Aug 28, 2014

Life Choices

By now, many of you will have seen several fairly vague comments on this blog, and on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, about certain stressful things going on in my home life.

I won't go into too much detail here, but I would like to share the decisions we've had to make. I believe every challenge is an opportunity for growth, and I want to get this clear and in the open so I can focus on the launch of Memory War next week.

We've had some problems. Let's call them "changes in our family situation." I don't mind talking about it in more detail, in private, but not on a public place like a blog. Anyway, as a result of what's happened, we are no longer in a position to realistically employ the services of an au pair.

Looking at other childcare options, we've had to rule out creches entirely, as we simply can't afford to spent between €2,400 and €3,000 a month.

This means we've had three choices, all of which will have a dramatic financial impact, but also come with their own benefits:

1: Jen gives up work and stays home to look after the girls.
2: Jen gets a better-paying job and I give up work to stay home and look after the girls.
3: Jen gets a better-paying job and, depending on what salary she's offered, see if we can afford to hire a childminder.

Jen will be finishing up work the day before the Memory War book launch. We've been blessed by the response of friends and family to step into the breach and look after the girls, but we can only ask so much, and it would genuinely cost us less to go onto a single income than to pay a full-time childminder with Jen at her current salary. This does not rule out the possibility of Jen finding another job, so things are still a little up in the air, but we're eager to get ourselves settled into some semblance of a proper routine.

What does this mean for us, personally? We're actually feeling more in control of our lives than we have for some time. The few people who got to know all the details as they were happening stepped in and were there for us in ways we can never repay. We are eternally grateful for the family we have, whether it's family by blood or family by choice. Whatever happens, we'll manage. We just need to tighten our budget a little and re-think some things, which we've been doing. We can do this.

What does this mean for me, as a writer? Well, truthfully, not a lot will change. Yes, I am looking at the possibility that at some point in the next year it might actually make financial sense for me to become a full-time author, depending on how things go with Jen's job-hunting. We don't really know yet.

One thing which I can't ignore is the need to earn a higher, and more regular, income from writing. To this end I'm investigating some freelancing options (if anyone has any advice or leads they'd like to share, please do), and very importantly, I've made a pretty big decision as regards my future books.

To be clear: I am not giving up on traditional publishing. I very much want to be a hybrid author, releasing books myself as well as through a publisher. However, for now I need to go with the option that can bring the better, and faster, return on investment, and committing the next 4-6 months to writing a book that won't produce royalties for another two years just isn't the sound choice.

So the next book I write will continue the adventure that is to begin later this year in Lady Raven. I will be working on this series to its completion and then see where I am after that. With a little luck, and a lot of hard work, you should see Parts 2 and 3 released in 2015, and Part 4 released the following year, if not sooner.

I'm sorry for the length of this post, and the heavy nature of it all. 2014 has been a year of challenge, and I aim to rise to it all.

Aug 26, 2014

Shamrokon

This past weekend I attended my very first Eurocon. Then when I got home from it, I found out I'd been nominated to do the ALS Icewater Challenge, so I did:


And now back to our regular programming...

Shamrokon was a rollercoaster for me, and I'd like to apologise for being the guy with the screaming baby. The problem with having really well-behaved kids is you never know when to expect they'll have a rough day or two, and Olivia was teething terribly on the Friday and Saturday.

Aside from that, and a couple of accessibility/facilities issues that the hotel have responded to with wonderful eagerness to fix, I had a really good time. I can't say great, but the reasons it wasn't great are definitely nothing to do with the con. Just about everyone involved in running Shamrokon was someone I recognised as a veteran of Irish conventions, and the experience really shows. Hats off to the Shamrokon crew, you did us all proud. I don't think I've seen a convention run so smoothly in my life.

I started my con off with a mad dash to the panel on Cartoons in Common, at which I quickly realised I was woefully underqualified to talk about European cartoons. Many thanks to my fellow panelists, James Brophy and Miroslaw Baran, for allowing me to tangent a bit with my comparisons between how European and American cartoons tackle certain issues.

And yes, Once Upon A Time: Life, is the only kids' cartoon I know of that features sexual intercourse, and then childbirth, in its opening credits.

Also, Bravestarr really did have an anti-guns episode, and an episode where a little kid dies from a drug overdose.

On Saturday, then, I got to moderate a panel for the first time, and join Ian Watson and Carrie Vaughn in discussing Peaceful Science Fiction. I'd like to thank them, especially, for being so easy to converse and engage with, particularly since each of them has so much more author-cred than I do!

Sunday was the day we had to be out at the con earliest, and also our most fun and relaxed day. Which goes to show you, don't bother taking it easy in the morning if you don't need to be at a con until the afternoon. It'll always be more chilled out if you just get there early. 

In the morning I got to join Ruth Frances Long, Ian Paul Power, Bob Neilson, and Patricia Kennon to talk about whether or not there were any Irish authors writing SFF for adults, with Irish publishers (there aren't), and if not, why not? Lots of good discussion and debate, rounded off with the hope that Irish publishers will one day accept SFF as something more than being "for kids".

In the afternoon then, following yet another incredible feed at the hotel bar, I sat down with Emma England, Davitt Waldron, and Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire, to talk about toys. And wow, was that ever a lot of fun. We could have probably filled multiple panel slots talking about toys in all kinds of contexts, and we had some fantastic, eager comments from the audience.

To repeat: we need parents and toy manufacturers to stop assigning toys to kids based on their gender, and yes, if there is anything I'd love to have hung onto from my childhood years, it's the Superman costume my mum made for me when I was little.

And that was Shamrokon for me. Roll on the Worldcon 2019 bid, and see you all at Octocon 2015!

Aug 21, 2014

Memory War Soundtrack: Take It Back - Miracle of Sound

And so we come to the end of my soundtrack posts. This weekend I'll be at Shamrokon (Eurocon 2014), and I'm psyched to have the opportunity to meet and talk with so many amazing authors, and speak on some excellent panels.

Before that, however, we have to look at my favourite song from the Memory War soundtrack, and one of my favourite songs of all time. Like Rise, Take It Back is from Miracle of Sound. This song was produced for the release of Mass Effect 3, which saw the end of one of the biggest phenomenons in video games.


When you're stumbling through the darkness walking blind
Don't forget that there is always hope to find

Now, setting aside my sheer love for the Mass Effect series, and the fact that the hero of Mass Effect is Commander Sheppard, while the hero of The Memory Wars is Nathan Shepherd, there are few songs that have the same impact on me as this. Take It Back is a roaring call to arms, an anthem which, as it happens, is not actually about the hero, but about the people depending on him.

Choose your path
Walk it well 
Save us from this living hell
In this broken cage
We will not be confined

In essence, while I feel that this song applies to Nathan's story, in my head it's speaking to the people who look to Nathan to save them. It's speaking to New York, which really is a character in its own right.

As the towers of steel and stone crumble to dust
The foundations of our hope begin to rust

Everything is at stake in Memory War, and no-one is getting through this one unscathed. The city itself will be left scarred and changed. The question is, whose actions will be leaving the mark? Nathan or Athamar?

And when the world it starts to burn
At the point of no return
Keep a hold of
Your conviction
Tear out the affliction
Before the world turns black
Stand up and take it back!

A true hero doesn't just beat the bad guy in a fight. They make sure their actions leave something behind, so that even when they're gone, the people who depended on them can find their own strength, and make their world something better.

Memory War sees Nathan face his final, greatest, battle. It's an emotional book for me. I'm so proud of it, and I think it's the best book in the series. But all stories must come to an end...

For Earth, for all, for glory
It's time to end this story

Aug 19, 2014

Memory War Soundtrack: Rise - Miracle of Sound

We're getting closer to the launch of Memory War, and this week we'll be looking at the last tracks from the soundtrack. And I've made sure they're the best. 

This week I'm pretty much going to be fanboying about Miracle of Sound. Miracle of Sound is a one-man operation by my fellow Irishman, Gavin Dunne. It is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting and engaging things to come from the video game fan community. Starting off as a hobby, Gav has turned Miracle of Sound into a business that's going from strength to strength.

Two of his songs, in particular, have influenced my work on Memory War, perfectly fitting the mood and emotions I hope to evoke with the book, despite both having been released well after the overall story was set in my head. Appropriately, both songs are inspired by the last installment in a trilogy. 

The first draws from The Dark Knight Rises:


It's actually rather unsettling just how much the lyrics fit Memory War. This is the ultimate "get up off your ass and get back in the fight!" moment for Nathan.

Through ceaseless time
Great nations fall
Immortal shadows
Sacrifice the sprawl

Nathan and Elena have seen many empires rise and fall over their lifetimes. Their forgotten past with Athamar will be revealed, and you'll see just how long he has been their enemy.

A man will come
To start a fire
Your shining city
Will become your pyre

This simple, direct verse sums up Athamar completely. New York will burn, and he will watch and laugh.

Your body broken
Your spirit numb
Weak and waiting
For the end to come

Nothing Nathan has experienced can prepare him for what he's about to endure.

Rise from the shadows 
Make a fist of the pain
Rise from your grief
Before it grows into your bane

Nathan must find the strength to stand against Athamar. Whatever he must sacrifice, whatever he must endure, he must find some way to defeat his ancient foe, and keep on fighting, despite the things that will be taken from him along the way.

Climb from the prison 
That you've built in your soul
When the knight has arisen
Then your legend will be whole

What secrets lie locked within a soul as old as Nathan's? What power could be unleashed? And what would be the cost?

Heroes may die, but legends live forever.

Aug 14, 2014

Memory War Soundtrack: Test Drive

Today's soundtrack installment differs from the norm, since this is a segment from a film score, rather than an actual song. I find film scores to be an incredible source of inspiration and motivation. So many of the most important scenes in my books take their pacing and feel from a really powerful film score that I could probably do an entire blog just on how music has influenced my writing.


This is a truly beautiful piece from an exemplary score. John Powell's music almost guides the film, instead of being guided by it, and you can read some great reviews here and here. A really solid film score is something you can sit and enjoy in its own right, without the movie, and John Powell consistently delivers.

For Memory War, I used this piece to indulge in a little experimentation. You see, I love montages in movies. They're a wonderful film-making technique and a powerful narrative tool, one that's unique to film and television.

So I wanted to do a written version.

To that end, Memory War includes a training montage, in which Nathan and his allies prepare for their final battle. I kept this piece in mind as I wrote, and I hope the mood it evokes comes across in the montage chapter. If any lovers of music and film would like to chat about it after reading the book, let me know!

Aug 12, 2014

Memory War Soundtrack: End of All Hope

Part three of this series of soundtrack posts brings us to one of the major "set piece" tracks. There's a scene in Memory War, where this song became my background music for every part of the planning phase. In fact, the scene in question was one of the first I'd decided on when planning the book. 




It is the end of all hope
To lose the child, the faith
To end all the innocence
To be someone like me

What Nathan faces in Memory War is the greatest threat he has ever seen. Everything is at stake and Athamar will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

This is the birth of all hope
To have what I once had
This life unforgiven
It will end with a birth

All the while, Nathan is aware that he played his part in this, and that his actions led to Athamar becoming the monster he is. The reborn believe in allowing each soul a fresh start when it is reincarnated. But what can be done about someone so committed to violence and suffering that he dedicates every lifetime to it?

Angels, they fell first but I'm still here
Alone as they are drawing near
In heaven my masterpiece will finally be sung

Can Nathan redeem himself? Can he undo the mistakes he's made? Or is his own life the price he must pay to put things right?

Aug 7, 2014

Memory War Soundtrack: Fight The Good Fight

Welcome to the second instalment in the Memory War Soundtrack series!

Today we've got something of a rallying call for Nathan, Triumph's Fight The Good Fight:


I feel like this song represents the memories of his past selves reminding him what he's fighting for, all the things he's gone through before, and the strength he has to keep on fighting.

The days grow shorter and the nights are getting long
Feels like we're running out of time
Every day it seems much harder tellin' right from wrong
You got to read between the lines

Things are getting worse in New York. With Morrigan and Athamar on the movie, and the Council of Chains under new leadership, Nathan's Conclave is pushed to its limits trying to keep the people safe. And all the while, Nathan has to keep his secret...

All your life you've been waiting for your chance
Where you'll fit into the plan
But you're the master of your own destiny
So give and take the best that you can

Nathan has to learn that things won't work out the way he planned. All his good intentions and waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, won't mean a thing. He has to take a stand and take the fight to his enemies if he has any hope of saving his city.

Every moment of your lifetime
Every minute every day
Fight the good fight every moment
Make it worth the price we pay

Aug 5, 2014

Memory War Soundtrack: No Easy Way Out

Jen and I are going through a tricky time right now. There are lots of changes on the way which I can't really go into just yet. I promise I'll explain once the dust has settled and we know for sure what's going to happen, but for now I want to put my energy into getting you guys as excited as I am for the release of Memory War! Remember, it's out for Kindle on August 13th, and in print on September 2nd.

To kick us off as we get serious on the countdown to the final battle, we're taking a look at the music that inspired the book.

First up is a classic from the Rocky IV soundtrack, No Easy Way Out, by Robert Tepper.


Kind of appropriate that I start with this, given what's going on in my own life right now, but as readers will no doubt guess, this song perfectly fits the challenges facing Nathan Shepherd at the end of Silent Oath, which follow on into Memory War...

I don't wanna miss the fight,
I don't wanna drag you down.
But I'm feeling like a prisoner,
Like a stranger in a no-name town.
I see all the angry faces,
So afraid that could be you and me.
Talking about what might have been,
Thinking about what it used to be.

Nathan has lost and suffered. His victory in Silent Oath was a temporary one at best, only a stopgap against the storm that's coming. And as he faces his final battle, he knows he could lose everything, and it could well be all his fault.

Baby baby we can shed this skin,
We can know how we feel inside.
Instead of going down an endless road,
Not knowing if we're dead or alive.
Some things are worth fighting for,
Some feelings never die.
I'm not asking for another chance,
I just wanna know why.

As readers will know, Nathan stands to lose not only the fight, but Elena, his love, as well. But as much as he knows what he might lose by staying and fighting, what would be lost if he simply gave in would be far worse. Even if it costs him everything he holds dear, Nathan Shepherd will stand his ground.

There's no easy way out,
There's no shortcut home.
There's no easy way out,
Giving in can't be wrong.

Aug 1, 2014

Shamrokon



The Shamrokon timetable is up, and it looks set to be a fantastic weekend packed with a variety of interesting things to do. Not to mention it's got close to 1,000 members booked already, from over 30 countries. This is the biggest fan convention I'll have ever been to, and I can't wait.

I have an interesting schedule, and I'm honoured to have been asked to moderate my very first panel!

Friday Aug 22nd
3pm - European Focus: Cartoons in Common
James Brophy (M), Miroslaw Baran, Paul Anthony Shortt

We'll be discussing European-made cartoons we all grew up watching, and how they've influenced us.

Saturday Aug 23rd
3pm - Peaceful Science Fiction
Paul Anthony Shortt (M), Liz Bourke, Carrie Vaughn, Ian Watson

A look at SFF where the heroes don't resort to blasters and swordfights to get the job done. This is the panel I'll be moderating.

Sunday Aug 24th
10am - Where Are All The Irish Speculative Fiction Novels?
Patricia Kennon, Ruth Frances Long, Ian Paul Power, Paul Anthony Shortt, Bob Neilson

Asking why Ireland's SFF scene seems predominantly aimed at children.

3pm - Genre Toys
Davitt Waldron (M), Emma England, Seanan McGuire, Paul Anthony Shortt

Exactly what it says on the tin. Toys based on all manner of SFF.

So come along. These conventions are amazing fun, for fans and creators alike, and you get you spend your weekend with some really cool people.

Jul 31, 2014

Affirmations

We've been having a stressful time lately, on a couple of fronts. It's been a hard couple of weeks, but we've had amazing support from friends and family. Thank you to everyone who's given advice, offered to lend a hand, or just listened to us.

I want to take the positive from this. We have learned from this, and we have achieved from this. We've restored order to our house, in fact it looks the best it has since before we lost Conor. We've learned from mistakes and will do better in the future. We've set our goals and will achieve them.

We've gotten our physical environment in order. Now it's time to do the same for our hearts and minds.

In addition to being eternally grateful to those who've supported us, we have a new affirmation:

I am strong and respected.
My children are happy and loved.
My home is peaceful and safe.
My life is prosperous and joyful.