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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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!

Friday, I'm in love, Uncategorized

All the pretty things

Yesterday was an excellent day. And this Friday I am in love with all the pretty things.

I’ve been working PhotoGrid_1461897374863really hard lately, and I’ve had in my mind that I would spend time this weekend recharging by disappearing into a book I’ve been hanging out for months to read.

The Raven King finally dropped on Wed and I instantly purchased a copy and read the first bit, just to give myself a taste of things to come. Because I had to finish an editing job, a critique, AND my novella before I was allowed to really dive in.

Well, imagine my surprise when the very next day The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot landed on my doorstep – 12 days before I was expecting it to arrive!!!

PhotoGrid_1461897841317And then yesterday afternoon I got a message to say that my long awaited prints  from Jessica Shaw would be delivered that night. I got home from a meeting to find the loveliest images waiting for me. Funnily enough, these are prints from another tarot set I can’t wait to get my hands on.

So. Many. Pretties.

This is going to be a very good weekend.

P.S I am also in love with the way it feels to finish a work in progress /swoon. The first draft of Ignite is in the bag, and I’ve done the planning for my next adventure, which I will begin writing in the next few days. MMmmmmm shiny new goodness.

April, authors, Burn, Characters, Fantasy, Friday, I'm in love, productivity, progress, Uncategorized

Friday I’m in love…

It’s been ages since I’ve done a Friday, I’m in love. But today it’s perfect for it to be Friday, and perfect for me to be in love.

You see, I’m very close to finishing the first draft of the last book in a series. Which in itself is a first for me.

Confused?

I hope not. I wrote Burn years ago, and published it a little over a year ago. That novella began from a themed call for submissions which included an older female protagonist. Carmel took that role, in place of a younger version of her who originally held it in an even earlier story prompt… This thing has a long history.

20150803_203741Burn didn’t make it into that particular anthology, seeing as I accidentally submitted a psychology assignment instead of the book… But, that just meant I had the freedom to publish it on my own, and I’ve enjoyed doing so. It’s got a few fans, and everyone who reads it wants more.

The only thing is that I’d never planned to write more, not on that story anyway, so I had to stop what I was doing and make a decision – write the story I’d originally intended, or write the one my readers most wanted. I opted for the latter. I’m not entirely sure that was the best decision because I have struggled with the sequels for longer than I’d have expected to. But it’s been really fantastic learning experience.

Anyway, I finished Flare a few weeks back, gave it a round of revision and sent it off to betas – they loved it. They told me this just as I was reaching the final scenes of Ignite, and that added to the overwhelming feeling that I was going about this all wrong. In fact, my characters showed up on the page and revealed something which almost made me quit. I’ve since convinced them that my original plan was better, and they’ve realigned themselves with a little convincing.

And I’m really happy with how it’s all coming out. I mean, I was REALLY worried about finishing this series, getting it right, doing a good enough job. But instead of the intense angst I felt around it last week, now I am blissful. It’s all come together. I’m tying up the storylines, I’m totally at peace with the way this is concluding, and for possibly the first time in my writer life I’m not rushing towards the ending, desperate to close it off and never look at it again.

I’m doing it right. And it feels SO GOOD.

April, challenges, lessons, life, monday check in, Uncategorized

Kill the Hare! I am the Tortoise.

For years I have been running on deadlines, on sleepless nights (child and study induced), on jam-packing my whole life with ALL. THE. THINGS. I studied, I wrote, I raised kids and played the perfect housewife. I raced everywhere, mostly against the clock, and against my emotions.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my life. My husband is my best friend, my kids are fucking epic. We’re incredibly lucky, and I am so blessed to be able to stay home with them. None of that changes that my brain is a bit wonky. I’ve always overcommitted and then burned myself out delivering. I have always taken on more than I can chew in an endless battle to fit more into the day/my life. I’d get so stressed out trying to do all the things that I resorted to binging everything. Work, study, housework even (yes it’s totally possible). I was the Hare, rushing rushing rushing to the finish line. I can go so fast! I can do it all!

Until now.

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Just because. Flowers are cool.

I’ve tried many times over the years to stop these self-destructive habits – hell, I do so well juggling all those balls that people just kind of assume I’ve got it all under control most of the time – but I have tried. I learned how to say ‘NO’ more often, I put my own stuff first. I started saying ‘I’d really like to do that, but I need time to think about it before I can give you an answer’. Even then, I would still rush and push myself harder than I could. Well, until I fell apart and just couldn’t any more. And let’s be honest, I did that a bunch of times on a smaller scale over the years. Collapsing into a heap, exhausted, drained, unable to function well.

 

So in some ways this last round of major depression was a really good thing. I had to stop. I took my meds, and they wiped out my motivation so even though I kind of felt like I should be doing more, I just couldn’t. I could not. Nope. None of it was happening.

I think I really needed the break. All pressure was off, and if I felt tired and unable to do stuff, then I knew it was the meds, and that was a lovely thing to fall back on. Nope. I’ve just gone up a dose and am adjusting. Nope. I’m not quite where I need to be. Nope. Nope. Nope. No, I just can’t right now. I can’t.

And that was good for a bit. It was. And then I recovered, and now I am off them and OH DO I BURN. I want to do all the things. My brain is firing again. It gets excited and goes down rabbit holes and it feels all the wonderful pleasure of the world again. It’s a beautiful thing. The creative drought is over. I’m back, baby!

But the Hare is dead. I know I can take a breath. I know I can say no, and I can consider things, and I can put my needs ahead of others. My brain may be diving off, exploring options, but that incessant need to do ALL. THE. THINGS has dulled somewhat. I’ve got a voice in the back of my head, the ghost of the hare that tells me to run and binge and doitallnownownowNOW.

But I am the tortoise. I’ve looked at my daily habits, I’ve assessed my goals, and I know that burning out isn’t going to get me where I want to be. Since the beginning of the month I have written and revised more of my own work than in the last four months combined. And I’m not even working that hard. I’m writing a little bit. I’m revising a little bit. I’m doing my paid editing gigs a little bit. Each of those three things, every day, and the progress is delicious.

I’ve found a new, far more rewarding addiction. One I’d never thought would ever work for me. It’s called… pacing myself.

WTF. Yes. I’m still getting my head around it myself. But here’s hoping it serves me well for a long time – long live the Tortoise!