A Few Assorted Things

Hey! Long time no blog right? I’ve been having a bit of a rough patch and everything is a tad hard right now. I’m in the final slog of my Post Grad Diploma (6 weeks to go!!! maybe less, I’m trying not to think about that too hard!). There isn’t an awful lot of the good writing stuff going on while I try to hold myself together and knock out final assignments, but there IS a light at the end of the tunnel and I can’t wait to get there!!!

So in the meantime, here are a couple things you might be interested in!

The lovely Leigh K. Hunt has Tijuana Nights, the first book in her Nights series, for free at Amazon right now! GO grab it quick because I think it closes really soon. 

Also, the Audio version of Baby Teeth is out now thanks to the awesome people at Dynamic Ram Audio Productions! If you have something creepy a kid has said to share, go comment on this post to have a chance to win your own copy!

And finally, I’m sharing a link for a post I’ve not read the entirety of, but it’s an interview with Beth Morey who is a very talented artist and writer. Her fierce determination to grow and become, and her passion for life are things I find really inspirational. Plus, she’s just a great person. 

I hope everyone else is doing great! I’m hoping to have some fun writing related stuff to share with you in the near future, but for now it’s back to the grindstone – hey, maybe I can finish these last assignments early? lol How can it almost be the end of August?? 

Writers Retreat

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going away on writers retreat with some of my writing crew. These girls are AWESOME people, and it was an absolute pleasure to go and hang with them for a couple of days.

Of course, a weekend is never really enough. It disappeared far too quickly for my liking, and it was a bit too ‘whirlwind’ on arrival and departure.

I flew up to Auckland midday on Friday, leaving the kids at home with their Dad. My Dad picked me up and took me for a coffee while I waited for Leigh to arrive. Then we hung out in the pick up zone until her Step-Dad arrived, and then it was off to pick up Tee and say hello to one of her daughters!

From there we went for dinner at Tee’s folks restaurant (the weekend really expanded our writer lives to include our families), and then headed over the harbour to Whangaparoa. Naturally, at this point, wine was consumed and we talked and talked and talked… though we couldn’t get properly started until the next day when the last of our group would arrive.

Saturday was definitely the best. Melissa and Brenda arrived about 10 and we launched into talk of business plans and marketing!

Seriously, unless you’ve had the opportunity before, you’ve got no idea how EPIC it is to spend, literally, hours just talking about writing and publishing. Everyone but me has at least one novel published, but I’ve edited or given feedback on a good portion of the books published, so I feel like I’ve got a fairly decent grip on things. I adored hearing about the many, varied things these women have lined up. The next 18 months or so look AMAZING, and I can’t wait to finally be out there publishing alongside them.

Sunday morning saw us all working away at various things. We had a large lounge to take over and there was writing, editing, critiquing, listening (Tee was proofing her audio book), all in relative silence, punctuated only by the occasional goal shout-out. And then just before 12 we packed ourselves into Mel’s car and headed back to the real world.

The rest of the day sucked. There were too many goodbyes, and it feels like way too long until I’ll get to see them all again in the flesh – thank heavens for the internet though! At least we have something.

So, lessons learned over the weekend?

A writers retreat really needs to be more than a weekend! I think we need at minimum, a day and a half for talking, followed by at least the same for working, and probably half for winding things down – I could easily do more. If we have longer, we may even venture out of the house at some point over the weekend ;-)

Sharing your business plan, and hearing other peoples is incredibly motivational and inspirational. I felt really validated and encouraged after sharing mine, and inspired after listening to everyone elses. You can learn a lot from other people, so take those opportunities when you can get them.

Once a year is not enough! Escaping from the real world to indulge in writing is a real treat and I wish I could do it more often. I’m going to try and make an effort to at least get some more uninterrupted writing time in the near future as I’ve been reminded how much that feeds my souls.

Finally, possibly the two most important things it confirmed (for me): THIS – writing – is what I’m most passionate about outside of my family. Right now everything else (like study) is a barrier to what I truly want to be doing. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to try and do the things I ‘should’ do, when the thing I am called to has such a loud voice and tempts me constantly.

And, having a bunch of supportive writer friends (not just counting the ones I was away with, but everyone else as well) is a huge advantage and something I could not do without. They make everything writing related better and I’m truly blessed to have so many kick-ass friends.

Have you ever been on writers retreat? Any tips or hints? I think it’s going to be in my town next time and I’m already planning possibilities ;-)

Winning!

2014-Winner-Facebook-CoverI am officially a winner of CampNanoWriMo! Woo!

I actually finished off back on June 19th, but it’s been a busy week and I couldn’t ‘confirm’ the win until just yesterday.

It feels surprisingly good, like perhaps I’m getting better at this whole goal setting thing. I’ve already sent it out to some readers and feedback so far has been good – this novella will be published towards the end of the year, and I can’t wait to share it with you all!

It’s a rather more ‘fun’ read than a lot of my work, so I’m looking forward to showing you all a lighter side of me ;-) I can do funny! No-one dies! Well, not really… Okay, not going to say any more because it’s just a novella and I don’t want to give too much away just yet.

Can’t wait :-) This story had me laughing out loud as I rewrote it, and I really hope that those who read it will do the same. More on that at a later date.

Hope you’re all having a good month! Not long until August is upon us now :-)

That time I made a shortlist and completely neglected to mention it

So, a few weeks ago (a month? something?) I had the totally surprising honor of becoming a finalist in the Australian Shadows Awards, in the category of Best Short Story for my most recently published piece ‘The Dead Way‘. I discovered this rather exciting news in the wee hours of the morning when my littlest woke me. I couldn’t quite believe it really and thought there had to have been some mistake.

I’m still not sure how it happened. I mean, I know it’s a good story – I LOVE that story – but there is so much amazing talent out there and they picked my story to be in the top 5, alongside some other really amazing writers whose work I admire!

It was a little mind blowing, and also felt a bit like a milestone for me. I’ve experienced the pure buzz that is getting nominated for something, and winning an award (SJV Best Collected Work), but that was for something I’d edited – this is the first time I’ve ever made a list for a story of my own.

And that’s pretty awesome.

I didn’t win, but the lovely Debbie Cowens (whose story also appeared in Baby Teeth – which took out the award for Best Edited Publication!) did, and I didn’t feel at all upset by that. It was an honor just to make the short list.

Being a finalist made me a little more confident in my writing, made me feel a little like actually, I must be kind of good at this thing, and that’s more valuable than any award.

Camp Update, and an unexpected rant.

Well, it’s now halfway through the month and for the first time in ages, I am on track. Actually, I’m ahead of schedule!

I know, I’m a little shocked myself ;-)

My editing muscles are well and truly flexed at this point, seeing as that is mostly what I’ve been spending my writing time on this year. I feel like I’ve fallen into a rhythm with it and this makes me happy, but also nervous. I’m making great progress (and, if I wasn’t studying, or editing for others as well, I would be done my own novella by now, and onto the next), but at the same time I’m wary of the ease… I am not sure I trust myself, and there is an underlying sense that I can’t be doing a good enough job.

I think this is tied into the myth that writers must bleed for their art, they must SUFFER in order to create great stories. I don’t really buy into that belief – after all, so much of the first draft at least feels like I’m riding a rollercoaster and I LOVE rollercoasters. It’s like getting a shot of adrenaline or being able to feel every ounce of the worlds wonder, it’s blissful, intoxicating. Better than almost any other high.

But just because I don’t buy into all those myths about what it takes to be a writer – you must drink a lot of coffee and/or alcohol, you must stay up into the wee hours of the morning bleeding words into your preferred writing tool, you must be crazy/have a muse/talk to yourself/get intense bouts of writers block/spend three days finding the right word to describe a situation, you must struggle with your words, and suffer for your art, you have to be a starving artist, and in general, it seems the belief is that the more you struggle (not just with those words, but with life in general) the more emotion, impact and weight will be present in your story – it doesn’t mean that somewhere under the surface I feel like they might be true.

Because maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

Well, I call bullshit.

Yeah, some writers drink coffee and load up on booze or drugs, but that’s not a prerequisite. Not all writers have muses, or mental health problems, and not all writers are night owls who forsake human contact. Not all writers bleed, or struggle, or live entirely inside their head – hell, I am far too rooted in the real world, in my legit every day problems and getting the kids fed, educated, and geared up for a life following their own passions to possibly indulge (yes, I said it) in the myth of being a writer. While there are some truths in those myths, they are not the foundation, core, or bottom line of being a writer. Yes, sometimes it’s a struggle, but there is always that joy in words, in making things better, in crafting a world and putting it on the page to share with others. I don’t have time to wail about the challenges, or indulge in writers block or adopt a struggling artist persona.

I have time to write.

I put words on a page. I make those words better, and in the near future I will publish those words. And that makes me a writer, not any of the other stuff.

And I’m not going to buy into those myths on any level. Not anymore. I’m doing just fine.

This wasn’t going to be a blog post about writer myths or struggling for your art, it was just going to be a quick update to say – hey, look! I’m actually doing stuff and it’s going really well! As is the case with blog posts though, these things seem to morph.

By all means, enjoy the things you enjoy, struggle with the things you struggle with, but I would kind of like it if people quit buying into this writer mythology, it’s not glamorous to be depressed or to abuse our bodies by consuming too much alcohol/coffee/drugs/depriving it of much needed sleep. It’s not aiding our creation. Wouldn’t it be better if we could be happy, thriving, and loving our work? I know that’s the ideal I’m going to be working towards from now on.

*For the record, I know lots of wonderful writers who don’t buy into the ‘writer’ myth. They are awesome people, and write awesome stories, and they don’t need to have dramatic lives or desperate struggles in order to do so. These people are far more productive than many ‘struggling writer’s because they use their energy to actually do the thing we’re all meant to love so much. Write.

I keep saying I’m not going to, but…

2014-Participant-Twitter-Header-2Yup. I did it again. Despite flopping big time at the April CampNano, and NaNoWriMo last year, I’ve gone and signed up for the July round of camping.

I know, I know…

But this time it’s different, I swear. This time they have personalized cabins!!! A large part of my dropping out in April was due to the fact that my cabin was pretty quiet and I wasn’t getting any kind of ‘fun’ vibe going on. They’ve finally implemented a system where you can hand pick your cabin mates, and let me tell you – it’s going to be a joy writing alongside these peeps. I’m really looking forward to it.

Of course, back in April I also didn’t have anything that I desperately wanted to work on, which was problematic. This July, however, I have a plan! I’ve got a Christmas themed novella that needs revising, and I am going to take this month to knock it into shape – I’m super excited because I’m planning on releasing this in time for Christmas this year! Fun! Yay!

Now, there is every chance that once again I will fail – but right now, anything that helps me move forward is an opportunity I’m going to take. At least with camp you can adjust your goals, and there is a lot less pressure than November. Anyway, it’s July, and I have writing to do! Might as well try and ‘win’ something else while I’m at it ;-)

It’s all in the words you use

I am a writer.

I wrote in primary school – stories five times as long as those of my peers. I wrote in high school – every afternoon I’d get off the bus, grab some food and boot up the old computer, black screen, green type, and I would disappear. I remember printing one book off and giving it to my art teacher to read. I recall her face as I handed her the pages – you know, the one that says they will read this, but only because they want to be supportive, not because they think it will be any good. I recall her face as she handed them back – surprised that actually, it was much better than she had imagined. There was a complete story, potential.

I’ve always had a story in me, and when my cousins and I would get together to play games over the school holidays it would most often be me who picked names, ages, who filled out the back stories for the personas we’d take on. They were sprawling games, taking place all day, across my grandparents farm where we’d immerse ourselves so deeply into the story that the natural landscape was invisible, merely a backdrop to our invented lives.

My friends and family all know I’m a writer. They know it’s a part of me that isn’t going away. I’ve seen the looks on their faces too when they’ve read things, not expecting them to be good, and then being surprised. Some of them don’t like the content of my stories, but they can’t deny that they get engaged, that I can draw them into my other worlds.

So, I am a writer. This is a well known fact. It’s set in stone. It is not going to change.

But recently, I’ve changed what I am saying. Recently, I’ve begun to say not just “I’m a writer”, but, “I’m going to publish a novel later this year”, and I have been amazed by how much that changes things.

I’m not just someone who writes, someone who occasionally publishes a short story anymore (short stories don’t seem to count with a lot of people, they read NOVELS, not shorts). But I’m someone with a whole book, and people want to read it…

This has been, really bizarre, and interesting. They WANT to read this book! Most people might not even know what it’s about, but they still want a look at it. I’ve had people ask me if they’ll be able to get it in paperback or will I just be doing digital, when it will be out, and whether I can sign a copy, whether I need another reader, if I want them to review it when it’s released.

This small change in the words I use to describe what I am doing has changed everything. It’s like it signifies a transition from the act of writing (which essentially, one does by oneself so is not such a visible thing) to the act of publishing. It’s that opening of the door to finally reveal what I’ve been working on for years, and it’s scary and exciting and wonderful.

I really hope I don’t disappoint, but the fact that people are curious is really encouraging – I can’t wait to share my worlds with you all!