Monday, 31 December 2012

Thank you for 2012 - Here's to 2013!

While 2011 was a bit of a wash for me - too much nasty stuff happened to me and friends, 2011 - 2012 was a fabulous year. Emerging from the trauma that was late 2011, re-thinking myself and my writing and how I interact with people, the new year 2012 started with me getting a new job in one of the worst depressions in recent times, and a payout or "golden handshake" from my previous job that took some of the pain and anxiety away.

In 2012, I became more visible in the mainstream romance world. No longer supporting trans* phobic blogs or actively trans* hostile Goodreads groups after the blow-up of November 2011 and its aftermath, I felt vulnerable and condemned to obscurity because I wasn't "playing the game" and defied the rules that were basically defined as "suck up to them even if they suck". I left/ignored several people in the m/m world that think of themselves as "genre-makers" or "genre leaders". Thought leaders. Some of these sent me or my friends threatening emails, because "Aleks Voinov is being such an asshole over the trans* thing".

What I found, at Dear Author, at the Paranormal Romance Guild, at Totally Booked, with bloggers like Vacuous Minx and more reviewers and bloggers and romance people than I can possibly hope to mention here, but I mean ALL OF YOU)--were whip-smart, progressive, open-minded, tolerant and bloody impressive people, none of which ONCE judged me or my books by what I have in my underwear. The vast majority of these non-m/m people impressed the living daylights out of me. I suddenly realised that the m/m genre behaves in many ways like a ghetto, and is in some ways actively stifling dissent and creativity. I decided that I don't need those thought-leaders and leaving them behind was the best thing I've ever done to free myself from the creative thought police who attempted to kick down my door to see what I have in my underwear and threatened to boycott me or other authors who are not playing by their rules. (Note on this: I feel the genre has made huge steps on those counts during 2012, but much of it has been a running battle.)

Freer than I've ever felt in my life, I went about to write. I finished Dark Soul 4 and 5, saying a hearty "fuck you" to the "guardians of m/m purity" who will hate and badly review any book with a female that's not a raging bitch or, gods forbid, might be a sexual being on the page. I did not break up the heterosexual marriage of a bisexual character in favour of his new, male lover, instead positing that three adults can find a way to work shit out. I didn't get much flak for it (much less than I'd expected in any case), though some people weren't happy. Being bisexual myself, it was one step towards moving away from "bi erasure" - giving bi people more visibility in the genre.

Sex and gender isn't that easy, but we can work shit out - that's really the core message in my writing in that period. It felt good. I no longer had to cram myself into a genre where several highly influential people simply rejected me. Unable to please everybody, I went about pleasing myself and staying true to my characters. I decided to a) stay true to myself and my characters and b) yes, sometimes make a point by subverting the genre expectation, but the latter was secondary.

I re-thought the representations of women in m/m fiction - how I write them (thanks, Donata, you taught me some very important lessons), and how others write them. You can have a raging bitch, but then please also include positive female characters. It's too easy to revert back to "two guys in lurv, one woman putting on the hatin'" structure.

In March, our genre had a huge plagiarism debate that brought up some very interesting discussions overall--how much can publishers do to not publish plagiarised product, and how does the genre deal with its fanfiction root (there are other roots as well). In the middle of all that, I finished the edits for the print book of Dark Soul. I also thought long and hard about consistency and quality and started to plan to claw back old releases that have editing issues to ensure that my backlist is the best it can possibly be. My readers deserve the best and I owe it to them to ensure anything out there is up to my standards. This was definitely the death of "let's publish for shits and giggles"--I really began seeing this as more of an obligation, maybe more of a job.

In real life, I started planning a revamp of my garden and getting quotes in. That work wasn't completed until November. What a project!

In April, Country Mouse released, which I co-wrote with Amy Lane. This was probably my best-selling book, ever, which says a lot more about Amy Lane than myself. It was also fun. After the darkness of Dark Soul, I wanted to play and write something lighter. It was fun, Amy was awesome, and it sold like hotcakes. I enjoyed working with Amy so much that we've just completed Country Mouse 2, the sequel. Fun!
In real life, I was burgled, though nothing valuable stolen. (My dude lost his manbag, which was recovered in the park behind the house.) Writing-wise, I was planning to halt m/m writing for the time being, as I wanted to focus on  a number of mainstream projects. These are still going, though obviously I've written more m/m in the meantime. I'm still not sure how things will go and what I'll write, so I'm just letting the Muse have his head and his play and keep doing what I enjoy. Whether the end result is an m/m book, a heterosexual novel (i have one of those in my head) or anything else, who knows, who cares, as long as it demands to be written.

In May, I travelled to Canada (Ottawa) to meet friends. We had a blast. And I got out of the house over my birthday, which is a plus. Meanwhile, my WWII research continued apace.

June saw some interesting discussions on the direction of the genre again--whether we write too fast and what it does to the quality. If publish or perish is the only way to go. These days, I think the debate is more complex than that, having met people who put out consistently high quality at a pace that's impressive, and knowing people who write slowly but aren't better for it. The mysteries of quality/quantity remain, though these days I find the speed in which books get written and produced energising rather than scary.

In July, I released Incursion, where I have so many boxes ticked the book almost feels like an exercise in Can I Fuck With Your Mind Some More. (It wasn't planned as that, it just turned out that way.) Disabled interracial character meets genderbending, mind-reading alien bad guy and he isn't. It's written in part out of rage about the transphobia in the m/m community. Pretty much a sales flop, Incursion went on to be shortlisted in the Goodreads Sci-Fi Readers Choice category. Sci-fi doesn't sell, but critical acclaim is fun. In real life, people married (a LOT) in that month, old childhood friends were in touch.I reflected a lot on that weird decade, the thirties, when you turn from ambition into reality, which some minor adjustments along the way. End result: It's awesome being a DINK, free, healthy and at the peak of my creative abilities. Loving this period. Meanwhile, some scary blog entries on copyright freaked half the community out as photographers seem to go against all the "hottie of the week" posts. Interesting debates emerge on, for example, authors blogging aggressively versus pirates while plastering non-licensed photographic art all over their blogs. It's 2012, and the copyright wars are on. Also in July (what a month, eh?), a publisher blew up in a gigantic tsunami of shit-hits-fan and lots of my friends were in the fallout.

In August, I released Skybound, my short historical and another complete sales flop (none of my critical successes sell. Everybody loves it, nobody buys it, but I'm getting used to the pattern). Also, writing got so intense that I was starting think out aloud about going part-time. As I write this, that hasn't happened because my company are douchebagels about some things.

In September, I went to the UK GLBTQ Meet in Brighton and finally got to meet the European m/m crowd and people I'd known on the internet for ages. The discussions were great and I flounced around in my nice new suit. This meeting did a lot to instill a great deal of hope and pride in me about where the genre is going and how we're developing. Right after that, I went to a writing retreat in Yorkshire with a friend, where we attended a writing course for historical novellists. It breathed life back into my stupidly ambitious WWII novels and I made friends. I also managed to recharge my batteries quite considerably. Hell, telling Sarah Waters your plot over dinner and her saying "that's interesting" might have made my week (dear Sarah, thank you, even if you were just polite!). I realised there's no unbridgeable gap between "art" and "entertainment". Several of the historical writers were writing romances or paranormals. We are a pretty diverse bunch. Meanwhile, Gold Digger launched while I was away on very limited internet.

In October, a piece I wrote went up on USA Today. I was "wow" for a week or two. And my garden revamp finally started with diggers rolling in and tearing up everything. Very impressive. I also learned how to tier a double Windsor (my dude taught me and bought me my first silk ties), then finally said "bye-bye" to my long hair and, now short-haired, travelled to Albuquerque where I was mostly spending my time being extremely goofy with LA Witt and getting up early. Travelling to the States for GRL was a bit of a last-minute decision, but I loved it and will be back. Meeting my readers was a great feeling, too. I was hemming and hawing and nervous and tried to keep everything low key, and then it kind of didn't work out like that at all. Had a great time with readers and got to hug and shake hands a lot. I had the time of my life.

November brought more publisher grief. Hence I spent time researching copyright lawyers in the US. In positive news, Skybound went to print. In more positive news, I did start writing like a madman with LA Witt and we wrote two shorts, two novellas and a full historical novel ("What, you like WWII too?") in six weeks, easily doubling my total wordcount in 2012. (It was not the most productive year of my life). In real life, my garden was finished and paid, and I attended two seminars on NLP, which ended up helping me retain my equilibrium when an online friend turned out to be a fake and a fraud.

In December, we agreed on a planting plan for the garden, and Quid Pro Quo was readied for release in January. Country Mouse 2 was finished and sent off. My historical novels are both nowhere near finished, though, although I made some progress on at least one of them. And I set a wordcount goal of 2013 as I'm making a serious push to be able to quit my day job once and for all in a few years' time so I can focus on writing without sleeping under a bridge.

There's much else. Friends moving house, job issues, dental stuff, friends suffering health scares and real danger, another friend having a baby, my return to the gym, lots of research, another friend landing a five-book deal, a controlling boyfriend hating my guts and forbidding me to see a friend, great meals I've had, beautiful encounters with readers in London and away, seeing a book I've known for ten years being translated and published. Encountering love and forgiveness and big plans, some of which worked out and others didn't. And for every amateur asshole publisher there's at least one who's kind and pleasant and generous. For every mistake I made I made at least one very good decision of lasting value, and for every person who didn't fit my life I've made at least two new friends. There were also surprising things going on--books that didn't sell became category winners, books that did so-so suddenly getting huge boosts as everybody discovered them six months later, and very uncommercial stories finding a few people who loved them.

All in all, an awesome year that got better and better and provided a great basis for 2013. I thank everybody for the positive, and maybe I'll find the wisdom to even thank those of you who provided the negative. I'll try.

And to 2013--BRING IT.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate it (and a happy festive season to those who don't). Happy Sol Invictus day/Solstice (even though we're late for that now).

As I'm writing, there's several things I've been working on that I haven't really been talking about. Maybe because the projects ambushed me. So, LA Witt and I went off on a writing binge after we had so much fun at GRL a couple months ago. We wrote two shorts, two novellas and a full historical novel in seven weeks, and are currently knee-deep in a second novel after a very productive weekend. So, 2013 is starting to look much better in terms of release schedule for me. My schedule is actually pretty damn ludicrous, getting two WWII novels and a fantasy series written on my own, but if I manage to write 2k/day, that's 730k in words and might just cover everything I'm itching to write. (Editing, now, that's a different matter...)

That's not counting the "Wouldn't be cool if..." projects. The books that hook in my brain out of nowhere and demand that the world stops for them. Predicting them or pushing them to the side doesn't usually work. Hell, Skybound demanded to be written, even though I was working hard on other stuff. It just took over. So much for controlling the Muse. I'd say most of my best work were "Wouldn't it be cool" books. There's just something extremely compelling about a book that forces its way. I think they have a different energy. Maybe more blood and guts.

Above all, though, I need to rethink how I write to be able to hit that required wordcount. I don't believe that writing a lot or fast necessarily means it's lower quality. I have written huge chunks of text in a kind of blissful rage, and the end result had power and rang true. I've also painstakingly assembled paragraphs, and at the end I can't really remember which bit flowed and tore through me and which parts I agonized over. As long as the overall project has a good energy, and breathes and pushes, I'm usually safe. It doesn't matter how fast it was made.

So, yeah, if all works out, six novels from me next year. Gods help me. (I take comfort in that one is, and three more are halfway.)

Christmas here is going to be low-intensity. I handed the dude a couple presents. Tomorrow, we'll have Christmas dinner at a friends', exchange more gifts. And then I can crawl into the suspense novel I'm co-writing (and which has no right to be so incredibly hot). And push one historical's wordcount, while outlining the Scorpion sequel. Ah, who am I kidding? I think I'll write Scorpion II before the year's up. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Same old argument

Seems the old discussion about "women exploiting gay men and making a buck" is going as strong as ever.

Megan Derr delivers a most excellent slapdown of that nonsense here.

To which I add: describing the genre as "straight women writing about gay men for straight women readers" is wrong and ignores the variation and richness of our genre.

We, the writers, are straight, bisexual, asexual, lesbian, gay, queer, omnisexual/pansexual. We are women, men, transmen and transwomen (same thing to men and women, really, just adding us as "trans" to be absolutely clear). Of the trans people, some choose to adjust their primary sexual organs, and some don't. Others might do so later. We're genderqueer, just plain queer, defy description, resent being put in a box. Some of us are intersex. Some are intersex who transition. Others are bigendered/two-spirited.

The people we write about are straight (granted, very often not the Main Characters), bisexual, asexual, lesbian, gay, queer, omnisexual/pansexual. They are women, men, transmen and transwomen. Of the trans people, some choose to adjust their primary sexual organs, and some don't. Others might do so later. Our characters are genderqueer, just plain queer, defy description, resent being put in a box and fight us, theircreators, when we try to put them there. Our characters may be intersex. Some might be intersex who transition. Others are bigendered/two-spirited.

Our readers - oh, the lifeblood of the genre, our patrons, our critics, our customers, our friends. They are  straight, bisexual, asexual, lesbian, gay, queer, omnisexual/pansexual. They are women, men, transmen and transwomen. Of the trans people, some choose to adjust their primary sexual organs, and some don't. Others might do so later. Our characters are genderqueer, just plain queer, defy description, resent being put in a box and ask us, their authors, to not try put them into a box. Our readers may be intersex. Some might be intersex who transition. Others are bigendered/two-spirited.

Ignoring any of these, and creating an artificial - dare I say "elitist"? - "community" of "pure gay men, born with a penis, engaging in TEH REELZ GAYZ SEXX0RS" (implying there's a "real experience" that is universal), while kicking out everybody who doesn't get a membership pass based on their birth/genetic biological sex and their AUTHENTIX TRUE REELZ GAYZ EXPERIENCE and calling them exploiters or fakes or implying they aren't part of the community or have no "right" to write about "gay men" or may only do so in a certain way - approved by the REELZ GAYZ MENS CLUB - is, frankly, counter-productive.

It ignores that the genre isn't that simple. It tries to marginalise women in a genre that THEY are driving. It tries to limit the strong, gushing river to a stagnant pool - purely on the virtue of what the writer has in their underwear.

Similarly, gay rights were won by gays. Yes. They were also won by their brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and children, their colleagues, their friends, their allies. Telling them they don't "belong" ignores the varied and diverse community that real-life rainbow people interact in. My trans* status has made everybody around me more aware of gender and trans issues. Surely that's a good thing. If somebody chooses to write a story with a trans character, surely that's a good thing, if its done respectfully. And even better if the trans character has a happy ending.

But not only does that thinking slap everybody in the face who doesn't fit into an unworkable definition (as it has been reduced to a level where it's patently absurd), ignoring real life for the sexist preconceptions that seem to be pervasive. For example, I'd comment on that post with "you're not speaking for me". And "by your definition, are we trans* writers males or females? Are we allowed to write m/m? CAN WE PLEASE BE ALLOWED TO WRITE M/M? PLEASE? Can I have the license from the TRUE REEELZ GAY MEN to follow my muse and tell stories my readers want to read? Where do I apply? Where's the Reichsschriftkammer where I get my m/m licensed?" Will non-conforming text be burned?

But not only does this not reflect, by any stretch, the diversity of the authors, but it also doesn't reflect (or honour) the diversity of our characters OR our readers. It tries to draw a line in quicksand. These categories do not exist. Where they are artificially constructed, they aren't helpful. I know, it may comes as news, but even a gay man does not live on Planet Gay. We aren't islands. (Though some people desperately try to be Moruroa).

This is that ugly "purity" argument raising its head again - now just regarding authors or how authors may engage with their material. More importantly, it also does not reflect all gay men. I have plenty of gay male-born readers who enjoy what I do and how I do it. And they are open-minded and educated and have a diversified range of friends and family. In short, they are usually mature, understanding individuals who will not drive a perceived "gay agenda" by being hostile to other colours of the rainbow or trying to exclude straight people. Also, they tend to know what a good book is and what a bad book is, which, you know, is still the most important thing.

Well, in short, Megan Derr covered it. Also check out the comments, especially by Alex Beecroft. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Big life changes & new project (also: thanks!)

Well, it's finally happening. I've just emailed my boss at work to discuss what's called "downshifting" in business parlance, that is, work less time for less money, while devoting more attention/time on the things that are actually meaningful to me. In other words, cut the things that anybody can do and replace them with things only I can do. Everybody can edit a financial report. Only I can write my stories.

I had to go against quite a bit of my deep-seated programming. I like security. I like money (not for its own sake, but for the things I can do with it--pay off my house faster, go travelling). I like the independence of being able to say, "Fuck this, if writing doesn't work out, I'll do something else." Fact is, it's what I've been doing for nigh-on twenty-five years, I think it's safe to assume that I'll continue doing it for a little while longer.

The economy is another factor. My current job was never meant as more than a "Notnagel" (German, lit. "emergency nail" = emergency solution). I was much better paid in banking, and I took this job as a stepping stone to return to banking, get some financial qualifications (which the people here promised me and that haven't materialised as yet) and overall have a fairly easy life.

Well, after about 10 months, I have to admit that the financial industry won't be re-hiring in research/editing any time soon, so I might as well be "stuck" here for another few years. I'm not moaning. The last 18 months gave me time to focus more, though I was more productive in my banking job (thanks to an environment here where I struggle to focus on anything for any significant stretch of time).

I had to kick what I call my "real-life ambitions" out of my head. Writing is the focus of my life, no question. I don't really care about much outside of it. I won't have a brilliant career in the "real world". I've seen and met people who had them, and I'm not even sure the trade-off in time in worth it. Certainly not as somebody's employee. (A writing friend who quit her day job said she'd resented "making some asshole rich" - quite.)

In addition, in the last six months, my writing income has reached a level and consistency that'll allow me to make that step with likely no negative impact on my overall income. Originally I was going to play it safe and cut two Fridays a month, but I will be much happier on a four-day week, with the eventual intermediate goal of cutting the time I do fairly useless and routine things in an office to 2.5 days a week (largely for the pension benefits) in the next 2-3 years.

That said, I'd love to go full-time as a writer, possibly throwing in some freelancing as a coach and writing teacher, to "pay it forward" and spend more time with real-life flesh and blood people. It's a goal for the next 5-10 years.

I don't know yet what impact this'll have in terms of productivity and what I'll write. It's clear that the money is in contemporaries, but, although I love them, maybe only 25-30% of my ideas are contemps. I'll have to make sure that I'm not selling out in the larger game of Making a Living as a Writer. I don't think I could. When the Muse grabs me, there's extremely little I can do about it.

What I will have to do--and I think that's entirely possible--is to significantly up my daily wordcount. I'm incredibly inspired by working this past week with LA Witt. We wrote a 67k first draft in 5 days. Granted, there's research holes, and editing will take a while, but even if it takes us a few weeks to fix what we've written, writing a novel in 5 days is extreme sport, yet I had so much fun. We're looking at either a March or July release date for it, so there's time.

In essence, I think I can sustain my income and my joy in life if I manage one release a month--that includes all the sequels and prequels I've promised. Hard work and being productive is really just a habit, and I'll do what I can to fulfill that quota.

The game-changer for me were my increased sales and much larger royalties, and feeling I have much more control over my "brain children" than I've ever had. I'm already happier and more productive than ever. Now it's time to push this harder and make the most of the opportunity.

What it absolutely comes down to is, I'm losing my independence in some psychologically significant way. It was that writing was almost like feinting in fencing, playing, testing the waters, but now I'm committed to the attack because my royalties ever since Country Mouse and Dark Soul are no longer "pocket money", but a crucial part of my overall income. This makes me vulnerable. It feels like a huge risk, but I think it's time to give this a go. I finally have the courage.

Above all, though, and after this extensive piece of navel-gazing, I have to accept that I have a new boss: You guys. I'm already buoyed and humbled and gratified by your love and support. Meeting my readers, online or in the flesh, is a source of huge joy in my life. Now you're my employers AND my friends/supporters.

I'll do everything I can to say "thank you" for your past and future support--for enabling me to reclaim my time from the corporate world so I can write and publish more books.

Thank you so much. And here's to the future! 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"Incursion" among top 20 Goodreads readers' choice sci-fi books

My little sci-fi story Incursion ended up, rather surprisingly, in the semi-finals on Goodreads: Here's the link. 

(Yep, I'll do a screen shot for myself, because OMG ARE YOU GUYS KIDDING?).

It's weird (and humbling and amazing) to be with a small-press LGBTQ book with a "disabled" character and a gender-fluid  cast of characters against, you know, Scalzi and IAN BANKS (my partner will never forgive me--he's a HUGE fan), and every multi-bazillion movie and sci-fi franchise in the history of ever (Alien? Star Wars spin-off, anybody?).

So, uhm, yeah. My little story's definitely going in as the underdogs to beat all underdogs. Nothing short of a "Rocky"-sized miracle will get me a round further, but getting *that* far is already a miracle, so I'm just going to take a screenshot of that and keep it in my "nobody loves me, I write only crap, I'll never make it" folder on the computer.

Because HOLY HELL.

Of course, Dani Alexander is giving the big names in the much-harder-fought Romance category a run for their money. Being up as an indie against Fifty Shades AND JR Ward is worse than me battling Orson Scott Card (though, honestly, I want to punch him in the nose, at least, err, book-versus-book, for his homophobia. I'd never encourage violence against the bedrock of the speculative genre--kinda. I try to a good guy here. It can be hard, because I effing love sci-fi and cyberpunk and I think in that genre, of all of them, we can actually explore gender and sexuality. Well, off the box now).

So, in any case, do vote for your favourites. (These don't have to be my books, BTW--I don't like vote-whoring very much, and there are many fine authors on the poll.) If that happens to be my book, awesome. If not, awesome. And thanks for playing. :)

(But I'm still getting a huge kick out of that cover between the others. I do. No lie.)

In writing-related notes, LA Witt (yes, HER), with whom I spent so much time laughing like a pair of hyenas at GRL, has dragged my ass out of the huge writing slump when she admitted to liking historical fiction, and also liking/having an interest in WWII.

So, I ... may have ambushed her to write something.

I think that was Thursday. Thursday and Friday we talked about plot/characters.

Saturday we started writing. Sunday, we wrote. Monday, we wrote.

We're 51k in and it's looking like a 70-80k book. At that speed, we'll be done by Monday (latest). It's twisted fun, but it's fun. I'm finding it very romantic, but it's very good fun. but then, I'm twisted. I thought I'd never say that, but writing 50k in 30 days is for pussies. (No, I love all my NaNo-ing friends. Go you!)

We do have a working title, though it's not really "sticking" yet. More when I know, but it's... a little surprise!project to look forward to. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The things that are happening

This is one of those "sorry I haven't been blogging for a week or longer" roundup posts. I first was too tired after GRL (post on that might be forthcoming), then I was busy (getting coverage with my post in USA Today), and then I've had to deal with a big disappointment, and attended some workshops. Actually, I'll be gone again for four days starting tomorrow.

First things first. From 31 October for a whole week, I'll be donating $1 per sold book to the Red Cross involved in disaster relief following Sandy. Because it's very difficult (actually in some cases impossible) to track my sales with some publishers (certainly not by date), and because I don't receive royalties at all from some releases, I'll have to limit this to my recent work - which also guarantees that I'm actually making a dollar (or more) on sales of my books. I'll top up the total amount to a nice, round number. So if you're missing Skybound, Dark Soul #1-5, Incursion, or Gold Digger, this is a good moment to read a book for charity. :)

Other stuff going on threw me for a loop. It's always hard to be disappointed in people, but it's worse if somebody I thought I knew has consistently spread lies and taken advantage of my friends. I tend to assume the best of people, and then I get jolted back to earth. The best thing to do with an emotional vampire and a social predator is to cut them off entirely - no attention, no money, no support, and no tears.

It doesn't help that I feel bad for having been duped and for not believing something that I'd been seeing with my own eyes. Generally speaking, it'll make me more cautious about certain types of behaviour. I'd previously encountered exactly two compulsive liars in my life, and both played that particular game so well that they destroyed lives and people's self-worth, so there's always the possibility that they are actually sociopaths/narcissists.

The good thing is, I spotted this early enough in example number three to stay way clear before any more damage happened, but that doesn't make things any more pleasant to deal with. I hope there's healing/therapy for the person and their victims. Here's me being optimistic again: I do think that even compulsive liars, people celebrating a martyr/victim complex, people lying about their needs and frailties for sympathy and money/gifts, people who take advantage of other people for months and years and then badmouthing them to everybody who will hear/believe, people misrepresenting everybody they've been in contact with - that even those people can change and improve and possibly even see what damage they do and even make amends.

Yeah.

Optimist = me.

Writing hasn't been happening, but right now, I'm pretty much at peace with that. I've done a spot of plotting and a bit of research, but my focus right now is the big piece of work happening in my garden (they've laid three patios and have completed quite a bit of hard landscaping, so I can see the shape of future things), the workshops I'm attending in London (next one: Friday to Monday), and re-thinking and re-evaluating some things in the past and future (never mind the present). Personal growth more than creative growth. Things are piling up all around me, but I'm less anxious about it, which actually makes me more productive.

As I think, the day job is getting seriously old. I do like being part of a team. Here though, there is no team. I don't feel particularly valued, and I don't see anything happening that they promised me at the interview (yeah, newsflash - I did say I was an optimist, but I think we can now upgrade that to "gullible"). However, with all the banks kicking out investment banking staff (one of my ex-colleagues at Previous Place has just been fired), I'm stuck here for at least another year, possibly two. Best I can do is try for a move inside the same company or at least cut the time I spend physically in the office. There aren't really any jobs but maternity cover and temp jobs, and I do like some security, and the benefits here are nice.

Maybe the overall mood will improve once November is gone, and all the thinking I'm doing yields some results. Maybe I should throw myself into some random, NaNoWriMo project, getting too busy to do all that heavy thinking. I *will* have to get back into the birds book to have anything to sell, and after all the work and effort, I'd simply hate to lose it or give up.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

If you can spare a dollar (or a pound, or a euro/currency unit of choice)

There's one money collection drive that's currently actually keeping me up at night. In a way, it's too close to home--with a trans person involved, and both these people trapped in a country that can be unmerciful to those in need (economy down, health service free but far from perfect, also under pressure to save money). Add to that homophobia, transphobia and a chivalric guy's desperate wish to take care of his partner.

Yeah, it keeps me up at night. I've donated some, but I have a crapload of expenditures this month, too - which I saved for, so I'm OK, it just leaves me little space for maneuver right now.

I'm thinking to divert time to do either free fiction for people who donate (or have already donated, I know a few of my friends have, and thank you!), or adding a donor's name to a book in the "dedication/thank you" section). I don't know what would work. I could donate proceeds from my next release, only that I don't have one upcoming (the next is planned to be the WWII novel, which isn't done). And ideas?

I could move the Gold Digger sequel forward, but that would definitely mean the WWII novel won't get done on deadline--I have ten weeks to write ~50k words, which in itself is pretty tight already (and I'm currently not writing).

I don't know. I'll think of something. Maybe inspiration will strike.

If you do feel the need to do something good and can spare the cash, follow the link here: http://myprincess.chipin.com/getting-lauren-home

If you do donate, let me know what I can do to say "thank you" for your kindness and generosity to these people.

Thank you!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Intermission (Gold Digger giveaway)

I'm quickly dropping by to link you to the Gold Digger giveaway (not doing a whole tour this time, mostly because I was on holidays during launch week).

So, take a look at this shiny:



This handmade artisan piece in silver with a tiger eye cabochon is made by Freia Inguz Jewelry. Tiger eye is the stone that really works best for Nikolai - first, there's gold, but there's also hidden depth. Plus, it lends great vision and insight (and Nikolai is pretty perceptive).

This little treasure can be yours if you comment here:

http://www.fictionvixen.com/aleksander-voinov-gold-digger-giveaway/

I'll be dropping in an out all week and chat and answer questions, before I drop off for a while and work on my novel. :)

So, let's celebrate Gold Digger. Good luck on the draw!




Sunday, 23 September 2012

Taking a break to write

Work on this book is incredibly intense - I just revisited the 3k I wrote in the retreat, and spared a glance at the pile of research I still need to work through. The project itself is taking the shape of three novels, which are inter-connected and reference each other in themes and development (yeah, because writing just one novel is too easy, right?).

To focus on these three in the next months (one after the other, though), I'll be cutting back on social media and overall "internet". I can't focus to the extent necessary with all the distractions, so I'm taking a leave of absence while I write the remaining 60k in the first book. I'll be on email, I may even "like" the occasional Goodreads review, but every minute I spend on the internet is a minute I'm not focusing on the actual work that must be done. Essentially, it comes down to having "halfway decent novelist" on my gravestone rather than "answered all emails and tweeted a lot". So, yeah, I'll be scarce. Emails will take a while, too, because I'm snowed under with work emails and beta-ing and even I can't subsist for long on four hours of sleep.

I do intend to return from my self-imposed exile with a kick-ass book, though, so there's hope.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

My pretensions, they are back (post-holiday blues)

I've just returned from my 5-day writing retreat in Yorkshire (near Hebtenstall). Contrary to what I was led to believe, the place did have mobile phone reception, but no internet, so I managed to at least stay a little bit in touch, though I enjoyed having no possibility to respond to emails. OMG my emails.

Anyway. We were being tutored by Maria McCann ("As Meat Loves Salt") and Christopher Wakling ("The Devil's Mask"), and Sarah Walters ("The Night Watch") made a guest appearance and patiently sat through a summary of my "birds book" (they seated her right next to me). Maria and Chris were both amazing - gifted teachers and great fun to hang out with. (Whiskey and wine were involved.)

The real stars of the course, of course, were the other writers, 15 in total. All were really talented, and several published. I'd have acquired just about anybody on the course. I did say some things about "indie" publishing (though the term is being hijacked by the DIYers) and it was all really cool and inspirational.

I spent the days mostly sleeping, eating, drinking tea, sleeping a bit more, attending the writing exercises, and we had four evenings of reading. (I read Melville and some of my birds book - the no doubt soon-to-be-infamous Chapter 15, which people found "menacing" - happy to entertain. :) ) We cooked in small groups in the afternoon, so there wasn't really that much time to get much writing done, and my table wasn't really suitable for it, but I still brought 3k in words and a head full of inspiration.

My heart's fortified by the creative vibe in that late medieval house, feeding off and amplifying 15 crazy, lovely people all following their own mojo. Due to, I think, Sarah Waters's appearance on the course, we had a fantastically diverse group - gay/lesbian people, bi people, some closeted romance writers, too. (Arvon Foundation is more geared towards the "literary writing" crowd - so one author confessed to me she'd been writing a historical menage and "wasn't going to mention it..." - though we had some paranormal authors jazz up their historical fiction with vampires and ghosts!) I also met the amazing Kim Taylor, award-winning author and all-round lovely person. And hung out with a friend who I hadn't seen in six months or thereabouts.

I networked, I pimped, I helped a little (from my POV of editor/publisher/published author/historian) and it was a really good, positive experience. Mostly, though, I just chilled and allowed the mojo to come to me.

Which it did. I spent three days re-reading my manuscript, discovering that it's really not all that bad, then I found the key to getting through the wall after chapter 15 (I was doing a verbal outline with Chris, and then tripped myself into the solution... NICE!). So I ended up writing on the last two days. And editing. Oh wow, did I edit!

I really only went online to check review for Gold Digger, both good and bad. This had a strange dynamic while I was attending the course dominated and taught by "literary" writers. Allow me to reiterate that I harboured "literary" pretensions during my university years, but also before that and after that and I never quite managed to kill them.

Apparently, I can do both. Am hanging in the middle. Am not fish nor meat, as the German saying goes. I'm a hybrid. A fence-sitter. Not here nor there. And some stories sit in the middle and both sides hate them. Ratings-wise, there's no difference between stuff I dashed out really quickly with no second thought about anything much ("just playing", as I called it), and something I've carved with my teeth from granite while tied up in barbed wire.

After this week, I'm pretty sure that the birds book is more literary than genre fiction. I could not distinguish it from the kind of work that was being read out in the course (as I said, the level of writing and craft in that course was shocking, in a good way). I think there might be an agent for that.

I'm not sure what that means for my genre writing, or if I manage to stay on that fence. Some reviews made me question again what the hell I'm trying to do, as a writer and as part of this genre, and for my whole career and everything else. Sometimes I feel like I'm my own genre. A one-man genre; now there's a marketing nightmare.

Or it might just have been that I had five whole days to think about it, while re-reading and thinking and talking to a diverse bunch of people, none of them inside "my" genre. I honestly have no clue. I don't know where this whole thing is going to take me, but I'm going to experiment somewhat see what I can do and where I can go.

That'll mean two things: I'm going to push the birds book extremely hard now towards completion of the first draft (I'm thinking: year-end), then spend a couple months polishing it up, and then it goes out to some hand-selected people I know or who have been recommended to me.

In the meantime, I'll only complete one other project, because it's 1/3 done and promised and delayed and which is also a co-project (which I enjoy, and I look forward to it), but I'll try to maintain my current obsidian blade focus on the birds book - I paid a lot of money and invested a lot of time to get that focus back.

The research alone is a killer, but trying to sex up the style to the level where it has to go is a totally new game. "Workable" prose won't do it. This book needs to be written with blood, and I think I'm about ready to do it, but I need to bleed onto the page in peace with very little other things going on. (Also, I made a pact with one lady on the course that we'll both have a first draft by 31 December...and I just know she's going to hunt me down and kill me if I don't.)

So, this is me bowing out until December, when the co-project will be done, and I honestly don't know what comes after. I might have a result really quickly, or maybe nothing at all. I'm not even sure I can verbalise what's going through my head. I just have to write this book, whatever it costs me, however long it takes, and wherever it's going to take me in the end, and to do that, I need to stop work on everything else (apart from the one I promised). Right now, I concentrate on bleeding onto the page.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

I'm not here

Tomorrow, I'll be off to attend the UK GLBTQ Meet in Brighton. I'm the one wearing shirts with French cuffs and cuff links. Tonight is preparation and meeting an online friend, then packing.

I'll return Sunday afternoon. Monday morning, I'm off to the Arvon Foundation course on historical writing held in Yorkshire. While I'm there, I won't have access to the internet. If you're waiting for an email from me, chances are, I won't answer until the 22 September. There's no internet and no mobile phone reception. I know. I'm scaring myself.

While in Yorkshire, I'm hoping to kickstart my Muse again and make tracks on the birds book. Every free minute is now about reading some from my reading list to prepare for the course (I'm not plunking down that much cash only to flunk out on my prep work).

So, busy times. I'll be back, though my hope is that Monday leads me straight back into the flow and once I'll hit it, I'll have to finish that book. I promised the historical novel for early 2013. There's only about 3.5 months left in the year, and I have 60k to write.

I'll see you on the flipside.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

And in "Don't Let Assholes Get You Down"-type news...

Those damn immigrants are ruining the country

Today, during lunch, at work, one of the people here (a senior figure) had a little chat with my boss about how immigrants are playing the system and how they are damaging the country. He didn't specifically say "those damn immigrants are ruining England", but it was close enough to trigger an immediate fight/flight response.Words like "economic tourism", "economic flight", "damage to the UK infrastructure", "overcrowding" and "real English/British versus all those people washing in" were mentioned.

For context, this happened in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, in the financial center, in a firm whose workforce seems to consist of at least 50% foreign-born academics. There are French, Germans, Argentinians, Rumanians, Chinese, Spanish, Czech and Russians - and that's just people I know.

It's no secret I couldn't get a job in Germany (thanks to a mini-recession and Germany's inflexible labour market), despite a summa cum laude degree. But it's also no secret that when I came over, the main reason why I got a job here at all was that there aren't enough English people who speak German. In a nation that depends on trade (and Germany being a partner) and overall hub of the European economy, you need German speakers to deal with stuff. Incidentally, the Poles and Turks living in Germany are absolutely priceless when it comes to trading/dealing/communicating with people in Poland and Turkey. It's a growth factor in a global economy, especially for countries that rely on trade relationships rather than natural resources.

It's bizarre to think than any of us damage the economy in any way. I'm paying my taxes. The UK paid nothing in terms of schooling or healthcare or training for the first 30 years of my life. I represent a medium six-figure sum in free gifts from Germany to the UK. Germany paid to raise and train me, but the UK receives all my taxes, the stamp duty when I bought a house, and I've been filling a skill gap for seven years, going on eight (German, editing, grammar).The UK also receives taxes from my self-employment and related economic activity.

In my previous job, we had a Daily Hate reader (nickname for the Daily Mail), also English, who'd every now and then go off on anti-immigrant rants, while being surrounded by an Australian, a Turk, and a German. When I commented that I was an immigrant and felt somewhat amazed at her anti-immigrant stance, she said the immortal lines, "You? You're not one of THOSE immigrants, you can speak proper English!"

YES, I AM ONE OF THOSE IMMIGRANTS.

And I have not come solely for the purpose of shitting on an English lawn, destroying the English economy, ripping an English job from English hands and mocking the English as they die. Honest, I haven't. My evil immigrant agenda? Work for a living, live in a free tolerant society and get on with my life, which involved doing jobs that the English can't apparently do better, and create stories in the English language that generate income for Her Majesty's Tax & Revenue system.

What shocked me about today's lapse in judgment? The guy in question is a highly intelligent, highly trained  worker in the financial services industry who gets paid for making balanced judgments on complex scenarios (in a foreign-owned company). I liked him. And while he said those things, my boss, herself an immigrant, just nodded and smiled and didn't seem to take any kind of offense.

I'm apparently working in the wrong place, and I'll be remedying this as soon as possible. Maybe I can get into a different department, but I don't feel welcome or respected here anymore. The good thing about us evil immigrants? We are very flexible, and we can always leave to places that do respect us.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Writing as an aggressive act

Recently I've been struck by the idea of writing as an act of aggression. It might be easy to forget that art always has revolutionary potential. Sometimes, that can look downright weird--you get fat millionaires in their fifties pretending on stage they are wild hot young penniless things. I knew a writer once whose narrator in all his books was always a bit of a loser, while the author himself was successfully running a business. Establishment, anti-establishment. All these are roles we're planning.

It's hard to listen to Muse's Uprising without hearing the snarl underneath it. Hell, Rage Against the Machine is all snarl. At the same time, both are mega-acts. I wouldn't judge their authenticity. In some ways, it doesn't matter what the convictions of the artist are. It's all in the music/art--it all brings its force to bear in my mind as the listener/reader. If I do nothing about it, the most rebel-rousing song is nothing more than something giving me a small kick to get through my day as a corporate drone. A vent rather than the spark that lights the streets up, exploding in a riot.

It doesn't have to be "the establishment" (and who's that anyway?). And I'm not deluded enough to think, like David Hasselhoff, that music brought down the Berlin Wall. (Though, his singing would make me want to throw away my rifle and run like hell.)

Nevertheless, I've written books that were my way of punching somebody in the gut (though "hypothetical literary assault" is thankfully not a crime). Thankfully, it's more constructive. It entertains others. It provided a vent for me, allowing me to bear the tensions raging through my own soul. The alternative to writing Incursion would have been to scream, incoherent with rage--or that said punch in the gut. It's very much directed at one person, in all the world. Just one.

Like a boxer, I sublimated my violent urge into discipline. Also, I entertained others. The act itself is, nevertheless, raw aggression, just expressed differently. It allowed me to drag up the rage and clear it out. Examine it. Feel its sting like sweat in an open cut. Revel in my own power as a decently-trained craftsperson. Get a kick out of it. Not go to jail for it. Not be seen as an asshole who escalates a bad situation towards unforgiveable. Be the better man. Art is a higher good. If it's not "art", it can always be "just" entertainment (though entertaining anybody at least takes skill).

When I re-read Incursion, I can still hear the scream of rage. I know for a fact that it has made some people think--people who happened to be in the audience. That I've made a very strong point there that's not going unnoticed (I love you guys for being so godsdamned smart!). In the end, it doesn't matter whether the one I'm screaming at knows about this, and it doesn't make this story any less valid.

By turning a scream into words, I've made sure that it never stops. It's echoing forever. It might go on when both the author and the one it's written for (or really: against) are no longer around. I firmly believe that stories find their readers, and readers find their stories. The moment I set it out into the world, it's no longer about me or my anger or other emotions--but what happens in the mind that's perceiving it (and, if nothing happens, that's fine--you can listen to Uprising just to have a good time). But some stories are like underwater mines. Deceptively inert, lasting for a long time, patiently waiting. If the right mind touches them, they became active and explode and unleash their force. I'm happy to be laying mines every now and then and leave the rest to chance. It usually works out. My job is to plant the mines as skillfully as I can and cover my tracks and stay out of the way, because this is not about me.

But not for a moment can I forget that I put this there out of almighty fucking rage--which I tamed and purified and wrestled to serve me rather than the other way round. And when I see the explosions shaking the water surface, I smile.

Monday, 20 August 2012

To part-time or not to part-time

I've always been an author who's been glad to have a day job - it does keep me sane and connected and from turning into a self-absorbed hermit. I also like to be able to afford to buy things I want (mostly books, but a lot of them and quite a few expensive ones). I like being able to pay my mortgage. I don't want to freak out over an unexpected bill.

On the other hand, my day job is draining, often boring, and extremely repetitive. It often feels like I'm editing the same document twenty times. Every single day, five days a week, four weeks a month, twelve month a year, for the rest of my working life (=30 years). There are days when I get home and all creativity and joy has been scourged out of my soul. I'm not pulling the "speshul snowflake" card, but being a writer, running a publisher and working full time is a wear and tear that I'm starting to feel. So I've been doing numbers. I don't think I'll ever quit my day job (for pension and mental health reasons), but I'm starting to think I might be able to wrestle at least my Fridays from the corporate clutch. The end goal would be to go part-time on a 2.5-day basis, which should neatly cut my week into three roughly equal chunks of Day Job, Writing, which I think would be ideal (and mean I won't collapse in my mid-fifties of stress and burnout). The alternative would be to find a better working environment in a different company that pays more; however, I'm not sure banks will ever re-hire in my field. Or at least not in the foreseeable future (ie, less than 3 years).

The problem I'm foreseeing is that, while my income from writing is growing, it's patchy. Yesterday's big seller might not sell anything next month. I don't write many contemporaries. I don't write the stuff that sells very much (which I'm acknowledging without envy or resentment - after all, I could probably learn how to do that if I *really* wanted to and were desperate for the cash). It would also mean I'd have to be more productive. I couldn't afford not to publish for 3-4 months. I'd have to have something new out every two months. Basically, writing would become work. I might even have to kill or postpone books that won't sell very much (=everything but contemporaries). I couldn't, in good conscience, write a novel that won't sell. My worst fear is that I'll be losing my freedom to write whatever strikes my fancy on that day, that I don't have enough readers to support that decision in good conscience.

I could possibly talk to HR about how easy/difficult it would be to go back onto 5 days if it all fails. Personally, I think I'd be saner and happier on a four-day week, and productive enough to make the financial sacrifice worth it. Although it's still 20% of my "real" income, and calculating those numbers makes me slightly ill, London not being a cheap place to be. And then I tell myself I can keep this pace going for another 2-5 years and then go part-time. It's a goal. At least it's always good to have a goal, regardless of how far away that looks at the moment.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Incursion's technology: It's real

I like to take credit when I deserve it, but I diod not make up some of the technology in Incursion. Kyle's prosthetics, "cheap" in his world and time (and pretty low tech by his standards) already exist, though they are buy no means cheap or common or even something for the mass market. also, obviously, his are slightly more advanced, as they don't need crutches.

So, have a read of this Guardian article and click the links. It's interesting stuff.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The unexpected novella

I've recently had the urge to write about Nikolai Krasnorada, Vadim's son. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you're not a Special Forces reader, but I hope the story will make sense to you anyway.

For those who do know what I'm talking about, rejoice, there's more Vadim coming your way. Despite the Noble Romance drama (no word yet from the new CEO of the company), I've been patiently tapping away, adding more words to words, and generally been chiselling away (though productivity was low and some weeks, absolutely nothing happened). I sometimes feel like a penguin who scoures the icy wasteland for stones to build a nest.

Well, this one's nearly done. The working title is kind of silly, but I'm calling the story Gold Digger (which is really a joke wrapped in a pun that may not work for anybody but me). Nikolai's probably the sanest of the Krasnoradas, and he gets to hang out with his father, sort out his family/father/commitment issues, and I'm hoping to leave him with a solid, hopeful Happy For Now/Happily Ever After ending. It's a gentle contemporary romance around the theme of family (and how our blood relations mess us up and how they can heal us), and some is unabashed fan service.

I was expecting this to hit around 15-20k when I started it, but obviously I was wrong again. It won't be a novel, but a chunky novella.

After that, I'm digging right back into WWII. I have two really good novels set in the period and I can't wait to get backwards in history after doing two contemporaries. I expect to spend the autumn/winter doing those two and a historical urban fantasy book I'm wrestling with (doing some outlining and brainstorming there).

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The killing blow for "hottie of the week" blogs

Copyright is serious business. It is. Authors want to get paid for their work. We waste many perfectly good writing hours sending DMCA takedowns to sites that pirate our work. Every author in our genre is passionate about piracy (leading to some meltdowns and some diatribes and some indignant rants, some of which I've written).

And I believe firmly we're in the right if we reserve the right to decide *which* story we charge for. I've given away years of work for free in Special Forces, so people who only want "free" can have those one million words. I believe it's an attitude that's largely consensus in our industry. We want to get paid. Some of us rely on royalty cheques for groceries, utilities or making car/house payments. So, many of us *need* to get paid.

A while ago (= years), I came across the freshly-relaunched website of an erotic romance writer. The first thing I saw was that the blog was peppered with, among others, images by Luis Royo - who, you can see on his official page (do go!), is pretty sexy and pretty awesome. She must have had like 30-40 images on there. And her newest blog post was a vicious rant on piracy - surrounded by all the stolen Luis Royo images that I can guarantee she did not acquire licenses for, because at Royo's level, that's really expensive. I mean "display those images or buy a house"-kind of expensive. It shot her credibility to pieces. How can she expect to have her copyright respected when she doesn't respect the rights of one of the most easily recognizable visual artists alive?

Now, for a long time, I was told that those "pictures are public domain" - they aren't. High-end erotic nudes are not public domain, at least not in 99% of all cases. To look that good, models want to be paid, photographers are spending thousands of dollars on equipment, fees, and it takes hundred of hours to get that good. Years. If you like looking at it, it's most likely the work of a pro, and pros like to get paid.

Another argument was "well, everybody does it" (yeah, and everybody can get fined for it).

Another was "but the man candy pics are the most-viewed entries, I *need* them, and it's just harmless fun" - well, look at all the e-book piracy sites who live off traffic selling advertising - people come for pirated content they can't get elsewhere, and they, too, believe it's "harmless fun".

I don't want to get all sanctimonious. I, too, like looking at "man candy" images. Who doesn't. But recently, I hear more and more stories of photographers suing and fining blogs (that includes the owners of Tumblrs and Pinterests) - and the fines are not small. If you think you get slapped with a $50 fine for one Royo, well, add a few zeroes. Keep adding. I'll tell you when to stop.

Back in the days when I was covering start-ups as a biz journalist (4-5 years ago), I covered some tech start-ups that were developing programmes that crawl the internet and do pattern recognition. Basically, they can compare images and find unauthorized content and then point the copyright owner at it. The "reblogging" tail in Tumblr? Very easy way to track everybody who reblogged a photographer's image. Every single display can be fined. We're talking hundreds and thousands of dollars for every single image. Those IT programmes are out there, and I hear more and more stories of fines and taken-own sites and blogs and I think this is really just the start. Music piracy was first, now it's e-book piracy, and piracy of images is coming right after.

As authors, the very laws that protect our copyrights also protect the rights of photographers. Please respect them. I'd strongly advise every single blogger to go through their entries and very carefully consider whether you actually own the image or have the right to display it (hint: your book covers should be OK). If you keep images of unclear source, be prepared to pay top whack for every single  one. Personally, I think the risk is not worth it. This is money most of us can't afford - or at least spend on much nicer things.


And here's the link that prompted it all. Do take the time to read the comments from the photographers. Please respect their work in the same way you want others to respect yours. Thank you!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes

(Apologies to David Bowie for the title).

It just occurred to me how dramatic the changes are that people go through in their mid-thirties. My guy's best friend (female) just had a child. And from here on, I self-censor. But I'm going to use some of that in a book at some point. It's definitely interested to see the culture clash of the childless with the culture clash of the first-time parents.

Then, we're off to Coventry/Birmingham tomorrow to go to a wedding - my guy's cousin marries, which leaves him in something like shell-shock ("I remember her a knobbly-kneed kid!"). Yes, we're getting old (we're both 37) - DINKS (Double-Income-No-Kids) and unmarried/partnered. The main thing that ties us together is he 28-year term of our mortgage, and we both have the spending habits of young adults with paycheques. The good thing about being a "functional adult" - you can actually afford to buy all those books/computer games and nobody tries to stop you, in fact, the Western Economic Model depends on you consuming, consuming, and working hard so you can afford what you consume. (Though I hold it buying books is actually the best way to be a ravenous consumer - at least some other authors might make a living...)

Then, over the last 2 weeks, I've been contacted again by very old friends. One was a childhood friend (I'm speaking of forms 1-6, after which I moved and we lost contact). I still remember her mother very well. I remember the house they lived in and that they had a CD player in the mid-eighties, when CDs cost like a hundred bucks each. The shelves were full of them. I realized that these people were financially rather more comfortable than I was with my mother, who lived in subsidised housing. I remember wire trees made with precious stones, and a life-sized bunch of grapes made from amethyst. I would pick it up very carefully and marvel at the weight and heavyness of it, how cold and perfect, and how weird and wonderful that people made those things and bought them. I remember the light carpet that I could only step on after my shoes were off. Maybe I felt a bit like the grungy, semi-neglected kid that I was, though I didn't feel like it. They were also the only (first) people I know who had a bidet. And the bathroom was stocked with really expensive toiletries (I believe her mother was a cosmetics tester). It's there that I had my first sniff of "Poison", the perfume, which I found unpleasant.

Well, I learnt the mother died last year. The generation of our parents is on the way out - especially if they were heavy smokers - and her mother was. Though I wish her mother had seen what cancer did to her friend, my mother, and stopped smoking - to be there for longer for her daughter and maybe get to meet her grandkids, which didn't happen. (It's minor tragedies like these that really resonate.)


Then I got an email yesterday from a friend I made in my late teens/early twenties. She's now a doctor, on the career path to become an uber-doctor (running stuff, like a clinic or something). She's actually younger than I am. Her father, a very heavy smoker, also died last year. I begin to think there's a pattern. I remember being small and powerless and the world of adults was a complete mystery. Well, that hasn't changed, though to my innocence I've added a ridiculous amount of education, more than anybody really needs, and a big bucket of cynicism (definitely more than anybody needs), but the inner working of everything are still mysterious to me - I can't imagine that people would do such things, and it's a sense I keep getting when I read the news. My soul must be from Alpha Centauri - all this stuff here sometimes feels so weird. 


In any case, I get a weird sense of destiny, of passing time, maybe even of mortality. I hear a rush of wings, I see the big pattern, from our grandparents fading away to now our parents (well, mine are long gone, but my mother died too young and my father was much older). The next generation on the line is us. Rather like better-aimed artillery shells, they are moving, and they are moving in our direction. I'm not afraid of mortality, thought it's one of those things that don't seem to make sense. You spend so much time "becoming" who you are, and then you fade. 


But first I have a few books to write.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The genetics of our writing

Once upon a time, it was received wisdom that, as a young writer starting out, you should use a gender-neutral or male pseudonym (I'll talk about pseudonyms later). Some female authors even invented the rest of it - the whole gay identity (fuelled, in part, by the desire of readers to "know about us" - in some small way, we're public people, we need to blog, and we need to talk about us, because to some degree, being a writer is almost as much about "being cool/interesting" than it is about writing half-way readable stuff).


Thankfully, that's a discussion that appears to be over. While there are gay biologically-male authors (the ones born with a penis) that have a celebrity status largely because they have a functioning penis and balls that they've been born with (and some know that and are a bit embarrassed that that seems to be a huge factor) - no longer is being female and/or using a female pseudonym an impediment to large sales.

For every reader who chooses to read "from bio males only" (assuming greater "authenticity", which is a fallacy), there is at least one who will avoid it because "gay porn" has a slightly different "flavour" than explicit m/m romance.

The "flavour" of the author's writing is, in my theory, dictated by whatever writing tradition s/he belongs to.  It's the beauty of our genre that there's a great deal of influence from gay/queer fiction, slash fiction, and het romance, and hence we have a huge range of flavours and traditions and attitudes to choose from.

To explain: People who read a lot of gay porn (male-written for male-reading) will use the terms and phrases and traditions of that. I used to joke that if you learn the exact number of inches and circumference in play in the first paragraph or, at the very least, on the first page, it's written by a biological gay male (that's the tradition as far as I'm aware of it). There are simply things in gay porn that are very rarely picked up in explicit m/m stuff (like underwear-sniffing and watching a man piss as a voyeuristic pleasure). That said, I know that non-genetic males have picked up on those traditions and crotch-sniff and pee-watch with the best of them, so take anything I say here with a grain of salt.

Other traditions are from het romance. My favourite? What I call "The Bruising Touch" - you've all read it - it goes like this: "he gripped her so hard she'd be bruised in the morning".

That's a "tell" (as in Poker) that either, the author is biologically female and speaks from experience (because women on average bruise much easier - the connective tissue is simply not as strong. OR, the author comes from the het romance tradition, where this kind of bruising is very romantic, somewhere between a hickey and overall soreness "to remember him by". The alpha male is so strong he can't control his strength, but she *loves* it.

These are just a couple examples of traditions. "Cool stuff" we catch in what we're reading ("Oh, wow, he's got 1111!!!!eleven inches! Need to put that into my next story!" or "God, that brusing thing - SO HOT!"). We're learning how to write sex and intimacy from the material we read. Few of us make notes while getting down and dirty with our partners, because ideally, we're too busy to notice exactly how his balls draw up or that even a firm grip doesn't have to lead to brusing. Also, there's the stereotypical gay porn dialogue: "Are you ready for me, baby?" - "Yes! Give me!" - "Ungk!" - "Groan!" - "Are you all right?" - "Yes, I need more!", which by now makes me laugh. Seen it too much, read it too often, it's been done so much for me it's absolutely dead and boring.

What we read and how we read defines who we are as authors and how we handle our material - FAR more than the biological gender or even our pseudonyms. The biggest sellers in our genre are women. There's no difference in talent - or emotional content. I think some of the cruellest, psychologically most fiendish authors are biological women (Manna Francis, I adore you!) and some of the sappiest, saccharine, "he kissed me and I asked him to marry me and adopt three orphan children!" books were written by biological males.

On a personal note - the reason why I'm sometimes accused of "not really" being a romance writer (I can disprove this with a rock-solid argument drawing on my literature degree) - I haven't actually read much het romance - hence I don't have that "flavour". I don't know how it's done, the traditions of "what to do/not to do" was never absorbed into my creative DNA. (One of the reasons why I read "Dear Author" religiously? Filling in that gap in my education.) I was never aware that you get bruises during sex, for example.And I can say I've never read enough slash fanfiction - beyond what my friends wrote and the few stories that were recommended to me - to know those rules and tropes. Essentially, I wrote fantasy and sci-fi (and horror) and mainstream fiction that happened to be about characters who happened to be gay or bisexual and happened to have a love interest that they pursued. The only difference in what I'm doing now to what I used to do? Look more at the relationship (far more), have more happy endings, and put the sex on the page.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Editing is the punishment for writing

There are writers who love editing. I'm not one of them. I have a friend who claims that the editing part is when the book happens that she had in her mind, as the draft/s before are just "raw material". I wish I had that disposition. I'm a one-draft writer. I may tinker and tighten and expand as I go from first draft (V.1) over several versions (V.1.1, V1.2...) to the draft I submit (V.2), and I rarely have much stuff left to deal with, because my first draft is *the* draft. I rewrite and edit as I write (which is one of the reasons why I'm physically unable to write 5k or 10k a day), and work in feedback from my test readers and peers, but generally speaking, it's rare that I rewrite a great deal.

And then my delusions of grandeur ("I'm a strong self-editor") hit reality in the shape of a hardcore editor. Incursion really became a totally different beast under Kristen's care, and my new story, Skybound, which I'm editing right now, is changing in subtle ways as Tiffany challenges everything that's not totally watertight. Once a good editor went through the text, I feel like a bloody beginner, a complete greenhorn.

Could I really be repeating "face" fifteen times on a single page? Could I really have five hands involved in a sex scene, even though we only have two guys in bed? The answer is usually yes. At some point, I get blind to the text, and then shit goes wrong, and that's when an editor catches me out before a reviewer catches me out and tells the world what a lazy idjit I am. Seriously, editors are my last line of defence against disgruntled reviewers and readers. Opening up my edits is always a test of faith and courage. As I scroll through the thousand comments and all the bits where I've been an idjit on the page, my heart sinks and I need a strong drink. Coffee, because it's going to be a long night.

Skybound is special, because it's short, and it's dense, with metaphors and images and meaning layered on top of each other in one tight, poetic package, and tinkering even with a sentence feels like it affects the whole. At just over 13k words, it does. Stories that are that short are much more like poems. As a friend who writes everything from novels to haikus once said: A novel can survive one bad chapter, a novella can survive a bad scene, but a short story really suffers from one bad sentence, and one bad word can kill a poem. I've found that to be very true (the reason why I don't write poetry? I'm not good enough to crystallise so much meaning into such a small space).

Skybound is like that short story. Editing this feels like brain surgery. It's going to be a tough sell in any case, so I'm working hard to get it just right, knowing that's impossible. But my editors at least nudge me into the right direction.


In vaguely related news, the co-project is moving along, my penicillin course is done (and funnily enough, once the pills were done I became productive again - maybe my Muse manifests as little bacteria in my blood - kill too many of them and I'm simply not writing...), I feel a great deal more perky.

But now I have to tackle the last 15 pages of Skybound. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Under the weather

I'm currently on a course of penicillin, which has some interesting effects. Mostly, I'm just really, really tired and unfocused, which means anything more complex than a Twitter conversation or watching football is way out of my mental league. Thankfully, work at work is currently slow.

Writing is even slower, though. I have ideas, but they somehow don't make it onto the page. Any page. There's a co-project I need to tackle, there's my own novel that has been sitting for two weeks, and there's a short contemporary I want to write. Right now, I don't seem to be able to find the emotional grit to push through, so I'm excusing myself with watching football (which was fun, though the last game, Spain versus Portugal, was tense, and way long).

The pills run out over the weekend, so I'm hoping to be back to normal in the next three days. Mostly, I'd be happy just to curl up and sleep. I'm also having weird insatiable appetites for red meat and yoghurt. Right now I could just live off a kilo of beef or lamb mince per day.

High point of the week is tomorrow, when I'm having the fitting appointment for my new bespoke suit at lunch. This time, I went for a three-piece dark blue pinstripe (plus a handful of shirts). It'll replace the grey pinstripe and the very dark grey suit, which by now look a bit scuffed and tired. If I like how it's turned out, I'll get another one a bit further down the line. Then on the weekend I'll have a look for a tie like the one on my avatar. So, yeah, looking forward to that--have been for a couple months, actually.

Anyway. Suit tomorrow. Bring on Thursday. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Reader letter - thoughts on success

I'm just quickly updating to share with you a couple sentences from a happy-making reader letter (I shouldreally share more of them, I think they just spread the love and job). I'm always a bit concerned about being seen to brag (personally, I think it's sharing the love and appreciation) or anonymity (so I'm not going to attribute these to anybody but a "Reader").

So, A Reader wrote:

"I find that knowing what I want or need isn't always necessary; if I know it when I see it, I know where to look, and chances are it'll be there again, and again. So it is with your work, all of which I've read and not once come away empty-handed."


Isn't that awesome? Empty-handed is a fantastic expression for that hollow, "I just had too much sugar" feeling I get when I read empty texts (call them texts without soul or energy or art - regardless of the genre). Walking away empty-handed. Perfect. Full-handed isn't really a concept, though. Nourished? I often compare texts with food - feeding our brains and souls and hearts with fiction. Sustaining us during real life events or stresses, allowing a kind of guided tour of the imagination - making a different world if just for a few hours.

But the "not once come away empty-handed"- that means a great deal to me. I always strive to "deliver", to "give" something, and always throw in muy best effort, even though I can never be sure (in fact, it's one of the most torturous doubts), whether I manage to do it. It's awesome when it works. To keep delivering (and satifying "my" readers, even if they did'nt know they'd like it, even if it's totally unexpected to them) - this for me is the yardstick of success.

Thank you, Reader.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Quality versus Quantity

Read a fascinating post by Vacuous Minx yesterday and had some time to mull it over. Just gathering my thoughts here, possibly not completely coherently or convincingly, but I'm mostly thinking out loud, with audience.



Lack of quantity does not equal skill

There's a curious argument that all quickly-written things are necessarily crap. I've seen a great many authors who can't write worth a damn and who labour over their fantasy trilogy for fifteen years. It's still crap, even with the hand-drawn cover, and even though mum said she loved it. Honest.

So, skill level. A hack can slave away for ten years to write their debut, and it's still crap.

An accomplished, skilled author can write a quick book and it's a solid-to-good book. I've seen amazingly talented people crank out a novella in a week. (Personally, if I write a novella in a week, I'm dead for the three weeks after and the Muse sits in the corner and is only good for playing Gears of War, but there are authors who can do this and you won't notice the difference).


Self-editing is even more important for fast authors

Even if some people manage to write a novella in a week (hey, I've done it), self-editing is as vital a skill as editing. In the rush of excitement, things get mixed up - it's almost impossible to stay completely internally consistent if you're doing 10k a day. Worse if you have a co-writer. Then you have two minds that can get muddled in the rush. Pacing is one of those things that are hard to keep track of - at that speed, everything is kind of a blur. There are people that just pile up words and scenes with no regards to whether the story needs it. That "flab" or "fatty tissue", as I call it, needs cutting before the book hits an unsuspecting reader in the brain. But self-editing is a skill. It's hard-won, and many authors never get there at all. Even if you're a decent self-editor, getting a good outside editor on this is extremely important (a good editor can tell you when a chapter stinks, and will).



Publishing fifty shitty stories a year is not a career plan

I could amend this into "publishing twenty mediocre stories a year is not a career plan". Editing takes time. Even brainstorming takes time. I have more ideas than I can ever hope long enough to turn into books. How do I know a story is worth writing at all? I sit on it for a week. (Yes, the time it would take some authors to WRITE the damn thing). If it's still compelling after a week, wakes me up at night, and my life would be poorer without it, I'm likely to have hit gold. Something that speaks to me beyond the flash of "oh, awesome, wouldn't it be cool if..." But usually, I examine the idea for a few days at least. Ideally, I'm examining the idea while I'm wrapping up the current project, so that gives me a few weeks, even months.

So far, my best ideas (just talking of solo published stuff here) were those with staying power. Counterpunch robbed me of my sleep for two months before I did it. Scorpion had a good start (I was on holidays and bored and should have written the other book, the one I've been mulling for more than two years now), after twenty thousand words, it stalled, I was about to give up. Several months later, the idea hit me again, HARDER this time, and I finished. The WWII novel I'm writing? Six months. The OTHER WWII novel? Two years and counting. Dark Soul? Twenty years. These are ideas that electrify me and keep me going. And they take as long as they take. And I think they were worth the wait and didn't actually weaken while my mind wrestled with them. If you fight with an angel, the harder you fight, the stronger they become.



Yes, there is pressure to publish more

I have readers clamouring for sequels/prequels/spin-offs to, in no particular order: The Gorgon Series, Special Forces, Dark Edge of Honor, Lion of Kent, unnamed WIP of 2008 I shared in a forum, Risky Maneuvers, Dark Soul, Scorpion, Counterpunch, Country Mouse. I can write sequels and prequels to all of them, and I might, but I can only write so much, so working through the list may take ten years. Or five.

I used to feel the pressure (I like to keep my readers happy, I do, you guys allow me to overpay my mortgage, too!) - it's moral pressure, and it's fun to be wanted and to have people jump up and down on the internet and swoon all over the writing - but I can't allow it to dictate how many words I write a day.

I can use this to be more disciplined ("people are waiting, so get off your arse and sit down and write!"), but I can't use it to write more per session or not write when I really can't and have no clue. Writing when I'm "written out" or when I really don't feel like it is torture, and writing's supposed to be fun (at least when it's not torture by itself). There's a difference between "motivated to write more often" and "churning out shit so you hit 10k/day". I'm trying very hard to stay on the former side of this. Because I want to give my readers what they want, but I want to give them good quality rather than badly-composed shit I wrote because I felt I had to. The expectation creates a huge obligation - I know they want a good book when they want what they want. They don't just want any book. And my readers? Are a discerning lot. They can tell the difference when (if) I try to pull a quickie. Nothing will do but me at the top of my game, because they will call me out on it. They are keeping me honest. And I'm grateful for it - many authors don't have that kind of back-up and quality control.

(I love you, guys/gals!)


Good writing, like good wine and cheese, takes time

A good parmesan takes time to mature. There are lots of people who are happy with just the fresh milk. And all power to them. There are many readers who can't tell the difference between a first draft that's been comma-checked (and with many publishers in our tiny cottage industry, not even that!) and a well-edited book that's been thought through by the author and then edited to a high standard.

BUT - producing anything "vintage" or "artisan" takes time. Personally, I'd rather read one Erastes book a year that's been painstakingly put together than fifty books by Effluvia Writesalot that are all crap. Yes, there are people who can't tell the difference between the gooey plastic on their pizza and an artisan cheese. There are people who think the gooey plastic stuff IS cheese and they eat so much of it that they wouldn't recognize a good Manchego or Parmesan or Cheddar as cheese if it jumped on their bagel screaming "eat me! I'm cheese, too!" But I don't think they are the majority. And if they are, the people who know their stuff are still enough to make it worthwhile, financially and critically.

Personally, bad prose and a badly edited book feel to me like a cheese-grater on my exposed brain. I can't read it. I can't finish it. And I'll never, ever, buy it (I read samples, a lot of samples, thanks to my Kindle). To me, a badly-made book is like a do-it-yourself lobotomy. Thanks, but no thanks. So to everybody who makes artisan prose - please do not stop, because my sanity needs you. I need you so bad and I will buy everything you do and tell all my friends about you. Please do not throw away your Manchegos and Parmesans to make plastic cheese. Please.


Authors have the right to slow the fuck down

I'm productive. I also like to think that, even if I write fast, I'm a decent writer on the technical level. One of my friends describes me, in the context of our genre, as a critically acclaimed mid-list author (and she's right, which means my reviews are strong, but my sales do not reflect that), but I can't live off writing. I likely never will. I could likely produce (note the word choice) twice as much as I currently do. I've written 500k in 2.5 years, that's 200k a year, or three full-sized novels. Right now, I'd say I'm at about half that, or maybe 60% (I did write Dark Soul in about six months, and change). In the last months, I've slowed down. I'm writing a historical novel, which for me is slow work. I'm weighing options. Scenes. Individual sentences. I'm checking my facts. I'm aiming for 500 words a day - that's about two pages. The WWII novel is 1/3 done, and I'm expecting to finish this in the next 2-3 months. We're talking another 50k here. And editing. Lots of editing and fact-checking and testing, and then query-writing, which is an art that will likely mean a few weeks of work (just writing a half-page letter).

From being incredibly prolific for a few years, I've realized the toll it takes on my life (I did nothing else for years), on my partnership, my health, my sanity. I've written books that I literally cannot remember writing, as I was so desperate to "make my mark". It's led to lazy writing habits, low standards for self-editing, and frankly, I wish I hadn't done it, and I've spent the last 8-10 months just repairing the damage I've done to my craft with that. I've stopped being lazy. I'm working really damned hard on everything I do now. There are books I'm not proud to have written, because I could have done a much better job if I'd thought them through, if I'd actually thought about them while I wrote them. I wish I had. I feel guilty for them. Mortified, even.

Writing more slowly (disciplined and hopefully every day, but slowly), I'm finding the prose I write is more intense, like I'm focusing that "energy" or that "voice" much better. What I write is better. I like to savour a book while I write it. I want to remember to have written it, too. I want to ruminate on it. Let it resonate in my soul. Believe in it. Make it totally real for me - and that just takes time, and growth, and internal and emotional work that cannot be rushed.

I'm at my best when I'm laser-focused, but that focus is tough like hell to maintain, and some days I write a thousand words and am mentally and emotionally exhausted afterwards. Maybe I'm a delicate little flower who's simply not tough enough to write 10k a day. I know authors who can write 5-10k a day and write beautifully and cleanly, or authors who produce the same amount in first draft and then self-edit themselves within an inch of their sanity - nothing I write here is meant to diss you guys, and you know who you are.

I, for one (and I'm just speaking for myself), am better when I'm slow-ish. And "slow-ish" means - two novels a year, which is 0.5 novels more than Stephen King says you should write, if I remember him correctly. I'm more sane, more healthy, more intense, more focused, I have time for my partner and my house and my full-time job and my publisher and for exercise and good food and movies. Small price to pay for being "slow". I am trying to do a short story or novella "in between" to show people I'm alive and working, but I'm never going to rush a piece of writing again. Writing them - really feeling them - is too much fun, and I'm simply a better writer that way.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The social media saturation point

Several weeks ago, I've clearly reached the saturation point when it comes to social media. I like the idea of "circles" - there's the circle of intimate family (hah, small group, that) and friends, the circle of close friends, then casual friends, close contacts, contacts, remote contacts, and, the last circle is "I'm aware they exist". The widest of them all is, of course "total strangers".

Recently, I've lost the will to follow the drama of contacts, remote contacts and total strangers. If we're continuing with the circle idea, I can really expand my awareness only so far. To be blunt: Somebody somewhere on the internet is an asshat. If I go out looking for asshats, that's what I'll find (and usually I only have to look for five minutes, especially on places like Facebook or Goodreads).

The usually pattern for me was to get pointed (or stumble across)  an asshat's asshattery (on a blog, review place, forum) and then work myself in a lather over their asshattery. Needless to say, that really didn't do much for my writing. It either took time away from my current book, or it killed the spark to write. Or it throttled my faith in the genre.

The thing is, if you keep horses, they produce horse shit, not gold - it's not rocket science, but it took me years to understand that. I'm an INFJ - this shit really distresses me. I pick up moods well before most others do (yep, that would make me a good financial investor, if I could be bothered to crunch the numbers more often). I'm the canary in the coal mine. I feel this shit like a dog feels an earthquake before the glasses start shaking in the cabinet.

Well, this particular canary has now found a way to move the cage OUT of the coal mine. Because those places are fucking dangerous, with all the gas leaking out and killing *me* first. This includes, BTW, not following Google alerts. Boy, the stuff I've read when following those search terms (my name, usually) and all the pirated copies. All the nastiness. Gone. Done.

There were times when Goodreads was my second home on the net. I do respond to comments and every now and then sweep in to check reviews of my current releases, but I used to start threads and posted there a lot. A LOT. I had a lot of friendly contact there. I also had a lot of less-friendly contact there. I thought leaving behind the trans*-baiting and trans*-phobic Goodreads M/M Romance group was a good start (for the record, I don't say every member is a transphobe, but the moderators' attitudes are pretty clear on that count).

Maybe it's the perception that Goodreads is "for readers only and authors SHUT UP!" that's quite annoying and aggressively pushed by pretty militant readers who resent authors in general and on principle. I've been bitchslapped on there several times too often, and frankly now can't be bothered to make a large contribution. Firstly, I don't have the time, secondly, it detracts from my writing. In terms of Goodreads, I'm saturated. I'll still check in, but only because I have friends on there and for professional reasons. Answer emails and questions, and leave discussions well alone before a reader tells me again to "get the fuck lost".

Then review blogs. I frankly only read those of a few friends - unless published by one of the places I wouldn't visit if it was the last blog on earth. That's it.

And that's plenty for me. I'm still just one tweet away, and I respond to personal emails, and do everything else according to ability and free time. But the times when I let any of this nonsense take away from my writing (or editing, or exercise, or overall joy in life) are over. It's not my drama. The people driving the drama are doing a splendid job on their own, nobody really needs my help.

I'll be over here, writing.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

One third done, two more to go

I have a vague idea that I'm one-third done with the WWII novel. The last weeks, I've added a couple words here and there, never really hitting a glorious stretch of say, 1,700 or 2,500 words or even more. It's very much a book that gets written paragraph by paragraph rather than scene by scene or even chapter by chapter.

In total, it's past the 23k mark now, and I'm doing my best to hit 500 words per day on it. (For me, that's a laughable rate of productivity - I'd normally shoot for twice that at least in mid-project.) I'm getting the sense it's 60-70k, so we're looking at a novel (if it weren't, it would be a hydrocephalus of a novella). At 500 words/day, I'm aiming to get this done in the next 3-4 months, hopefully 3 months, because I'll be wanting to write the OTHER WWII novel when I'm going on my writing retreat.

In other news, I've finished editing and rewriting the sci-fi novella. My editor at Riptide, Kristen, made me rewrite around 20% of it, which for me is a pretty high percentage. (It's something I need to keep an eye on. Either my self-edit sucked or I have become a lazy bastard - or both.) But it's turned back in now. I'm now expecting back the WWII short story.

And I keep thinking how much more saner and balanced I feel since detangling myself a bit from the internet. I love my readers and other authors, and I still hang out with them a lot, but I've stopped getting myself involved in whatever the drama of the day is. I've learned some lessons in that regard for sure, and at the end of the day, I need to focus on both my writing and on Riptide, and drama simply takes up too much of my headspace. (And it's getting crowded in that head, with all those stories jostling around.)

There are still assholes out there, and people who crave stirring up shit and act out their frustrations or their cynicism, but I'm not letting these people kill my writing or my productivity. The proof of any author in the writing. And every reader is entitled to their response to that writing, but the author is also entitled to his or her own personal space and to ignore reviews, for example, or whatever is the drama of the day. We all have the right to live in our own bubble and ignore what is getting us down or pisses us off. Since I've stopped reading a number of blogs, I feel more balanced. Since I'm no longer spending two hours a day on Goodreads, I actually feel a whole lot saner.

Above all, I have a book to write that's taking most of my remaining headspace, so yes, I'm currently quieter, but I'm actually liking it - I can only see my reflection in the pool when the water is quiet. I'm still around to goof off on Twitter, and email, and working a lot behind the scenes at Riptide. But yeah, the WWII novel has just passed the one-third mark. I think it's getting somewhere now. Certainly, now with all my pieces in place, I can kick off the secondary plot.

And maybe after that, I'll write something short and quick on French r├ęsistants. The time is just rife with possibility.