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Sekhmet’s Desire is now available!

I started writing this book almost a year ago. It feels hard to believe it took me this long to get it out into the world, but the timing also seems perfect. Because that’s how it rolls sometimes right? When you’re living a slightly slower pace, whenever you feel like the book is done is the right time. And I do feel like it’s done. It’s ready.

Fly little book. Though, it might be the longest one I’ve published yet, so I guess not so little for me…

I thought I was hunting Sekhmet, but she might be hunting me.
My name is Never, Seeker extraordinaire.
Or at least I was until I almost got a Prince killed, and now, no one will hire me.
Except for Jacqui Walker, my childhood nemesis. She offered me an olive branch dipped in gold, a way to win back my status. All I have to do is find the missing ankh of Sekhmet.
Never mind that it was lost a century ago. Never mind that others are looking for it too. Or that the Twelve – the very organization she hopes to present it to, the people who rule everything in this world – have asked me to work for them instead.
Torn between two powerful factions, either way I go, I’m screwed. And the closer I get to finding the pieces of the amulet? The louder I can hear the purring in my ears.

You can pick it up here

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It’s all coming together.

For pretty much all of my writing career I’ve felt like I was on the back foot, always 50 steps behind where I should be, constantly getting things wrong and without a shit show in hell of getting it right.

Ha! Oh gosh, I have been so cruel to myself in the past. But not anymore.

I don’t think it’s that anything has particularly changed in the exterior world – the only real difference is inside myself. I’m looking at things differently these days, and while I will no doubt still make mistakes, I can see that actually, I’m not doing too badly. In fact, right now, I’m doing pretty good! I feel hopeful, and happy with where I’m at.

Content. Damn, that’s a nice place to be. Not content in the ‘will never push self again’ way, but in the ‘yeah, you’re doing good, keep at it’ way. In this past month I’ve managed to get my new banner made, hired Web Wyvern to do my website redesign, step back from editing for others, and kick my FB group back into gear.

And I’m in the process of finalizing my next release, Sekhmet’s Desire. I can’t wait to share it with you all! It’s a good book and I reckon that if you’ve enjoyed any of my previous work, you’ll enjoy this as well.

Everything just feels GOOD. And it’s such a nice place to be in. I want to hold onto this for as long as possible. I want this to never go away. But I know that if I slump again, I’ll just pick myself up again, and again, as many times as I need to.

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My Career, My Way

With so much changing in my day to day life – adjusting to life with chronic illness, new house, new routines (my teen has decided to give high school a go! We haven’t had this level of structure in our lives for seven years) – it’s been the perfect time to stop and assess where I’m going with my career.

Caveat: I don’t think it’s a decision you make once. I think it’s a thing you should revisit from time to time, and I think that you make the best choices for yourself at the time, and that those choices are flexible and can change depending on what’s happening both in the publishing industry, and in your own life. But I believe those choices should always be made with this question in mind: What works best for me?

It turns out that I’ve been doing a lot of things that are not the best for me. One of those has been falling into the trap of Comparisonitis, which only shows me how ‘not enough’ that I am. A dear friend sent me this link yesterday, and it was timely, because I have been slowly pulling away from comparing myself to others, and focusing on what is that I can do. And what I can’t. I’ve got my own ladder to climb, so I need to stop paying any attention to other peoples ladders.

For instance, when I get realistic, I can’t spend hours every day writing (I’m ill, I homeschool, I have a house to run, and lots of pick ups and drop offs and the like). I can’t put a book out a month (I would burn out SO fast). I can’t write to market (I tried with my Ebony series, but that didn’t go so well). I can’t be on social media tonnes (epic levels of procrastination happen when I do!).

But I can write books that I love and am passionate about, they might not fit the genres bang on, but are full of interesting and wonderful things, characters you will love or hate, worlds that you can get lost in. Books that will be released when I’m confident they are ready, never before. Books that are so me that no matter the genre, I’m sure that if you’ve enjoyed one of my books, you’d enjoy any of them (even if you have a genre preference, and don’t we all?).

And, when I am on social media? I can be my authentic self, and strive to make connections. I can be real, and raw, and open, and honest, and you will know that whatever I’m saying or doing is an extension of who I am, even if that might seem to change over time, it’s all still me.

And the whole point of this post? It’s to declare – to you, and more importantly, to me – that finally I’m embracing who I am, and letting go of all the noise in the publishing world that says that you have to do A, B, and C in order to succeed. I will be doing my best to no longer buy into the crush and rush and madness, but instead make decisions based on who I am, and what I can do.

This is my career, and I’m going to do it my way.

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Two Festivals and a Convention

The first half of the year seems to have passed me in a whirl of activity. Not only did we put our house on the market and purchase another one, but just four days after we moved (honestly, it was two weeks after we went unconditional that we moved! I like to do things quickly) I was on a plane to Australia for the first time in almost two decades.

Two. Decades.

How has it been so long since I left the country? I mean, I KNOW why, but still, it was amazing to think that much time had passed. Due to the fact my eldest is only 14, it means this was also my first trip out of the country since having kids. It was kind of weird to think they were on a whole other island than me, but for the most part I forgot I was outside of New Zealand.

Sydney is beautiful, by the way. If you haven’t been there before, I recommend it. There is a gorgeous mix of old and new buildings, though the older ones are my fav, and the ones that have plants growing all over them, their glass shining brilliantly alongside the green, like they’re out of the best kind of future (or Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a future I could live with).

Our primary reason for being in Sydney was the Writers’ Festival. It was my first time ever attending such a massive writerly thing, and so great to do it with my crew from Te Papa Tupu; they are like a warm security blanket when you’re out there in new spaces, and our shared meals and conversations really embellished the whole event. It was an amazing experience, and I’d definitely recommend it. I came away with my mind buzzing, lots of thoughts and things to learn more on – and a HUGE stack of books. It’s amazing I stayed under the luggage weight.

Two weeks later was the Auckland Writers’ Festival, which was also really cool (though I’m a little horrified by how much more expensive books are in New Zealand than Australia. It was a good reminder of why I stick to digital or library borrows most of the time). Different to Sydney, but also similar. I’m getting a feel for these things now. I went to a really cool workshop on creativity with the lovely Kathryn Burnett, and ended up with a mind explosion of an idea, totally out of my norm (okay, not totally, there will be intense situations, relationship conflict, and monsters of some sort…)

And finally, two weeks after that, I attended our National SFF convention in Rotorua. This time I took the whole whanau, and it was really cool to get to do some touristy stuff with them between panels. I got to be on stage a couple of times, participating in the Mythology panel, as well as one entitled Hot and Steamy in Rotorua – which, I believe, was the only ‘adult content’ panel on the programme. I think that’s pretty epic 😉 We had a great set of panellists, and an excellent audience who engaged in the conversation beautifully. I think it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a panel.

And now it’s JUNE. And I only have six months left of the year to get on with things – and I’ll be outlining what that will look like in my next post. For now, I think I’m still recovering from the first half of the year…

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Coming clean

I’m currently in the process of doing a massive overhaul of my writerly systems, part of which includes a website update coming soon, but right now, I need to announce something that I’ve been hiding in the shadows…

You see, a little over a year ago I was not in a very good place; if you’re a regular here you might have picked up on that lol. I’d been really depressed, exhausted, in pain – for a long time. We now know that was/is Fibromyalgia. At the time, I didn’t. I just knew shit wasn’t good. We were gearing up to move home, Nana had died, I was overtaxed on so many levels, and struggling with my mental health as well as my physical health.
So, I ran away from it all in the best way that writers know how.

I started a secret penname.

Have you recovered from that news yet?

I know, I know, I’m typically a very open person, but for a time there, I needed to be someone else. I needed to not be Cassie, to not even be J.C. Those people had done cool things, had some fans, had people waiting on books. Those people had expectations hanging over them; and yes, those were mostly placed by myself (I can own that), because when you’re already struggling, it’s super easy to smother yourself in guilt.

So, I became Nova. I basked in anonymity, and somewhere along the line, realized that actually, she’s as much me as J.C. is. Neither are false, but Nova gave me a new name to hide behind, a name that meant nothing to anyone but me. Allowing me to write whatever the hell I wanted to write. To be bolder than I had been in the past.

These are good things to embrace.

Thankfully, this past eight months or so has seen a lot of awesome transitions for me. I’ve been able to develop my writing via the amazing opportunity that is Te Papa Tupu. I’ve had my diagnosis and have been able to work on my health to the point where things are okay most of the time. I’m always tired and in pain, but I can handle that. And, I’m on amazing meds that have the dulled the poison-tipped claws of my mental health beast so that it’s only a small thing that mewls in the corner of my brain, rather than sitting on a throne admiring its handiwork.

Which brings me here. To the point at which I also realize that running two pennames entirely separate is completely ridiculous for a person such as me, and also, where I finally feel like I can bring the two together; bring all of me together. The only difference moving forward is that J.C. will be focused on NZ based fiction, and Nova will be responsible for writing all the other things. And it will all be here. Somewhere.

From now on I’ll be finding a way to make this place all about Cassie. Because it’s all, always, been just me. And my pennames can flit around doing exactly what they feel like. Which is going to be interesting, and fun.

If you’d like to check out what I’ve been up to, you can start with this freebie – the first book in the series is coming out soon (if you like adventure, Egyptian gods, and magic, it might be a thing for you) – and this novella is a prequel to that, involving the mythical Fountain of Youth.

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2019 – the year ahead

2019 only feels like it really began at the start of February, and even then, it was a slow start to the year. I spent all of January working my butt off to get Butcherbird done and delivered on time, and during the final pass I was so happy with what I was seeing. I was proud. I AM proud. I’m confident it’s my best book yet, and that’s a really nice feeling compared to the usual nerves, anxiety and sick in my stomach feeling I normally get when I finish a book.

So, it’s off with Huia now, and the wait has begun. But I don’t have time to think about that, because there are so many other things to do! This year is going to be a busy one with more travel than ever before – there are writers festivals to attends, conventions too, a joyous assortment that has me slightly worried about how on earth I’m going to manage my chronic illnesses, but I know I’ll find a way.

Because I’m more in control now. Sure, flare ups happen, but I’ve done heaps of reading and learning, and for the first time ever I’m actually okay about a slower pace. In the past I’ve often referred to myself as the tortoise, rather than the hare, but that’s truer than ever. I rest, a lot. I look after myself more – because I know that’s the only way I can keep doing the things I love. I still have days where I’m all ‘fuck I hate my illness’, because ugh, it’s annoying as hell, but on the flip side I feel like I’m in a better place than I’ve been in years and if it hadn’t been for finally seeing a Dr who was willing to look deeper and not brush off my issues, I wouldn’t have arrived here. I’d still be struggling with my mental illness, still be crashing and burning on a regular basis. Still be dealing with the frustrating belief that I SHOULD be able to do so much more because I WANTED to, desperately.

But, I can’t. Actually. And I shouldn’t. And while the want, the drive, the desire is still there, I’m okay to potter along at my own pace. I’m good with that.

Ahhhh, peace.

Anyway, this post was meant to be about what’s in store for the year! Goals, and hopes and dreams and whatnot. I think I can summarise those pretty easily though.

  1. Enjoy all there is to enjoy about my amazing writer life.
  2. Read over 100 books (I’m already well on the way! Check out my challenge here).
  3. Rewrite and knock Juniper into shape for publishing.
  4. Do some rebranding for J.C. Hart.
  5. Try not to think too hard about Butcherbird (I SO want to share it with everyone).

There will be other writing projects as well, I know that. But I’m still formulating what I want everything to look like. And, a kind of, grand reveal… I’ve been keeping a secret, but it’ll all be out in the open soon 😉 and I’m looking forward to when that happens as well.

Right, I think that’s it for now! If you missed my journals from Te Papa Tupu, then you can find those here. It was such a great programme to be part of, and I hope that one day in the future I’ll be able to be part of it as a mentor.

I hope 2019 is treating you well so far – it feels a lot different to last year, in a lot of good ways.

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2018 Wrap-up

This has been a big year. Maybe not in the ways I’d have liked it to be, but sometimes we don’t get a choice about that. Sometimes we just need to make the most of the hand we’re dealt.

And this year I was dealt a bunch of things, both good and bad. We started out the year by selling our house in Paraparaumu, packing and moving back home to Taranaki. It was a huge relief for all of us to be here, and within a few months it felt like we’d never left.

Except we did, and things changed. Mostly things in our family, because our friendships were still tight and intact when we came home. However, my health wasn’t good, in fact, none of our health was amazing, we’d all deteriorated in ways which were hard to explain. It wasn’t until just a few months ago that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which explains why I have struggled so much for so long now.

I’m getting to grips with that now. Making changes, making new plans that are realistic within the confines of my illness.

Looking back I can see that I didn’t really set any goals for this year, and it was probably just as well. Nana had not long died, we were all caught up with the moving process; I had no headspace to think about what came next. Despite that, it’s been a pretty good year for me. I had a short story published in Cthulhu: Land of the Long White Cloud, and then went to launch it at Armageddon, along with a panel – which was really cool!

I also got selected as a mentee for the Te Papa Tupu incubator programme, which has been such an amazing experience. I feel like this has been an accelerated learning path for me, with my mentor highlighting my weak spots and helping me shore them up. While it’s meant I haven’t published anything new this year for J.C. Hart aside from that one short story, I’m confident that I’m a better writer than I was and that everything I do going forward with be a step up. If you want to read my journal posts from my time in the mentorship, you can find those here.

Other notable things? I’m still here! lol some days that seems like enough. I challenged myself to read 70 books this year and hit that yesterday (check them out here, and feel free to add me as a friend). I think I’ll still fit a couple more in though – it is the holiday season after all, even if I’m not done working for the year.

I’m still mulling on what 2019 is going to look like for me, but I’m hoping in general it’s a slightly easier year, one with less disasters, less stress, less pain. I hope 2018 was good to you though – that there were some high points, and not too many low ones – and that you all have a merry festive season.

mdeI’m still mulling on what 2019 is going to look like for me, but I’m hoping in general it’s a slightly easier year, one with less disasters, less stress, less pain. I hope 2018 was good to you though – that there were some high points, and not too many low ones – and that you all have a merry festive season.

Aroha nui. 

xxx

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booksMy second post for the Māori Literature Trust is now live! This one is about my love of books, and my love of creepy things as well.

You can check it out here.

If you are a GoodReads user, feel free to add me as a friend! I make sure to set a goal for the challenge they do yearly, currently I’m at 57/70 books for 2018, so, well on track to meet it by the end of the year.

When I was a child my mother worried that I didn’t get out and spend enough time with friends, but who needs friends when you have books?

I’m joking! I’m joking. I have many wonderful friends.

But I also have many wonderful books.

I spent a lot of my childhood embedded in pages. Mum didn’t need to worry, the books were taking very good care of me, leading me on all kinds of adventures through this world and countless others.

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The Struggle is Real

fshbtyThis is a hard one for me to post about. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but feel like it’s important to be real about things, so this is me being real. I’m not looking for any sympathy, just sharing my journey.

I’ve been doing it pretty hard for a few years now, lots of ups and downs and me coming up with reasons why it’s all totally normally and acceptable.

You see, my life is busy! I home school three energetic kids, each with their own special needs, I write, I edit, I keep everyone fed and clothed. I also have bipolar 2, and anxiety. Of course I’m tired. It’s totally normal, to be expected even. Right?

Right.

But it hit the point where I had to admit that I wasn’t okay. I ran out of excuses and I had to do something about it. And that something was to go and see a Dr, take a bazillion tests, and get a diagnosis.

Turns out I have Fibromyalgia (possibly with a side of Chronic Fatigue, I’m waiting on a specialist appointment). The symptoms I’m living with are not new (have in fact been around for years), however it’s been a bit of an adjustment getting my head around this diagnosis and realizing that it’s not just a thing that I’m going to get over if I go to bed earlier or do more yoga.

People often say things along the line of ‘I don’t know how you do it all’, and I am often thinking, ‘I don’t either’. Hell, I don’t think I DO ‘do it all’, at least, not in the way I would like. Not in the way I believe I should be capable of. It’s kind of just enough in all areas to keep things ticking over, but if one thing is getting more attention, then another thing is sliding until I’ve got the energy to drag it back up to where it needs to be. It’s a constant juggling act where I have to make decisions about what I can manage on any given day.

Now I know why. I have a legitimate reason for all the aches and pains, for my constant fatigue. For always juggling. I’m not a ‘flake’, I’m just not super well.

And it sucks. It really sucks. No one wants a chronic health issue. Sure, it could be worse. I could be dying. But it’s still pretty crappy. I was hoping for a magic pill that would ease everything, but it’s just not that simple.

What it does mean is that I need to change my expectations of myself. I’m not going to get back to the level of energy and output I had just like that. There is no quick fix. I need to try different things to see what works for me, and most importantly, go a little easier on myself. Or a lot, depending on who you ask 😉

I feel like these past few years have seen me constantly pulling back on my expectations. And while I fully understand why that’s important – now more than ever – I feel so much resistance to it. I want so badly to be doing all the things. It’s why those things are in my life! And I’m sure as hell not going to let illness get in the way of me achieving my dreams. Though I might need to modify some of my desired timelines for said dreams.

Three weeks ago I started taking antidepressants which are meant to help with Fibro. It’s also meant to be pretty good for bipolar 2 and anxiety, so maybe this will be a magic pill after all, just not the one pill and done kind. My pain levels have decreased a bit, but I’m still in that ‘wait and see’ zone – these things take time. I’ve never been a very patient person when it comes to myself, but I think maybe I’m finally learning that lesson.

And while I wait and try out new things to help my health, I’ll keep writing and making the most of the energy I do have. If I’ve learned anything these past weeks it’s that regardless of whether you’re unwell or not, you need to make good choices about what you spend your time on. Life is short, energy is limited, and we live in a crazy busy world. Surround yourself with awesome people who lift you up and make time for the things you love – read those books, watch that movie, play that game, hug the people you love, laugh lots.

That’s what I’ll be doing.

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I am a Writer. I am Māori.

My Te Papa Tupu mentorship is going well so far, and part of the expectations of it are that we’ll post monthly journals over on the Māori Literature Trust website. It felt strange to be writing for a different audience – this place here is well worn and familiar. I know who is stopping by most of the time, and I’ve been flying to Wellingtondoing it for so long that it’s an easy thing (even if sometimes I go months without doing it!).

But this feels different. Like I’m stepping out into the open as a Māori author. I don’t know the audience, and they don’t know me. It took me so long to write my first post, and probably as long to write my second – I’m hoping that when I start my third shortly it’ll come a little easier.

Anyway, you can find my first post here. It’s got some thoughts on my origins as a writer, and also my submission to Te Papa Tupu. I hope you’ll stop by to check it out as well as those from my fellow mentees, who are all awesome people!

I come from a family of storytellers; they seem to be able to spin the spoken word into magic. Put me on the spot and my words get tangled in my mouth and become something awkward and heavy. I can never quite seem to articulate my thoughts that way, but give me a pen? Give me a pen and everything changes.