28 May 2020

Fallen Desire is coming along nicely

Hello readers!

I want to share with you all a brief update regarding Book II, my future plans for the series, and some of my upcoming life events.

I’ve written 60,000 words and have finished Part One of the story, which is wonderful! A great many events that I’ve been planning, foreshadowing, or teasing the reader about are now coming to fruition. The entirety of Part Two is plot, action, resolution—all the good stuff. While worldbuilding and characterisation occupied much of Fallen Love and some of Fallen Desire, this is where it all comes together.

Do I know when I will finish? No. Despite my good progress, I have a Master’s degree incoming, plus this book is no paperweight. I anticipated it would be around 90,000 words, and right now it looks like it could easily be 100,000. Is there a Book 3 in the works? Well, there might be a prequel novella. (Maybe.) But the buck ends here.

Speaking of master’s degrees, I have decided to study Business and Data Science at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. You could think of it as an MBA with an MSc; it’s two years long, 9 months of which is made up by internships. While business is a straightforward subject for yours truly (I’m an economist remember?) the data science component will require me to brush up on my Python and statistics. Not to mention the dreaded linear algebra and calculus.

At the moment, however, I’m busy trying to find housing. This is, of course, a pain in the behind.

Anyway, I have one more piece of good news: I have a new fan! Her name is JR Vaineo, and she’s a fantasy writer too, so check out her books. I’ll probably republish the review here on the Magical Realm. Stay put!

11 May 2020

Big News: Fallen Desire is coming out with Terran Empire Publishing!

Hello faithful readers!

I am announcing my new relationship with Terran Empire Publishing, a small press based in California. I have recently signed a publishing contract with them for the rights to Fallen Desire, Book 2 in the Fallen series. I already announced this on my mailing list and social media, so I might as well do it on the Magical Realm. I will use this as an opportunity to briefly delve into some additional detail.

What does publishing a book actually mean?

In legal terms, a publishing contract is an agreement whereby the Author sells the rights for a written work to the publisher, in exchange for royalties and possibly an advance. (That’s a test good contracts must meet: there should be a quid pro quo.) But what does that actually entail? Why would I do this instead of just publishing it on my own like I did the Necromancer and Fallen Love?

Well, it boils down to a few different important advantages and one major disadvantage. The disadvantage is that my royalties per book are about half what they would be if I self-published. The advantages are numerous:

  1. I get free editing! Which is great, because editing—particularly developmental or story editing—costs a lot of money otherwise. It’s probably the single biggest added value service in addition to a cover.
  2. I get a book cover! And I don’t have to pay for it out of my own pocket.
  3. The publisher has a physical presence in California, which is important for selling to bookshops. They also make my book known at local conventions that, for obvious reasons, are very difficult for me to attend (I live halfway across the world).
  4. Translation into Spanish is a possibility.
  5. And finally, I get someone to market for me! This is such a pain in the ass to do on my own.

Why Terran?

Why not any other publisher? We met on Kickstarter and they pitched me an offer. I decided it looked good. They were also open to negotiation; that meant I got a very solid contract with clear expectations, and no nasty loopholes.

So how is Book II coming along?

Pretty well, for the most part. I have written more than 50,000 words, and I’ve almost finished the first round of edits. I do my first round of editing once I reach the halfway point (more or less) in order to fix problems as they crop up: I mop up everything from typos and worldbuilding inconsistencies, to characterisation issues and plot holes.

I could in principle wait until I finish writing the story and have my publisher do all this, but I prefer to resolve issues as they come up, because that makes writing the end much easier for me. As it is, I probably will send the manuscript to the publisher in a few weeks.

I am cautiously optimistic that the book will be ready in a couple of months; I expect it will be around 90,000–100,000 words. It will definitely be bigger than Book 1, but I’m just not sure how much bigger.

Any other news?

I’m preparing for my MSc in Data Science and Business, which is going to be a lot of work. Arranging housing is next on the list.

I was supposed to get my driving licence this year, but will I? I’m not sure. The whole coronavirus pandemic has delayed an already slow, bureaucratic process. Since my MSc is non-negotiable, I have to leave in August.

But hey, I’m staying positive! I’ve been working out for the past 2 months. (What else was I supposed to do? Go crazy in quarantine?) I am now the proud owner of a six-pack, which feels pretty statuesque—a feat I attribute to low body fat and smart exercise. Now I’m working on my biceps, triceps, deltoids, and pectoralis major. Plus my transverse abdominis—a tricky muscle to work.

(Alex, as you might have noticed, is obsessive. When he strives to complete a task, he does it, and he does it well. Even if it means metamorphosing from a book nerd into a fitness freak.)

Finally, one more piece of good news: my hair is growing back! In particular, my forehead and temple hair is thickening—hair that I lost in the past two years due to AGA, aka male pattern baldness. How long will I maintain a full head of hair? That I do not know, so I’m going to relish my hair while it lasts.

Now I must return to my writing. Until next time!

27 Mar 2020

Announcing My New Patreon

Hello readers,

I’m pleased to announce my new Patreon page! I’ve been thinking about starting a Patreon account for a while now; I’ve been busy researching how it works, setting my prices and rewards, and waiting for the Royal Mail to deliver the paperbacks. (COVID-19 is such a pain in the arse, don’t you know?)

“But what exactly is Patreon, Alex?” you ask. It’s a good question: I had no idea it existed until quite recently, and not many writers use it, at least based on my experience so far. (This may change.) In short, Patreon is a way of supporting me financially, in exchange for all sorts of cool perks—like getting to read Fallen Desire early, along with cool short stories and poems. Think of it as a long-term relationship with long-term benefits and obligations.

Become my Patron!

Poems 2020

Speaking of poems, I’m going to be writing a new series of poems this year, titled (you guessed it) Poems 2020. They are unique and available only to my Patreon supporters during the first year; in 2021 I will be making them freely available here on the Magical Realm.

I’ll be writing about characters from the Fallen series, and one poem, the Sceptre of Fire, will actually be about a new fantasy series I have planned for the future. (Yes, that’s a hint!)

Make the best of quarantine

Like many people in the world right now, I am stuck at home and only allowed outside to buy food and medicine. I figured I might as well do something useful. There’s nothing more fun than passing time indoors with a good book, right? Or talking about a good book, if not reading it.

20 Mar 2020

A Quick Update

Hello readers!

It has been awhile since my last post, and I would like to update you all on what’s been going on. To begin with, I have been busy with my driving lessons: I am slowly getting the hang of steering, clutching (a very complicated process), brakes, acceleration, and intersections. Oh, and parking. Alas, thanks to this pandemic, driving tests have been postponed for over a month.

The other important thing has, of course, been master’s degrees. I will be sending another application soon, and I am expecting scholarship results quite imminently. Then there is Kickstarter—I sent all the remaining signed paperbacks on Monday, and I’m hoping everyone will get their copy soon.

In my personal life, I’ve started exercising more: I’m doing some basic resistance exercises (pushups, squats, planks) with medium-intensity cardio. I figured I might as well do something useful while I wait for my medicines to work—it’s going to take months to fix the remaining skin and hair problems I suffer from. Incidentally, if you suffer from dry hair (which I hate) I recommend biotin supplements; they really do work.

I have some really cool plans for my writing in the future. The second book in the Fallen series has been picked up by a California-based publisher (yay) and I am excited to work with them. On top of that, I’m interviewing my Great Demon and Arch Demon backers; I’ve already started writing the first character based on my backers’ personality. It’s turned out very interesting so far.

That’s not the only new writing! To take one example: I’m hoping to write a piece of flash-fiction that will be published in a Queer Science Fiction anthology. Obviously, there’s the sequel. And there’s more I’m keeping under wraps (secret alert!)

Lastly, I’ve been following the Democratic primary election—or, well, not following. I can really sympathise with the people who voted for Bernie Sanders: the DNC has pretty much turned this into a Biden coronation, and I don’t blame Bernie supporters if they decide not to cast their vote for Biden in the election. Heck, I wouldn’t blame them if they abandoned the Democratic party altogether.

Biden may or may not win against Trump; it will depend on how this pandemic evolves. At this point, though, I don’t really care. It’s business-as-usual in America, and that means crazy-as-usual.

If you haven’t done so already, you can keep following me by signing up to the subscribe form on the right. This way, you’ll be the first to know when I release something new, be it a new book, short story, or exclusive.

6 Mar 2020

Feel the Bern

Hello readers!

Today, I’m going to discuss a topic I usually can’t be bothered with: American politics. As a card-carrying European, what goes on the other side of the pond doesn’t really affect me, so why pay attention? Well, I’m going to make an exception this time—I think the Democratic nomination is really interesting. More importantly, it could have wider relevance for how left-wing parties win (or lose) against populist right-wing opponents.

Also, I have a different perspective because I’m not American; this can give me valuable insights that are missing in the debate. I’ve been treated by the NHS, to take just one example.

I’m going to structure this post into two parts: the first is an overview of the personalities, the second is about tactics. I’ll finish by discussing the issues in my conclusion. Why not put the issues front-and-centre, you ask? Well, it’s because the American Presidency is fundamentally a personality contest. You can’t win an election without understanding this fact.

The Personalities

I’m going to classify the candidates based on Donald Trump’s nicknames. I have no love for Darth Cheetoh (as some affectionately call him) but Trump is a very effective rhetorician who speaks straight from the gut. His ability to nail a politicial opponent’s weaknesses—and to embody the spirit of Middle America—is remarkable.

I’ll discuss the candidates who have had sizeable votes; I’ll ignore the non-entities like Steyer, Yang etc.

“Sleepy Joe”: I think Democrats are making a big mistake voting for this guy. I mean, I like him, and Biden is a likeable guy. But he has several critical flaws that make him a poor choice to fight Donald Trump in 2020. Firstly, he shows worrying signs of senility: he mixes up his wife with his sister, doesn’t know what state he’s in, thinks he’s running for the Senate, and said 150 million Americans were killed by gun violence. (That’s half the population.)

On top of that, he is an establishment politician implicated in the Ukraine debacle. I don’t care about the details; voters won’t either. Trump proved how good he is at eviscerating establishment politicians with Hillary Clinton. “Crooked Clinton” cost Democrats the White House, and “Sleepy Joe” might do the same in 2020.

“Mini Mike”: Only one candidate is worse than Biden against Trump, and it’s this guy. Seriously, what the hell are Democrats thinking? Never mind that progressives won’t vote for a groping billionaire. Trump is a groping billionaire himself, and as such, he intimately understands Bloomberg’s weaknesses. Faced with two billionaires, voters will pick the more charismatic of the two.

“Crazy Bernie”: Why isn’t Bernie the front-runner anymore? What are Democrats thinking? Bernie Sanders would wipe the floor with Trump. He is a brilliant grassroots campaigner; he has the money; and most importantly, people like him. He’s honest and authentic and wins people over to his side. Americans think socialism is crazy—but they agree with public healthcare, and they want college to be cheaper. The more they listen to Sanders, the more reasonable he seems.

“Mayor Pete”: Also known as BOOT EDGE EDGE. I liked him a lot—it was really promising to see a gay candidate come out of nowhere and do so well. I think Pete might have won against Trump, despite the handicap of homophobia. (It’s also interesting that Trump respected a gay man as his political opponent.)

I actually think lack of minority support was a much bigger problem for him. The lack of Black support was his own damn fault—he made some mistakes as mayor of South Bend. But I think he could, in the future, gain lots of support from Latinos; he just needs to reach out and campaign better.

It’s wonderful to think this man could plausibly have become President of the United States.

“The Phoney Pocahontas” aka Elizabeth Warren: A smart woman and a brilliant policymaker, but not a good presidential candidate against Trump. The fabricated stories about her Native American ancestry (debunked by a Cherokee genealogist) is exactly the kind of identity politics that would cost her an election. I’m glad she’s dropped out, and hope she will continue to make a difference in politics.

Tactics

Let’s talk about electability. I think Bernie Sanders is more likely to win than Biden. It’s not impossible that Biden could beat Trump, mind you, but they odds are definitely in Bernie’s favour.

Why? It boils down to two things. Obviously, Sanders can get the base out (this has been discussed ad nauseam). But perhaps more importantly, he can win back Trump–Obama voters, which data shows is the reason Clinton lost the election. He can do this by appealing to them—through his policies, through the kind of person he is—and not playing identity politics.

The data shows that racial anxiety was the reason these voters supported Trump (a “whitelash”). But since these people voted a black man for President (twice!), I hardly think Democrats should give up on them. If the left makes a positive, optimistic case for their vision of America, these voters will come back. If Democrats attack them as racist, and bite Trump’s bait, they will lose.

But how does Bernie win the nomination? The Democratic establishment has rallied around Biden. The good news is that Warren has dropped out, and I’m hoping she will formally endorse Bernie Sanders. If it takes a VP ticket or a seat on a committee, so be it. Bernie and Liz need to stick together.

I want to briefly touch on why the Democratic establishment is so keen to support Biden, despite some pretty obvious flaws. I think it boils down to two things;

  1. (This is the theory I lean towards) They’re desperate. People who are desperate, in my experience, don’t think rationally.
  2. They want to lose with Biden rather than win with Bernie, as the latter option means they lose control of the institution (the Democratic party). Psychologists who study organisations often note this kind of behaviour.

Bernie needs to show Biden’s weakness. “If Joe can’t win a debate against me, how can he beat Donald Trump?” This is is the question Bernie needs to ask voters. He doesn’t have to be aggressive, mind you; Sleepy Joe is like a deer in the headlights anyway.

Conclusion

Two questions are important in the Democratic contest. The first is: “What’s the answer to Trump?” The second is: “How does America get public healthcare?” In both cases, the answer is vote Bernie Sanders.

Pete Buttigieg made a huge mistake in turning away from the single-payer model. He asked what would happen to the 150 million Americans who have private healthcare via their employers. The answer is that all 300 million Americans would be covered under an American NHS, and they won’t have to pay out-of-pocket, and they won’t lose healthcare along with their job. (The German model that Pete proposed would be certainly an improvement over the present system, but it’s still second best. When has America ever settled for second-best?)

If Bernie Sanders makes the case for Biden’s poor electability, and champions in his Medicare-for-all policy, he might still win. I for one think it’s time to “Feel the Bern”.

5 Mar 2020

I’m finally getting published

Hello readers!

I have been busy these past few weeks, which is why I have not posted any updates here on the Magical Realm. Partly, it’s been because of the new book, Fallen Love. I’ve been advertising on Facebook, fulfilling backer rewards for Kickstarter (lots of paperbacks to send out!) and I’m negotiating the rights to the sequel with a small press.

Yes, you read that right: a small fantasy publisher wants to publish the next book! The talks are only at the beginning stage so far, and there is much to think about. Editing, design and marketing are the big ticket items; there are a million other things that go into a publishing contract.

There is a trade-off involved, naturally: the royalties aren’t as good as in self-publishing, which means I have to sell more books to earn the same. In exchange, I get editing, which is seriously expensive business (think $2000+ for a full-length novel). The publisher has a physical presence in California, which offers many opportunities—conventions, bookstores, Kickstarter rewards—that wouldn’t be open to me otherwise. Finally, I want someone to do the work for me. Self-publishing is too complicated and too exhausting.

The Curse of the Automobile

I’ve started taking driving lessons. Getting my licence will prove a time-consuming and tedious process, mostly because of bureaucracy. I can’t say I’m massively excited about it, because it’s not like I can afford a car at this stage in my life. Moreover, car transport is the cause of many negative externalities—pollution, climate change, congestion, and obesity among them.

Sadly, the reality is that we are hopelessly dependent on cars. You need to drive a car in order to be an independent adult. Even employers require it as a condition for getting a job—or the market forces you to drive a car because living in the city is too expensive.

Plans for the future

But enough about that! I have exciting plans for my writing. Getting a publisher for Fallen Desire is just the beginning; there are other promising opportunities I’m exploring. You’ll hear more about it in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!

3 Feb 2020

Fallen Love is finally here!

Hello intrepid reader!

I am delighted to announce that Fallen Love is now on sale! Head over to the Fallen Love page up top, or click the button below.

You can get Fallen Love as both an eBook and a paperback. What’s more, the eBook has Amazon X-Ray enabled, which lets you see useful information about characters and terms.

Thanks to my Kickstarter backers, I have raised enough money to promote Fallen Love and cover my expenses. So thanks a lot guys! This story has been a long time coming. After two publication date delays (first December, then January, finally February) it feels like a relief to finally have it out there. Read my story on Kickstarter

Next Steps

If you’re just reading this, why not head over to my Facebook page or my Twitter and stay up-to-date with everything going on. If you want to know when book #2 is out—and get a free copy of my short story, the Vampire Eirik—please sign up to the mailing list.

What I’ll be doing

I will be busy over the coming days and weeks with promotion, including guest blogging organised by the gals over at LesCourt & Vibrant Promotions. Aside from that, I will be busy with social media and advertising. The ads will start once the book has its reviews.

Wish me luck! It’s finally coming together.