Meet Maleficent

A month ago now I purchased a new computer. It is shiny, and beautiful, and weeks later I am still singing it’s praises.

MalI went with the Surface Pro 3 because I wanted something with kick ass battery life, all the laptop power I (personally) need, super portability and fabulous versatility. It ticks everything on that list. And it’s so shiny and pretty and I love it. I’m still finding out all the fantastic ways I can use it, but it’s just superb.

Normally I balk at buying expensive things for myself. I hate spending and my brain keeps saying things like ‘you could get by with something cheaper’ ‘do you really need this?’. I told my brain to shut up. My husband insisted I get the thing I wanted and nothing less, and so off I went. I actually got it at a nicely reduced price, and selected the purple type cover for it. (OMG I have a purple keyboard!!).

Despite a little worry about keyboard stability and potential fumbling around on a smaller one, I really like it. The whole thing being smaller means there is less travel time between keys and I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my carpal tunnel as a result. The screen is simply gorgeous and now whenever I look at my old laptop I can’t help but think it’s huge and ungainly. Mal is sleek and sexy. She is stunning and begs to be touched. I don’t think I could go back to a non touch screen computer now. It is loaded with everything this writer needs for productivity and I adore it.

Which brings me to the name. I asked for suggestions over on my much neglected Facebook page and the lovely Serenity Woods suggested Maleficent. We hadn’t actually seen the most recent incarnation (and, much to my disgust and shock, I’d never seen the original Sleeping Beauty… Don’t worry, I fixed that), so we went and grabbed a copy of the movie and sat down to watch it. The kids loved it, and I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, so it was decided. Maleficent (Mal for short) would be the name.

I love it. Thanks Serenity!!

2014 Round-Up

It’s that time when people start to gather their thoughts on the year that was and plan ahead for what the new one will bring. I love this kind of thing, so I went digging for my goals post from the start of this year to find out what ridiculous and out there plans I made.

I was pleasantly surprised that I’d been kind to myself. That I had been wise enough to know that study alone would be testing me to my limits.

And it did. In just about every way possible. It’s the first year of study that has ever broken me. I cried far more than I have possibly ever, sometimes for days at a time. There were weeks when every conversation brought me to tears. I very nearly quit. I used the university counselling services for the first time ever.

The content of the courses undid me in a number of ways – personally, culturally, mentally, emotionally – and it was an epic struggle to try and put myself back together again let alone complete the courses. Towards the end I was an anxious, paranoid, depressed wreck who wondered if she would ever get to the end. But I did it. I finished. I passed everything and maintained a B average despite my struggles. I’m once again a functioning human being, though there are still journeys to be made in order to finish working through the crap that study brought up for me. It’s probably a case of it just being a part of life now – questioning and growing and changing. Accepting the bits of me that have felt for a long time like they were deal breakers or unacceptable in other ways. All work I’ve been doing to a lesser extent for some years now, but brought into sharp focus for me this year.

But I made it! I met my major goal which was to complete my Post Graduate Diploma in Education (Guidance and Counselling), and I’ll be graduating in May next year :-) Fuck yeah! I totally earned the right to celebrate and possibly for the first time (academically) I feel like I EARNED this. I BLED for this qualification. And I am rightfully proud.

Despite not setting myself any firm writing goals, I kicked myself repeatedly about the fact I wasn’t making any progress with it. I did some editing on my own work, but couldn’t seem to summon the creativity required to lay down any new first drafts while doing academic stuff. The two just don’t mix well for me. I accepted this about halfway through the year and cut myself some slack. Instead of worrying about writing I focused on editing and kicked In The Spirit into shape, leading to my next big achievement for 2014.

I published my first book.

It might only be a novella, and it may only be available in digital formats but that doesn’t detract from the fact that I have stepped out into the Indie publishing world, and am taking control of my career.

While I started off the year focused on trying to find a traditional publisher, it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. I’d always intended to self pub something, In The Spirit seemed like the perfect first foray. But the more I read about it, thought about it, talked about it with other authors, the more I realized that right now what I want is control of my work, my career. I don’t want to keep waiting for someone else to say yes to me, I want to say ‘YES’ to myself. I want to be doing, not just waiting on the sidelines. This decision was pivotal in getting any work done at all, because it wasn’t until I firmly decided that I wanted to do it that I was able to get organized – amazing how motivating it is knowing that you’re the only one responsible for your success.

A lot of other things happened in 2014. I edited for a number of other people. Read far more works in progress than published novels. Was infinitely busy with the kids and home schooling. Managed to maintain some semblance of sanity and normalcy despite the massive ruptures study created for me. Despite the fact it was a hard, hard year I can finish it off knowing I achieved what I set out to, and then some. I am still here, still strong, still moving forward, despite everything. I survived.

And you know what? That feels pretty bloody amazing.

Pieces of me – In The Spirit

After a few conversations about things from In The Spirit that other people had memories of, I thought it might be fun to do a little series on the bits of me that are present in my work.

While my stories are all pure fiction, I like to pepper them with things I’ve come across throughout my life. It tickles my fancy no end, and I love it when friends or family read stuff and go “Oh, I remember that”. Write what you know, right?

So to kick things off, here are a few:

Buttons is Gran’s elderly cat in my novella, and it was also the name of the first cat I remember having. Unlike the smoochy Buttons in the book, my Buttons was a snobby thing that more often than not would scratch you if you tried to touch her. She had her favourites who were normally safe, but 90% of people were not on that list. I opted to use the name because while she could be a mean cat, I loved her to bits.

The black paint and glow in the dark stars mentioned in the book were borrowed from one of my very best friends, and the friend who has known me longer than any other friend. Leisha and I met on the beach when we were toddlers, and reconnected much later in form three. I can’t remember the specific reason why her parents let her decorate that way in our mid-teens, but I can remember the glee we all had over it! It seems to be a fairly widespread compromise – you can’t have this thing you really want/love, but you CAN redecorate your room.

IMG_20141207_092125235 (2)The wooden Christmas ornaments that Alyssa hangs on her tree and recalls playing with are ones we had on our tree in my childhood. Actually, Mum gave them to me a few years ago when she was doing a clean-out. My children played with them a lot last Christmas and that poor drummer boy did indeed get broken. RIP drummer boy.

As much as my stories contain a lot of speculative elements, what I really wanted to do with my Kotahi Bay series was evoke what smallish town New Zealand life can be like. To blend the mundane and the fantastical in a way which shows how magic is part of our lives, even when we don’t see it for what it is.

If you’ve read the book and there was something in it that reflected something for you I’d love to hear it, and if you’re a writer and want to share some things from your own work that are pieces of you, please feel free to join in! I know Leigh is planning on it. I’ll be posting one of these for each of my releases.

Officially Published!

In The Spirit is now available for purchase. WOO! (You can find links here)

When the email came through from Amazon yesterday afternoon I had one of those goofy ear-to-ear grins. It was displaced after people told me that they still couldn’t get it… but, it’s all done now and people have it on their devices, and one of my old gaming buddies has even read it already!!! AND she enjoyed it and wants more. So, YAY! (Huh, since writing this, I’ve heard from several more people who have read it now too – yay!)

I have more. Lots more. There will be at least another 4 books set in Kotahi Bay – full novels, that is. I may write some more novellas, but we’ll see how we go ;-)

Anyway, enough about me! You must be so sick of seeing my cover that I thought I’d share some others with you. A bunch of my writing crew have been publishing work just this week, so here’s a shout-out to them in order of release dates:

Richard Parry brings you his second book, Upgrade:

Mason’s job is simple: company asset protection and acquisition, no questions asked. He’s good at what he does, and it’s given him everything he’s ever wanted. The best looks money can buy, the spacious apartment that only comes with knowing the right people, and top shelf bionics from Apsel Federate. When he meets a lost girl from a dying world, an off-grid rock star, and a slave lord who wants to own them all, he needs to remember what the life he lives has taken away. Lost to corporate interest and the soft line between incentive and crime, Mason is trying to learn what it means to be truly human.

I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my summer reading list. It’s a hefty tome, and going off how much I enjoyed his first book, Night’s Favour, I know I’m gonna love this.

Next up we have Catherine Mede, with her debut novel Cursed Love, a romance set in our lovely New Zealand.

A family curse.
A lifetime of grieving
Jinny Richards past and future are about to collide. Will she survive?
At 18, Virginia ‘Jinny’ Richards was a drug addict who fell in love with Dean Bradford. By 20, Dean was dead. Jinny believes the family curse is to blame, and never wants to fall in love again. She has worked hard to hide her past and now has a job as a successful Insurance Assessor.
Ethan Montgomery lost his wife to breast cancer. He’s mourned for three years and now he’s ready to move on. He understands Jinny’s pain but he wants the feisty Jinnyand nothing, not even a curse, will stand in his way.
When work throws them together, loving Ethan is the farthest thing from Jinny’s mind. He’s tardy and egotistical, even if he is good looking and makes her weak at the knees.
Things get further complicated when Steven Bradford turns out to be the client, bringing up the heartache and pain Jinny has carefully buried for eighteen years.
Will she find love a second time around? Or will the family curse claim another victim?

And that brings us to my release day buddies: T.G. Ayer, releasing the fourth installment, Dead Wrath, of her Valkyrie novels.

Ragnarok is upon the worlds, and the time to fight is now. They come from all of the Nine Realms. Dark Elves, Dragons, Frost Giants, Elves … They all come to fight for Odin.
And they answer to Valkyrie Brynhildr.
While Bryn grieves, struggling to cope with Sigrun’s death, she knows too there is no time for tears. Odin is still a shade of himself and though there is no sign of Loki in all of the Nine Realms – Thor knows he is hiding in Midgard. As the Warriors gather, Bryn must head the offensive and enter the Human Realm in search of the Trickster and his henchman.
The war is silent and it rages all across the planet.
Ragnarok is here …
In this, the 4th thrilling instalment in the Valkyrie series, Bryn takes the war to home turf. From New York to London, Interpol to CIA, Bryn and her team risk their lives to stop Loki. And to prevent the end of the world.
And, last but not least, Michael Wayne Griffith, with his debut novella, The Runaway Train, which introduces the main character from his future series, Selena Montana.
On the verge of leaving Montana to join the FBI, Detective Selena Marrenger is dragged into one last case when a boy vanishes into the creeping fog around a bus station. With her partner, Kathryn, the two embark on a mission to uncover the mystery behind the young boy’s disappearance. When the suspects begin to pile up, the investigators discover a hidden truth far more sinister than they could have imagined.
The clock is ticking. Will Selena find who is responsible before it’s too late?
Right, and that’s me for the morning! Hope you’re having a great December :-)

November wrap up

Over here in New Zealand it’s the 1st of December, which means NaNo month is finished for the year, and we’re on the countdown to 2015. Well, I am. 2014 has been a long, hard year, and I am really looking forward to a 2015 that’s not so intense. I am sure it will be full of hard work and growth, but the fact that I can do it in my own time is going to be a real blessing.

So, how did November go?

In The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014I managed to write a little over 23,000 words. I’d wanted more, but was pleased to surpass my goal of 20,000. What I was planning on being a sequel novella to In The Spirit turned into a full blown novel and will slot nicely into place as the 2nd book in the Kotahi Bay series.

I swear, I’ve changed my publishing timetable so many times over the last few months, but I think things are settled now. So many releases, so much editing – so much awesome fun.

Anyway, back to November. While I wasn’t NaNoing, I was inspired by many of those who were, and making my writing more of a focus in November has helped me re-form the habit. My typing speeds are starting to pick back up again, the ideas are coming faster, and I’m spending a lot of time thinking about story again. It’s pretty awesome.

Big thanks to my writer crew on Twitter, and Lee, who sprinted with me most days on Facebook. There were some days where it was only her gentle nudging that got me to start putting words on the page, and that has gone a long way to getting me back to my writing roots. I’m digging this story, and hoping to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

The other thing November helped me with was figuring out what my days can look like. I think I write best in the mornings, and most of our sprints were then – there was the odd day when I couldn’t get to it until later on, and it was infinitely harder to write then. In the mornings I have more energy and my brain seems to be at it’s creative best. So, I’m hoping to shape my new routines around this. Fresh words in the morning. Editing/critiquing/marketing/other stuff in the afternoons and evenings.

Naturally, this all has to fit in around homeschooling the kids and keeping the house under control, but if I manage to do a bit of each on most days of the week, I am going to be pretty happy. My aim is not to make ridiculous goals for myself. Not to work so hard that I feel stressed all the time, and to enjoy ALL of life, not just one element of it.

Hopefully that all pans out ;-)

Due to some confusion about when exactly books go live from pre-order, In The Spirit isn’t officially out yet. Hopefully later on, when December hits the USA.

And then it was live

So, In The Spirit is now available for pre-order at Amazon, Kobo and I am working on the other places.

I spent the bulk of yesterday battling with formatting and then uploading to various distributors, which took me a ridiculous amount of time because it’s all so new to me. My hands shook and my knees literally felt weak as I hit the button to complete the process at my first stop, Amazon.

I’ve been writing for a long time and telling stories for longer. Words and other worlds have always been a part of who I am. I’ve been published before now, short stories online and in anthologies, but never anything longer, never on my own. So this whole thing has been like achieving a dream, ticking something off my bucket list. It’s surreal, and scary and amazing.

Today has been pretty epic because I’ve had this massive outpouring of support and encouragement. Friends have been sharing my links, and spreading the word and pre-ordering – not because I asked them (I didn’t) but because they want to support me. It’s overwhelming. I feel…kind of lost for words. I don’t even need to check my pre-orders page to feel like I’ve achieved my goals because it’s not about the sales volume. Having that support and encouragement, seeing my friends and family have my back? That’s priceless. Better than any profit I could make.

So, thank you. All of you.

In The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014

Cover reveal – In The Spirit

Yesterday I mentioned that I’d be able to reveal the cover for In The Spirit this week – well, my cover designer (aka Kate, from Dwell Design) was busy last night and this landed in my inbox just before I went to sleep.In The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014

Naturally, it was fairly hard to fall asleep after opening the email.

The model on the cover has a real Alyssa vibe, and I’m really chuffed with how its turned out :-) I’ll have the blurb finalized sometime this week too!

OMG A COVER! It feels a lot more real now. Like, this thing is actually a book! It’s a real thing! A thing that people are hopefully going to want to read!

I showed it to a few people earlier today and was hit by the reality of it all. People are keen to get their hands on this book, which is both exciting and terrifying. I just hope they enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.