A-Z challenge, books, challenges, in the spirit, Kotahi Bay

C is for Constance

In The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014Constance is one of the few characters in my Kotahi Bay series whose first introduction is after death. It is, after all, the result of her passing that means Alyssa ends up back in Kotahi Bay, with a haunted house.

She is an older woman, a grandmother, and considered to be the town ‘witch’, a legacy which Alyssa isn’t sure she wants to continue.

Constance makes her first appearance in my novella In The Spirit though that is not the first place she shows up in the timeline as she plays a background role in several other books, both before and after her death – all of which will become clear as the series goes on. She plays a key role in the town, and her death creates a change which allows outside forces to gain something of a foothold in the Bay.

I best not say more, or I might give things away, but hopefully you’re a little intrigued 😉


A-Z challenge, in the spirit

A is for Alyssa

Hello!! So here we are at the beginning of the A-Z challenge. Because I am releasing book one in my Kotahi Bay series this month, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to give you the A-Z of Kotahi Bay. I hope you enjoy!

The very first book I released was about Alyssa. She’s a fairly forthright girl, with an out of whack verbal filter, who drinks too mIn The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014uch, swears too much, and has a tendency to ignore the things going on around her because it makes life easier.

“This won’t take long.” He put up a hand to stop her. “Your grandmother left something for your eyes only, and I didn’t feel it wise to give it to you in front of the rest of your family. They were rather more…”
“Obnoxious? Pushy? Aggressive? Assh—”
“Yes.” He cut her off. “All of those things. Your grandmother was a well-loved member of the town, so it was surprising to find so many of her family were just…”
“Rude. You don’t have to tell me about it. I’m one of them, remember? Have had to deal with it my entire life.”

Well, at least until one of those things is a ghost that her dead grandmother told her to keep secure. Which, naturally, she neglected to do…

Alyssa was so much fun to write that after working on In The Spirit – which was meant to stand alone with no connections to the main Kotahi Bay series – I decided I needed to write more of her. This proved problematic, because I had to then work backwards and sideways to place where she would be in the Bay at the time of the other events. Initially I was going to give Alyssa her own series of novellas, but then I had a stroke of genius and figured out how I could place her into the main series. Book 3 (currently untitled) is all about Alyssa and what comes next for her in the Bay. I can’t wait to release it, though it’s still a few books down the line at the moment. I have a complete first draft of that one, and it’s a goodie 😉

Awards, Best Novella, in the spirit, publishing, Sir Julius Vogel Award, writing

In The Spirit is a finalist!

In The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014I had the rather exciting news last night that In The Spirit is a finalist for ‘Best Novella’ for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards this year!


Now I wait anxiously for the full list to go up so I can see who the competition is 😉 Seriously though, I already know of two other fabulous writers with work in the category, and quite frankly, it’s just an honour to be a finalist alongside them. I feel humbled, and really grateful to make it to the finals.

Every year I use the SJV finals list as a bit of a reading list – because if something is on there, then it’s generally worth checking out. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on there this year that I haven’t read.

Anyway, that’s my excitement for the day! Hope you’re all having a lovely week so far!

Burn, February, in the spirit, Kotahi Bay, Sun-Touched, The Way the Sky Curves

All the things

There are so many stories running through my head. So many. Not just mine, but all the stories by authors I have been editing recently as well – a huge range: contemporary, thriller, mystery, MG, science fiction. In fact, I’ve taken about a week off from editing in general just to try and dull the clatter in my brain.

BURN_Final E-cover_JC HART
Sick of seeing it yet?? I don’t think I ever will be!

Well, editing other than my own, anyway.

Final edits on Burn are now complete and the MS is off with the proofreader. I’m both nervous and excited to bring it to the world – as pure fantasy, it’s quite different to In The Spirit. There is none of the lightness and laughter that my first release had. The characters are completely different, and where Alyssa is young, a bit of a slob and maybe a tad too fond of wine, Carmel is old and weary, and never had any kind of freedom or joy in her youth. I worry that readers of one won’t like the other, but then I have to remind myself that books are allowed to have different readers, and I can trust people to read blurbs and samples if they aren’t sure. It’s not my job to stress out about it, only my job to make sure I’m telling the best stories I can – regardless of the genre.

I’ve headed straight into what will hopefully be my last major revisions on The Way The Sky Curves. I’m enjoying it so much that I’ve just loaded Shell and Bone onto my Kindle so I can start reading through and making notes. I can’t believe I am THREE books deep in this series already, with just two left to write. It’s actually kind of bizarre. I’m going to be starting planning on the last two very soon – I know how it’s all going to end though!!! I’ve never seen that end picture until recently and I can’t wait to write it!

Alongside all of this are thoughts of the other book I want to publish this year. Sun-Touched is one of my favourites, and will be the first full length novel I bring out. It’s different again from the world of Kotahi Bay, and Burn. Science fiction set on a relatively newly colonized planet. I am itching to get back to Madea and do my final edits on that book. Oh, it’s going to be so good!

So, there are all the things going on right now. I’m going to need to find some new tactics for keeping the noise in my head under control. Maybe not editing four books back to back is a good idea, just for starters 😉

How is Feb treating you?

Burn, in the spirit, January, Kotahi Bay, publishing, round-up, The Way the Sky Curves, writing

January round-up

It’s February!!!!! A whole month of 2015 has already passed us by, and wow, it was a busy one. I’m thinking if I can keep January as ‘busiest month of the year’ that would be nice, and if I can manage even half the productivity, this year is going to be awesome.

A quick break down of how I spent my time:

Edited: 3 novels and one novella.
Critiqued: 2 novels and one MA book.
My stuff: finished the 1st draft of a novel, plotted out the rest of the Kotahi Bay series, edited Burn, began final edits on The Way the Sky Curves.
Read: 9 books on GR and a couple more besides. NINE!!!!!!!! And I only set my goal at 40 for the year.

On top of that we still had home school trips, catching up with old school friends, lots of swimming and exploration, lots of fun times with the kids. January was a really busy month, but it was completely awesome as well. I’m not interested in being *quite* that busy again for a couple of months, but it feels amazing to have started out the year so well.

I also made a few tweaks to my site the other day, changing the Books tab around so that there are pages for each current series, as well as adding an In Progress page at someones request – apparently, he couldn’t keep track of what went where and how they connected! Sorry if I confused anyone else. I want to do a complete overhaul of the website, but that might have to wait until I move to a self hosted one – if you have any suggestions, or things you’d like to see on my site, please feel free to let me know 🙂

Oh, and I found out yesterday that In The Spirit was nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel award for Best Novella! Thank you, kind reader! That was really lovely. I may not make the final ballot, but it was pretty awesome to get that email. While I’ve co-won an SJV before for editing an anthology, this is my very first nomination for something I wrote, which makes it pretty special.

So, what does February hold??

Oh so many things!

BURN_Final E-cover_JC HARTFirstly, releasing Burn. Gosh I can’t wait!! I don’t have a release date yet, as I’m waiting to get it back from proofers, and need to go over it again myself before I can set that. But it will definitely be February.

I’m looking into doing a limited print edition of Burn because I’ve had a few requests. I’ll also look at doing a small run for In The Spirit for the same reason. It would be kind of nice to have a copy of my own too, just for giggles – I’ll blog about it before I go ahead just in case anyone wants to order a copy.

I’m hoping to get through this final big edit of The Way The Sky Curves and have that ready for a final reader by the end of the month. It should only need a few tweaks, copy-editing and then proofing before it’s ready. I was worried before I dove in a few days ago, sure that it was going to need a lot more work, but it’s a great story! I’m going to become a broken record ‘I love my WiP so much!’ lol, I seem to say the same thing for every WiP.

I’ve got a few editing jobs lined up as well, and plan on doing a lot more reading. It’s the first February in a long time that I’ve not been gearing up for study, which is a bit weird, but also wonderful.

I hope January and 2015 in general is treating you kindly – here’s to an awesome February!

in the spirit, Kotahi Bay, publishing, writing

On finishing a first draft

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I finished the first draft of a new novel, but I didn’t really stop to dwell on that too much. It’s actually a big achievement for me because it’s the first novel I’ve written from start to finish in a really long time. Like, a REALLY long time.

In The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014I’m in this pretty great position where I have lots of work waiting to be revised and published, but it was next to impossible to write anything new last year. In fact, the piece I last started/completed before this novel was In The Spirit, and that was back in the second half of 2013. And it was only a novella. I literally can’t recall the last time I wrote a full length novel. It has been far, far too long.

So completing this WiP was me shaking off the dust, finding my way again with first drafting, and pushing forward into my new life, free of study. I started writing it on November 1st, and finished up on the 13th of January. It felt like far too long, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m actually pretty happy with that. I was still attempting to adjust to life post-study, there was a weekend away, Christmas, and the draw of summertime to contend with.

And, I’m out of practice. While I love it when the words are flowing – there are moments of pure bliss – I also realized that first drafts are the thing I find the hardest. I’m good at revising and editing. I’ve done SO much of that in recent years it’s not funny. But I’m back to learning how I work and trying new things when it comes to the first draft.

It felt strange. Like I was a newborn foal or something, long gangly, awkward legs, stumbling around. I’m hoping that the next first draft I write will be a little smoother. That I’ll have grown into myself as a writer again, found my feet. I have many more projects to write, so there will be plenty of time to remaster the craft of the first draft.

It has no title yet, and won’t be revised for a little while. It falls into place as book 3 in the Kotahi Bay series. I’m diving into what will hopefully be the last major edits for book 1, The Way the Sky Curves, which will be out later this year, as well we book 2, Shell and Bone. Exciting times ahead!!! I can’t wait to publish this series!

in the spirit, life, publishing, study, writing, year in review

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.

in the spirit, Kotahi Bay, Pieces of me series, writing

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.

authors, in the spirit, Kotahi Bay, New Zealand, publishing, reading, self publishing

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 🙂
in the spirit, Kotahi Bay, self publishing, writing

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.