a vampire, too), and, yeah, Scorpion. Usually, the moment of high drama is when the young alpha saves the older alpha's neck (William stops the murderer, Martin stops the rapist, Frederik is willing to lay down his life, Kendras frees Adrastes).

It's the same story. Sometimes told as a romance, sometimes told as a coming-of-age story, sometimes both in varying quantities.

This is one of my personal myths, one of the stories I carry in my bones, my creative DNA (and I'm pretty sure it's the most positive way for me to deal with the father issues I have. Fuck you, Freud).

The other story is that of the man reclaiming his humanity and independence. Usually, he's a deformed person with strong inner convictions that may or may not be good for him, and things that happen to him either break him or develop him out of an unbearable situation. Vadim in "Special Forces", the eagle shaman, and the spetsnaz in the sci-fi novel. It can even be applied to Thierry in "Test of Faith", Andrei in "Clean Slate"... and probably a number more.

Those are the two stories I'm telling. That's it. Fascinating stuff.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Scorpion is done

Thursday night, I finished "Scorpion", which clocks in at 68,908 words at the moment. (So much for "it's probably a novella"). I've just written a 1,800 word synopsis and am giving the text a polish. Since my first drafts are pretty clean anyway, I might finish this weekend or week, depending how well it goes, and send it off before I fly out to the States.

That means I'll return to "Iron Cross" and can then power through with that.

Yeah, feeling accomplished. Excerpts soon to follow, now need to update the website.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Towards the great within

I think I stole that headline from a Dead Can Dance album. Doesn't matter. I'm working hard to get through to the end of the year. Biggest issue is to make it until 6 December, because then the industry slows down as we all take our measly holiday allowance and will be gone over the holidays - then the rat race starts again.

Ain't media fun?

All the work at work is on track - don't ask me what it costs me, I do pay the price in less online time, less writing time and generally less time overall. But it's getting better, I'm getting more efficient (even more efficient), and I do enjoy my job a great deal. And being a journalist in specialist media may not be the booze-filled, lazy time it used to be, but compared to pretty much every other job I've ever held down, this is still pure heaven. Heaven at war with the demons from hell, but at least we're a united front.

Now, enough apocalyptic talk. I've hit 64k on "Scorpion", which has claimed pretty much all the free time I have at the moment. I have discovered I can write wherever, whenever, even just before meetings, or scribble a few sentences while on the go. Do I love my iPhone? Yes I do. Where there's a muse there's a way.

I'm making a list of things I need to fix, making comments in the text. There's probably another 4-6k in my outline to write, so 3-4 good writing days should do it.

While I hold down the fort (or a cloud, or whatever), my partner's job hunting. The CVs and job descriptions he's getting make me painfully aware that I'm in the wrong industry. Mental note: apply that in the next life.

Scorpion is going really well, though. I think it's going to be an awesome book. The kind of fantasy novel I always wanted to write - I just had to grow the skills for it. Only took me, what, ten years.

I do look forward to my long holiday and Christmas/New Year. During that time, I'll fix TCaS and write Iron Cross. Scorpion should be edited and submitted by then. Lots of work, but momentum keeps me going.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Housekeeping - I got "Not America"

I've just updated my website with "Not America" or rather "Nicht Amerika", which is available for pre-order. As it's a German anthology, the story is German, too. It's quite different from anything else I've done in the last months. First, there's no sex.

I pondered for a while whether I should be doing this as Aleksandr Voinov, or use my old German pseudonym (which I've all but given up at this stage). So I went with the name that feels more "right". Which also means I don't have to maintain a second online "me" just to be available to readers of that short story and to maybe help sell a couple books.

So, there is is. A 20 stories anthology with a David Bowie theme. I went with the song "This Is Not America", and gave it a zombie twist. It was great fun. Strange to be writing German, I'm all but losing the sound of my native language after 5.5 years abroad. I had to constantly translate the English words in my head into German, which made the writing "interesting" to say the least.

Now I need to find the time to translate it back into English, and put it up on Smashwords.

And now toward "Scorpion" - there's a marriage I have to do.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Revision request - novel surgery

I got a revision request - rather than a contract - from the publisher I subbed TCaS to. It all makes perfect sense, and is in line with what I thought I'd fixed, but apparently not enough. Time schedules being what they are, this will push back "Iron Cross" for at least another 4-6 weeks. That's the timeframe we're looking at to rewrite a significant part of the novel and then slot it back in and make it appear like there are no transplantation/surgery scars.

Hiding those scars isn't an easy job, actually. It has to be all natural and organic, but most of all, inevitable. However, if it had been inevitable, then it would have happened in Draft I, II and III. So that's the biggest sleight-of-hand trick - to make readers think that the book they are reading is the only possible version of that book. We hand them a bottle of water and need to convince them - with a straight face - that water can only live in bottles.

Again, this will mean a full print-out of the novel (a big folder of paper, it's around 90k), and then writing a synopsis by chapter. The beginning has to change, every scene needs to be slightly adapted, and one of the plots (granted, the smaller one), is flawed and needs more... more of everything.

I think that'll cost me a couple months, and since both Raev and me are busy with what they call "real life", this is going to be tough. Expect to read a lot of whining and bitching about it. In the end, however, I'm learning how to revise novels. That's a skill all novels will benefit from.

Talking about revising, I'm currently going through the galleys for "Transit", which is another chunk of work (at 98 pages or thereabouts). It has to be done.

First the current magazine issue, then "Transit", then "Scorpion", then TCaS, and Iron Cross. I'd wager that's my year taken care of. I have no idea how on earth I'll be able to slot in "Pawn" - there aren't enough hours in the day to completely edit another full-sized novel that needs some serious beta-ing from a Russian.

Well. Magazine work today, Transit and Scorpion this week. I'll see what happens if I just knuckle down.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Monday 11 October 2010

Another thousand words

Pretty hardcore work at work, but keeping my head above water. I'm even writing. Here 500 words, there 800 words. I'm now 55k into Scorpion and expect to be able to do anywhere between 500 and 1,000 for the next days.

I'm only 5k off the wordcount I wanted to hit, but it looks quite likely that it will be a little longer than 60k. So, the idea is to hit 60k by weekend, and then bring the herd home on the weekend, possibly Monday.

I'll be back with more regular updates when I'm there. I'm productive and busy, and that's a good thing. Means the weekend will be here that much faster.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Writing hangover

I did a little bit of work work yesterday, but when I wrote a bit, I hit a serious case of "The Flow", and it's just too painful to push that kind of inspiration away. So I wrote. And wrote.

I think writing 6,090 words in a day might rank among my personal best. Certainly means an output of around 600-700 words per hour, which is OK, it means I didn't actually waste a lot of time with other things. What else I did was some stuff around the house. Weekend is always the time to recalibrate and tidy up, too. Did away with one of the remaining piles of "stuff" that has been sitting there since the move, so the house looks more and more like I want it. Everything has or will have its place, and there's no build-up anywhere. That's nice. No flock of mugs that need to be herded into the kitchen, no pile of clothes waiting to be washed. I am turning into a tidy freak, but really, us Taureans just like structure.

So, yeah, I'm pretty sure "Scorpion" is now around 90% done. I have a last couple plot twists and two more confrontations (I like those), and the lovers are now, in chapter 17, still somewhat awkward with each other (which happens when your lives get shredded by circumstance and necessity), but they are doing good otherwise.

I might even conceivably bring the herd home today, but work work is really, really more important. Plus, there's this dull feeling in my skull that I associate with hangovers. Creative writing is pretty tough on that grey squishy matter, and my brain feels actually sore after that writing binge. But it's great to know I can reach that kind of output, even on my own, and especially when I know what's going to happen.

Yeah, so, Scorpion's now at just under 54k. I expect to type "the end" by next Monday.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Been a week

It's been a week. Most of all, it's been a busy week. Not only did I work pretty hard for money, but I also wrote a ton of words. "Scorpion" is now at more than 47k, and I think I have enough to reach 60k. There are a few scenes that I need to expand, too, and I need to brush it all and polish and file off the hard edges. Then temper it.

So I did something like 10k last week, plus lots of things at work. This weekend, I had originally planned to finish my novel, but then I got something else to do for work work, and since that pays the mortgage, it has priority. I'll still try and get past 50k and play around with it a bit more. Should be doable.

Nothing else much to report. We got the edits for "Transit" as well as the finished cover.

Next week will be pretty tough, since I have to read and understand a lot of really technical legal stuff - here I thought I'd escaped law after two semesters... but apparently the bitch has now caught up with me. It does have its advantages, though. In my part of the capital markets, the legal stuff is getting more and more important, and if I acquire all that knowledge once it'll stand me in good stead for at least another two years.

I'll do a little "Scorpion" tomorrow and on Sunday, but I expect it to be in the area of 500 words each. Which is still a lot of progress and puts me well on track to finish that novel before I fly to America.

Saturday 2 October 2010

The plot, it has arrived

I plotted the second half of "Scorpion", so I know now where it's all going and when. The muse plays ball, which is great. Seems he wants to get done as much as I want to move on, too.

No news yet on either of the submitted novels. I'm reasonably optimistic that I'll publish three novels next year - the question is with which publisher. And honestly, while I'm chasing the muse around, I don't even particularly care. I'm plenty busy just getting the current scene down and writing the next one. I can feel the next two project push against my brain, trying to get lodged in and turn into proper brain parasites that take over my life and my thoughts.

Yeah, I'll now write the outline for Scorpion and move stuff around and make it all shiny. The main question at this point is if Steel lives or dies - if he dies, I know who'll kill him. Maybe that settles it.

I found the music to write this stuff with - "In Extremo" is a great band to write fantasy with. I need to get their remaining CDs/iTunes downloads. My collection is woefully incomplete.