Monday, 31 May 2010

Slowly crossing the line

The move is a strange beast. Right now, I'm fully engaged with preparation work. Today I spent the day with further vetting books and papers I have, packing stuff for the various charity shops in the area, packing six massive archive boxes with books and clothes - without making a visible dent into my "library", and then I listed half a shelf's worth of books on ebay, in the hope that there might be a stray pound somewhere in all this.

Vetted more books, piled them differently (to sell, to give away, to re-organise). Tomorrow I'll take my two surviving plants over to the new house. The bonsai will love the natural light, and the hebe has a fair chance of flowering again. That will clear up the desk so it can be taken over to the new place on Friday, along with all the books.

Yeah, and curtains. I feel ridiculously domestic and more than a little ridiculous. In none of my previous abodes did I even have curtains. I'm allergic to dust mites, I just tended to not have carpets or curtains, but they are building an apartment building across the street and the bedroom is facing the street. And while I'm a bit of an entertainer, I'm not entertaining in that way. And the living room bay window needs to be covered up as well. I dislike showing random strangers all the gaming consoles and DVDs on their shelves.

So that's my mission for tomorrow - head back into the flat and take the measurements of the windows, then head to the curtain shop to get some ready-made curtains. I'll install them after the repairs and the other work around the house. And I'll get a tub of white paint and paint our picket fence. I simply cannot resist the irony of that.

I met all neighbours and they are cool, friendly people. And then somebody from further down the street, who seemed very welcoming too. I guess if you're living in the same Victorian terrace, there is a sense of community, but it's nice to actually talk to the neighbours. I've been told that's rare in England (less so in Germany, where you tend to invite your neighhours around after moving in so they can feed their curiousity and to get to know each other).

So tomorrow is mostly going to be a day of fiddly stuff getting taken care of. One last deep breath before the really big things happening. I'm off work all week, too, to be able to do all this in the first place.

Since the muse is on holiday (sending the occasional guilt-ridden postcard), I'll print out a couple novels and work on them on paper. Yeah, and the fact I won't be connected to the internet for a few days in the next few days is a quite unpleasant thought. So if I'm gone, I'm moving. See you on Saturday latest, that's when I'll get re-connected in the new house.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


Here are a few views of our house - shiny old 1885 late Victorian mid-terraced house. The wood's all still original, and it's all white walls and wooden floors. I think I'm OK with paying for it for the next 30 years. Below: the house next to the others, the entrance, the kitchen, and the library.

Friday, 28 May 2010

House owners

Got a call from the estate agent - the keys have been deposited for us to pick up. We're now officially house owners. After a thriller lasting 11 months, throughout the financial near-apokalypse going on the real world, and a lot of stress, it's done.

Now of course starts the huge work of actually moving stuff and fixing the house up, but all in all, it's done. I'll have a tour of the house tonight after work and make a list of what needs doing first. The actual work of moving stuff in will start on Monday/Tuesday, repairs in Tuesday, delivery of essentials on Wednesday. Move of furniture on Friday. Then it's just about cleaning up the old flat and reclaim deposit and stuff.

After that, some financial engineering that will mean a much cheaper deal on the house. Everything will be done by the time I'm starting the new job, so everything's going great and on time so far. Might still go all wrong, but for the moment, life's looking good.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Creatives are similar to schizophrenics

This article is pretty interesting - it basically says that highly creative people have similar brain chemistry to schizophrenics. It's not really news to anybody living with voices in their heads and those that can get utterly entranced by an idea that drives them long enough to complete a novel, but it's nice that the scientists start to catch on.

Here's the article.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Inspiration - I can feel it return

Today I hired the guy with the van that will us help move on the 4 June. That's one huge ticky box ticked.

The other ticky box is buying a washing machine - so that's what I'm doing tonight. Then I'll move the remaining cash into our shared account to be ready for the first mortgage re-payments.

Then I'm pretty much done on the preparations side.

And in time with that, my muse has shown have a wing tip - I recognize the black plummage the moment I see it. So, yeah, the muse has been around, dropping hints about a possible m/m fantasy epic including explicit and pretty kinky sex. I know I should be editing first and foremost, but I think I'll spend a few hours very soon staring at a white wall and conjure up images. In one way or other, this will feature non-white characters (since I was recently accused of covert or overt racism). The more I think about it, the more I actually like the idea. Moving everything into a fantasy world changes the ethnic dynamics a lot - especially when it's the main character who's "different", rather than the "hordes from the east/north/west" who look strange and where "different" is only used to reinforce the fears and the "otherness" to make evil even more scary.

(Not that I subscribe to the concept of evil... that's simply too easy. I'm happy in the murky grey areas of the human psyche, but that's a post for another day.)

So, yeah. Time to give the epic fantasy genre a reality check. I'll treat this as a strictly for-fun project, but will use the ideas I've had running around in my head for close to 15 years. If the ideas still fascinate me, they are alive and vibrant enough to write and share with the world.

That's why I'm here. To tell you a story.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Muse on Holiday

My muses are gone - I guess they are entitled to some holidays. I don't want to get in trouble with the Union of Writers' Muses, after all.

But in all seriousness - the part of my brain that cooks up scenes and plots and characters is 100% engaged in the House Project. Plotting the move, what to buy, when to get it delivered, and what work to do first.

The little Moleskine cahiers I use to plot I'm currently using to keep track of dates and mutual dependencies. A house move is really a logic test, a piece of project management, and since my partner's useless at that kind of thinking, I'm doing it pretty much all. Doesn't mean I'm not presenting the plan to him so he can nod and feel included in the planning, but the gritty work seems to be largely on my shoulders.

Which is cool, that way at least I can moderately relax about things. If any Bond villain had my approach to stuff - to get it done right, I have to supervise closely or do it myself - the James Bond series would have ended after the first book because I would have killed James Bond dead. Maybe I should apply for a villain role. Hmmm, jackboots.

Been invited to contribute to a new m/m review blog, which might be a good outlet for my non-historical reading. For the moment I gave them my stories for reviews.

That said, on the way into London this morning, I had vivid images from "Iron Cross". Richard is so polite when he walks into my thoughts. I had this distinct feeling of "I really don't want to disturb you, but it seems you are a little idle, so I'm taking this opportunity" feeling from him. David is very different from that, he'd just demand my attention, NOW.

Those images can feel like memories, also because it's hard to change them. I can put my mind of idle and ask them "what are you doing next?" and sometimes they just tell me - there's that "voice" thing. Then there's the "film", which I struggle to sustain for longer than a few minutes. Scenes that are already "fixed" are like memories. Sometimes, characters talking about their plans have a decided "documentary" feel about them, or they are like actors in full gear and make-up and quite reasonably talking, "out of character" while also as actors already semi-playing that part. It's a little strange at times.

But how much do I love Richard. I never meant for him to rub shoulders with bastards like Erich Koch or have an uneasy underling-superior relationship with Albert Speer. (Now I want to read Speer's biography to get him right for those two scenes I'll likely have to write).

When I get home from work, I'll have to do a little more clean-up, since we already have viewings for the flat. Our landlord's not losing even one minute. We only cancelled the flat on Thursday!

(Note: No news from Sock Boy... he might have decided to stay out of my hair since I'm leaving. Not that I'm not rubbing that in every day. I do have a countdown LARGE AND VISIBLE on my desk, after all, and am generally perversely upbeat for all the work we're doing. I don't care - rats and sinking ships, I guess).

Saturday, 22 May 2010


We just returned from measuring the rooms in Casa Voinov - and I noticed all the little things I love about that place and several things I really want to change come time and money. Good news first - we'll be able to fit all the bookshelves (and likely a little extra). If you enter the house, you'll be immediately struck by how many books the inhabitants have... six bookshelves in the "library" alone, and then more upstairs. The library will also be the dining room, with the table there then serving as a research place (so I don't get distracted by the internets).

Just walking through it, my memory of the place was severely wrong. The living room is larger than I remember, the library smaller, the corridor much shorter, and the bedroom a little smaller. But since the previous owner is now moving out, stuff's strewn around the place making it busier. It's the kind of place that needs to be tidy to look larger, so part of my job will be to enforce that nothing lies around. Well, good luck with that. :)

It's around 98sqm, so, while small, it's sufficient for two, very nicely proportioned and has a ton of potential when it comes to kitchen, garden and bathroom.

Right now, we're packing up stuff and organizing the move and what goes where. Kicking out a load of stuff we'll never need or read, and while my heart bleeds a little for all the books, some will have to go.

But we're on track for everything here. Walking through that house, it's all becoming very real. It's a pretty good feeling. We'll have that place before the month's up and will be moved before June's done. And right after the move, we're off to Turkey for a week. Upon our return, I'm starting the new job. Perfect timing.

The writing suffers with my obsession over the move and the job and the house, but all that's really to be expected. I still did the last look-through for "Lion of Kent", and will enjoy myself now doing the cover forms.

Once I'm done, it's probably dark. And that's when the muse usually comes out to play. Maybe I'll get a few words down, but I wouldn't mind at all getting some work done on To Catch a Spy, which I want to send out soon. The other stuff will have to wait a little. Patience.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


That's it. I've done it now twice in this country, handed in my letter of resignation, and the sense of relief is large and looming and ENORMOUS.

I'll now put a countdown on my desktop and my outlook calender function, and then I'll knuckle down and rock this place during my last 4 weeks so they see what they are really losing. (They think they do, but they don't).

No more sock boy.

Collective sigh of relief.

And tonight I'm taking one of my invites from a PR company, but it's the coolest invite ever. A venture firm invites a bunch of journos to a private screening of Robin Hood, with nibbles and drinks provided.


Counting down the hours

I'm being a good little data monkey today. The muse is still cowering, the poor thing. I hope to pull him out from under the desk and nurse him back to wing-beating health (yes, my muse looks like some gorgeous male, mostly naked angel of death type guy... black wings, long black hair... uhm, who asked?)

Been mailing back and forth to sort out my new contract and so I can resign. I have plenty of holidays left so I should be able to shorten my time here considerably.

In any case, quite happy here.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Work is easy

Going to work is so much easier when you have a much better job lined up already. I'll still rock this place, but there's now a huge, glaring searchlight at the end of the tunnel, and there, by the grace of the gods I go. It's simply amazing. It's much less oppressive, I mind it all far less, and I even feel a small pang of "I'll miss you, you and you", and then, in the next breath, "but not you, bitch, and you, asshole."

Today, sock boy looks like a pathetic loser wrecked with profile neurosis and insecurity, and the boss bitch looks like an overworked introvert who simply can't connect to people. The fact we're understaffed looks pretty pathetic, too. If this company was public, I'd have sold my holding in February, or at least opened a side-bet against it.

Just heard my "tentative last day" - 18th June. Which is incidentally the first day of my holiday. I'll now carefully calculate the holidays I have left, and pencil them in to get approved before I hand in my notice. I don't want to give them any reason to revoke my holidays.

I spent yesterday meeting friends in town and London, and I'm now reading "Tarzan of the Apes", which, while dated, it still a pretty good read.

Also read the first of four books I have to read for some other activity, and I've retired my German pseudonym until further notice. I'll consolidate my writing under one name, and keep "vashtan" for other stuff.

Right, now booking holidays...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Good Place

My life just rocks at the moment. I'm still exhausted after the roller-coaster of the last 3 weeks, but that should have been the worst. No more sneaking out for interviews and calls from job agents, no more job site surfing at lunch (or during work hours), no more bullshitting. No more fear that the house purchase will fall through. No more money worries about the deposit and rising prices.

I look forward to rocking my old job for the next four weeks. I'm also looking forward to handing over my letter of resignation with a "fuck you, b*tch" smile, decked out head-to-toe in my best pinstripe. I've learnt how to be incredibly rude just with the pitch of my voice. And I can't WAIT.

"Lion of Kent" is off to Carina Press to be proofed and hopefully released in August. Kate and me are done with that one.

My favourite metal band, Sabaton, has released the full new album, "Coat of Arms" on their Myspace page, way before the official launch on 21 May. Check out "White Death" and "Aces in Exile", but "Uprising" is also very good. Can't wait to get my hands on that album and have it on my iPod. I haven't been so excited about a band since Disturbed, Rammstein and Niyaz.

Sabaton helps me write action scenes, which is a Good Thing. I need that energy to do a good one. Thanks guys, for our music and hard work. See you in Munich!

Today, I'm running errands, "running" being the operative word. I have to post the Dreamspinner contracts, a book for Kate, pick up a packet from the depot, pick up a couple titanium rings (and stick one on my partner), throw some paperwork into the solicitor's letter box, and I think then I'll sit down and have a coffee, and a pen and notebook in hand, plotting/thinking on paper.

At some point, the edits for "First Blood" will appear in my inbox, too. And that will require some work. It's fun when the research comes together after the book, but then, at least I'm doing my research, and reading 400 pages about the development of Russian crime while writing my share of the 60k novel in like 3-4 weeks isn't easy. :) No, seriously, though, there will be more background and a couple scenes are missing from Nikita's perspective.

I'll have to get these projects into some kind of order, then power through. Meanwhile, I'll have to ready "Return on Investment" for submission. I think that's pretty much the rest of the year laid out for me.

I do hope the new job entails a lot of travelling and soon. They promised, definitely regular trips to Frankfurt, but since the magazine is global, it's potentially way further than that. I'm always pretty creative and productive while on the road/on the plane. At least I manage to catch up with my reading. I have 4 books here for Elisa Rolle's Rainbow Awards and five for Speak Its Name.

Full schedule. The challenge is now to do it step-by-step and find my rhythm.

ETA: And I just pitched a new idea to Dreamspinner. I must be insane.

Friday, 14 May 2010

I got it!

I just got the call from the job agent, who started out with "I want to make sure you understand that the quality of applicants was extremely high, and the decision really wasn't easy, and they'll make sure that those they don't take get a recommendation with HR to get hired at a later date... and I'm delighted to tell you you got the job."

My response: "My fucking gods, and how long have you practised to do that speech only to tease me, you bastard?"

Which made the job agent laugh and then explain they loved me, I rocked them, and they couldn't sing my praises high enough.

I got the Dep. Editor job. The pay-off of five days of really hard work and "nerve war" (Nervenkrieg) as the German expression goes.

I already accepted and already told my team leader at old place I've accepted. Now all pending contract and signing and benefits package.

No more sock boy.

I win at life.

Post interview comedown

I've been told that crashing feeling of ebbing adrenaline can be called comedown, so that's what I had yesterday evening. Got home, chatted to my partner, was chatting a little with friends about the interview/job/magazine, and suddenly my energy level just went through the floor.

That's five days of stress crashing all at the same time. Woah. I went to bed, had 9 hrs of badly-needed sleep, and awoke, feeling much saner.

To recap yesterday, I went to the second interview and rocked it for about 90 minutes. I just had fun, really. The Publisher dude said "just in case if you don't get this, please keep applying for jobs here, because you're a perfect fit for the company as an editor", and if I shouldn't get that job, I'll give him a call and ask him for leads. It's a great company which offers really good opportunities. And the commute would be much faster, too. :)

So apparently I'm up against two others, one of whom seems to be weaker than me and the other person. It's a close race. Depending on the interview with the other person, they might offer at the beginning of next week, or they might do a third round of interviews, or, as they said "make you jump through another hoop". But they also kept asking about my notice period and "who will replace me." A good answer there: "I think they'll struggle."

I kinda want them to struggle. After the way they've demoralised, dismantled and plain abused my team, I want my old employer to struggle with replacing me. I want them to look at the mess they created with a feeling of "oh shit." Not that I seriously believe they'll learn from it, but at the very least, I want them to look at their utter failure and that they made thing worse, not better.

Call me vengeful, but after 4 months of this shit, I've had it.

So, after rocking that interview, I had to return to work, but I also had a sudden urge to get ice cream, so I got off at Leicester Square and went into the local Haagen Dasz shop. Then I realised that if I stroll into the office munching ice-cream, while my team holds the fort and does my work, too, I'd get likely crucified, so I bagged seven cups instead of one and went to the office, handing them out to the editorial team (leaving out research and sales - I have enemies there, and I'm not spending £40 instead of £20 on a whim... I'm not making that kinda money. Also didn't want to feed the fat bastard from research who backstabbed me by telling my boss about a "negative" remark I've made AFTER HOURS).

So, munching icecream, I checked my email and saw a contract offer for "First Blood" from Dreamspinner. I'll sign the contract and shoot it over to Barbara today or tomorrow. It'll likely be published in the third quarter of 2010, both print and ebook.

In other positive news - I did the line edits of "Lion of Kent" and now waiting for Kate to approve a name change.

Writing, job hunt, and house move are all on track. If I get the job, the writing may suffer a little, but I don't think so, but it'll be a *lot* easier paying off that house. It'll mean, in effect, that I can almost double my mortgage repayments. Every buck I make more than what I make now is disposable income, and I'd love a tight schedule to improve the house, insulate the roof, get fitted wardrobe and study furniture, the lot.

So. Whew. Much going on. I hope to be back to writing today. I'll also have to prepare my financial thriller for submission to a publisher, but I might do that next week rather than this weekend.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Spot the unfortunately-named company

Just got this in a newsletter:

"Goldman Sachs reportedly is nearing a deal to buy AXA’s 15.6% stake in Chinese life insurer Taiking Life, which is currently valued just north of $1 billion."

Uhm, sorry, I wouldn't want my life insured by them.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Derivatives are derivative

Looking good on the interview front - I'm invited back for a second interview, and this time I even know what derivatives are. I'll also look at a job with Major Rating Agency. Making sense of financial gibberish is my bread and butter.

I was kind to sock boy (as if he deserved that) and called him to a face-to-face meeting rather than send him an email, cc'ing my team leader, our superior two steps up, HR and a couple other people. I may have struck the hornet's nest, but then, somebody has to tell him his attitude sucks.

For the moment, I'm entrenching into cold war tactics with him. Let's see who has more courage and guts. I've taken down bigger and better enemies. I even did the calculation of how much I need to make to pay off the mortgage while job hunting. I could meet the payments on a job at Starbucks, which is good to know. Most likely, I could foot the bill if I significantly ramp up my coaching activities.

That's something to look into if I don't get any of the three jobs I'm currently pursuing - all of which pay way more and at least two of them are with way better companies. I'm getting tired of this trainwreck.

Interesting tidbit of the day: sock boy was brought in to "increase productivity" - that's funny, we're doing the job of six people with two old hands (one of her last week, and counting down the minutes), and a newbie who has no clue yet.

So clearly the way to address discontent, frustration, overwork and totally FUCKED work processes (we all share an inbox now and nobody has any visibility what needs doing) - is to bring in some ugly mothereffer from outside who tells us we suck.

Baby, your drill instructor impersonation makes me laugh.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Working in da coal mine

First half of the first day of the week is done and I'm ready for my weekend. Sock boy has already made me laugh twice today with his funny little I'm A MANAGER NOW antics. Well, you got the customary abuse and ignorance down pat, my boy, well done. You'll fit in well with middle management here.

Still learning about derivatives and beginning to understand the global meltdown much better now. Also understanding that the financial crisis will take at least another 2-3 years of clean up. We're not nearly done. This stuff is "weapons of mass destruction", no kidding.

At the same time, I'm fascinated by that market which can bring banks, countries, never mind multinationals to its knees and has already done so, often. I want that job to learn more about it... get as close as possible to the dark heart of finance. I'd love that. Stories galore, plenty of inspiration. I might, ten years from now, write a really funny tell-all book, too.

On the other front, "Lion of Kent" is back at Carina and is being edited in the second round, which frees up a little time for ongoing projects, but I think the main focus of this week is to NOT take a baseball bat to sock boy's kneecaps and prepare for the interview I have lined up and arrange the move. I'm currently surfing websites to buy a washing machine and a fridge - or at least get an idea about the market.

Saturday, I want to go out and measure the walls in the Casa Voinov to get an idea where to put all the books and stuff we own. Maybe this time round we'll even get a dish washer, which would be nice.

Also going to look into remortgaging, but that comes in step 2. But I'm pretty sure we're overpaying on the mortgage compared to the value of the house. Tehehe. I've learnt stuff in finances.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Kidnapped by derivatives

If I'm mostly invisible in the next days, that's due to having been kidnapped by derivatives. I have to prepare for a second interview at Huge Financial Information Provider (the kinda place that could crush my current place into dust if they wanted), and the guy I talked to in the first interview said: "Next time we meet, we'll talk derivatives."

It sounded like a challenge.

Since I only know the bare basics of equities (say, public equity like stocks and private equity like the stuff I've been dealing with the last 2.5 years), this opens up a field of finance I have no clue about, but the first glimpses of the field are tantalizing.

It's also enormous. Way, way larger than anything I've ever dealt with before. So, yeah, I'm off to town to get a book on futures. I have a book on options here, and will begin eating it. Soy sauce should add a little taste.

The last three days kicked my writing around like an abused puppy, but I'll get back to it hopefully tomorrow. Also expecting edits for "Lion of Kent" tonight. If all goes well, "Lion" comes out in July from Carina Press (we've agreed to the contract offer, contracts will be soon in the post, we're editing, so I guess I'm allowed to talk about it). Pretty excited about it all, but most of all, the house.

I'm still not sure whether I can/should relax about it all - what can go wrong now? Is there anything that can go wrong now? I'm not sure I want to ask the estate agent, those people probably hate me by now. But in any case, I've begun to start compiling a list of what needs doing and when and in what order.

I think I'll just pop into the estate agent and ask them how stuff proceeds from now on. Possibly get some flowers/chocolates for the ladies, too. This was one hard transaction.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Urgent service announcement

Contracts are signed & exchanged, we own a house.

Gods, the drama.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Today I had a strange Zen moment. Sometimes in the mornings when I arrive at the train station and have time until my train arrives, I get a coffee and a chocolate croissant from a place called "Puccino's" - it's a corner kiosk thing where a guy quickly makes you a coffee before you rush off to the train.

I stand there, looking forward to my coffee. Me, the rushed guy in the dark suit with a book under one arm, City worker, financial services-related professional. I suddenly realise looking at the guy who has his jeans jacket buttoned up to his neck he's likely underpaid, cold, and, besides, doing 8hr shifts in an unheated tiny hut making coffee for people is not a great job (been there - I made sandwiches at 3 in the morning for pimps and prostitutes at a gas station for 6 EUR an hour).

Funny how these things work, suddenly reality shifts and you're in somebody else's shoes.

And as much as I moan and bitch about my job here and how we journos are underpaid and badly treated, I'm at least sitting in the warmth and have the internet at my disposal. Chances are, I'm making a lot more than that poor bastard. So, when he gives me my change, I leave it there and give him a smile. Crack a joke about how they keep changing where they put the sugar and stirrers, give him another smile. Treat him as a person for a moment rather than a coffee source.

I pry off the lid, put in some sugar, stir the coffee. Some foam escapes (I'm clumsy like that), I put the lid back on. The guy gives me a paper tissue for the spilled coffee, and a smile.

A small, tiny moment of connection and mutual respect. Just mindfulness. Really no big deal, but a decided zen moment for me to start my day off well.