Writing Progress Report

I haven’t posted a book progress update in a while. So here is one. The fourth Dome of Souls novel is all but ready. It’s proofread, I have a cover, only thing I need to do is to format it and start the publishing process.
Under my pseudonym, I also have a cover for the latest beast and it is ready and currently at the proofreader. Once I get it back, I have to make the final changes and then that one will be good to go too.
So what’s keeping me from doing the final steps of the fourth Dome of Souls novel? The fifth one! 😉 I’m in the process of writing its first draft and it’s been going very smoothly and quickly and I’m already at 75,000 words. I expect the beast to have between 90,000 and 100,000 words in the end, so not much more to go. I’m pushing for the completion of the first draft to stay in the nice and steady creation flow it is in now. While Dome 3 = Jeronimo and Dome 4 = “title to be announced soon”, took a while to write, Dome 5 is like Dome 2 = The Anatomy of Anarchy, it practically wrote itself, because the story was all very clear in my head already.
It was and is a great pleasure to be writing Dome 5 due to this “the book writes” itself aspect. I’m at it for seven weeks now and I suppose the first draft will be finished after ten weeks or so. That would be my second quickest time ever for finishing the first draft of a novel, the fastest being and probably remaining “To Mix and To Stir”, the second Hagen Patterson novel, which took me a mere five weeks to write.
I’m always talking about the initial drafts here, the self-editing etc. process is so much longer than the first draft. “To Mix and To Stir” remains the fastest book also in the department of the overall process including self-editing, and editing/proofreading by someone else. To Mix and To Stir came out nine months after I started with the beast.
The pseudonym book coming out soon is the second fastest. Since I suppose it will be ready in January or February, it took/will take 13 or 14 months from writing to putting it out there. So far so good! I better get back to Dome 5, because I am itching to finish that first draft :-)
Dome 4 will probably come out in January or February too, once I get around to formatting it 😉 Cheers!

Writing Update

I’ve not announced a writing update in an age! So here is one. 🙂 I’m in the last stages of review for my fourth Dome of Souls novel before I will hand it over to a proofreader. Meaning the beast will come out before the end of the year, I hope. My alter ego (I’m also writing books under a pseudonym) is in the same stage with the (maybe) last installation of a trilogy. Theoretically there would be room for another part of the story, but for the moment it’s done. But back to Regina. So the fourth Dome of Souls novel: Remember when the sacked Keepers of Jeronimo left for the freshly found New Earth without telling the revolutionists back home where it is?
We are making a jump into the future again and a thousand years after the fall of Jeronimo, the Earthlings are finding their lost brothers on New Earth. However, what they find is not exactly what they imagined they would. Evil grin.

I must say I struggled a bit through the writing of this beast, since it represented the challenge of two cultures clashing and how to portray those, which is an aspect absent from the three earlier Dome of Souls novels where everything happened within one culture which was in the process of changing itself from within. The culture clash this time was of course interesting and a new aspect, but I did fight with how to, in my opinion, “correctly” portray such a culture clash. It is however a nice preparation for the fifth book, which will (finally) take us to Bahrein. I’m greatly looking forward to writing that beast and since it’s quite detailed in my mind (at least to a much larger extent than number four was when I started), I think the writing process will be quite fast and smooth for the Bahreinian one, though you never know. I guess I can start working on that beast in autumn.

Other than that there are two stand-alone novels slumbering. One has been shopped around agents already without a result, the other is ready to be shopped around with agents, but I’m not finding the patience and energy to write the agent advertising package for that one.
Both stand-alones have the disadvantage of being rather short, just 65,000 words, and most publishers want stuff that’s longer than 70,000 words. Ridiculous that a story can be judged by something like this, but…
I’ll try to send one off to a few publishers, the other to a few agents and after a while give up and bring them out myself again. Though I’m undecided yet whether they’ll be under my name or the pseudonym.
So, I’m busy as usual and my pseudonym has gotten a few fans on whatpadd, just five people or so, but nevertheless it feels good to get encouragement from people who don’t know me personally 😉
And thus the never-ending writing journey continues!

Why I am Bothering to Write Fiction in this Day and Age

Author Kameron Hurley is writing for Locus once in a while and I really liked her latest article, but I feel the urge to write a „response“ from the other end of the spectrum.

Yes, I do have hundreds of rejections slips at home, yes, I have workshopped my work in peer groups extensively in the Tokyo Writers Workshop in the past and also Odyssey Online for five years. Yes, I have leveled up extensively over the past years and my novels now are a lot better than five years ago. Yes, I do believe in continuous learning, refining the craft, etc., and I am sure my novels will be better in five years than my novels are right now. But… I still haven’t „made it“. (let me define having „made it“ as having a major publishing house churning out your stuff and being repped by a reputable agent)
It’s pointless to speculate on the issue of why. Although I can throw a few attempts at reasons into the room:
1) I don’t live in the US or UK
2) I am not a US or UK citizen
3) I am not a native speaker of the beautiful English language
4) I am not good at schmoozing with editors and agents at the few conventions I used to go to
5) I don’t really like short fiction and despite having sold some short stories, I didn’t manage to place them in the two/three big magazines out there, and instead focus(ed) on long-fiction, my real passion.
6) I am not of the kind who loves writing the perfect query letter and the perfect synopsis.

Despite that, I have managed to be published by two small presses in Canada and the US. However, the response times of both publishers are a joke, to put it mildly. I haven’t heard from the publisher in the US in nine months or so, despite emailing him every other week. Their, sorry to say, unprofessional working style drives me nuts.
So, yes, I have resorted to self-publishing – why? To get rid of the stuff! To have it off my desk, out of my mind, done with it, gone, bye, sayonara, to free up space for the next project.

So far all the first books in a series I have self-published went through the submission gauntlet and the workshopping gauntlet. Actually it’s only three – Dome Child, She Should Have Called Him Siegfried and now a space opera published under a pseudonym. I cannot really „count“ To Mix and To Stir and Give Substance to a Thought, because they are parts two and three of the Hagen Patterson trilogy that started with She Should Have Called Him Siegfried.

A fourth start of a series (that I will put out this autumn under that pseudonym) is the most extensively workshopped and edited thing I have written so far. It is good, damn it, a very emotional story in my opinion that suffers only from being fuzzy genre-wise. I call it a second-world historical-fantasy, its second part will be SciFi since it happens 1000 years after the first one. Rejection slip after rejection slip, several almosts and I’m just fxxing tired of them!
Ironically, the books I self-published so far are actually far better edited, workshopped and cared for than the three novellas I managed to publish with small publishers.

I am frustrated with the publishing world, yes, and I strongly believe that the publishing world, as the whole rest of the world, are grossly unfair. On top of that I have geographical and other disadvantages.
I have another book in the pipeline (a stand alone, could be the start of a series though) that I shall send into the submission gauntlet again, whilst pushing out all the other stuff and here is finally why I am in the „game“:

I want to tell stories. I don’t have the ambition to be a master writer like Kameron, I just want to tell all the stories that I have in my head and entertain myself as well as a few other (the dream is many) people with them.
I can’t sit forever on a novel and refine it to death. All novels are abandoned. Maybe I abandon them too early, but there is too much stuff I want to tell to forever linger on the previous book. I’m in it for the fun of writing down a story, I’m in it because it’s awesome to construct entire worlds. I’m in it because I love my characters. For me Jove, Shavendra, Hagen, Al, Juliana, Floyd, Darnar, Talip, Lofgar, Marusar, Jaiah, Sina, Jyrus, Marlan, Hriff and Flin and and and are like people I know and they are asking me to tell their stories. Of course I want people to read them, but I’m doing this to entertain myself, because I laugh, love, and cry together with my characters and I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart for their existence, for urging me to write about them and for inspiring me.

Japan Writers Conference 2014 Report – Day 1

This year’s Japan Writers Conference (JWC) happened in Morioka in northern Japan on the 25th and 26th of October. After being unable to attend last year (I was in the UK at that time for the World Fantasy Convention) it was great to see some old friends as well as make new ones.
Since several conferences/festivals happened in Morioka that weekend, we had a hotel shortage problem and I ended up staying at an old but cozy ryokan some 25 km south of Morioka in a place called Shiwachuo on the Tohoku-Honsen train line. What a nice, sleepy hinterland town 😉
Trains went only once per half-hour and I missed one on the first morning, which resulted in arriving 20 min late for the first session.

Karen McGee talked about the Writer’s Bookshelf.
Since I missed the first half, this is only a partial report. What books do you need/should you have on your bookshelf concerning craft, reference books etc.
Some new tips for me were (aside from e.g. Stephen King’s “On Writing”, or “Self editing for fiction writers” etc.:) “The 10% solution”, “Reading Like a Writer”, in the craft category, and in the reference category: “The Way Things Work”, and “The Negative Trait Thesaurus”.
As for Internet sources: “Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus”, specialist forums like e.g. the “locksmiths forum” (who know a lot about locks) are a good address for information and if you search for settings try: “YouTube real estate videos”

Next I “snuck” into the closed poetry analysis session of David Gilby. (Thanks for letting me hang out!).
Three poets read and discussed their poems and it was quite an intense critique session.
Also as a prose writer you have to choose your words carefully, of course, but as a poet even more so.
There were several deep dives into the meaning of words during this session, leaving me with the re-realization that words are incredibly ambiguous and it’s very hard to convey what you mean to others. Even if you try to be concrete, it’s damn hard to be. And: the more concrete you are, the better. Further: avoid cliches at all costs. Both issues are very much true also in (long) fiction and this session was an excellent reminder of the trouble with words.

After lunch in the university’s canteen, I digested villains.
Hugh Ashton gave a great talk on villains.
Sometimes villains can be abstract things (like “fate” in “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”), or internal (“The Killer Inside Me” – Jim Thompson).
Your “usual” villain though is the antagonist who drives your hero nuts.
Very often you can trace their villainy down to one or two or more of the seven deadly sins (except for gluttony and sloth maybe, but it’s now tickling me to explore how a sloth villain would behave, (not the cute animal of course)).
Another thing you need to take into account is to make your villain likeable = to give him/her some redeeming qualities so that the audience can identify with him/her. They need a motivation and a schtick or a habit.
The same is of course true for heroes, too smooth and “good” heroes are boring, they need something bad about them too to make them interesting.

We explored a couple of popular and widely known villains under the 7 deadly sins aspect.
Lady Macbeth – her candidate of the 7 deadly sins is envy, her redeeming quality is that she develops a conscience
Hannibal Lecter – pride. He’s a true psychopath, but he can also be kind and considerate, and is very smart
Jame Gumb (the other villain from “The Silence of the Lambs” who skins his victims) – lust. There is nothing redeeming about him, but at least an attempt at explaining why he is a monster
Iago – envy. A smart, intellectual villain who uses stealth, not violence
Goldfinger – avarice. But he’s got style and black humor
Professor Moriarty – pride, the “Napoleon of crime”, high intellectual abilities, funny and sinister, camp and clever.
Next up we did a little exercise in which we created our own little villain in pairs of two, which was great fun.

I don’t write YA (and have no desire to do so) but nevertheless attended Suzanne Kamata’s session “YA or Why Not”
We took a look at some examples of YA books and the floating boundaries to “normal” adult fiction (without even touching the new thing in between: the “New Adult” category (where the protagonist is in his/her early twenties)).
One characteristic of YA is that the book stays on story, without wandering off, but the same is true for a lot of (adult) genre fiction too.
One book we looked at was originally released as “adult” fiction, sales were disappointing – now, with a fresh “younger” cover, they try to re-market it as YA. Thus are the politics of the publishing world.

The last session I attended that day was Bob Tobin’s – the Courage to Write
In my personal case, I do not need the courage to write (I do that quite voluntarily all the time) but I am in dire need of the “courage” (or rather the energy) to market my stuff.
Bob gave a few nice hints about how to deal with your worries of rejection, being laughed at etc.:
e.g.: write down the things you are worrying about and literally throw them into the garbage bag, or if that is not enough, rip them up and flush them down the toilet.
Caution vs courage, if caution is 1 and courage 7 on a scale, where are you and what do you need to do to move more into the courage direction?
Ask yourself what stops you and try to silence your own critic. (You are likely your worst critic).
Stop comparing yourself to anyone else and don’t go to “pity city”.
Create a (supportive) community – without jerks in it.
How to react to feedback: If you get bad feedback from a person you respect, ask him/her to tell you more details. If the feedback comes from someone you don’t respect, disregard it, because they don’t understand you and your work (easier said than done). Always say thanks and don’t argue with people who give you bad feedback.
Write about what bothers you most, be it jealously, fear or being ridiculed… That frees you up.
It was a nice motivational session, which we all need sometimes in the hostile publishing world 😉

Read my report on the sessions of the second conference day next week.
And here is the link to the conference video shot and edited by Tom Baker

Soon to Come – Give Substance to a Thought

My latest novel, “Give Substance to a Thought” will soon see the light of day (November, if all goes well).
It’s the last part of my Hagen Patterson trilogy. Thus it is also the first time that I finished a trilogy in novel form. The entire trilogy took roughly 260,000 words to tell (80,000 + 85,000 + 95,000), not bad considering that the first volume “She Should Have Called Him Siegfried” originally was supposed to be a stand-alone.
Give Substance cover small
Funnily, the second part was easiest to write. The first draft of “To Mix and To Stir” took me barely 5 weeks. The first draft of the last part – “Give Substance to a Thought” took about 4 months to write.
I kept the same structure throughout the entire trilogy = Alchemist Hagen Patterson as the main POV in third person limited. Then in each book another minor 3rd person limited POV – In part 1 Hagen’s mother Emma, in part 2 Hagen’s alchemy “candidate” (precursor to apprentice) Lana Hardwood and in part 3 the minor 3rd person limited POV has fallen to the alchemists’ arch enemy – the head of the “governmental agents” – a guy called Andy Mitchell. Further each book has a more or less mysterious 1st person POV who tells her story in present tense. In part one that was Hagen’s potion client Helena, in part two a strange lady who turns out to be Al’s wife and in part three it is an even more mysterious entity from Al’s realm that I shall make a secret of right now.
final front cover small small
Last but not least there are “reports” from the governmental agents. Most of them are to be found in part 1, in part 2 they are still there, but in reduced form. Now, since in part 3 one of the agents is a POV character I decided to not use these reports anymore, except for one. In the prologue myself, the author, is agent no. 1 and gives a bit of a summary in the style of “what happened before”. I wrote several versions of this prologue, once in Hagen’s mother’s Emma’s POV even, but then decided to become agent 1 and do the summary in a “neutral” form. I was thinking for a long time whether to do this summary at all or not, but one of my beta-readers advised me to better leave it in, since the piece is so plot-heavy. Is it??? 😉 If the Hagen trilogy is plot heavy you haven’t read my second Dome of Souls novel yet. lol. Well, nobody has read that one yet, since the first draft was just finished some 2 weeks ago 😉 I would call that one plot-heavy indeed 😉
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Back to Hagen and the rest of the cast.
At the end of To Mix and to Stir is the big revelation of who Al is. Part 3 now deals with the “real” Al and his realm and Hagen is quite torn between his “normal” life that consists of brewing potion, being a father of three children and dealing with the governmental agents on the one hand and Al and his problems on the other. Looking at the end of the book – man, it is quite long, since all those threads need to be brought to a closure (Yes, there will be closure, if with a loophole ;-))
Another thing about structure is the timing and pace of the trilogy. the “Siegfried” novel happened within a span one half a year, “To Mix and To Stir” within the span of a few weeks (I think it’s six, I must check again) 13 years after part 1, and “Give Substance” now takes places within the span of a few days (some two weeks in total) and picks up right where “To Mix and To Stir” left off. Such deliberate scheduling has its challenges but it also provides a nice frame that I could hold on to while writing it. And one more bit about structure: Book 1 started with Hagen’s POV, Book 2 started with the POV of the minor 3rd person limited character – in this case Lana Hardwood. Book 3 starts with the mysterious 1st person POV in present tense. It’s all deliberate…
I had great fun constructing this world and also Al’s realm and I hope you will like the grand finale of my musings about the problems of my favorite alchemist of all times – Hagen Patterson 😉 – And I personally am very very happy with Katoh sensei’s magnificent covers for all three Hagen books! Thank you Katoh sensei!

Norma(l)n

During a recent Tower Record hunt, I came across the movie “Hitchcock” with Anthony Hopkins as the master himself and Helen Mirren as his wife. That can’t be too bad, so I bought the DVD. Well, big stars don’t necessarily make a good movie. While Anthony and Helen did good jobs, the story felt a bit thin, describing the “difficulties” the Hitchcock couple faced when directing and producing Psycho. What the movie lacked was a strong bad guy. The dude from Paramount who nearly refused to distribute the movie and the censor watchdog were not prominent enough to be counted as worthy antagonists. Also the side plot about Alma Hitchcock having a fancy for some writer did not give enough juice for a good counter-weight to Alfred.
Psychomovies
The one most striking thing about the Hitchcock movie I found to be the bit of the censor watchdog complaining to Hitch that he showed a toilet in the movie.
I was not aware that before 1960 and this movie, no toilets were allowed to be shown in US productions… and no nudity either. Which I find amazing. In Germany the taboo of nudity on film was broken by the, outside of Germany not so well known (I guess), actress Hildegard Knef. She caused one of the biggest scandals in German film history by being the first woman appearing naked on screen and that was already in 1951 in the movie “Die Suenderin” (the (female) sinner). (I might have seen it a long while back, but I don’t remember it at all and have no clue whether it was a good or bad movie).

Watching this “Hitchcock” thing had the strong effect to make me want to see Psycho again. I have seen it a long time ago, but now I promptly bought it and watched it last night. Hitch was a master indeed. Apart from the psychologist explaining about Norman Bates’ “schizophrenia” in the end, which is all telling, not showing, this is such a bold movie considering it was 1960. Killing off the heroine after 45 minutes into the movie, having an “amoral” heroine to begin with, who sneaks away from the office during lunch time to have sex with her divorced lover, then stealing money. And Norman of course, the amazing Anthony Perkins whose last evil look into the camera is worse than the shower murder scene.
That murder scene in itself, kyaaaa! The room behind the motel’s office with the stuffed birds, the famous house on the hill where Mrs. Bates awaits you. Man, this movie is now 54 years old and has lost nothing of its appeal. Also in our times of ever grander special effects, 3D etc., at the heart of it all is the good, twisted and interesting story. If you don’t have that, all your effects won’t help you. I wish more filmmakers would turn to old master pieces and learn from them. And tonight I’ll watch “The Birds” again, which I happened to order together with Psycho. Hitch, you were awesome.

Ballet Under the Dome

Okay, this blog entry will be a little bit of a stretch – Russian ballet vs. American TV.
I’ve been to my first ballet ever and consider that worth a report and I’m watching the series Under the Dome at the moment and got some comments about it too.

Ballet:
I spontaneously went to see my first ballet ever last Wednesday, The Matthew Bourne “all men” production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
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I guess it was a good choice to make this my first ballet ever, since I at least remotely knew something about the story, thanks to a movie I like very much – Black Swan – with Natalie Portman. So there is this princess Odette, who is turned into a swan by a curse and only true love can bring her back or she will be turned into a swan forever.
I kinda expected a “black swan” – the bad sorcerer who turns her into one somewhere but either I didn’t get it or it was missing from the Matthew Bourne production. In the original the hero, Siegfried, is not married and his mother seems to be bitching him around, but in the Bourne production she looked more like his wife than his mother, at least to my eyes.

It was amazing to see just a few gestures establishing their relationship. They looked like they have been married to each other for politics and especially she does not like him and rejects any sort of affection he is trying to show her. Very subtly expressed with just a few gestures and how the dancers posed their bodies.
The swans were impressive, all men and they did an excellent job at looking animal like. I’m kinda interested in seeing a classical production of the ballet where the swans are all girls. With men as swans the esthetics were elegant, yes, but also animalistic. Odette was danced by a dancer called Chris Tranfield (I think) and man, the guy was good. I found the scenes without the swans a bit long and dragging at times, but whenever the swans were around it was interesting and impressive. These dancers don’t seem to have bones in their bodies.
The finale of Odette and Siegfried dying was really amazing to watch. You don’t need words to tell a story. As a writer there are quite some lessons to be learned from that 😉
I shall be on the lookout for more ballet.
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Under the Dome:
I’m watching that on hulu and while I liked at least most of the first season it’s starting to be a bit bland in the beginning of the second season. It’s about a small US town suddenly being trapped under a mysterious, invisible and indestructible dome some 30 miles wide or so. Although there is no ultimate revelation yet, aliens seem to be involved. What I find noteworthy about this series are only two things. Uncle Hank from Breaking Bad is playing the main bad guy (quite well) here and the other thing is the Game of Thrones syndrome of killing off major characters like flies… What has Mr. George R.R. Martin done??? He kicked off a trend to kill your characters. While your protagonists should suffer, yes, go through hardship, have tough decisions to make and and and, what good are they to you if they’re dead?

That does not mean like I’ve never killed off one of my characters but I am weary of the numbers. If I counted correctly, within the 15 episodes that I watched of Under the Dome, five major characters have bit the dust, especially during the last few episodes, where it’s more or less one per show. The dangerous thing about that is that the viewer gets used to it, detaches him/herself from the characters, since you have to be prepared that they are having switched their lights out. The character killing only has an impact if you were invested into that character and when it becomes a standard plot device it loses its impact in my humble opinion. The other issue with that is that you need to replace those characters with new ones that you have to draw out of your hat like a magician and that just doesn’t work all the time. I’ll keep on watching Under the Dome a bit more, let’s say until the Uncle Hank (here he is Big Jim) character bites the dust, but I am not invested anymore. However, thanks to Under the Dome for teaching me something about character deaths for my own writing 😉

Publishing Woes and Complaint Work

On the 28th of September my novel “To Mix and To Stir” – Part two of the Hagen Patterson trilogy was released and available and I thought everything is fine and ordered 50 copies as I always do to sell them here in Japan. I began waiting for the Kindle version to become available as well.

Then, suddenly, without me having done anything, the book appeared as “out of print” in Amazon and I went into my project “dashboard” at Createspace to find that the title had reconverted to “incomplete setup”.
I wrote an email to the support team asking what is going on and received the following reply.

“Our system shows that somehow you were able to place your book into “incomplete” status, from “available”. I have requested our PrePress Department reinstate your book to “available” status as soon as possible. Once this is done the “complete setup” link will go back to a green check mark.”

Nope, I had not done anything, but what the heck. I was a bit frustrated but hoped they’d repair this glitch.
Then a day later or so the Kindle version became ready and I did the necessary steps in KDP (Kindle direct publishing) but it remained as “requires attention” in the dashboard and I emailed them once more asking about that and also about the progress concerning the paperback and to that received the following answer.

“I have cleared the attention regarding Kindle in your account. This was just a courtesy step you needed to close after we notified you that we uploaded your files. We still need to send you the author copy of your book, which we are preparing to do. Once we ship this, the complete set-up and cover services will appear complete again.”

Wait a second? Author copy? I got an author copy end of September already.
I went back into the dashboard and things had gotten worse, now suddenly also the cover setup was on red, not only the entire setup.
I wrote them again notifying them of that and also that I don’t need another author copy and, by the way, I have already ordered 50 books.
To that I got the following grand answer:

“It appears the project was reopened based on an internal issue with your cover file; our quality team noticed that it did not have enough bleed when it went to print, so we are currently correcting this issue. When complete, we will need to send you a revised author proof.
You may want to consider stalling your order to make sure all files are the most up-to-date. If you need to do this, please reach out to our Member Services Team at …”

WHAT???

So, it seems as if Createspace has a communication problem. The quality section does not talk to the project team and the first reply was sent by the project team in a state of not knowing what is wrong.

Meanwhile a bit more than frustrated, I phoned their service team number and explained to the dude on the other end what is going on and he was saying stuff like “oh my” and “the order has already been shipped”…. great………..

He told me to “refuse” the package when it gets delivered and in the meantime he will see to it that the order is reissued after the stuff’s been all put on green status again……… I do not trust this promise yet for one moment and have summarized it and sent it to Createspace in writing.

By the way, although the book shows “live” in KDP, the Kindle version is nowhere “live” at Amazon…
= nothing works! Ahhhhhhhhh…

Apart from this giant Createspace hiccup, I was fascinated by this customer service dude I had on the phone.
He sounded like he came right out of a customer service / complaint management seminar. He was very empathetic to my problems with comments like “oh my” and “oh dear” and other expressions of sympathy next to his very caring and soothing tone.

It was kinda funny to listen to him. Man, they got that dude brainwashed! I could see the teacher standing in front of him saying things like: “…and never forget: the customer is always right! and you have to show empathy and sympathy for his/her problems.”

I mean the guy was really friendly and all but it was a bit too thick and thus not real. It’s hard to work in the service industry, yes, no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want to have such a job. You listen to complaints and various degrees of angry, upset, and maybe even verbally aggressive and abusive people all bloody day long. Man, that’s a tough job. How do you manage to keep a positive mindset? How do you manage to not go home totally frustrated and down and out?

So, to a certain degree the guy has my sympathy, his job wouldn’t be one I’d like to have, but nevertheless – I want a good looking and available book out there……….
Let’s see how long it’ll take until Createspace will achieve that………

Announcing “To Mix and To Stir”

Here it is! Part two of my Hagen Patterson, Alchemist, trilogy “To Mix and To Stir” is out and available in print version (Kindle to follow in a few weeks).

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For me this book is special in several ways.
First of all, when I wrote its predecessor “She Should Have Called Him Siegfried” I had planned it as a stand-alone and it had a “final” ending. I workshopped the book and one of my critiquers told me she’d prefer if he = Hagen didn’t die! That’s right – in the original “She Should Have Called Him Siegfried” a governmental agent kills Hagen! 😉

In the version that is in print now, however, he escapes his exploding house.
That left me with unanswered questions – the biggest of which being: who is Alberich or “Al”, the “demon” that lived inside Emma since the night of Hagen’s conception.
Yes, I admit it, while writing “Siegfried” I did not know myself who Al was.

I brooded for a while over who he is. As long as I wasn’t clear on that, I wouldn’t have a story. But then, finally, Al revealed himself to me and my first reaction was – Al, you gotta be fxxing kidding me!

But that was it, the cat was out of the bag, and I had to take the challenge. And while writing especially “Hagen 3” Al proved to be indeed who he claims to be at the end of “To Mix and To Stir”.

“To Mix and To Stir” and its successor “Hagen 3 (title yet a secret)” are much closer connected than “She Should Have Called Him Siegfried” is to “To Mix and To Stir”.
The time gap between “Siegfried” and “Mix and Stir” is thirteen years, since I wanted to show Hagen as a father. He has three children now, Richard, who is twelve and three quarters, Will, ten, and Helena, seven, and they very much define the “new” Hagen.

The time gap between “To Mix and To Stir” and “Hagen 3” is a few hours. So, in that way you can say “To Mix and To Stir” and “Hagen 3” are much closer together also thematically than “Siegfried” and “Mix and Stir” are.
I kept the structure for all three books = three main POVs and some agent reports, although the agent reports are fading out (deliberately, you’ll see why when you read it) in “Mix and Stir”, and disappearing in “Hagen 3”.

The main POV characters in “Siegfried” were Hagen of course, Hagen’s mother Emma, and the first-person-present-tense account of Helena Sears, Hagen’s cancerous potion customer (and the namesake of his daughter Helena).

In “Mix and Stir” the POVs are Hagen, his apprentice (well, candidate) Lana and a mysterious first-person-present-tense lady who has something to do with Al…

It was fascinating for me to see how huge the impact of keeping a certain structure actually is. Your POV characters determine everything. That might sound obvious and maybe it is, but it nevertheless was a revelation to me, since in “Siegfried” the structure developed organically, whilst in “Mix and Stir” and “Hagen 3” it was a given fact and I had to arrange the story so that it would fit into this structure.
Rather than restrictive, I found that challenging and inspiring and it made me think clearly about how to give what kind of information when in a more organized way.

The other thing that struck me while writing “Mix and Stir” was its tendency towards horror and I have added the “horror” tag next to the “contemporary fantasy” tag. Now whose fault is that? Al’s of course! Just joking. The circumstances Hagen finds himself in have tugged the balance a bit onto the horror side. However, I also think that “Mix and Stir” has more funny moments than “Siegfried”. I’m only mentioning one word here: fluffy 😉

Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy reading “To Mix and To Stir” as much as I did enjoy writing it! And that the cliffhanger at the end will make you want to read “Hagen 3” as well, whose first draft is already completed and that will come out next year.

Publishing Pains – but “To Mix and To Stir” is out now!

So, finally it is done and I pressed the „publish“ button for „To Mix and To Stir“ – the second part of my Hagen Patterson, Alchemist, trilogy.

It was/is my third book with Createspace, Amazon’s self-publishing service, and it has been the worst of the three experiences as far as the publishing process was concerned.
The essence is that Createspace’s service has dropped significantly in quality and speed compared to two years ago, when I first put out my “Dome Child” novel via this channel.

The process has slowed from two months to over three months and there have been many frustrating faults and errors along the way.
I don’t know why the response times of Createspace has become so bad – do they have so many jobs now that they can’t keep up with demand anymore?

Anyway, it took weeks and weeks for them to produce a first sample of the Interior and that looked crappy as hell. It was like no human had ever thrown a glance at it, but someone had just pushed a Word document to “whatever they use” format conversion button and then on the print button of the print-on-demand machine. Nevertheless it took weeks for someone to press those two buttons.

Then they got confused about my request for interior design changes. One round of up to 200 changes “for free” is part of the package I purchased and they forgot that, wanted to charge me another 55,- USD for implementing the changes and when I protested, they said something like sorry, was a mistake and reimbursed the stuff to my credit card after having deducting it.

The implementation of the change request round took then again some three weeks instead of “7 business days” as stated in the member dashboard. It was more than double that time and if I had not asked what the hell was going on, they might have let me wait even longer. Then conflicting messages about the release of the documents got on my nerves too, another 7 business days (for what??) vs. 3 days, etc…

Another annoying issue is the cover design. In my case it is ridiculously overpriced. You pay the same for them designing you a cover from scratch as when you hand in a cover design as in my case and only want them to put the title on it. I told them so in a message but got no reply. So I am paying double for the cover – I’m paying my cover artist as well as for putting the title and my name onto it. Since “To Mix and to Stir” is a second in a series I wanted the same font and even told them the font name. Nevertheless, a work that takes in my opinion half an hour, took them again weeks to fulfill. Since the Interior wasn’t ready either, it was not critical, but…

The worst thing about Amazon is that there is no real alternative – that’s the dangers of having a monopoly. Since we are dependent on Amazon, they now think they can do whatever they want… very frustrating and sad and annoying for those who depend on their service. I wish I had an alternative, but there is none. I met some new people recently and told them about my books and the very first question was: can you order them via Amazon? = no alternative.

You could speed up the process by doing it all yourself, I suppose, but I neither have the time nor the nerve to learn “interior formatting”, or Kindle conversion, or how to get the title onto the cover art.
So… the struggle will stay the same… at least I am now prepared for a lousy, time consuming, not-enough-value-for-money-process for next time and I’ll calculate at least three months instead of two…

That was the publishing rant… In another “five to seven business days” (reason for this long time period unknown) the title will hopefully be available in print form (no clue yet how long they’ll let me wait until the Kindle version is ready). “To Mix and To Stir” is already available via the CreateSpace store, but I guess you need yet another ID for that one.
Once the title has shown up on Amazon I can make a happier blog entry about more important things = the contents, the story, the exciting further adventures of my weird dark hero Mr. Hagen Patterson, Alchemist 😉

My Five Cents Worth on Rowling’s Secret Publication

A lot has been written and said the past few days on the topic of JK Rowling publishing a crime novel under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.
This whole story has equally frustrated and delighted me.

The book didn’t sell so well when nobody knew who Robert Galbraith was. It didn’t sell well despite a big publishing house and an agent behind her/him. It sold 1400 print and 800 eBook copies in the UK since its release in April. No author can live on such sales.
The story proves how ridiculously difficult it is to “break in” and to “get noticed”, even if you have a big publisher behind you.
The quality of your writing has absolutely nothing to do with whether you get noticed or not either. Some described Galbraith’s crime novel as astonishingly “mature” for a “debut” writer, or as “well written but quiet”.

It is enormously frustrating that there is so much luck involved in this business which is beyond the author’s control.
There are tens of thousands of authors out there who write good books but who never get noticed – in the sense of being able to make a living on writing nothing but fiction.
It drives me up the wall when “lay people” who have no clue about the business of writing and publishing tell me, oh, so cool that you write books, oh, fantasy – like JK Rowling.

NO, not like her!

It is sort of an insult for an aspiring author to have lay-people compare him or her to Rowling. She was and is one in a billion who won the jackpot of a lottery, period. Her writing may be good but there are tens of thousands of authors whose writing is equally good and sometimes even better and they still have dayjobs because they didn’t have the luck to win the darn jackpot.

The personal lesson I am taking away from this Robert Galbraith stunt is that we can’t all be so lucky. The delightful part of the Galbraith story is that nobody can be so lucky twice, it’s not the magic quality of her writing which made her famous but simple luck.
Considering such odds, the most important thing an author has to ask him/herself is whether writing gives you something or not. It does in my case. It’s the one thing I love best in the whole bloody world and there is nothing like being able to hold that stack of paper in your hand that has sprung from your imagination and that makes you laugh and cry. I intend to continue writing until I’m 80 or 90 no matter what.

Marketing Weekend

The things a modern day writer has to do: first of all there is the decision – do I write today or do I market?
Last weekend, I decided to go for the marketing and here is a summary of the numerous things that I did:
Emails: There was a number of emails flying back and forth between Dark Quest staff and myself and Big Pulp staff and myself on various issues and between my cover-artist and myself.

Tweets (and Facebook):
Quite a number of tweets streamed out from me this weekend – most of them related to either the anthology with my Wolpertinger short in it or the Kindle free-download campaign that I had scheduled shortly after coming back from China business trip with a 29th of June starting date.

Kindle free download campaign:
How do you advertise a campaign like that? The best method I know is via “free books, free eBooks” sites on Facebook (if any reader of this blog has any other ideas, please let me know). So I am searching all those sites and am going to them one by one, placing my announcement about free downloads with links to the books on them. Half of the sites do not let you post, and on Saturday I got a warning that some site considers me as spam. It takes quite a while to go to all these sites, check them and then post.

I was wondering what else I could do to get the word out and Googled wildly for “free promotion opportunities”. I stumbled over some site with a few tips and links, but most of them turned out to be either dead or dubious or I’m already doing it (registering as an author at Goodreads for example).

There was one hopefully helpful hint/link though to a marketing method I did not know anything about yet.
There is something called Google Books. I promptly registered. I don’t know exactly what merit will arise from that but here is how it works. You can register your books there for free (all you need is a Google account) and they “promise” the search engine will bring up your book more promptly. Every publisher can register his/her books there. I did so now with my two self-published novels. They need/want the ISBN, the title and a web page where the book is advertised (but they don’t like amazon ;-), so you better have another link to your book somewhere and I used my homepage). Next you upload either a pdf and an epub file, or you send them the physical book. Since I don’t have the epub file ready (I let CreateSpace do all this stuff), it was easier and quicker for me to send them hard copies, which I did today. You don’t have to send it to the US. The system promptly gave me an address for Japan. Let’s see what happens next. They are apparently scanning the hard copies. The whole service is for free and I’m thrilled whether anything good will come from it.

Anthology marketing:
The next thing I did was updating my homepage and also the blog page (the “shorts” page) with latest info and links on the Wolpertinger. I also wrote a quick press release and uploaded that one to the free service PRLOG.

Niche market:
Then there is this thing about niche markets. I read a blog entry recently by some self-publishing guy who said that you should search for a niche market, otherwise you are just one tiny tiny tiny fish in the big big pond that will be overlooked. He is right, but easier said than done – my books ain’t for example about fly-fishing so that I could try to guest blog in every fly-fishing blog in the Net. I tried now one niche approach. “She Should Have Called Him Siegfried” was inspired by the Ring of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner, but actually I’m not a classics fan but a heavy metal girl and got interested in the story via the German metal band Grave Digger, who have made a concept album called Rheingold, which deals with the Ring of the Nibelung in 45 minutes of heavy metal. I placed a message on the fan forum of their homepage now, carefully “advertising” my novel. Well, so far my comment there got me 3 likes and 1 dislike… so much for niche markets. I am doubtful about Richard Wagner related sites, first of all the Hagen series has not that much to do with the Ring of the Nibelung, only some bits and pieces and second, is that a niche market that would “help” me and that I would want to be involved with?
I’d rather stick to the heavy metal dudes…

What’s a niche market for Dome Child? Is there a niche market that deals with giant mutant lizards? Or chewchips? Not that I know of! And global warming ain’t no niche market. So, in my opinion this niche market idea is nice, but has its limits.

What else did I do this weekend – my usual once a week update of the Odyssey Online Critique group whose moderator I happen to be, reacting and responding to the replies of tweets and Facebook actions and finalizing my trip preparations for the World Fantasy Con in November in the UK.
Did I get in any writing done this weekend? No… – oh, I wrote this blog article today – almost 1000 words…
I shall go back today to Hagen 3 which is 20,000 words in so far!

Official Facebook Page Pains

While crawling through the jungle of book marketing, I am as always looking for more ways to get “exposure” for the least time investment possible. Yes, time investment, rather than monetary investment. Of course, money is also a factor but I am more and more tending towards fiercely protecting my time rather than my money. Time is so much more precious than money – at least in my opinion.

Under this premise I have been doctoring around with an official Facebook page. Of course I have my normal profile but only friends can see that. In fact I made a page for “Regina Glei – Books” already and selected a user name, made a banner pic and all that. But I have been hesitating to press the “publish page” button, since I fear the amount of work such an official page might cause.

I am, after all, already maintaining an HP, this blog, am tweeting occasionally, am facebooking occasionally, have a profile on Goodreads that needs to be maintained once in a while, have an author page on Amazon that needs to sometimes be maintained and I’m sure I have forgotten something now.
Do I have the time and the energy to maintain yet another something?

I am tending at the moment towards the easy way out – I have already put my twitter feed into the Facebook profile and also the “Regina Glei – books” page. My tweets are public anyway, since their feed also goes into Amazon and Goodreads, so no secret here and they can as well be fed into an official Facebook page. Other than that I would of course announce there whenever something noteworthy happens book-wise, like a new story coming out, etc.
At the moment, I do not intend though to “muriyari” post and post and post there like some of my colleagues do. “Muriyari” is a nice Japanese word which means “forcedly” but when you look at the characters you can also read them as “impossible doing”.

If I were to pull “articles” out of my ass every day to post there I think it would be and feel unnatural. I am not tweeting every day but sometimes, when something crosses my path, I tweet several times a day (that doesn’t happen super often, but it does). I like the spontaneity of the tweets, which then feels natural as opposed to “OMG I need to post something today, something, anything!”
While I do admire some of the official Facebook pages and the efforts some of my colleagues put into them, the amount of time this eats up is scary. If it’s spontaneous it also takes less time to do it than when you are under pressure to have to post something intelligent today, preferably several times per day. That is where time loss kicks in and where the effort becomes “impossible doing”.

So I will probably push the release button for the official page (and beg my current Facebook friends for “likes”) after I am back from another business trip to China in two weeks. It would be kind of awkward to release it before China, since during the week in China I won’t be able to access Facebook or Twitter = forced silence……..
Nevertheless, I’d be happy for some opinions on this official-Facebook-page topic from the worthy readers of this little blog 😉
Thanks!

Hal-Con Report – Day 2

On the second Hal-Con day, I held two panels and the first one happened right away in the morning about “Traditional vs. Indie Publishing”. I discussed/presented the pros and cons of the two.
I recently like to say it like this: every author is a tree in the Amazon rainforest – there is a mind-boggling number of them and they all try to get heard and want to be bigger and prettier than the other trees around them. They all look pretty much the same though and it is very hard to rise above the crowd. No matter in what form you are published, if you are not published by a big house you have to do most or all of the marketing work yourself, since neither you nor small presses have any advertisement etc. budget, and also the big houses don’t spend much on advertising new authors these days.
You have to howl like the others do and somehow try to be heard.

The advantage that self publication brings you is that you are in total control of your project and not subjected to publication schedules and too busy small press editors. The advantage that publishers give you is that someone else beside your friends and relatives has liked your book and has endorsed you. However, apart from this little advantage, I see no great difference anymore between the indie way and the small publisher’s way.

One fun aspect of my panel was that I had to say everything twice. Once in Japanese, once in English, since there were non-Japanese in the audience. It was a bit confusing and exhausting but also fun to juggle the panel on my own in two languages.

I had given my second panel in the afternoon the odd title “Time Management for Authors”.
At first I threw two readings at the audience, one from “She Should Have Called Him Siegfried” and right after that one from my latest publication the contemporary fantasy novella “Lord of Water”. The former one is on YouTube since last week, the latter I uploaded right now.

After those two readings, I showed the audience a little mind-map I made about tasks an author has nowadays. There is so much more than sheer writing and trying to improve your craft. There is workshopping, social media as one big branch and submission wrangling as another big branch of marketing. Then there are all the issues surrounding publication: All the tasks you have when doing it yourself and the not significantly fewer tasks you have when going via a publisher. Another big branch is reading in your field and reading in general and last but not least there are conventions.

Now, how do you manage all these tasks plus a day job and family and friends? In my opinion you need to plan, plan, plan, prioritize and organize and plan some more. Pareto analysis is an interesting aspect – it says that you need 20% of effort to do 80% of the work and you need 80% of effort to do thee remaining 20% of work. At least in my case that is completely true. I write quickly and have 80% = a first draft done in 20% of the time. Then I take forever to revise, workshop and revise again and so on. I am seriously searching for a more efficient way to handle the remaining 20% of what it takes to write a novel without having to use 80% of effort. So far I have not yet found a recipe and will continue looking.

I think my panels were well received and thanks to them and thanks to Katoh sensei’s support I managed to sell quite some books despite many of the buyers having difficulty reading them 😉

Busy with my own panels, I did not manage to attend much else, but I must come back to Joe’s Tauran.
In the evening of the first day, one diligent model builder had made a model of the Tauran and presented it to the Haldemans, who were of course highly impressed by the speed and quality of the work. I don’t know who got the Tauran in the end 😉 Then, Katoh sensei did a life painting and he used the Tauran as well. So in the end there were three Tauran’s, Joe’s whiteboard original, Katoh sensei’s painting and the model. Since nobody dared to erase the Tauran on the whiteboard, the chairman of Hal-Con asked Haldeman san to do so himself during the closing ceremony – see the picture on my Flickr account. I don’t know who got the other two Tauran works 😉
And so the Con was already over.

There was a nice happening though during the dead dog party. Several young Japanese SF writers whose short stories appeared in an anthology (in Japanese) had also come to the dead dog party and one of our staff members (the great lady who allows me to borrow some space on her booth in the dealer’s room) dragged them one after the other before Joe to greet him, talk to him and shake his hand. One guy was incredibly excited and half collapsed and I was doing simultaneous translation for him. The admiration and devotion was great to see and it was fun to translate.
I think we had a great convention and thanks a lot to the Haldemans for coming and a special thanks to Katoh sensei for his support for me little aspirer 😉
I’m looking forward to next year’s Hal-Con already.

Hal-Con Report – Day 1

The Hal-Con is our annual international convention in the greater Tokyo area with one foreign guest of honor (GoH) and usually his/her Japanese edition cover artist as the artist GoH.
The convention started in 2010 and is the staff’s training ground for another SF Worldcon in Japan.
Our guests so far have been Charles Stross in 2010, Robert Sawyer in 2011, Alastair Reynolds in 2012 and this year it was Joe Haldeman (and his wife Gay).

This year’s artist guest of honor was Naoyuki Katoh again. He was already our artist GoH in 2011, since he does the Japanese covers for Robert Sawyer as well as Joe Haldeman.
So, in 2011 was the first time that I met Katoh Sensei and then was so bold to ask him if he could do covers for my books as well and he agreed 🙂

This year’s event started out with the usual opening ceremony and was soon followed by an initial GoH interview where staff members had gathered random questions for the two GoHs and threw them at them.
The highlight of this session was that someone from the audience asked what a Tauran from the “Forever War” actually looks like and since Haldeman san is quite an illustrator himself, Katoh Sensei teased him into – why don’t you paint a Tauran onto the whiteboard over there? – and that is what Haldeman san did to the great joy of the fans.
You can find pics of the Tauran and other impressions from Hal-Con on my Flickr account, and it became a continuous theme throughout the rest of the convention.

Joe also gave us some info concerning his writing process. He started out writing on a type writer, then used one of the first Apple computers for five years until he decided to write in long hand. Ever since, he writes with fountain pens into bound (empty) books and it takes him about 18 months to 2 years to finish a novel. Since he writes at such a slow pace, he usually does not much revision at all. What comes into the bound book via fountain pen is more or less the finished product. It was very interesting for me to learn about his writing style, since mine is so completely different – hack first draft into the computer as fast as possible (my record is five weeks) then let it rest for a while, and revise and revise and workshop and revise and revise.

I then had my first official action (apart from jumping in as simultaneous translator at the GoH interview panel) and interviewed Gay Haldeman, Joe’s wife. The two are an inseparable team. While Joe writes the books, Gay does most of the administration and correspondence and deals with the business side of writing, which is awesome for Joe of course, since he can thus focus on the creativity part. Both also teach at MIT during the fall, Joe teaches creative writing and Gay teaches English as a foreign language.
Joe and Gay are now married 48 years and Joe tested whether Gay likes SF before he proposed 😉

In the last panel of the day, Joe read from his short story Blood Sisters, which found its way into the Hal-Con book of this year and then answered more audience questions.

At the art show I was very astonished to learn that Katoh Sensei had thrown in a print of the Dome Child cover he made for me and the pic was up for auction. Wow! Thank you!

The day was concluded with the GoH party in the con hotel and its obligatory bingo session. It was a great first day of the convention.
And although the readings happened on the second day, I just uploaded the first reading from my novel “She Should Have Called Him Siegfried” to YouTube.
Stay tuned for next weekend’s report on the second convention day, where I had both my own panels on “Indie vs. Traditional Publishing” and “Time Management for Writers”.