Vikings, Werewolves, Marc and Jesse…and yes! Audiobooks at last!

So, the last week has been about getting my head around, as they say in AA, “things I can change and things I can’t.” I’m “in recovery” now from a way of thinking about writing and publishing that wasn’t working for me.

I can’t write a best selling book in this genre – fine. I have a hard core of enthusiastic fans who love what I do, and whose taste is catholic enough to follow me from Vikings to Werewolves to Cyberthrillers to Athletes to Rockstars and There and Back Again. If I make $800 in a bad month, well shit fuckity, I’m still in the top tier of writers in America who can make any $ on their books.

Without at least one bestseller a year, I can’t make a living on writing alone – fine. I have my editorial business, which I really enjoy. My real goal was, and I never saw it, to be an independent creative; I just thought writing books was the only way I’d ever do that.

And I finally have audiobooks in my near future, but more on that in a moment.

I was getting trapped in a cycle of rage and frustration, between the hard place of low sales and the rock of Amazon’s ever-stingier compensation scheme (and their Soviet bureaucracy-level inability to move fast enough to keep con artists from hoovering up the lion’s share of KU profits).

“It’s not FAIR!” No, it’s not. But again, what you can change and what you can’t, and I can’t make people read my books. And I sure as shit can’t change Amazon. They’ve reached such an AT&T-level near-monopoly that I can see Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the Operator, writing KU updates that (pared of their corporate soexcitedspeak) say, “We’re Amazon, sir. We don’t have to care.”

So as I’ve said before, it’s time to write for pleasure and not for money – well, of course I hope I make money, but I can’t be pushing myself to write four novels a year or the equivalent in stories etc., when they’re bringing in less and less money each time. And right now, “On My Honor” just feels like too much on me.

You all know I feel a strong obligation to “get shit right.” And while I know I can get the “cop stuff” right, and I think I can get the biracial experience right (given sufficient research and appropriate alpha readers), what I’m just not up for is the part with the officer-involved shooting, the racial tension, the dark place I’d have to go to with a dead body and a troubled conscience. It’s too much to ask of myself now, with my delusions of affect under control. It’s the kind of thing I could have written a year ago, with the voice I had then, fueled by the absolute certainty that This Time For Sure the passion and intensity I put into a novel would Make Me Rich.

But not now, with my confidence…well, if not broken, definitely in the shop for a tuneup. And yeah, the research is fucking depressing, reading Ghettoside and What Cops Know and seeing the worst side of humanity. Trust me, you’ll have new respect for cops when you see what they see, especially for the “good cops” and what they’re up against. And given my No Paper Dollies rule, there’s no way I can write a cartoon cop who’s oblivious to all that.

So yeah, Vikings are next up on my list! Colum and Viggo in Byzantium, and I’m stoked about it. Right now, what I need is to write and publish a 15k action-adventure-hot sexin’ story, something I can complete in 1/4 the time it takes to write a novel.

And then…yeah, it’s back to Marc and Jesse. Game Theory (title and subject) is such a cerebral topic that it doesn’t force me to go to a dark place to write it, and I need that now. Another hot thriller, albeit with less globe-trotting (I used that up in Strength!) and more…I don’t know what yet. But definitely danger and intrigue and bad guys and such!

And then…I think Werewolves of Brooklyn: The Gilded Age. Which will be “too much backstory” in spades, because fuck it, what I really want to write is Albeus in Brooklyn in that era, which resembles our own all too clearly with each passing day. So probably just a present-day intro w/Darien and Albeus, and that’s it. But we’ll see. The great thing about Fuck It is that I can do what I want, knowing I’m violating the holiest trope: abandoning my Darien/Albeus romance for a whole novel, to go back in time and explain the whole Albeus/Duke Daniel thing. My hard core wants more werewolves, and I’ve said “no no sorry I want to but it doesn’t sell,” but…fuck it! If I can’t sell anything, I might as well write what I want.

Oh yeah. The audiobook thing. I know I’ve now been going on about this for nine months now, but this baby’s about to get born. A lot of things have held me back on this.

First and biggest, editing audio is a grind. It’s not creative, it’s not fun, it’s a “green pie task” that takes a lot of time and focus and energy and reminded me all too much of working a day job again. But, now after plenty of trial and error (and a whole half a book recorded and thrown out), I’ve found a narrating style, technique and overall groove that minimizes the amount of editing I have to do.

Second, and almost as big psychologically, was my overwhelming sense of doom in the face of ACX submission requirements. I looked at those and fell apart, wondering how the fuck I would even know what a peak value or an RMS or a noise floor was… And the Internet was fuckin’ useless, because everybody who knows about these things writes about them in engineer speak, with the cheerful obliviousness of the naturally scientific when faced with the rest of us: “You just carry the Y over the radical of ! and then solve for ^. It’s really very simple.”

My salvation came this weekend in the form of an Audacity plugin, called simply, “ACX-check.” It scans your file for all three of the above requirements, and tells you exactly how your file does or does not meet them. My “noise floor” is fine – using Noise Print/Noise Reduction to take the background noise out, check. My RMS (aka Root-Mean-Square, which in English means “how loud”) was low, but I could boost it with Audacity’s Amplify function a couple of times, until it finally passed. That then screws up the peak values, but then I could use the Soft Limiter to fix that. Now I only have a five-year-old’s understanding of the technology, but now…it doesn’t matter. As of yesterday, I have a whole book chapter that is not only edited but passes the ACX test!

And that’s what I really needed, to eliminate that psychological barrier I had in my head that said, “This will all be for nothing because you’ll submit a whole audiobook and it’ll be technically wrong and unfixable and you’ll have to record it all over.” Nope! Not any more.

So yeah. The A Little Too Broken audiobook is really, truly coming soon. Like, probably by the end of April. And then we’ll see. There may be no money in this, either, especially with Amazon undercutting authors by tacking a $20 audiobook version onto a purchased Kindle book for a handful of shells, but how will I know till I do it?

And then we’ll see. Maybe I’ll even narrate books for other writers, as long as, you know, I’m not reading lines like “Tyler Skylerton, I am going to pleasure you up and down and all around, until you know that you are mine and the stars fall from the sky!”

6 Comments on Vikings, Werewolves, Marc and Jesse…and yes! Audiobooks at last!

  1. Don’t knock it; Tyler Skylerton could be your ticket to fame and fortune grasshopper…
    I predict success for you. While keeping the market in mind is key, writing from the heart is even more important. It’s a precarious balance between the two that will keep you happy and the rent paid.

  2. Yeah, please oh please don’t do the corny fall from the stars thing–Thank you 🙂 and the Gilded Age thing would sound fantastic. I wouldn’t think of it as a backstory, really–but a prequel. Hey, but I’ll take any Werewolf I can get, though. Hot sexin’ with down and dirty Vikings, though? Yes please 🙂

  3. Jennifer Vranek // March 21, 2016 at 10:07 pm // Reply

    Colum and Viggo are two of your best-drawn characters and their stories are so tightly-written and –developed. They’re my favorite of your works, alongside Sam and Derek. I will buy any next stories in these two series!

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