Thursday, 16 October 2014

Research

I haven't done that many words recently, but I have been doing quite a bit of research for the next book (my historical novel). Originally, I was planning to wrap up the first draft by 1 November, but that's not going to happen. It would mean writing 3-4,000 words per day to hit that goal, and while it can be done, I'm a lot slower than that when I'm on my own. (That would be roughly equivalent to 15-20 pages of finished text.)

However, the new goal is to hit "The End" by 12 November. Which is the date when I pack my bags and fly out to join L.A. Witt in Seattle for four weeks. (The last week, the Dude is joining us for some sightseeing.) The plan is to see Washington State (where we have a book set), Portland and Seattle (where we have several books set) and write a couple Market Garden books while we're in the same room. We have some fragments, but really need to focus for a few days to wrap them up.

So, the last few research books helped me understand an entertainment career in 1930-1940ish, which is what I desperately needed to flesh out my character. Like, how do get a record contract, what is the usual rate of pay, and how many sold copies constitutes a hit? I also looked at the evolution of jazz/swing, and some of that history was fascinating. I didn't know, for example, about the massively positive bias Paris had for blacks - essentially, once jazz/swing started making an impact, and no doubt also driven by Josephine Baker being a mega-star, Black was cool, and many black musicians/artists were astonished how much the Parisians loved them (even discriminating against, say, whites or other ethnic groups, like Romany, when it came to hiring), compared to their US/UK home crowd. (Of course, the Nazis ruined it all, and most black artists left Paris when the Nazis were at the gates.) It's not a part of history that's commonly taught.

So, yeah, fascinating stuff. It took me about two days to research all that, and there will only be a few sentences referring to it in the final manuscript, so in some ways, researching that deeply is an outrageous waste of time. However, I think it'll show in added depth, richness and confidence, so it's all good. If this book is going to be the best one I've ever done, putting in some extra work is no problem at all.

I'm planning to re-work some passages to reflect the research (just making it sharper and more correct - I was going with some guesstimates, and they didn't prove to be spot on).

On a side note, I hope everybody is having fun at GRL in Chicago this year. I'm hoping to be back next year.

Meanwhile, if anybody wants to meet me in Seattle from 13 November to 10 December, please get in touch. Happy to meet for a coffee/chat/sign books. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Wrapping the Scorpion series

For me, a book "leaves" in two ways: I've finished the editing process (developmental edits, line edits, proofing); I'm receiving the final files (allowing me to file the project folder under "published" and update my spreadsheet entry from "in editing" to "ready"; but even after that, the book is in limbo - no reviews, hardly anybody has read it, and I have no idea how it's being received. That last step can last months, sometimes half a year or a year. Unless the book is out there, there's still something unfinished about it. I haven't been paid for all the work, and I don't know whether it's a flop or a success. Whether the people I wrote it for actually like it.

In any case, A Taste for Poison, the third and last Memory of Scorpions novel, is now available for all the people who've pre-ordered the book from Riptide. (And thank you, pre-orderers - I do make almost twice the money per book for copies sold directly through Riptide.) It'll go into general circulation in two days (13 October).

I'll be supporting the launch with a blog tour kicking off on Monday - the details are here. I'm also setting out a price for a commenter - the whole series in paperback (and, believe me, the books are stunning).

This brings to end a process that started in 2010, when the idea came to me, and 2011, when Scorpion was published in its first edition by Dreamspinner. I wrote Lying with Scorpions in 2013, and Taste for Poison in early 2014. Both represent the largest part of my solo efforts in 2013/2014 (on my own, I'm fairly slow).

I've undergone quite a few changes since that first version. I went through four real life jobs, was laid off twice, head-hunted once, walked out of a job during my probationary period once, studied "Personal Development" type courses, from energy work to hypnosis. Changed direction a few times, blundering along the path that still always means writing. Regardless of all other shenanigans, I'm writing, thinking about writing, developing as a writer, and, hopefully, as a human being.

When I began writing Scorpion, we'd just moved into our house. As I write this, we've lived here for 4 years, re-vamped the garden, but overall not changed a lot. There's a sense of history for me between those books. Ideally, the reader won't notice the years that came in between. On my trophy shelf, however, where I keep my print author copies in order of appearance, there are several books between the parts of the Memory of Scorpions series: Capture & Surrender, Unhinge the Universe, the Country Mouse collection, the Japanese version of Skybound (all between MoS #1 and MoS #2), and If It Drives, Hostile Ground and Return on Investment (between MoS #2 and MoS #3). That's seven books in between - just showing how slow I am, really.

But considering that the ending of book 3 leaves a lot of room for future adventures, am I really done with the world? 

Not quite. That is, the Kendras trilogy is currently done. I might eventually return to the Scorpions and write about their adventures again, but I think I've left them in a good place. Feel free to make up your own version about what happens next.

There are a couple things that intrigue me about that world - a great deal, actually. I do want to write a novella about Widow's origins (how he fell in love with the Lady Protector, essentially - avoiding spoilers here), I want to write about how Adrastes joined the Scorpions (which is very different from how Kendras did it), and I'm intrigued in a can't-look-away kind of way y how the Scorpions started - or Veras An Timresh's last stand against the Westlander invasion at Gorge Point. I think I'm looking at a novella each at least, if not more. Then I know stuff about Selvan I wouldn't ind sharing, but that can be part of Adrastes's story. So, yeah, those might happen. I really hope they do - I love the characters, even if some of them are villains.

In the meanwhile, I really hope you enjoy the third book - and feel free to follow me on the blog tour and ask questions. I'll do my best to answer. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Assorted October news

I think I'll soon launch back into writing (maybe today, though the evening is taken over by my Queer Book Club) - the reservoir is filling up, and the thought of writing doesn't cause reluctance or disgust (yeah, it was that bad, and gods know why).

Meanwhile, a whole bunch of news. If you're missing some of my backlist titles, Riptide is celebrating its 3rd birthday with some huge discounts. (I can't believe it's been three years.)

I'd also like to draw your attention to Queer Romance Month - a collection of blog posts/discussions. I blogged here. 

Then I'm part of a charity bundle called Another Place in Time, which brings together some of the finest historical m/m writers. You can get it here. All profits go towards AllOut.org, which champions LGBTQ rights globally. My contribution is the short story Deliverance, liberated from Noble Romance a while back and re-edited. You can find a more specific blog post about it all here. I will release Deliverance on its own likely in April 2015.



And then I get to announce that Lone Wolf, part of Riptide's Bluewater Bay series, is now up for pre-order. It's a proper RomCom, and is about two writers, one a fan and the other the creator of a very successful series. It'll be out in time for Christmas, on 22 December.




Blurb:

Hunter Easton is screwed. Fans, producers, and his agent are all chomping at the bit for the next book in his wildly popular Wolf’s Landing series, but he’s got epic writer’s block and is way behind deadline. Then he reads The World Tree, a fanfic novel by his online friend “Lone Wolf.” It isn’t just a great story—it’s exactly what the series needs.

Kevin Hussain is thrilled when “Wolf Hunter” wants to meet up after reading The World Tree. When Wolf Hunter turns out to be Hunter Easton himself, Kevin is starstruck. When Hunter tells him he wants to add The World Tree to Wolf’s Landing, Kevin is sure he’s being pranked. And when their online chemistry carries over—big time—into real life, Kevin is convinced it’s all too good to be true.

The problem is . . . it might be. The book deal, the sex, the money—everything is amazing. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Kevin is left wondering if Hunter really loves him, or just loves his book.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Working on the Birds book

I'm back working on the Birds book, my historical set in France under the Occupation - I'm currently ploughing through my research library I've amassed a while back. The good thing about that is that I'm snapping up small details and ideas for another book that I haven't touched in 5 years. So yesterday I finally cracked the character arch of one of the main characters. He needed some level of redemption, and just beating him down and giving him dignity in defeat wasn't enough. He needs to break out of his shell, which will be a hundred times harder. I'm getting quite excited again about that book now.

I'm currently working through books at a rate of one every two days (historical non-fiction tends towards long books), and making notes. I don't quite have enough yet to continue on the Birds books - the year 1943 is currently a bit of a black hole for me, and I need ways to fill it. Once I hit about March 1944, I'll be back on safe ground, so that's what I'm currently focusing on.

The trick might be to write out of order - I do have some events I want to put in and I have an idea how they'll affect my characters, and I can always rewrite everything. In other words, I could use brackets and just fast-forward to where I get my feet back under me in the book.

Other than that, I'm well behind on everything in real life. I hope to catch up eventually, but my inbox is completely out of control. I'm the worst correspondent ever.







Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Back in the fray

The most writerly things I've done over the last week were: I wrote blog posts for the blog tour of a Taste for Poison, the third book in the Memory of Scorpions series. I've also followed the comments on the Counterpunch/Belonging tour. I've checked edits on a long book and sent it back to the editor. And I'm currently outlining the historical novel I abandoned out of fear/anxiety/nervousness and that I want to finish before the year's up.

I'm still no further with the translation of that short story, and I've not been great at putting new words on paper. I do hope to wrap the outline today, though, do that's some progress.

Health-wise, I've decided to make health/wellbeing a priority while working as a full-time writer. The previous weekend clued me in on a health issue I've been having for apparently way too many years, and that's a dopamine-related hormonal imbalance. I'm not even trying the NHS with that; when I went to the GP with my low thyroid function, they told me I'm "low, but within acceptable limits" (piling on the weight despite a fairly sensitive diet being apparently "completely acceptable"). So I'm not even going to try with the dopamine issue. Instead, I've changed my diet slightly and have started supplementing a dopamine precursor (L-tyrozine). I'm not sure whether it's supposed to work that quickly, but mood and motivation and energy are up. Also, all cravings for "nasty carbs", sweets, sugar and chocolate are gone. So I've been sugar/snacking/sweets-free since boosting my dopamine levels. Interestingly enough, L-tyrozine also supports the thyroid, so I might have found that magic key to several, subtle issues. I'll let you know how it goes. (Also, L-tyrozine is nothing secret or special - it's an over-the-counter amino acid.)

To give my body a chance to shed the weight and fix itself, I've also started intermittent fasting, fairly commonly known as the 5:2 diet (you go extremely low calorie on two days of the week, and eat normally on 5). I can't cope with being hungry, so I'm going with the 16:8 model, which appeals much more to me. It means I fast for 16 hrs every day and eat "normal" for 8. Apparently there's an even more hardcore version that goes 20:4, but I'm not ready for that (I can possibly switch to 18:6, which feels very doable). I'm not hungry, provided I eat something with lots of protein as my last meal before the fasting period. So that's cool. I'm starting to observe some changes, but whether that's due to only eating home-made food, the lack of snacking, or possibly a more active thyroid (I have no way of knowing), I couldn't say. I'm making sure I drink plenty and stay hydrated. I'm not in starvation mode (which apparently only kicks after 30-60hrs of no food), though it takes me a bit longer to get going in the morning without my coffee.

The science behind intermittent fasting is pretty impressive - the idea being that the body goes into ketonic (fat-burning) state after 12 hrs of fasting. You end up spending 4 hrs a day eating into your fat reserves. It's only a few hundred fat calories per day, but it adds up.

I've tried it all - calorie counting, exercise, Weight Watchers, every powder and shake and bar. Intermittent fasting is cheap, natural and easy. No expensive artificial supplements drenched in artificial sweeteners that make you hungry after an hour. It appeals to me on every level. It's also something you can do when you're meeting friends or living with a non-dieter. I'm just shifting the end point of the fast to the shared dinner.

Lastly, there's chatter in writing circles about how the "blog is dead, long live Twitter/Instagram/Facebook". Some writers are shutting down their blogs or stop blogging. I agree that the blog is no longer a "must-have", but I consider it a "nice to have". First of all, I mistrust Facebook tremendously - I'm not going to post my thoughts there only to be shut down once Zuckerberg's algos realise it's not my "real" name. Secondly, sometimes I have thoughts and updates that don't fit into 140 characters. The blog for me is "thinking out loud", and it's on a platform I might not control (Blogger can shut me down), but which I feel much more confident that I won't get screwed like it's happening to people on Facebook. And I love Twitter, but you can't develop a very detailed thought in the format.

So, for the time being, I'm going to keep the blog. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Scorpion - very cheap

So, Riptide put Scorpion on a special promotion - it's currently $0.99 (or £.0.77) at Amazon com/co.uk.

Also, I'm running a price promotion for Return on Investment from tomorrow (I'm experimenting with several tools Amazon offers, to see the effect with my own two eyes, as it were). I'm still gathering data for the self-publishing. So, if you were hesitant/dubious, now's a good time to try those two. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tranced

Over the last four days, I've acquired a qualification in hypnosis (accredited and all). It's a four-day weekend, full-on course where you put people in a trance pretty much after 3 hours on the course. I've learned quite a bit about myself (one: still lots of garbage left over from my childhood that I should work with to release some stuff I no longer need - but that's no surprise).

I've done some beautiful work with some of my partners on the exercises. Found a woman who's also into power animals/shamanism and we shared one (Eagle, though my primary is Raccoon and hers was Bear), so we tranced each other on a shamanic journey. It was lovely hanging out with Raccoon again  -we were on a beach, playing with a red plastic ball. The trance was about expansion and empowerment, which seemed somewhat incongruous, but we rolled with it. I was aware of people watching, but, to be honest, I had too much fun just playing with Raccoon and the plastic ball. At some point, he gives me the ball (it even had teeth marks).

Afterwards, we talk in the group about colours in trance. And apparently "red" means "power". Cool. On the way to the course that day, I'm standing on a full tube train, and a guy with headphones stands next to me. And what's the one line I pick up through his headphones? That's right: Snap's "I've Got The Power!"

So that was me for the rest of that day:



But even the other stuff ended up being significant. While my partner tranced me about empowerment/expansion/growth, Raccoon was all about "Let's just have fun". And it became abundantly clear that that's my path. Empowerment/expansion will come as a side-line if I play and do what I enjoy and focus on it. It's a no-brainer when you write it down like that. (Though apparently it'll come with some teeth marks, LOL).

A French guy tranced me about the birds book (which is set in France), and it was beautiful, thinking of my books as trees that sometimes rest and then grow again. He took me down a path with all my books as beautiful trees and I loved that. (I don't remember much more than that, I was way, way down.)

I did the "authoritarian" (Estabrooks) trance with two other people who are really awful at accepting authority (two of whom from countries with recent fascist/totalitarian pasts, go figure). That was the most polite, "GO, SLEEP NOW! DEEPER" you could imagine.

And yes, we did several different kinds of trance, from the very common Erickson to Estabrooks to Elman. All slightly different in approach. The one I like best is half Erickson and half whatever I think the client will respond to best. But pretty much all of my favourite inductions (the part where you put somebody in a trance in the first place) are based on touch. Big surprise - I'm overall very touchy-feely anyway.

I helped one girl release a lot of stuff (there's a huge sense of responsibility when you make somebody cry - or very nearly cry) - going from smiling and laughing to sobbing in five or ten minutes is ... interesting. I ended up crying like a dog in one of the group trances. I always do when that trainer does that particular trance. It's very healing, but I'll be the one with tears running down my face for twenty minutes.

One thing that is apparently becoming my "style" is to go very specific about the environment I put people. The teacher says "content-free" is best, but that's very generic stuff that the other person's subconsciousness just colours in. I go pretty specific and describe actual impressions. Say, "content-free" is when they send you to "your favourite place", whereas I would put people in a specific environment - a meadow, a forest, a beach, describing flowers and light and sun/stars/moon. It seemed like the right thing to do - but then, I knew the people I was trancing and tailored the environment/impressions to them and they seemed to enjoy it (saying the imagery was "beautiful"). Because, let's face it, I'm a writer - staying "generic" would be "bad writing" in prose. It's a mindset/and decades-old training that's taking over as you improvise a trance on the fly. (No scripts - urgh.)

But I'll see if I can keep it more content-free with people I know less well. In any case, I'm looking forward to trancing writers/artists. The results should be amazing with people who are so good at visualisation. But I'm looking forward to trancing just about everybody. It's play time.