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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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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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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.

January, Uncategorized

Shiny Maths

I’ve been doing quite a bit of tracking lately, mostly of words written and time taken. It’s been a revelation!! I’ve discovered some really interesting things.

I can write an average of 10,000 words a week.

I can write an average of 2,500 words an hour (that’s rounding down, it’s often a bit higher but I’m being kind to myself).

I’m working on averages because my life is chaotic. I homeschool three kids. I have bipolar 2 and my mood fluctuates. I homeschool three kids. Three kids who are all kind of high needs in different ways, on different days. Life is not going to get less chaotic anytime soon, so averages are a really good thing for me. Looking beyond what I did today, and instead, looking at what I did over a week, or a month, makes me feel much better about my progress. I’m so glad to have finally realized this.

Anyway, why the shiny maths?

Because math is awesome! And because when I’m trying to figure out what I can do over a year, it gives me a really good way to work out what’s achievable and what’s me being manic.

So, 10,000 x 52 – 520,000 words – WHOA. Now that seems high. I know writers who do more though, a lot more. Some people write a million words a year (one day I might be one of them).

This year is going to be a little higgedly piggeldy though. January is already full of stress (my grandmothers official funeral/life celebration coming up, the house has just gone on the market, open homes upcoming, packing, preparing for the move). February is going to be full of much of the same, with actually moving in the mix, as well as settling back into life in our old house.

So, let’s scale that word count down a bit, shall we? Let’s say, 430,000.

Dang, that’s still a good chunk of words.

I’ve got some really fun ideas about how to spend them too, such as:

SunTouched_ECover_10-8-15v2Finishing the series that I started with Sun Touched. This has to be the book I am most asked about, probably because it’s now my only incomplete series. I promise I’m working on it! I’m going to be reading Sun Touched again in the near future and marking it up with lots of notes about what comes next. I had plans for a few more books, but I want to reconnect with the story before I determine just how long the series will be.

Publishing the series that begins with Butcherbird. I’m in LOVE with this series. I’ve written book one as well as a shorter piece that I’ll be giving away for free to subscribers in the near future. I’m already planning book two, and will probably do a trilogy to begin with. Think horror elements, family – by blood/by choice, demonic possession, birds. Lots of birds. Alcohol.

Starting a new series in a shared world! I’m really excited about this, and my main character, Juniper, is ITCHING to be written. I’m going to dip my toes into this one soon and I can’t wait. Juni is so many things that I’m not, and I can see she’s going to kick my ass on the page, and off. In a good way though. I think she’s here to teach me a few tough lessons. Think old gods, dark hungers, kick-ass women, violence, and humour.

I’m also hashing out the details for some potential co-writing with a good friend of mine, and ideas for another series (or three?). The ideas are coming thick and fast lately!

Despite all the change that’s about to crash into my life, despite a bunch of stuff being up in the air, I’m feeling really alive – invigorated – when it comes to my writing.

2018 is going to be a hella good year, people. Let’s make it so.

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2017 in review

When I looked back through my blog to see if I’d actually set myself goals for the year I could see just how little I’d blogged in 2017. I think it might be the quietest year since I started this, and that makes me feel a little sad. But I think it’s a really good reflection on just how much this year ended up being about keeping things together.

Last year I posted a little about how the preceding years had been a lot about keeping afloat, surviving, getting through and I chose FOCUS as my word for 2017. 

Yeah. Well. I guess I was focused for some of it. If it was a goal to work towards then I’d like to say that over the course of the year I nailed that sucker. I’m coming out of 2017 feeling focused and with big goals for the coming year.

Last year I wrote:

2017 will be a year of words. A year of saying no to the things I don’t really want to do but maybe feel like I should. Of saying YES to my own worlds.

And I can say that I achieved all of these things. Sure, not all at once, but I got there. Despite reflecting on the fact that I’ve had a few hard years, I’m going to say that 2017 has been the worst in a really long time. I’ve had massive patches of depression, the death of my much loved Nana, struggles with health across the family, PTSD flare-ups, massive amounts of stress in the lead up to the convention in June.

And yet, I still got more achieved this year than I have in a long time. 

Once the convention was all done I had a heap of space in my brain for other things and I got really stuck into working on my writing. This year I published four new titles: Serafina’s Flame (which is Burn + the two follow-on novellas in a single title), Beneath Broken Waves, In the Earth’s Embrace, and Of Souldust and Starlight – the final three books in the Kotahi Bay series. This wraps up 2/3 of the series I started back in 2015 and I couldn’t be happier about that. It feels really good to finish some things. Which isn’t to say there will never be another Kotahi Bay book, there might be, just not right now. 

stencil.ml-banner

Did I say no to more things? Yeah, I did. I turned down some work, I let a few clients know that I wasn’t going to be able to edit for them anymore. I didn’t leap at every opportunity so much as suggested in my presence, and I stopped feeling like I had to do things just because it was the nice thing to do. I started using the ‘I’d love to say yes, but I need some time to think about it before I can commit’ line with people. I was more honest about when I just couldn’t, and that felt really good too. To actually just say ‘I really can’t, I’m tapped out’ when that was the truth. I feel like while I still have some work to do in that area, I’ve gotten a lot better at putting my needs near the front of the list, which has gone a long way to helping out my mental health situation.

So, while 2017 was a hard fucking year. It really was – I’ve not been so close to a complete break down in a really long time, I barely held it together at several points, hell, maybe I DID have some small breakdowns – it was also a really successful one. I wrote and published books. I made huge leaps in my author world and implemented some really good strategies for both work and personal life. Boundaries, yo. I think I’m getting some 😉 Self-care? Definitely improving on that front too. 

I’m still mulling on my goal specifics for 2018, so I’ll post about them next week – I feel like it’s going to be a good year though, and can only hope it has a few less big challenges in it.

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And the series is complete

I’ve been so busy writing my next book that I’ve slacked off on sharing the good news – Kotahi Bay is finally done! The final book in the series is now available for pre-order at the price of 99c. It’ll go up once it’s live so if you want a bargain get in now.

OSAS_ecover

The final book follows Samantha, who has been a part of the series since the very beginning. In fact, it was her story that I started out wanting to tell, only to then realize it was the last piece of the series, not the first. Things have morphed and changed a bit along the way, but I’m so pleased to have finally finished this series and given Sam her story.

It feels a little surreal to have finally finished this series, though there is always the possibility that I’ll return to the world of the Bay with fresh stories to tell.

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Long time, no blog

After I tweaked my website a few months back the blog kind of disappeared and I bought into that whole ‘blogging is dead’ thing. But I kept thinking about it, and the thoughts niggled in the back of my mind.

I have no idea if you missed me or not, but I missed this, so I’m back!

I’d like to tell you lots of wonderful news, but I don’t have any. I’d love to say I’ve been crazy-busy getting my next book ready for you, but I can’t even say that either. Life has been full and busy but it’s not leaving me with a lot of space for writing. This space seems to get increasingly small the closer we get to LexiCon.

lexicon

For those that might not know (because I haven’t been talking about it a whole lot on here) I’m the co-chair of this year’s National Science Fiction and Fantasy convention – and it’s happening in just a few weeks now! OMG I have convention packs to make, and a million things to organize, including many things to feel pre-emptively anxious about, such as pronouncing things correctly, speaking in front of a hundred and fifty or so people (insert pukey face here), and meeting best-selling, award-winning author Seanan McGuire (I keep trying to tell myself she’s just a person, but she’s an incredibly COOL person and I’m bound to say stupid things or be incoherent due to the aforementioned stress and panic).

I’m so grateful that we have some awesome people on our ConCom to make the task less daunting, most of us had very little experience going in but *knocks on wood* it all seems to be coming together quite nicely. Fifteen days til I head to Taupo…

IMG_20170517_154558
End of April, start of May – stars for writing, hearts for not being awful to myself

Just so you don’t think I’ve been completely flakey, I HAVE been doing some work. It’s just that the amount of said work is shrinking.

I had really high hopes of getting the nearly final draft of Kotahi Bay #2 done before Convention, but I want to produce quality and with my brain the way it is right now I just can’t guarantee it.

Here is photographic evidence (of the work, not my mushy brain).

 

Kotahi Bay, Uncategorized, writing

Tūrangaewawae

A few weeks ago I read through my draft for the second Kotahi Bay book, Beneath Broken Waves, and it felt like coming home. There are really no other words to describe it. I couldn’t stop grinning. I knew these characters intimately, I knew the town so well, it was like kicking around a familiar neighbourhood and seeing a bunch of familiar faces.

Not long after that we went to a homeschooling camp and got to hang out with a huge portion of our crew from back home and it was fabulous, but then I had to come back here, to my new home, without them. And that sucked.

I’m homesick in a pretty big way. And I’ve really struggled to make myself work on Beneath Broken Waves. In fact, it was only a couple days ago that I actually started to make progress, and that was only due to finally making the extremely obvious connection – Kotahi Bay is like home, and any thoughts of home induce massive waves of sadness for me right now. No wonder I don’t want to work on the bloody book!

At the launch of Serafina’s Flame last weekend a friend told me he was surprised about the move because he’s always thought of Taranaki as my tūrangaewawae. If you’re not familiar with this concept here’s a handy link, but basically it translates to ‘a place to stand’. And he’s right, Taranaki is my tūrangaewawae. It’s where my family is, where I have lived the longest, but those aren’t the things that make it my place to stand, it’s hard to put that into words.

backbeach

I didn’t appreciate it like that when I was a teen – desperate to get out and experience the world – but I did when I came home again in my mid twenties. My maunga was always there, a steady figure that dominates the landscape even when obscured by clouds. The beaches with their black sand and their wild coastal winds. The forest, the birdlife, the raw power you can feel in the area. My tribe of family, both blood and those I’ve chosen.

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized how important the concept of tūrangaewawae is to the Kotahi Bay books, but I do now. And even though it might hurt to do the work I’m going to pour my feelings into these books and hope that it pays off. And maybe I’ll find a way to ease the pain in my heart and a new way of standing.

life, Uncategorized, writing

Recap and look forward

This has been a Year.

I’ve seen it capitalized all over the place – people from across the world have been having a hard time of it, and it was no different for me. It’s been almost four months since we moved cities, which was a total upheaval but has given me a lot of time to reflect and grow. Growing can be painful, but I really believe it’s worthwhile. And I think in the last few months, in particular, I’ve come a long way.

I was watching a friends video the other day (FB Live, have you tried it? I think if I ever did a live thing my kids would totally video bomb me lol), and she was talking about what her word for the year might be in 2017. It got me reflecting on what my word of the year has been in recent history, and while I haven’t always ‘set’ them purposefully, they have been there.

They go something like this ‘Survival’ or ‘Balance’. ‘Not falling apart’ could probably make it to the list too. Because on reflection, I’ve had a few hard years. In 2014 I finished my studies and published my first book. At that point, I was struggling hard, I just didn’t know it yet. One of the topics of my study ripped me apart and I’d spent months spiraling that, and I determined that in 2015 I would put myself back together again, in some fashion. I decided to give antidepressants a shot, and while they helped somewhat, it was a lot of ups and downs, side effects, and eventually feeling incredibly numb.

I didn’t write a lot of new stuff in 2015, though I published several things that had been waiting. Towards the end of 2015 I was toying with the idea of coming off my meds, and I did that and felt a huge sense of relief. I could actually FEEL again, and that was amazing. I’ve not doubted that decision for a moment since, and despite all the turmoil this year has brought me, I’m feeling better than I have in a long time. I am strong. And I have bad days, but I get through those, much like most people do. Life is full of ups and downs.

2016 was a light year for writing too. Very light. I did a good chunk of editing, worked for others, but always put aside my own work.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that my writing has not been a priority for a long time. I’ve been dealing with so many real life issues that there wasn’t room for that creativity and it was much easier to do things for other people. But I’m ready now.

And my word for 2017 is going to be FOCUS. Because it’s time. It’s time I actually gave this a real chance, time I made my writing a priority. Time to stop putting everyone else’s work ahead of my own. This both terrifies and excites me, because if I actually try, then there is always the chance I can fail, and failing sucks. But I’d rather try and know than just keep putting it on the backburner.

2017 will be a year of words. A year of saying no to the things I don’t really want to do but maybe feel like I should. Of saying YES to my own worlds.

What are you saying yes to in 2017?