publishing, writing

Guest post @ Writing Down Daydreams

Yesterday I guest posted over at the lovely Darian Smith‘s  blog about taking the plunge into self publishing. It was neat to be able to reflect on the things I’ve learned from the process, so why not head on over and give it a read?

Thanks!

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Maori Mythology

Following on from yesterdays post, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite myths from Maori culture. I’ve been doing some reading, and trying to find a way to mash everything into one post, but I just can’t seem to do it.

So, instead I am going to post some of the images I have come across, and let them speak for themselves. I’ll preface that by saying that one of the things that has always really appealed to me about the myths and legends of the Maori is how deeply connected they are with the world around us. As a child who was very prone to floating away with the fairies, the earthly basis of these stories helped to keep me grounded and gave me a sense of wonder about the world around me.

Maori Mythology

I remember driving to Auckland and passing through gorges and hilly terrain, and my mother telling me that these sheer drops and blunt cliff faces were shaped by the sons of Papatuanuku and Ranginui when they tried to carve their way free from the small space between their parents.

Maori Mythology, New Zealand

And I remember staring at the Kaitake ranges near our house, looking for the shape of the woman who had laid down to rest and never got up (I was trying to find a myth about this and couldn’t, so perhaps its just a story my mother made up 😉 )

And perhaps it was this grounding of the otherworld firmly in the real world that helped feed my fantasies and drew me inevitably, endlessly towards speculative fiction.

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Anna Caro – Writer, Editor (pure awesome).

I’ve known Anna for a few years now, have been staff with her at both Kiwiwriters and SpecFicNZ. We’ve edited an anthology together, and I have the pleasure of being in a writers group with her (online). So I can definitely testify to her awesomeness. Fate (a.k.a Dan over at SpecFicNZ) threw us together in the Matrix of Doom this year, and so I got to interview her, which is something new for us! Strangely, all this prior knowledge didn’t make it any easier for me to come up with questions. Thanks for taking the time to answer them, Anna!

Having read many of your stories, I know that you are not afraid to write about things that others might shy away from. Personally, I love that your characters are unique, and face many challenges beyond what your regular writer might pit against their creations. What are the topics that you most enjoy exploring in your fiction?

I love writing about characters who are outsiders in some way. I don’t mean the type who wander round lonely clifftops in the rain making maudlin pronouncements, but those who have a myriad of points of tension and exclusion and friction with the world in which they live, who are all the wrong shape, physically and metaphorically, for the space they’ve been allotted. Who are fighting against the society they live in, but have to adapt themselves in so many ways to survive in it, and for whom even the usual paths of rebellion may not be an option.

Recently much of my writing has been concerned with disability and bodies in some way. Blueprints, which was included in the anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land, is set in a time when everyone who can is leaving Earth for a more hospitable planet. The story is about those who can’t. Millie, to be published in the forthcoming Outlaw Bodies anthology, is about a woman whose parents and doctors made decisions about her body when she was a child, and the repercussions of those. My almost-finished novella-in-progress plays with the oft quoted idea of autistic people being or feeling like we’re from another planet, and is about an autistic woman who has chosen to live on (literally) another planet.

What other areas are you looking at delving into in your future writing?

I’m currently planning a novella set in a near-future world of environmental decline, when scarcity is just beginning to bite in places it never has before. I suspect that may be harder to write than post-apocalyptic fiction. It also touches on child refugee issues and power and abuse – but I think I’m most apprehensive about the fact it’s primarily a romance. That’s not my usual style!

More broadly, I’m hoping to write more poetry and I’m quite determined that next year will see the production of a novel.

You’ve published quite a few short stories now, as well as a co-editing two short story anthologies—in what ways has this combination approach benefitted (or hindered) your writing? If you had to choose only one to do for the rest of your life, which would be the ultimate winner?

Developing writing as a craft has given me a lot of insight into what makes a good story, and so has editing. More specifically, submitting stories has given me an overview of the processes editors use (for Regeneration, which is currently open to submissions, we’re using an online submissions manager, which is making things a lot easier, and which I learned about through submitting to publications which already use it) and editing has reinforced something I knew in theory but only half believed: that rejected stories are not (necessarily) bad stories. And both have helped me make a lot of connections, contacts and friends, who have been of great help in ways I didn’t necessarily predict.

On the negative side, it’s a time suck. I keep meaning to take an editing-free year and it keeps not happening. This year I’ve been just one member of an editorial board working on an issue of an already established publication so it hasn’t been so bad, but the anthologies have effectively taken out at least a couple of months of writing time each.

If I had to choose between writing and editing, writing would win, no contest. There’s no way to answer this without clichés, so I’ll just shamelessly indulge in them: editing is something I enjoy doing, writing is something I need to do. Editing enhances my life; writing is integral to it. I’m planning to keep doing both for the foreseeable future though.

When trying to decide on the theme for an anthology, what are the key elements you are looking for in that theme?

For both the anthologies of New Zealand speculative fiction (A Foreign Country and the forthcoming Regeneration) we wanted something that was specific enough to give a shape to the anthology – and generate some ideas for writers – but not so specific it inhibited our goal of showcasing a range of speculative fiction from around the country. The theme of ‘regeneration’ also marks the anthology as a sequel, is, I think, very relevant in NZ at the moment given the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes and we’re hoping may result in a few stories with more positive endings.

For Tales for Canterbury, something similar applied, but given the very limited time frame we were working with, only a few authors were able to write something specifically for the theme. So we wanted something that most writers could fit something into. Because the focus was even more broad (including multiple genres) we divided it into sections to make it more structured. We played with a few variations before settling on Survival, Hope and Future, which I hope acknowledged the reality but also reflected a path forward.

I also have some very tentative ideas for future anthologies which are more thematically specific, and those are based on both my own interests and where there’s a gap in what’s already available that I’d like to see filled.

Finally, if you could impart one piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?

When I was at school one of my teachers had a poster of what I think was a Sufi proverb : “Trust in God, but tie your camel”. I may not be religious, but the idea it’s important to both follow high ideals, but pay attention to the practical side, has always appealed to me. You can follow your dreams and believe this is what you were meant to do, but don’t let that stop you proofreading and paying the power bill. Paying attention to the boring side, making sure other parts of your life are in order, being open to criticism and the interests of your readers do not somehow sully or devalue your writing – quite the opposite.

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SpecFicNZ Blogging Week Begins!

It totally crept up on me this year! Since I stepped down from the Secretary role, I’ve not been quite so in the ‘behind the scenes’ loop as previous years, which meant that this wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. However I saw someone post about it just a few days ago and it set my mind to thinking – what could I post about this year?

I have a few thoughts, but for the most part I’ll just be winging it. I’ll have an interview with my friend Anna later in the week, and tomorrow I’ll get to post the second part to Simon Petrie’s story ‘A Night to Remember’. He is writing it THIS week! How cool is that? You can read part one here.

Any thoughts? Any particular topic spanning New Zealand and Speculative Fiction that you’d like to see me blog about? If you have any suggestions (or questions!), throw them at me and I will see what I can come up with. Personally, I am looking forward to exploring some thoughts I’ve been having about my culture and upbringing and how those things have helped shape me as a story teller.

I’ll sign off for now, though I encourage you to check out the SpecFicNZ website at some point as I am sure there will be some links going live in the near future to other posts from Day 1 of blogging week. You can read more about it’s history, and past posts, here.

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Cough, splutter, cough

I’ve been sick for the last week, which has been incredibly not fun. The saving grace is that the kids managed to avoid catching the same thing, which would have been terrible. I can’t breathe, and breathing is so very important! Well, today I can breathe a little easier, finally, but no running or jumping for me. It almost kills me lol

This has meant not as much writing has happened recently. Which is a shame. I started the month off with gusto, and then fall flat a little, though not because of the story – because of ME.

My story is awesome. I’m sitting around 13.5K at the moment, and there are around 3 scenes/5,000 words to go. This should put me right at the bottom end of the word count guidelines for the place I want to submit it, and gives me plenty of room to expand where necessary and play in this wonderful world I have.

I have to say that I think this novella is the least populated that I have written to date. Considering the length of it, that is. I’ve had short stories with only three characters, one with just two. But when the other main characters are a baby and a dead person, it makes dialogue a little tricky at times. I firmly believe dialogue is important though, so its lucky that I know from experience that people talk to babies ALL THE TIME, just like they talk to cats and other things that can’t talk back.

Anyway, I’m kind of hoping to finish up the first draft this week. Then I can let it simmer for a week before giving it a tidy up and passing it on to my crit group. It feels really great to have set the goal of writing it in one month and actually knowing that I can achieve that. Does wonders for my confidence as a writer.

Now I just need to set some firm goals for the StR rewrite. And follow through on those, as well. I’m starting to get a better shape of my day sorted out in my head, seeing patterns of time blocks that will work for me. It’s not just a matter of making sure I don’t waste those on unimportant things, like facebook, and twitter… damn those evil sites which eat time. Maybe it’s time to go on haitus again?

Anyway, enough about me. Tell me about you! What are you all up to at the moment?

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June, already

I’m still getting my head around the fact that it’s June already. I know I keep saying this, but the year is flying past. May kicked my ass. It was one of those months that simultaneously blew past, but also dragged on forever. It was pretty hellish. June is already looking better, and I really hope it stays that way.

My big goal for this month is to get the first draft of my new novella (Burn) written. I began on June 1st, and am currently sitting at just over 6,500 words. I’m hoping to hit 10K by the end of the approaching weekend, which should mean I am around halfway done – that said, I am lousy at predicting word counts, so that could well change.

I’ve done things a little differently this time, having sourced a bunch of images on Pinterest to help guide my character, and myself, through the plot of the story. Several of them have scenes crafted around them, while others just contribute to the general feel of the story for me. I’m really enjoying writing it so far, and have to say that this month, first drafts are easy!

I’m quietly hoping to wrap it up before the end of the month so that I can claim some more time for StR. I only managed 5,000 odd words on it in May, when my goal was 10,000. I feel like getting back to basics with this novella has helped shift my head from the ‘must be perfect’ mind set that was choking my progress just a few weeks ago. Fingers crossed huh?

What’s happening for you this month?

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Looking for inspiration

I really need to get a new header for my blog sorted, but have no idea where to start. So I thought I’d put it to you:

When you read my blog, what colours come to mind?

What images/ideas/themes do you associate with me?

Will consider anything at this point. Maybe I’ll even make a couple and then put it to a vote 😉 I’m all for reader participation.

Hope you’re having a great day!

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Feeling good!

I’m up to day 7 of NPI and feeling great about where my writing is at. Not only am I actually seeing progress, but give me a couple more days and I’ll have some things sent out into the world! I’m very excited about getting back into the swing of it all.

The nicest thing though? I’m opening my document at the start of every day again. It’s natural once more, it’s just part of the process that happens once I’ve opened the laptop (which is now sitting prettily on my desk, sans PC, though I am still organizing my assorted ‘stuff’ around it). My story sits there, I can read bits of it, skim through to find where I was at, make small changes in the lead up to my writing time.

Time which I am finding. More than my required 10 minutes even. It sometimes doesn’t happen all at once, but it’s happening. Every day. I am feeling so much better for it.

Also, on a whim, I changed my theme again… I think the other one was kind of wintery and it’s spring now, and I’m loving that spring feeling. I’ll have to get out in the garden and take some pics to sort out a new header, but the fresh green of the stock one for this theme will work for the moment.

Oh, and if you’re in NZ/AUS pop over to Helen Lowe’s blog today – the first novel in her Wall of Night series is now on sale! She’s running a competition and has some guest post lined up for the next few weeks. I have to say that while I liked the blue cover the book has in the USA, I LOVE the red one! Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.