Now for the wall of text. You may treat yourself to 1 piece of chocolate guilt-free if you make it to the end.
Things have been a little hectic over the last six months. After the Allure of Fire came out I was determined to take a week off from work, expecting to thoroughly crash after spending 3 months at a frantic pace to get the book done on time. The build up to publishing that book was craaazy. I had settled on a release date months before and even locked it in with Amazon, and once locked in there was no pushing the date back at all. This was an ambitious move since I hadn't even finished writing the story at the time but I was confident that I could. And I did! … with 9 hours to spare. When I set the publish date I expected the book to be 90 – 100,000 words long. It ended up at 126,000. Stay tuned because blowing past my projected word count is a theme in my life.
Those extra words had a knock-on effect. It took longer to write, longer to edit, longer for my editor to read and to do her thing, and longer for me to go through my editor's notes. The resulting madness led to a frantic final few days that looked a lot like an assembly line. My editor marathoned the book as best she could, ignoring life around her and becoming a bleary eyed zombie all so she could help me get this thing done on time. The final two days were nuts. She would hand me the printed chapters with her notes scrawled across while I made the corrections in the next room. I then loaded each of the corrected chapters from my PC onto Vellum (a Mac ebook making program), then paced about while my editor finished the next chapter. Have you ever had someone read over your shoulder? It's annoying as hell, isn't it? How about if it's the author hovering around as you're reading the climax to the book with the pressure of knowing that there's less than 12 hours before it needs to be published?
My editor finished the book at 2am. At 2:20 I had finished the whole thing and loaded it onto Amazon, clicked 'publish' and: success! But only just. If we'd had a power failure I'd have been screwed. If we lost the internet I'd have been screwed. If either my PC or the Mac decided to do a 9 hour update, or if Amazon went down for maintenance, I'd have been screwed. And if my editor came back to me and said: “This ending sucks ...” then I'd have pulled my hair out. Thankfully everything worked out. We finished on time and I promised my editor that I would never put her through that time crunch again.
After that, my supposed 'week off' turned into 'let's get a lot of chores done.' I didn't relax. Instead, I returned to an old project: Kingston Raine and the Lost Angel. I had shelved this book way back in 2015. It's the fifth Kingston book and has been something of a noose hanging around my neck. I was working a full time job while trying to write and edit this monster of book that just wouldn't end. I was also trying to figure out how to be a full time author, complete with advertising, self promotion, and learning all I could about the business side of things. The problem was: I was seriously burnt out. Normally I can write 2,000 words a day without issue, but with this book every 500 words was a challenge. I needed a break. I tried taking a week off, that didn't work. 500 words a day was still a nightmare. I tried taking a month off. That didn't work either. I even edited a completely different book to recharge myself. That didn't work. No matter what I did, I simply hated writing the Lost Angel. I didn't hate the story or the characters, I just hated having to write it. Worse still, the book was 90% done. I was writing and editing at the same time so almost all of it was ready to go, yet I just couldn't go on. So, I did the most painful thing I could think of (aside from deleting the whole thing). I took a year off. Not from writing, just from the Kingston Raine universe. One year turned into two and with a great amount of trepidation I returned to the book a few months ago.
To my surprise it was better than I remembered. Unfortunately the madness surrounding the Allure of Fire (scrambling to finish it in time) caused the inevitable crash. And annoyingly, the crash came when I was 90% of the way into the Lost Angel. Who'd have guessed?
I thought the crash might last for a week. Nope. It lasted for 3 months. I wasn't unproductive during that time, just not as productive as I'd like to have been, like I was stuck in 2nd gear instead of usual 4th.
Nevertheless I plodded along and finished the book. My editor read it and loved it! … except for the ending. The climax was fine. Most of the resolution was fine. It was the last 1,000 words that were a problem. As she has been invested in the Kingston Raine universe for several years already I've taken her annoyance with the ending to heart and that is where I am now: stuck on an appropriate ending. It's left me with a tricky situation. I have a 180,000 word book and everything is fine except for the last 1,000. Sigh.
In case you're wondering what was I doing while my editor was reading the book, I was fixing things that maybe didn't (but they really did) need fixing. To get back into the frame of mind to edit Kingston Raine and the Lost Angel I went back to read the first Kingston book. Normally I'd say that you should never do that, but I had been out of that world for years and I needed a recap on the style, language, and plot points. So I read the original book for research. I found a clunky sentence here and there but I was able to ignore them … until I found a typo. Hoo boy, all it took was one misspelling and I knew I had to go back into the manuscript to fix it. But if I was going to fix that then maybe I could tweak those clunky sentences as well. What began as a simple read-through ended up being a whole new polish of the book, which did not go as quickly as I expected. But by then I was committed to finishing the whole damn thing.
Admittedly, I wasn't entirely thrilled with my editing job when the book first came out. I trimmed a little too much in an effort to make the book as fast a read as possible, but it came at the sacrifice of characterisation. Plus, all the characters seemed to squint and smirk and communicate almost exclusively by raising their eyebrows. Some of what was published now feels awkward and cringe-inducing. Hopefully this will be the last time I ever try to tweak a previously-written book, aside from fixing the inevitable typo that pops up. So that took some time during and after my re-doing of the Lost Angel.
Another problem with the Kingston Raine books is that they don't fit into an easily marketable category. At best they are fantastical magical realism. What does that mean? I have no idea. Either way, with the Lost Angel coming up I needed a cover for that, and while I was working on that I also needed an update on the previous covers because they were letting me down. So it was re-design time! I'm not exactly a quick or gifted photoshopper. I can do a couple of tricks and I can work the shit out of them, but even so it's a time consuming process doing 5 book covers from scratch. I decided to go with 'guy against a colourful background.' Why? Because after years of trying to peddle the Kingston books I felt as though I had seen enough covers to think: 'Screw it! I'm doing something I can actually do!' But I'll tell you something, getting an appropriate Kingston model was a pain in the ass and time consuming process. I have seen more male models and man chest than you'd believe. I have seen more weird results than I'd care for. Eventually I found a reasonable face but not a reasonable body, so I had to start Frankensteining them together. A tedious process. So far I've spent 3 weeks pushing pixels around and I got stupidly bored in the process. But hey, I did get to listen to a lot of podcasts. And I discovered some new music on youtube (Dorothy and Jinjer, for those curious few).
While my editor was still reading the Lost Angel I decided to work on another previously-started series: the adventures of Raike (not its finished title). In January 2017 I felt myself floundering. I was stressing out about the Chimera series since I had blown past my projected word count (me of all people? Noooooo, that's unheard of!) and I needed a quick break. That series had a gazillion characters and plots going on and I wanted something simple to recharge. The solution: Raike – a mercenary for hire in a fantasy world full of magic and bad guys. The story in question: an orphan no one cares about has been kidnapped. The only person who decides to do something about it is a sell-sword who has been ordered not to get involved.
Do you even need to guess what happened? It has something to do with 'word count.' Despite the story taking on a life of its on, I finished it before my editor had finished the Lost Angel, so I got to work on Raike 2. I'm about halfway through now and things are going well. With any luck I'll have that book finish this month and I'll start on Raike 3, then return to the Chimera series. My plan with the Raike series is to sit on them until the first three books are done and then publish them quickly together. It means a bit of waiting around, but hey, I'm trying a new strategy.
Right, enough with the work talk. Tonight is comedy night! I'm in Melbourne, home of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I've already seen Phil Wang, Stephen K. Amos and David O'Doherty. Tonight: Mark Watson. Later in the week are a couple of free shows. Should be good.