In the latest from the trenches, we had a delicious rat-atouille, with rat-au-vin and small glass of rat-afia. Other than that the shelling continues. Our attempt at going 'over the top' in the face of heavy machine-gun fire on the orders of General Flint, resulted in the capture of a small beachhead section of enemy lines - which we've called 'Karres' after the late great Sergeant Schmitz who led our platoon. It's unfortunately a very small breachhead, and will depend on re-inforcements being fairly speedly sent, for us to hold it. A small group of volunteer sappers from the Nakedreader (A tribe from South-Western America, famous for their courage, I believe) are attempting to construct a tunnel, or at least shore up the bunkers, and help us to catch more rats...
Well, some of my sense of humor has at least returned, although I am getting rather tired of a menu quite so dominated by rat. The trench warfare metaphor is slightly apt as we've just had Remembrance day (Salute). And a sense of humor is fairly essential there and in the writing game. No, I don't mean to suggest that writing is anything like vaguely as tough as trench warfare, but there are minor echoes. The sheer fatigue, the stupid goals set by people a long way off who have no real idea of the terrain, or problems or foes, the fact that new and midlist writers are considered expendable. The inadequate provisions. Oh and the rats and the mud, which we turn into our delectable dinners and shelter. Eric (General Flint) has got a contract for the next Karres book from Baen, and in theory at least I should get paid the advance by wire. On the down side they've decided that they'll probably bring it out in Trade Paperback so really the advance is small, barely going to buy me time, and means for any of the other deals allow me to write full time - they have bigger targets. On the other hand Eric and I talked through the possibility of putting together the 'fish' book (the Wandle pike etc) with Andrew Dennis most of which is already written and Eric has suggest I write 1632 tie in (which should pay better than the Karres book)I'm less than keen on this, but it would pay the bills...
The other projects I've been thinking about are to take various shorter bits, where I have developed a universe and some interesting characters for various short stories / novellas and to build on them as e-books, writing a sequence of stories and linking them together.
For instance I wrote for JBU a 40 year after Rats, Bats and Vats Universe novella called Crawlspace about an amoral rat-detective and his Mao-ist radical feminist adversary/ sidekick bat trapped in a Korozhet seige inside a huge alien artifact. There was always the intention of writing more, but the time and money dried up. A series of detective stories with the seige, treachery, and the final reason for it all, tied together really appeals to me.
I also wrote a short called 'The Witch's Murder' set in the Heirs of Alexandria Universe, with the saintly Brother Mascoli and the earthy Agent of the Signori di Notte - a crippled soldier - having to solve renaissance crime - which appears magical. A mixture of detective/magic is quite a challenge and appeals. I thought a series of these with mixtures of magic, murder and detection could be interesting. (Yes, I have my next murder thought out).
I was also considering more mis-adventures of my tattooed Pictish dwarf (a Private Investigator dealing with the urban paranormal). He's one of my favourite creations and is so delightfully un-PC and an MCP (at 4'8") with a big gun and the sensitivity of a brick outhouse. He's a lot of fun to write.
Hmm. I realise all of these happen to be detective/murder myster type stories. There is quite a list, not all of which are murder-mystery! For instance the full tale of the Goth Sex Kitten (which involves a feral tom-kitten who has been transformed into human form to serve as the apprentice - read 'slave' - to a dirty and irascible and unpleasant old git-of-a-magician). But the part I wanted to talk about is actually... all of these are things I really _want_ to write. That I feel eager to write. I think one of my big mistakes has been to focus heavily on security. On writing things I could sell - which has often meant shaping ideas around what I think publishers want (and in some cases - Karres and the Heirs books - half my work - that I have been asked to write by publishers.) Fitting in with what they want me to write: I've bent these into books that I can love and am proud of... but that is hard work,draining and slow, much harder than merely letting the inner monkey loose to write. Of course it's a good question as to whether I can find enough readers for these, but I am actually really looking forward to giving it a go. I think as e-books I choose to make them length they want to be, and while they'll still need editing and proofs, well, I can stop stressing about being paid timeously or them being bought at all. Of course where the time will come from is another question. They'll for now have to fit around the contracted work. But somehow that feels do-able.
Some of the shorts I've refered to - and a bunch of others are going to be available as anthology from Naked Reader (so if you feel like proving to me that this could be worthwhile, or want to tell me which stories you think want a whole book - buy direct form NR and I get 60% of the cover price.)
But what do you think? How long is a worthwhile read? Should price and length relate? Are there things you'd like to see me write?