2018 Wrap-Up: A Year of Opposites

We’re about to blast into 2019, but it doesn’t quite feel like it. 2018 was such a major year for me that it’s weird to think it’s going to be gone. I’m going to sum up the year the way I do best: as straight-forwardly as possible.

2018 was an unusual year for me. Some good, some bad. Mostly good. The highs were pretty high, and the lows were, well, pretty low.

The biggest and most significant thing is The Book Deal. I wanted 2018 to be the year I sold a novel. I ended up selling three of them to Gollancz, my first choice publisher. I’m still reeling about that. As far as I know, I’m the only author to have snagged a three-book deal with Gollancz this year, let alone a debut novelist. When you consider that the novel trilogy we sold is a space opera, in an industry dominated by epic fantasy, it’s quite the surprise. Not that it was easy. The road to getting that deal was winding, looping, rocky and filled with crevices and mudslides and angry, carnivorous goats, but we landed there in the end.

The same can be said for the year in its entirety. I spent the first six months punching out a novel I’d started in October 2017. It wasn’t going well. I was having doubts about it. Felt I was out of my depth, the world-building too grandiose, the characters too similar to things I’d done before. It was much larger in scope than anything I’d written, and I had a lot more wet clay to carve into something resembling a narrative. None of this is new to an author. But I had other issues along the sideline: I was frequently unwell with the flu. Hours with my day job were scant and unpredictable and hinged on unusual circumstances. Family tragedies happened. Then more of them. People I knew died. I had issues with friends. A few bad run-ins made me re-evaluate how I engage in social circles. Renovations meant to be done in my living space didn’t happen. Work hours changed and plans with them.This is all just life. But mental health issues stomped all over my mind-space and creative ability in mid-March, their engines fuelled by minor tragedies on the side. All of that bleed into my writing motivation.

See, whatever’s going on in my life, I’ve always used writing and story-telling to ground me. It takes the edge off things and gets me channelling my energy into getting work done, and at the end of the day I have something I’m proud of. Writing aside: I like accomplishing things. Having something to show for my efforts. Writing is one of the ways I make that happen.

Say I don’t have a good writing day. I fall short of accomplishing what I want. Then I have another bad day. And another. I start to lose the willpower to get that writing done. I feel bad because I’m losing the motivation. I won’t let myself take the day off or have me-time, because I know it’ll fuel my unease of not getting work done. I won’t be able to enjoy anything properly, I’ll feel guilty. So I double my efforts. Which makes me doubly worried I’ll have another bad writing day, and I’m twice as on edge before the writing day has even started. Which slowly, grardually, burns away at my energy, physically and mentally.

So imagine that mental state on a loop, piling up and doubling down for three months straight. One Monday, at the razor’s edge of 6 hours work and about 500 shoddy words to show for it, I, quite literally, couldn’t touch the keyboard. I couldn’t write another word. I couldn’t spend one more second in my world. If I did, I’d break something.

And looming over all of this like a dark, uncertain cloud, was my submission of STORMBLOOD to Gollancz. Not knowing if the novel would finally get picked up, or if it would crash and burn into a smouldering heap. The endless emails, check-ins, phone calls, editorials, etc, didn’t help, because at any moment it could all come crashing down into nothing.

It took me the better part of the year (and a very sore back, very sleepless nights and several raging headaches) to understand how important self-care is. And that it’s okay to have a bad writing session. It’s okay to take the day off, to take the week off. It’s okay to see a movie, to wake up late, to head to the park. It’s okay to step away from the keyboard, it’ll be there when you get back. Drawing on the mental health stuff, I’ve also understood that there’s certain things I need to do for myself and circumstances I need to set-up for my engines to be working at full capacity. It’s slightly depressing, knowing you’ve got oil leaks in your tank and have to regularly, perpetually, repair them. But I’ve always believed in honesty, and if you can’t be honest with number one you won’t be honest with others.

And because I’m a very driven, very go-get-it person, the idea of kicking back and allowing myself to put the tools down had to be pounded into my brain. I’m still working on de-compressing doing it effectively. Ploughing ahead, rain or sun, worked in 2017. It didn’t work this year. If it was anything but my writing, I’d be okay with taking breaks. But because it is, and because I use writing to improve my life, it hit hard. But it taught me an important lesson and helped me re-evaluate my work-ethic and my writing is all the better for it.

Because I’m all about giving the bad news first, I’ll now discuss the good. While I didn’t get much writing done in the short fiction department (I’ve not written a single non-flash piece the entire year), I did write a few flash pieces, and sold plenty more. I also had a few stories published for the first time, my favourite probably being Traumahead, and have scattered pieces upcoming next year and in 2020. I also got my work translated into two new languages: French and Spanish.

I also achieved my goal of reading more. To date, I’ve read 45 books this year. 15 short of my admittedly unrealistic goal of 60, but I’ve read more this year than any other year (and some of these were 650+ page monsters). I branched out into graphic novels. I narrowed down my tastes in both reading and watching, and trust myself pretty early on to bail out or not even bother if I’m bouncing off the material.

I did a bit of travelling, established a respectable gin collection (I stand at 15 now), got into shape, and generally improved my quality of life. Feeding off the mental health stuff I mentioned earlier, I have a much better understanding of the things I need to do for myself and what things set me off (which is why some people, website and types of media have been all but expunged from my life. I haven’t missed them). But overall, I’m all the more happier for it.

Then there’s the book deal. Undoubtedly the highlight of the year. I’m only starting to now wrap my grey-matter around the notion the book I furiously packed all my passions and loves and vulnerabilities into, won’t just be getting published, it’s been taken by Gollancz as their leading sci-fi title of early 2020, and will be the first of a trilogy. My job for the next few years is to write and plan two sequels to the favourite thing I’ve ever written. Worlds and species and characters and eccentricities I thought might never see the light of day are going to be launched out into the world.

It’s strange because I always believed the novel I snagged an agent with would sell, and STORMBLOOD would be something I’d sell later on, when I gained more reputation. I thought using first-person instead of a multi-PoV third wouldn’t work in space opera, a genre that’s commonly so sprawling and spectacle-heavy. I thought the voice was too rough for equal reasons. Having a protagonist perpetually feeling the bodily urges of addiction, focusing more on character and relationship than plot, having a emotionally raw protagonist, having some very dark moments happen, downplaying the space opera elements and going more The Expanse than Star Wars, all these things I feared would work against me. It wouldn’t make it unsellable, just harder. I was happy to be mistaken, because Gollancz were the first and only folks to offer, so STORMBLOOD literally never had a single rejection, from agent or editor.

After the mountain of binned novels, unfinished synopsises, dead-end creative writing classes, unbaked short stories, brutal rejections from agents and publishers, the dream has finally come true and I’m ecstatic. Sure, I could have self-published, but going solo isn’t my laneway. I’d never be happy, and I’d always feel like I fell miserably short. Being with Gollancz isn’t just about the money, but the reassurance that a book I’ve poured litres of my blood, sweat and tears into has ended up in secure, safe hands and will be treated as a professional piece of literature by folks who do this for a living, and they’re going to do everything they can to ensure the book is a success. Considering how many horror stories I’ve heard about failed books, shoddy contracts, botched cover art, rubbish sales, lazy and malicious editors, it’s a relief to be in safe hands.

It’s also a reassurance of where my writing career is going, and how I’d be spending it. Back in May-June, stuck in the swamp of Personal Issues and burned out from the weight of my exhaustation project, I thought my writing career was dead. That I’d lost the passion I’d had, that writing was a chore I had to manipulate myself into. Wind back a few years further, dusting off the residue of a lumpy book I hated writing, going to the store and rifling through all the space operas, the ones with spaceships, aliens, intergalactic politics, weird biotech and noir future cities and told myself never again.  I’d only write exactly what I wanted to write and nothing less. And this is what I wanted to write. So I did. And here I am.

The journey’s just beginning. There’ll be several rounds of brutal edits, copyediting, covers, line edits, promotion, blog tours, emails, communications, and a big, endlessly barrage of self-promotion and helping to bring this book to life. And that’s between writing the next two novels, shorter projects, short fiction, editing, and managing my life. But I’m prepared for it. 2018 was a school of hard knocks, but it was one that allowed me to find my feet, and I’m a lot better equipped to manage my mindspace and balance my writing with my needs. It’s an on-going process, and I’m still learning how to navigate these waters. Thankfully, I’ve got a solid cornerstone of a publishing house backing me up. Hell, my editor is THE legendary Gillian Redfearn; the one who discovered Joe Abercrombie. The edits are going to be nothing less than brutal, as they should be, and I can’t wait to dig in.

Again, it’s been a life-long dream to get to this point. It’s not just a hobby that’s pair for, it’s now a job. A career change. And I’m going to love working it and I’m going to love getting STORMBLOOD (and the next two books!) out into the world. I do hope you’ll grab a copy, be it an ARC in 2019 or on wide release in Feb 2020.

And no matter what crops up, or what missiles life or my own mindspace will launch my way, I’m going to do my best. In the end, that’s all you can really ask for.

 

Stormblood: Wheeling and Dealing Details

So. As you might have seen, I announced last month that we signed a three book deal with Gollancz for my space opera novel STORMBLOOD, as the first in a trilogy. Gollancz announced it over on their website, so it’s officially official. Here’s the blurb-in-progress for it:

Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a bio-enhanced soldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.

Stormblood is The Wire meets Mass Effect with a dash of David Cronenberg.

It seems like something that happened overnight, but in reality it is the culmination of almost 9 months worth of emails, submissions, discussions, meetings, editorials, acquisitions, and then a heavy revising between me and Gillian Redfearn, and that was before the final version passed through the editorial meeting, and then the acquisitions meeting, and then back and forth for the contracts. It’s a lot of boring stuff, which is why other people do it for me. The good news is: the deal is done, the contract is signed, and my books are going to become real books. I’m here to talk about the interesting and cool details surrounding the deal.

 

You got a book deal? That’s so cool!
Yes, yes it is.

Does it have a release date?
February 2020 is the official hardback release. It will also be available in trade paperback and mass market paperback and audio, but I do not know when.

Can I get some sort of reminder for when it’s out or available for pre-order?
The book is already on Goodreads, and can be added to your lists there. I would be very happy if you did.

Where will it be available/published?
At the moment, the book deal is only for UK/Australia/New Zealand/Ireland. It does not include the US, and as of now the book will not be published there. Making that change is next on the agenda, but not in concrete. Whichever country it is published in, it will be available in all major bookstores and chains and e-stores, as well as audiobook stores. Of course, there’s also online shopping like Book Depository for free international shipping, so US/Canada dwellers can get their hands on it easily enough.

Will there be ARCs or early preview copies?
Absolutely. It will happen sometime during 2019, although I also don’t know when. I’ve seen ARCs floating around and in the hands of reviewers up to 9 months before official release, so it could be sooner rather than later. It will be up on Netgalley and (hopefully) at cons and press releases, but I also do not know. Being with a major publisher means they handle the majority of messy, complicated itinerary like publishing, printing, distributing, formatting, that I’d otherwise have to pay for myself. It also means they know the details that I don’t. More info when I have it.

Will it be possible to get signed copies?
I’m including this because I’ve had a few folks (many from the US) ask me this. Assuming we don’t get a US deal, I visit Europe (…yes, that includes the UK too) every year and will be signing every copy I come across, will presumably be doing signings at launches, at cons, and for book specialists like Goldsboro. If owning a copy of my book with my scribbling in it makes you happy, it won’t be that hard to get. Failing that, I’m very happy to send out signed book-plates or stamps to be inserted inside the books.

Who will be narrating the book?
No idea. I’m going to fight like hell to have an English narrator (unless that person is Jonathan Banks), and I think it likely to happen. Gollancz has terrific people lending their voice boxes to bring their books to life, and I’m sure they’ll make a fine choice.

Is the book finished?
No. I have yet to go over edits. But if the edits I already received in my R&R are any indication, the edits will be very very thorough and possibly brutal. There are also some changes I want to make, too. We’ll see.

When will the sequels be out?
I’m only 37k into the first draft of the second book, so not for years. I’m hoping the sequel will be out a maximum of one year after STORMBLOOD is released, but right now I’m focusing on making the book good. Easier said than done.

What tense/PoV is the book in?
First-person, past tense.

How much was the advance?
Nope, I won’t be sharing that information. I’ve had at least three people ask me that, which is three too many. I’m happy with the advance and my contract, and that’s it.

Can I have some of it? Pretty please?
No.

Release date seems ages away. How are you not going insane?
By busying myself writing the sequels, preparing to do edits, talking with my agent and editor and the Gollancz team…and focusing on the upcoming year of self-promotion.

Who’s going to provide blurbs/cover quotes for the book?
We (bizarrely) already have authors and editors getting in the early queue to receive the book and to say something about how awesome/weird/wonderful it is and to have their words splattered across the cover. If you’re an author or editor or reviewer and would like to be one of those people, please do get in contact with me, my agent or the Gollancz team. The more the merrier.

How did you celebrate the book deal?
In style. Alcohol and zebras were involved. Attorneys, too. I shall say no more.

What’s special about it being with Gollancz?
Gollancz is the speculative fiction imprint of Orion Publishing, one of the biggest publishers in the entire world. Gollancz alone publishes Richard Morgan, Charlene Harris, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, as well as classics like The Forever War, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I Am Legend, and Dune. Every Big Five publisher has been responsible for publishing landmark titles, but Gollancz’s long history and their reputation for publishing books that are often original, sweeping and dark (especially epic fantasy and space opera), while still catering to a large audience means I’m delighted to join their lists. I’d be happy with any Big Five publisher, but I always wanted to make Gollancz my home, and now I have.

Are you going to reveal more about the process of getting the book deal and going over revisions?
I will, in a future blog post. Just need to verify from relevant parties that certain info can be shared and then it’s a go.

Are you open to discussing anymore details or questions in the meantime.
Absolutely! If you’d like to chat, hit me up. There’s a lot about this industry that’s not transparent that probably should be, and I’m all for chatting about it.

THREE BOOK DEAL: Stormblood

We can finally announce this: My far-future science-fiction novel STORMBLOOD, about alien DNA that makes people permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression is going to be published as a trilogy with Gollancz/Hachette.

It’s The Wire meets Mass Effect and contains lots of gooey body biotechnology, good people forced into tough decisions s for the right reasons, colonialism, weird aliens, space opera exuberance, drug trackiffing, power-hungry empires, sibling relationships, overcoming past trauma, and flawed characters you’ll (hopefully), come to know and love and hate as they get fight for the people they care about.

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been writing to get a novel published since forever. It’s taken years of blood, sweat and tears and revising and re-editing, but here we are. There’s too many of you to thank for helping me along the way, you know who you are. I packed so many of my passions and things I love into these books, and having them being professionally put out into the world is a dream come true and I cannot wait to introduce them all to you. This is going to take my life in a very different direction for the next few years.

One of my earliest memories as a child is going to the bookstore with my mother and picking out things I wanted to read, and soaking them up at home. Somewhere in my early teens, I found I wanted to write my own books. And every-time I went to the store, I’d tell myself that something of mine would be released here one day. I’ve never stopped believing it.

And now, miraculously, three of them are going to be.

I had tremendous fun writing this one. It’s my favourite thing I’ve ever written, and I feel it’s where I grew significantly as a writer and discovered exactly what I wanted to write, and how to do it.

I’ve always loved Gollancz as a publisher and their books they published. Now, I’ll be sharing space with the greats: Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, Charlene Harris, Brandon Sanderson, and so many authors I grew up reading. I always hoped, as stupid as it was, that my books would end up with Gollancz. The dream, quite literally, came true.

I haven’t had an easy year, and the endless stress from emailing, checking in, communicating with my agent revising, editing, more emailing, over the last 8 months left me drained. But that’s past now, and not only will Gollancz be publishing my dream novel, I get to write two more! And they’ll pay me for it!

The first book is going to be released in Feb 2020, so 2019 will be the year of self-promotion for me. Suffice to say, my writing life is going to get very interesting from here on out.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading off to the bar.

More details at my agent’s website.