2018, books, butcherbird, july, Sun-Touched, Uncategorized, writing

July, already?

Hello!!

Well overdue for an update, I know. So, let’s get into it.

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Back to my weekly sessions at the library – yay!

Back in April I submitted Butcherbird to Te Papa Tupu – which is an incubator for Māori writers. And at the end of May, I found out that I’d been accepted into the programme! I was blown away. I’d managed to convince myself that there was no way I would get in, so it was a total surprise when I got the call. There were tears of joy. (I have a great many feelings about this which are hard to put into words, but I will be doing my best soon.)

What this means is that I’m going to be working on Butcherbird for the rest of this year with the help of my lovely, intelligent, funny and amazing mentor, Whiti Hereaka. She’s given me oodles of notes, highlighted all my problematic spots, and given me a tonne of wonderful resources to help me make the story as amazing as I can. I’m over the moon to have been paired with her and can tell already that this process is going to level up my writing in a big way.

What else does that mean? I won’t have anything to release this year, probably. And that’s okay. I mean, it grates at me, but I’ve been feeling like I needed to skill up and this is the perfect opportunity to do that. I have faith that every book I put out from here forward is going to benefit from this experience, so I’m investing my all into it.

There are still other projects on the go… My partner in crime, Meryl Stenhouse, has been busy moving houses, but we’re hoping to make some progress with our shared world books really soon. Juniper keeps knocking on the door in my brain. She wants to come out and play again and I want that too! She’s so much fun to hang out with.

And of course, there is that sequel to Sun Touched that people keep asking me about… It is going to happen. I’ve got some required reading to get through, but then I’m dragging a copy of Sun Touched from my bookshelf and I am going to mark that sucker up, full of things I need to correct and notes for the next book – and then once I’ve got those all written down somewhere else, I’m going to give that copy away to one of the loyal fans who have been asking about the sequel basically since the first book dropped 😉

The last few months have been all over the place, but I feel like we’re finally getting settled in and starting to get some good rhythms in place. Having moved cities with kids twice, I now know that it can literally take months to get back to that place, even if the move is one everyone is happy about.

Let’s not do that again for a while huh?

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Changing pace

IMG_20180225_175714_333Well, we’ve moved! Despite the fact that we’re still unpacking, we’ve settled into life really quickly – I guess that’s the joy of coming home to a place that we love. It’s been this beautiful re-entry into a life that has also been slightly surreal. Even Hubby said it’s almost as if we never left. A lot of things have changed internally – in who we are, in the way our family is, the things that we discovered while we were gone – but the foundations, the relationships we have here, the group that we helped established, it’s still there and as strong as ever. How awesome is that?

I’m back at writing, though it’s going a little slower at the moment as we work through unpacking. Plus, life is just busier here, and I hadn’t really accounted for that. We’d been in the house twenty minutes before my lovely nephew was over for a play, and the first full day here we were off on a museum explore. The kids are so keen to hit their favourite spots and see all their friends. It’s been almost non-stop!

And meanwhile, I’ve been exhausted. I think that the last few months have really been hard and while I’ve handled it so much better than I ever imagined I would, it’s taken a toll and been building up. I had a feeling that once we were home I’d crash – the grief from Nana dying, the stress of getting a house ready to sell, the sale process, then all the cleaning, packing and finally moving and unpacking… well, it’s enough to make anyone exhausted right?

So I’m changing pace a bit, and that’s okay. My writing was slower while working through all the above, and it’s still slower while I defrag from everything and get myself into a good place. It bothered me something wicked last week but I’ve come to accept it now.

Sometimes, you just have to go slower. Sometimes, getting your head straight, finding your feet, establishing good new patterns is more important than being fast. I’m just going to take it easy, at least for now.

What does that mean for this year’s releases? I’m not sure yet. I’m not in a place to be able to see that clearly. I’m still working on Juniper’s book (and loving it! I have some new processes that I’ll talk about in a bit), I’m still waiting to hear back from my first reader about Butcherbird, and I still have the Sun Touched sequel percolating in the background. I just don’t have any release dates for these things yet.

It’ll happen. And it’ll be worth the wait.

life, Uncategorized, writing

Things to calm the brain

The past few months have been kind of chaotic. Despite that chaos, I’ve been making good progress on my goals and I think this is in part due to finding things to help my brain along.

You see, I have bipolar 2. My brain can be a bit of a dick sometimes. That’s enough to contend with most days, but add in grief from my Nana dying, prepping a house to sell, selling said house, and packing to move cities among regular life and other things – well, it’s been an interesting few months. I fully expected to fall over at some point and not get back up. I’m still standing. And actually doing better than I have in a very long time despite the aforementioned challenges.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on some tools that helped me – and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear those!

Friend and fellow author, Richard Parry, introduced me to the video below. It’s been a staple in my rotation ever since. I haven’t played the game myself but it’s an excellent meditation.

I played Tales from the Borderlands last year (absolutely stellar game – right up there in my top 5 at present) and discovered this song. It’s gorgeous and when I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and close my eyes everything disappears. Bliss.

And those noise-cancelling headphones? AMAZING. I picked up a set of Backbeats Pro 2 through a reward programme and could not be happier. Sometimes I walk around with just the active noise cancelling on – it dulls the background noises and makes my brain a happier place to live. And when I do want sound? Well, the quality is much better than my old cheap headphones or my tinny phone. SO HAPPY.

20180208_200024Another thing that helps is getting out in nature – I’ve been taking the kids to the park or beach most nights after dinner. They run and play, I make notes for the next days writing or read. Sometimes the view is a little distracting and I don’t get much done – that’s cool too. Brains need time to declutter themselves.

I try and make time to do the other things I love too: play games on my PS4, read books that I actually enjoy, watch a range of excellent TV shows and movies, take time out of the house to be ALONE.

That last one is pretty important. I need time alone. Like, NEED. My headphones give me the illusion of it when I can’t actually be alone, but there is nothing that quite compares to a little solitude. Not for me, anyway.

What do YOU do to keep yourself going?

 

 

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Kotahi Bay Quartet – coming soon!

Just a quick update to let you know that the ENTIRE Kotahi Bay series will be available in one volume from the 12th of Feb. It’s currently on pre-order at a super low price of 99c, so if you haven’t read it yet you can grab the whole thing for the price of book one! I’ll be raising the price on the 15th of Feb, so get in quick.

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I’m working on a print version as well and will update when that’s available.

butcherbird, January, new zealand author, Uncategorized, writing

On first readers

Today I sent Butcherbird to my first reader, which is both exciting and terrifying.

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What’s a first reader? Well, some people call them an alpha reader, but either way, they are the first person to read your work. Often, the only person or people to read the first draft in all it’s rough and raw glory. We writers are sensitive souls, so it’s not always good for our writer health to be sharing such formative versions of our work*.

Which means that it’s very important to choose your first reader carefully. Some people opt for a supportive partner (mine does not read fiction, so that’s out), but I’ve found a good one in my lovely friend and fellow author Leigh K Hunt. She laughs at all my jokes, can see past the mess to the gold underneath, to my intention and goals, and gives me excellent pointers for honing it into something beautiful. Butcherbird is a little different from the Kotahi Bay books (no romance for starters!), so I’m going to be hanging out to find out what she says about it – being the first book in a new series the nerves are higher than normal. But…

It’s time.

Time to get some feedback. Time to make a plan for the rest of the series. Time to start thinking about covers and sharing things with you as it gets edited. I’m so excited about this book, folks. I hope you’re going to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’ve already got the outline for book two, though I think I’m going to wait till after we’ve moved before I dive in. Don’t need to have another big life change happening while I write each of the subsequent books 😉 I’m hoping to knock out a smaller, fun project in that time, so watch this space.

This is going to be a good year. I just know it.

* Some writers are different, of course, and never feel any doubt, but I can’t see me ever being one of those. Others write amazing first copy and while they swear it makes them sweat when they let you read their stuff you can’t help but be sure they are kicking back with a beer waiting for the inevitable praise because their first drafts are just that damn good. Yes, I’m looking at you, Richard Parry.

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Goodbye, Nana

On the 30th of November my grandmother died.

She’d had a massive stroke on the 26th and we rushed up to be with her. She wasn’t conscious during those last days, but she was responsive in other ways. I spent two of those nights sitting with her, with my mother and aunt one night, and my mother and brother another. I got to share stories with the family who were able to come, stroll down memory lane, and say all the things I needed to before she passed. It was a really precious time.

It still doesn’t seem like it was enough.

She was cremated a few days later. Those attending had the chance to draw on her plain pine coffin, or write messages. It was pretty cool.

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This month on the 20th we gathered again – more people this time, not just her immediate family – to celebrate her life. The memorial was great and I heard a lot of stories I’ve heard before, as well as some new ones. Saw people I hadn’t seen in over a decade, spent time in her home, looking through all her treasures and hearing stories triggered by different items. ‘I remember when’, or ‘do you remember when?’

She played such a huge role in our family, and it’s strange that now as the executors of her will work toward resolving that, and items start to leave the house for their new homes, I feel sadder than ever before.

As my uncle said earlier today, until that point it seemed like she might just come home. It was a nice fantasy. One that is over.

R.I.P Nana. As my littlest said we know you loved us, we’ll always love you and you’ll always be in our hearts.

January, Uncategorized

Shiny Maths

I’ve been doing quite a bit of tracking lately, mostly of words written and time taken. It’s been a revelation!! I’ve discovered some really interesting things.

I can write an average of 10,000 words a week.

I can write an average of 2,500 words an hour (that’s rounding down, it’s often a bit higher but I’m being kind to myself).

I’m working on averages because my life is chaotic. I homeschool three kids. I have bipolar 2 and my mood fluctuates. I homeschool three kids. Three kids who are all kind of high needs in different ways, on different days. Life is not going to get less chaotic anytime soon, so averages are a really good thing for me. Looking beyond what I did today, and instead, looking at what I did over a week, or a month, makes me feel much better about my progress. I’m so glad to have finally realized this.

Anyway, why the shiny maths?

Because math is awesome! And because when I’m trying to figure out what I can do over a year, it gives me a really good way to work out what’s achievable and what’s me being manic.

So, 10,000 x 52 – 520,000 words – WHOA. Now that seems high. I know writers who do more though, a lot more. Some people write a million words a year (one day I might be one of them).

This year is going to be a little higgedly piggeldy though. January is already full of stress (my grandmothers official funeral/life celebration coming up, the house has just gone on the market, open homes upcoming, packing, preparing for the move). February is going to be full of much of the same, with actually moving in the mix, as well as settling back into life in our old house.

So, let’s scale that word count down a bit, shall we? Let’s say, 430,000.

Dang, that’s still a good chunk of words.

I’ve got some really fun ideas about how to spend them too, such as:

SunTouched_ECover_10-8-15v2Finishing the series that I started with Sun Touched. This has to be the book I am most asked about, probably because it’s now my only incomplete series. I promise I’m working on it! I’m going to be reading Sun Touched again in the near future and marking it up with lots of notes about what comes next. I had plans for a few more books, but I want to reconnect with the story before I determine just how long the series will be.

Publishing the series that begins with Butcherbird. I’m in LOVE with this series. I’ve written book one as well as a shorter piece that I’ll be giving away for free to subscribers in the near future. I’m already planning book two, and will probably do a trilogy to begin with. Think horror elements, family – by blood/by choice, demonic possession, birds. Lots of birds. Alcohol.

Starting a new series in a shared world! I’m really excited about this, and my main character, Juniper, is ITCHING to be written. I’m going to dip my toes into this one soon and I can’t wait. Juni is so many things that I’m not, and I can see she’s going to kick my ass on the page, and off. In a good way though. I think she’s here to teach me a few tough lessons. Think old gods, dark hungers, kick-ass women, violence, and humour.

I’m also hashing out the details for some potential co-writing with a good friend of mine, and ideas for another series (or three?). The ideas are coming thick and fast lately!

Despite all the change that’s about to crash into my life, despite a bunch of stuff being up in the air, I’m feeling really alive – invigorated – when it comes to my writing.

2018 is going to be a hella good year, people. Let’s make it so.

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It’s Sir Julius Vogel nomination time!

It’s that time of the year again – not long until the Sir Julius Vogel award nomination period ends (Feb 2nd!!). Normally I’m a little more on to it than this, but with everything that’s been going on for the last couple of months, it’s slipped my mind entirely!

So, to cut to the chase, I actually have some stuff eligible this year! I had four releases in 2017, though I don’t think Serafina’s Flame qualifies as the first third was previously published as Burn and was nominated some years ago.

This leaves Beneath Broken Waves or Of Souldust and Starlight in the novella category and In the Earth’s Embrace in the novel category (huzzah! a longer work!). If you read these books and think they are worthy of a nomination, then you can click on this shiny form and fill in the details. It’s pretty straightforward. Please only nominate something if you really did enjoy it though!

I’d also like to note that if you think any of these covers are particularly good (I think they are ALL beautiful), then you can also nominate my cover designer Kate Strawbridge from Dwell Design & Press for best artwork.

Normally I’d make note of some of the amazing work by other authors I think should be nominated but I’ve had a headache for weeks now and I can’t think straight. I need to do some looking around myself to find out what was published in that period so I can get nominating too!

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2017 in review

When I looked back through my blog to see if I’d actually set myself goals for the year I could see just how little I’d blogged in 2017. I think it might be the quietest year since I started this, and that makes me feel a little sad. But I think it’s a really good reflection on just how much this year ended up being about keeping things together.

Last year I posted a little about how the preceding years had been a lot about keeping afloat, surviving, getting through and I chose FOCUS as my word for 2017. 

Yeah. Well. I guess I was focused for some of it. If it was a goal to work towards then I’d like to say that over the course of the year I nailed that sucker. I’m coming out of 2017 feeling focused and with big goals for the coming year.

Last year I wrote:

2017 will be a year of words. A year of saying no to the things I don’t really want to do but maybe feel like I should. Of saying YES to my own worlds.

And I can say that I achieved all of these things. Sure, not all at once, but I got there. Despite reflecting on the fact that I’ve had a few hard years, I’m going to say that 2017 has been the worst in a really long time. I’ve had massive patches of depression, the death of my much loved Nana, struggles with health across the family, PTSD flare-ups, massive amounts of stress in the lead up to the convention in June.

And yet, I still got more achieved this year than I have in a long time. 

Once the convention was all done I had a heap of space in my brain for other things and I got really stuck into working on my writing. This year I published four new titles: Serafina’s Flame (which is Burn + the two follow-on novellas in a single title), Beneath Broken Waves, In the Earth’s Embrace, and Of Souldust and Starlight – the final three books in the Kotahi Bay series. This wraps up 2/3 of the series I started back in 2015 and I couldn’t be happier about that. It feels really good to finish some things. Which isn’t to say there will never be another Kotahi Bay book, there might be, just not right now. 

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Did I say no to more things? Yeah, I did. I turned down some work, I let a few clients know that I wasn’t going to be able to edit for them anymore. I didn’t leap at every opportunity so much as suggested in my presence, and I stopped feeling like I had to do things just because it was the nice thing to do. I started using the ‘I’d love to say yes, but I need some time to think about it before I can commit’ line with people. I was more honest about when I just couldn’t, and that felt really good too. To actually just say ‘I really can’t, I’m tapped out’ when that was the truth. I feel like while I still have some work to do in that area, I’ve gotten a lot better at putting my needs near the front of the list, which has gone a long way to helping out my mental health situation.

So, while 2017 was a hard fucking year. It really was – I’ve not been so close to a complete break down in a really long time, I barely held it together at several points, hell, maybe I DID have some small breakdowns – it was also a really successful one. I wrote and published books. I made huge leaps in my author world and implemented some really good strategies for both work and personal life. Boundaries, yo. I think I’m getting some 😉 Self-care? Definitely improving on that front too. 

I’m still mulling on my goal specifics for 2018, so I’ll post about them next week – I feel like it’s going to be a good year though, and can only hope it has a few less big challenges in it.

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And the series is complete

I’ve been so busy writing my next book that I’ve slacked off on sharing the good news – Kotahi Bay is finally done! The final book in the series is now available for pre-order at the price of 99c. It’ll go up once it’s live so if you want a bargain get in now.

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The final book follows Samantha, who has been a part of the series since the very beginning. In fact, it was her story that I started out wanting to tell, only to then realize it was the last piece of the series, not the first. Things have morphed and changed a bit along the way, but I’m so pleased to have finally finished this series and given Sam her story.

It feels a little surreal to have finally finished this series, though there is always the possibility that I’ll return to the world of the Bay with fresh stories to tell.