Friday, January 23, 2015

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

This post is a little overdue -- mostly because I wasn't sure what I was going to say!

Generally, around this time of year I share my writing plans for the months ahead. With various degrees of accuracy. Midway through last year I was planning on 2015 being a very busy and very prolific year (much like 2014 was turning out to be with three full-length novels, two novellas, and an Advent Calendar as the end score).

However, as the year wound down and I began to evaluate the past months, I came to the conclusion that it was time to consider long term strategy.

The thing about publishing right now is we're all -- at least those of us without seven figure advances to keep us afloat -- on a hamster wheel. We're writing constantly in order to keep up that steady influx of cash. Which a lot of the time is fine for someone like me who really doesn't know what to do with myself if I'm not writing.

But this is a different kind of year. I plan to travel and I want to buy a new house. And those are both time consuming -- thought consuming -- things.  But more importantly, last year I was ablaze with creativity and the drive (need) to write. I don't feel that at the moment.

I'm not burnt out -- I know only too well what that's like -- but I'm just not ready to write. I suppose part of it is just the projects that I do have planned for this year are a little more complicated. They require more research and more prep than usual.

And that's a good thing. Both for me and for you.

So...fewer but bigger projects for 2015.

Winter Kill (Spring/Summer)
Jefferson Blythe, Esquire (Fall/Winter)
A charity short for the Trevor Project

And...that's about it as far as for-sure projects this year. And once upon a time, two full length novels would have been a very reasonable year's output.

Not anymore.

Are two lonely little releases reasonable during a year when I will have unusually high expenses? I really had to stop and give that some thought because how much I earn is dependent on how much I produce. New release equals big influx of cash. No new release means long stretches of juggling.

What I concluded was...quality of life and quality of work have to be paramount. Always. Also there's no point in being self-employed if I have no more control over my fate than when I worked for someone else.

But there's more to it than that. There is the ever-present and looming shadow of the hamster wheel. We (every indie writer I know) are all on it and most of us are running at top speed and going nowhere. We're not looking beyond selling lots of books in the short term followed by vague dreams of eventual "mainstream success" (whatever that means -- I don't think most writers have a clue).

There has to be a long term strategy. We all need a long term strategy. And I think, as with financial investments, the key here is diversity. I need space in this year's schedule to try (or at least consider) other possibilities. Non fiction? Other fiction? I have no idea. And I have no idea because I never have time to stop long enough to think about it -- but thinking about it, mulling over the possibilities is half the fun. That's the root of creativity right there: what if?

So this is my What If year. There will be stories -- probably more than I anticipate at this moment (because, like I said, I basically don't know what else to do with my time besides write) -- and I hope they'll prove as satisfying to read as I believe they will be to write.

We shall see what we shall see...



 

60 comments:

  1. Happy Friday! This is like a flux year for you. Lots of changes on the home front, but all building toward a more secure future. That's an important thing. House-hunting and moving is a big deal, but traveling, while fun, requires its own amount of planning as well. On top of that, there's that pesky long-term strategy to map out.

    I think two books is good (and they both sound excellent, by the way) because you always spoil us by sprinkling little projects in here and there. I love that you're doing something for The Trevor Project. It's an organization I support and it's close to my heart.

    I think your plan is a good one!

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    1. Flux year. That's it. This is definitely a turning point year. I feel good though. I feel excited.

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  2. Wise words, my friend. Wise words. I'm terribly proud of you for making this decision. Good for you!

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  3. Omg. Jim Carrey is back (the Winter Kill cover). How time has changed! Two new releases used to be such luxury for authors in the old days, now we are spoiled (at least in this genre). Go enjoy 2015. Have a proper holiday and come up with more murder stories on the beach.

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    1. NO!!!! Don't say that! :-D I hope I can forget those words and love my cover again. LOL You're right though. Once upon a time two novels a year was sign of a very productive and busy writer. Now it's like...SLACKER!!!! :-D

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  4. You could never be called a Slacker!!!

    I will be very happy to read whatever you create and present us with.. More or less, it doesn't matter as long and you have your health and are happy. The rest is cake!!!

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    1. Thank you, Nora! I appreciate that. And I agree with you.

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  5. It's good to go out and have adventures.

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  6. To steer clear of the hamster wheel, sounds for me very good! Time to live, time to think, time to do things they are important for you! I am happy about the announced projects and will there be more - wonderful, but if not, that's okay too. I think you are a hard reviewer of your work, you have to like it too, to be happy. I hope you can find a way to write, what you will write and can earn enough for a good life. It sounds like a adventure and you are brave to go this way!

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    1. Just giving myself the permission to take my time makes such a difference. There are so many stories I want to write, but I don't want to approach them like items on a checklist. I want to enjoy writing them -- there was such pleasure in the work last year. I don't want to lose that.

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  7. It's a very good idea to not rush, to have a flexible, long term strategy. Time for yourself, time for quiet ponderings. Good luck in all the plans! And how cool that you'll be writing a short for the Trevor Project! And two novels! How wonderful!

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    1. Thanks, KC. ;-) Yes, the Trevor Project is a very worthwhile enterprise.

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  8. A turning point year? Wonderful. May you embrace it, love it, enjoy it, and be nourished by it! I look forward to whatever comes our way. (so happy to hear about the Trevor Project short!)

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    1. You know, I got so much good advice when I took my sabbatical, and one thing I am determined to do is never lose track of those gains I made. To be mindful of how I spend my time and my creative energy. :-)

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  9. Quality over quantity. You can always release things on audio that have never been on audio before - kidding and giggling. Take the time to be you this year, your fans will always be begging for more because they are your fans.

    You are going to need extra time this year to find the right house and move. you never want to be in a position where you're calling your partner or agent and saying, "We need to hide another body", because real estate agents are a nightmare to deal with.

    Just be prepared fro some or all of to be begging for blog updates and shopping lists to read while you're taking time off to recharge and be amazing all over again.

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    1. Hey there, Mike! I will definitely be in touch. No worry of that. :-)

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  10. Good luck Josh hope this year is everything you want it to be, looking forward to reading whatever you produce this year.
    Can't wait for Winter Kill just love your mysteries nothing like a good serial killer to sink your teeth into.

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    1. I know! Even though I'm one of the very people who complains about the glut of serial killers in mysteries, I too enjoy a good scary serial killer thriller.

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  11. A new house - how exciting! I have no advice because I know you know how to take care of yourself. It sounds like a great year in the making - lots of positive changes.

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    1. Thanks, Denise! My sudden change of plans for the year caught me by surprise -- but it does feel like a good surprise.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It looks like you are going in the right direction for you. IMO that should be your main concern. As you know we will appreciate whatever you fell like giving us, but we are already on your debt.

    Be well!

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    1. You are always so kind, Antonella. :-)

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  13. Good luck with house hunting and other projects! We'll be here to read whatever comes out way from you.

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    1. Thanks, Susinok! Already new ideas are percolating. That;s what I love about this process.

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  14. Definitely quality over quantity. And if you're looking for ideas, I would absolutely sign up for an online writing class with you teaching about crafting mysteries!

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  15. If you want to write good fiction it's also always important to live I think. And that's what you're planning to do this year, so eventually this will be really good for your writing process, too.
    I#ve loved and enjoyed everything you wrote so far exactly because it never felt forced but like you had fun writing it and I really want it to stay that way. I would never want you to feel as if you're in a hamster's wheel.
    Please take all the time you need. Meanwhile I'll make sure to support you by buying your books that I haven't gotten around to read yet. Or buy my favourites again. :)

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    1. Yes! I do think that's one of the problems in any genre. When everyone begins to write based on what everyone else is writing -- versus fresh experience and individual research and lots of reading outside the genre.

      Instead of fresh fiction you get a lot of recycled air...

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  16. "Quality of life and quality of work have to be paramount." I'm pleased you feel this way, Josh. And that you feel you can afford to feel this way. That hamster wheel can become all-consuming.

    So..."two lonely little releases," but from you they will be worth the wait and loved all the more for it. Use your time to Think, Write and most of all, Enjoy!

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  17. "The quality of your work is not strained:
    It droppeth from your muse as a favor.
    Nurture it when it is received,
    And nurture yourself when it is not."

    (Thanks, William )
    ps We'll be patient and reread our favorites :)

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  18. I love reading about your plans and the new projects! Take care of you first and we'll be here waiting to read whatever you decide to write. I have to ask...will the new house be anything like Kit and J.X.'s new house in the last book? ;-) I LOVED your description of that house.

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    1. Well, the one we have our eye on is more of a fixer upper. But it has such potential. And of course I love the idea of reclaiming a garden and taking a relatively blank slate and making the house into something completely our own.

      So we shall see. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

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  19. Since my New Year's resolution is to read the books I already own before buying new ones (as if), I will just consider this your way of helping me keep that resolution. As I'm sure all previous commenters have said quantity...ooops...QUALITY over quantity

    Although I am disappointed not to see on your list the 7000 page epic of Ricky-Joe and Don's pilgrimage to bring their lone surviving bonsai to the temple on Mount Fuji sharing along the way their backwoods wisdom and love of music and pint-sized horticulture.

    Happy House Hunting.

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    1. LOL

      Yes. It's definitely on the list of future projects! WAY in the future projects. ;-D

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  20. I guess it's normal to feel restless from time to time. As one gets older, one's priority and ability to change are shifting. It takes courage to make big decision, to reach out of one's comfort zone. When reading 'The Last Policeman' last week, I kept thinking about my own 'bucket list', and realized there are still many places I want to go. Suddenly 'work' holds even less appeal than usual.

    Go enjoy life, Josh. Work can wait! We can wait. :-)

    Savanna

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    1. You're right. Change always presents risk. But it's impossible to move ahead without it, and I do think you always have to keep moving forward. Even when you can't see beyond your headlights.

      (No need to speed however) ;-D

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  21. I've still got books from your backlist to read, so I'll have a chance to catch up now!

    Good to see Winter Kill will finally escape from my To Read Unreleased shelf on Goodreads. Feels like it's been there forever!

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    1. The projects I do have planned are ones that especially interest me, so the work is sure to be satisfying.

      And I do certainly have an extensive backlist! So at least the newer readers have something to keep them busy. ;-)

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  22. What an exciting year you have planned for yourself. All those possibilities waiting for you! Enjoy your travels. I hope you are able to find the perfect house.

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    1. Thank you, Lori! I'm excited, that's for sure.

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  23. Enjoy your life and the search for a muse! Granted, we are spoiled by your talent and the fact that you write plenty, but it's the quality that draws me in, not the quantity. So, have fun exploring, enjoy your travels (do share some, if you don't mind, for us who can't travel much these days) and write a word or two, just to say Hi :-) !

    Goge

    P.S.Looking forward to the Winter Kill!

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  24. Rest, relax, enjoy. Everyone needs to take time out to recharge themselves, especially writers. We will happily reread your backlist (as I regularly do anyway) and look forward to your new work as it comes out. Good luck on the travel and house projects.

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    1. Thank you, Beth! You definitely have to keep refilling that well -- and it can't all come from other books. We all have to be present and accounted for in our lives. You have to live in order to have something interesting to say in your writing.

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  25. <<...writing constantly in order to keep up that steady influx of cash.>>

    Unfortunately, that seems to be the truth with too many writers these days and the quality is telling - poor writing and unimaginative storylines in far too many books - undoubtedly why I am drifting away from the genre.

    However, waiting for a couple of Lanyon gifts a year is quite a bright spot to anticipate; quality over quantity is what I look for.

    So enjoy your travels and your house hunting and I'll keep my Kindle charged - awaiting any new endeavors as well as re-reading your older works (they never get stale).

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    1. And they'll be novels, which I know readers especially enjoy. :-) And which are satisfying to write -- I do enjoy that leisurely sinking into the research and backstory and subplots. And it's reassuring to know I'm giving myself plenty of time to do these both the way I want to do them.

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  26. As long as you don't give up writing, as long as you continue to love writing, then what ever works is good by me. You have a gift. A gift that you have shared with others, nothing is better than that.

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    1. That's lovely. Thank you. And no worries.

      Really part of this year will be lining up projects for next year too because that's also part of the writing gig. You do have to work out a couple of years in advance what you're doing.

      Last year was so busy there was no real time for strategy.

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  27. I'm sure it's still a lot of work but any chance you would consider a print Collected Novellas, Volume 3 this year? The first two are among my faves and I do believe you have a lot left to choose from...;-)

    Good luck with the house hunting. It was going through the current house to purge and pack that got to me.

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    1. Actually, yes. That is possible. I did want to do a historical collection this year, but I have one short story yet to write for that. So yes, that's a real possibility!

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  28. This is timely, just today I was perusing my Kindle and started to re-read The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (my favorite btw) and was think what a shame it is that more authors in this genre can't write a great story with the same depth of characters as you do. I would seriously have no money left for all the books I would buy ;)

    When considering other projects, I would like to plant a seed for more non-fiction "craft" books specific to the GayRom/MM genre. I have read both versions of Man, Oh, Man and as much as I thoroughly enjoyed them I want so much more for this genre. I honestly don't think the genre is going anywhere, I believe it is evolving though. Unfortunately, we have good authors, decent indie publishers with great editors, but the stories are just awful. Sorry to be blunt, but I use to proofread for one of the online pubs and I know the playing field - good editing teams that scrub up and send out pigs wearing lipstick. I guess what I'm trying to say is, the genre needs you! Like a mentor, a professor of MM writing if you will.

    I am thrilled for you and your exciting new year - you will find the perfect house and when you travel you will come up with so many new stories! And I look forward, as always, to your two books. Thank you!

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    1. Well, that is very flattering. Thank you.

      I think the genre is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. There is still the ongoing tug of war over is it really GLBT fiction or is it romance...but this is all semantics, and I think your point is actually more apropos: where are the strong new voices? Where is the new perspective and fresh insight? There is a lot of not terribly interesting recycling of plots and characters.

      But maybe that's more to do with publishing in general right now rather than anything specific to M/M. I do think that even some of the worst M/M does have a crazy and wild energy to it. Like the pulp fiction of old.

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    2. I honestly see a lot of things going on in the genre that remind me very much of the fanfic writing culture. I don't think that's down purely to plenty of people in the genre having come from that culture (me for one), but because it's a very similar kind of community in many ways. So the same behaviour patterns happen.

      I think the only thing likely to change that is the genre expanding so there's not such a feeling of everyone knowing everyone, and being more diverse, so there are more viewpoints. At the moment it's still quite close knit, which can be great, but it can lead to stifling of criticism, and debate because that's perceived as disloyal.

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  29. Isnt there something written about maslows heirachy? Isnt a dwelling among it? As much as I look forward to your novels , I say take time to locate the home ya need and all other things will fall in place. ?
    Idc for nonfiction , usually its full of boring realities or taumas I would never wish to visit again, but actually I would try one you wrote, I think you can write a telephone book and make it amusing and non-bland.
    Idk publishing industries also are biased as well? I always believed a good story is a good story regardless of topic. Meh its not surprising the whole world is surrounded by injustice of race,tribe,gender,finances , sexuality and so on. Just another sad mark I guess... unless i misunderstand the topic? often I do.
    I would sing a 'prayer" for good hunting [house?] silently { trust me no one would want to hear it even if i could lol }
    Happy days and Life brother, aishen

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