My writing process continues to change and it keeps me up at night… #ASMSG #amwriting

My writing process continues to change and it keeps me up at night… #ASMSG #amwriting

I used to laugh at some writers who’d never finish their work, but my own writing process is evolving in that direction, if unchecked…

I’ve been sick. In fact, I still am. I’m writing these words rather than editing my latest novel Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm. After first catching this season’s flu, I ended up with a sinus infection the likes even I hadn’t seen before with a ruptured eardrum as a souvenir. I’m seeing a specialist today to have a look at it. Lying around for almost two weeks, with no energy to write or edit, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my work, my writing and how (and what) I’d like to change, without actually being able to change any of it. As part of that, I realized just how my own writing process continually develops (?), evolves and changes.

Evolving or developing?

I have no final answer. I’m not sure if the changes are for the better. I recall talking to more than one of my fellow writers out there, people who had been working on one and the same story for years, some decades even, but they’d never published any of their work, constantly changing, editing, rewriting, adding, subtracting from their work. The fear of failure debilitating, or is it the strive for perfection? I’m not sure.

After having written Disease, I know I had done something special. The reviews were raving, and even though it’s not a continuous bestseller, the book has done well for its kind, and I am particularly happy with all the praise. Kirkus reviews even included their review of the book in last Friday’s bi-weekly magazine to libraries and other professionals, and I’ve already seen a spike in sales on Amazon.

All the while, my own writing is changing. I’m not sure if it’s a change for the better, an evolution, or if I’m starting to become obsessed with quality if the fear of following up a great story with something of lesser quality is scaring me? Debilitatingly so?

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is very different from Disease

The new story is very different from Disease. Where the latter was dark and hopeful, with an almost given ending, considering that Alzheimer’s only has one known outcome, it was difficult for Her Majesty to strike a balance and keep things hopeful. I think I managed, to the best of my ability.

The story about Martin is different. Very different. And as so often with my writing, I might mention The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, the initial story changed into something else. In this case, it was my research trip to Korea which pre-empted the changes. I’ve mentioned those before. Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a much more light-hearted story, full of love, friendship, romance and hope. It is that without shying away from difficult topics, such as gay darlings like “coming out”, homophobia, HIV, but also racial issues, #MeToo, love and relationships across time, cultures and generations.

There is so much I still want to tweak…

Here’s the thing though: while I’m generally happy with the story, and the way it’s developing, there are still a million things (or so it seems at night) I want to change. Tighten a screw here, change something here etc. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the quality of the story if I’m doing the characters justice. Does Martin come across as the octogenarian he is? Is Ji-Hoon Korean enough? I currently have a friend in Korea reading the manuscript to make sure the Korean aspects are ‘real’ Korean. But it doesn’t just end there, and all of a sudden I find myself with a newfound understanding for those neverending writers out there, who keep polishing their manuscripts… Luckily, I have a deadline, so I know I’ll have to finish sooner rather than later.

A changing writing process is a good thing, isn’t it?

I comfort myself with the fact that it must be a good thing for my writing process to keep changing. It means I listen to my editors, take their advice to heart. It means I strive to better myself. Or am I simply paranoid? Or have I been “off” my game for too long and just worry, needlessly? One thing’s for sure: time will tell, and by May 21, when the new book is out, I’ll know if my stupid comparing of apples and pairs has resulted in anything…

Before I let you go, a quick question to my fellow authors: do you see your own writing process change or are you pretty much easy going? Curious to learn…

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans

My new novel is on the home stretch and has a title #amwriting

My new novel is on the home stretch and has a title #amwriting

My new novel finally has a title, are you ready to know what it is?

These past few days have been a nightmare. After having watched my husband suddenly fall sick to this year’s flu, and when I say suddenly, it really felt as if he fell sick overnight, and then my son succumbed to the same virus. I held on to hope that maybe, just maybe, I had maybe had this strain before. I am, after all, a bit older. Alas, no such luck. Friday morning that thing hit me with brute force. Mind you, I had been sick for a while already, a cough and a cold which always seem to take root in my sinuses.

Friday was different. I had no voice, I was coughing and hurting, and suddenly my joints and muscles began to hurt, I had shivers and yeah, all those telltale signs of the flu. Trying to work on my new novel with a four-year-old impatiently wanting to play with me while battling the flu? Yeah, not the best way to end the week.

Still, work to be done on the manuscript

But I persisted, and I did finish the first read-through, to see how many big “plot holes” I’d catch. I’ve been working on Martin’s story for almost a year. It’s no surprise that the story had a few glitches here and there. I think I’ve caught most of them and I’ve also identified a few areas where I need to work some more on the manuscript. But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t get all that much work done. I wrote a chapter Saturday morning, after a night where I got up countless times to gargle salt water (to keep my throat moistened.) Somehow, when your head and lungs are filled with mucus and your dripping from every crevice, you just don’t feel like doing much of anything.

Last year, when I began to work out regularly, I also started to write down what I ate. My calorie intake in these past days was minimal. I’m feeling better now, although my upper respiratory tract seems in for another loop (that is the norm for my colds, which can last up to two months at a time going in circles, from my nose, to my sinuses, my throat and to my lungs and back.) Friday was worst. I think I ate about 12% of what I usually eat. If you’ve ever had the flu you know what it’s like.

One thing’s for sure: from now on, I’ll inoculate. It’s just not worth it. I may not be in the risk groups that get the shot for free, but I’d rather pay than having to go through this again. It’s just insane. Now if only there were a cure for the common cold, now that would really be worth a few Nobel Prizes!

A title for the new novel

When I began work on Martin’s story, it was meant to be a short story, named after the main character. Alas, as that changed, I felt the title needed to fit the work better. That eluded me for the longest time. Finally, at the end of last week, I had this idea, and I wrote both a blurb (easier now that the story is written) and a title I like (and that my publisher approved of.) So without further a due, here it is, the title and blurb of my new novel:

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm

Martin is eighty-four years old, a Korean War veteran, living quietly in a retirement home in upstate New York. His days are ruled by the routine of the staff. In his thoughts and dreams, Martin often returns to the Seoul of his youth, and the lost true love of his life. Two close friends urge him to travel back to search for his love. What awaits Martin in Korea, more than six decades after he left the country on a troop transport back to the U.S.?

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a story of friendship, love, and family, in all its many shapes, across time, generations and cultures.

My new novel is scheduled for release on May 21, 2018, from Beaten Track Publishing. I think we’ll have a cover reveal in April. I can’t wait for it. What do you think? Interested in reading it?

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans

#Authors and #Marketing: putting yourself out there, but how (much)? #ASMSG #amwriting

#Authors and #Marketing: putting yourself out there, but how (much)? #ASMSG #amwriting

Putting yourself out there for your writing success: can it ever be too much?

I think the answer to the above (from me) is pretty given: yes, there are limits to putting yourself out there! It can definitely be too much. But what is too much and in the eyes of whom? I have a business acquaintance who once tried to cover up a major online fuck-up of sorts by posting suggestive imagery of himself on Facebook, with all the necessary pleasure trails and a sheet just barely covering the – as my Indian friends would say – needful. Did it help him? I don’t know. It certainly felt panicky to me. Others have chosen different strategies (or tactics rather), and have disappeared for a while, or simply rolled over and apologized profusely.

But screwing up online is one thing (and sadly can lead to loads of attention, particularly in a small industry) and doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, despite the original fuck-up. Alas, most of us try to stay clear of screw-ups. We just go about our days and wonder silently: how much of putting yourself out there is necessary for fans to like you? We watch others who put out nudes (or almost nudes), tons of pictures of themselves and their loved ones. People who complain openly about their families and struggles, others talk openly about medical procedures, their struggles at their day jobs etc.

Strategy, what strategy?

My social media strategy (if I have one) is relatively straightforward. I use Twitter to share my blog posts (little else, although it seems the odd Facebook post gets tweeted, too) and those of my Triberr friends. I use Instagram as a mostly personal thing to share – what I consider – beautiful pictures. I also primarily follow accounts of nature/architecture shots. My Facebook is split into an author page (which no one really seems to see things from) and my personal profile, where WYSIWYG. I have *real* friends there, family, and of course my followers/readers/fans. I also have a tiny YouTube channel, although I haven’t posted anything in a while.

It’s primarily my Facebook I will focus on, here on in. Because of its personal nature, it’s where most of the putting yourself out there happens as it is. I find it a difficult balance to strike. I don’t want to censor myself or deprive my friends and family of important moments. I also don’t want to censor myself for my political beliefs and convictions, despite the current climate. My writing is very political, me being who I am is highly political, it speaks to my core to be vocal about my convictions, so that’s rather important.

Putting yourself OUT there…

It gets more complex with regards to my family: “do I share this picture of my son or not?” Trust me, there are so many pictures I’ve NOT shared because of this thought process. Now you’ll say “but you can define your privacy settings” and “who gets to see what”. The problem with this (I find) is that you have to think about this, every time you post. And I have a policy of “what’s on the Internet is public” and rarely share stuff to just a circle of people. I did when our son was a newborn and I’ve found it doesn’t help. People will share anyway. Instead, I use specific, separate channels for some family concerned things (primarily because not all of my family is on Facebook.)

Here’s the other side of the medal: does it help you to share pictures of you in your doctor’s office? Kissing your partner? Posting half-naked pictures of yourself in all kinds of settings? I understand that loads of celebrities make millions just doing that (famous Hollywood Armenians for instance) and that vloggers thrive on that sort of stuff. I’m just not sure it is a road I even wish to entertain. Authentic is better, as well as being “me” as much as I possibly can. Having worked in what they call “corporate America” for a very long time, I kind of grew tired of having to check my person at the door. To become this corporate drone, void of emotion and convictions, spewing corporate speak all day. It’s the one thing I always despised in the corporate world.

Don’t get me wrong; I understand the need for some of it, consistent communication etc. If you’ve just learned that e.g. (I’ve seen this IRL) the love of your life divorces you, you don’t need your manager to tell you to check your emotions at the door. Not THAT day. Maybe tomorrow, but that day, you need to be a hot mess. But that’s just me.

Finally…

I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing creating a Patreon account, primarily to help me finance more audiobooks. The creation of a high-quality audiobook is very expensive and I just don’t have that amount of money to front. It scares the hell out of me to think about what I’d “offer” to patrons. Because you have to put the work you put into in relation to what you get in return. . And most of us are busy as we are…

What’s your take? As authors? As readers? How do you draw the line? Is there a limit to putting yourself out there? I really look forward to your comments… If you DO follow me on social media, what’s your take on my approach? Too little? Too much? A tad personal? Not enough?

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week and don’t be shy.

Hans

Authors and #Book #marketing in 2018: does @Bookbub still work? #ASMSG

Authors and #Book #marketing in 2018: does @Bookbub still work? #ASMSG

My second Bookbub experience: what’s new, what’s different?

A couple of years ago, I did my first Bookbub. My publisher and I did a weeklong giveaway of The Opera House. In hindsight, I’m still amazed that we got that thing in because actually ‘getting’ one of your books included in a coveted Bookbub newsletter is like winning the lottery: almost impossible. I’ve tried at least a dozen times since but never had any success. Part of the problem (I think) is that the Bookbub LGBT category is almost exclusively Romance, and yeah, my books, not so much. This time, I tried something else: a ninety-nine cent deal on my most recent novel in the literary fiction category.

First, let’s look at the results…

I didn’t expect it to get accepted and was pleasantly surprised when I won a runner-up prize of sorts: all countries except the U.S. Okay, I can roll with this. On Tuesday, it was time, and here’s what happened:

Bookbub results

Canada

Bookbub results

UK

Bookbub results

Australia

Theoretically, this qualifies me as a “bestselling author”, but yeah, who wants to add the caveat “for as long as it lasted in the tiny obscure category/country where you actually made it”, because by now, the book has slipped again in these highly coveted charts. It’s still too soon to see any long-term result because this is what you really want to see:

  • pick-up in sales of other titles over time
  • lasting sales increase on back-list

At this point, I can easily say this: I’ve barely broken even. For now. We don’t really know what the long-term impact is going to be. As an author who can’t live off of his writing, you need to find satisfaction elsewhere, and this image is one I’ll treasure for a long time:

Bookbub results.

The landing page of Amazon Canada, where, for a few hours, my book outsold the of the world’s most talked about book by Michael Wolff…

To see your book on Amazon’s first page? Priceless. Even if it’s only in Canada, eh? LOL I was really curious as to how many books it takes to land yourself there. Keep in mind that this is the Canadian Amazon page (.ca), not the .com one, the one that “really” matters. And yeah, Canadians don’t seem to read much: for less than two hundred copies a day, you end up where Disease ended up! Surprised? I was…

Is it worth it?

So how many books did I move? About five-hundred at this stage, and at 35 cents royalty, I’ve broken even, so I have to be satisfied. When we did the first Bookbub, for free, we moved over 13,000 copies. However, that was a global deal, and for free. I have a hunch that people mostly download all those free books never to really read them. It’s impossible to compare the two campaigns, no matter how much I’d want to.

Amazon provides us authors with interesting “statistical” tools, and I’m not ashamed to share my meager results with you. If you’re a budding author, this might just explain how difficult it is to make a living as a writer:

Bookbub effect

My author rank in the past weeks. Yes, the Bookbub makes a difference, but it’s not a lasting effect.

Bookbub blast results

The price reduction has given the book a significant bump in sales, even on the .com site, which was NOT included in the BookBub blast. Let’s see how long it lasts… As a comment, a few sold copies a day means millions of places on the bestseller list.

How to interpret all those numbers

Let me just add a word about the author rank. Back in the late summer of 2015, I hovered in a spot around 16K, but even then, there weren’t nearly enough sales to pay any bills. I have a hunch that only the top two- to three thousand authors on Amazon make a living. The rest of us, millions, do not. Take this for what it is, but if you dream of making millions with your debut book, consider this your wake-up call. LOL

Most of us are interested in long-term results, not quick fixes. At this stage, I can’t provide those. But if you’re interested, let me know, and I’ll try and write a follow-up in a few months. For now, the most burning question might be this one: was it worth it? Does Bookbub still work? Given what I and others experience, I’d say yes, even more so, if you get one in for a series. I wouldn’t do another free one because it did little to nothing for my sales. I did get a few extra reviews, but not much else. If you haven’t bought Disease yet, the discount lapses on Sunday, so get your copy today! 😉 Have you done a Bookbub? What are your experiences? I just noticed that Amazon offers a similar tool, called Kindle Daily Deals, but I can’t find any links on how to work with them (no matter how much I google…) If you have any information, feel free to comment below.

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend and don’t be shy. Your experiences and comments are most welcome.

Hans

 

Time to get back into the saddle and write a book… #amwriting #ASMSG

Time to get back into the saddle and write a book… #amwriting #ASMSG

To write a book and how my approach has evolved

My latest novel, Disease, is climbing the charts before a Bookbub deal going out tomorrow.

My latest novel, Disease, is climbing the charts before a Bookbub deal going out tomorrow.

Back from Seoul and my research trip, I’m ready to get back into the saddle and write a book. Although, this time, the process of writing will be different from the way I’ve written books before, different even from my latest project. Speaking of my latest project, Disease will see a Bookbub deal tomorrow and already, it’s climbing the charts, currently occupying the #55 spot on the Alzheimer category on Amazon. Cool!

How I used to write

When I sat down five years ago, writing Family Ties and – shortly after – Jonathan’s Hope, I was just writing, sitting at my office desk, typing in a frenzy, a blur. I don’t remember much of those days except that I wrote over 120,000 words in roughly a month. How that was even possible, I don’t know. Picture a dervish, a ginny, a crazy person typing away at his keyboard feverishly. Something like this…

Over time, my writing changed. From writing about landscapes I knew intimately (Family Ties) and make belief places (Jonathan’s Hope), I moved on to territory requiring research (The Fallen Angels of Karnataka), combining that which I knew (locales) with research online and with friends and family into e.g. the history of HIV. Willem of the Tafel demanded even more research, but I was still able to do it all online, rummaging through 1980s research into nuclear war and what damage the fallout would do.

How my previous two novels came to be

My writing has evolved since, and there’s no qualitative aspect to that. To write my erotic novel Ross Deere, I spent a good year just reading similar books and then loads of time talking to other authors who were writing similar books. While not my deepest book (no pun intended), it’s a book that required a lot of research into the depths of the human psyche, yet ultimately, I learned the most important lesson AFTER the book came out, something I should’ve known from my psychology days, i.e. the difference between how “men” and “women” (in the traditional cis-way) approach and experience sex. A valuable reminder.

When I wrote my latest two novels, Last Winter’s Snow and Disease, research grew, particularly for the former, and for the first time in my career I went on a research trip. At the time, the manuscript was almost finished. But I did go back and change a few details that were off. But for the most part, the book’s details were vague enough that I didn’t have to change much. instead, I added a few things, here and there.

What happens now?

To write a book... Sometimes, that includes finding military underwear in a museum six-thousand miles away...

To write a book… Sometimes, that includes finding military underwear in a museum six-thousand miles away…

This time, I did my research while the manuscript is only about halfway done. Still, lots of words to be written. Yet as I walked the streets of Seoul, as I looked at the pictures of a war-torn city, read the statistics over the number the dead, looked at panoramas of a 1920 Seoul compared to a more recent picture, talked to locals for hours, the novel began to change before my inner eyes.

I’ve never been in this situation before. It’s a bit daunting, not because I lose the way I’ve worked for years, but because I see a different book emerge than the one I thought I was writing. Rather than describing an old man’s life in his upstate New York retirement home, the novel will focus much more on the war and the gruesome effects of war on people, soldiers and civilians alike. And it’s scary because there are a handful of people in Korea who seem to believe that I’ll be writing this amazing book about their history. Someone even asked if it would be turned into a movie. No pressure.

When research changes a book

The new book will be different than what it was before I flew to Seoul. To write a book used to be about closing my eyes and listening to my inner voices. These days, to write a book is about tons and tons of research, hundreds of pictures, articles and walking dozens of miles on the hunt for the right impressions, the right information. And as I walked the streets of Seoul last week, I could literally sense how my brain was rewriting the plot, changing character dynamics. Hopefully for the better. For a while, I thought that Martin (the working title of my coming book) would be a more light-hearted story. After my research trip, I know it won’t be. While not as dark as Disease, a book about war is never lighthearted.

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans

Seoul: on site research or how can I help my brain get this right?

Seoul: on site research or how can I help my brain get this right?

Between day and two of my research trip to Seoul, here’s what I’ve learned

Greetings from Seoul, the capital of the ROK, the Republic of Korea, or South Korea as most of us know it. The country’s official name is the very reason (or part of it) why North Korean forces attacked on an early day in 1950: the fact that the United Nations only recognized the southern government as the peninsula’s legitimate government. Eighteen months later, the entire place was up in flames and we saw the first post World War II conflict between the “West” and the communist East, as North Koreans were supported on the ground by China and Russia, while the ROK was supported by the United Nations. The almost unanimous resolution (Russia wasn’t at the table!!!) would be impossible today, as Communist China, not Taiwan, is now considered the legitimate government of all of China. Times change.

Think this is complex? Yeah, it is, and any historian with half a brain would find at least a dozen areas to fill out the gaps I’ve left in this one short paragraph. But how does this all help you understand my research or why does it matter? For one, being here, just seeing these three letters everywhere, ROK reminds me that the very basis of the conflict is still unresolved. Whether it matters practically in any future talks, as they just seem to have begun re the Olympic Games which are about to begin here in less than a month? I don’t know. But I know from the situation in China that any mention of Taiwan and independence causes convulsions in Beijing. I can only imagine how some North Koreans might react to the claim that their dear leader isn’t really a legitimate representative of his people… As a writer, this gives me perspective. I am literally forced to see things from someone else’s perspective.

I couldn’t have done that from a European vantage point, staring at Google Maps. No offense. Yesterday, and I’d like to share some of my findings here, I spent time in the War Museum (or memorial as it is officially called) and in Buk-chon Village. The latter plays a significant role in the novel. Join me for some tidbits?

Yongsan base, SeoulYongsan Base

Just finding some information about this base, this place that so much symbolized the Korean colonialization, first by the Japanese, now by the U.S., is a place that is difficult to get in to. And to get the armed forces to respond to questions a dead end. They do have social media accounts, but their communication is very one-sided.

But luckily, I found Intel I needed about the base in the fifties from the War Museum. And it seems as if Yongsan is about to finally be a closed chapter for the people of Seoul as this prime real estate is to become available for the local government. The U.S. forces are relocated about an hour outside of Seoul in the near future.

The base plays a role in those aspects of the book that take place in the fifties, during the war, and I needed to get them right. With this, I can safely finish certain aspects. So that was a great thing to accomplish.

Seoul, War Museum exhibit

Another fun detail I found was this pair of standard issue military underwear. For some reason, I mention this in the book, but the look eluded me, despite extensive research on Google (don’t ask…) Finally, I found them.

Bukchon Village

Very important aspects of the book play out in Bukchon village, an old part of Seoul, or the old downtown. At the War Museum, I was able to both see pictures of old Seoul, because so much was destroyed during the war, not to mention torn down to make way for the modern metropolis that is the South Korean capital. But I did find a lot of inspiration and potential locations. Here are some photos from yesterday:

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Beautiful, isn’t it? My guide, Jaekwang, later took me to a local market where we were fascinated by a long queue for something. We stopped, I dutifully got in line (Swedes cannot not queue when we see one) and we ended up with a delicious and cheap (500 Won) dessert made from waffle dough and filled with bean curd:

Food stall at Kwangjang Market, Seoul

Food stall at Kwangjang Market, Seoul

Fish Waffles, Kwangjang Market, Seoul

Fish Waffles, Kwangjang Market, Seoul

This guy was making his fish waffles non-stop for the whole day. And delicious and warming (it’s around the freezing point here in Seoul) they were. Anyway, it’s almost time for me to head out again. Today we’re going to see Itaewon and other parts of Town. I’ve asked Jaekwang to surprise me and to take me off the beaten track, to show me aspects of Seoul tourists normally wouldn’t see. I’m curious. Tomorrow I have a business meeting, I’ll try to visit more local museums and on Wednesday just wander around, soak up the atmosphere. Come Thursday, I’ll fly home, and I’m sure I’ll have given my brain what it needs to complete the book!

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans