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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.

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Cthulhu: Land of the Long White Cloud

cthulhu-land-of-the-long-white-cloud-front-pageLate last year I got an email asking if I’d be interested in submitting a story for a Cthulhu inspired anthology, gathering stories from New Zealand writers.

Of course, I said yes.

I’d never set out to intentionally write a Lovecraftian themed story, though cosmic horror/wonder and things which are beyond our understanding are present in other stories I’d written. It was a really cool challenge, and I’m  pleased that my story ‘Te Ika’ is appearing in this collection. (Super excited to get my copy and smell the pages and sigh breathlessly when I see my name on the page!)

New Zealand—Aotearoa—Land of the Long White Cloud: the island remnants of the sunken continent of Zealandia. With its boiling geysers, active volcanoes, earthquakes, deep water fjords and lush forests of fern, these are realms once home to forgotten creatures like the giant Moa bird Dinornis. But there is something else…

In this collection we find an Aotearoa with the proud history, myths, and legends of the Māori, and the impacts of the white settler’s later presence, and the blended society that encompasses both, but we see the shadow of other things.

Herein lies the cosmic horror of the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos in an anthology featuring Lovecraftian tales from some of New Zealand’s finest speculative fiction writers.

Stay brave. Because here there be monsters.

You can grab your copy from the publishers here.

2018, books, butcherbird, july, Sun-Touched, Uncategorized, writing

July, already?

Hello!!

Well overdue for an update, I know. So, let’s get into it.

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Back to my weekly sessions at the library – yay!

Back in April I submitted Butcherbird to Te Papa Tupu – which is an incubator for Māori writers. And at the end of May, I found out that I’d been accepted into the programme! I was blown away. I’d managed to convince myself that there was no way I would get in, so it was a total surprise when I got the call. There were tears of joy. (I have a great many feelings about this which are hard to put into words, but I will be doing my best soon.)

What this means is that I’m going to be working on Butcherbird for the rest of this year with the help of my lovely, intelligent, funny and amazing mentor, Whiti Hereaka. She’s given me oodles of notes, highlighted all my problematic spots, and given me a tonne of wonderful resources to help me make the story as amazing as I can. I’m over the moon to have been paired with her and can tell already that this process is going to level up my writing in a big way.

What else does that mean? I won’t have anything to release this year, probably. And that’s okay. I mean, it grates at me, but I’ve been feeling like I needed to skill up and this is the perfect opportunity to do that. I have faith that every book I put out from here forward is going to benefit from this experience, so I’m investing my all into it.

There are still other projects on the go… My partner in crime, Meryl Stenhouse, has been busy moving houses, but we’re hoping to make some progress with our shared world books really soon. Juniper keeps knocking on the door in my brain. She wants to come out and play again and I want that too! She’s so much fun to hang out with.

And of course, there is that sequel to Sun Touched that people keep asking me about… It is going to happen. I’ve got some required reading to get through, but then I’m dragging a copy of Sun Touched from my bookshelf and I am going to mark that sucker up, full of things I need to correct and notes for the next book – and then once I’ve got those all written down somewhere else, I’m going to give that copy away to one of the loyal fans who have been asking about the sequel basically since the first book dropped 😉

The last few months have been all over the place, but I feel like we’re finally getting settled in and starting to get some good rhythms in place. Having moved cities with kids twice, I now know that it can literally take months to get back to that place, even if the move is one everyone is happy about.

Let’s not do that again for a while huh?

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Changing pace

IMG_20180225_175714_333Well, we’ve moved! Despite the fact that we’re still unpacking, we’ve settled into life really quickly – I guess that’s the joy of coming home to a place that we love. It’s been this beautiful re-entry into a life that has also been slightly surreal. Even Hubby said it’s almost as if we never left. A lot of things have changed internally – in who we are, in the way our family is, the things that we discovered while we were gone – but the foundations, the relationships we have here, the group that we helped established, it’s still there and as strong as ever. How awesome is that?

I’m back at writing, though it’s going a little slower at the moment as we work through unpacking. Plus, life is just busier here, and I hadn’t really accounted for that. We’d been in the house twenty minutes before my lovely nephew was over for a play, and the first full day here we were off on a museum explore. The kids are so keen to hit their favourite spots and see all their friends. It’s been almost non-stop!

And meanwhile, I’ve been exhausted. I think that the last few months have really been hard and while I’ve handled it so much better than I ever imagined I would, it’s taken a toll and been building up. I had a feeling that once we were home I’d crash – the grief from Nana dying, the stress of getting a house ready to sell, the sale process, then all the cleaning, packing and finally moving and unpacking… well, it’s enough to make anyone exhausted right?

So I’m changing pace a bit, and that’s okay. My writing was slower while working through all the above, and it’s still slower while I defrag from everything and get myself into a good place. It bothered me something wicked last week but I’ve come to accept it now.

Sometimes, you just have to go slower. Sometimes, getting your head straight, finding your feet, establishing good new patterns is more important than being fast. I’m just going to take it easy, at least for now.

What does that mean for this year’s releases? I’m not sure yet. I’m not in a place to be able to see that clearly. I’m still working on Juniper’s book (and loving it! I have some new processes that I’ll talk about in a bit), I’m still waiting to hear back from my first reader about Butcherbird, and I still have the Sun Touched sequel percolating in the background. I just don’t have any release dates for these things yet.

It’ll happen. And it’ll be worth the wait.

life, Uncategorized, writing

Things to calm the brain

The past few months have been kind of chaotic. Despite that chaos, I’ve been making good progress on my goals and I think this is in part due to finding things to help my brain along.

You see, I have bipolar 2. My brain can be a bit of a dick sometimes. That’s enough to contend with most days, but add in grief from my Nana dying, prepping a house to sell, selling said house, and packing to move cities among regular life and other things – well, it’s been an interesting few months. I fully expected to fall over at some point and not get back up. I’m still standing. And actually doing better than I have in a very long time despite the aforementioned challenges.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on some tools that helped me – and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear those!

Friend and fellow author, Richard Parry, introduced me to the video below. It’s been a staple in my rotation ever since. I haven’t played the game myself but it’s an excellent meditation.

I played Tales from the Borderlands last year (absolutely stellar game – right up there in my top 5 at present) and discovered this song. It’s gorgeous and when I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and close my eyes everything disappears. Bliss.

And those noise-cancelling headphones? AMAZING. I picked up a set of Backbeats Pro 2 through a reward programme and could not be happier. Sometimes I walk around with just the active noise cancelling on – it dulls the background noises and makes my brain a happier place to live. And when I do want sound? Well, the quality is much better than my old cheap headphones or my tinny phone. SO HAPPY.

20180208_200024Another thing that helps is getting out in nature – I’ve been taking the kids to the park or beach most nights after dinner. They run and play, I make notes for the next days writing or read. Sometimes the view is a little distracting and I don’t get much done – that’s cool too. Brains need time to declutter themselves.

I try and make time to do the other things I love too: play games on my PS4, read books that I actually enjoy, watch a range of excellent TV shows and movies, take time out of the house to be ALONE.

That last one is pretty important. I need time alone. Like, NEED. My headphones give me the illusion of it when I can’t actually be alone, but there is nothing that quite compares to a little solitude. Not for me, anyway.

What do YOU do to keep yourself going?

 

 

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Kotahi Bay Quartet – coming soon!

Just a quick update to let you know that the ENTIRE Kotahi Bay series will be available in one volume from the 12th of Feb. It’s currently on pre-order at a super low price of 99c, so if you haven’t read it yet you can grab the whole thing for the price of book one! I’ll be raising the price on the 15th of Feb, so get in quick.

kotahi quartet

I’m working on a print version as well and will update when that’s available.

butcherbird, January, new zealand author, Uncategorized, writing

On first readers

Today I sent Butcherbird to my first reader, which is both exciting and terrifying.

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What’s a first reader? Well, some people call them an alpha reader, but either way, they are the first person to read your work. Often, the only person or people to read the first draft in all it’s rough and raw glory. We writers are sensitive souls, so it’s not always good for our writer health to be sharing such formative versions of our work*.

Which means that it’s very important to choose your first reader carefully. Some people opt for a supportive partner (mine does not read fiction, so that’s out), but I’ve found a good one in my lovely friend and fellow author Leigh K Hunt. She laughs at all my jokes, can see past the mess to the gold underneath, to my intention and goals, and gives me excellent pointers for honing it into something beautiful. Butcherbird is a little different from the Kotahi Bay books (no romance for starters!), so I’m going to be hanging out to find out what she says about it – being the first book in a new series the nerves are higher than normal. But…

It’s time.

Time to get some feedback. Time to make a plan for the rest of the series. Time to start thinking about covers and sharing things with you as it gets edited. I’m so excited about this book, folks. I hope you’re going to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’ve already got the outline for book two, though I think I’m going to wait till after we’ve moved before I dive in. Don’t need to have another big life change happening while I write each of the subsequent books 😉 I’m hoping to knock out a smaller, fun project in that time, so watch this space.

This is going to be a good year. I just know it.

* Some writers are different, of course, and never feel any doubt, but I can’t see me ever being one of those. Others write amazing first copy and while they swear it makes them sweat when they let you read their stuff you can’t help but be sure they are kicking back with a beer waiting for the inevitable praise because their first drafts are just that damn good. Yes, I’m looking at you, Richard Parry.

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Goodbye, Nana

On the 30th of November my grandmother died.

She’d had a massive stroke on the 26th and we rushed up to be with her. She wasn’t conscious during those last days, but she was responsive in other ways. I spent two of those nights sitting with her, with my mother and aunt one night, and my mother and brother another. I got to share stories with the family who were able to come, stroll down memory lane, and say all the things I needed to before she passed. It was a really precious time.

It still doesn’t seem like it was enough.

She was cremated a few days later. Those attending had the chance to draw on her plain pine coffin, or write messages. It was pretty cool.

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This month on the 20th we gathered again – more people this time, not just her immediate family – to celebrate her life. The memorial was great and I heard a lot of stories I’ve heard before, as well as some new ones. Saw people I hadn’t seen in over a decade, spent time in her home, looking through all her treasures and hearing stories triggered by different items. ‘I remember when’, or ‘do you remember when?’

She played such a huge role in our family, and it’s strange that now as the executors of her will work toward resolving that, and items start to leave the house for their new homes, I feel sadder than ever before.

As my uncle said earlier today, until that point it seemed like she might just come home. It was a nice fantasy. One that is over.

R.I.P Nana. As my littlest said we know you loved us, we’ll always love you and you’ll always be in our hearts.