Sunday, 8 January 2017

New Return on Investment cover

I've refreshed my first self-published book, Return on Investment, with a great new cover by Tif. I hope you enjoy.


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.

Blurb:

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 Amazon.de 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).




Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.de
Amazon.fr
Amazon.it
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com.au 

(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.



Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.de
Amazon.fr
Amazon.it
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com.au 

(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!