Sunday 26 February 2012

The beginning of the end

The first readers have read Dark Soul 4, and they seem to like it. Considering how anxious I was about it, that's a huge sigh of relief. Dark Soul 4 was written in blood sweat and tears post-November, coming out of a serious rage-induced writing block, and according to some private emails I got, nobody can tell the difference. The bullying assholes haven't damaged my story, thank gods.

And, aware that Dark Soul 4 is the turning point (with a dash of dark moment) in the "big arch", as I call it, we'll publish Dark Soul 5 a week early; it's scheduled three weeks from now. I see a lot of anguish over the waiting, and while I think that it heightens the experience in the case of Dark Soul (episodes need to stay apart), it would be cruel to linger for too long.

There are possibilities for spin-offs and related stories - I'm pretty sure I'll write some sex between Gianbattista and Silvio (set earlier, exploring how Silvio became Battista's "heir"), and I start getting threatening emails about a Franco book. That one should be pretty easy - kind of. Franco's story is a good ten years old, and I know how it goes, and his lover is still very present in my head (good thing - some characters simply don't last that long), so it's just under the surface. I'll have to build a totally new world, though because I can't deal with the research of the one where it's actually set in (I don't speak French and I can't just visit the location). It can be done, but it's something I'll do after my historicals.

What Dark Soul has definitely done was to create a desperate need for me to write more gay mafia stories (hell, I'd READ them, but they don't seem to exist!). And the fact that I'm feeding that urge with watching The Godfather I and II (and, wow, was Robert de Niro hot as Vito Corleone!), and there's Godfather III and Goodfellas on the list next. Mafia stories have a lot of things I like - power play, guns (well, danger, I like danger), social pressure, and so much happens between the lines. A nod, a silence, can mean so much in that world, and it's daunting to show those layers in a way that readers "get it". Some might not, but that's OK. So, yeah, there's the possibility for more. I'm especially tempted by the potential between a boss and a consigliere, but I'd have to build a whole familiglia, and for that I need more research. Taking this stuff from - highly inaccurate - movies won't work. So, there's another pile of research, and right now, that's a touch more than I have time for.

Speaking of historicals - I'm going to free Solange from Special Forces and put her into my WWII novel. I's just a supporting role, but I love that woman and think she'd make a fine addition. In my head, I'm sometimes a director and I like casting and re-casting my favourites. There are only very thin walls between stories in my head. Some are closer than others. Silvio is a character who effortlessly skips across genres and story lines, and he'll get a lot more play, but right now, I'm attempting to fall into that place in 1942, and I'm taking Solange with me.

In any case, I'll try to do some writing on the space opera and then do some plotting/outlining work on my historical novel today. After we've been out to hunt some breakfast, that is.

Friday 17 February 2012

Little token of affection from the London Tube

I bet London's transport network is a field day for epidemiologists (sp?) worldwide. The kind of nasty you can pick up because your neighbour coughs his or her lung out over your shoulder is impressive. Now, I do have the typical Taurus (I've been told) constitution; very hard to kill, generally, but my weak area is the whole breathing apparatus plus sinuses. I went to work first day with really bad sinuses, then they cleared up over a few days, and then my boss's boss fell ill. Then my boss. Over two weeks, it's been closing in, and I've done my level best to fight it off. Everybody's coughing and sneezing - same on the tube, bus, train.

It was only a matter of time. And the problem in my job is that I have to be sharp enough to catch a missing "bn" for "billion" in a financial edit (it does make a difference when editors mess up). What I edit every day requires me to be 100% sharp. Even 80% would do it (as long as I'm not the last pair of eyes on the edit). Today, I'm down to 50%, which means enough coherence to read a bit and go to the supermarket to acquire some soup (and remember to take the change). And write a quick blog update. But otherwise I'm woozy and headachy and surrounded by used paper tissues. It's a sorry sight.

To add insult to injury, the slice of vegetable quiche I found in the shop tastes like cardboard. Which is probably more my fault than its maker's; taste buds are on holiday while my brain's dribbling out of my ears. So I'll stick to mainlining hot tea, coffee, orange juice and cough syrup. Sounds like a balanced diet to me.

Yesterday, the rest of the plot for my space opera came together - which, as usual, led to a discussion with my partner. Now, bless him, he's patient and supportive, but he's incredibly focused on plot, and unless it's an awesome plot, he's all "bleh" about it. Anything. Books, films, and definitely my (or his own) writing. The gods were having a laugh, teaming me up with a 100% plot person. So, after some digging on his part, I told him the plot for the space opera novella I'm working on. And then we had a bit of a shouting match over the ending. He wants me to end it where my very specific ideas have run out (very much the dark moment in the story, where things look really bad). Whereas I do like to get characters out alive and halfway happy. I do think the main character kinda deserves it, too.

So there's the argument between a plot-driven reader and a character-driven author. The author wants to reward the characters for a "good effort" and all their struggles by showing them a way out after the big "oh shit" moment. The plot-driven reader can't care less about the characters and is totally focused on the twist ending - up to the point where he really only wants the twist and no real "afterglow".

I'm not yet sure how to resolve the issue. When I tell him that I don't actually *have* a clear ending, I get "yes, you do! You told me the twist, and every word after just weakens the impact! You'll ruin a perfectly good story" as a response. No use telling him that I'm still 10-15k away from the ending, and books change as I go along, with pieces falling into place before me like in a jump-and-run arcade game (anybody still play those?).

I honestly don't know; my brain's too mushy to work out a solution to that issue right away. In the end, I'll have to trust Mister Muse to put the missing pieces into place. It's not like I can sell a gay sci-fi story to the mainstream, regardless how kick-ass the twist is. If fantasy readers are unready for gay characters, then mainstream sci-fi is probably the last bastion of the "clenchies" as I like to call the "YIKES, GAY CHARACTERS!" homophobic fanboys out there.

On a side-note - the friend whose book I was proofing/helping to edit when I wrote the last few updates has landed a Big Name agent with it, so if anybody kept their fingers crossed for my friend, thank you. The goods vibes helped. :)

Sunday 5 February 2012

Tying up loose ends

Last week was all about editing - I didn't write a single new sentence. I cleaned up "Dark Soul 5", then edited a short co-written piece, which is now with the co-writer for a final check. I'm a right-brain/left-brain kinda person. I either edit or write. I've tried editing one book and writing a new one, but my brain can't handle that double stress. I'm either living in one story, or in another, not in both.

So, right now, I'm in limbo, "between books", which is a place like "between job"--lots of options, usually some soul-searching, and generally things slow down a great deal. I clean my study, throw away papers, re-arrange my books (the research books for the finished books get stored further away from the desk to make way for the new ones), attempt to catch up with my email (usually hopeless mission, but I'm trying at least).

Right now, I'm helping a friend outline her novel, which should keep me busy for a week or so. Then the question is what to write next. I have the sequel to "Lion of Kent" on the schedule, which should be a full novel, but that means another boatload of research. That book has been postponed so often that I feel I need to do it now or it won't happen. That'll also mean going back to Deliverance and Lion of Kent and get back into the character. I have a couple medieval biographies here and a couple books on tournaments and medieval entertainers, so the research side at least is covered. I should be able to write all that in 2-3 months, possibly, depending a bit on the workload at my other two jobs.

There are a couple shorter stories I want to write in the meantime (I do like to write short things in between novels), but since I can never predict whether these are actually short stories or novellas or just pretend they are, I'm proceeding with utmost caution.

In any case, I loved writing the two contemporaries (Dark Soul and the co-project), and now it's time to change setting/sub-genre again.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Real life changes & update

A few of you know that I've changed jobs recently - so I went to interviews in December and January, and got the one job I wanted. With my skill set, I'd have been able to return to financial journalism or attempt to stay in financials.

While media companies were hiring (and I got a couple interesting interviews), the few I went to visit can be described as "young and hungry", and "hungry" tends to mean extremely hard work, and "young" tends to mean shit benefits, and, anyway, I didn't "click" with any of them.

With thousands of banking jobs (like mine) cut across the financial sector in late 2011 (and ongoing), I moved "sideways" and secured a copy editor job at a rating agency. I started work on Monday, and so far, I'm really enjoying it. Biggest challenge right now: To learn their house style as soon as possible. It's very different to my old team, but not necessarily in a bad way. Just different. It did mean I had a lot of time off, and that's now gone. But: good riddance. I do need structure in my day, and I like interacting with flesh-and-blood people. And this job will enable me to get some qualifications and bullet points on my CV, which should position me well to go back into banking, if I should so desire. Also, I'm now officially "comma police", which is quite amusing in many ways. The company itself is awesome--pretty good benefits, holidays, fantastic offices (with cheap and good catering), very nice team. I'm a lucky bastard when it comes to jobs and companies.

Also, I got a new boiler installed last week--two days of dirt, dust and noise (and extremely low productivity on my end), and not one day too early. The "Siberian" cold in London is absolutely biting. I'm so glad my heating's way more efficient now (and two rooms are noticeably warmer, thanks to new radiators - or "rads" as the boiler boys called them).

Also, just before I had to start work on Monday, I finished "Dark Soul" on Sunday night, and since then have been tweaking the fifth and last installment to make the most of it. I need to do an outline for a friend's novel, and edit a co-project, and fine-comb "Dark Soul 5", and all those should keep me pretty busy during February, apart, of course, from getting all the paperwork squared away (a gazillion background checks for the new job, paperwork for the job I left).

So, yep, busy. It's a good kind of busy.

On the writing front, that space opera is demanding face time, and there's a couple sexy shorts that I want to write about Silvio and Gianbattista, but I'll see if I can't push these away a bit longer. They'll attack me and bite me in the throat when I'm not expecting it, so I'm not too worried. I also need to get back into the research groove for the birds books.

And I'm keeping all my fingers crossed for a friend who's sent her 120k novel to a literary agent on Monday. Since I did a proofing check on that piece, I'm really nervous and excited on her behalf.

Next step is to do some more improvements around the house--the front garden could be fixed up to look less ugly, for example. I have plans for roses and tea bushes, and we need to remove some weird bush thing, a juvenile ash tree, a rickety fence and an ugly 1960ies concrete walkway up to the door. Now that I have a new job, I can even afford to have that done. It's been an eyesore for more than a year now.

Now, back to editing.