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.

Work in Progress Blog Challenge – In the Spirit

Yesterday, I was tagged by fellow writer Emma Lindhagen in a Work in Progress blog challenge – thanks Emma! It’s a very simple one: you post the first line from the first three chapters in your current work in progress and then tag four people to do the same. So without further ado, here are the first lines of the first chapter of In the Spirit, the Christmas novella I’m currently editing.

Chapter One
Alyssa shut the front door and slid the bolt across.

Chapter Two
A chill permeated the house, creeping under the blanket to wake her.

Chapter Three
Alyssa could hear birds chirping outside and sunlight glinted through the curtain and off the mirror, right into her eyes.

Haha, waking up. Wonder if I write about it because that’s one of my least favourite parts of the day right now. I don’t think that any of these first lines say a lot about my work, but hey, who knows? This novella will be coming to a digital bookstore near you in early December. I’ll have something a little more interesting to share closer to the date, but not until after I’m finished my final assignments (YES, YES! The end is near!!!). 

So, who am I going to tag? Jeepers. Well….

Leigh K. Hunt, because I know she’s also working on something new – due out in Dec as well! 

M.W. Griffiths, for the same reason. 

I know that T.G. Ayer has a lot she’s working on right now…

And finally, I’ll tag Anthony despite the fact he won’t do it. Because he needs a public reminder that I am STILL waiting for his next book to come out. 

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 ;-)

The End

Yesterday, for the first time in almost four years, I wrote those words at the bottom of the last page of a novel.

That’s right, folks. The first draft of Sun-Touched is finished.

WOOOOOOOOOOO. It feels amazing, and yet at the same time, I know that it is in no way a finished novel. It needs a lot of love, a lot of filling in and fleshing out, it needs plenty of tweaks and changes.

But for now, it’s done. I can step away from it, happy that I’ve finally cracked my novel-drought, having proven to myself that I CAN still do it. I think it’s got oodles of potential, and when it’s the right time, I’ll get back to work on it.

So, a few thoughts. I started this novel back in October, on Wednesday the 12th to be exact. I wrote in chunks, some weeks being really good, and others not good at all. I had to contend with Christmas, a road trip, two sets of school holidays and a number of other family/friend troubles. We started going to Playcentre, and I started studying…

It took me seven and a half months to write the thing, but I got there in the end. I’m sure the next one won’t take so long ;-) With everything else that went on, I think that time frame for a first new novel post baby isn’t too bad.

Anyway, yesterday my friend Leigh tagged me in a ‘Lucky Seven’ post, and seeing as pretty much everyone I know has been tagged by now, I am not going to put anyone on the list.

The rules are that you must post an excerpt from one of your books and this excerpt has to be seven sentences, lines or paragraphs from page 77, seven lines down.

Without further ado, here is a snippet from Sun-Touched.

The creature hesitated for just a moment before entering her body. It broached the skin of her chest, half disappearing. She felt sick watching it, so she shut her eyes, blocking out the sight of it.

The same sensations as yesterday crashed over her and she lost the ability to tread water. She began to sink, catching a mouthful of liquid before finding herself buoyed by the creature. It wasn’t doing anything that she could see, and yet it was the only explanation Madea could think of. She felt lighter, stable, despite the emotions that were overwhelming her.

What’s next? Well, I have some major planning to do for TCM, as well as some on another project, a novella which I will be writing in June. I still have to finish polishing off Longing and submit that (Today’s task), and then there is the essay… Funny how I said I was going to do that, and then finished my novel instead ;-)

I intend to take the weekend off! I totally deserve it. Though no doubt I will find myself being drawn to something or other… We’ll see. I’m flexible. I feel positive and full of excitement. I mean, I finished my novel!!! How great is that?

I hope April is turning out better than you expected – I had high hopes, realized there was no way I was going to get everything done, and then found a way to do it all anyway – so it’s never too late to turn your month around.

Liebster Blog Award

The lovely Jennifer Neri named me as an award winner just the other day (Thanks, Jennifer!). She is a fellow writer-mum, and our youngest are only a few months apart, so I had the pleasure of following a similar path to her in 2010 when we had our babies – it was great to know someone else going through the same things at roughly the same times.

Anyway, here are the rules:

Upon receiving your Liebster award, you should:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed. (some say just 3 or more blogs of less than 200 followers each)
5. Let them know they have been chosen, by leaving a comment at their blog.

So, without further ado – I’m going to introduce the members of my official writers group! These folks are some of my staples in the writing world, in alphabetical order:

1) Anna Caro is someone who I have been staff with at a couple of writers orgs now, she’s a writer, a student, has a job and is passionate about many things – I really admire her drive, and her conviction to stand up for her beliefs. She is dedicated and hard working, in everything she does. This year she is focusing on finishing a novel.

2) Kerryn Angell is the founder of kiwiwriters.org and I’ve known her for five years now. She has been working steadily at her writing, and launched her new look blog last year. She is working on revising the novel she wrote last year, and vanquishing her editing demons.

3) Leigh K Hunt is possibly the newest edition to my writers crew, but trying to remember my writers life before she showed up is pretty difficult as we trade emails on a daily basis. This year she is joining in our big challenge, as well as having her first baby in the near future! Yay!

4) Merrilee Faber is an awesome writer, and at the core of my writing crew. She’s been one of the best writing buddies I could ever ask for, and is the instigator of Project 2012: From first draft to submission. You should totally check out her blog because there is a lot of fabulous info on there.

5) Tama Wise is the only male in my official writers group, but he does just fine. He has been the creator of many whacky writing games, which I am always drawn into, and I’ve really enjoyed writing alongside him for the last few years. He has his first novel coming out in March this year, and I may be more excited about it than he is ;-) He is the first of our official group to get a novel published, but I don’t think he’ll be the last!

There are many other awesome writers out there who are part of my circle, all of them unique and wonderful in their own way. So even though I’m limited to five, I want to give a shout out to everyone else – love you all!