becoming, books, Burn, challenges, change, editing, etherhart press, Fantasy, Goodreads, new zealand independent book festival, NZIBF, Sun-Touched, The Way the Sky Curves, Uncategorized

2015 Year in Review

2015 has been a massive year of ups and downs for me – mostly downs, but I think that’s changing. Despite that, I think I did pretty well with my goals for the year.

While I haven’t yet reached my ‘books read’ goal for the year, I’m pretty close, and I *think* I read more published stuff than pre-published. I did do a reasonable amount of editing work, but it was primarily for cash, and that was a nice change. After much consideration, I have decided to cut back even further on the number of clients I’ll work with in order to really give my own writing time to shine. While I love having some cash I made all on my own, and it’s meant I could cover all my costs without digging into the family income, I’ve come to realize that it’s sapping my creative energy, and that’s not good for my writing (or my mental health).

IMG_20151223_145519638I think this year has gone a long way to the ‘reconnecting with myself’ goal. It’s quite intangible, but I think people can look at me now and SEE that I am more comfortable in myself now. I got my nose re-pierced, and I dyed my hair awesome colours. The general consensus is that I should have done it years ago, and I look more’me’. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks so 😉 Though to be honest, it wouldn’t really matter if they thought that anyway – I did it for ME.

I did some other things that were a little outside my comfort zone, such as attending the Independent Book Festival in Auckland. I had a much better time than I expected, and learned that actually, I can totally be a people person when I need to be – AND enjoy it! (even if I need, like, a week off life after to recover lol).

Alongside these things I published three new pieces. Two novellas, and my first full-length novel. Sun Touched has been a long time in the making, and it’s been amazing to get it out there and have people read it. The most common thing I hear from readers is that they could barely put it down, and just had to keep reading – mission accomplished! Dad doesn’t always enjoy my stories, but he loved Sun Touched, and gave it to a friend of his to read while she recovered from a hip operation – and she is going to try and get it in at the library near her! lol

I have LOTS of hopes for 2016, but primary among those are to treat myself more kindly, give my writing the time it needs, and continue to build on the things I started this year. More on that in the new year – until then, enjoy the last of 2015, hope you had a lovely Christmas, and have a happy New Year.

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lessons, new zealand independent book festival, publishing

NZ Indie Book Fest: Part Two – the good and the not so good

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Dinner on the first night. We were ravenous, and it was SO good.

Following on from yesterdays post about the trip to Auckland, I thought I’d take the time to do a little break down of the good and the not so good – and a few lessons we learned along the way.

The not so good:
The venue was large, but out of the way, which meant that there was no foot traffic passing by who might decide to pop in for a gander. It was fairly quiet on the Saturday, and I had hopes that Sunday would be busier – it was QUIETER!! If I am going to attend again, it would need to be in a more central location where more people would come to. I sold more books than I expected to, but I know of quite a few stands who sold virtually nothing 😦

Even if you think you’re prepared, something will go wrong, or not work the way you wanted it to. Despite testing out my banner stand at home and having no hassles with it, come Saturday morning it was a nightmare to get sorted! My dad and step-mother decided to take over the task, but even then they had issues, and the banner fell down later that day.

It was kinda cold. With the front doors open to welcome guests, and our location in the second aisle (which had a door at one end) it was pretty chilly at times, especially on the Sunday. The temperature changed between being warm enough and being cold, and it was a real nuisance lol.

The largest group of visitors to the festival would have to have been made up of those supporting exhibitors they knew, and writers/indie authors coming to either check out what other authors were doing, or make new business connections with printers etc. While that’s kind of understandable, it meant that there were not that many there to buy books, and my books are not going to appeal to everyone. A lot of eyes simply slid over our booth as they walked past.

The good:
IMG_20151003_113740810There were lots of awesome exhibitors! We made some good friends, and made a lot of great connections. I will talk more specifically about that tomorrow 😉 It wasn’t just the exhibitors who were great though, I got to meet a bunch of people I’ve only known online, some I knew might be there and others who were a total surprise! But I loved all of it.

Contrary to my belief that I would be completely shattered after the weekend, I’m feeling pretty upbeat. I’ve learned that not only do my anti-depressants help me cope better with tough situations, they also help me to feel more confident in myself. I was able to talk to people with little to no anxiety, and that was awesome!! Someone even commented that I must be the most extroverted out of our group, and I had to laugh. Very much an introvert, but I do like to talk to people, and I geared myself up to do so that weekend – very grateful it hasn’t resulted in any slump. In fact, I miss hanging with everyone!

I sold more books than I expected to. The number was still fairly small, but I’m really pleased with it. Highlights were a twitter friend coming in to meet me for the first time and buying a copy of each of my books – totally unexpected, but SO awesome! And then on Sunday another twitter came by and grabbed a copy of Sun Touched. I felt so special.

We got heaps of compliments on our stand, from the professional look of our books, banners and promo stuff, to the way we presented ourselves and interacted with attendees. Some people even reckon we had the best looking stand, which was a lovely compliment! It felt good to get such positive feedback, and to have the experience of being at a festival like this under my belt, with close friends alongside me.

We learned a lot. Which leads to….

Things we learned: 
People don’t like coming into what can be perceived as personal space. We had our two tables on either side of the booth and it was one hell of a mission getting anyone to come IN. The vast majority of people stood at the front, which meant that not everything was being seen, and we didn’t have space for many people to talk to. The lovely Janine from across the way gave us this feedback on the second day, telling us how she had tweaked her own stand on the second day to make better use of the space. While a table across the front might seem like it puts a block between you and potential buyers, it actually allows them to stay in their space and not ‘invade’ yours, which feels safer – really good to know, and I am keen to test this out! lol

Having promotional material that is not directly related to your book is a really worthwhile investment. Keitha Smith, in the booth next to us, had these gorgeous, non specific book marks, with her book information on the back of them. Appealing to anyone, even if they didn’t buy a book. And Janine, across the way from us, had colouring pages packs, and gorgeous cards and butterflies which really drew the eye and meant there were a range of things to buy that weren’t books.

My first sale of the Book Fest - not only did I sell two books, but I made a new friend!
My first sale of the Book Fest – not only did I sell two books, but I made a new friend!

The vast majority of book sales were to people who already knew about us. 100% of Leigh’s sales were to people she knew online, and I would say about 70% of both mine and Tee’s were as well. Some of these were other exhibitors, but also people who had read digital copies and wanted print ones, or who had come across us online and then come looking in person.

While on some levels this might suggest an online presence really IS important, I’d like to think that it means that building your audience, and being a real person, is. The two twitter friends who came to see me and buy books were both people I think are lovely online (and proved to be just as cool in person!), and I think if I hadn’t been ‘authentic’ with my online presence, that might not have happened. It felt like I was gaining new irl friends, rather than readers.

As well as that, of the two exhibitors who I traded books with, and the one who purchased a copy of my book, I believe it was all down to them liking me as a person – that, combined with an interest in the premise of the book meant an exchange occurred. If they hadn’t met me, and enjoyed interacting with me, I don’t think they would now have my books in their possession.

I think these lessons were valuable, and combined with the ‘good’ things, mean that I feel like the festival was worth the time/money/energy investment I made into it. While I think there are a tonne of things that could have been done differently to make the turn out better for everyone, I’m really pleased I went 🙂

challenges, life, new zealand independent book festival

NZ Indie Book Fest: Part One – thank the gods for medication

Well, I am home from a crazy busy weekend and functioning a lot better than I imagined I would be! I learned so much, met so many amazing people – new, and previously known only online – sold some books, hung out with some of my besties, and had a (generally) really good time.

Which isn’t to say that the weekend was without issues. Friday, at any other time, might have reduced me to a quivering mess. I’m more grateful than ever that I asked the Dr to increase my meds because without that I don’t know if I’d have been able to have a good weekend at all.

So, I am going to break down my recap into a couple of different posts! Because I havNZIBFe SO much to say, and I don’t want to leave anything out.

This one will be about Friday – if you follow me on twitter or FB you might know that it was quite the day. It began at 515 am when I woke up (before the kids). I turned on my computer only to face the blue screen of death. I spent the next few hours trying different things, but not completely losing the plot over it, and thankfully my husband was able to fix it for me once he woke up.

I hit the road at 830 and had a really great drive to Auckland, and a lovely catch up with one of my besties before picking up Leigh from the airport. It was after that when things went downhill. My car started steaming and the heat went through the roof. We were on the motorway at peak hour Friday traffic and I was freaking out a bit about not having anywhere to pull off. When we did, we discovered a pool of water under the car, and a bone dry radiator.

An hours wait for AA… who basically could do nothing but call a tow truck… Tee picked up Leigh and our gear and went to the event centre while I waited for the towie, and then in the rain, we drove over the bridge and attempted to find the service centre that the AA insisted was at a specific address but was most definitely not. The towie was very nice, but still, after all the waiting and worry, and twenty minutes of driving around the block in the dark drizzle, I asked him to just drop me and the car at the motel. I was done.

And all the while, I didn’t break down. It had been almost 12 hours since I left home by the time I got to the motel, and I had a little cry then – not knowing what was wrong with the car, or whether it would be able to get me home was worrying. I hadn’t had anything to eat other than some chocolate since lunch time, so I think that’s pretty normal. Leigh and Tee had both commented on just how calm and together I had been throughout the ordeal, and I was! Leigh and I had sat in the car and laughed, and joked, and I had been fine 🙂 I was fine. I AM fine. Leigh kept recalling how last year when my flight was cancelled I’d had a complete meltdown at the airport and all I could feel was gratitude that now I’m more balanced. Now things don’t knock me over the edge. Having that comparison was awesome because it helped to really highlight how different things are now, and I am SO happy about that.

I am grateful for my antidepressants, and the balance they are helping to bring to my life.

Tomorrow, I’ll blog about the good and the bad, and then probably on Thursday I’ll tap into the people, because I met some awesome people, and they were what really made the weekend!

life, new zealand independent book festival, NZIBF, writing

Up, again.

Sun catching
Sun catching

The sun has been shining here for a few days now and I am feeling much, MUCH, better. I took the pressure off, allowed myself to just take it easy and do the things I wanted to rather than doing everything like I normally do (or trying to, anyway).

It’s under a week now until the book fest (in fact, one week from today you can expect a wrap up of that event here on the blog!) and I am feeling in a really good place about it. I know I’m going to be nervous as heck, but also that I will be there with some great friends and we’re going to have a kick ass weekend regardless of whether we sell any books or not. Plus, a few days kid free just being an author? That’s pretty awesome too. I could use the downtime from parental duties, and I am going to enjoy the hell out of the road trip listening to just my music, really loud!

I’ve finally started work on Flare again. I’ve spent some of my ‘medication adjustment period’ reading Take Off Your Pants, a book about outlining. This has always been the bane of my authorial life. I never outline properly and I always pay for it. However, seeing as I was only a few thousand words in, I got to put the tactics to practice and work on the outline for this novella. Which made me realize I had started too late. So I’ve slowly been drafting the new opening scenes (mostly on paper with pen, while lying on my sunny deck), and then I’ll finesse what I already had to line up to my new, stronger outline.

It’s interesting, because I am noticing this happening a lot more. I had until now been thinking that for some reason I was suddenly bad at writing. Like, I’d forgotten how to do it, and it was just that much harder now. While admittedly I am a bit out of habit with first drafting these days due to the heavy editing loads I’ve had, I actually am realizing that I’ve moved past the ‘blindly writing shit because words are better than no words’ stage of my career, and am actually thinking more carefully about plot, and character, and everything else. There is definitely still a place for first drafting quickly, but this being the sequel I never intended to write (my plans for the Mother book of this trilogy changed after people wanted more from Carmel) I need to tread a little more carefully, and develop the world accordingly. I’m actually invested in getting it more right than wrong on my first take now, and not willing to leave that to chance.

Generally, in the past, it’s taken me a good 10K on novels, and half that on novellas to really get a feel for my main character, but I’m working on knowing them better before I go in now, and that should hopefully help cut down my revision time later on.

Anyway… Life is good. I’m actually feeling happy which is kind of wonderful. I’m hoping it lasts this time.