Monthly Archives: September 2011

Clearing the decks for action

Isn’t odd how like army a writer’s life is? Long periods of nervous waiting. Then ‘hurry up we want it yesterday.’  You can also guarantee this will happen just when everything else does. I am now expecting the editorial notes for CUTTLEFISH  soon. Tomorrow, or the next couple of days.  And no doubt they’ll want them back sooner… And I need to do this as I have other books to write. But… we have a filk harpist coming over on the ferry to visit with her harp, for a week, and my friend Peter coming over to open Aladdin’s cave… uh, his container which has just shipped over (which has 50kg of flour, rice, oats, polenta, oil and a slew  of other dry good he’s kindly bringing over for me, and new tires for the ute – which I have to service and replace those at latest next week.)  And the weather looks to be improving (so our fish stocks – which are getting low need replenishing. We manage to live on my income, by growing it, catching it or making it ourselves) .

So today I cleared the decks.  I find the state of my office has a huge impact on my productivity (possibly more effect than cause. When you’re depressed you couldn’t be bothered to tidy it.) I reach a point where I simply can’t live any clutter any more. And sorting it out IS good for me and my mind.  Oddly it helps to fix stories too.

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Well, just heard from Lou Anders (Pyr books) that he’s busy with his editorial notes and loving the book so far.  I, on the other hand, am looking forward to some different editorial input. I do know that a good editor can lift a book from mediocre to brilliant.  It’s incredibly hard to structurally edit your own work well, and one has to learn (I have a lot, from Eric mostly. He’s very good).

It’s been a present worry that my work might not sit well with Pyr, so  this is a comfort.

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Collaboration, economics and a general grump

So I just got what to my enormous relief is the last of edits for the three way Heirs books (I write the first drafts and they go to the co-authors, before coming back to get a final edit). It’s a relief that its the last, but I really don’t even want to look at the unpleasant vast amount of work I know will be involved.  I have one more book to do in this universe, but it’s with Eric, who is a good structural editor,  and knows a great deal about writing.  He also is meticulous about his homework – you won’t have to fix myriad continuity errors and he gets the history right.  He’s also really good about consulting.  Obviously I want to do books on my own,  firstly because they’re mine, and secondly for financial reasons. Eric and I split the advance 50:50, but Mercedes took 50% and we got 25% each — which doesn’t actually reflect the work (by word count I’ve done 75-98% of the books, and for the all bar the first had barely any prior outline above a 1/4 page – which I wrote) or by adding another 50% onto the sales.  It’s not worth it, and to get 2% of the cover price of a paperback I won’t do it again.  Well… not unless someone came up with a truly vast advance. I suppose for  1/4 of a million dollars – which would replace (it’s a lot more expensive here) the home and farm we had to sell to emigrate and to move ourselves and the dogs and cats.  That would leave me in a position to say that I will only self-publish e-books thereafter, and if people want to read my books, well and good. Right now, it’s take a full-time day job (there is a possibility) and cut back on the writing hugely, or continue to try and build the e-books and make a little from traditional publishing. Traditional publishing and distribution and bookselling have certainly made enough from me, for which, partly because of collaboration, and partly because of  authors getting a very small share of gross, I haven’t seen much.  For example, Shadow of the Lion has paid royalties, but my advance was $7500.  In the end I have about doubled that… Not bad for a book that grossed  more than 2/3 of a million – for the rest of the chain. I worked out the other day that by now ‘my’ books have grossed over 3 million dollars. For the last ten years of average 14 hour days (to take out the advances and books that are still forthcoming)… I’ve earned 124K.  I know.  That’s  their gross earnings. They still have costs, you say… Yes, that’s what is usually  ignored in these assessments:  it’s their gross, against my gross.  And when you look at their costs a small part of that is paper and print. The rest is premises, staff and equipment… which are my expenses too.  I know. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else. I chose to become an author, and I enjoy doing what I do.   I still love it, but this can’t continue.  I need to start earning a living, or start doing something else and writing as an occasional hobby.

Which is why I am pushing hard to sell some e-books.  To make a web presence. Because I want to write, and I want to be able to.


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Left Behind

Naked Reader Press put up one of my very odd short shorts as a freebie on Amazon Kindle.  It’s ranked at No. 27,  No. 1 in Fantasy ranks, and 17 in Genre Fiction.  This does help to get my other work noticed so if you like my books and stories downloading  Left Behind  while it is free will cost you nothing and will help me.




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Bolg PI snippet

She put the money down next to the left side on the seat, as instructed, leaning over me to put it down. She’d just stood up straight when the stake came flying out of the darkness, aimed straight at her heart.
Only the top of my helmet was in the way. A microsecond earlier and it would have been through the visor, but I heard or saw something. I’m not sure which but react first and worry about the details later is always good.
I’d knocked her sideways and turned and ducked in the same move. That was good, because it meant the stake angled up off my helmet, knocked me over but didn’t kill me, and just ripped across her breast and shoulder–something vampire-bacteria will laugh at repairing. Whereas the heart being torn out of the chest by a rowan-wood stake is more of a long term challenge. So, from the being alive so you can get paid by a live client point of view, it was all good. Maybe shucking the Glock and shooting back into the darkness wasn’t quite so smart.
Not as dumbass as her transforming into a cloud of injured bats, and leaving me in the cemetry, with a brown paper bag with twenty five thousand dollars in it, a pair of red stilettos heels, a bloody coctail frock, a torn bra, no nickers (she’s a vampire, for crying in a bucket) and the dee dah dee dah of police sirens in the background.
You still think my rates are a bit high?


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The Changelingomicon

The Changelinomicon  – which is all Ori’s fault :-),  is a sort of experiment in serial story.

Oh… if you click on the link it takes you to – where I’ll homestead this story.


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Pioneer go home…

I am probably as typical a guy as a pink sixteen foot tall rhino is a typical guest at your 8 year old daughter’s sleepover party.  Which sometimes makes writing for an audience… interesting. With the riot about YA going on in Mad Genius, I got to thinking about the books I loved most as kid/teen.  Like most kids of my era I liked the Enid Blyton – not Noddy or particularly the secret seven (although the magic faraway tree has a soft spot),  but the one where the kids had to hide out on an island and make do for themselves was probably my all time favorite. Not the characters, or the story, but what they had to do. It was my favorite side of Swiss Family Robinson too – which is why the emigrating and settling on the Island blog is called Flinders Family Freer. Likewise THE BLUE WORLD by Jack Vance. It wasn’t the Kraken, or the satire, or the adventure… it was how you survived and prospered and built up out of nothing, in a world without wood, or metal or even stones (the involuntary settlers are castaways from the crash of prison-ship on a water world, and live on the floating vegetation).

I loved the sheer ingenuity of it. The extracting of iron from blood, etc. That aspect probably was one of the driving forces in making me a scientist, making me choose to live on a remote island.

The current trend in YA is dystopian.

I usually guess trends wrong, but I find the idea of rebuilding after the dystopia a lot more interesting. The politically incorrect pioneering phase.

What does anyone else think?


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The good ship earth…

“As you join the good ship earth, and mingle with the dust, You’d better leave your underpants with someone you can trust…”

I’ve always been mystified by that line. After all, once I’m dead, my underpants won’t be of any value to me, and i really don’t mind if Robert Mugabe capers around with them on his head. No hang on… if he is going to do any capering in them I want a nasty dose of crabs (and not the kind you’d eat for dinner) when I go to dust and worm-food.

I’m still waiting on editorial input from Pyr. It’s a little distracting. I’m working rather haphazardly on Bolg, PI – the misadventures of my pictish ‘dwarf’ (he’s genetically a dwarf – with achondroplasia, and an added dose of longevity). This my first attempt at an adult (and it is quite… adult, more by innuendo and mockery than graphic content, but still) first person, and I’m not in a hurry to do it again.


“I’ll be there ASAP.” Having a jack to a microphone and earphone in my helmet made me feel like an electric monkey (and you can’t buy one of those easily) but it was convenient. I was at her gate just as she was tossing the rather anemic Goth-boy out of it. She had the grace to look embarassed. “You came a lot quicker than I expected.”
“It’s a problem,” I said, dryly. “But I’ve got a cream that helps.” She looked puzzled so I took her back into the house. “Tell me about the ransom demand.”
She showed me the text message, which I did a good imitation of reading for the first time. Twenty five grand… wasn’t really much by her standards. But she was pretty high maintenance. “The trustees’ll never give it to me,” she said, wringing her hands. “I’m going to have to… to raise the money somehow.”
That was going to be interesting. You don’t even want to think about vampire loan-sharks. And conventional banking is a little awkward when you don’t get up ‘till dark, and your identity and and date of birth don’t appreciate being examined.



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“So how does it feel, now the old man’s gone…

Do you want to be him?”

Thick as a Brick, More Jethro Tull

Yes. It is a good, scary question. I find myself doing things the way my father would have.

I loved the old man.  And yet I don’t want to be him. Oh, I’d like his strengths. I’d like his courage, his kindness, his generosity. I’d like his marksmanship and his strength. But I fear his weaknesses too.  Alcohol was a demon and an escape for him for the inadequacies he perceived in himself.  I am scared of it.  I know I have his obsessive personality.  I know the desire to numb it. I know I feel my own inadequacy as writer, at least by the measure of  ‘success’ we have available.  I know he was hurt by his lack of education (this from a man who spoke, fluently, 7 African languages, could tell you a man’s origins from his speech, and could manage the correct praise-greeting for a vast number of clans.)  I still dream of doing that PhD finally. Just to prove that I can.   I know his convictions and his outspokeness hurt him at work.  I see myself doing the same thing.

I do not want to be my father.

I will write more.  I will not let this system break me. Somehow I’ll keep publishing.

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“And it’s only the giving that makes us…

What we are.”

yes more Tull. But this morning I was thinking about the good guys in my industry. And the occasional generous acts from some who I would have struggled to call ‘good guys’.  A lesson that people are seldom all one thing.

There is no getting away from the fact that like musicians, like actors, like artists… life at the bottom and middle of the writing pile is not exactly easy. The way the natural distribution of bottom-to-top has been screwed by the industry for their benefit has made it much worse (99% of the income goes to 1% of the writers. It will always be a skewed curve, but 80%  going to 30% is more realistic). Unlike the fellow protesting the death of books in the Guardian, who wanted a ‘living wage’ for authors (presumably from the Government, rather than parts of the industry claiming 90-94% of the cover price of that book. ) I accept that this is at least in part a self-inflicted injury. If I can get it, I want to earn a living off my writing. If possible without screwing that other half of myself, the reader.  Yes, obviously, if I can, I would like a bigger share of that book’s cover price.  I do resent working very hard at the process and getting less of a reward than others who add very little.  But the truth is I love what I do.  I’m not particularly greedy or venal, and being suddenly a billionaire would last me about as long as it took to apply the money to things I thought needed it – which is one reason authors, and musos, and artists are so damned easy to rip off – their reward is not entirely in cash, anyway.

What is amazing though is just how many good guys there are, in and around writing, often battling themselves, and yet helping out other writers. Yes, you’ve got the occasional jerks, who funnily enough are often the very ones saying how they’re discriminated against…  But without Eric Flint, I wouldn’t have made it past one book. Without Garth Nix, Marianne de Pierres, and Rowena Cory Daniels I would not have been able to emigrate (they were prepared to go through the paperwork to write recommendations as to why I would be a good candidate for a visa as a writer).   Dan and Sarah Hoyt have been almost relentless in their support of my long-range career.  The Save the Dragons project brought the good guys out of the woodwork.  Walt and Francis made it work – I couldn’t have.  A whole list of authors promoted it.  I’ve had had a number of fans, Keith, Cedar, Tania… all doing work on the social marketing side that I am clueless about.  I know they’re doing far more for me than I ever could for them.

It’s an oddly idealistic crowd us humans are, for supposedly nasty critters. I just hope I can pay a little back and a lot forward.

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