Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I come bearing gifts

I'm now a regular blogger at Savvy Authors - my first column went online today. I wrote that real quickly after watching season one of "Burn Notice".

Then - "Speak Its Name" is starting its Advent Calendar. My turn's on the 9th. Last year was great, so I'm honored to have been invited again. I'll be giving a book away, too.

Britain is in the grip of an implacable foe: snow. Love the white stuff, the way it makes everything bright and quiet, but my commute was interesting today. There were points during the three hour trek where I thought I wouldn't make it. I think I'll stash a bag of survival kit in the office next time for next winter. An hour later, I can even feel my hands again. Bonus. My best estimate is that not even the Blitz created as much mayhem as a couple inches of snow. I think I'll test the theory against some eye-witness accounts of WWII.

Otherwise, deadline at work. Tech issues at work (inefficiencies galore in the system...). Awaiting the contract and package for the new job - job agent says it's only a matter of days now.

Come January/mid-January, I won't be a journalist. I'll be a proper Sith Lord. Awesome. Sith Lords are better paid and have more time for writing.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Basic housekeeping

I spent some time working on my website, and I'm trying to catch up with my email. I feedbacked a friend's 11k short story, and I'm going through my TBR pile at a rate of knots. That's four books and counting, and a fair few of those are books for Iron Cross research. I think I'm just cleaning up the little tasks that fell by the wayside during the mad writing rush of the last few months.

Next week will be tough as I'm getting the magazine off to print, so long and early hours, working through weekends, the usual song and dance, and I'm not sure how much writing will happen in that time (I'll try, but I've been very low on productivity - or not seriously writing at all - for four weeks). That's okay, there's a time when you have to answer emails, do your taxes, read and watch some TV shows that are inspiring, and do some stuff with the person you live with. It's ok, it's like inhaling and exhaling. Writing has a rhythm, one part is PRODUCE PRODUCE PRODUCE, the other is refill, calm down, think, ponder, research.

I'm doing a little bit of translating and might end up translating my own old stories, sex them up and sell them. But that's a side project.

If you are waiting for an email response, it's quite likely you'll get it in the next few days. Otherwise, life is good. This morning, Mr Fox came to visit - he was a cub when we bought the house, but he's fully grown now and not as scraggly as other urban foxes I've seen. Seeing him weave through the bushes, all coated in frost, was my high point of the morning. What a wonderful thing is life.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Two weeks without

I haven't written in any significant quantity for two weeks. Chicago has eaten my brain, and the last week was catching up and racing the clock for the deadline. Also, of course, the job interview and assorted tensions connected to that. The muse is becoming restless.

What I've done is edit "Special Forces", done the edits for several chapters, and I'm attempting to edit up to chapter 35 before the year's up. That's about the halfway point in "Mercenaries". I'm mostly cutting back Jean at this point, as well as plots and scenes that don't go anywhere.

In good news - "The Lion of Kent" is available as audiobook from Audible.com. I believe it's not available for the UK, but I somehow managed to download it, regardless. (Dear Jeff Bezos, don't take my book away, please!) I'm listening to it during a few free moments, and it's very strange to hear the text spoken by somebody else. Very, very strange. The American accent of the speaker makes me laugh a bit - I do like the American accent, but it's strange to hear a medieval British/English story read by an American. I hear my own words when I read my stuff, and invariably, my mindvoice reads stuff differently. It might be as subtle as a pause or a slightly different emphasis.

But then, reading your stuff aloud - or having somebody else read it out aloud - is a priceless editing tool. Anything that sounds hollow or tinny needs to be redone and cut. So far I haven't heard anything in "Lion" I'd want to change - so that's good news.

In case I didn't mention it, "Father of All Things" has been accepted for publication by Carina Press. I might have referred to it as "the mystery project" or the "secret project", but that was mostly to keep the pressure off my co-writer, Rhianon Etzweiler, who led the project (it was her idea, and I believe most of the text is from her). If you talk too much about a project that is being written and that can still die/fail, that puts a lot of pressure on. Well, that's over. "Father of all Things" will be out with Carina Press in summer 2011.

Three weeks since I submitted "Scorpion". Usually, I hear back in 4-6 weeks, so we're getting to the interesting time window. I expect an acceptance, but of course that might be premature. Self-confidence getting in the way. I do my best to forget books once they are off to find their homes. Sometimes it even works.

Right now, two projects need tackling. One is a final rewrite of "To Catch a Spy", which involves some more research and some tightening of the plot, but at least those changes are far less severe and time consuming than the last two or three rewrites were. It can be done in a couple weeks' time. And finally "Iron Cross", which needs to be written. The main problem is that I can't decide which one I want to tackle first. Both will be all-consuming, tough pieces of work. Then again, my philosophy is to wrap up the book first that's closer to publication.

To relax, I've been watching "Burn Notice". This is a show I'd recommend to every writer. You can learn an awful lot from "Burn Notice". I might write a post about that soon, but right now, I'll do some prep work on TCaS.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Awaiting the offer

I had two very good interviews at the Major European Bank, first with other editors (my future bosses) and then with the head dudes and HR person and the job agent reckons they'll make an offer, they just need to get the salary signed off by Head Dude who's currently travelling.

Then I have a leaving period of four weeks. So, anywhere between now and maybe 8 weeks, I'll have a new job that pays somewhere between 50 and 70 percent more than I make right now. I've talked to somebody in the department I trust and she feels I should try and get a similar raise here and that it's entirely possible they'll even pay it. Quote "they'd be fools to let you go." I agree. Few things in life I'm sure off, but I'm the exact right kinda person for the job, and in the last five months, I went above and beyond the call of duty. To the point where the writing, the real life, the exercise, friends, and everything else suffered.

I@ll have to give it all some serious considerations. Do I want to be an editor or do I want to be a journalist/networker. The decision is not as easy as it sounds. Work/life balance re-balanced, much more holiday, a job with an earnings potential only limited by the coffers of a bank (hey, come on! Banking/financial institutions pay a lot more generally than business media).

Working for a bank with a German heritage means - holidays, less overtime, clear, efficient approaches and procedures (the place I work now at has some inefficiencies that drive me up the wall). It's exciting since it's growing, and might be a step into actual financial services (I could go into compliance... which would serve my anal German side very much) - with the huge earnings potential. They are supportive of training and acquiring further qualifications, while here, I teach myself and follow the example of my legend-sized boss.

At the moment, I don't quite know. The chat with my colleague made the idea of leaving much harder. On the other hand, pushing the mag the way I've been doing exhausts and drains me. That's when I keep realising I'm an INFJ - I'm good with people, but I do need a lot of time to recharge my batteries after continued exposure to them. Editing for the bank means far more one-on-one, talking a lot to "huge egoes" (their words, not mine), possibly moving into an analyst/compliance role inside the bank rather than busting my ass to break stories and meet deadlines on editing magazines.

But it's comforting to think that, whatever I do, as long as it supports the writing, I get paid enough to wear tailored suits, have some security (Taurus there) and am rewarded for hard work, I'm good. I work to live, not the other way round. In my case, I work to write. So, more holidays, more writing time, less stress, sounds about right for me.

But yeah, I spent yesterday staring at the screen, absolutely nauseous with guilt and worry over the magazine when/if I leave. My boss has been very good to me. I've learnt an awful lot. It's going to be tough.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Now with more coherence

I missed home. I was frantically busy and had a ball, but now I'm back and feeling the love. Dirty, grimy UK with its small buildings and small food portions is pretty much home.

That said, I wouldn't mind living in Chicago for a couple months a year. It's definitely a place I want to see more of. Too bad my company doesn't send any correspondents out.

Honeymoon with my company is over, too. There were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, and these things are turning into stones in my shoes. Very hard to ignore, at least for the long distance. Granted, I chatted to some Major News Wire guys, and they have it a lot worse, so I'm not complaining. I'm not sure when I'll be joining the "dark side" (that's what we hacks call PR work or corporate work), but just like Jedi/Sith, the Dark Side is definitely a temptation.

Talking of which - a headhunter was in touch and got me an interview at Major European Bank. They are looking for an editor in their research department. I wasn't planning to leave my current job - which I love, despite the small stones in my shoes - but they pay double what I'm making now.

Yeah, that's my price. The dark side might happen very soon, actually.

Writing-wise, there's a reincarnation story that has knocked on my brain. I have a couple very good ideas there, but it still needs a plotline beyond "they meet, they fuck, something's terribly, terribly wrong".

And, of course, while I was gone, "Transit" came out.

Check my website (or the buy link) for an excerpt.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Some thoughts on happy accidents

I've just blogged over at Slash and Burn here.

And as I type that, I'm getting closer to departure. I'll grab the taxi at 6pm, then fly out just before ten pm. I do hope to sleep a little, but the jetlag over five time zones should be interesting. Thankfully, I have Manna Francis to keep me company.

I see you on the other side.

Monday, 1 November 2010


I would have thought I'd be more intimidated by Chicago. First time in America (which is both a geographical term for a continent and a childhood concept of "that's where all the cool stuff happens" - based on US culture on TV and the movies) - and it's very different to Russia (yeah, really).

First of all, I can talk to strangers - big help. But it's also the feel of the place. I was worried about immigration. During the Bush junior interregnum, several of my friends were treated less than stellar by immigration. Arriving at O'Hare, passport and customs and immigration form clutched in my hand, I was processed by guy who looked very much like a cop in the movies - that dirty blond, small beard, glasses kinda guy that I've seen a hundred times on screen.

I had my fingers scanned and my picture taken ("look into the camera"), but, to be honest, all the CCTV stuff in London is worse.

"Why are you here?"
"I'm on business."
"What kind of business are you in?" emphasis on "you", with a "what are *you* working as" tone - bizarrre.
"I'm a journalist."

By then my passport was sorted and I was too flight-dazed to follow the orders exactly which parts of my hands they were scanning in what order (pretty sure the others only had one hand scanned, but maybe we Germans are extra-scary - or I might have seen that wrong), he gave me the orders in German "vier finger," "linker Daumen" (four fingers/left thumb). Glimpsed at his name tag. German name.

I thanked him in German as I walked away, amused by the episode more than intimidated. Whenever I looked lost or hesitated to find my way around, some American would pounce on me and explain. I managed to find the trains to the city at O'Hare (more complicated than it seems) and got into downtown Chicago. I even managed to stop a taxi that took me to my hotel (which is no mean feat in London).

While it's strange and different, I would have thought it would be harder. (but then I'm a control-freakish worrier when it comes to my job. I just like being in control, flight-dazed and all). But of course, this is only the second day and things might start to look very different once I'm out and about for a few.

Lots of skyscrapers from where I am - I'm close to the Gold Coast part of Downtown. I do hope I'll be able to see more than the conference hotel. And dollars look like play money. Hard to take the greenback seriously if you're used to pounds and euros. Even Turkish lira look more like money.

And despite the long flight (eight hours), getting here is still bearable. I do want to come back as a tourist. That would be New York, Seattle, San Francisco (and Chicago unless I manage to see some stuff on this trip). Childhood names again. But I can even use this trip for To Catch a Spy.

Before I forget - on the plane, they put me next to a guy who was built in a way that made me feel like a small child. American footballer/superhardcore bodybuilder kind of guy. Enormous. Black. Biceps like thighs. Can't walk for strength kinda man.

I had the aisle seat, but he was invading my space - he couldn't help it, he simply didn't fit. And then on the other side of the aisle, a screaming toddler (where's my duct tape). I was resigned between being screaming at or cuddling up to the enormous man-tit in a tight t-shirt in my sleep (his wife was on the other side) for eight hours when the stewardess noticed the situation and offered me a seat in the back ("you're looking a bit squashed near the big bear there").

I ended up sharing the empty seat in the middle with a nice American dude who was working all the time - reading financial mags and working on the laptop). Even the toddler calmed down, so that trip was mostly a win. I read Manna Francis' "Control" - book four of the Administration series - which tided me over for much of the travel. Quick nap affterwards. The "bear" (I could see his screen from my position) was watching "Twilight" and "The Last Airbender". How such a big guy ends up watching kiddie programs was downright bizarre. He even watched "Twilight" to the very end, but stopped halfway through the Airbender. I guess there's a limit to pain in the frontal lobes a big guy like that can withstand.

Right, the sun is up. Second coffee brewed. Now shower, then pinstripe, then my first meeting with a tech company.