Writer, keep to your last! Why a publisher’s great tip is troubling me

Writer, keep to your last! Why a publisher’s great tip is troubling me

A publisher’s best tip for (aspiring) writers

As a Sweden’s Writers’ Union member, I get their membership magazine a few times every year. It’s always well-written and often informative. I don’t always agree with their politics, but that’s not the point here. In the most recent issue, 4/2022, they discuss some experts’ best tips for PR. In our day, when many of us are published by small publishers who do not have the muscle of the big five (or we’re not the prize horses in the stable), we often have to do most if not all of our marketing/PR ourselves—a great and interesting article. Yet when I read what one publisher wrote, I got upset. I mentioned her in my previous post where she says that her best tip for success is for writers to stick to one genre. Then she also makes some weird comments about clothing and behaving appropriately. Did the statement affect me so strongly because she could’ve meant me? Might I have been more successful if I’d stuck to one genre? Yet what genre would that be?

“Stay in your lane, dress and behave adequately!”

Christmas decoration. It's that time of year after all. Photo: Hans M Hirschi

Christmas decoration. It’s that time of year after all. Photo: Hans M Hirschi

Look, in principle, I don’t disagree that a writer is likely to be more successful if they write one genre only. You build a readership from a pool of readers who love a particular sort of book, and you get to expand upon it, enjoy recommendations from readers who are likely connected to other readers in that same genre, etc. I can see how that can work. And there is a reason that when an author, even super famous ones such as J.K. Rowling (with whom I vehemently disagree on her stands on trans rights) writes in a different genre, chooses a pseudonym. Given her fame and that her pen name leaked (probably because the books didn’t sell enough) it was surprising that sales were as bad as they were. Having said that, I wish I’d have Robert Galbraith sales… Alas, the industry wasn’t impressed. Hers is the case of failing to bridge genres. She learned her lesson and expanded her universe instead with her Fantastic Beasts. Meh!

I went down a different road altogether. My first three books are vastly different. There’s the romantic coming-out story, the troubled family drama, and the one about a father who loses his son. I followed that up with a sort of dark life journey, followed by what some might call a dys-/utopian sci-fi novel, and then on to a story about life with a disability. I write for younger audiences, more mature ones, and even children. Some of my books are easier to peg, like The Golden One into fantasy, or my new one, Opus XXVII, which is a crime novel. Or is it?

What am I writing?

That is a pretty silly question for an author to ask themself. Yet here I am, unafraid as always to make a fool of myself. Yet I’ve honestly struggled with this question for years. I think it has to do with the constrictions I feel with regard to most established genre definitions. I’m a Gemini at heart. I need to spread my wings and try different things, I crave the change, the excitement of trying something new, something different. Not exactly what a publisher relishes. Ask mine! Let me start with the most recent book I’ve been working on. Opus XXVII is a crime novel by my own admission. It is a crime novel because I wanted to write one, and it is a crime novel because it contains a crime that needs to be resolved, a crime that the reader can think about “whodunnit” until the final pages of the novel. It’s also written in a way that is consistent with the rules of the genre in that the solution to the crime isn’t obvious until the end. However…

Queer Social Realism on the streets of Styrsö?

Queer Social Realism on the streets of Styrsö? Yass, bitch!

Opus XVII is so much more than a crime novel. It is an LGBTQ novel. Does that qualify as a genre though? Straight ain’t a genre, so why should LGBTQ be? It is for Amazon, does that qualify as an answer? I also feel, and that is about as much of a spoiler as you’ll ever see from me, that it’s not primarily about a crime. Yes, a crime is committed, but in the story, it acts more as a catalyst for other more interesting aspects of the plot. In hindsight, I’ll admit that I find writing crime quite tedious. I doubt I’ll do it again. It’s just not where my interest lies. Would you be surprised if I called it social realism?

Social realism, say what?

I hear you. You won’t find that on Amazon’s extensive list of genres, I just double-checked. If I were to stick to the above argument, social realism should be disqualified as a genre. Alas, my blog, my rules. 😝 Seriously though, with the exception of my vampire children’s book, each and every one of my stories fits into this description, even my foray into erotica, as fleetingly as it may penetrate (pun intended) the less carnal aspects of life. How do I define social realism? I actually. never have, so let’s see what Wikipedia contributes:

“Social realism is the term used for work produced by painters, printmakers, photographers, writers and filmmakers that aims to draw attention to the real socio-political conditions of the working class as a means to critique the power structures behind these conditions.”

Some of my books don’t necessarily restrict themselves to the working class. However, this is where the letter soup comes in handy! So without further ado, here’s MY definition of my writing genre:

“Hirschi aims to draw attention to the real socio-political conditions of queer people around the world as a means to critique the power structures behind heteronormativity, gender stereotypes, and patriarchy.” In short, call it Queer Social Realism.

Allow me a chuckle, as this sounds a bit grandstanding. But alas, strictly speaking, that is what I do, and I think my books fit just fine within that particular genre. The question is: who cares if the world doesn’t accept it as such, and–pardon my French–if no one gives a flying fuck and buys my books? Anyway, I feel much better about the aforementioned publisher’s suggestion, even if it meant creating my own niche genre. Now to shuffle off to find my readers… 🚶

Comments? Suggestions? Agree? Disagree? Let’s have it…

Until then: happy holidays and a great new year!

Hans

Writer, keep to your last! Why a publisher’s great tip is troubling me

Happy Holidays! A letter to my readers

Let’s try something new, shall we? A letter to my readers

For twenty-three years I’ve been writing a year-end letter to my closest friends and family. Feedback has decreased over the years as fewer people use e-mail to communicate. It’s all on social media these days. Being of a certain age, though not old, I have the privilege to decide what I want to do, so I invite you on a journey to look back on the year we’ve had as well as a short outlook on what might await us beyond the chasm of midnight on December 31, 2022.

From a pandemic to war: will it ever end?

As a European, I am fully aware that I am writing this from a position of enormous privilege. Even more so as a Swede, with a government (and a constitution!) that allowed us more freedom to hunker down and get through the Covid-pandemic than many other countries. If you ever doubted it, there IS a vast difference between a democracy (Sweden) and a dictatorship (China.) I’ve been appalled not only by the way Xi has handled the pandemic until recently but almost more by how they suddenly let things run their course. Again, it shows how much dictators do not care about their people. They don’t need their votes after all. My sympathies to every Chinese who is losing loved ones as natural immunity races to a sudden equilibrium, hardly slowed down by subpar vaccines and low vaccination rates amongst the most vulnerable.

Just as we thought the pandemic was over, Putin attacked Ukraine and has been on a daily mission to obliterate a people he claims are Russian. Again, dictators don’t care about their people. He’ll never need the votes of the Ukrainian people to be elected into office. So what if he slaughters them by the thousands? I for one just pray that they keep one cell empty at the international war tribunal in The Hague. Slava Ukraini! May we keep supporting the valiant efforts of this peaceful people.

Culture Wars: what next?

For years now, conservatives have moved their focus away from their disastrous political “trickle-down” economics (how did the poor ever think ‘trickle’ wasn’t an insult and vote for a politician advocating this?) This trickle-down scam has led to CEOs multiplying their advantage in salaries compared to the rest of the workforce. From earning 31 times as much as a worker in 1978 to a whopping 351 times in 2020. You can rest assured that figure is now even higher. It’s indecent, but yet, trickle down, right? Not sure if they finally realized this was no longer a winning strategy or if it was a way to shore up support elsewhere, but for years now we’ve been stuck in these culture wars. Whether it’s a backlash against Gay rights or Women’s rights, rising antisemitism or anti-ziganism, the countless laws to go after the trans community, or the rampant islamophobia, there is something for everyone, right? How did we end up in this mess? And how do we get out?

Gothenburg, my home town, during the Holidays.

Gothenburg, my home town, during the Holidays.

I for one have always believed in conversations, in talking to people one to one, but even that has become increasingly difficult. Just the other day I had a conversation with someone who was horrific in their comments against Meghan Markle, leaving me speechless. Only to read the press articles about a certain overrated car tester who said more or less the same things. Mind you, I am no fan of Meghan. I’m indifferent to her, as I don’t know her. As a Republican, I’d love to see her stripped of her titles, that’s about the extent of my involvement.

On Facebook (the only social medium I engage in personally), and in real life, it is getting increasingly difficult to have a normal conversation. People make up their minds sans having the appropriate information or knowledge, and I find that the more I learn, the more uncertain I am. However, I have this nagging feeling that we are all being played and that these culture wars are but the latest ploy by the “haves” to trick the “have-nots” into sending more money up the ladder. It’s likely to get much worse before it gets better. I hope the nukes get to stay in their silos while we figure this out.

On a different note: my latest “work in progress”

I don’t blog much anymore. That is sad. I used to blog up to three times a week. Then again, nobody reads blogs these days. It’s all podcasts, Vlogs, and reels. And while I don’t mind a live Facebook feed now and then, I’m neither interesting nor pretty enough for regular stuff. Who needs to see my gravity-plagued face? I’d never sell a book again. LOL However, I have been working on a novel for some time, and while every decent publisher tells you to focus on ONE genre, heck I just read an article where Swedish publisher Ewa Åkerling, Ordberoende Förlag, says, and I quote: “stay in your lane, dress and behave adequately” (Författaren 4/2022, p.20, not available online) I guess I’m just lucky to have an amazing publisher who allows this Gemini to test their wings. Call my genre LGBTQ, rather than feelgood or whatever, but my latest story is a crime novel. We don’t have a title yet, nor a cover, but this chosen Swede has finally given in to peer/reader pressure and written his first crime story. Here’s what I can tell you in a temporary blurb:

Opus XXVII–My coming novel

The disappearance of 72-year-old Lennart shakes his family’s foundation, leaving behind his husband of fifty years and their daughter, Anna. A futile search and rescue operation slowly turns into an investigation into Lennart’s death, while his family is trying to grapple with the why, and worse, the risk of living next door to a potential murderer.

Anna is a successful PR executive living in Stockholm. Her life is turned upside down when her father mysteriously disappears in the middle of a major campaign at work. Rushing back to her native island of Styrsö, she needs to juggle her relationship with her estranged dad, an increasingly stressful situation at work, as well as the sudden complications of her personal life.

Opus XVII is a story of perseverance, and how even the most shattering events in our personal lives can evolve into the foundation of something stronger. It’s a tale of love and second chances amidst a family tragedy set on a small, idyllic island off the coast of West Sweden.

The new book is expected to be released sometime in early April 2023 by award-winning Beaten Track Publishing, the world’s most amazing publisher. 💙💚💛🧡❤️💜 I haven’t made any plans yet to market the new book. I do know that I’ll be in New Orleans for the LGBT-event “Saints & Sinners” at the Tennessee Williams Festival in March and New York in April for the Rainbow Book Fair. Maybe we’ll see you there? I’ll also do a book release event (or more) in Sweden, so keep your eyes on my Facebook page or this website. I might also do a newsletter. Let me know if you’d like to be added to the mailing list.

2022 is almost over…

I for one won’t miss 2022. It was not a bad year for me or my family, but with all the war and the crazy politics going on all around us, I hope that 2023 will be better, more peaceful, and prosperous. For these final days of 2022, I wish you all the very best, happy holidays, and a great 2023!

As always, I remain your faithful friend,

Hans

My Fallen Angel of Paris: You Know How He Died, Learn How He Lived!

My Fallen Angel of Paris: You Know How He Died, Learn How He Lived!

Michel, My Favorite Fallen Angel is Yours to Enjoy!

Why Fallen Angel? The idea was first born in 2014 when we were discussing concepts for the novel about Haakon. Fallen Angels of Karnataka was born out of the idea to name the foundation that Mahender was already running, a foundation rescuing children from slavery in Bangalore (Bangaluru.) I’ve always considered children to be angels, and fallen angels would thus be children who died or who are sold into slavery. Sadly this is a reality for countless children in India, and without claiming to be a prophet, one of India’s most famous campaigners against child labor and slavery, Kailesh Satyarthi, was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize along with Malala Yousafzai. I might add that was AFTER my novel had been published that year. In a way, part of Mahender embodies Kailesh. Michel is also a fallen angel, and if you read the book, you will understand why.

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The grieving angel from Wuppertal is also adorning one of our living room walls.

The cover for Michel

The hunt for Michel’s cover began last fall before I was finished with the manuscript. Based on the angel on the cover of Haakon’s novel, which is a grieving cherub from a graveyard in Brussels, I wanted an angel on the cover of Michel as well. My publisher and I decided early on to base the cover on the design for The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. We just needed an angel that reflected who Michel was. Several ideas were tossed around but I didn’t like any of them. I began a search and low and behold, “my” angel appeared on top of the search results. I don’t recall the exact search phrase, but I can still find the angel easily.

However, after researching for the photographer to try and secure the rights to the photographs, we learned that he was a conspiracy theorist and a big fan of people I personally dislike. Instead, I did further research into where the angel comes from and secured help from a local photographer to take pictures of the angel in the cemetery in Wuppertal, Germany. One of the photos was chosen for the cover, another ended up on the wall of our living room because we love the expression of the statue so much.

Based on the image, my publisher created the covers for all three versions of the book, and I love all three of them! The cover has been finalized for almost six months, which is an oddity for my work.

Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris

Michel is all yours now!

As a writer, we live very closely with our characters, for months on end. I’ve lived with Michel for over eight years, and ever since I wept after writing the following line, I’ve felt I need to redeem myself in his eyes:

“Michel’s head was starting to feel heavy on Haakon’s shoulder.
“Michel, do you mind?”
There was no response. Michel was no more.”

In The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, I had to move on. This was, after all, only page sixty-four of a book of almost 300 pages. But Michel never let go. Of all the characters who pass away in my books, he was undoubtedly my favorite one. I don’t say that lightly. It took me six years to come back and write his story. It took another two to finish it

Parting is such sweet sorrow

It’s never easy to publish a story, and I’m not just referring to imposter syndrome or failing sales. My characters come to me from the depths of my subconscious, and even though I can see parallels to people in the real world every now and then (Claude, a character in the novel, is partially based on someone I once knew in Brittany), Michel is the construct of countless experiences, people, emotions and I have no clue where he came from. Both he and Haakon are complete enigmas in terms of origins. But I feel very protective toward them, and releasing Michel’s story to a broad public is a scary prospect. What if people don’t like him? However, to be an author means letting go, putting on my big boy pants, and getting on with it. Shakespeare’s wise words do ring true!

Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris is available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook starting today from bookstores, Amazon, and other online resellers. The audio version is narrated by my friend and amazing actor Michael Bakkensen.

How to write about the HIV pandemic in literature

How to write about the HIV pandemic in literature

The HIV pandemic is a character in my new book

During a panel discussion at the recent Saints & Sinners Literary Conference in New Orleans, we discussed how to write about a pandemic, both the current COVID-pandemic, but also the HIV pandemic. The latter still claims hundreds of thousands of casualties every year. Given that it originally mostly affected gay men, it is a pandemic I have to relate to, whether I want to or not. Being gay and HIV are inseparably linked to each other. When a novel plays out in the 1980s, even more so. We lost almost an entire generation during those early years until the first effective medications reached the market.

Michel, the hero of my new book, first appeared in my 2014 novel The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. His death from complications from AIDS was an easy choice to rid me of a character who’d appeared in the story at the wrong time.

Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris

Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris

The topic was unavoidable, but how to treat it?

I recently wrote, “you know how he died, learn how he lived.” How do you write about the life of someone you know is going to die (or has been dead already?) AIDS or HIV would play a major role in the new story, that was obvious. I had done a ton of research into the epidemic for The Fallen Angels of Karnataka because Haakon was infected by Michel. Since he is a survivor, I had to make sure to make that plausible: combining his genes (of which we know little in the 80ies), early access to ACT, etc.

We never really find out how Michel was infected, and I was curious to learn how Michel’s youth was. How would HIV show up and rear its ugly head? I don’t want to give away the plot. You have to wait another three weeks before the book is released. But some things were obvious even before I picked up the proverbial pen. I had no intention to write a novel about AIDS, to spend page up and page down on symptoms, nor did I intend to ignore it. The only thing I knew for sure was where, when, and how Michel would eventually pass away.

The emotional impact of the pandemic

For me, emotions are everything. A book is all the more valuable, a story more impactful, if strong emotions are evoked on the pages. That was my focus in Michel. How does it feel to have HIV? What is it like to live with someone with HIV? To lose someone with HIV? To be friends with someone with HIV? Those are the central questions of the story. I hope to have evoked enough emotions to drive home the point of the horror of the pandemic, not just on those who caught the virus, but also on those who knew the affected.

The HIV pandemic and the LGBTQ community

To be a member of the LGBTQ community in 2022 isn’t the same as it was back in the 1980ies. It’s more than the extra letters in the acronym. Increased visibility and changed attitudes toward our way of life may have led to a better integration into mainstream society. LGBTQ people are pictured differently in mass media. Death is no longer the automatic conclusion to being queer.

I often wonder how much of that is due to the HIV pandemic? Health experts telling politicians that monogamous relationships and the acceptance of marriage equality were important tools in combatting the spread of HIV? Not to spread conspiracy theories, but it’s funny how it all took flight in the mid-to-late 1980s. At least here in the West. We still have a long way to go in the rest of the world, where oddly, the HIV pandemic is unbroken and killing thousands every day.

Michel is about more than just HIV

The new book is about so much more than just HIV and AIDS. It’s a coming-of-age and a love story. A tale about growing up in France in the 1980s. Last not least, the book also deals with how you move on from loss, how you reconcile finding happiness again with the loss of your first great love. I’m sure that many of us struggle with that question, be it in ourselves or others around us.

Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris will be released from Beaten Track Publishing on April 30, 2022, and will be available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook, narrated by Michael Bakkensen.

How to write about the HIV pandemic in literature

Will Michel’s ghost finally leave me be?

Michel’s ghost has haunted me for eight years

Eight years ago, I had been inspired to write a travel epos. I still remember reading a friend’s book that included beautiful descriptions of traveling, and I began to wonder what it would be like if I tried the same. I have, after all, traveled extensively in my life. I figured that I had plenty of imagery and emotions to draw upon. That’s how Haakon’s story begins, his longing for travel, focusing on the smells and scents we encounter while elsewhere. But something happened on Haakon’s first trip abroad that wasn’t planned. He fell in love, with the perfect guy, and my pantser brain began to panic. I pressed on, and given the era, Michel’s fate was quickly sealed by my subconscious: he’d have to go, and AIDS would the tool to rid myself of this interference so early in the book. I just couldn’t imagine a book where a couple traveled the world together. No, Haakon would have to do so on his own, especially given the first chapter. Different partner, no Michel.

Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris

The cover of Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris

Michel’s death scene impacted me deeply

Laugh at me, but I have never written anything like Michel’s death scene again. Maybe it was his way to make sure I didn’t forget about him. Even eight years later, I am unable to read that scene about November 29, 1986, the “glorious day”, without my voice breaking. I can’t. It took me five years before I was able to read it in public for the first time, and yeah, I couldn’t get through it without tears. And somewhere in the depths of my subconscious, Michel’s ghost took up residence and began to plot his revenge. After finalizing the manuscript for Matt, I wasn’t sure what would be next for me, but I had this weird dream about Michel. I saw glimpses of his youth, and I decided to go with it. However, the pandemic and my work kept me from focusing on my writing. Progress was slow and I was ready to just give up more than once. The pantser in me was suddenly jogging down ideas of chapters, things I’d need to write about, plotting, and planning for how the book would have to be structured. For someone who’s used to trusting his subconscious, and who was never really disappointed by that trust, plotting was distressing.

Alas, suddenly last summer, inspiration struck and the bulk of the story wrote itself in days. In fact, I was almost frantic, having to steal a moment or two to write even with the family around me. It was almost feverish. I have never experienced anything like it before.

The hybrid writing process led to a long and arduous editing process

At the end of the day, I had a manuscript that required a lot of editing. Some chapters didn’t work with others, the timeline was off, and I have never added so much to a first draft as I have in this story. Changes were necessary in a great many places, and I also had to make sure to place the story within a plausible arc because there were things that I couldn’t address within the context of the “diary” main story. How could I address questions that Michel obviously wouldn’t have the answers to? The arc story allowed me to explore that, and to provide answers, and closure. I had to make sure that I didn’t abandon Michel one more time. I had to make sure that his death would be explained, and that he was laid to rest as he deserves. Obviously, the diary wouldn’t have been able to do that. Therefore, Haakon appears in the story again. And all the answers were right there, in the original book.

One sentence in The Fallen Angels of Karnataka kicked off Michel’s story

Michel's diaryIn order to prepare for the narration of Michel, I asked my friend Michael Bakkensen to narrate The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, and as we were editing the audio files the other day, it struck me that I had specifically mentioned Michel’s diary in the original novel. Sure, I always knew that Haakon had it, but I had forgotten that I had actually put it into the story back then.

Michel’s book is stand-alone. You needn’t read TFAK (as we like to call it) to understand the new book. There is plenty of context provided. But I have a hunch that some may want to go back and either re-read or maybe even get to know Haakon better. His story is very different, of course, going in a completely different direction. Making sure the new book didn’t contradict what little is said in the old was an interesting challenge. Conversations from the two points of view had to be kept in sync, and that wasn’t always easy, but in the end, I think it turned out just fine.

 

When imagination meets reality

I had no idea what I would be writing about, or what Michel would tell me. Sure, I had known that he and his parents weren’t exactly close and that his upbringing was framed by his parents’ homophobia. I also knew that at some point he’d have to be infected by HIV. I also knew he had friends back in Rennes where he’d grown up, but the couple of chapters where we meet Michel in TFAK are cursory with regards to details about his life. I don’t always know where the information that finds itself onto the pages of my stories comes from, this amalgamation of my own experiences with things I’ve read, or heard of. To write about the eighties and gay life without passing HIV was impossible back in 2014 and it still is, of course. But I didn’t want to write yet another HIV book. There are plenty of those out there. I was more interested in getting underneath the skin. What was society like, why was a disease such as HIV able to spread the way it did, why didn’t we react differently to it? Answers to this are also found in the arc, as Michel obviously never got to live to see it for himself. Queer life has changed so much since then, at least here in western Europe. And when I look back at my own youth (I’m just a couple of years younger than Michel and Haakon), and I remember how society judged us, and treated us back then, I look at the role that religion played, and just how much things have changed since then. And I look around and I see how a tsunami of backlash is shaping all around us, from religious extremists to “populist” politicians who will scapegoat anybody to use as a stepping stone toward more power. We see it in Brasil, Russia, Hungary, or Poland to just name a couple of places. The list is much longer though.

I recall writing about the pedophile ring in London in TFAK, and how reality trumped my own imagination back in 2014 when such a ring was busted. I had a similar revelation after writing the scenes of Michel’s abuse at the hands of the clergy. Just days later news broke of hundreds of thousands of victims at the hands of Catholic priests across France. Unimaginable evil and suffering. Makes you wonder… Is there hope for humanity?

How do you pull off an unconventional Happy Ending when the hero dies?

With so much negativity all around us, I find it even more important to provide hope. Hope that there is a better tomorrow, for all of us. I don’t think I could cope with life otherwise. I must have faith in the good of humanity, that ultimately, good trumps evil. In Michel, I hope to have found a way to lay Michel to rest, and I hope he has forgiven me for his untimely demise in TFAK. You, dear reader, will be able to find out just how I pulled off that ending on April 30. You’ll be able to read or listen to the story then, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Michel–Fallen Angel of Paris is published by Beaten Track Publishing and will be released as paperback and ebook. The audiobook is narrated by Michael Bakkensen.

My Fallen Angel of Paris: You Know How He Died, Learn How He Lived!

Michel: A new book is slowly taking shape

From dying character on page sixty-four to full novel in seven years

This is the first cover that Natasha designed for me, still a favorite of mine.

The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, where Michel first appeared.

Every author has their own way of tackling their stories. I for one have always been driven by the voices of my characters, as they talk to me in my head. No, I’m not crazy. At least I don’t think so. The story of Haakon and his fallen angels has many real-world roots, inspired by a novel by Larry Benjamin, What Binds Us, a pedophile I once knew, my experiences from India, and my love of travel, all contributed to this dark tale. I did not foresee Michel though. When he appeared early on in the story, during Haakon’s first trip abroad to London, on page twenty-three of the printed novel, I didn’t know the impact the character would have on me, until he, Michel, passes away from complications with HIV on a park bench near the Eiffel Tower. That’s on page sixty-four.

There were reasons for that to happen most of which I honestly don’t remember. But Michel’s death is still, to this day, one of my very favorite scenes to read in public, and I still, seven years later, cannot get through it without my voice cracking. Michel had entered my life and he was not about to leave.

Six years later, Michel asked me to tell his story

Early on in 2020, days before the pandemic hit, I had just completed a major IT project as a consultant and my “billable hours” were dropping to nil when, as happens sometimes, I heard a voice. It was Michel, and he was ready to tell me his story. Then the pandemic hit and my inspiration took a nosedive. It wasn’t until this fall that I was able to really work on the novel again in earnest. And Michel’s life, as short as it was, had plenty of interesting things to tell. Writing about a ‘dead’ character is difficult, and I’m reminded of writing Disease. How do you write a hopeful ending about a subject that inevitably leads to death? There is was Alzheimer’s, here it’s AIDS (and the fact that the character actually passed away in the fall of.1986.) I am very pleased with the outcome. I hope you will, too.

There is, of course, a tentative connection to Haakon and The Fallen Angels of Karnataka but you can read this story completely as a stand-alone, although you’ll miss the death scene, which is not included in Michel, as it’s based on his diaries and yeah, I’m sure you understand. Wouldn’t work. Although it might be a great commercial hook: read the first diary written by a dead person.

I’m editing, getting ready to market: the day job of authoring

A snippet of a possible cover for Michel

A snippet of a possible paperback cover for Michel.

The manuscript of Michel is currently in flux. The story is 99% written, I’d say, and I’ve already begun the editing process, i.e. the author editing. My publisher will edit the book later on with their fresh set of eyes, then set it, proof it, etc. We just discussed this morning, that it is my target to get the manuscript over to them by Christmas, and we tentatively talk about an April release. Before that, I’ll be in New Orleans for Sinners & Saints and hopefully, be able to let Michel meet his audience. We’ve also begun the process of creating a cover, which as I’m sure you know has always been crucial to me. That work included hiring a photographer to source licensed pictures of an angel I had found online. This angel and the expression on his face and his body language had spoken to me and I just knew I needed him on the cover. We’ll reveal the full cover later on, but here’s a sample of what it might look like. As I said, a work in progress. Things might yet change.

Authors are people stuck in a lonely cabin behind with only their cats and a typewriter

Many people think of authors as people in front of a typewriter, writing books all day long. Yes, that is part of what we do, but so is this, blogging, marketing, PR. To be an author is also to be an entrepreneur, owning a small/tiny business, being self-employed in this gig economy. Part of that aspect of our jobs is to secure funding, of course, from events, but also to market not only ourselves but our works, A lot of my colleagues believe this to be the publisher’s job, and yes, they do have their role to play, particularly as it means to get the product into stores, aka book stores and libraries, but they don’t really care about my author gigs in schools and libraries, at events. Because they don’t earn any money from those events. That’s just for the author. We have different roles, and as an author, marketing myself alongside my work is an important part of my job description as an author. Lest we forget.

Next steps: several more rounds of editing, filing on the finer details

Before I feel confident enough to release Michel to my publisher, there are still countless rounds of reading, editing, changing, and filing on the finer details of the story that remain. Because of its complicated conception with several chapters late in the book written early on, I need to make sure the timeline holds, and that different aspects of the story don’t clash. Who needs plot holes, right? That’s going to keep me busy for the coming weeks. It’s my goal to have the manuscript finalized by December 20th and send it to my publisher. We leave for our vacation the next day, and I don’t usually work on vacation unless it’s time-sensitive. After that commences the most difficult time for me, until I hear from the editor at Beaten Track, telling me what they think about the book.

Suffering from an extreme case of imposter syndrome, I always assume the worst, fully expecting them to turn me down before they never do (so far…) and I get the manuscript back and we work on it together until it is done and proofed. Meanwhile, I’ll contract the audio narrator, and work on a PR plan for the book, for what it’s worth. That usually includes blog appearances, Podcasts, and conventions. We’ll see what 2022 offers in that regard.

Are you interested in what’s going on? Stay tuned here. I’ll try to update this site regularly with any progress.