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. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Why Nightingale is not a romance

I'm not one for false advertising - so just a few words about Nightingale and where it fits on the bookshelf.

"M/M Romance" has come to mean a very specific thing; basically lots of sex, no cheating, kink very welcome (and encouraged), and historical m/m romance tends to be light on history (sometimes very light - up to the point where it's largely modern people fucking in costumes) - exceptions prove the rule. M/M Romance has by now spawned a million sub-sub-genres (m/m/m & menage, BDSM, slavefic, etc), and readers have certain expectations.

And that's fine, because I have written "M/M Romance" and will very likely write some more of that - in fact, there's a co-written book that's most definitely a historical m/m romance (though heavy on the history) in the wings.

However, Nightingale is not an M/M Romance. It's a gay historical. It's actually interested in the history of a gay person - one who's problematic and makes mistakes, and is conflicted and very much like a real person, not a "romance lead". I'm a lot more interested to explore the history than the romance. let alone "Romance" as defined by reader expectations. (Reader expectations are all well and good - I'm writing this whole entry to manage expectations - I WANT people to find the books they want to find and save their money for those.)

The difference is ... the focus is not on the romance. There's no evil ex. People have very different reasons to have sex, it's not all LURVE. In fact, the whole book (circa 85,000 words) contains two sex scenes, one of which is so very not erotic. There's no kink. The characters don't spend pages and pages exploring their emotions for each other. For much of the book, the lovers aren't in the same room.

And yet, of course, there's a love story, because my gay character falls in love with a guy and interacts in the very queer entertainment scene of Paris in the 1940s. On a certain level, it's enemies-to-lovers, but it's a "new" take on the theme - I'm a lot more interested in mutual perception and pre-conceptions and prejudice than people holding knives to each others' throats (though that can be fun).

Many people will find Nightingale romantic. That's awesome. I think it's one of the most romantic stories I've ever written. Apart from Return on Investment, it's most definitely the most personal, most "me" story. Somewhere in those pages, you'll find me - this is me unmasked. The book has terrified me for four years because it's just so damn personal, and THAT part has nothing to do with Nazis and Paris.

Mostly, along with Return on Investment, it's a sign post of where my writing is taking me, now that I've largely overcome the fear of following the crazy stuff. The next one along that path will be my book set in 1820 that I'm currently researching.

Nightingale is not a romance, but it's a love story. I'd call it a historical novel first that happens to have a gay protagonist. It's the best thing I've ever done. No competition.

By the grace of Apollo and the Muses, I hope to write several more of these, if I can find the courage.

Eventually, I will write classical "Romance" again, because those are fun. For the moment, my solo work is going down a very different path. But if you liked Return on Investment, Nightingale might be for you, too. For me, it's another very big step forward, and I'm excited about where it's taking me. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Gold Digger release

Meanwhile, Gold Digger is in audio. :)

Even if you were only luke-warm about the e-book (and gods know it has a few issues), Alexander Masters has done a tremendous job with the characters and acting. I can honestly say I prefer the audio version to the text version by a solid mile.

It's available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Quickest of updates

I've taken a four-day weekend off work to accomplish a few things. Number one is my taxes (urgh), but number two is the copy-edits/proofing of Nightingale - so we're on track to release Nightingale on or before 28 October.

The biggest things that remain are: the cover, the print layout, and deciding on two sentences where I'm just not sure yet.

Considering how very little time I have for admin and book-keeping and all that, it looks like my next books will at first be Amazon exclusive ebooks, then, once I have a free moment, I'll create the print versions on CreateSpace (this means I need to learn how to do a proper book layout - all stuff that takes time and focus, which are two of my rarest resources right now).

One reason for all that is I'm just really freaking busy and what little time I have I want to focus on writing and creating new projects. The other reason is I'm curious about Amazon's various marketing tools and the ability to run promotions. And I like print. Print is awesome for conventions and giveaways.

I'm planning to get an audiobook, German and Italian translations done too, but the timing of those depend on the book's sales. Ideally, the English version pays for the other versions - which is a bit of stretch goal, I admit. It would mean I'd need to sell 2,250 copies, which is not impossible but is actually far more than my solo books have ever sold. And more than 2,500-2,600 if I was also planning to recover my expenses for editing etc. We'll see how that works out, in the end.

While I'm employed under the current conditions, the best I can do is to try and keep writing modest amounts and just put stuff on the market and let the books take care of themselves. If the hobby feeds itself, that's awesome. But to make this work at all, I really need to focus on the two basic things - writing, and publishing. Things will be different when I work fewer hours, but that won't happen for several years.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Skybound in audio (update on Nightingale and translations)

So, the audio version of Skybound is live (Amazon, Audible, iTunes) - and some of you have already found it and bought it (thank you!).

Skybound remains my favourite piece ever, so this is a bit of a special project. (Though, wait until Nightingale, which is also in top spot.) Matthew Lloyd Davies did a great job, and the cover is from a debut artist, Nova (who's done some beautiful Unhinge the Universe art). Jordan Taylor did the fonting (the design of the actual letters). As they say, it takes a village to write a book.

I still really like the old grey cover (Jordan Taylor), but I was intrigued by the possibility to put Felix on the cover, and the planes coming out of the sun is a small touch of genius. The rivets in the title harken back to the print/e-book cover. I really like it.

I'm enjoying doing e-books so much that I'll be aiming to get all of my catalogue into audio over the next few years. As I'm paying all narrators up front and Audible is taking a huge chunk of the money (and also does 40% off sales I cannot control and sets the price how it wants... I have literally zero power over the sales or price or even when the audiobook becomes available for sale), it's a bit of a financial consideration - we all know I went back to a day job not to finance audiobooks but to pay off the mortgage... :)

I do hope to make the money back eventually and so far what I'm seeing is encouraging on that front.

So, with Skybound wrapped, I'm waiting for Deliverance to go up (we submitted it last week) - also by Matthew Lloyd Davies, who's looking like he's becoming my "default British" voice. For American voices, obviously Gomez Pugh (Incursion) is great, and I'm really curious what you guys think of Alexander Master's version of Gold Digger (we're almost done, just cleaning up a few rough spots now). Alexander is brilliant for lots and lots of accent - hugely versatile on that front, so he's great for the Russian, Hungarian, Canadian cast of Gold Digger.

So, both Deliverance and Gold Digger should be ready very soon.

The next books I'll do in audio are Return on Investment and Nightingale. RoI should be Alexander Masters (I can practically hear him do those bankers), and I've offered Nightingale to Matthew Lloyd Davies - I'd expect he'll do a brilliant Yves. Hiring two (or three) narrators at the same time means things get completed faster, too.

And once the rights situation is clear, all the other books will follow, with the Memory of Scorpion series and Dark Soul leading the pack - but there's going to be good news about Dark Soul towards the end of 2016, so that's a good time to launch the audios. (Yes, I said that in plural :) ) I'm expecting Alexander to do the Scorpions.

And both in Munich and Bristol, some of you have been asking about Nightingale, which was originally promised for 5 October. I was doing my damned best to keep the date intact, but fate intervened - the proof-reader/copy-editor working on it has a very small baby (I didn't know this when I hired her), so the edit is taking a bit more time than I'd planned (three weeks instead one one). I should get it back on the 30th, but that's in the middle of a work week for me, and I'll be having a house guest for 10-12 days, so I was planning to not spend every second hunting down the very last typos when I'd rather look after my guest. Neither of those is a job you can easily outsource. :)

I'm still hoping to wrap everything in October, even though I also have to file my taxes in that month too (cue stress, digging up paperwork and spending lots of time with spreadsheets). So it's all a bit crazy, and that's just the stuff I can talk about.

In terms of translations, I have two rough German translations on my plate (Skybound and Deliverance) and have hired two Italian translators to do Deliverance, Incursion, Return on Investment and Nightingale - so all of those things should happen in 2016, too. 2016 will be a huge transition year for me, as I roll out my backlist into audio, German, and Italian and some books and series will see a relaunch, too. That's basically where all my royalties are going, while the day job finances paying off the mortgage and general life. It'll all be good. (Also, I'll need a French translator at some point.)

So, for the future, I'm fully expecting to continue on with some sequels and prequels of "old" stories (I have more to tell about the Scorpions, for example), while also putting out completely new, unrelated work. My horoscope says it's because of the solar/lunar eclipse (which happen at very interesting points in my horoscope - career and creativity), but I'm in a pretty good place now with my work and my overall energy levels. Saturn's going to stick around in my first house, so this is two years where I do a lot of "growing up" and "taking responsibility". It also means slow, steady growth through hard work and discipline and I'm good with that.

Not sure what's been holding things back - I'm getting regular acupuncture for stress and "yang imbalance" (you don't say), and I'm on a much better track now, mentally.

I don't think I enjoyed the break from writing, but the mind is clear, the purpose is out there and I'll take small steps along my path. I've spent the last six months just thinking and watching and re-evaluating (things, people, goals), and yeah, I've come to some conclusions and I've removed things that stressed me from my life, but mostly I got rid of them in my head (big victory). I'm not sure how much of that makes sense if you're not inside of it, but I've done a very good job at making things hard for myself.

I've decided that that's unnecessary. I am a great deal stronger and more resourceful than I've given myself credit for, and things will play out just fine for me, regardless of which path I'm taking. The most important thing is to keep walking, staying true to my inner self, and the stories that are given to me, and to overall be kinder to myself (and others). And the writing will follow. It always does. It's always been there and will always be.