Saturday 31 December 2016

2016 kiss-off

I'd already done my "2016 review/2017 outlook" post in November. Since then, not a great deal has happened, so I don't really need to do another one. Mostly, since then, I've worked hard on getting two big projects ready.

One is Witches of London - Eagle's Shadow (cover to be revealed soon), co-written with Jordan Taylor.


What if the new love of your life also holds the keys to your past?

When Chicago journalist Tom Welsh meets British banker Sanders Templeton at a conference, Sanders insists they have a connection, though he does not know what it is.  They’ve never met before—but the strangest thing is, Tom can also feel it.

Sanders Templeton is a highflier who has it all—the money, the lifestyle and a rare intellect. Only a few chosen people know that he also suffers excruciating pain since childhood, with no cure, a mystery to western medicine.

Sanders knows that meeting Tom may be the most significant event of his life. As their relationship deepens, they learn that this is not the first lifetime in which they’ve fallen for each other. This time, true love can be theirs if they find the courage to forgive.

This is a standalone novel in the Witches of London world.


So that one's ready and currently with betas. We're aiming at a release in early February, but it might happen to be March.

Then there's Risikokapital, the German translation of Return on Investment. Again, this is with betas and should hit the shelves in February/March.

I'm also working on getting German translations ready for Deliverance, Skybound and Burn, and have started translating Witches of London - Lars, which will trickle over onto when they're ready, but very likely throughout 2017.

So, with Eagle's Shadow one of the four novels I'm planning to release (and pretty much ready to go), I'm currently focusing my energy on writing Exile (Incursion #2) which is circa half done and looks like a full novel.

And as of yesterday, I've started making tracks in Witches of London - Julian, which I plotted out six months ago, and now I have the time to write it, and I laid down a pretty good first chapter yesterday, so it's all going well.

The "last" slot of the year is likely going towards Dark Heart (sequel to Dark Soul), which I really just need to finish.

So those four (Eagle's Shadow, Exile, Julian, Dark Heart) are the minimum I set myself for 2017 (you can tell I've improved and tightened up my goal-setting). I'm planning to do a great many other things in 2017 too that are unrelated to writing, but very much related to the whole pagan/therapy angle I'm currently working.

But generally, the idea is to release a new story/novel every quarter roughly in this order (with others dropping in as I finish more):

Q1 2017 - Witches of London - Eagle's Shadow
Q2 2017 - Exile
Q3 2017 - Witches of London - Julian
Q4 2017 - Dark Heart

Beyond that - I have plans to write Pure Gold, re-issue expanded and edited Clean Slate and First Blood, co-write two more Witches books, and write a post-Apocalyptic novel as well as a fantasy novel. There's a lesbian historical I want to write, too.

So... the Muse is definitely playing. The question is how much of all that can I cram into my day while holding down a day job (which is currently not going away - I simply don't make enough money to live off writing, and the industry is so fragile right now I fully expect it might all burn to the ground, so writing remains most definitely a hobby for the time being). I'll try again for 500-1,000 per day, but that'll be an average, not a daily wordcount. I have my spreadsheet ready to track it.

Beyond that year, I don't know yet... some of the books I enjoyed most were "happy accidents", so books that occurred to me and then became so compelling that I couldn't stop myself from writing. So I'm not going to overplan and leave some space for those kinds of books.

Right, I'm do some official goal-setting, set up my bullet journal for 2017, and then finish chapter 1 of the Julian book. Wishing you and yours all the best for 2017 - thank you for all of your support; when things get rough, this means more than I could say in a simple blog post.

I'll see you on the flipside. And I'll bring new books! 

Saturday 19 November 2016

Two more releases and plans for the rest of the year

By now, the new and improved Skybound and Gold Digger are released. (I've fixed typos and other mistakes compared to the first editions.).

And earlier this month, I re-released Dark Soul Volume I (which combines the "old" parts 1 & 2) with new covers again, re-edited. Volume II will combine the "old" parts 3 and most of 4, and Volume III is the "old" 4 & 5. That restructuring means all parts are pretty much the same length, and getting them all will be cheaper. Vols II and III should release in December and January or February, and I'm looking into setting up a print version as well. Here's the cover art (all by Tiferet). 

(also available at B&N and various other places)

And the second release was "Burn", a short story I pulled many years ago from a justly forgotten small publisher. "Burn" is a short techie near-future short story that I enjoyed a great deal. One day, I'll write a novel about the characters and technology described in there, but the short story has to suffice for the moment. 

(also available at B&N and various other places)

I'd also be very grateful if you could leave a review at Amazon (sadly, a lot more helpful for sales than Goodreads or personal blogs...). Thank you very much!


As for plans of the rest of the year, I've had a moment of panic when I realised it's 5 weeks to Christmas/Yule. It's been "go go go" for the last two months at the day job, and even though we hired a new person, it's still plenty of work and big projects to run, so I'm pretty glad I managed to re-edit all these old stories (Skybound, Gold Digger, Dark Soul, Burn) during that period.

But if you're worried that all I'm doing these days is commissioning pretty covers from Tif and polishing up old stuff, nothing's further from the truth - I've been working on things and I'll tell you more about those. It's admittedly an uphill battle - the stupid Brexit stuff cost me about 2-3 weeks of productivity, and the Orange Guy across the ocean looks like another waste of perfectly good 2-3 weeks, as I try to convince myself that we're not headed for WWIII. (German and historian reflexes, what can I say.)

Like many GLTBQ writers, I've been shocked and dismayed over the past week or so and I know many of us haven't been writing, though I do think these stories are needed more than they were before Agent Orange. And gods know what the next four years will  bring. I'm definitely including my queer and PoC friends in my (heathen) prayers these days.

So, with the clock ticking and my liberal, humanitarian, democratic, heart all aching for my US friends, I'm not sure how much I'll manage in the 6 weeks that are left in this pretty rough year 2016. But I can tell you the state of affairs of what's upcoming.

In 2016, I've released and re-released more than 1,000,000 words (audiobooks and translations count) and re-built my income from writing. I've really pushed to get more translations sorted as well, and some of that will pay off in 2017. In terms of new books, I've released the co-written stories Missionary and Broken Blades (Broken Blades being one of my all-time favourites ever), and new solo books with Risk Return and Witches of London: Lars. Witches was, by my standards, a major success. Generally, though, I've fallen a little short of the goal to release 4 novels per year (Missionary is a bit short to be counted as a novel).

To rectify the situation for next year, I'm now pre-writing stuff that'll be published in 2017, with the first new solo novel hopefully hitting the book shelves in February or March. My schedule is so erratic at the moment that co-writers would need some serious patience with me, so I'm focusing about 90% of my energy on my solo work - I have quite a few really cool ideas that I want to develop by myself, so we'll be seeing a lot fewer co-writes in the future - for no other reason than pure scheduling issues.

That said, I have a co-writing project with Jordan Taylor, called Eagle's Shadow, and it's likely going to be a 2017 release. It's a full novel, slots into the "Witches" universe, and I'd say it's about 50% done. She's basically waiting for me to write my part of it. (yes, I'm on it.)

The second new novel is from the "oh, it'll be a short novella" school of my brain. Exile is the sequel to Incursion and is most definitely looking like a novel. I'm taking Kyle and Grimm quite beyond their comfort zones in that one, but that's part of the fun. I'm currently about 30,000 words in, so I'd say about 40-50% done. Considering I started Exile right after releasing "Witches" in August, this has now been dragging on for 4 months and the deadline I've set for myself is the end of the year. On Facebook, I'm posting small snippets of the text as I go through.

Book number three will be Witches of London: Julian. I plotted that one while in France in September and I'm currently researching chaos magick and lots of astrology to make it "real" enough. Julian's raring to go, I know what'll happen and so that should be fun and easy. This will be considerably darker than the first Witches book. I have no words written, but it's all plotted out.

Book number four is very likely going to be Dark Heart, a book about Franco Spadaro, Silvio's brother. He gets a happy ending, but difficult, non-communicating bugger that he is, this one isn't actually very easy. I'll see if I can beat some sense into him. I have, I think just under 20,000 words written, so about a good third, though it feels longer.

I'd say those four are pretty much dead certs. There are other books ("Witches: Tim", "Eagle Dude Book" and "post-Apocalyptic Germany 1945" and "Weird WWII" as keywords), but I have to be realistic in how many quality novels I can produce on my own in 12 months. I'm trying for those four for starters and see how it goes. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, and I need to pace myself while I'm holding down that day job. I'll also re-launch some other stuff with fresh and new covers to bring my authors branding more into line.

Generally, I'm in a much, much better emotional and financial space than I've been in 2014 and 2015, so things are definitely looking up. Thanks for sticking with me through this. There are some awesome books coming down the line. 

Thursday 6 October 2016

New covers - Skybound and Gold Digger

I have two beautiful new covers to show you. Skybound and Gold Digger will re-release on 8 October (this Saturday). 

Saturday 13 August 2016

Writing groups - the good, the bad and the career-destroying

(I keep getting asked to write a book about writing, and I think eventually I'll do one - but in the meantime, I'll blog a bit about writing-related themes and topics. Feel free to share experiences and comments and questions below.)

Writing groups: the good, the bad and the career-destroying (*

It's one of those truisms that writers are "solitary creatures", as we're all really quite introverted (exceptions prove the rule). However, many writers though will open up and get quite animated when put into a room with other writers. Sometimes, alcohol is involved, and in the case of some meetings, a healthy dose of airing out dirty linnen, gossip and snark over whoever is currently seen as the "darling of readers" - ie, everybody who sells more copies/has better reviews, etc.

Also, definitely at the beginning of one's career, there are all these groups that promise relief from the alienation we feel when we come out as "writers" in a "non-writer" environment. We're craving validation, companionship, and answer. Oh, so many answers. For example, I went to an adult education institution to "learn" writing, only to be confronted with a pensioner's 700-page autobiography he was desperate to share, a number of entirely hopeless writers (really), and a couple ambitious ones. I hogged the ambitious ones - though none of them were particularly into speculative fiction, and LGBTQ characters wasn't what they were prepared to deal with. So that was a bit of a bust. I didn't learn a single useful thing, either.

Then I went to university and encountered a professor-run "Creative Writing" course. While German literature professors scoffed at the idea of "writing" being a skill you can learn, the US-born professor was actually looking at techniques and running a workshop on it. We'd sometimes meet at her flat, read work, get feedback. It was a lot more friendly towards speculative fiction, and the queerness wasn't a huge issue.

From that grew a private writing group. Four writers, two with ambitions to publish/sell, two who were happy just to write. This eventually went to sleep, and the two writers with ambitions teamed up to write some fiction together. Both of those groups were tremendously helpful - being able to discuss a story in detail with another writer who had been studying fiction with the express goal not to feel clever about literature but to "crack the code" of sellable fiction was very helpful. It made me feel as if it could be done, gave me somebody to talk to, and was very energising.

I also was one of the founding members of a writer's association. From that sprang my own project-based writing group; we all started unpublished, and most of us walked away with respectable deals, agents or at least a very solid background in deconstructing and building novels in essentially a group-based environment. From this grew an attempt to monetise those skills in a creative writing school which eventually broke up - also, at that point, I'd left the country.

Now based in London, I enrolled in a fiction writing course at the Open University, but didn't follow through. Several attempts to start a new project-based group failed - largely because of the demands of the day job and writing projects. Instead of learning, critiquing and feedbacking books, I was making them and sometimes worked on a one-on-one basis with writers - this eventually meant I got involved in the small press scene.

I also joined a face-to-face group in London composed of sci-fi and fantasy and horror authors. At this point, I had 20+ book releases to my name and was making hundreds of pounds a month off those. But there was a gap I couldn't close with that group. They all wanted to be "discovered" by agents and publishers (large ones, with large advances), while I was going to the DIY route and focused on production and sharpening my skills. Due to the queer characters, I was pretty much convinced that the big publishers didn't give a shit about me anyway, so I didn't even try. (They've apparently started to come round only recently.)

So, you could say, I've been around the block in terms of writing groups and what destroys them (or you or your book). So here's what I've learned.

1) A writing group, like any other group, has a kind of "base line" - expected behaviour, goals. Ask: what is the purpose of the group? 

It makes no sense to team up with writers who are not on the same page. If your desire is to get published, teaming up with "oh, maybe the muse kisses me next year" writers won't be helpful. A working writer is somebody who puts prose down and who eliminates sexual contact with higher powers as a reason to write. (Though Muse-kissing is really nice.)

At the very least, ensure that all members accept that it's a working writing group, with the aim to get work ready to publish and published. Avoid the type who shows up with their 2,500-page memoir about escaping Scientology (I wish I was joking.)

Avoid also groups that are "social" unless you look for companionship/gossip/reasons to get drunk. Those are awesome and relaxing - they won't get you closer to getting work published. So I'd say, keep "social" and "feedback" separated. At the very least, set time aside for both, and then enforce the division. I have writing buddies I hang out with, and I love talking to writers, and sometimes that means discussing finer points of writing/plotting/ways to bust through a block, etc. But I wouldn't call those "writing groups", more my "social circle".

2) A writing group as a source of treason, backstabbing, envy and sometimes valuable feedback

Let me question the value of writing groups as sources of feedback right away. I do this in spite of lots of advice out there to "find a writing group", especially at the early stages. Usually, members of a writing group, are NOT representative of your future or present readership. In my experience, especially budding and wannabe writers are still so caught up in getting their own stuff right that they're rarely equipped to give you feedback on yours.

What usually happens is this; they project their stuff onto you. So they end up talking about themselves and their own hang-ups rather than anything that's actually on the page. You end up learning a lot about them as readers, but rarely anything useful about your writing. Ooops. Not exactly the kind of stuff you want to base editing decisions on. Trust me.

This is due to the simple fact that as readers we never read the book the author has written - we project our own stuff, an the process of reading means the reader brings at least 50% of the story to the table. They'll see stuff in the writing that isn't even there. While all readers are prone to this, baby writers (by which I mean the inexperienced and wannabes) tend to project not what they want to read, but the book they would have written onto your book. NOT helpful when talking about what's on the page. 

Yes, you can get beyond this. If you analyse text dispassionately, discuss it, dissect it -- over time, you'll get what I call "red pen reading". I read everything - road signs, Shakespeare, Faulkner, blog posts, Twitter - with a red pen in my mind. How would I edit this? Make it better? Can we cut words? Why not?

This will either totally destroy your enjoyment of fiction ("oh dear, we're at 25%, that means we're now in Act 2") or shift your enjoyment from immersion to analysis ("I love how the author uses the tree metaphor in the opening sequence, transforms the meaning of the metaphor in the middle, and closes on a wood-related image in the last chapter, showing the emotional arch of the main character and the theme of individual versus society.").

These days, I read like an engineer - I see cogs spinning, and I look at a story like an anatomist or even taxidermist - I see muscles and tendons and the skeleton underneath where a normal reader would only see the nubile 18-year old gymnast and her grace. This isn't, however, a common skill in writing groups. But writing groups can help develop that skill.

What's worse, I've personally experienced so much envy and back-stabbing in writing groups (I was "outed" on the internet by a member of the speculative fiction group, for example), that I'd advise anybody to a) not make themselves vulnerable, thinking they're "among friends" (in fact, envious writers are tremendously vicious AND have a way with words) and b) guard their privacy carefully. I made both mistakes and paid the price.

3) What, then, is a good source of feedback? 

Personally, I'd use two. I've already mentioned the one-on-ones - find a fellow writer who shares your goals for your writing, possibly your genre (though I've received tremendously useful feedback from a writing mentor who writes hardcore historicals on my fantasy novels), and above all, knows what they're doing. Ideally, eliminate envy and competitive thoughts - so different genres could work.

Or maybe apprentice yourself to a more experienced, more successful writer who can hold up as a role model in the very thing you want to learn. Ideally, this is somebody you respect, somebody who respects you.

It's important that that writer doesn't do it to "lord it over you". There are some people out there who'll prop up their fragile egos by "taking down the competition", or sabotage a promising newbie's career because they feel threatened.

Do spend some time thinking what you have to offer them. Most writers at the "mentor" stage of development are generous and kind and happy to "pay it forward", mindful of how much help they've themselves received. That said, they might want to be compensated in terms of money. Agree rates, agree what you want. Out there in the real world, people pay mentors all the time, so it's not an outlandish thought. Lastly, focus on people who have experience mentoring.

If a mentor isn't available, then find somebody who shares your values and is roughly at the same stage of writerly development/career. You can learn together, though it's possibly harder. Be prepared to provide feedback for feedback. It'll sharpen your skills, too.

As we're already at the "paying" thing - I've learned a tremendous amount from professional editors. You can either pay them yourself, or submit to a well-respected publisher and see what comes back. Personally, I've had too many hit-and-miss experiences with publishers' editors (including some who were actively destructive and scornful of anything that didn't fit their tiny taste range or today's mood, or who were going through personal crisis and then lashed out at writers instead of helping them), I'd vote for getting an editor and pay them.

I like using freelancers, and I tell them what kind of feedback I'm looking for - story (does the plot work?), characters (do they work?), or copy-editing issues (find my over-used, cliched expressions, and straight-up mistakes, look at pacing on a paragraph level, etc), or just proofing (typos, missing commas). These days, frankly, I go only with copy-editing and proofing. I've studied narrative structure and writing for 20+ years, so chances are that I have my broad skills established. And I pay them.

In short, take care of predators, envy and politics - keep your eyes on the goal. Be kind to yourself, keep your mind open, be prepared to work hard, and you might find you attract the right kind of person at the right moment. Good luck!

(* Note: The damage a bad writing group can do is really manifold. In some writing groups you'll encounter old chestnuts like "write what you know"and the firm belief that it means you can't write about anybody or anything you aren't/haven't been proliferate. You'll encounter all kinds of bullshit rules and dogmas - when really a talented writer can break any rule/dogma with tremendous effects. But some writing groups cling to those rules and are unwilling to see beyond them - worse, enforce them. I've had awful experiences with people trying to enforce "show don't tell" on my writing, for example.

The politics are harmful, too. Gossip and sensationalism can destroy a community very quickly, can lead to massive public embarrassment, the end of friendships and relationships that might have been useful and/or fruitful, and create a climate of mistrust and paranoia. I got to disenchanted with my various communities/groups that I've largely distanced myself.

Bad advice or a public flaying of one's writing can also mean that people quit writing, certainly before they've grown the "famous thick skin", which, some might argue, is diametrically opposite what a writer needs to be to write about emotions. We have to FEEL, to examine the scar tissue in our own souls, and prod anything that twitches. I've encountered writing teachers/editors who were wholly dismissive of my writing - and they were right. BUT they were critiquing/hazing an 18-year old who was desperate to learn. They were scorning a 22-year old who hadn't found his voice yet. They'd attacked a 25-year old who wasn't perfect, who was still clearing the mine shaft of rubble. I persisted. Many don't. 

Sunday 24 July 2016

Announcing Witches of London (Blurb teaser)

About Witches of London

Some problems you can’t solve with magick—and some you can.

After a homophobic pagan group rejected him, Lars Kendall is a solitary heathen on the Northern Path, loyal to the gods of the Norse pantheon. But being on his own sucks. So when he finally meets a mixed group of other queer witches and magick-users, it’s like finding family. If family involved exploring past lives and casting spells.

Rhys Turner quit a stressful job in the City after his high-strung boyfriend of six years walked out. He sold the expensive flat in central London and bought a run-down house out in the suburbs. Never mind that it needs walls knocked down, its garden landscaped, and what the hell is up with that carpet?

With his health failing, Rhys is desperate for a clean slate and a new start. He isn’t ready to fall in love with anybody, least of all the hunky builder who looks like he’s stepped out of a TV show about Vikings—tattoos, long hair, and all. But as strong and loyal as Lars is, he also has a very soft heart, which might be the hardest thing for Rhys to resist.

(Release date: 10 August) 

Monday 11 July 2016

Incursion - re-release

Happy to announce that Incursion is now re-released in its second edition (I cleaned up some mistakes, but that's pretty much it). Cover by the amazing Tiferet Design. It's now up everywhere on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and various others. Amazon has already combined the various editions, so you can now take advantage of the whispersync offer and have Gomez Pugh read it to you. :)

In other happy news, yesterday I completed the first draft of Witches of London at 75,000 words. I expect to launch this on 10 August (yes, this year). I was originally planning to launch the book in July, but then Brexit happened and I was too shaken and upset to write. At the moment, writing is a welcome escape though, so my mojo is back.

Next project I'm working on is a small German translation and then Exile, which is the sequel to Incursion. I also have another Witches book to write, but Im' still chewing through the plotlines.

Have a great week, everyone! 

Sunday 26 June 2016

Letter I just sent to the local MP (Brexit)

Dear [Name] MP,
I’m writing to you after the political earthquake that shook the UK and the tremors I’m already beginning to feel in my own life and that of my partner and friends.
I’m a German national who made [borough] their home in 2005. After having met on the internet, my English partner first came to live with me in Germany as I needed to finish my degree. Germany was going through one of its mini recessions; as a history graduate, I couldn’t find a job, and neither could my partner. I was then looking to join the German army as an officer both for the job security and because I believe in the mission of peace-keeping and reconstruction that the German army was largely devoted to, but when I faced the choice between possibly leaving my partner behind while I served an 8-/12-year term, my partner told me: “Why not move to London? You’ll find a job there. You have a degree and you speak English.”
I didn’t at first believe him. I’d been disheartened by too many “Do you want to make pizza or drive a taxi” jibes from the German equivalent of the job centre. Leaving my family, my life, my friends, my language and my country behind with nothing to go on but my partner’s optimism was scary.
I arrived in [Borough] in March 2005. I was determined that regardless of my education, I’d take the first job offered, regardless of pay, and had a job not six weeks later. I ended up translating German product descriptions in a data farm, doing very basic, very repetitive work for £13,000/year as a bilingual graduate. Within a couple of weeks, management realised my potential and I was quickly promoted into quality control. At £17,000, that was a big step for me, but the boost was mostly psychological. This land of opportunity for hard-working, honest workers my partner spoke about – that apparently actually existed. Within a year, I’d moved on to the research team (22K), but then I realised that data farming wasn’t what I wanted to do.
So I moved on into financial journalism (20K) – and I was hired because I’m German. The job required talking to financial professionals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, hobnobbing at conferences, watching both the UK financial markets and what was going on “at home”, building relationships between German-speaking Europe and the UK. Everybody in that team was from elsewhere—Swedish, Dutch, French, even our editor-in-chief was American.
And I loved it. I loved telling people, no I hadn’t studied journalism and economics (as would have been required if I’d wanted to get a similar kind of job in, say, Germany), I had my job because UK company took a chance on me—that I could learn the skills necessary.
I was a good journalist, though the financial crisis made it difficult at times. I was then hired as an editor for a small financial magazine based on that experience (27K) and eventually was head-hunted by an Italian/German bank to work as an editor (44K), which was also the time when I bought a little “two up, two down” Victorian house with garden in [road].
After escaping a difficult situation in Germany, my “gamble” had paid off. We’re now a happy couple of 15 years or so, living in our little house, paying our mortgage, pursuing our careers. I’ve started a small side business in publishing and contribute to UK culture by writing novels in English.
When I attend author conferences in the States, people seem to often mistake me for British due to my accent. It’s a little strange to be mistaken for British, and while I correct them, I also make sure that I bring honour to the UK. My own identity as “German” has softened sufficiently that I considered becoming fully British. After all, my partner is English, I bought a house here, I owe any career progress I’ve made, any professional success to the openness of the UK and the flexibility of its job market, I pay my taxes here, and I wholeheartedly embrace all the values of the British. I was proud when my gay friends were finally allowed to marry—while Germany has a civil partnership, but not full marriage.
I’ve never applied for or taken any benefits, even while I was entitled to them when I was briefly unemployed. I had savings and duly lived off those, doing anything else would have felt dishonourable as there were others much more in need than I.
Last year, I was hired by a German-owned, private investment bank in the City—it’s a job I love, with a team I love possibly even more (all English, with one a second-generation Serbian immigrant). My bank employs 40+ nationalities. We all pay our taxes, contribute to our communities.
I’m paying a number of English people to help me with the garden, with the household, to edit and design the books I’m writing and self-publishing. As I’m fortunate and on a generous salary, I pay them what they’re worth, not what I could get away with. It’s my way of paying back for my good fortunes.
I never wanted to leave. I wanted to work in London until my professional life is over, then maybe retire somewhere in the beautiful English countryside (I love both Kent and Yorkshire, different as they are) with my English partner, get a couple of cats and write more books.
All of this has now been drawn into question. The disastrous EU referendum outcome, based on lies, misinformation, fear and xenophobia, is already having a negative effect on my life. Over the past few weeks, I responded to every negative comment against immigrants with, “But I’m an immigrant.”
The response came in one of three shapes: a sheepish lowering of the gaze and a quick change of topic, or a quick assurance that, “Oh, no, I don’t mean you”, or “Oh no, you are the right kind of immigrant”, or even, and I can barely get myself to type this, “Oh no, not you, you’re white” – as if it makes me feel better that xenophobia is actually naked racism with a coat on.
The third type of response is just a bit more troubling: hatred and ignorance spewed forth – such as the UKIP canvasser who tried to explain all the evils of Europe to me, a German who’s grown up in a country that only survived its own love affair with right-wing extremism because the Allied forces bombed our cities and infrastructure until we couldn’t go on fighting – and then helped us rebuild it all.
My family on my father’s side is from the area around Dresden, its world-famous church only recently rebuilt with the help of donations from former “Allied” nations. My mother’s side hails from the Ruhrgebiet—the area subject to the Dambuster episode that killed French forced labourers and lots of women and children. Essen, the city I was born in, was called “Fortress Essen”, because 1 in 4 planes attacking it was destroyed. If you look at photos of Essen after the war, 90% of its centre was destroyed (60% of its suburbs).
Our church, built in 800-1,100 AD was badly damaged, but eventually rebuilt. When in crisis or before major life decisions, I used to go there and pray (even though strictly I’m an atheist), aware of the history, the destruction, and then the mercy and goodwill shown my city and my nation.
Every time I visit the Imperial War Museum (which I support as a “member” as I believe it’s an amazing institution that educates on the terrible price of war by presenting a balanced account of all sides without hatred or rancour), I spend a few minutes in contemplation in front of the display that shows a bomber’s tailfin and other artifacts from the period. The tailfin has dates and places painted onto it—the city where I was born, the city where I lived, the city where I went to university, the city where I used to study for my exams in the library. It’s a sobering thought, and a deeply contemplative one.
Being aware of all that history, I want to tell you there’s not one decent German alive who doesn’t remember and who isn’t grateful for having been liberated from the Nazis by the Allies. My area was liberated by the US Army, but then ended up in the British Zone of Occupation, and successfully rebuild, no doubt with hard, collaborative work from all sides. Essen, with its coal and steel works became one of the main “industrial hearts” of the newly democratic Germany and in part powered what we Germans call the “economic miracle”—enabled because the victor nations allowed us to scramble back to our feet and re-take our place in Europe after we had proven we could be trusted again.
Based on our shameful history of extremism and right-wing nonsense, Germans have fully supported the European Union as a project that ensured peace and prosperity across a continent scarred by nationalism and boundless destruction. When you speak to Germans, many will tell you they feel European first and German second. “Proud to be German” is a slogan that is basically unacceptable outside the football stadium. In part because our modern democratic state was built in the image of the “victor powers” and to avoid a nationalist takeover of power ever again, Germany is the economic and political success story at the heart of Europe it currently is. Even my grandfather, who fought the Allies, never said a bad word about the English, and was perfectly happy to communicate, with hands and feet, with my English partner when they met. You created our modern, democratic state and enabled our powerful economy, and we’re grateful.
I have nothing but the greatest respect for Britain as I know it. Business-minded, fair, tolerant, open to different ideas, without religious extremism of any colour, and a job market that, I think, rewards hard work, skills, self-application, initiative, and “getting on with it”. I would be a very different person had I not come here. Every immigrant I know – Americans, Canadians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Polish, Germans, French, Costa Ricans – loves this country and works hard to contribute to it in return for the generosity and openness shown us.
So it is with unspeakable horror and heartbreak that I’m seeing this terrible EU Referendum shaking the UK. I have Polish friends who are in tears over it. They fear being deported to a Poland that has become nationalist and racist and is curtailing women’s rights right now. Personally, I have put all plans to take UK citizenship on hold – I might need to marry my boyfriend so he can live with me in Germany if I’m forced to leave.
The City of London, where I work, is already in turmoil – the Financial Times is reporting that the asset managers are making plans to move staff and offices to Luxembourg and Dublin, and the big American investment banks are set to move staff to Dublin, Frankfurt, and Madrid, so they retain “passporting” rights. Our head of research on Friday said she expects a large round of layoffs (there are rumours regarding a large Swiss bank), and she’s very plugged into the rumour mill and very well connected. Efinancialcareers, a website that is dedicated to financial careers, is citing consultants who are right now helping banks and other financial institutions to move staff out of London, and they expect losses of 50,000-70,000 jobs.
The longer the uncertainty goes on, the worse the blood-letting in terms of jobs – 1 in 8 workers in London is an immigrant. Many of us are highly qualified, optimistic, hard-working, dedicated. None of us wants to leave.
Personally, I will need to follow my job in case my bank decides to move offices, sell my house in [borough] and face possibly years of uncertainly or all the effort of having to establish myself again somewhere. I’m financially strong, I have a passport that allows me to return to Germany if I absolutely must, and I believe my job experience in the UK will place me in good stead with other German banks, but that also means ripping my partner out of his life here, his friendships and forcing him away from his two very young god-children who live in [borough].
And all of this pain and insecurity is so unnecessary.
I know I don’t count for much as a voter – all we immigrants had to watch helplessly as the UK made a decision that has a massive, negative impact on our lives and futures and that of our friends and families. So I ask you as the MP for [borough], please do what you can to stop “Brexit” and put the UK back on an even path. I pray to every divinity out there that the British values of openness, fairness and pragmatism will prevail.
Thank you for reading and kindest regards,
[name, postcode, address]

Saturday 16 April 2016

Risk Return is live!

I'm happy to announce that Risk Return, the sequel to Return on Investment, is now live (Amazon first, and later I'll wrangle the other retailers and get the book into "wide" distribution).

This one is a lot more about the relationship of Francis and Martin than the first book. And to celebrate the release, I've pushed down the price of Return on Investment. :)

Six years ago, young and bright investment professional Martin David got exactly what he wanted—a relationship with Francis de Bracy, his boss at investment fund Skeiron Capital Partners. Having now started their own business in Germany’s banking capital Frankfurt, Martin and Francis’s life is sweet and easy. 

Until the Jesuit Emanuel, Francis’s former mentor and teacher, shows up unbidden and unwelcome. Emanuel brings with him a devil’s deal: Charles de Bracy, one of Francis’s most unforgiving enemies, has sent the Jesuit to broker peace between himself and Francis. And Emanuel does not come empty-handed—Charles is offering Francis the family fortune if Francis travels to the US and reconciles with his estranged father. 

Martin knows how proud and headstrong Francis is. No amount of money will bend his will. But as toxic as the past is, maybe facing it will finally give Francis peace. Yet, if Charles is anything like his son, he’s a formidable foe, and Francis’s scars and bitterness run so deep a billion might not be enough to even the scores. 

Thursday 7 April 2016

The big decluttering

I have a friend who's very into Feng Shui, and she mentioned how good it is to clear out some old stuff. Lets the energy flow better, etc.

So, I just spent a few hours de-cluttering my website and this blog. I deleted quite a few blog entries (lots of them were really boring), and edited others. Mostly, I removed names and mentions of entities that cause me pain/anguish/anxiety or that I simply do not wish to be associated with any longer.

They are no longer welcome in "my space", where they block energy and remind me of awful times in my life, massive mistakes I've made, my naive belief in some people or things. I've also gone through the files on my computer and deleted files - editing and proofing I did for publishers, now ex-friends, and assorted people I no longer want in my space. I've already thrown away the books written by those people, and that already had a huge positive effect. I've most definitely deleted those books from my Kindle account. Deep breath and sigh of relief. Getting there.

If possible (and feasible). I'd have put all that to the flames. If this were a paper diary, I'd most definitely have burned it.

I've removed a great deal of my books from my website - all this is in preparation of the big relaunch. Other books no longer reflect who I am as a writer/person, so those won't re-appear. I'm also sorry to announce that some sequels won't be written, and some series will be suspended - I expect to relaunch the Scorpion series in late 2018, but Market Garden has no date yet.

2016 is definitely a transition year for me. A lot of stuff will be very different when I look into 2017, and I'm looking forward to it.

My day job remains intense, and I like it that way. My company is great, my team is great, my pay is great, and things otherwise continue happily and pretty smoothly. I hang out more on Twitter than Facebook, and I fully expect to go exclusively self-published now - I've had too many awful experiences with publishers, and the insecurity about the future of some publishers I DID like and respect only adds to that.

That said, Risk Return is definitely moving ahead, and I'll write a new contemporary series once Risk Return is published. And there's a prequel that I'm looking at, but one step at a time.

Sunday 27 March 2016

Nightingale audio released

And, much sooner than expected, ACX/Audible has made Nightingale live. You can now buy it on Amazon, Audible and i-Tunes.

(Audible UK is running a 40% sale, so it's really cheap at the moment).

Next projects up: Return on Investment in Italian, Return on Investment audiobook, and the ebook for Risk Return. :)

Happy Easter/Ostara, everybody. :)

Friday 18 March 2016

Current projects update

So, I'm in the last few stages of wrapping the Nightingale audiobook. Some scenes were genuinely difficult to listen to, and I know what was coming. Also, a book that's all about sound being interpreted by somebody who's so much better at sound/voice than I am was a revelation.

Then we've released Missionary, which is the pre-story of Joshua/Julien from No Distance Left to Run. It's all about that encounter with the Legionnaires that changes his life.

And we've been re-leasing Market Garden books as they come out of contract. The last one was If It Flies. Regarding those re-releases - there won't be massive changes. I tend to clean books up again when I re-release them, just to deal with typos and other issues I spotted on a re-read, but generally, I'll let you know when there's a massive change.

In writing news, I've broken 72k on Risk Return and should finish it before the month is over. I've taken a couple long weekends off work over the next six weeks, so that should definitely help.

Today though is my partner's birthday, so we're both off work and taking it easy. And then later tonight we'll watch the second season of Daredevil, which we've been waiting for since it was announced.

So everything is still going according to the prophecy.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Slightly derailed (Risk Return, conventions and events)

Day job is being crazy busy again, so the second half of February wooshed past and I barely felt it. Some months, apparently, you only notice that they're past when the salary arrives in the bank account. So that's February done.

Luckily, these days I'm tracking all the things I've achieved in a month - best way to stay realistic about a) how much I DO achieve and b) how much CAN be achieved while doing all the things I'm doing. It's still only a fraction of what I WANT to achieve or BELIEVE I can achieve, but every little bit is progress.

And I think writing ca 45k of new words isn't too bad.

As I'm breaking into March, I do plan to finish up Risk Return this month. I think I have only about 10-15k left to do, which can be easily done. Then letting it sit for a while and then edit the piece. I'm currently not sure if it's any good, but it's been pretty therapeutic.


I'm also planning con appearances. So here are the LGBTQ literature events I will most definitely)*** attend:

Euro Pride Con (Berlin)
UK Meet (Southampton)

And then there's:

Italian m/m event (Verona) - that's an "I want to and need to book".

I doubt I'll make GRL this year (again). It's a really far trip, it'll cost me ca $1,500 to go, and I have a very limited amount of holidays, so "cost plus stress plus distance plus #s of holidays" is kind of counting against that. Also, I'm not keen to run into certain people, so I'm sticking to the "safe" side of the Atlantic for the moment. Mostly, these European events only take a long weekend, GRL with the flight and everything is a week's investment.

That said, next year things might look very different. I do want to meet my American readers again and hopefully soon. But while the day job is necessary, the amount of time I can spend jet-setting is sadly limited.

Saturday 13 February 2016

"My Method"

Today I had my bank account upgraded to HSBC's super special thing. I mostly booked that meeting to close down some accounts I don't really need and get their extra special ISA (which for all non-UKians is our local tax-free savings account - if you do save cash, an ISA is kind of the government-approved way to do it).

In any case, this young guy at the bank is setting all that stuff up for me and while we talk about all my sources of income, obviously the writing comes up. Mostly he seemed impressed that there's a noticeable cash flow from writing. And it emerged that's he's a writer, too, though one of the "I really need to get back into it" kind of writers. A baby writer. (Obviously I gave him some pointers about self-publishing and warned him about shitty contracts. Start'em young, is what I'm saying.)

One of the questions that keep coming up when writer meets writer, is "so do you outline?" - that put me back to a discussion I had on Twitter the other day, where I summed up "my method" in around 8-10 tweets.

Now, I teach writing, I coach writers, I own more creative writing books than I'll ever be able to read, so I am aware of the whole spectrum from "vade retro, SATANAS" to "I'm not writing one single line without having written five pre-outlines". I know some of the most productive writers on the planet (people who write 5-12 novels per year) tend to outline.

Outlines are awesome. They sound like a great tool. I HAVE outlined a few of my novels and I've stalled horribly on some books where I haven't - going from "shit, I didn't expect this" to an 18-month writers' block. The "outliners" even claim there's no such thing as "writer's block", but I don't think it's QUITE that easy.

So, what I'm saying is listen to what I say, not do as I do.

Because even with all those tools at my disposal, I don't outline - not in 90% of all my books. Maybe it's because I consider a story largely a living organism and I have the basic schematics very firmly embedded in my mind ("mammals - two sets of limbs each, apart from the head - we only need one of those").

So while I'm usually flying by the seat of my pants - and sometimes I'm a supersonic speed-freak of a pantser, and sometimes I'm more a blimp, lazily drawing my circles until something happens, I do usually arrive at my destination. That said, I have a couple outlines - it's just that I still need to write those books. So yeah, books I have outlined are the books that tend to not get written.

So, here's my "pantsing" process, which brought you the following stories: Skybound, Dark Soul, all of the Scorpion books, Return on Investment, Risk Return, Incursion... (it's clearly working)

1) Hear voice. A character voice emerges and at that point I barely know who they are, but they start talking and tell me about their problem/issue/situation.

(Addendum: If I already HAVE the character, as is the case with a prequel/sequel/spin-off, I'd call this "flash of insight" - it's something like, "what if Kendras realised that Adrastes isn't quite the man he thought he was", or "I think there's some kind of ambassador involved somewhere, and I knew stuff is going to move and we learn who Kendras's parents are, because all fantasy novels work like that" - bang, we have two more Scorpion books)

2) Commune with voice. At that point, I need to sit back and listen and also start asking question. Note: The more paranoid characters won't reveal all their cards or might not answer. That's fine. They'll eventually show who they are by what they do on the page.

3) Moment of commitment. I finally shove everything else (including other deadlines and projects) out of the way and sit down and start writing.

Thus endeth the "preparation phase".

4) Set-Up/Act 1. Usually at this point I have the character, their situation/problem, and the setting in the widest sense. This means I'm writing - fairly quickly - anywhere between 5,000 and 18,000 words, in chronological order. I write the books exactly in the order you guys read them - even when there's a flashback at the start like in Return on Investment, or pretty early in the book like in Scorpion.

5) THE FIRST WALL. This is my Roadrunner moment when I realise I've run so fast I've left the cliff behind and am standing on thin air. And there's always that delayed "double-take" "oh-shit" moment. Needless to say, that's not a very productive moment - I tend to seriously consider abandoning the book - the usual excuse is "I love this, but I have no plot."

6) Wandering the Plotless Wastes of Doom. This is when I tend to be annoyed with myself for abandoning whatever I've temporarily abandoned in step 3. As words are usually not happening, I notice I buy a lot more stationery and get some reading done. Extra points if those are books relating to whatever project I'm struggling with. This is when I read books on plotting, creative writing books and hang out on the internet.

7) Surrender/Travelling Without a Compass. Eventually I get over myself and keep writing. This is the moment when I'm "just following my characters" who know better than I do what they want and how they'd deal with the situation. I just let them get on with it. It's their lives, after all.

8) Moment of crisis/THE SECOND WALL. Either my character or I (or both of us) are about ready to give this stuff up and leave the book. Somehow, though, there's another 10-20,000 words on the page.

All this is roughly "the middle" of the book.

9) BREAK INTO THREE - suddenly the shutters come off, the sun climbs over the horizon, the stars align - I can see where I'm going. The missing puzzle piece shows up, and seen through the lense of THAT, everything now makes sense. That character I introduced ONLY because I found him wandering the Plotless Wastes of Doom with no idea what he was good for has the answer or said something clever, and suddenly IT ALL COMES TOGETHER. This is how I know I'm in the last third of my book. Shit's beginning to make sense. I usually even have a rough idea how it'll all end.

10) The I'M A FUCKING GENIUS/WRITING IS EASY phase. So I'm writing hard and fast to put in all the pieces I have. This is usually when my writing speeds up quite impressively - I'm writing 5-10,000 per weekend, that kind of speed.

11) The "Maybe this is shit, but at least it's done" moment. As the exhilaration of the previous stage wears off, I'm approaching the ending. This is the last 10-20 pages of the book. The ending is so close I can see it. This is the moment when I'm seriously wondering whether the book is actually any good - what I do know is that it's a poor shadow of the book I  WANTED to write. But at least I'm almost... and then done, so phew, it might be a crock of shit, but it's written and it kind of all makes sense.

12) Betas. I usually send books to a couple readers, but more intensely so towards the ending of the process (because then I know I'm much more likely to finish it). Usually, while I'm still coping with the disappointment/non-genius of that book, I start getting feedback from my betas who indicate it's not a flawless emerald of rare value, but at least it's readable/entertaining and has some decent to good lines.

And then I edit - realising that I'm a decent writer who can actually write. That's nice and gets me through the edits/proofing/layout.


So, right now, with Risk Return, I'm very firmly in stage 9, bordering on 10.

Friday 15 January 2016

Circa halfway on Risk Return

So the new year has started very nicely for me - this is yet another year where I start with a big spreadsheet to track my wordcount and even bigger plans, but so far, the tracking (and wording) is going well. I only skipped three days so far in terms of writing, and two of those were devoted to editing Broken Blades. Other than that, I've been racking up wordcounts from anywhere between 125 and 1,800 per day.

And just like any slow, painstaking work, constant effort is beginning to pay off. This is a book that is built around just two ideas - not plotted, so it's growing organically. With that kind of book, I tend to roughly at 1/3 understand what the story is about, and roughly at that point I know what needs to happen and also in what order.

I'm now beyond that point - Risk Return has circa 31,000 words, and I expect there will be 20-30,000 more, so it looks like a short novel from here - in any case, I expect it's about 50% done.

My self-imposed deadline of 3 February might be a bit too tight, but I would expect to wrap it not much after that date. Publication I think in March - I do have a cover but I'm saving that for a "reveal". It's very good. :)

So, no pressure. It's mostly that I want to write what else I have to say about the characters, and how their relationship develops. Much of what reverberates through this book is stuff that happened 10 years before Return on Investment - Martin is picking up the pieces and begins to understand what events, factors and people have shaped Francis.

After that, I'll write the prequel (QOI) - so yes, I'm writing book 2, then book 3 and then book 1.

After that, I kind of see a spin-off happening with a minor character I haven't actually met on the page yet, but he's pretty cool in my head, and there's an Easter egg in Risk Return that points towards Unhinge the Universe.

The true miracle is that the characters are still so "fresh" that I can summon them up even after so many years - Return on Investment is a really old book and I've lost touch with much more recent works.

Anyway. I do post a lot of snippets on my Facebook wall, so Facebook is the place to read my messy first draft pieces if you're interested.


And there's a fun question from the comments a few days back - specifically if I was going to write more books in the sci-fi universe of Incursion and Dark Edge of Honor (yes, they relate to each other).


The answer is - absolutely. There will be a sequel to Incursion where the Glyrinny meet the Doctrine.

Let's put it this way - both parties really could have imagined a better, happier way to spend their time. I've wanted to let those two clash for a long time.

Timing-wise - I don't really like setting deadlines several projects ahead, but I'd *like* to work on that towards the middle/end of the year.

2016 looks like a year so far where I wrap up my past and move into the future - so all the prequels and sequels and projects I've had in mind for so many years will get wrapped up when I relaunch the books that return from my ex-publisher - and I'm going to write completely new books with completely new characters too, just to keep the balance and because they've been pestering me.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Announcement - Broken Blades (February 2016)

They only had one night together—a stolen interlude at the 1936 Olympics. After Mark Driscoll challenged Armin Truchsess von Kardenberg to a good-natured fencing match, there was no resisting each other. Though from different worlds—an Iowa farm boy and a German aristocrat—they were immediately drawn together, and it was an encounter neither has ever forgotten. 

Now it’s 1944, and a plane crash in hostile territory throws them back together, but on opposite sides of a seemingly endless war. Facing each other as opponents is one thing. As enemies, another thing entirely. And to make matters worse, Mark is a POW, held in a cold, remote castle in Germany… in a camp run by Armin.

They aren’t the young athletes they were back then. The war has taken wives, limbs, friends, leaving both men gray beyond their years, shell-shocked, and battered. The connection they had back then is still alive and well, though, and from the moment Mark arrives, they’re fencing again—advancing, retreating, testing defenses.

Have they been given a second chance? Or have time and a brutal war broken both men beyond repair?