Wednesday 29 December 2010

On towards 2011

Journalists keep themselves busy before Christmas by writing reviews and previews. I did one for my mag before I left.

Personal reviews and previews are harder to do. Ideally, I'd dig through 12 months worth of blog posts and filter out the things that were important.

In 2010

- I changed jobs twice and very nearly doubled my salary (if we count writing income, I did double it and then some)

- I moved into Casa Voinov

- I traveled to Turkey, Chicago, Warsaw and Moscow (and liked Chicago best)

- I got a crapload of stuff published. This fits with what I planned for the year. Put myself on the map. Last year this time all I had was "Deliverance".

- I did some great and fun writing with my amazing co-writers: Raev Gray, Kate Cotoner, Barbara Sheridan, and Rhianon Etzweiler. Chapeau, guys. Even more awesome that some debuted that way. Makes me feel like an enabler.

- I had a hand in getting people together. Introduce authors to authors, betas to betas, authors to publishers. Regardless of my own little ego, helping others meet friends and colleagues is something I really enjoy (I did mention I had a hand in a couple marriages, right?).

- I met awesome readers/supporters, almost too numerous to mention (and here I am, worried I'm forgetting somebody). Marcie, Audra, Kate, all the people over at Goodreads (65 of them!), on Facebook, Twitter and Livejournal.

- I learnt a really important lesson somewhen this year. Which is to not expect the worst from people. I've relaxed a lot in a social context. That's a big deal. I'm enjoying people more than I ever have. And they enjoy me a great deal more. There's a lesson in that.

- I've written my little black heart out, both professionally and personally. I've written enormous technical features I wouldn't have understood myself just six months ago. I learnt a crapload about financial products, but more importantly, about financial markets. I've learnt it's just a game. Magic beans in the sky.

- I think I've stood by my friends and my friends stood by me. Massive deal.

- I'm primed and ready for 2011 and ready to greet it with a "hell, yeah."


- The aim is to pay off the mortgage faster while interest rates are low. Get some more double glazing in. Have a plan for the garden (which is a mess). Buy the last shelf, and look at prices to re-do the bathroom and kitchen.

- Return to the gym. Hire a pro to kick my ass there.

- Grok the new job and learn what I can while there. That job's not the end-point, not by a long shot, but I need to prove myself all over again.

- Develop an investment strategy. I want to beat my pension fund's performance. I might look into day trading, too. I know a forex trader who made a crapload of money betting dollar versus euro. I might even start a blog on personal finance. There's just so much bullshit out there. (And yes, I actually find finance fascinating).

- Write books.

- Very likely write a German historical.

- Meet more people, beta-read my friends' books, review, read.

And that's really it. In 2010, I did kick ass and took names, and I have every intention to keep it up in 2011. While having fun.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Am writing

I'm writing. Busy. Meeting friends. More busy. More writing.

(so, life's good.)

Sunday 26 December 2010

Christmas at Casa Voinov

We did the gift exchange just after midnight, or during the first minutes of the 25th. This is an age old compromise I worked out with my partner. For Germans, Christmas is on the evening of the 24th. For Brits, it's on the 25th. Since there's no way I'll wait a day longer than I have to, and it doesn't feel "right" for my partner to be out of synch with the rest of the country, we'rte going for "just after midnight". So, psychologically, it's "still 24th", and legally, technically, it's the 25th.

This year, I got some geeky t-shirts (Gears of War related, and one is made from bamboo - didn't know such existed - very pleasant to wear), some assorted knick-knacks (a belt? Are my trousers sagging so much?), and very nice headphones from Skullcandy. That is, of course, so I don't have to crank up the volume so much and so that my partner doesn't hear my music from three rooms away (or in bed). And it makes a world of a difference.

We went to a friend's place to eat turkey and the whole British traditional Christmas dinner, played some board and card games, then trundled home, bellies full of alcoholic ginger beer and turkey and chocolate.

"Scorpion 2" aka "Lying with Scorpions" is 4k at this point, and I'm planning to write some of that today. Plus some "Iron Cross", while the Muse has me.

And that's perfect holidays - writing, few distractions, and good books, all topped off with presents and food.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Hiring a pro

One of the reasons why I want a bigger pay cheque (apart from paying off my house in less than 30 years, investing some money on the stock market, and wearing tailored suits) is that I want to be able to afford hiring a pro to look at my novels.

I have the good fortune to know a lot of excellent people, and many of these are making their way as writers and editors and freelancers in a field that is even more money-sensitive these days because competition is so high. If you've ever tried to charge writers for teaching them, you'd know what I mean. The people that start out writing don't have the cash. The people that have the cash are not necessarily the most talented. I do some of that work, and most writers fall back on other writers. "Find my typos and I find yours" is an accepted form of mutual help in writing circles (I wish corporate drones were as helpful as well-adjusted writers).

But sometimes, you get stuck on your own stuff. You get a lot of advice. Some people think a novel works, some think it doesn't. You've re-written it fifteen times. You're tired of it. No, you're so sick and nauseated when you're just THINKING about re-working that novel again, you've heard "you're a great writer, but that thing... just doesn't work", or "how dare you send this piece of suicide, drugs and irresponsible unsafe sex to US, you BEAST!", or "great character story, now where's the thriller you promised me?"

In one word, you have novel fatigue. It's not tiredness. It's not being without inspiration or drained. I think it might be closest to chronic fatigue syndrome. Just thinking about opening the file causes an immediate feeling of "I don't want to live anymore." Suddenly, taking up golf, or knitting, or cave diving become tantalizing prospects. Everything but open that file.

There's a project I feel like that about. I reached out to a pro for help. She quoted me a price, saying she was aware it was high and that she wouldn't mind if I pulled back and and all.

The money? Less than I make in a week, net. A bit more than I spend on food per month (can you tell I'm a cheap date?). I want to spend it so I know what the fuck is wrong with this book and how can I fix it. I want this off my plate. Getting rid of it - that is, getting it published - will be like therapy. It's a book that's been sticking in my throat like a bone. As nasty a feeling as an inflamed root of a tooth.

The book's been sticking around for 2 years now. I just want it gone. I don't even need a big contract for it. I just want to see it gone. I'll likely end up self-publishing it. So whatever I spend on it I'll likely never recover.

Doesn't matter.

Big reason for changing jobs? So I can afford to hire a pro. So I can put money in the pocket of good people, and acquire the help I need, and it won't break the bank. I just need an authoritative voice, a "definite" opinion of somebody I trust and who knows the market. And somebody who can answer questions I have about the book.

Might be one of the best deals I'll ever make.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Sleepy weekend

As of today, all Christmas presents are bought and sent, and the ones that aren't sent are ready to be wrapped. I still think they are lame - this year I just didn't have any inspiration. That's when I get to the point of "Christmas shopping sucks anyway", and all the things that seemed interesting are just "stuff" that you drag home. Better save the money. I'm just not getting excited about "stuff" anymore.

Maybe books - but I have piles of books that I might never find the time to read. There's a more adult version of gifts creeping in, too. Useful stuff. Household stuff. Gifts like mixers and new toasters and such.

On a positive note, my tax return has arrived - the tax I have to pay on my creative writing endeavours amounts to pocket money. Next year will be "worse". I better rack up some serious expenses to put against that.

I've written around 1,000 words on "Scorpion 2", which I'll call "Lying with Scorpions". I have no idea where things are going there, and it's moving very slowly, but at least I have written and might be able to write some more today.

Otherwise, I caught up with what felt like an enormous sleep deficit. I can't wait for the days to get longer again.

Leaving drinks was emotional. I'm always ill at ease during such social work get-togethers that involve alcohol. I managed to bow out due to the snow. There was a possibility that trains might not run if the snow got worse in Kent, so I made my escape. Tomorrow starts the last week on the job. Then about ten days of doing nothing (aka: writing), and then I'm off to the bank. And then I'll look into investing quite seriously.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Lots of letters/packets

Today I spent a small fortune to send two hardcover books to New Zealand. Brilliant Christmas present idea for people that live half the world away. Posting them cost more than the gifts. Will have to discuss with my partner that we'll send the DVD rather than the HARDCOVERS next.

The post office was out of padded envelopes for the copies of "First Blood" I'm sending out to the people at Goodreads. Thursday, then.

Then I picked up three packets from the post office across town (yes, you post them in one place and then travel forever to get to the place where you pick them up. Only the Brits could be so ... efficient). One packet was presents for the in-laws (needs to be posted on Thursday). The other was a pile of books for the sequel of "Lion of Kent" and the sequel to "Scorpion". Packet number three came from a dear friend who returned to Germany after a stint in London. German chocolate and licorice - real luxuries. (And salt and bread for the house move) Thank you!

The contract from the bank arrived. Wow, I never had a health exam first for a job (okay, that's a lie - I had to be tested negative for tuberculosis when I started freelance teaching - ten years ago or thereabouts). It's an inch-thick stack of paper that all needs to be sorted on Monday.

I'm tempted to offer charity fiction for the holidays, but I struggle writing at all. Putting the big Pistol of Guilt on my chest won't actually improve matters at all.

And apparently, under some circumstances, you can create matter from nothing. That has amusing repercussions for Christians (God is a high-powered laser in a vacuum).

I typed the words "Scorpion: Part 2" into an empty file. Don't get your hopes up. I haven't written further than the dedication page. Let's see where this goes.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

New era

I don't want to whine. I have some stuff to whine about - another lesson learnt the absolute worst way, but there objectively nothing to whine about. It's all in my head. Besides, getting the contract for the investment banking job and a start date is very awesome, whatever drop of bitterness might be in my water.

And I just received ANOTHER contract, this time for a book. "Scorpion", my first solo novel in... a while... was accepted by Dreamspinner and should be out at the beginning of May (in time for my birthday, maybe, even).

So. If anybody can explain why things that I've been waiting for for three or five and a half weeks all happen within six hours of each other, I'd like to hear about it. Raev thinks it's the universe trying to mess with my head. I start to agree. Has Mercury come out of retrograde today?

I have to get the magazine (my final issue) off to press. Much work to be completed. I'll end up running myself ragged, again. But soon is the Xmas break and New Year. There's no year where I've needed it more, to be honest.

Friday 3 December 2010

Book giveaways

Okay, 'tis the season, and I've been remarkable remiss in my "duty" to "promote" books. It's not that I don't like promoting (but if I ever send you an email with nothing but "I'm great, NOW BUY MY BOOK" - just shoot me, that's when I lose the remainder of my personal dignity), it's that I've been busy getting a new job and getting the magazine to print.

So. Giveaways. Amora/Amara over at her blog sponsors a giveaway of "Transit". I'm sponsoring a second copy, so there's the chance to win two. Just read the excerpt and answer the question.


That's it from me. (I'm still snowed in an can't get to work, but I'm working on the magazine, so a little busy right now. The worst will be over next week...).