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books, Uncategorized

Books of 2016

This year I set myself a goal of reading fifty books over on Goodreads (you can check out my full list here). I am just one shy of completing the goal, and so with most of the month of December still ahead of me, I know I’m going to make it.

I’ve read some amazing books, and some not so great ones, and looking back at that list it feels like a lifetime ago that I read some of those titles. Wow, has this year been long and challenging or what?

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you some of my top picks because there are plenty of those and, personally, I find word-of-mouth to be the most reliable way to find books.

We’ll get the BIG ones out of the way first.

winter-finalWinter, by Marissa Meyer. This is the final book in the Lunar Chronicles series and WOW. It’s epic in both size and contents, and is the perfect ending for the series. I just adore the title character in this one, and am in awe of Meyer for the way she weaves so many plots (and fairytales) together into what is an incredible book. I can’t wait to see what she tackles next!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor – the entire series! Yup, I read through these three huge tomes in just a few months. The sheer size of the books made me nervous, but I’d heard so many fantastic things about them that I put my big girl pants on and got to it.  The third book is a hard, hard slog at some points, but totally worth it once you reach the end. I think it was a few days before I really engaged with a book again after finishing this one.

Right, into some regular sized books now huh?

Malus Domestica, by S.A. Hunt. Witches, youtubers, cats, possession, apple trees – what’s not to like? This was an engaging horror with an awesome protagonist, and some really cool secondary characters. I am very much looking forward to the next one in the series.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness. Don’t read this if you are not prepared to cry. Seriously. It’s a short book, but it’s heartbreakingly beautiful and I SOBBED. No shame in that.

viciousVicious, V.E. Schwab. I LOVED this book. The characters are awesome, the storytelling is fantastic, and it kept me gripped right through to the end. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

And lastly, non-fiction, just for fun: The Game Believes in You, Greg Toppo. If you have kids, and if you’re curious about how games can help kids to learn, curious about how so much of the world can be seen as a game, curious about education, and developments, you NEED to read this book. It totally blew my mind.

What did you read in 2016 that you’d recommend?? I’ve got a few on my list to read and/or finish, but I’d love to hear of new books!

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life, office, Uncategorized

The Office

A few days ago, I moved into my office.

YAY!

This has been the culmination of weeks of thinking, and shuffling things around, as well as gathering the essential supplies and doing a little bit of a makeover. Being that I homeschool my three kids, and they are a lovely combination of ADHD/aspie/just-plain-weird-like-their-parents, you can imagine that sometimes the inside of my house is very loud. Like, really loud. Sometimes it’s mostly populated by small things that look like children but are actually animals (complete with conversations held in meows, woofs, and getting your face occasionally licked).

photogrid_1477889251055Sometimes, I just need a place where I can go and hide out. A quiet place, filled with quiet, peaceful things. Sometimes, this quiet place is actually loud so I can listen to music without using headphones and can sing at the top of my lungs without being yelled at. But it’s my space and I’ll damn well do with it what I please. Mostly it’s quiet. There is a lock on the door. This is important.

Some lovely friends came and helped me paint a couple of weeks ago, and it’s the purple of childhood dreams. I think this was a subconscious thing on my part, a nourishment, a recollection of simpler days. A reclamation of innocence stolen. Whatever, it’s calming. And I do really like purple. The ceiling is ugly, and instead of patching it up and painting I found some pretty wool lace online and ordered enough to drape. It’s like being in a purple cave decorated by a massive spider web. I like it. I have curtains to go in still, but they aren’t 100% necessary for my use of the space so I’ll get around to it eventually.

photogrid_1477951571993Between having houseguests for most of a week, and every else being down with a tummy bug for the weekend, it took me until Tuesday to move my desk in. This was a big step. Not only would I have to leave the house to use my desk (my office is the small, second room in the sleepout), but I’d have no regular, easy place to work inside.

And you know what? It’s awesome. It’s no longer easy to turn on my laptop and spend endless hours trawling the internet. If I really need to check stuff I can do that on my phone anyway. It’s been less than a week and I am already forming some good habits. I go to my office to work. I GO to work. That’s a huge mindset shift in itself! This morning, sick of juggling an armload of items, I packed my bag instead and called to the kids “I’m just going to work in the office for a half hour!” and off I went.

photogrid_1478209511779To be clear, the office is not far. I can still hear them if anything goes amiss. They are free to come out, but normally prefer to stand on the deck and call me instead. A lot of the time they’ll jump on the trampoline outside my office window, sometimes they will come and work on projects in the big room of the sleepout. If they want to jump on the trampoline and I am not working they ask, “can you go and do some work?” and off we go. How cool is that?

And WOW does that ever feel good after what has felt like months of spinning my wheels. I know that logically that was all important. Settling in takes a long time, and I am only just now at the point where I feel like we really truly live here and that’s good. I still miss a lot from back home, but this is home now too.

Home, and an office.

It’s not complete. There are still things I need, but I’m determined to only put stuff in it I love. I want to surround myself with reminders that my needs and wants are valuable, and that I am worthy of an abundance of awesome. Because I am. And, hey, so are you! In the months to come, I’ll have some really cool stuff to share with you. I kind of feel like I’m starting a new phase of my life, and I’m super excited about it all.

Uncategorized

Out stubborn life

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. Moving regions with three kids in tow proved to be far harder than I thought it would be. I’ve had high points and low points, and it continues to be a bit of a rollercoaster. I’ve been feeling vulnerable in general which has impacted on everything – I’ve been fairly quiet on social media, I’ve gotten sick a few times, my creativity has waned, and I’ve been left wide open to a PTSD flare-up worse than any I’ve had in over a decade.

But I’m still here. I’ll continue to still be here, because carrying on is what I do.

I was reminded of this earlier today when reading an email from one of my lovely clients. They said:

everything-you-have-ever-wanted-is-sitting-on-the-other-side-of-fear

It was a really timely reminder. I have out stubborned life before, and I can totally do it again. I’ve been starting to make moves towards that, chipping off the long list of things that need to happen, and while occasionally I slip and fall, and feel like I lose any forward momentum, I get back up again.

This week those steps were seen in a few different ways. I printed out a bunch of inspiring quotes and laminated them for my future office space. I plastered the holes in the walls of my future office. I finally remembered that I pulled my books out of Kindle Unlimited and put them back up on other distributors, and today I put them all up on PayHip as well. You can find new book links here. Oh and I also tweaked my website a bit. It took far too long to do a very basic job, and I’m still not happy, but I am less unhappy with it than I was this morning.

These things might not be ‘writing’ but they are all steps in the right direction. And I’m a stubborn woman. I’ve got this 😉

challenges, lessons, life, Uncategorized, writing

Not everyone is an asshole

My friend (and valued member of my crit group) Richard Parry has some thoughts on his blog about the state of things. About the way people interact, about the negative feedback loops we sometimes get caught up in (go read it now, then come back. I’ll wait).

Some days, it seems like everyone in the world is just trying to annoy me, but then I remember that everything is relative and if I’m struggling I’m more likely to interpret other people’s behaviour in negative ways.

Everyone is doing the best they can, but sometimes that looks like being an asshat because they are totally tapped out.

I am trying really hard to remind myself of this. Having moved about 6 weeks ago, I am still getting my head into the right space. Still struggling to get a routine in place. Some days the dishes pile up and we resort to takeout, some days I forget to brush my hair, and the kids hang out in their PJs all day (who doesn’t like PJ days?) and all I can really manage is basic meals (ie: toast!) and to bury myself in a book. It might not look like it from the outside, but on those days, that is the best I can do.

Not every day, of course, and on fewer days the longer we’re here (for which I am grateful). But this being kind to others, and assuming they are trying their best means I have to try and believe that I’m doing my best as well. Which is interesting.

 

img_20160831_121631
Can giraffes be assholes? 

 

As I get back into writing, I am struggling to really disappear into the story and I have a long held habit of writing myself in-text notes. Historically these have looked like [WTF Cassie?!] or [this is such shit, you can do better]. And now, I hold back on berating myself. Now they are more along the lines of [while this is an inelegant solution, I can see you’re feeling your way through introducing this element to the story, it’ll clean up later] or [bring it back on track, Cassie. You’ve got this]. It might not be as hilarious when reading it through again, but I’m certain it will be more helpful, and in the now? It means I don’t feel so crappy about my attempts to write.

I’m not really sure if I have a point here, other than maybe we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves, and to others. We can never tell what’s happening inside another person’s mind or body. We don’t know what they are going through. Sometimes we can’t even tell what’s going on with ourselves!

Of course, some people are just assholes. But not everyone. And not me. I’m just struggling.

september, Uncategorized, writing

On Fear

I started writing something new a few months ago now. It was based off an idea I’d had kicking around for six months or so and started out as play – I just needed to write something fresh, something in a new world (well, our world still, but not a take on it that I’d written before). I was excited by it, I felt like it was a good something, and I shared it with my crit group and a few friends, and they all liked it too! In fact, they picked up on everything I’d wanted them to, had all the right questions about what was going on, and it thrilled me to the core.

It was hitting all the right marks. It had potential. It was good.

And what I didn’t realize at the time was that all this positive feedback was not only helpful and wonderful, but it caused me to start building a wall of fear around this thing. Because it was new for me, and experimental in some ways – I very rarely write first person, and this was a new genre. And everyone was like ‘heck yeah, we want to read more!’

But what if this was a strong start and everything else sucked? What if I couldn’t maintain it? I had a really good chat with a writer friend yesterday, in which all of this became clear to me. I said to her, “What if I fuck it up?”

She gave me the greatest words of wisdom in response:

The only way you fuck this up is if you don’t try.

Damn. How true is that? I’ve been writing for years now, but even I sometimes forget that first drafts are allowed to suck, and that the real work – the making of something into an excellent thing – is in the rewrites and the edits. So I have put aside my fear and doing another thing that terrifies me – writing an outline/planning. Because while I might not get it all right on the first draft, having a roadmap will go a long way to making sure I hit most of the right spots along the way.

change, life, Uncategorized, writing

Back to basics

We’ve been here in our new house, new town, new region, for two weeks today. The boxes are mostly unpacked, and everybody – human and animal alike – is settled. Apart from me. I am not. I’m just not.

Which is not to say I am unhappy, because at times I really am. I love it here. The house is wonderful, I’m loving having a fireplace again, I love the way we all get up at the same time (even if it’s a tad on the early side!) because Hubby has to get up so early for work. I even love that there is so much less to do, because I feel like maybe I’ve been in need of a holiday for a while now, and am finally getting a bit of a mental break.

But it can’t last forever, and the more time that passes without me making progress on the writing front, the more miserable I become. And yet, I am without direction. I am so out of the habit at this point that I barely feel like a writer, and at times have wondered whether this is it. Maybe I’m done. Maybe I’m just never going to do it again. The only thing that stops me going down that road of thought is the pang of loss and instant sorrow that comes if I think about never writing.

Clearly, I am not done. But also, very clearly, I am without direction, purpose, drive, focus.

So today I went back to basics and booted up 750words. I’ve used this website off and on for YEARS now, and I find it most helpful when I am struggling. It doesn’t seem to matter what the struggle is, it just helps to vomit up my brain-goo and this is a good way to do it.

I feel better already.

Screenshot (1)

 

cover reveal, Uncategorized

Cover Reveal – Serafina’s Flame

I am thrilled to share my newest cover with you all. Behold! (Really, it is so gorgeous, it deserves to be beheld). Leigh, over at Dwell Design has really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Serafinas Flame_Ecover_JC Hart

Now, I can hear you questioning – what is this book? We’ve heard nothing about it. Not a peep! You have, actually… you just know all the parts of the book as Burn, Flare, and Ignite.

When I first published Burn I thought it was a standalone novella, but then so many of my readers wanted more that I committed myself to writing more of Carmel, more of Serafina, completing the Maiden, Mother, Crone aspect of things*.

Flare followed, focusing on Vana, the mother, and then Ignite was born, following Aida, my maiden. But by the time I’d written those stories I realized they weren’t three novellas, not really, they were all just different parts of one continuous story.

And so I decided to find a new title and combine them all into one book. A novel told in three parts, from three different characters – don’t ask my how I’m going to write a blurb for that, I am not looking forward to it in the slightest!

What I AM looking forward to is finishing the edits on Ignite and compiling this thing into a finished book. It’s been a long time in the making, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

 

*My original plan was for other stories set in the same world, and I still hope to write those some day!

july, life, Uncategorized

On the Move

Once again, it’s been a long time – I have a really good reason this time, though it’s by no means ‘over’ and will mean I lack any rhythm for… well, until whenever it is that things stop being all up in the air.

You see, we’re moving cities! We’d talked about this in the past – I’d said Wellington was the only other place I’d live, he said that he’d be pretty depressed if we still lived in Taranaki in ten years time – and we made a plan. It was a five year plan. It was a plan that meant our eldest would be old enough to babysit the other two, and he would be finished the degree he started working on part time by the time we moved.

That was a year ago.

A few months ago a job cropped up that he was seriously interested in. I said he could apply. He didn’t get it, but by the time that happened we’d all had a massive brain shift which saw him applying for more jobs, me beginning to get my head around the fact this might happen, and the kids bursting at the seams for a move.

And then last week he got an amazing job. And that means we ARE moving, and all of the things that come along with that – prepping our house for sale, house hunting in another city, research research research into good places to live with a family, homeschooling groups, lifestyle, packing, decluttering, crying, saying goodbye – are now here. Big time.

I’m still getting my head around this. It’s not something I have any experience with, but it feels like it will all have happened in no time at all – we’ll be living in a new house, in a new area, far away from our friends and family (well, most of them) before we even really know it, and I have a feeling it’s going to take several months after that until it’s really sunken in and we’re feeling settled. Or me, at least, the kids are busting a gut to get on with it – let’s hope their enthusiasm lasts!

20160716_164615

authors, Awards, june, Uncategorized

Au Contraire 2016

This weekend past I attended my second ever SFF convention. It was a long weekend, full of socializing, sitting in on fascinating panels and discussions, and which for me meant convening my first ever panel (Mythology, with amazing panelists), attending a launch for At the Edge (which has my short story Hope Lies North included), the SJV Awards (where I didn’t win anything), and a closing ceremony (during which I won a prize for having the best-coloured hair – truly impressive, because there were some awesome colours present!).

PhotoGrid_1465124777173I came home sick, but that was expected. It just would have been really nice if I hadn’t begun the weekend sick! lol I had a horrible case of vertigo all weekend, headaches, and a terribly sore tailbone after the first day or so of sitting. Despite the discomfort, I really enjoyed my time away! There were so many great talks, and I got to meet one of my favourite authors – Juliet Marillier. It was almost six years ago that I was geeking out over appearing alongside her in A Foreign Country, so it was really neat to meet her and to find she is just as lovely in person as online.

PhotoGrid_1465511685331I also came home feeling reconnected with the writing community in NZ. To see such a bounty of fantastic authors (who are also fantastic people!), to just hang, to talk story and craft and all the other stuff that goes along with being a writer was really awesome. Pretty much all of my local writing groups collided, and no-one died on impact 😉 New connections were made, old ones strengthened. It’s a beautiful thing.

We also got to make an announcement about LexiCon, but it’s secret squirrel for now! Keep an eye out next week for that one. We’re almost finished lining up our guests of honour and after the weekend we have an abundance of panels to pick from. It finally feels like a real living thing. We all wanted to give Au Contraire it’s time to shine, and it did. It was a great weekend. Now it’s our turn 🙂

Special thanks to all my writing crew for making it the weekend it was. You know who you are!! ❤ MISS YOU!!!

Best Novella, books, Burn, change, Fantasy, friends, Kotahi Bay, Maiden mother crone, short story, Sir Julius Vogel Award, Sun-Touched, The Way the Sky Curves

Long time no blog

Hey there! I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. Not because I’ve been doing nothing, but because life has been so busy lately. I mean, really busy. We’ve been away several weekends, a wedding, a homeschool camp, we’ve been down with colds for almost two weeks now, and there has been SO much going on. I can’t talk about some of it right now, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Basically, the past month or so has seen a massive shift in where my wee family is headed, and that’s been scary, sad, and exciting all at once. We’ve got what feels like a gazillion balls in the air right now, and I’m as okay with that as I can be 🙂 Doing a lot better than I had expected anyway.

Sadly, this has meant not as much writing as I’d have liked. Stress does that to me. I can anxious and can’t think creatively. It’s coming back to me now, though. I’m a bundle of ideas and am looking forward to putting some of them on paper in the next few weeks.

But first, I have to make it through the weekend! Au Contraire is coming up fast, and I am both nervous and excited about it. I am really looking forward to seeing people I don’t see nearly enough, hanging out amongst other like-minded people, talking geeky writerly stuff, and enjoying a great selection of panels and discussions. And I am nervous as fuck about convening a panel myself! On mythology, with some AMAZING authors, one of whom I’ve been a fan of for a very long time now – Juliet Marillier. I’m going to get to meet her! And then ask her questions! And omg!! How am I going to be able to speak? I just have to try not to stutter through the whole thing somehow…

I’ll also be at the At the Edge book launch directly before the mythology panel – my short story ‘Hope Lies North’ appears in it, and I am super excited to get my hands on a copy – and at the SJV’s on Sunday night as well, where all my books are finalists. I have zero expectations of winning an award myself, but I’m thrilled to be able to be there and cheer on some friends who I am sure will be picking up trophies! Fun times ahead. I am very much looking forward to heading to Wellington for a weekend that should include most of my favourite things (that aren’t my husband and kids, but I guess you can’t have everything right?).

I shall endeavour to update on a more regular basis, and hopefully soon I will have something fun to announce.

Take care!