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What’s in store for 2013

I love this period over the end of one year and the beginning of the next. I love the buzz that happens when people talk about their fresh starts, hopes and dreams for the new year. It echoes the way I feel and just makes it all so much better!

Obviously, after a pretty rough year last year I am hoping for a little bit of an easier time in 2013. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. No-one can predict these things.

This year, for me, is a lot about finishing things. I didn’t even realize this until I sat down just now and looked over the list I was posting to the blog. My other list is a lot bigger, and filled with each step required to achieve the goal – but I won’t bore you with all of that here. I am going to keep it really simple.

I want to finish Sun-Touched and submit it. It’s currently a finished first draft, and I’m really looking forward to diving back into that world and fleshing it out more, and then sending it out into the world.

I also want to finish writing Shell and Bone, get that ready and submit that as well. As for any other writing? Well, it’s purely a bonus. I am quite sure I won’t be able to resist starting something new, but these two projects are my main squeezes this year as far as I can tell.

I have a couple books that I am going to finish this year if it kills me. The first of which is Perdido Street Station. A friend recommended it to me YEARS ago. I started reading it at the beginning of 2011, and I am only about 30% through. It’s so long. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read, but there just never seemed to be a good time to finish it off. The quick reads have won out in the last couple years. Mindless books. Well, it’s time. As soon as I finish the book I am currently reading, I am switching back to Perdido until it’s done.

I also have The Artists Way sitting around. I read the intro and first chapter and that was as far as I got. Several of my good writers friends recommend it though, so this year I am finally going to work through it. I think its a good time to do that, as I really need to work on finding some balance in my life and making sure that I get time out from the every day grind to work on my creativity.

Another recommendation has been Writing The Other. I started reading this last year too, but started skipping exercises and forced myself to put the book down. It’s all very well and good reading books on writing, but the real learning happens when you put those things into practice. I decided that until I had time to do that, I was going to set the book aside.

I have a lot of learning to do. And I expect (hope) that this year will be a year of great growth. I am now able to admit that I’m a lazy writer, and I want to change that. I waste a lot of time on mindless, stupid crap, and I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s time to stop letting that little voice in my head demotivate me. Time to push past my ‘play it safe’ barrier, time to stop waiting for someone else to tell me to fix something and just get on and do it myself, because I shouldn’t rely on other people to tell me whats wrong*. Most of the time I know what’s wrong. I do. I’m just being lazy because I’m exhausted all the time.

Well, screw exhaustion. It’s not going to beat me this year. I’ve just finished reading 2k to 10k and I’m totally ready to get on the bandwagon and outline and write, and actually make the most of the extremely limited time I do have. I want to see Sun-Touched heading towards publication of some kind or another. I want to write other novels, and edit those novels and see them out in the world too. And it’s only going to happen if I put the hard work in.

So, that’s me. Really. One novel, one novella. A bunch of reading and learning and everything else that goes along with this writers gig. There are a lot of other things I am working towards, but I think they can be summed up in the words balance, and harmony. That’s what I’m hoping, for me, and our family.

*I know my writing buddies are there to help, they are amazing writers and their input is fantastic – but think how much more valuable their feedback will be to me if what I’m giving them is free of the same old things that keep cropping up? I’m pretty certain they are getting tired of seeing the same basic issues 😉 I know I would be! Time to do them, and myself, a favour. 

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Beginnings

Yesterday I woke excited, filled with glee because ZOMG I was going to start writing my new novella, “Shell and Bone”. I had been waiting for December 1st for what felt like a very long time, even though it wasn’t until fairly late in November that the idea resolved itself fully enough to actually start writing.

It struck me as odd, that I would wait for such a specific date when I had the idea, and I could have started any time, but once again I am writing alongside my writing group and there is just something about that, something that adds to the whole pure joy of a new draft.

And it IS a joy. After my initial realization that I didn’t even know how I was going to start the story, I just sat down and ran with something that I knew happened. And I think it turned out alright. In fact, I love this story already and the words are coming. I’ve only had to stop and remind myself a few times that first drafts are meant to suck, and quite frankly, I don’t care if it does – because I am having fun. And that is all that matters.

Which gets me to the point of this post. I’ve been angsting for a bit about starting over. Oh it takes so long to find the voice of the character, arg how am I going to write knowing that it’s all crap, woe is me. I’ve been editing and revising for too long and I can’t seem to just WRITE without constantly judging the quality of the words.

What a load of bollocks. I’m half convinced that I actually just enjoy the angst that comes with being a writer, because when it comes down to it, I can sit down and get on with business if I really want, and when I’ve set a deadline, a time line, a goal, whatever, 9/10 times I follow through (unless of course life slaps me in the face, or I have a writing related epiphany, or its just not the right time, and lets face it, some ideas just need longer to percolate than others).

And so I have begun. I crossed the 1k mark on day one, and I am sitting just below 2.5K on day two. I’ve thrown all my writer angst out the window and am thoroughly enjoying the thought of a month of writing. Enjoying this new beginning.

Which makes me think that perhaps this is what I need. A month off here and there. Time to recover, time to catch up on life and just let ideas sink in and develop without me hovering over them, obsessively poking sticks at them to see if they are ready yet. No one can work full tilt all the time, or at least not to their full potential, and if I am writing constantly, I am no doubt ignoring other facets of my life. And I don’t want to do that.

It seems to me that over the course of the year I have had almost as much time off as I’ve had writing, but that the words and stories I’ve been putting on the page have been better and in need of less fixing than things I’ve written in the past. It might just be that I am the kind of writer who works in chunks and who takes breaks now and then. The very idea of taking time off used to scare me because I was always afraid I’d struggle to get back into the habit, but the last few days have totally blown that belief out the window.

Anyway, I better finish up rambling on this rainy Sunday afternoon and get back to putting some words on the page.

What’s happening for you in December?

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And then it was almost December

This is the first year since I started a blog that I have been such an unreliable blogger. I mean, 2012 has thrown me some real curve balls, and the living of life has certainly overtaken much of the time I used to spend sitting here blogging. I have countless posts that were started and then abandoned as the subject matter became irrelevant or a week passed since I first started writing it and I couldn’t remember what my point was.

Do I endeavor to do better next year? Well, I’d hope so, but there is certainly no guarantee. Life is not going to get less busy, and I wouldn’t really want it to.

I’ve done very little in the way of writing this month. The ideas that began to spin at the end of October have been taking shape, and then got derailed by a passing comment someone made to me about one of my first novels. So I had to dig deeper and find something new, something different, for the novella I’m writing in December. Nothing came to mind, and that was okay, I knew something would crop up. But the month went on, things got exhausting for awhile with teething kids and sleepless nights, then a friend died and that threw me too. While that death still plays in my mind, we’re now here, almost to December, and I’ve got very little to show for the month.

Except maybe that I made it out of November. I guess the simple fact that I am alive is enough of a blessing to eradicate any of the frustrations of the month. I’m alive, and I do have an idea, and it is shiny and exciting and while I can’t seem to summon the energy to write now, I know that in just a few days time my new character will blaze onto the page and the story will devour me for the month. I’m calling it Shell and Bone for now. It’s always nice to start a project with a title of some sort or another.

So that’s me for November. I turn 32 in a few weeks time, and then it’s Christmas. I’m looking forward to BBQs, the beach, hanging out with family and friends and enjoying life. What about you?

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Plans, they keep a-changing

I’ve made a lot of plans this year, and it seems like every time I’ve been on track with one of them, something has cropped up that means I veer off in another direction, or get jolted off course altogether.

And that’s life, isn’t it?

This was meant to be the year of the novel, but it wasn’t. Apparently it was actually the year of the novella, which in some ways makes sense. Making that leap from short fiction to long can be difficult, making that leap when your family is in chaos and stress levels are through the roof is just ridiculous.

However, I DID finish writing my novel Sun-Touched, and it’s at the top of my list for revision come the new year, but Surplus to Requirements simply did not get further than about 5k into the rewrite. I couldn’t get past those opening scenes, and then the nudge to write Burn came along so I ran with that. Sometimes you have to run with things.

My writing group has been a great help in my sanity this year, and in keeping me moving forward. Even though we’ve all been busy, just knowing that these other writers give a damn and are there when I need a boost, or need to be challenged or cajoled does a great deal in keeping one foot moving in front of the other.

I think I am slowly learning to be okay about the fact that just about anything can derail a writing plan – the important lesson this year has been that no matter what else is going on in my life, writing will be there when I recover enough from life to get back to it. I can’t count the number of times this year I’ve been sure the muse has abandoned me forever, only to find that the moment my stress level has dropped below that line where I can begin to think of other things, the ideas are there, waiting for me.

And I do have ideas, good ones. I’m just starting to rough draft a new short story, as well as planning for a new novella to launch into come December. They’re both set in New Zealand, which is exciting for me, and I’m looking forward to tapping into some of my personal history, my heritage and experiences of life in NZ and using them creatively in fiction.

What have you all got lined up for the last few weeks of the year?

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I deserve a holiday!

Well, I submitted Burn yesterday and dived straight into my post submission slump.   I’ve been working hard for weeks now, on both Burn and my last assignment for University, and I know from experience that every time I finish a paper this is what happens. It’s that feeling of ‘ohthankgodthatsoverIamsoexhausted’. I managed to bounce back by the end of the day which is almost unheard of for me. YAY!

So, I have declared that I am having the rest of the month off. I plan to indulge in a lot of GW2, and catch up on episodes of TV shows I haven’t been watching due to intense sessions of study and revision. I want to read a lot of books, and basically just refresh the old brain, give it some new ideas and see what develops. And spend time with the kids, but I do a lot of that normally.

Of course, having all this new space in my head means that ideas are starting to bubble over. I was sure I had none there. Nope, nothing going on, keep moving, keep moving. But now I see that wasn’t the case, they were merely lying in wait, ready to pounce when they knew I wouldn’t be able to resist playing with them.

Bastards.

I refuse to commit anything to the screen. I’ll allow some room for them in a notebook, and let them mess around in my head but I am not writing. Not yet. I’ve earned this break!!!

Ya hear me, ideas??? I know you can hear me, though whether you listen is another matter entirely.

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SpecFicNZ Best Blogger 2012

I got a lovely email last night from the folks over at SpecFicNZ to officially notify me that I’d been awarded the ‘best blog post’ title for 2012.

I believe there is a lovely prize being sent out, along with this spiffy badge. I’m pretty chuffed about it 🙂 The winning entry was ‘The Perks of Writing in NZ’.

 

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It’s still SEPTEMBER, thank you very much

I’ve been burying my head in the sand for the last week, trying to pretend like it’s not October. It couldn’t possibly be. No way. It’s still September and I have all the time in the world.

People keep reminding me at every turn though. Oh your assignment is due soon, Cassie. Are you looking forward to being done with your paper? Don’t forget the deadline for that novella is coming up! Have you edited that short story for that anthology that’s closing soon?

I know, I know, but I just want to pretend for a little longer that I don’t actually have to get to work. That said, I AM working, one thing at a time, in tiny increments. Inching towards the finish line. There is a slow build of excitement in me as I think about the fact that a couple weeks from now I’ll be able to tick a few big goals of the year off my list. The weeks between don’t exist though, because I am going to keep pretending that it’s September until everything is finished.

So what are you going to do for the rest of September? Are you all looking forward to November?? I have a good feeling about that month!

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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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The Next Big Thing

Well, the lovely Leigh tagged me in this, so I thought I better post it up! I was going to write about Sun-Touched, which is the novel I’m going to be preparing for submission in the near future, but then changed my mind and thought I would share a little about ‘Burn‘ with you. It’s ready for it’s final pass before it’s out the door – SUPER excited to submit something. This ties in nicely with SpecFicNZ blogging week in that I get to tell you a little more about what I’ve been working on recently 🙂 I do love this story.

What is the working title of your book?

The novella has been dubbed ‘Burn’ and I’m so bad at titles that I probably won’t change it 😉

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I initially got the idea a few years ago for a short story challenge that my writers group were doing. I never got around to finishing the piece, but I did write a few hundred words of the intro. That scene still takes place in the story, with some of the original words in place even (though it’s not longer the intro!). It wasn’t until this year that I actually re-envisioned the idea and wrote it.

What genre does your book fall under?

This is a fantasy story.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This is one of the questions I hate the most when it comes to these kinds of things! I’ve never successfully cast actors in the roles of my novels, and I think that’s because in my writing I like to leave character appearance broad enough that readers can create their own images of what the character looks like. One that they can connect with. That said, for this story I did actually look for some inspiring photos, and I’ll share those with you here. The first is the woman that brings Carmel (my main character) to mind for me (though of course, in like, fantasy clothing lol).

And this next one is an image Leigh posted on my facebook timeline. She found it and immediately thought of my novella. This IS Serafina (okay, it’s actually Pele, I had totally forgotten about that fire goddess!), and every time I look at it, I shake my head in wonder.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Arg one-sentence synopsis!!! Bane of my existence… Alright, I will try…

When Carmel’s son dies, his last wish is to be burned in the fires of the Goddess Serafina. Can Carmel escape the city and make it to the mountain? And if she does, will the Nivaen goddess accept her half-caste son, or will her journey have been in vain?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I wrote this for a particular anthology, so fingers crossed that works out. If it doesn’t, I’ll certainly look at finding another publisher for it, and if that doesn’t work out, I could see myself self-publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a month! A couple of my writing buddies set aside a month to knock out the first draft, and we cheered each other along.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Again, this is one of those questions I struggle with. I really don’t know…

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Well, it was a combination effort between Anna and Meryl. Anna posted the anthology guidelines to our group, and Merrilee was all ‘SHINY! I can do that, you should totally do it too.’ At which point I realized I did have something that I could develop for it, and then we wrangled Anna into playing as well. (Yes, PLAY!). It’s been great to all work towards something longer than short stories, for the same market, and I’d be thrilled to see any of them appear in it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The main characters are a woman in her late middle ages, her dead son, and her baby grandson. A few others crop up along the way, but those were my staples. It was an interesting experience writing with this limited cast. Basically, it’s a story about a woman returning to her roots on the premise of burning her son according to her native culture, but alongside that it’s about her rediscovering who she is, and what her purpose is, after spending more than half of her life in captivity.

Thanks for reading! Cross your fingers for me 🙂

Oh, right. I’m meant to tag some other writers. I almost forgot! The following are some of my core writing crew (the ones that haven’t already been tagged yet, anyway), and I know that they are either in the process of getting something ready for publication, or just about finished with their first drafts (hint hint, Tama. You done yet?? 😉 ).

Take it away, Anna, Meryl, and Tama

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Halfway!

I reached the halfway point in my Burn revision last night. I was a little stunned to get there seeing as I feel like I have been slacking off big time. Apparently not as much as I thought 😉 I’m really looking forward to working towards the end, and I love that feeling of making things better as I go.

However, a bad habit has become far more obvious to me. I’ve known for a long time now that where my writing really lacks is when it comes to culture and world building. I definitely do not spend enough time on this before launching in a first draft, and then when I come up to something during the first draft I often revert to [insert town name here] or [make some stuff up], which I often come back to and try to fill in later.

The problem is that on second pass it is no easier to fill in, and that’s often because I just haven’t developed something nearly as much as I should have. For example, I am working through my revision of this first draft and I have still managed to so far avoid giving the invading nation a name. The city has no name. The village has no name… It might not seem huge to you, but this shows me that my world is lacking. It has some rich spots, but I don’t have a cohesive picture of how it all goes together, and that’s important. Until I can conquer whatever barrier it is I have towards this, my writing isn’t going to come alive like I want it to.

Definitely time to tackle that one.