Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! Five Things You're Grateful For.

Oh sure, I know a lot of you don't celebrate Thanksgiving or don't celebrate it this time of year. And yes, I know there are problems with this particular holiday. But for me Thanksgiving is about taking the time to celebrate all that is good and right with my life. I don't know about you, but most of the time I am focused on all that is not right -- and what I need to do to change that. I can be so focused on what has to be fixed that I forget to notice all that is perfectly good just as it is.

There's nothing wrong with taking the time to acknowledge -- to celebrate -- that there is much to be thankful for.

Here are five things I'm thankful for:

1 - Another year spent with my family. My parents are old enough now that I'm particularly happy to see them at every holiday table. And my nieces and nephews are getting to an age where they may well choose to spend holidays with friends or -- eventually -- new family. So I treasure these last holidays while we are still in stasis.

2 - Having enough -- more than enough -- to eat. I wish this could be true for everyone.

3 - Good wine shared with good friends.

4 - The fact that I am still passionate about writing. I love my job. And I know how fortunate I am to be able to say so.

5 - The Film Preservation Society. It's important work and I'm so glad people have undertaken this cause. Because the protection and preservation of art is no small thing to a society.

What are you thankful for this autumn? What do you have to be grateful for?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lost in Translation

I received some excellent news today. The Japanese edition of Fatal Shadows is going into a second print run.

Meanwhile Fair Game was picked up by Harlequin Mondari, the largest romance publisher in Italy as their first foray into male-male fiction. One of my German publishers (I have two) is about to pitch A Dangerous Thing to their acquisitions committee -- which sounds like the German edition of Fatal Shadows must be doing reasonably well. My other Italian publisher (I guess I have two of those as well?) sent the cover art for Out of the Blue. And I'm about to list the Spanish edition of A Dangerous Thing on Amazon.

Se Habla Espanol! Only we don't. And therein lies the rub.

There’s a lot going on with translations right now -- translation and audio are suddenly hotly contested rights in contract negotiations -- more because of where the book market is heading (a global direction) than where it is right at the moment. We can all see the trend.  It's a small world after all.

Not all of my forays into translation have been successful. Dutch was a disaster. And I've sold less than ten copies of either of my Finnish translations. And zero of my sole Portuguese translation. Spanish has not been a great success, but then again the free Spanish edition of The French Have a Word for it had hundreds of downloads. So.

As I look at the results...the Finnish translations did not have publisher support behind them and I do think that makes a difference. Then again, the Dutch translations were through a publisher but frankly, they might as well have gone through a pirate site. The Portuguese translation was through a new company called Babelcube.  It operates on a business model similar to that of ACX (the Amazon company that produces DIY audio books). You don't pay for the translation up front, you split the profits on a sliding scale with the translator and Babelcube. Bablecube lists the work in a number of venues -- some of which the author could access but some which the author probably couldn't (at least without a fair bit of research and effort).

It's an ingenious idea, but there are inherent difficulties: no quality control, no production oversight, and no real promotional or marketing support.

It is enormously exciting to reach new readers -- is there a greater test of the universality of a story than putting it into another language and seeing how it holds up? But there is also the problem of not being able to converse with these readers, not knowing how or where to market to them. I don't speak Japanese, Finnish, Italian, Spanish, German, French (okay, a little tiny bit of French), Portuguese or Dutch. I've received wonderful support from Italian bloggers and from Japanese writers and readers. Spanish readers seem very enthusiastic, so we'll see what happens when this next book
comes out.

One disconcerting thing is every single translation -- whether through a huge publisher or a hired freelancer at some point gets slammed for the quality of the translation. I'm not exaggerating.  Can translation be subjective? I don't know.

I know that translators are generally underpaid and underappreciated.

I also know that so far translations have not been enormously lucrative for me. Some of them are more lucrative than I expected, but I am not getting rich off any of them. And in some cases, the translations have not even paid for the cover art and formatting. But then I am not Dan Brown or Nora Roberts and I'm not expecting those kinds of results. I'm basically just laying the groundwork for the future global book market. I noticed years ago I was getting letters from readers all around the world, and that's the beauty of the digital age. Now these readers can enjoy my work in their native language. Or maybe more to the point, recommend the books to their friends and family who do not read English?

Anyway, what do you think? If English is not your first language, how important is it to you to read the books in your first language? If English is not your first language, how did you discover my work? Or the male-male genre for that matter?


Friday, November 14, 2014

You Say You Want an Evolution

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve mostly been working on “Baby, it’s Cold,” my story for the Comfort and Joy holiday anthology I’m doing with LB Gregg, Harper Fox and Joanna Chambers. As much as I love writing Christmas stories, it’s been slow going.

Partly it’s slow going because there’s so much going on right now in my non-writing life, but part of it is simply that I was trying to force an idea that wasn’t quite right.

Ideas come to me in bits and pieces. A particular character, a particular dilemma, a certain relationship dynamic…but sometimes not even that much. Sometimes the spark is just a scene or the way a song makes me feel. I’m not sure you can really analyze the creative drive -- or maybe what I mean is, the analysis can drain the magic out of the flash of inspiration.

I got the idea for “Baby, it’s Cold” from a brief article I read about hiring a chef for the holidays. I thought that would be a very fun thing -- although the idea of a professional chef trying to make sense of my kitchen? Madness. But fiction isn’t reality.

Initially the idea seemed straightforward. Someone would hire a chef for the holidays. I could picture my chef: tough, tattooed, pierced…not your normal TV chef. Did he maybe have a prison record? Hmm. Rocky. Yes, I would name him Rocky.

So who would hire Rocky? Someone with money, obviously. Someone throwing a party? And what would their conflict be?

This was the problem. Jesse would hire Rocky. I knew what Jesse looked like because he was inspired by Johanna Ollila’s cover art months ago. But though I knew what Jesse looked like…I had no sense of Jesse. Why was he hiring a chef? And how would this tie into the anthology theme of being housebound for the holidays?

I decided that Jesse worked for an actor who was throwing a Christmas Eve party. Jesse was organizing everything because he was this actor’s PA, but at one time they had been lovers…

Hmm. That just

Already I could feel it starting to go off the rails. But I persisted. So…Jesse was still working for this selfish asshole actor because…because…he had written a script and this guy was going to produce it so he could star in it and that would be Jesse’s big break so he was putting up with the indignity of staying on and working for his ex.

Okay. And Jesse was coming down with a cold so he would be sort of feverish and acting out of character.


Convoluted. Artificial. Book people with book dilemmas.

So a week went by and I kept trying to imagine the dialog but it Just. Wasn’t. Happening.

I didn’t like Jesse continuing to work for this jerk who was using him, and I couldn’t see what the attraction would be for Rocky. And why would a snooty actor -- or his wishy-washy PA -- hire someone as street as Rocky?

Another week.

I turned to the research. What would Rocky cook? Maybe that would give me a hint.

Well, heck. Rocky could cook anything, that wasn’t terribly interesting.

No, what would be interesting would be trying to cook for someone like Rocky. Because Rocky was a perfectionist, critical, a bit arrogant. And if the scrambled eggs weren't right, he'd tell you.

And all at once I had it. Jesse turns up at Rocky’s hideaway cabin to cook a romantic Christmas Eve dinner for two. Except Rocky isn’t expecting Jesse because he and Jesse aren’t together anymore. And Jesse can’t cook. And Rocky’s current boyfriend also shows up...

I like it. It's funny. Nutty in a romantic comedy kind of way. There's natural conflict. The idea has evolved, changed, and now we just might have a story. I'll keep you posted.



Friday, November 7, 2014

Fair Play Launch

Fair Play goes live on Monday, so this blog is a tiny bit premature, but oh well! The launch parties are at Goodreads and my Facebook Fan Page, and once again there is a glittering array of presents and giveaways to celebrate the new story. I cannot get over the generosity of my readers.

Plus a little something special. I'm taking part in Amber Kell's annual birthday party, and my contribution this year was a little "birthday" snippet with Elliot and Tucker. You can read that here -- just scroll down the page a bit.

Meanwhile, you can order Fair Play at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes and of course directly from Carina Press.

Fifty years ago, Roland Mills belonged to a violent activist group. Now, someone is willing to kill to prevent him from publishing his memoirs.

When ex-FBI agent Elliot Mills is called out to examine the charred ruins of his childhood home, he quickly identifies the fire for what it is—arson. A knee injury may have forced Elliot out of the Bureau, but it’s not going to stop him from bringing the man who wants his father dead to justice.

Agent Tucker Lance is still working to find the serial killer who’s obsessed with Elliot and can’t bear the thought of his lover putting himself in additional danger. Straightlaced Tucker has never agreed with radical Roland on much—“opposing political viewpoints” is an understatement—but they’re united on this: Elliot needs to leave the case alone. Now.

Tucker would do nearly anything for the man he loves, but he won’t be used to gain Elliot access to the FBI’s resources. When the past comes back to play and everything both men had known to be true is questioned, their fragile relationship is left hanging in the balance.