Friday, 15 January 2016

Circa halfway on Risk Return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Announcement - Broken Blades (February 2016)

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Another year draws to a close (Happy Solstice)

Considering the fact that the Solstice is over, I'll consider the year over - as we enter into the Winter season and the days get longer, it's been a pretty introspective time for me. Mostly, I've been making plans for 2016 and said good-bye to 2015, which was part unholy mess and clearly part threshold year for me.

That said, I did achieve a lot of good things even in a year that wasn't very productive creatively.

- I signed with a Japanese and an Italian publisher for translations of some of my favourite stories.

- I got my "dream job" - where "dream job" can be defined as as job in an awesome team, for an ethically "good" company, doing something interesting and varied that I'm good at and for which I'm appreciated and paid very well.  I'm building towards my actual Dream, of course, which will involve coaching and training creatives, but for the moment and the next few years, I have it basically made. This was the kind of job I really really wanted and didn't think I could have. It was a massive improvement on my previously favourite job at a different bank, for less money. I wish I had the option to pull fewer hours, but the long days are a small price to pay.

- I knocked a significant amount off my mortgage. If things continue the way they've been going, I'm on track to own my house outright in 5-6 years. Though the actual goal is much shorter than that.

- I got to meet awesome people - fellow writers, but also new publishers, editors, translators, cover artists, audio narrators, and students. Few things are as energising for me as working with a fellow creative towards a common goal. I'm grateful for all of them and look forward to the projects that will come from this.

- I got qualified in NLP (Practitioner level) and did a lot of work on my negative emotions (fear, sadness, but mostly anger). That had interesting results and was tested seriously a few months later, but generally, I've become a better person. Also I know more about myself now, and some of that was completely eye-opening.

- I self-published Nightingale after five years. That was one of those "finally do it in 2015" goals. It's good to let a project go which has made me grow tremendously as a writer. The demons I've wrestled with that book are all sorted now, I think. Of course, there's a book after that that I'm even more scared of, but we'll get there in 2016. I hope to never again drag a book along with me for that long.

- I held my first writers' workshop and loved doing it. It's pointing to the future I want to create for myself - especially when combined with hypnosis and various alternative healing techniques.

- I had my first audiobooks produced (Incursion, Skybound, Deliverance, Gold Digger) and ended up loving audio as a format. Also I learned that my words translate really well into that medium.

- I had my first Italian translations made (Incursion, Deliverance) and apparently the Italian readers appreciate the kind of stories I have to tell, so I'm very excited about doing more of those.

- I had more German translations done - that's unfinished business I'm dragging into 2016, but I'm looking forward to getting several stories out tightly together.

- I terms of my "writing career", there's been a major re-alignment. After learning this the hard way, I much prefer running my own projects and my own career over handing this responsibility and power over to a publisher, so I expect to self-publish circa 90% of my future books.

It's not the money, it's the control. I'm no longer willing to work around a publisher's schedule or subject my books to an editor I haven't chosen and therefore don't trust. At this stage in my career, I actually need that power to be at peace with the whole thing. I'm not good at delegating (and have never been good at that), but mostly, I'm not okay with giving power over the stuff I was born to create to strangers. Not happening - unless somebody pays me a significant amount for a work-for-hire piece (significant amount = making a substantial contribution to paying off the mortgage).

Secondly, I've decided to not "write to market". The only reason I can see why anybody would write to market is the money. But money's taken care off. I make more editing for the bank than I need, so there's no need for maximising that income stream.

Obviously I want to get paid for my work, but there's a difference in writing a book well that "my readers" will appreciate and writing a book that ticks the boxes of current trends. With my writing time now so limited, I'm making a commitment only to write books that must be written - and those tend to be the weird ones, the historicals, fantasy, sci-fi novels. More books like Nightingale, or Dark Soul, and more Scorpion novels.

Overall, with these irritants taken care of, I'm looking forward to writing a lot more in 2016 than I have been in 2014-2015, and self-publishing the vast majority of it. (The main reason why I'm keeping a back door open for 10% of my work is that I might get inspired by a call put out by a publisher or contribute to a charity anthology).

So, for 2016: 

- I won't be taking on any more editing work (my brain is booked out with the day job, and I only have a few creative hours left in the day, so those will go towards writing my own stuff). I'm still around for coaching.

- This time next year, I'll be fully qualified as an NLP Master Practitioner. I've been a little nervous, but then various puzzle pieces fell together in the right way and I think it's time to tackle that. That should also make me a much better coach. I like to think of it as "levelling up". NLP Trainer and possibly Trainer's Trainer will follow in due course when I'm ready. I'll pick up some other therapies along the way - whatever could help a stuck writer.

- I'll get control back over several of my old books, so I'll be writing sequels that people are waiting for or that have been dinging around in my skull. Specifically, that should be the sequels to Incursion, Gold Digger, and Dark Soul. I'll also write some more Scorpion novels, but I don't foresee them coming out before late 2018.

- I've cancelled Suckerpunch - there are contractual reasons for that. Also, Counterpunch will eventually fall out of print and won't return. That said, I have an idea to use the characters for something else. It just won't be set in that alternative universe. But that's still a long way away.

- I'll keep paying off the mortgage and work towards a future where the financial stuff is taken care of and that means one step closer to the Big Dream.

- I'm also going to push a number of health goals - move more, eat better (though I'm doing pretty well on that second count).

- I want to travel more. Huge number of destinations and to-be-visited friends are on the list. I'll see how they all fit into my calendar.

- In terms of production, I'm planning for (English) audiobooks of Return on Investment and Nightingale; German translations for Skybound, Incursion, Gold Digger, Return on Investment, and Nightingale; Italian translations for Nightingale and Return on Investment.

In terms of writing, I'm planning to release in 2016:

- Risk Return (Return on Investment sequel)
- Unnamed Return on Investment prequel
- Broken Blades (with LA Witt)
- The "whale book" (historical novel)
- The first book in an urban fantasy mini-series (kind of a series - the format is a bit weirder)
- Exile (Incursion sequel)
- Pure Gold (Gold Digger sequel)
- Dark Heart (Dark Soul spin-off), Silvio & Battista (no real title yet), and the story of the third brother.

So that's 9 new projects and most of those are novels, with a few novellas thrown in - so I can't actually promise I'll deliver all of those. In an ideal world, they'll all happen, and a few projects I'm not even aware of yet (like co-writes).

I've chosen them because only two of them contain major (read: months of) research efforts, and all of them have at least a core already that I can build around. But of course, editing, proofreading, layout and checking translations and doing quality checks of audiobooks will also take time.

At the very least, I'm aiming for a new book release every quarter, so that's four. Generally, I feel much more positive about writing and publishing than I have felt in years, so 2016 should rock. I definitely look forward to getting all those ideas out on paper.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nightingale releases

It's a testament to how far I'm behind with everything that I only manage to update the blog now. It meant overcoming the jetlag and finding a moment to organise my thoughts.

So, as subscribers to my newsletter already know, Nightingale is out now on Amazon.

If you don't want to buy it from Amazon, send me an email to vashtan at gmail dot com - I'm happy to send you the file for a small donation to a LGBTQ charity or a charity that helps the refugees. Both causes are close to my heart.

I'll be updating this blog post with links to interviews and blog posts about Nightingale. I'm not really doing a tour, but in case you're interested, the links are below:

Inglorious Bitches: And A Nightingale Sang 

(More to follow)  

Monday, 16 November 2015

Back from New Zealand

Last week's trip to New Zealand was really a family visit to Palmerston North, so we didn't "do" much there - it was very much about family bonds with Dude's family (he has a stepmother and two step siblings there). 

Still, we managed to go on a day trip to Wellington (completely booked out, so finding a place where to rest our weary heads was a mini adventure in itself). And here's an impression from the Wellingtom Tourist Information Centre: 

The hotel where we ended up staying (Room 101 - you can't make this up) was down just a few doors from a tattoo parlour, so Dude got his long-awaited "armband" tattoo. 

On top of that, we visited (again) Te Papa, and enjoyed it very much  - especially the Gallipoli exhibition  which was very well done. 

And since I love the local jade (pounamu), I got myself a koru (spiral) piece and two whalebone carvings - the whale stranded at Gisborne, just down the coast, and the Maori have the traditional right to stranded whales in New Zealand, so that's where my two pieces came in. I've never seen whalebone carvings before (outside Te Papa, that is), and considering I'm working on a book about whalers, that seems like a nice little "coincidence". I do like surrounding myself with physical reminders of the book I'm working on - it keeps me focused and on task.

The first is a fairly traditional "hook" (supposed to bring prosperity and protect during journeys over water). You can see the typical whalebone structure - unlike most bone carvings that are mostly cow bone, shiny, white and polished, whale book is greyer and porous. It's also oddly light, and the slight roughness is actually nice to touch. 

The second is more "modern" in design  and clearly an unfurling fern (koru - the spiral, which signifies growth, strength, beauty and new beginnings).

I'm currently mostly wearing the hook, but I predict I'll switch back and forth between these two. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Update (Nightingale, Riptide et al)

Thanks all for your support over the last week or so – I’m grateful to have such great friends and so many passionate supporters. I’m humbled by you all and your generosity.

I’m happy to report that I’m working constructively with Riptide and assorted lawyers on finalising my exit from the business. Lawyers are doing their thing, editing agreements and such, but as I’m watching, it’s taking a shape everybody can live with. I want to stress that my interpretation of that first agreement was faulty – what I saw as “lopsided and unfair” was merely a draft missing my input. I’m optimistic we’ll reach an equitable, fair agreement that takes into account all concerns of all parties. Once the agreement is signed, I’m assured that the rights for Nightingale will return to me, and I can’t wait to share that book with you.

My primary focus in all of this was my readers – and to explain why the long-anticipated book wasn’t coming out on the day as promised. Making the promise was the big mistake that started it all—and it was not fair of me to blame Riptide for getting out ahead of myself and our negotiations.

I want to make absolutely sure it is understood that a boycott is the last thing I could possibly want for Riptide. I didn’t endorse a boycott, either. For two years, I was very involved at Riptide (I wrote the original author contract, I funded the first months of the company, I named the venture, I acquired lots of authors personally, edited, proof-read and a hundred other small things) and have stepped back since 2014 as Riptide hired staff who are more specialised and obviously do a much better job than my “jack-of-all-trades” approach.

The house has launched/re-launched plenty of careers, which pleases me greatly, because every author who makes a living or grows their career is a little triumph. I know Riptide has changed lives.  I’ve met plenty of amazing people in that time. The last thing I’d want to do is damage their incomes, livelihoods or even their joy in writing and publishing. Many of them are my friends, both online and offline.

But regardless of all that, I understand I’ve caused a great deal of consternation, and for that, I take full responsibility. It’s pointless to retrace exactly where the misunderstandings or faults were – I’m taking full responsibility for the miscommunication and misunderstandings, and I understand that my “in the heat of the moment” statements have led to even more misunderstandings from that.

With this, I want to wholeheartedly and unreservedly offer my apologies to everybody who was negatively impacted by my actions – I hope to learn from it.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Why I cannot publish Nightingale

On Saturday morning,  received a notice that Riptide Publishing would file legal action against me if I do go ahead with the publication of Nightingale.

Legally, that's their right - they still hold the contract to the book. A contract that contains no clause that forces them to publish the book at all. (The rights don't reverse upon "failure to publish", in other words, if Riptide decides to not publish the book, there's basically nothing I can do.)

Now, the self-publishing of Nightingale wasn't a surprise to Riptide. I informed Riptide of my schedule, even who's doing the proofing, and that everything was above board can be seen in the fact that they gave me the un-watermarked cover image. (For which I was supposed to pay out of my royalties.)

The background to this is that I've wanted to leave the "partnership" for more than a year (for many, many reasons, but the most important is that I want to focus on coaching and I see a conflict of interest between the function of publishing and coaching/advising authors), and another is that I prefer to consider writing a hobby, a minor part of my life - it allows me to write whatever I want, publish it whenever I want, and only do as much "marketing" as I feel comfortable with. And, of course, hire editors I trust and know. Basically move away from wanting to earn money back to being an amateur who writes what he damn well pleases and published under those same terms.

Now, Riptide has sent me an agreement to leave the "partnership" that was so incredibly lopsided (all advantages go to Riptide, none to me that I'm not legally entitled to anyway) that I find it impossible to sign.

And to put on the thumbscrews - which is what it feels like - Riptide is holding my book "Nightingale" hostage - which it has no interest in publishing, didn't edit****, didn't line-edit, didn't proof, and even the cover is 90% based on a draft a friend made for me.

Riptide of course knows that this is my best novel ever, and what the book means to me. It's basically the perfect stick to beat me with.

So, with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I have to tell you that Nightingale will not be published. Legally, Riptide owns the book, and according to the contract, they don't even have to publish it. The contract I signed - thinking I was "among friends" - contains no "failure to publish" clause.

At this point, I don't know what will become of the novel.

The only thing I know is that I consider starting, funding, working for and supporting Riptide one of the three biggest mistakes of my life.

Riptide is no longer a work of mine - I distance myself from it as far as I possibly can, and by the grace of the gods I will be allowed eventually to leave the "partnership" without losing control of all my work.

I consider it ironic that a book that's all about freedom and artistic self-respect ends up the hostage of this ... "entity".

As far as I'm concerned, I'm too dazed and hurt and in pain to even think whether I want to write at all. After this blow, I'm half a step away from quitting entirely - I can't even think of writing at the moment, or the future. I'm heart-broken, humiliated and upset.

**** I paid the developmental editor (whom I hired personally because I always planned to self-publish the book) and Riptide so far has paid half of that fee. But Riptide was not involved in the edits or the final shape of it - it didn't change a comma. What Riptide did contribute is a damn fine blurb, and an editing letter upon acceptance that I ignored.

ADDENDUM: There's a new development.